Have a Story to Tell? Had a medical error?

This blog is about patient safety, medical malpractice, staying healthy, and preventing future errors. Help & empower someone else, Teach a lesson, Bear witness, Build our community - Email us or call 781-444-5525.

Frustrated with a health problem?

Need an ally in your health crisis? Call 781-444-5525, or learn more.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Using himself as an example: Plaintiff Howard Engle's Progeny

Dr. Howard Engle passed away on July 22 at age 89, from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He had smoked multiple packs of cigarettes a day since college. Though he tried many times to quit, he never succeeded, and continued to smoke until his death.

His medical specialty had been pediatric neurology, and he frequently worked with cerebral palsy patients. He preached to his patients about the dangers of smoking, using himself as an example. "He wanted to teach people, especially kids, that smoking is not a good habit," said his son David.

Among his patients in the 1980s were the children of two medical malpractice lawyers, Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt. In 1991, the Rosenblatts brought a class-action suit against tobacco companies on behalf of flight attendants who had inhaled secondhand smoke, winning a settlement that cost the companies $300 million. Dr. Engle took a keen interest in the case.

Because he was a smoker with emphysema who wished to publicize the addictive nature of smoking, he agreed to become the lead plaintiff in a second class action suit, filed by the Rosenblatts in 1994. In 2000, the plaintiffs received the largest punitive award ever decided by a jury, for $145 billion. An appeals court voided the award as excessive and said the class of plaintiffs was too disparate. Later, the Florida Supreme Court let that ruling stand, though it allowed individuals to bring suit. Thousands of individuals have done so, and courts are now beginning to decide their cases – which are known as the Engle Progeny.

Advice: Use your standing and your personal network to fight for public health. Sometimes you have to sue the B*ST*RDS.

Read a very different ">class action lawsuit story.

Thanks to Bruce Weber for the source obituary in the Boston Globe of July 25.

No comments: