Opioid Maker Admits Defeat

Last Month, the Sackler family, the leaders behind the drug company Purdue Pharma, agreed to an $8.3 billion dollar settlement with the US government. Purdue Pharma, best known for the drug OxyContin, abused its power and lied about the drug's risk of addiction. For years, they even played both sides of the addiction game, telling doctors and patients the drug was safe while working to build out addiction treatment centers to help treat people for the addictions their own drugs caused.

For several years, the law branches of both States and the Federal government have been engaged in lawsuits over the Sacklers role in the Opioid Epidemic. Not only is Purdue Pharma shutting down and paying large fines, the Sackler family itself are on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars for their role in directing the dishonest business practices surrounding the sale and marketing of OxyContin.

Although this settlement marks a major milestone in the government's legal response to the Opioid Epidemic, it is not the end. Several states are still unsatisfied with the punishments Purdue Pharma and its controlling family have received. There's also hints that the Sacklers have hidden much of their opioid profits in order to protect their wealth from lawsuits. They have even gone so far as to ask judges to exclude them from the thousands of smaller lawsuits that have built up during the decades their companies mismanaged the opioid epidemic.

The Justice Department, for its part, has pointed out that this settlement still leaves open the possibility for more litigation and more punishments in the future.


Thomson Reuters Recognizes Martin Walker Co-Founders Among Texas Super Lawyers

Martin Walker PC is proud to announce that trial lawyers and firm co-founders Reid Martin and John F. (Jack) Walker III have earned recognition among this year’s Texas Super Lawyers. Both have been selected for their work on behalf of plaintiffs in the area of medical malpractice.

“Jack understands how stressful and often how scary a client’s situation can be,” said Mr. Martin. “He wants our clients to know that they’ve got someone in their corner, and that’s evident in the way he fights for them in the courtroom. You couldn’t ask for a better advocate.”

While the number of Texas attorneys who continue to accept medical malpractice cases is shrinking by the year, Martin Walker PC stands ready to fight for those it represents. Each attorney is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

“For the sorts of cases we take on, I couldn’t ask for a better partner than Reid,” said Mr. Walker. “To be able to sit with him, talk through a case, and find solutions that often aren’t obvious right at the start, is something I’m very thankful for. Not a day goes by that I’m not impressed by his work ethic and commitment.”

Each year, Thomson Reuters recognizes less than five percent of attorneys in the state for its list of Texas Super Lawyers. Those selected are nominated by peers and colleagues and then vetted through independent research by the Thomson Reuters’ editorial staff before a final review by a blue-ribbon panel. A final list of honorees is published in the November issue of Texas Monthly and the Texas edition of Texas Super Lawyers magazines. The full list is available online at http://www.superlawyers.com.

This is far from the first time Martin Walker PC has been recognized for its skill and leadership. In 2020, the firm was inducted into the Texas Verdicts Hall of Fame for a $43.32 million medical malpractice verdict, which was the largest in Texas in 2018 and the largest overall in the past five years. Earlier this year, Mr. Martin and Mr. Walker were each recognized in the 2021 edition of Best Lawyers in America.


Martin Walker Law Firm Inducted into National Law Journal Verdicts Hall of Fame

Martin Walker has earned recognition in The National Law Journal’s Verdicts Hall of Fame for a record $43 million medical malpractice verdict won in 2018 against East Texas Medical Center.

Firm co-founders Jack Walker and Reid Martin, together with trial attorney Marisa Schouten, represented a man who had to be placed in a medically induced coma for more than a month after a botched procedure by a doctor who was already on probation with the Texas Medical Board. The plaintiff had sought help at the Tyler hospital for bile duct stones but was misdiagnosed by a gastroenterologist who should not have been allowed access to the hospital at the time of the procedure. Weeks after he was placed in a coma, a second doctor rejected the original diagnosis and successfully completed the operation.

“Thank you to The National Law Journal for recognizing all the hard work that went into this case,” said firm co-founder Reid Martin. “Those affected by medical malpractice stand to lose so much, and everyone at Martin Walker is absolutely committed to fighting for them and making sure they get the justice they deserve.”

As compensation for past and future pain and suffering, as well as medical care and lost income, the plaintiff was awarded approximately $18.5 million, as well as an additional $25 million in punitive damages meant to cover the hospital’s gross negligence. This amount represented the largest medical malpractice verdict in Texas for all of 2018.

Those inducted in the Verdicts Hall of Fame were selected from five different practice area categories. This year’s honorees represent the firms with the highest verdicts from 2015-2019 and are recognized in the October 2020 issue of The National Law Journal.

