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Former security guard accuses coal business of wrongful termination

WILLIAMSON A former security guard is suing a coal business, alleging wrongful termination in retaliation for seeking workers compensation leave. Ronnie Jordan of Wharncliffe filed the complaint in Mingo Circuit Court against DFM Coal, LLC and Gregory Blairalleging that they violated the Worker’s Compensation Discriminatory Practices Act and West Virginia Human Rights Act. According to the complaint, on June 21, 2016, Jordan was injured while working as a security guard at the defendant’s coal mine in Wharncliffe. The suit says he promptly filed for workers compensation benefits.

The suit says he was denied his compensation claim and he protested to the Office of Judges where a hearing was held in January. After the workers compensation claim was held compensable during the hearing, the lawsuit states, Jordan was terminated Feb. 23. As a result, Jordan says he has he suffered lost wages, benefits and humiliation. The plaintiff alleges the defendants failed to give employees their right to a medical leave, failed to provide a safe working environment to avoid injuries and failed to provide legal reason before terminating an employee. Jordan seeks trial by jury, lost wages, benefits, back pay, front pay, all damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney fees, court costs and all equitable relief. He is represented by attorney Steve S. Wolfe of Wolfe, White and Associates in Logan.

Mingo Circuit Court Case number 17-C-60

J&J, Bayer Accused of Hiding Blood-Thinning Drug’s Flaws

Joseph Boudreaux says taking Johnson & Johnson[1] s blood-thinning drug Xarelto was one of the biggest mistakes of his life. While Xarelto[2] was supposed to help cut his stroke risk, Boudreaux says it instead caused internal bleeding that required a week-long hospital stay in the intensive-care unit, several blood transfusions and multiple heart procedures. I don t want anybody else to suffer like I have from that drug, the part-time security guard says. On Monday, Boudreaux urged a New Orleans jury to hold J&J and Bayer AG[3], which jointly developed Xarelto, responsible for the treatment s potentially fatal side effects, in the first lawsuit targeting the medicine to go to trial.

The companies are facing more than 18,000 U.S. patient suits blaming the blood thinner for internal bleeding. The medicine also has been linked to at least 370 deaths[4], according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports.

Top Seller

The drug is Bayer s top-selling product, generating $3.24 billion in sales (3 billion euros) last year and $2.5 billion (2.3 billion euros) in 2015 for the Leverkusen, Germany based pharmaceutical company. Xarelto is J&J s third-largest seller, bringing in $2.29 billion in 2016 as the New Brunswick, New Jersey, company seeks to replace revenue from its Remicade arthritis treatment, which lost patent protection a year ago.

J&J, Bayer Accused Of Hiding Blood-Thinning Drug's Flaws

Boudreaux s case is the first of four suits overseen by U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon in New Orleans slated for trial over the next three months.

The allegations made in the Xarelto lawsuits contradict years of data on the medicine and the FDA s determination of its safety and efficacy, said William Foster, a spokesman for J&J s Janssen unit that sells the drug in the U.S. Bayer says that while there are some patient complaints, Xarelto s bleeding risks are fully outlined on the medicine s warning label and well known by prescribing doctors. Bayer stands behind the safety and efficacy of Xarelto, and will vigorously defend it, spokeswoman Astrid Kranz said in an emailed statement. U.S. regulators approved Xarelto in 2011 to prevent blood clots in users undergoing knee and hip surgeries. The drug s use has been extended to patients, such as Boudreaux, who suffer from irregular heartbeats and are at high risk of stroke.

Xarelto belongs to a new class of drugs aimed at replacing Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.[5] s Coumadin, which has thinned patients blood since the 1960s. Other new thinners include Pradaxa made by Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH[6], a German company that paid $650 million[7] in 2014 to settle thousands of suits claiming it hid the medicine s bleeding risks.

No Antidote

J&J and Bayer are accused of falsely marketing Xarelto as more effective at preventing strokes than Coumadin and easier to use, because Xarelto patients didn t need frequent blood tests. Lawyers for Boudreaux and other former Xarelto patients stress the drug has no antidote, so it puts some users at high risk for bleeding out if they suffer an injury. Coumadin s blood-thinning effects can be stemmed. J&J and Bayer officials should have warned consumers they could be tested to gauge their Xarelto bleed-out risk, patients attorneys claim. Financial concerns ruled out such disclosures, Brian Barr[8], one of Boudreaux s lawyers, told jurors in open statements Monday. The test that would identify people at high risk was inconsistent with the marketing plan they came up with, he said. The business plan came first.

