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JAMA: Drugged-driving fatalities rise by about 12 percent on 4/20

April 20 is a countercultural holiday for marijuana smokers, even in states where cannabis is illegal. The holiday may seem relatively harmless, but it comes at a serious cost: an increase in fatal crashes.

According to a recent research letter in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the nationwide fatal accident rate is approximately 12 percent higher between 4:20 p.m. and midnight on April 20. According to the authors' research, marijuana enthusiasts and activists gather at 4:20 p.m. that day in order to participate in mass consumption of cannabis.

J&J and talc supplier liable for $80 million in punitive damages

In a major victory on April 5, a New Jersey state-court jury awarded a man with mesothelioma and his wife $37 million in damages. The plaintiffs alleged that his deadly asbestos-related cancer developed because he used Johnson & Johnson talcum powder for decades.

The same jury later added $80 million in punitive damages to the total in the second phase of the trial. Punitive damages, also called exemplary damages, are a tool for a jury to punish a defendant in a civil case for bad behavior. In addition, punitive damage awards are a way to set the defendant out as an example to deter other similar parties from engaging in similar behavior.

4 top pain docs named as defendants in opioid crisis lawsuits

Opioid overdoses are a national health crisis, and local governments are taking steps to hold someone accountable. Over 450 lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts by cities and counties across the nation. Most of those lawsuits accuse the five main manufacturers of opioid pain medications of instigating the crisis with false claims about the drugs' efficacy and risks.

Many of the lawsuits also name doctors. At least 80 cases name three specific doctors and at least 18 include a fourth, who is apparently named in fewer suits simply because he lacks insurance. These physicians allegedly participated in research, consulting, public speaking, continuing medical education and other activities which promoted the use of opioid drugs. Allegedly in exchange, they and organizations they led received tens of thousands of dollars from the drug makers.

Study: Ignition interlocks do reduce fatal drunk driving crashes

In Tennessee, people who are convicted of DUI offenses are typically required to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle -- at their own expense. These devices are a bit like Breathalyzers and won't allow the vehicle to start until the driver provides a clean breath sample. Installation, maintenance and removal all have costs, however, and a single year's expense for an ignition interlock could easily exceed $1,000.

Talc producer settles mesothelioma suit during jury deliberations

Just as a Florida jury sat down for its first day of deliberations, the parties in a mesothelioma lawsuit agreed to a confidential settlement. The plaintiff, a former tile worker, had been seeking $11.5 million in damages from Vanderbilt Minerals, LLC, which produces talc used in ceramic products. According to the plaintiff's attorney, Vanderbilt Minerals' talc products are largely the product of a single mine which has been shown to contain asbestos.

As is common in mesothelioma cases, the defense argued that there were a number of plausible sources of asbestos to which the plaintiff might have been exposed. For example, the plaintiff could have been exposed when performing brake jobs, which he occasionally did as a hobby. Furthermore, the defense argued that the plaintiff's employer, Florida Tile Company, may not have provided adequate safety training for working with talc.

Coffee and health concerns: what to know about your cup of joe

Countless Americans rely on coffee to get through the day. For years, there have been conflicting reports about the health benefits and risks of doing this.

One recent, headline-making view is that coffee contains carcinogens. There is also evidence, however, that coffee helps protect against cancer and has other health benefits.

So, does coffee pose a significant health risk to consumers? Is it time for you to break the habit?

Tennessee mulls ending criminal penalties for blood test refusal

The Tennessee legislature is considering changing the state's implied consent law, which requires drivers to provide breath or blood samples when suspected of DUI. You can lawfully refuse the test, but there are consequences. For a first offense, your driver's license will be revoked for a year.

Revocation of your license may be inconvenient, but it is considered an administrative as opposed to a criminal penalty. In some circumstances, however, refusal can be criminal. When a suspect is driving on a revoked license, refusing a breath or blood test is a Class A misdemeanor. It's also a Class A misdemeanor to prevent or obstruct someone from taking the test.

Actor to be resentenced in DUI manslaughter case

Amy Locane, who performed in 13 episodes of the popular TV series "Melrose Place" and who has appeared in several films, was arrested for vehicular manslaughter after a fatal 2010 car crash in New Jersey. The indictment charging her did not specifically mention alcohol intoxication, but a prosecution witness testified that she was likely at around three times the legal limit and speeding at about 53 mph in a 35 mph zone just before the crash.

According to the Associated Press, Locane's defense said that the actor rear-ended another car at a traffic light. That car chased her and honked at her, which distracted her. That led to the crash that killed a 60-year-old woman and seriously injured her husband.

Head injuries may increase ADHD risk in kids

If you are a parent whose child has suffered a head injury, you have every reason to be concerned.

After all, it's becoming more and more widely known that mild-to-severe brain injuries can have long-term negative effects.

But is it true that even less-severe brain injuries suffered by children can lead to enhanced risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

Brand-name drug makers can be held responsible for generic labels

Inadequate labeling can rob medical patients of their right to make informed decisions about the benefits and risks of taking certain medications. When known side effects aren't listed, there is a good chance doctors and pharmacists don't know about them, and patients are exposed to unexpected risks.

Generic drugs account for about 90 percent of the prescription pharmaceuticals market. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that patients cannot sue generic drug makers for inadequate labeling. Why? Generic drugs are required by law to carry the same warning labels as the brand-name versions.

Does that mean a patient who was harmed by an unexpected side effect could sue the brand-name company for inadequate labeling -- even if they took the generic version of the drug?

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