In this week’s news, we’ve learned that the world’s largest car maker, Volkswagen, has been caught using gizmos on its diesel vehicles that change their reported air polluting emissions, faking lower emission reports for their products than is accurate. It’s not a car defect that causes accidents, like the recent GM Ignition scandal, but this is a big deal nevertheless: in fact, it’s being called a bigger scandal than Enron in the news media.
What happened was this, in a nutshell: the car maker intentionally installed devices on its diesel vehicles that reported false emissions results when the vehicles were tested.
Why? It saved the company lots of money.
It’s unclear how long it will take to figure out exactly what has happened here, worldwide, and how far reaching the impact will be of the Volkswagen Emissions Cheating Scandal. Today, the car maker announced that it will be “at least several months” before the public has the full story.
Already, Volkswagen has set aside $8 Million to cover car recalls (that’s probably wishful thinking on VW’s part) and the stock price of the company has plunged. Its CEO has resigned. And it is reported that the Environmental Protection Agency may fine the German car company as much as $18 Billion in fines. See “The Domino Effect Of Volkswagen’s Emissions Scandal,“ in Forbes for more dire predictions of what’s going to happen here.
Prison For CEO After Salmonella-Tainted Peanut Butter Killed Nine People
Last week in a federal criminal courtroom, the former owner of Peanut Corporation of America was sentenced by a federal judge to serve 28 years in a federal penitentiary in a food safety criminal case. Seems the corporate big wig oversaw and approved his company shipping out peanut butter that he knew was contaminated with salmonella and he faked lab test results to hide the salmonella in the test screening for the toxic bacteria.
Why? It saved the company lots of money.
Last year this peanut company head honcho, Stewart Parnell, was convicted on 71 felony counts (conspiracy, wire fraud, etc.) based upon food safety crimes. The 28 year sentence is being reported as the harshest criminal sentence ever given to a company executive in a food safety prosecution.
It’s much lower than what the prosecutors were seeking, though. They wanted 803 years behind bars for this guy. And for good reason. Not only did hundreds of Americans get sick after eating this salmonella-poisoned peanut butter, but NINE PEOPLE DIED from eating it. Many young kids got sick; elderly people and seniors were vulnerable to the toxin and died from eating the tainted peanut butter.
At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands, explained his sentencing decision as actions that were “… driven simply by the desire to profit and to protect profits notwithstanding the known risks.”
Drug Company Price Hike
A drug called “Daraprim” has been on the market for years and years, selling for something like $13.50/pill. Daraprim is designed to be an anti-parasite medication. It’s main ingredient is a chemical called pyrimethamine.
It’s used to treat maleria and it’s on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.
This week, there was a news scandal as the drug company CEO Martin Shkreli jacked up the price of a Daraprim pill from $13.50 to $750.00 per pill. That’s right: Seven Hundred and Fifty Dollars ($750.00) per pill.
Seems that Shkreli’s company bought the marketing rights to this drug in the United States a few weeks ago and he’s looking to make a profit from it. (You can read his TV interviews, he is candid about his motivation for the price hike.)
In fact, Shkreli is pretty adamant about doing what he wants here, tweeting out what he considers to be witty defenses to his critics (Eminem lyrics, etc.).
What’s happening here? Money. Profits. Shkreli is adopting a business tactic that other companies have used: they are buying the rights to older drugs and then jacking up the prices and calling them “specialty drugs.”
As an example of this drug profit trend, the New York Times coverage of Shkreli points to a drug used to fight especially hardy strains of tuberculosis called Cycloserine; a company named Rodelis Therapeutics just took over that drug and jacked its price for 30 pills from $500 to $10,800.
The result, of course, is that many sick people cannot afford the medication after the price is jacked up astronomically.
Profits Over People and Personal Injury Law
Sure, these are news stories that don’t involve accidents or injuries where specific people have been severely injured or killed. Our law firm’s practice areas deal with cases where people are pursuing justice after things like construction site falls, car accidents, semi truck crashes, electrocutions on the job site, medical malpractice, and the like. Personal injury claims work to help people recover damages for things like medical expenses, long term rehab costs, physical therapy, lost wages, lost future earning capacity, loss in quality of life, pain and suffering, and more.
These kinds of civil lawsuits work to help injured people and accident victims who have been hurt by the actions (or failure to act) of another. Sadly, all too often the reality is that profits have been put over people in these situations and as a result, innocents have been harmed.
In just one week’s news stories, we can see major scandals of Profits Over People in our country. It’s for this reason that personal injury lawyers fight — to battle injustice, and to help victims of greed. After all:
- Grandmas should be able to eat peanut butter on crackers without worrying about DYING from it.
- People suffering from tuberculosis or parasites shouldn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars PER PILL for their medication.
- We should all be able to trust that cars driven on American roads are not secretly fitted with devices designed to evade federal law.