Government Takes Action on Traumatic Brain Injuries

During March, which is Brain Injury Awareness Month, two important events took place, as the U.S. government turned its attention to the issue of traumatic brain injuries.

On March 19, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held hearings to examine Federal, State and private efforts to prevent and treat traumatic brain injuries.

On March 21, U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) introduced legislation that would increase federal resources for people with traumatic brain injuries, through the TBI Act of 2012. Congressman Pascrell said, “From overseas battlefields to small town ball fields, brain injuries can impact anyone at any time. The TBI Act of 2012 will sustain successful programs, provide better coordination of TBI research, and create a funding formula that will allow all 50 states to access state grants for TBI programs.”

About 1.7 million Americans suffer brain injuries each year. Traumatic brain injury survivor Jason Deierlein said, “Much like physical health, mental health is prone to diseases and mutations that we do not always have the luxury in dictating. There are some circumstances where the health of the brain suffers a disease that affects its development in an adverse way.”

The Brain Injury Association of American also holds events each March for Brain Awareness Month. Like all public health observances, these events, and the information they release, are intended to draw attention to the major health problem. According to BIAA, of the 1.7 million brain injuries taking place each year in the United States, about 475,000 affect children. Also, just over 3 million Americans live with long-term disabilities associated with traumatic brain injury.

Call Joyce & Reyes at 1.888.771.1529 or visit

Distracted Driving is Huge Threat to Auto Safety

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of highway fatalities caused by distracted driving – particularly texting – is on the rise. The NHTSA said that “because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.”

Nearly 5,500 Americans were killed in accidents caused by driver distractions in 2009, and about 448,000 were also injured. What is especially tragic about this very large loss of life is that most of the deaths are easily preventable. In other words, it is very easy to choose not to text and drive at the same time, nor eat and drive simultaneously.

It is likely the high number of distracted driver accidents result from a number of factors, but the growing popularity of texting is a main contributor. According to NHTSA, 196 billion text messages were transmitted or received in the United States just in the month of June 2011. Younger people, including teens, are active texters.

Teen drivers are also the most likely age group to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is a significant factor. A Pew research study found forty percent of American teens surveyed said they had ridden in a car driven by someone using a cell phone at the same time, and that cell phone use was dangerous.

Sending or reading a text message can take up about 4.6 seconds of time for a driver. In this very short period, a vehicle traveling at 55 miles per hour would cross the entire length of a football field. The vehicle would travel one hundred yards, with a driver who was paying no attention to what was in front of it. A Carnegie Mellon study found cell phone use while driving reduces brain activity for driving by 37%.

Call Joyce & Reyes at 1.888.771.1529 or visit more of

World’s First Blood Test for Brain Injuries Could be Created

Dr. Linda Papa might be on the path to creating the world’s first blood test for brain injuries. Her work has demonstrated that particular proteins are generated shortly after an injury to the head and those proteins can be detected in the patient’s blood. A study of 295 people was conducted to investigate the presence of proteins. Almost one hundred of them had a mild or moderate concussion.

Dr. Papa found two proteins that were showed higher levels in the group who had brain injuries. These proteins can be found within about one hour of the injury, and up to four hours later. CT scans also showed higher levels of these proteins for people with brain injuries.

Her research is exciting because mild traumatic brain injuries, also known as concussions, can be difficult to diagnose. For example, with the huge number of young people playing in football leagues each fall, there are many potential brain injuries that may go unrecognized because the physical symptoms could be very minor. However, what has happened inside the skull could be much worse than what is observed superficially.

In some cases, cultural attitudes play a role, reflected in such sayings as “no pain, no gain” or “take one for the team.” The result is that players and even coaches will not know that continuing on with the game is the worst thing for the brain injury. Also, of course, there are cases where players have multiple concussions over the course of a season but they don’t want to sit out. The result may be brain damage which could have easily been prevented.

Call Joyce & Reyes at 1.888.771.1529 or visit more of

University of Central Florida Appealing Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The University of Central Florida’s Athletic Association was successfully sued by the family of Ereck Plancher. They were awarded ten million dollars in the lawsuit they filed due to the death of their son during a UCF football practice. He was one of their players and died in March of 2008.

The lawsuit argued there was negligence on the part of the university because they knew he had sickle cell disease but he was allowed to participate in the practice. It was reported that the family’s attorneys said during the practice when the nineteen-year-old died, the coach had ordered waters and trainers off the field.

Plancher went into cardiac arrest, which an autopsy later revealed was caused by complications of sickle cell trait.

The university is appealing, saying that they didn’t get a fair trial. They also claim the judge ruled in error and the ten million dollar amount should be much less.

