AMD Slammed With Suit Over Birth Defects
November 9, 2007 10:34 AM
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Suit alleges that AMD recklessly exposed its employees to toxic substances
Ryan Ruiz, 16, of Austin Texas, shares the same last name with Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) CEO Hector Ruiz. Ryan, sadly, is the victim of a birth defect. He is missing the lower right part of his arm and had significant cognitive impairment. The unfortunate irony of his last name comes in that his conditions are allegedly
caused by Hector Ruiz's company, AMD
Ryan's mom, Maria Ruiz, worked in AMD's Fab 14 clean room from 1988 to 2002. She was exposed to a wide array of toxic chemicals during her employment with AMD, including ethylene glycol monoethyl ether acetate and 2-ethoxyethyl acetate, known to cause birth defects. During her employment she had to seek medical attention at least twice due to fume inhalation.
Her exposure concerned her when she discovered she was pregnant. She inquired about health risks with a local doctor at the Austin Regional Clinic, but was told not to worry about it, and to feel free to return to work. AMD was perfectly happy to take her back, and she worked most of the remaining course of her pregnancy, continuously exposed to chemicals that are known in the medical community to cause birth defects.
The ending of story is the tragic one previously stated -- her son was born missing part of a limb and with brain damage.
Now Maria is taking the fight to the corporation she feels damaged her and her son. The lawsuit, filed in Travis County District Court, both targets AMD and includes medical malpractice allegations against the doctors at the clinic she went to for medical consultation. It names a family/occupational health practitioner and an obstetrics and gynecology specialist, George Marking MD and Alinda Cox MD. These doctors, according the suit, failed to warn Maria about any possible risks of working with the toxic chemicals at her place of employment, during her pregnancy.
The Ruiz vs. AMD Lawsuit has some high power representation in the form of filing attorney Adam S. Ward, a partner in Allison & Ward, LLP and Steven Phillips of Levy Phillips & Konigsberg LLP (New York). The enlistment of Levy Phillips & Konigsberg LLP draws attention, in particular, because the firm successfully won an undisclosed settlement for IBM clean-room exposure victims in a similar case.
"Like millions of Americans, Maria Ruiz did not realize that 'clean rooms' are designed to keep damaging dust particles from semiconductor wafers during manufacturing, not to protect men and women exposed to a spectrum of hazardous chemicals and fumes," said Steven Phillips of Levy Phillips & Konigsberg LLP, co-counsel in the case.
The representing firm Allison & Ward, LLP has been airing commercial on local TV in Texas seeking people with knowledge of the clean room, for possible testimony.
The suit seeks exemplary damages and includes a five-count petition charging negligence, breach of warranty, fraudulent concealment and misrepresentation.
AMD doesn't really need much more bad news. With
another weak graphics card launch
another losing quarter
debts piling up
, and rivals
Intel piling up record profits
, AMD has scant room for more negative press or losses. Thus this suit marks the kind of sad sort of story in which there are no winners.
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RE: Who's fault?
11/9/2007 8:17:35 PM
As one of those 'doctors' let me correct some of misinformation that's been posted by others:
1) Congenital amputations caused by mechanical insults such as amniotic bands are typically NOT associated with significant cognitive deficits. In essence, it is unlikely that a mechanical insult alone explains this kid's presentation.
2) Although it is true that chlorine in the water supply is associated with a marginal increase in birth defects, the impact is a blip compared to what water quality would be like if chlorine wasn't available to reduce levels of fecal coliforms (crap) and cyanide in the water supply. There ARE safe levels of chlorine exposure . . even for pregnant women. At the moment there isn't a maximum safe level of poo in your water.
3) Aspirin is NOT associated with birth defects. In fact, mouse studies suggest that aspirin LOWERS the rate of birth defects induced by alcohol. More importantly, HUMAN studies suggest aspirin (prudently used) has no effect on low risk pregnancies and may IMPROVE outcomes for moderate to high risk pregnancies.
4) Tobacco use (nicotine) is associated with impaired fetal growth (low birth weight) but NOT defects. Now the CHEMICALS used on tobacco are a totally different story . . . which is likely pertinent to the case at hand.
5) Alcohol produces nothing even marginally comparable to this woman's kid. But fetal alcohol syndrome is indeed a public health menace.
6) Cocaine (despite the hype) isn't really associated w/ significant teratogenicity in humans. In fact, the overwelming majority of crack babies did quite well if properly treated for perinatal withdrawal symptoms.
7) As for heroin, we actually GIVE methadone to heroin-dependent women during the 1st trimester b/c the withdrawal symptoms are more dangerous to the fetus than the opiate.
8) OSHA has a federal mandate (except during the Bush43 years) to ensure that the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported are evaluated, and that information concerning their hazards is transmitted to employers and employees. This transmittal of information is to be accomplished by means of comprehensive hazard communication programs, which are to include container labeling and other forms of warning, material safety data sheets and employee training.
9) As a doctor, my bias is to say the MD blew it. Common sense is 'primum non nocere'. The lady didn't have to live in a bubble during pregnancy but the notion of suggesting that a production facility filled with volatile organic compounds is an appropriate place for a pregnant woman is likely in the top 20 of 'hey, I want to get sued for malpractice'. Contrary to popular belief, not all doctors are knowledgeable. Some are downright ignorant. It's a shame this lady's PCP/Ob didn't have the decency/intelligence to say "I don't know" instead of "don't worry be happy."
In sum, AMD has a LEGAL responsibility to be aware of known AND possible risks from exposure. You don't have to be evil or indifferent to lose such a case . . . just liable. The MD has a LEGAL and ETHICAL responsibility to provide appropriate advice. We are not liable for bad outcomes. Perfect care often produces crappy results; that's life. We are liable for substandard care that 'potentially' contributes to bad outcomes.
RE: Who's fault?
11/9/2007 10:09:47 PM
> "let me correct some of misinformation that's been posted by others"
If you're referring to me, every compound I named is listed in the OEHHA "Prop 65" list as causing developmental defects. Not all of them cause the same defects seen in this particular case-- I was not suggesting otherwise.
> "Aspirin is NOT associated with birth defects."
Aspirin's on the OEHHA's list. It's also proven teratogenic in rats, resulting in both facial/cranial deformities and neural tube defects. In humans, studies have shown large third-trimester doses can cause fetal brain bleeding and subsequent neurological damage. And at least one study has shown a link between large first-trimester doses and cleft palate formation.
> "Alcohol produces nothing even marginally comparable to this woman's kid"
On the contrary, FAS does result in cognitive problems. Alchohol use, combined with a chance mechanical problem during her pregnancy, could easily explain this presentation.
> "7) As for heroin..."
I didn't see anyone but you mention heroin.
> "the notion of suggesting that a production facility filled with volatile organic compounds is an appropriate place for a pregnant woman "
Your mistake is in assuming this facility is "filled" with volatile organic compounds. I think its far more likely that all exposures were carefully regulated to OSHA guidelines, and levels far below what could have possibly generated these defects.
EGEE isn't teratologic in small doses, even to lab animals exposed six hours/day for their entire gestation period. It required longterm exposure in the 100+ppm range to cause cognitive effects, and even exposure in the 250ppm range didn't cause limb deformities.
Of course, this attorney is betting on the "we just don't know for sure" attack, combined with a liberal helping of sympathy for the deformed child. In the minds of many jurors (and apparently, several posters here) it doesn't really matter if AMD is guilty or not. A family has suffered, and someone with deep pockets must be found to pay.
"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings
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