Month: December 2017

Bair Hugger Staph Infection

Raizner Slania Files Bair Hugger Staph Infection Lawsuit On Behalf of Kentucky Man

Raizner Slania has filed a Bair Hugger staph infection lawsuit on behalf of a Kentucky man against 3M Company and Arizant Healthcare. The Kentucky man claims 3M and Arizant did not warn him of the infection risk associated with the Bair Hugger device.

In April 2017, the plaintiff underwent surgery during which the Bair Hugger warming blanket was used throughout the scope of his procedure. The Bair Hugger is used to regulate a patient’s body temperature during operations. Without regulating body temperature, most patients would experience hypothermia during surgery. However, the design of the Bair Hugger device causes contaminants from the operating room air to be dispersed over the patient and directly into their surgical wounds. Contaminants introduced into the plaintiff’s open surgical wound caused him to develop a periprosthetic joint infection or PJI. The pathogen identified was Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, more commonly referred to as MRSA, is a type of the common Staph infection resistant to antibiotics. MRSA is often called a superbug because of the difficulty in treating the infection. Oftentimes, patients who suffer a MRSA joint infection have to undergo additional surgeries to replace infected joints. MRSA is life-threatening and can cause very severe complications including pneumonia, sepsis, and bloodstream infections.

As a result of the infection caused by the Bair Hugger device, the plaintiff was forced to undergo multiple irrigation and debridement surgeries, multi-staged revision surgeries including insertion and removal of an antibiotic spacer, and PICC line antibiotics, among other treatments.

The plaintiff has suffered greatly from the MRSA infection caused by the Bair Hugger. Not only has he suffered physically, but he has also suffered economically with the extensive medical bills. The plaintiff believes 3M and Arizant breached express warranties and that the companies committed consumer fraud and/or engaged in deceptive or unfair trade practices.

Bair Hugger Staph Infection Lawsuits

Hip or knee joint infections can cause life-threatening complications. Patients who underwent surgery with the Bair Hugger had a right to know all of the risks associated with the device. If you or someone you love suffered a hip or knee joint infection after surgery, the experienced medical device attorneys at Raizner Slania LLP can help. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Houston Reservoir Lawyers

The Difference Between Downstream and Upstream Reservoir Claims

For thousands of homes and businesses surrounding the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall caused massive amounts of flood damage. Both properties upstream of the reservoirs and downstream of the reservoirs suffered catastrophic flooding, but with very different causes. A recent court order for the Addicks and Barker reservoir litigation has recognized there are two very distinct claims being made by property owners.

Upstream Reservoir Flooding Claims

When the Addicks and Barker reservoirs were constructed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created flood pools around the reservoirs. These flood pools would spend most of their time completely dry, but would hold water in the event of major rainfall. Because land inside these flood pools would occasionally be flooded, in the 1940s the U.S. government began purchasing land inside the flood pools.

By owning the land, the government sought to prevent unsuspecting property owners from future flooding. Unfortunately, the government didn’t purchase all of the land inside the flood pools. The Addicks reservoir flood pool consists of land up to 115 feet in elevation, but the government only purchased land up to 103.2 feet in elevation. The Barker reservoir flood pool is made up of land up to 106 feet, but the government only purchased land up to 95 feet.

Land between 103.2 feet and 115 feet in elevation in the Addicks reservoir and between 95.5 feet and 106 feet in elevation in the Barker reservoir was left available to developers, who built and sold thousands of properties. People who purchased properties within this flood pool elevation were not warned they were subject to inundation; and because of this, most of them didn’t purchase flood insurance.

Unfortunately, the full reservoir lands within Addicks and Barker reservoirs were needed during the rainfall brought by Hurricane Harvey. It was only after their properties were destroyed by floodwaters that property owners learned their properties were located inside the flood pools.

Compensation For Upstream Claims

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers purposefully flooded the reservoir areas during and after the storm. The water level in the Addicks reservoir reached 109.1 feet during Hurricane Harvey and the level in the Barker reservoir reached 101.5 feet. This means the floodwaters stored in the Addicks and Barker reservoirs exceeded the boundaries of the property owned by the government. Property owners within these elevations did not consent to the use of their property for storing floodwaters.

Rebuilding properties will require a significant financial investment. Property owners looking to sell or transfer their property will likely suffer a massive economic loss due to decreased demand in the area and the diminished value of their property,. Allowing floodwaters to be stored above its own designated property boundaries constitutes a taking of private property by the government for public use. Under the Fifth Amendment, property owners must be fairly compensated for the taking of their property. Property owners upstream of the reservoirs are pursuing fair compensation from the government.

