The Dangers of Falling Furniture

Children love to climb, and regardless of how many times we tell them not to, they’re going to climb anyway.  As soon as your back’s turned, they’ll climb stairs, on the sofa, the dog or furniture. Tragically, climbing on furniture is how thousands of children each year are injured or killed.

Recently, a father in South Carolina was convicted of child neglect after a dresser fell on and killed his 18 month-old-child.  Last February, in my hometown of Macon, Georgia, a 17-month old died when a dresser with a TV on top of it fell over on the toddler. Sadly, these stories are not isolated events. Every day children are accidentally injured or killed from a falling television, furniture or appliance.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, between 2000-2011, there were 294 children who died when furniture, a TV, or appliance fell on top of them.  That’s one child every 2 weeks.  As shown in the following chart, there are 25,400 children injured every year from falling furniture, which averages out to be 71 injuries per day.

Having raised two children, I recall warnings about the dangers of kids climbing on furniture, so I secured furniture that appeared wobbly or top heavy, but mistakenly, I did not secure what I thought to be short, sturdy furniture.  Surprisingly, furniture you think wouldn’t tip, can, and it can happen quickly, even with parents or babysitters in the house.  Luckily, I have no personal incident to speak of, but there are many devastating stories of people who didn’t secure what they thought to be “safe” furniture, and their child was injured or killed because of it.  Please take the time to read about one such heart-rending loss and the resourceful information at I also urge you to watch a brief CPSC video that shows how easily furniture and TVs can tip over.

There are things you can do to prevent such accidents from happening:

  • Secure furniture (dressers, bookshelves, plant stands, TV stands, etc.) to the wall or floor.  You can buy security latches in the baby department at stores like Walmart or Target or online at  They cost about $5.00 and it takes about 15 minutes to attach them.
  • Place TVs or computer monitors on sturdy, low bases, and anchor the furniture, or anchor the TV on top of the base, making sure to push the TV as far back as possible.
  • Make sure any cables or cords are out of reach of children, as these can be tripped over or used to pull the TV off the stand.
  • Make sure free standing appliances (i.e., stoves, mini-fridges, microwaves, air conditioners) are secured with anti-tipping latches.
  • Think about the weight, size and stability of other objects in your home.  If anything could fall and injure a child it should be secured.

These tragedies can happen to anyone, anytime.  Please take a few short minutes to secure items in your home and homes where your child will be staying.  Make sure heavier items are on the bottom of shelves, drawers are secured, and toys are not placed high where children would want to crawl up to retrieve them.  Please spread the word by sharing the Anchor It and Protect A Child flier published by the CPSC.   You can download or share a copy here.
















Recall of GM Vehicles with Faulty Ignition Switch

Imagine driving down the Interstate at 70 miles per hour and your car suddenly shuts off, disabling power steering and power brakes, and preventing airbags from deploying.  That’s exactly what can happen if you’re driving one of the 1.6 million cars that have recently been recalled by General Motors.

The problem that can create this deadly situation is a “faulty ignition switch.”   If your key ring is too heavy, or if your keys are bumped while in the ignition, the ignition can switch from the “on” position to the “accessory” or “off” position, causing the car to stall, disabling electrical components and airbags.

According to GM, the faulty switch is linked to at least 31 crashes and 12 deaths; however, this number may be inaccurate.   According to a letter from the Center for Auto Safety to the N.H.T.S.A., (a copy of which can be read at:, an examination of data shows as many as 303 deaths could be linked to the faulty ignition switches in the recalled cars.

What is particularly disturbing is the fact that it appears from news reports that GM knew about the faulty switch as early as 2001, but did not issue a recall until 2014.  They have now offered to fix the defect or pay $500 to those who want to purchase a 2013 or 2014 GM car.  Unfortunately, the fix, which only costs between $2-$5, comes a little too late for many people who have been injured or lost their lives as a result of the defect.

One such loss occurred four years ago, a 29-year old nurse in Georgia was killed when her Chevrolet Cobalt crashed.  It was found that the engine was not running and the switch was in the “accessory” position. To see more about this tragic loss and an explanation of how the ignition can slip into the off position, go to

All of the cars recalled thus far for this particular defect are 7 years old or older, which could present a problem notifying current owners, since many of the cars are probably now owned by second or third parties who may be difficult to locate.

