Tampa Bay area pill mill doctor and wife convicted on drug charges

A Tampa doctor who practiced in Pinellas Park, and his wife, were convicted of federal drug conspiracy charges, for prescribing oxycodone and other medications that a jury found led to three patient deaths.

Dr. Edward Neil Feldman, a 76-year-old orthopedist, and his wife Kim Feldman, were both convicted on five related counts in a case that involved $5.7 million worth of medication and three deaths from drug overdoses. They both face time in prison, but only the doctor was charged in the deaths of the patients.

Feldman argued that patients gave him false information to fool him into prescribing drugs, but federal prosecutors said that Feldman willfully ignored warning signs. The Feldmans were ordered taken into custody with sentencing scheduled for May 23.

The doctor had been linked to more patient deaths than the three that were the subject of the case. According to news reports, Feldman’s name was on pill bottles found at multiple overdose scenes. Out of the jury’s hearing, the federal prosecutor told the judge that the government had 16 deaths to choose from in making its case.

Prescribing dangerous or inappropriate medication can constitute pharmaceutical negligence, whether it is in the context of an unethical pill mill or a doctor or pharmacy error. In addition to the criminal charges faced by pill mill operators, civil lawsuits may be filed by patients or their loved ones who are injured by such negligence.

Florida traffic deaths on the rise

In 2012, government agencies set a goal of reducing deaths from Florida car accidents by 5 percent per year. That effort has now officially crashed.

According to preliminary numbers from the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 2,939 traffic fatalities in Florida in 2015, a 17.8 percent rise over the 2014 total of 2,494.

Not only did highway deaths increase over last year, but the state failed to meet its projected decrease for the third year in a row. In 2012, Florida began its safety initiative with a baseline of 2,431 traffic fatalities, an average of the totals from 2006 to 2010. In 2013, the state had 100 more traffic fatalities than the 5 percent reduction projected, and in 2014 the total was 300 deaths over the reduction goal.

In 2015, if the 5 percent per year projection had held true, there would have been 2,084 deaths on Florida’s roads, but there were 855 more than that, so the state missed its goal by more than 40 percent.

It was no year-end surprise that traffic fatalities in Florida have been accelerating in the wrong direction. Last summer, the National Safety Council conducted an analysis that showed that there was a 29 percent increase in highway deaths in Florida, and a 14 percent increase nationally, in the first half of 2015, compared to the same six-month period in 2014.

Safety experts lay the blame on poorly-designed roads, a lack of focus on traffic safety on the part of state officials, and driver negligence.

Wrongful death lawsuit filed by widow of Florida man killed in theater

The widow of a man shot to death in a Tampa Bay area theater has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the theater, one of its employees and its developer.

Nicole Oulson, widow of Chad Oulson, seeks a jury trial and more than $15,000 in damages.

The lawsuit, filed in Circuit Court in Dade City, Florida, claims that Nicole Oulson, who was also shot, suffered mental anguish, permanent bodily injury, disability and disfigurement.

Charges of second-degree murder for Chad Oulson’s death and aggravated battery for the shooting of Nicole Oulson were filed against retired Tampa police captain Curtis Reeves.

Nicole Oulson’s lawsuit claims that Reeves was confrontational with the Oulsons before the shooting, and complained to theater staff that Chad Oulson was using his cell phone during the movie previews. According to the lawsuit, theater staff should have responded to prevent the potentially dangerous situation from escalating.

The lawsuit names as defendants Cobb Theatres, Oakley Grove Development and Thomas Peck, who worked at the theater.

Nicole Oulson’s lawsuit also claims that the theater was negligent in training Peck, and did not have procedures in place to enforce its policy against firearms. The lawsuit alleges that the developer had a duty not to allow a dangerous situation to exist on its property.

In his criminal case, Reeves has attempted to have the charges dismissed by invoking Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

Bill in Senate would make auto safety cover-ups a crime

Legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate that would make it a crime for an officer of a corporation to conceal information about a dangerously defective product.

U.S. Senators Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said that the recent settlement between the U.S. Justice Department and General Motors (GM) showed that stronger legislation is needed. After it was revealed that GM covered up a deadly ignition switch defect, the company agreed to pay $900 million and offer settlements to nearly 300 people who were injured and the families of 124 people who were killed as a result of the faulty switches, which caused vehicles to lose power while in motion. No criminal charges were brought against any GM employees.

The proposed legislation would make it a crime for an officer of a corporation to knowingly conceal information about an action or product that could put workers or the public a risk of serious injury or death. Under the proposed law, violators would face fines and up to five years in prison.

Sen. Blumenthal said that current law does not go far enough in holding corporate officials accountable when they are complicit in cover-ups that cause preventable tragedies. The bill, called the Hide No Harm Act, would also apply to other products, such as defective cribs and body armor, that have caused injuries.

Convicted Florida pill mill owner testifies in doctor’s murder trial

Jeffrey George, a convicted Florida pill mill owner, testified in the trial of a doctor accused of murder in the overdose death of a patient.

George, who is serving a prison sentence for his involvement in a pain clinic conspiracy, testified that Dr. Gerald Klein was aware that the business model of the clinic was to keep patients on addictive drugs like oxycodone.

Klein, 81, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Joey Bartolucci, 24, one of his patients. Prosecutors said that Klein prescribed Bartolucci a high dosage of hydromorphone pills as well as Xanax in February 2009, and that Barolucci died of an overdose the next day.

George testified that Klein was aware that the East Coast Pain Clinic accepted cash only, that patients must pay $150 before seeing a doctor, and that no procedures were performed. George said that Klein was paid $4,300 per week for three days of work.

George is serving a 15 ½ year prison sentence after pleading guilty to federal charges related to the drug conspiracy.