The complete listing of the National Law Journal Verdicts Hall of Fame can be found here.


Martin Walker Law Firm Earns Entry to Texas Verdicts Hall of Fame

Martin Walker has been inducted into Texas Lawyer newspaper’s Texas Verdicts Hall of Fame. The news comes after the firm secured a record $43 million medical malpractice against East Texas Medical Center.

Pierce v. East Texas Medical Center saw Martin Walker co-founders Jack Walker and Reid Martin and trial attorney Marisa Schouten represent a man who suffered serious medical complications after being misdiagnosed by a gastroenterologist who was on probation with the Texas Medical Board. According to the lawsuit, the doctor, who should not have been allowed to work at the hospital at the time of the procedure, wrongly concluded that surgery was not an option to remove bile duct stones. The man was placed in a medically induced coma for a more than a month until a second doctor rejected the original diagnosis and operated without complication.

“This verdict was commensurate with the damage that was done to my client,” Mr. Walker said. “Regular people trust their doctors to handle some of the most important decisions in their lives. To allow such a serious medical error to occur was unconscionable. We’re grateful to Texas Lawyer and our colleagues in the legal community for recognizing the work we did to ensure justice won the day.”

The plaintiff was awarded approximately $18.5 million for past and future pain and suffering, lost income and medical care. Another $25 million in punitive damages was awarded for the hospital’s gross negligence. The total sum has been recognized as the largest medical malpractice verdict in Texas in 2018.

Inductees into the Texas Verdicts Hall of Fame were chosen across five categories, each representing a different area of practice. This year’s honorees represent the firms with the highest verdicts from 2015-2019 and will be recognized in the September 2020 issue of Texas Lawyer.


Martin Walker Handles Case Of 13-year old's Preventable Death

In August 2018, Kyrell McBride-Johnson collapsed on the football field during tryouts and later died while being taken to the hospital. It was determined that Kyrell had died of a pre-existing heart condition even though he had been screened and cleared by CareNow clinic in Fort Worth. Critically, Kyrell had checked yes to three important questions:

"Have you ever had chest pain during or after exercise?
"Have you ever become ill from exercising in the heat?"
"Do you have asthma?"

"These questionnaires are designed to be a screening tool, and it needed to be taken seriously,” Reid Martin said about the case. “They just didn’t do their job in this case. He should be with us today because this was a preventable death.”

An autopsy showed that Kyrell died of a heart anomaly called an anomalous coronary artery, which is the second most common cause of death among young athletes.

"I want the medical community to know what happened and to take these screenings more seriously,” Kyrell's mother, Monica McBride-Debbs said. “That would prevent any other parent, any other mom, to have to go through what I went through with my 13-year-old son, who had a very promising life ahead of him."

This case has gotten coverage on The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, NBC 5 News in Dallas, and others.


soldiers

New Bill Will Allow Veterans To Seek Damages In Military Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

soldiersIt seems only right that the men and women who have served in our armed forces should get the best medical care, but often that is not the case. We've all heard rumors and stories about long waits or poor standards of care for veterans, but one thing you may not have heard is that veterans have little recourse if a military doctor or hospital injures them as part of a procedure.

According to the military news website Task & Purpose, a 1950 Supreme Court ruling that was originally intended to shield doctors from lawsuits as they made life or death decisions on the battlefield has, over time, been applied to non-battlefield cases. At this point, the ruling essentially blocks veterans from suing for medical malpractice.

Fortunately, efforts are in the works to amend this situation. A bill has already been passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and is soon to be co-sponsored in the Senate by Florida Senator Rick Scott. The bill, named after Richard Stayskal, a green beret who is dying of lung cancer after he was misdiagnosed as having pneumonia by doctors at Fort Bragg, is said to change things by allowing veterans up to three years to sue after discovering a misdiagnosis or instance of medical malpractice.

Update: This bill, the SFC Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019, was signed into law near the end of 2019.


Updates on The Opioid Epidemic

One of the biggest national crises of the last twenty years is what some refer to as the Opioid Epidemic. Deaths from overdosing on prescription and non-prescription opioid painkillers began to skyrocket in the late 1990's. This epidemic is now the leading cause of death in Americans under fifty years of age. The worst part about this drug crisis is that it should have been preventable, but dishonest doctors and scheming drug companies worked together to make billions as ordinary patients became addicted to drugs they were told had low or no risk of addiction. On the streets, opioids have become highly trafficked and have lead to further deaths. The harm the opioid epidemic has done has cost more than just human lives. Some estimates put the cost of supporting and caring for those affected by opioid addictions at over $75 billion dollars each year. The crisis has put an unneeded strain on our healthcare system that is not expected to be alleviated for decades.