J&J and Bayer point to the FDA s finding that Xarelto is safe and effective for patients seeking to avoid stroke-causing clots to buttress claims the drug doesn t pose undue risks, according to court papers. They also say millions of users have taken the drug without suffering bleeding side effects. The pharmaceutical makers also argue Boudreaux and other patients can t prove doctors would have avoided prescribing the drug even if they d had the kind of bleeding warnings sought by the plaintiffs, according to court filings. Xarelto s label is adequate as a matter of law, the companies attorneys said. The companies also dispute the validity of the safety test designed to gauge Xarelto users bleeding risks, saying in court filings that the test didn t provide useful information to doctors. We don t believe it s a safety test because it doesn t work with this particular drug,” Beth Wilkinson[9], a lawyer for both companies, said in opening statements Monday.

Bellwether Case

The most important business stories of the day. Get Bloomberg’s daily newsletter. Boudreaux s case serves as a bellwether to help decide the strength of the Xarelto claims, said David Logan, a mass-tort law professor at Roger Williams University[10] in Rhode Island. Fallon will allow a number of such trials to see if jurors rule for patients and award damages, Williams said. Once the results are in, the parties may feel more confident about whether to settle the remaining claims, he said.

Xarelto cases filed in federal courts around the U.S. have been consolidated before Fallon while other suits are awaiting trials in state courts in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Fallon previously oversaw suits against Merck & Co. targeting its Vioxx painkiller that resulted in a $4.85 billion settlement[11].

Judge Fallon has been through the process several times, said Carl Tobias, who teaches product-liability law at the University of Richmond in Virginia. He knows how to get suits to trial that will give the companies and plaintiffs a good feel for what these cases are worth.

The cases are Boudreaux v. Janssen, 14-cv-2720, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, and In RE Xarelto Products Liability Litigation, 14-MD-2592, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

References

  1. ^ Company Overview (www.bloomberg.com)
  2. ^ Drug s Web Site (www.xarelto-us.com)
  3. ^ Company Overview (www.bloomberg.com)
  4. ^ Web Site With FDA Side-Effect Data (www.ismp.org)
  5. ^ Company Overview (www.bloomberg.com)
  6. ^ Company Overview (www.bloomberg.com)
  7. ^ Boehringer Pays $650 Million to Settle Blood-Thinner Suits (2) (www.bloomberg.com)
  8. ^ Lawyer s Web Site (www.levinlaw.com)
  9. ^ Lawyer s Web Site (wilkinsonwalsh.com)
  10. ^ Company Overview (www.bloomberg.com)
  11. ^ Merck to Pay $4.85 Billion to Resolve Vioxx Claims (Update4) (www.bloomberg.com)

Energizing Louisiana’s Future

By Jack Rogers
From the March/April 2017 Issue

Louisiana s chief executive inherited some daunting challenges, including a few left over from his predecessor and some fresh wallops delivered by Mother Nature. But whether it s a nagging budget shortfall or record flooding, Gov. John Bel Edwards has proven he can walk and chew gum at the same time, and then some. While putting his state on a sound fiscal footing and shoring up its disaster defenses, Gov. Edwards hasn t lost a step in his aggressive effort to position Louisiana as a leader in 21st-century growth sectors. In fact, he s made some huge leaps in forward progress.

GLOBAL CENTER OF LNG EXPORTS

In an exclusive interview with Business Facilities, Gov. Edwards emphatically confirmed that Louisiana has the assets in place to claim the crown as the U.S. leader in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. We absolutely have the infrastructure in place to be the leading U.S. exporter of liquefied natural gas, Edwards declared.

https://businessfacilities.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/GovReport.mp3[1]

Energizing Louisiana's FutureIn February 2016, the Chevron-owned tanker Asia Vision was fully loaded with LNG at Cheniere s massive Sabine Pass liquefaction and export facility in Cameron Parish. The shipment the first LNG cargo exported from the U.S. was delivered to the Bahia LNG terminal of Brazil s Petrobras, launching what is expected to be a new era in global LNG trade [industry experts predict the U.S. will be among the world s top three exporters of LNG by 2020]. Cheniere is building liquefaction and export facilities at its existing import terminal along the Sabine River on the border between Texas and Louisiana. The company plans to construct up to six liquefaction trains, each of which will have a nominal production capacity of about 4.5 million metric tons per year of LNG.