Downstream Reservoir Claims

In 1935, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction on the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. These reservoirs were designed to protect Houston from widespread flooding. Unfortunately, by 2009, the dams were deemed to be in “extremely high risk of catastrophic failure.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a $75 million renovation project and was in the middle of renovations when Hurricane Harvey hit in late August.

Ordinarily, the dams on the Addicks and Barker reservoirs are left open, allowing water to flow through. However, during heavy rainfall, the dams are closed and the rainwater pools in the reservoirs. This prevents heavy rainfall from inundating downtown Houston. When Hurricane Harvey brought unprecedented rainfall to the Houston area, the dams were initially closed to prevent flooding.

However, after several days of heavy rainfall, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grew concerned that the pressure put on the dams by the increased rainfall was too great. They then made the decision to open the floodgates via controlled releases to prevent a total failure of the dams. As a consequence, thousands of properties downstream of the dams were flooded.

Compensation for Downstream Claims

When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the decision to open the dams, they did so knowing it would cause widespread flooding. By allowing floodwaters to flood properties immediately downstream of the dams, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seized private property for public use. When the government takes private property for public use without fairly compensating property owners, it is called inverse condemnation. Property owners downstream of the reservoirs are pursuing compensation from the government for the taking of their property for public use.

Houston Reservoir Lawyers

Upstream and downstream reservoir claims are very different, but the experienced lawyers at Raizner Slania LLP are working with property owners on both types of cases. Our lawyers understand the unique legal complexities of each type of claim and are fighting hard for clients to help them rebuild. If your property was flooded either downstream or upstream of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, call us immediately to learn your legal options.

Bair Hugger Strep Infection Attorneys

Alaska Woman Files Bair Hugger Strep Infection Lawsuit

Raizner Slania LLP has filed a Bair Hugger Strep infection lawsuit against 3M Company and Arizant Healthcare on behalf of an Alaska woman. The woman believes the companies failed to warn her of the infection risk associated with the Bair Hugger warming blanket.

In January 2016, the woman received a right total knee arthroplasty in which the Bair Hugger warming blanket was used throughout the scope of her surgery. The Bair Hugger introduced contaminants into the plaintiff’s open surgical wound, causing her to develop a deep joint infection (DJI). The pathogen was identified as Group B streptococcus.

Group B streptococcus, often referred to as Strep, is a common infection experienced by children and adults. However, when Strep bacteria attack parts of the body not normally exposed to bacteria (like joints), they can cause severe infections. While Strep is traditionally treated with a course of antibiotics, Strep that is present in an artificial joint is much more difficult to treat. Strep can also cause additional life-threatening complications including sepsis (infection of the blood) and pneumonia.

As a result of the Strep infection caused by the Bair Hugger, the plaintiff was forced to undergo extensive medical treatment. The plaintiff underwent aspirations, emergency room visits, and surgical intervention including arthrotomy with washout and exchange of polyethylene liner followed by PICC line antibiotics. The plaintiff also suffered additional complications from the infection treatment surgery, including a hematoma (a swelling of clotted blood within tissue) and an inflammatory reaction requiring an additional washout procedure.

The plaintiff suffered greatly as a result of the infection caused by the Bair Hugger. In addition to physical pain, the plaintiff also suffered economically due to the costs associated with the extensive medical treatments to fight the infection. The plaintiff believes the Bair Hugger is defective in both its design and manufacture, and that 3M and Arizant were grossly negligent in the representation and marketing of the device.

Bair Hugger Strep Infection Attorneys

If you underwent a hip or knee surgery in which the Bair Hugger was used and suffered a post-operative infection, you may be able to file a legal claim against the manufacturers. The experienced Bair Hugger strep infection attorneys at Raizner Slania LLP can analyze your case and help you understand your legal options. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

100-Year Floodplain Map

FEMA Reevaluating 100-Year Floodplain Map After Harvey

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made two critical decisions: first, to pool floodwaters within the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs up to elevations above which the government owned, causing enormous flooding upstream of the reservoirs; second, to release floodwaters downstream into the Buffalo Bayou Corridor with knowledge that thousands of businesses and homes would become inundated downstream.

To compound this disaster, most of the flooded properties were not covered by flood insurance. The reason: FEMA determined that regions immediately adjacent to a 70 year old, critical component of the flood control system in the fourth largest city in the country were not in fact Special Flood Hazard Areas. Or more pointedly, the United States government decided that these areas were not at major risk of flooding – – and then decided to flood them.

