Liability and the Importance of Medical Records Medical records review plays a vital role in product liability cases such as tobacco lawsuits because it helps identify the particular health conditions and injuries sustained by the plaintiff.
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Medical records review plays an important role in product liability and personal injury cases because it helps identify the particular health conditions and injuries sustained by the injured party. Considering the health risks and deaths caused by tobacco, there have been many product liability lawsuits filed against tobacco manufacturers.
A landmark ruling in this regard has been that of a U.S. district judge on August 17, 2006 against Big Tobacco, finding that tobacco companies had violated civil racketeering laws and defrauded consumers by lying about the health risks involved in smoking.
The judge pointed out that the industry concealed the addictive nature of nicotine and had targeted youth so that they would get hooked on cigarettes for life.
Researchers have found that people start smoking with the belief that they can quit the habit whenever they want to but are not able to do so because of the addictive nature of nicotine contained in the cigarettes. Many people end up with lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes and emphysema. Cigarette smoking is considered the single largest preventable cause of premature death in the United States. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that at least one in every five deaths in the US is related to smoking. When Medical Records Review Shows No Evidence of Addiction Let us consider a recent case wherein even though a product liability medical record review didn’t reveal a nicotine addiction, the jurors’ decision favored the plaintiff. In a tobacco related case in Florida, jurors recently awarded $7.5 million in compensatory damages to the widow of an army veteran Franklin “Jim” Johnston for the role they found cigarette manufacturer R.J Reynolds played in his lung cancer death. The jurors also found punitive damages reasonable against the cigarette manufacturer for its part in a tobacco industry conspiracy in hiding the dangers of smoking, which the plaintiff side argued had caused Johnston to die from lung cancer fueled from his long-term nicotine addiction. The plaintiff lawyer pointed out the following:
The growing scientific evidence about the dangers of smoking and how the tobacco industry attempted to conceal this through their market schemes.
The industry targeted youth and people like Johnston who had only a 10th grade education.
They knew that many of their consumers were less educated and the base of their business is the high school student.
The defense argument was that Johnston smoked by choice rather than addiction and the medical records did not document nicotine addiction. They argued that if he was an addict that should have been documented. However, the plaintiff side argued presenting Johnston’s addictive smoking habits which made him continue smoking even after he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and the jury found this convincing. The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) The FDA (U.S Food and Drug Administration) considers cigarettes and smokeless (chewing) tobacco as nicotine delivery devices. When inhaled, nicotine passes from the lungs into the bloodstream and takes only 10 seconds to reach the brain; in roughly 20 seconds it is dispersed throughout the entire body.
The largest civil settlement in the history of the United States comprise the lawsuits against Large Tobacco by 46 states, four territories and the District of Columbia which were all settled for $206 billion.
This was known as the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) and specified that Tobacco pay the agreed amount in installments over a 25-year period to the states and territories.
This agreement restricted the tobacco company’s ability to win over younger audiences to smoking by marketing cigarettes on transit systems, billboards, TV and at large sporting events.
It also altered the FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco products and smoking, and also placed limits on future tobacco litigation.
compensatory damages such as lost wages and medical costs. Accurate Documentation in Medical Records Vital Tobacco litigation is complex and both parties may find it difficult to win. A medical review company performing medical record review for attorneys will always be on the lookout for plausible evidence that can help the attorney argue the case and go on to win it. That is why accurate documentation in the medical chart is vital. In the above case, the absence of nicotine addiction details in the plaintiff’s medical records should have proved favorable to the defense side, but there were other factors that worked in favor of the plaintiff such as his addictive behavior and the plaintiff lawyer was able to convince the jury that he was indeed an addict. However, the plaintiff side would have merited more if the nicotine addiction was recorded in his medical chart.
People injured by tobacco smoking may have a product liability claim but a statute of limitations could apply and legal experts advise such people to contact a product liability attorney as soon as possible.
Medical records review plays a vital role in product liability cases such as tobacco lawsuits because it helps identify the particular healt...