Energizing Louisiana's FutureLouisiana, with the nation s most-extensive pipeline network and its busiest ports, is poised to become a global hub for LNG exports. Edwards noted that Louisiana already has more than a dozen active pipelines that make it the central hub for moving natural gas to destinations all over North America.

We have the deepwater ports [and] we have the pipelines in the ground. They ve been shipping gas to the north and the west, but through re-engineering these pipes can supply all of the gas they need down on the coast [for exports], the governor told us. Energy industry giants from around the world are queuing up to build huge new LNG facilities on Louisiana s Gulf Coast. From Cameron Parish in the southwest of our state to Plaquemines Parish in the far southeast, we have investments in the tens of billions of dollars that are coming on line, Edwards said. We believe we re well positioned going forward for many, many years to come.

Energizing Louisiana's FutureThe U.S. is poised to become the world s third-largest exporter of LNG by 2020, with most of it coming from Louisiana.

Edwards told BF he expects four more multi-billion-dollar gas liquefaction facilities on the scale of Sabine Pass to come on line in Louisiana by 2021, adding another 9.2 billion cubic feet per day of LNG capacity. The LNG boom is being fueled by historically low prices for natural gas due to an abundant supply that is being extracted from shale-gas deposits across the U.S. using horizontal fracturing (fracking) drilling rigs. Edwards also said he expects the U.S. to become the LNG supplier-of-choice for several overseas markets, including Europe, which currently rely on natural gas shipments from Russia. A lot of consumers of LNG have been buying their energy from sources that aren t quite as stable and predictable as we are, the governor noted.

Energizing Louisiana's FutureLast year, the first U.S. export shipment of liquefied natural gas was made from Cheniere s massive Sabine Pass liquefaction facility in Cameron Parish. (Photo: Cheniere Energy, Inc.)

AIMING TO BE NO. 1 IN CYBERSECURITY

Louisiana also has established a leadership position in one of the hottest new growth sectors: cybersecurity. Already up and running is the $107-million Cyber Innovation Center (CIC), which will anchor the 3,000-acre National Cyber Research Park (NCRP) in Shreveport-Bossier City. The Cyber Innovation Center received funding from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, which wanted a leading cybersecurity research hub near the U.S. Air Force s Global Strike Command headquarters.

The National Cyber Research Park is adjacent to Barksdale Air Force Base, which is home to a four-star nuclear command, so cyber is a natural fit in that area, Edwards told BF.

With full access to Louisiana s university system and a location in proximity to some critical military installations, the NCRP will exponentially expand Louisiana s already impressive head start in establishing a fully integrated national hub for cybersecurity.

We have all of the state s universities, especially those along the I-20 corridor and Louisiana Tech, really working very closely with the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City, Edwards said.

Energizing Louisiana's FutureCRSA Integrated Tech Center is among the crown jewels of the emerging cybersecurity hub in Shreveport-Bossier City, along with the Cyber Innovation Center.

Louisiana Tech University recently launched the nation s first four-year bachelor s degree program in Cyber Engineering, a program developed in partnership with the CIC and Air Force Research Labs. In a recent Snapshots interview with BF, CIC Executive Director Craig Spohn said the Cyber Engineering discipline is part of an integrated approach between the national security apparatus and higher education to train cyber engineers.

It s computer science and electrical engineering with a national security underpinning, Spohn said. The CIC partners with Louisiana Tech University in advancing research by connecting federal agencies with investigators who are conducting a variety of relevant cyber research [projects]. Louisiana Tech University is a Center of Academic Excellence for the National Security Agency. In addition to cyber engineering and information assurance, Spohn said relevant research topics include cyber policy and strategy, electronics shielding, data analytics and multi-sensor data fusion, micro- and nanotechnology, underground infrastructure and advanced communications. Skills critical to cybersecurity range from an understanding of software and hardware, along with networking and programming, and an understanding of the problem in the context of policy, law and ethics.