2017 was a particularly active hurricane season for the Texas Gulf with a 154% increase in the total number of hurricanes and a 142% increase in the number of named storms. Hurricane Harvey brought an unprecedented amount of rainfall to the region: over 50 inches for much of Houston and a record-setting 65 inches for parts of Beaumont. The dramatic hurricane season and the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey prompted federal agencies to reevaluate many of the floodplain designations around the greater Houston metropolitan area.

Many homes and businesses that flooded during Hurricane Harvey were located well outside of the 100-year floodplain established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. These regions are called Special Flood Hazard Areas, and they are subject to a 1% annual chance flood event. FEMA decides which areas are subject to a 1% chance of flooding through its Risk Map program. Only about 20% of the properties flooded as a result of Harvey carried flood insurance, illustrating the trust that most property owners have in FEMA’s assessment of the likelihood their property might be vulnerable to flooding.

The massive flooding outside of FEMA’s 100-year floodplain angered many property owners, who subsequently put pressure on the agency to reassess the floodplain maps. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, commonly known as NOAA, has already updated its own potential rainfall maps in Texas and it is currently under peer review.

FEMA plans to use the updated NOAA maps when redrawing the 100-year flood plain, but some property owners are upset FEMA waited until a catastrophic event to reevaluate. Many of the flood plain maps currently used by FEMA have not been fully updated since the 1960s. Unfortunately for property owners, even when these fifty-year-old maps were created, there were extreme limitations. The maps grossly under-estimated the floodplain due in part to a limited data set used by the agency, which included a time period where the Gulf Coast region received substantially less rainfall. The maps also did not anticipate over 50 years of urban development that occurred throughout Houston and along the coast.

By reevaluating the floodplain maps, FEMA will utilize better technology that can more accurately pinpoint areas at risk for flooding. Unfortunately, it will take several years for FEMA to complete the process of updating its flood zone maps, leaving many property owners in the dark as they begin to rebuild.

Most flood insurance is backed by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, and managed by private insurance companies through the Write Your Own (WYO) program. Even though these policies are issued by private insurers, the federal government pays the claims. Most private insurers have left the flood insurance underwriting business, though there are some surplus lines insurers that offer private or excess flood insurance. If and when the private insurance market is encouraged to reenter the flood insurance business in a meaningful way, they will have every financial incentive to do a much better job determining areas prone to flooding. Until then, the federal government will continue to engage in clearly incompetent underwriting, flood mapping, and ultimately losing money and creating a mess similar to what so many West Houston area residents experienced following Hurricane Harvey.

While property owners trying to pick up the pieces after Harvey may not benefit from updated floodplain maps, they do have legal options as they move forward with insurance claims. If property owners have questions about denied, delayed, or underpaid insurance claims or other Harvey related recovery questions, the experienced attorneys at Raizner Slania LLP can help. Our lawyers are working with hundreds of Texans in a variety of different Hurricane Harvey claims. Call us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

Harvey Reservoir Litigation

The Harvey Reservoir Litigation Schedule

The destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey is presenting many complex legal challenges. For homeowners and business owners, there are many uncertainties regarding repairing flood damage. While litigation can sometimes be slow, there have been significant strides made in processing Hurricane Harvey Claims, and a schedule has been put in place to keep the litigation moving forward.

The Court’s Efforts to Organize the Litigation 

On October 31, 2017, Judge Susan G. Braden entered an order creating a “Master Docket” entitled In re: Addicks and Barker (Texas) Flood-Control Reservoirs, Case No. 17-3000L. Although this is an organizational formality, its creation will enable the court and the parties involved to drill down on important scheduling issues in order to move the cases forward as quickly as possible. The cases filed within the master docket are now accessible on the court’s website. The court also conducted a hearing on November 1, 2017 in order to advance the organization and scheduling of the cases. Following that hearing, Judge Braden entered several orders.

Separation Into “Upstream” and “Downstream” Groups
 
The court has placed the upstream reservoir pooling cases and the downstream Buffalo Bayou corridor inundation cases on separate litigation tracks, recognizing the legal issues for these two groups are distinct. When the government files its initial motions to dismiss the claims, we expect to see them make separate arguments based on whether cases are upstream or downstream. For that reason, the court has also required the law firms involved to designate each of their filed cases as an upstream or downstream matter, and we have done so on behalf of our firm’s clients.