It has been noted that spring workouts can be grueling, to the point where they could be dangerous. At the University of Iowa players were told to do squats until they dropped from exhaustion. This information should not be interpreted as a reason to say such extreme workouts are healthy. Though they might be too common, they can also do harm. The extremism that shows up in some sports can lead to career-ending injuries to joints and brains.

It can also lead to players taking chances with their own lives, especially in situations when they know they are living with a health condition that can be triggered by high degree of stress.

Call Joyce & Reyes at 1.888.771.1529 or visit more of

Florida Appeals Court Overturns $79 Million Wrongful Death Verdict Against R.J. Reynolds

A $79.2 million jury verdict against R.J. Reynolds has been overturned on apeal. The jury in North Florida had found in favor of a dead smoker’s daughter. This overturns one of the largest of the recent wrongful death verdicts against cigarette manufacturers.

The case will now return to Levy County Circuit Court by order of the 1st District Court of Appeal, with instructions to determine a lesser amount of damages for the death of James Cayce Horner, who succumbed to lung cancer in 1996, at the age of 78. Horner took up smoking in the 1930s, when he was a teenager. Some of his preferred brands included Pall Mall, Lucky Strike and Camel. Diane Webb, his daughter, sued R.J. Reynolds, claiming wrongful death, negligence and fraud.

The jury heard some emotionally charged testimony about how Mr. Horner helped care for his granddaughter, who suffered from a congenital condition. The care he provided was part of the case for a large financial compensation, because it can not be replicated. (The physical care can, but the relationship can not.) However, the Appeals Court did not find the very large amount of damages initially awarded, to be in line with the loss, as it indicated in its ruling, “The amount of compensatory damages suggests an award that is the product of passion, an emotional response to testimony regarding difficulties Ms. Webb and her father faced and overcame before cancer befell him, rather than evidence of his illness, subsequent death and the noneconomic consequences of the death itself.”

The ruling did, however, reject R.J. Reynolds argument for a reversal, saying it is following the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Carter v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 778 So. 2d 932, 940 (Fla. 2000) The court also rejected an argument from the tobacco company’s lawyers that Dianne Webb had failed to make the case her father had relied upon misinformation and the omission of information by R.J. Reynolds, about the potential health consequences of using their tobacco products. In their own words, “the record contains abundant evidence from which the jury could infer [Mr. Horner’s] reliance on pervasive misleading advertising campaigns . . . and on the false controversy created by the tobacco industry during the years he smoked aimed at creating doubt among smokers that cigarettes were hazardous to health.”

Appellate Opinion (PDF)

A new trial must be held on damages.

To learn more about the Tampa personal injury lawyer or the Joyce & Reyes Law Firm, visit or call 1.888.771.1529

Florida Pill Mill Brothers Taken Down

Two Florida brothers have been charged and convicted of crimes related to running pain clinics in South Florida. Authorities began to take notice of their activities when some of the clients died from overdoses and one accident occurred involving a Toyota and a train traveling over 70 mph, leaving three people dead. Roxicodone, a prescription painkiller, was found on the backseat of the car and outside sprinkled on the ground, on both sides of the car’s remains.

Oxycodone abuse has reached epidemic proportions. The addictions and deaths resulting from this abuse have become a public health problem, if not a crisis. Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske has called Florida ground zero for this substance abuse problem.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 93% of unintentional poisonings in 2007 were from drug overdoses. Florida experienced an increase of 325% in the number of non-suicidal poisonings resulting in death from 1990 to 2001. In the last five years, Florida has experienced a boom in the growth of pain clinics dispensing oxycodone and alprazolam. From 2003 to 2009 there were over 16,000 drug overdose deaths in Florida. About one third of them were related to illicit drugs. Nearly 86 percent were unintentional. About eleven percent were suicides.

Given the alarming and disturbing loss of life associated with prescription medication abuse, it is especially shocking that one “pill mill” pain clinic in Florida was 20,000 square feet in size with doctors able to see five hundred “patients” daily. The two brothers mentioned above, as the main operators of several pain clinics, were associated with the trafficking of about 20 million doses of oxycodone. That number of doses was dispensed in just three years. About 53 deaths are thought to have resulted from overdoses from their drugs, and those were just the ones in Florida. Because about 80 to 90 percent of the total number of overdose deaths is thought to have taken place in other states such as Kentucky and Tennessee, the death total is likely to be much higher.

Shutting down the two brothers and their robust prescription drug business has been a real blow to the national pill mill industry. Authorities learned better surveillance and documentation techniques, improving their effectiveness. These endeavors can help authorities crack down even further, to help reduce the the country’s large number of prescription drug fatalities.

Robert Joyce is a Tampa pill mill litigation attorney at Joyce & Reyes Law Firm. To learn more about the Tampa pill mill litigation lawyer, visit or call 1.888.771.1529.