In addition to facing criminal charges, pill mill owners and doctors may face civil lawsuits for pharmaceutical negligence filed by people who were injured by improper prescriptions. If you or a loved one suffered an injury as the result of pharmaceutical negligence, contact Joyce & Reyes for a free consultation.

Widow of slain Florida cyclist files wrongful death lawsuit

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed by the widow of Walter Reyes, a bicyclist who was killed in a hit-and-run accident in Florida on January 21.

Maribel Reyes filed the lawsuit against Alejandro Alvarez, the alleged driver, and Rodrigo Alvarez, his father and the person to whom the vehicle was registered.

Miami-Dade police said that Alvarez had been drinking in a Miami Beach nightclub before he got behind the wheel of a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta to drive to his parents’ home in Key Biscayne. Police said that Alvarez struck Walter Reyes and Henry Hernandez on the Rickenbacker Causeway around 5:00 a.m., and then fled the scene of the accident. Reyes died at the scene, and Hernandez suffered severe injuries.

Authorities said that Alvarez initially drove to his parents’ home and attempted to fake a robbery by smashing the rear window of the vehicle with a golf club. However, police said that he then called 911 and revealed his involvement in the crash. He returned to the scene and told police that he had been driving the vehicle that struck the two bicyclists, authorities said.

In the past five years, two other cyclists have been killed in hit-and-run crashes on the Rickenbacker Causeway.

Reyes’ family said that he was out training for a bicycle charity ride to raise money for cancer research.

Family files wrongful death lawsuit over Tampa Bay motorcyclist’s death

The family of Keith Williamson, a motorcyclist who was killed in a crash, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) and the Clearwater Police Department.

The crash involved a high-speed chase on the Courtney Campbell Causeway Bridge in the Tampa Bay area. Williamson was riding at the front of a group of motorcyclists, and police reports recorded that a Clearwater police officer clocked him at 120 miles per hour. The officer, Nick Giordano, reached a speed of 145 mph chasing Williamson. The family claims that Giordano’s pursuit was reckless.

Williamson’s motorcycle crashed into the back of a Florida Highway Patrol cruiser that was stationed at a construction zone. An FHP report found Williamson at fault for the accident. Williamson’s father believes that the FHP cruiser deliberately pulled in front of his son.

Both the Florida Highway Patrol and the Clearwater Police Department are named as defendants in the wrongful death lawsuit.

The Clearwater Police Department would not comment on the lawsuit, but records show that Giordano was disciplined after the crash for attempting to stop two different drivers when the speed of the motorcyclists indicated a “reckless disregard” for the safety of the public.

Family to file wrongful death lawsuit against FSU over son’s death

The parents of a man who died in a construction accident at Florida State University have given notice that they intend to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the university’s Board of Trustees.

Travis Joseph Miller, 25, died on July 28 when he was crushed between an exterior wall and an elevator shaft during the construction of a dormitory building at FSU.

On December 23, Miller’s parents, Richard Miller and Rebecca Rimes, gave notice to the chair of the FSU Board of Trustees and Florida’s Department of Financial Service that they intended to file a lawsuit over their son’s death. The parents claim that the university breached its duty to maintain the construction site in a safe manner and to properly supervise employees.

Miller was employed by a subcontractor for Culpepper Construction, which was building the multi-story dormitory building. Miller was sitting in an open window when the elevator descended, pulling him into a one-and-a-half inch space between the elevator and the building. Miller had been conversing with co-workers. They immediately called for the elevator operator to reascend, but Miller was already dead.

The family contends that a plywood barrier was normally kept in the open window to prevent such accidents, but that it had been removed.

Florida wrongful death lawsuit filed over prescription drug death

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in federal court by a Florida woman whose husband died of a brain hemorrhage after taking a prescribed anticoagulant drug.

William Packard was prescribed Xarelto in January 2012 to treat a nonvalvular atrial fibrillation. In June 2012, Packard suffered a subdural hemorrhage, or hematoma. Excess blood collected between the layers of tissue around the brain, causing pressure on the brain. Packard was admitted to the hospital, where doctors attempted to alleviate the pressure by drilling a burr hole through the scalp. However, the procedure was not enough to save Packard’s life.

In her lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and Bayer AG, the manufacturers of Xarelto, Nancy Packard alleges that the defendants did not provide proper warnings about the risks of taking the drug — particularly about the fact that excessive bleeding could be irreversible. When other anticoagulants, such as warfarin, are used, vitamin K injections can be used to stimulate blood clotting in case of excessive bleeding. However, there is no such antidote for Xarelto.

Packard also alleges that the defendants’ marketing of the drug failed to acknowledge the danger of irreversible bleeding.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $75,000.

Wrongful death lawsuit filed by family of man who died in fall down elevator shaft

After Chad Wolfe fell to his death down an elevator shaft at Tampa International Airport, his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority and the company that built and maintained the elevator. The family filed the suit on September 26 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court.

Wolfe was seen on airport security cameras at about 1:00 a.m. on March 15, 2013, when he entered an elevator on the third floor of the airport terminal. Officials said he took the elevator to the parking garage on the seventh floor. His body was found later that morning on top of the elevator car, which was stuck on the first floor. An airport police report said that Wolfe appeared to have forced the elevator doors open, but the lawsuit claims that his death was caused by an elevator malfunction.

The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Wolfe’s death an accident and determined that he was intoxicated at the time of his death. The lawsuit claims that Schindler Elevator Corp. breached its duty to properly maintain, inspect and repair the elevator, and that Wolfe’s death was caused by negligence on the part of Schindler and the aviation authority.

An airport spokesman said that the elevators were inspected and found to be safe.