Near Term Motions to the Court 
The Court has outlined the following schedule to address 1) preliminary jurisdictional motions, and 2) dispositive motions for summary judgment. We expect the government to file both types of motions and engage in every effort to avoid these claims, including appeals. While it is possible the schedule may be disrupted for appeal or extended by the Court, the judge has set out a relatively brisk briefing schedule.

Hurricane Harvey Reservoir Claims Briefing Schedule:

  • December 8, 2017: The government will file a motion for more definite statement.
  • December 15, 2017: The parties will exchange mandatory initial disclosures.
  • December 29, 2017: Document exchanges.
  • January 15, 2018: Plaintiffs may file amended complaints in response to the government’s motion for more definite statement.
  • February 15, 2018: The government will file a motion to dismiss, likely on jurisdictional grounds.
  • March 15, 2018: Plaintiffs must respond to the motion to dismiss.
  • April 2, 2018: The government must reply to plaintiffs’ responses to motions to dismiss.
  • June 15, 2018: The government must file any dispositive motions, such as motions for summary judgment.
  • July 14, 2018: The Court will conduct a hearing on the motion to dismiss.
    July 16, 2018: The parties must respond to the government’s motions for summary judgment.
  • July 31, 2018: The parties may file replies to the motions for summary judgment.
    October 29, 2018: The Court will conduct a hearing on the motions for summary judgment.

Litigation, particularly against the government, tends to move fairly slowly. That said, Judge Braden’s experience during the Katrina litigation appears to have prompted her to establish an aggressive briefing schedule, and the critical motions to avoid liability should be resolved within the timeframes set out above. In the event plaintiffs are successful on these motions, the government has a right to appeal, and likely will. While firms like ours will do our best to move this forward quickly, the government will work equally hard to slow it down.

Hurricane Harvey Reservoir Lawyers

At Raizner Slania LLP, we know how Hurricane Harvey disrupted lives because we’re a local Houston firm that lived through it. We have nationwide experience helping homeowners and business owners in a variety of insurance damage claims, and we are dedicated to helping the people of Houston recover after Harvey. If Harvey flooded your home or business, contact us today. We can help answer any questions you might have and pursue compensation on your behalf.

cost of hurricane harvey

Hurricane Harvey Could Cost Billions of Dollars in Economic Losses

Although it has been several months since Hurricane Harvey struck, thousands of Texas are still struggling to put their lives back together. The storm caused massive amounts of damage along the Texas coast and around the Houston area. Although the total cost of damages caused by Harvey may never be known, some forecasters are predicting the cost of Hurricane Harvey could end up being billions in economic damages.

Hurricane Harvey was the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, and parts of Houston received over 50 inches of rain. After the hurricane made landfall in late August, it displaced more than 1 million people and damaged hundreds of thousands of businesses. In all, Harvey’s path of destruction stretched for over 300 miles.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott estimated the total cost of damages caused by the storm ranges between $150 billion and $180 billion. This doesn’t take into account the long-term economic losses many businesses and homeowners will face. Businesses that have flooded cannot continue operation, resulting in lost revenue when they need it the most.

Unfortunately for homeowners, flood damage can have a permanent and damaging effect on home values. Many homeowners will have to pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to make their homes habitable again, but there’s no guarantee they will ever make their money back if they decide to sell. Small business owners, which form the economic engine of our state, also have a long road ahead as they struggle to repair property and make up for the business interruption sustained during Harvey. Investment owners of real estate are working to understand and quantify the diminution in value to their real estate assets.

1 in 1,000 Year Flood Event

The rainfall dropped by Hurricane Harvey was deemed a 1 in 1,000 year flood event. Any 1 in 1,000 year flood event only has a 0.1% chance of occurring in any given year. This means the rainfall caused by Harvey was truly unprecedented, and the sheer weight of the rainfall actually caused Houston to sink 2 centimeters in elevation.

What The Cost of Hurricane Harvey Means For Property Owners

Whenever there is widespread property damage, insurance companies and responsible parties will do everything in their power to limit liability and minimize claims. If you suffered damage as a result of Harvey, whether the Addicks and Barker dam releases flooded your property or if your property is located in the reservoirs’ floodplains, or if you are experiencing improper delays or denials from an insurance company contractually obligated to pay for this damage, you likely have many questions.

At Raizner Slania LLP, we can analyze your situation and help you understand your legal options. We have extensive experience with property claims and we are actively working with many Houstonians pursuing several different types of claims. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. There is no upfront cost for working with us. We work on a contingency fee basis so you will not owe us anything unless we help you recover compensation.