We've covered a number of stories and incidents over the last year that shows just how out of hand the opioid epidemic has gotten.

 


In January of 2008, New York city brought lawsuits against eight opioid manufacturers. The city sought half a billion dollars in compensation while claiming that drug companies were misleading consumers about the safety of opioids while at the same time they were intentionally oversupplying and underreporting prescriptions of opioids in order to boost their profits.

 


As more focus has been placed on the causes of the opioid epidemic, some of the companies behind the mass production of opioids have begun distancing themselves from the drugs they themselves sold. For instance, in March of 2016, we saw that Purdue Pharma, one of the biggest names in opioids, had decided it would no longer be marketing its painkilling drugs, like OxyContin, to doctors. Multi-billion dollar companies rarely admit mistakes, but when you see one step away from a drug that made them many millions of dollars, it is practically the same thing.

 


In many ways, though, Purdue Pharma's move away from its core drugs was a too little too late moment. Just a few months earlier, reports about the company's activities painted a company that was actively looking for new and sometimes blatantly unethical ways to increase its profits from its opioid based drugs. At one point the company was looking at setting up opioid addiction treatment programs to help people with the addictive effects of the drugs they were widely marketing. When combined with their other efforts to increase opioid sales and convince doctors to prescribe larger doses, and their overall opioid strategy just starts to feel wrong. According to some reports, they even fired one of their employees who officially raised the alarm about doctors overprescribing OxyContin.


Fortunately, this bad behavior does not seem to have gone unpunished, at least not in the long run. In mid-march, Purdue Pharma publicly announced that they were considering filing for bankruptcy. At the time, Purdue Pharma was coming to terms with a lawsuit in the state of Oklahoma that might have reached the $1 billion mark. After making billions of dollars selling addictive drugs, that the company would then go into bankruptcy seemed a bit farfetched.

 


More recently, in July of this year, new information came to light that showed an outrageous amount of opioids being prescribed in some states in towns. The Washington Post managed to obtain a secret database that the DEA had kept on opioid sales and distribution data from at least 2006 to 2012. After digging into the data, investigators found some truly shocking numbers such as the state of West Virginia having so many opioid pills distributed that each of its residents would have received 60 of them each year. Even more outrageous, one town in Virginia had prescribed enough opioid pills that each of its 4,000 residents could have received 306 pills each year. These kind of numbers help explain why opioids had become so widespread that they have now become known as a crisis or epidemic.

 

Update, soon after we complied this report, a new story about opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma broke. Here are the details: 

A big update in the ongoing opioid crisis was widely reported yesterday. Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family have apparently floated the idea of a $10 to $12 billion settlement in response to the nearly 2,000 city, state and county lawsuits pending against them.

In order to pay for this settlement, Purdue Pharma would need to declare bankruptcy, and even then, roughly half of the $7 to $8 billion would be made up in opioid-overdose medication that Purdue Pharma produces. The rest would come from ongoing profits of the company's drug sales. The Sacklers would pay for their part of the settlement in large part by selling off their international drug company Mundipharma.

All this came to light during a meeting with several state attorneys general, but this deal also came with a warning. Lawyers from Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family said if this deal was not agreed to, Purdue Pharma would most likely declare bankruptcy all the same which, without the deal in place, would make it a lot tougher to collect fines and payments from the company.

In what feels like an insincere twist, Purdue Pharma put out an official statement that included: "The people and communities affected by the opioid crisis need help now. Purdue believes a constructive global resolution is the best path forward, and the company is actively working with the state attorneys general and other plaintiffs to achieve this outcome." That seems a bit much for one of the larger companies that helped drive this opioid epidemic in the first place.

 

Taken individually, these stories and cases point to bad decisions and unfortunate actions on behalf of opioid manufactures and the doctors that prescribed the pills to patients. When considered together as part of more than a decade of behavior, the severity of the opioid epidemic starts to become clear. These companies were doing everything they could to influence doctors to overprescribe their drugs. They encouraged larger doses, managed to get significant health organizations to repeat their, at best, unverified claims about the safety of their medications, secretly looked into playing both sides of the game by prescribing the drugs and then set up programs to help those who became addicted, and finally threatened to declare bankruptcy when their actions came to light.