Energizing Louisiana's FutureThe Cyber Innovation Center will anchor a 3,000-acre National Cyber Research Park. (Photo: mcinnisbrothers.com)

Gov. Edwards told BF that Louisiana s push to develop a cybersecurity workforce isn t limited to its universities. There s some really exciting research in cybersecurity going on in our universities, but we re also pushing to stimulate interest in the cyber world among our high school and middle school students, he said. The NCRP already is spurring the development of a high-tech hub that is attracting new players to Louisiana s data center sector. Last fall, Gov. Edwards dedicated the CRSA Integrated Technology Center in Bossier City, a data center operation that created 800 new high-tech jobs.

As cybersecurity moves to the top of U.S. national security concerns, the potential for growth in the emerging cybersecurity sector seems unlimited. [In an interview last fall, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson estimated that the cybersecurity industry eventually will create more than 1 million jobs in the U.S.]

Gov. Edwards told BF cybersecurity was a prime topic of discussion at this month s National Governors Association meeting in Washington. We spent an awful lot of time talking about cybersecurity and cyber research, and how this is critically important not just for defense but also for private enterprise, Edwards said. As a state with a significant number of military installations, Louisiana is applying as well as developing new cybersecurity measures. We go through exercises where we simulate cyber attacks, sometimes as stand-alones and sometimes in conjunction with a natural disaster, Edwards said.

I ve sat through three secret briefings with the FBI on cybersecurity. It is chilling what is going on out there and what the capabilities are. The bad guys are very creative people. It s something we have to prepare for, he added. Edwards said the U.S. Department of Defense is planning to invest heavily in cybersecurity. Louisiana s National Guard is in the running to lead cybersecurity teams in Baton Rouge and Bossier City, he said, and the state may be designated to host a DOD headquarters for cybersecurity.

EXPANDING BUSINESS TIES WITH CUBA

Even before President Obama s restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba in December 2015 (after a 50-year hiatus during the Cold War), Louisiana was pushing the envelope to expand trade with the island nation.

Over the last 10 years, we ve led the nation by far in the amount of trade we re doing with Cuba, but there are still rules in place that keep that amount low, Edwards said. Under the economic embargo the U.S. imposed on Cuba in 1959, which is still in effect, business deals in Cuba still require pre-payment in full or financing through a third party, and a vessel that has docked in a Cuban port is prevented from visiting an American port for 180 days, Edwards explained. After the American flag was raised again over the U.S. embassy in Havana (by the same soldiers who had taken it down 50 years earlier), Louisiana s state Legislature formally asked the governor to explore ways to restore Louisiana s historic relationship with Cuba, which includes cultural ties that go back several hundred years, and to expand trade and business opportunities that easily can be serviced by the proximity of Cuba s ports to New Orleans.

Gov. Edwards led a trade mission to Cuba in October that resulted in the signing of Memorandums of Understanding (the precursor to trade agreements) between the state s ports and Cuban ports, and between Cuban ports and LA s commissioner of agriculture. Edwards candidly told BF he is concerned about early signals from the new administration in Washington that the opening to Cuba might be halted or rolled back. I do have some concerns because it seemed like we were on a very clear trajectory as a nation to move forward in terms of normalizing relations and trade over time with Cuba, he said. There are so many areas in which [normalization] would be mutually beneficial. Edwards told BF he is optimistic that ultimately the trend toward stronger ties between the U.S. and Cuba will prevail. The governor expressed confidence that Louisiana would continue to lead the way in building renewed trade with our hemispheric neighbor 90 miles south of Florida.

We asked Gov. Edwards to specify a Louisiana export that would thrive if full trade is permitted to resume between the United States and Cuba. His answer may surprise you: Cuba needs better rice for its rice-centric cuisine.

They re getting their rice all the way from Vietnam and it s an inferior grade of rice, Edwards said. It takes 30 days to get there and we could get [our rice] there in a week. Our rice is the best rice in the world, but they can t get it because they still have to prepay in full.

While it may take a bit more time for Louisiana to take full advantage of its unquestioned superiority in gumbo grain in the expansion of trade with Cuba, Gov. Edwards let us know he s preparing to deploy another Louisiana specialty to amplify his state s support for the opening to Cuba: the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this year will be featuring Cuban jazz.

References

  1. ^ https://businessfacilities.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/GovReport.mp3 (cdn.businessfacilities.com)
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