Opioid addictions and drug overprescription are not just national issues. They can affect people in East Texas just as easily as they can in West Virginia. If you or a love one think may have been affected by the opioid crisis you need someone who handles medical malpractice cases on a daily basis. Give the Martin Walker law firm a call at 903-526-1600 for a free case evaluation.


Martin Walker Earns Texas’ Largest Medical Malpractice Verdict in 2018

Martin Walker Earns Texas’ Largest Medical Malpractice Verdict in 2018

 

$43M gross negligence verdict named to Texas Lawyer list of top verdicts

TYLER, Texas – Trial law firm Martin Walker has earned honors for winning the largest medical malpractice verdict in Texas in 2018 for the $43.32 million jury award against Tyler-based East Texas Medical Center and one of its doctors. The editors of Texas Lawyerincluded the verdict in the magazine’s listing of Top Verdicts and Settlements, 10thEdition, based on research gathered by VerdictSearch.

 

A jury found ETMC grossly negligent for allowing Dr. Gary Boyd to treat 61-year-old Billy Pierce, despite having been placed on probation by the Texas Medical Board. Mr. Pierce was admitted in April 2014 with stomach pain and vomiting.

 

During the trial, Martin Walker attorneys argued the hospital bylaws should have prevented Dr. Boyd from practicing at the facility. Testimony showed that Dr. Boyd diagnosed Mr. Pierce with an abnormality he said would make surgery to remove bile duct stones impossible. For more than a month, Mr. Pierce was in a medically induced coma during which time Dr. Boyd and the hospital abandoned him, according to testimony. Once the hospital sought a second opinion, a new doctor rejected Dr. Boyd’s diagnosis and operated without complication.

 

Jurors agreed that Dr. Boyd’s improper care led to the loss of Mr. Pierce’s quality of life and his ability to provide for his family. The $43 million verdict included $18.57 million for past and future pain, anguish, loss of earning capacity, and medical care and expenses. The jury also awarded $25 million in punitive damages, after concluding the hospital’s conduct involved an extreme risk of potential harm to others.

 

Mr. Pierce was represented by Martin Walker name partners Reid Martin and Jack Walker and attorney Marisa Schouten. The case is Billy Pierce v. East Texas Medical Center and Dr. Gary Boyd and the ETMC Digestive Disease Center, Cause No. 16-0853-C in the 241stDistrict Court in Smith County.

 

Each year, VerdictSearch conducts a comprehensive review to produce the list of top verdicts in Texas. The full list is published in the July 2019 issue of Texas Lawyer.

 

Martin Walker PC is a Tyler-based law firm with significant trial expertise representing individuals and businesses in high-stakes litigation, including medical malpractice, catastrophic injuries involving 18-wheeler accidents, oilfield injuries, wrongful death, and product liability. For more information visit: https://www.martinwalkerlaw.com/

 

Media Contact:

Mark Annick

800-559-4534

mark@androvett.com


Study Shows That A Few Doctors Try To Hide From Their Pasts

A recent article in the New York Times made the case that our current medical malpractice law are not doing enough to protect patients from doctors who have multiple recorded instances of poor performance. 

A group of researchers from Stanford University decided to study what happens to doctors after claims of medical malpractice were leveled against them. They used multiple databases that track medical malpractice claims and payouts to see what happened afterwards. While their study found some morsels of good news, it also revealed a common disturbing trend among doctors subject to multiple medical malpractice claims. 

On the good side, the researchers found that only about 6% of doctors over a 10-year timeframe had any medical malpractice claims against them. Further, the researchers confirmed that doctors who are the subject of multiple medical malpractice claims do have a higher tendency to end their practices and that it is rare for such doctors to try and move to another state with the hopes of leaving their bad reputations behind them. 

Unfortunately, while doctors involved in multiple medical malpractice cases did exit the medical field at a higher rate than those without any claims against them, researchers found that the number of doctors that do quit may not be high enough. Data showed that 90% of doctors with five or more claims continued working in the healthcare. What’s more, not only did 90% of physicians with five or more malpractice claims continue to work in the healthcare field, they were twice as likely as doctors who had fewer claims against them to start their own medical practices. 

One of the authors of the recent studies explained this by suggesting that these problem doctors are possibly being turned down or forced out by larger healthcare organizations because they are too risky. They also noted that larger healthcare organizations tend to have the time and resources to check into the past of each potential physician they hire, but individual patients may not have the time or knowhow to properly check into the doctors that run a private practice. In this way, doctors who have had troubled past can sometimes continue to operate in the healthcare industry. 

In the end, these studies show that doing a little bit of research before seeing a new doctor can help make sure that your next physician doesn’t have any issues hiding in their past.