So what should you do if you own one of the recalled vehicles?

GM will fix the problem free of charge, but the fix won’t be available until April 7th.; Therefore, owners should immediately separate their vehicle key from their key fob, any other keys or a key ring and use only your car key while driving.  In addition, you should be careful not to accidentally bump the key while driving.  If you are uncomfortable driving your car, GM dealers are supposed to provide rentals free of charge until the fix is available.  Owners, however, are required to contact the dealer about any loaners.

Following is a list of recalled GM cars affected by the Faulty Ignition Switch:

  • 2005 – 2007 Chevrolet Colbalt and Pontiac G5
  • 2003 – 2007 Saturn Ion
  • 2006 – 2007 Chevrolet HHR
  • 2006 – 2007 Pontiac Solstice
  • 2007 Saturn Sky



Cool – and Useful – New Safety Device for Older Cars

New cars come with all kinds of safety features, like lane departure detection, automatic braking when cars ahead are too close, pedestrian detection, and many others.  The problem is that cars with all these safety features can be pretty expensive.

Now there is a device that can be installed on older cars that incorporates many safety features founds on luxury cars.  It is called the Mobileye.  Consumer Reports has tested it, and found that it delivered on its promises.  The video is really cool – they show the mobileye alerting to pedestrians, the car drifting out of its lane, and the car coming too close to a vehicle in front of it.

Please take a look at the video review that CR conducted last month.  And take a minute to review the more comprehensive list of safety features as well.


Time is Brain – Benefits of Early Treatment of Stroke

Why do only 5% of stroke patients receive clot busting drugs?  The National Stroke Association reports that stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, and a huge cause of disability as well.  And 80% of strokes are preventable!  What’s going on here?

All professions tend to resist change.  But this resistance poses a problem for professions like medicine, since research can indicate that what doctors thought was best at one time is no longer effective, and doctors (like all of us) need to be flexible and humble enough to change when change is needed.  One example of this resistance to change that I’ve seen firsthand is the tendency of doctors, especially ER doctors, to avoid giving clot-busting drugs to patients who come to the ER after the onset of stroke symptoms.  The fear seems to be that these drugs may not be effective, or they may cause bleeding and the risk of bleeding exceeds the benefit of giving the drugs to break up clots causing a stroke.  But these beliefs must change.

A quick review:  strokes are the result of interrupted blood flow to the brain, like a heart attack is the result of a decreased blood flow to the heart.  Stroke come in 2 forms – ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.  Ischemic strokes are strokes that result from decreased blood flow caused by a blockage of some sort in one of the arteries supplying blood to the brain, whereas hemorrhagic strokes are caused by a rupture of a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain.  By a huge margin, most strokes are ischemic strokes.  The American Stroke Association says that 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes.

Many studies have shown that giving a clot busting drug, like tPA, to ischemic stroke patients can be very effective in reducing the severity of the stroke and returning function.  The sooner the drug is given, the better.  As you’ve probably heard, “time is brain” in these circumstances.  A recent study has shown that early treatment with tPA is extremely effective in reducing the severity of  ischemic strokes and returning function to those patients.

Let me just give you their conclusion:  “IV thrombolysis within 90 minutes is, compared to later thrombolysis, strongly and independently associated with excellent outcome in patients with moderate and mild stroke severity.”  This is an important study, and gives great hope to the millions of stroke victims that early treatment can help them enormously.  Here’s a link to a summary of this study.

An important point to remember is that this study deals with very early treatment – within 90 minutes of the stroke symptoms.  That is not to say that later treatment is not effective in many patients.  In fact, studies show benefits in many patients from treatment later than 90 minutes and perhaps up to 6 hours, according to this summary by emedicine of the benefits of thrombolytic therapy.  The FDA recommends tPA be given within 3 hours of symptoms.

So, what should patients do to put themselves in the best position to benefit from drugs like tPA?  This article on ischemic stroke says that one of the main things we need to do is be aware of stroke symptoms and act FAST.

  • F – Face – Ask the person to smile.  See if  one side of the face droops
  • A – Arms  – Ask the person to raise both arms.  See if one arm drifts downward
  • S – Speech – Ask the person to repeat some simple phrase.  See if they can’t repeat it or speak in gibberish
  • T – Time – if any of these symptoms are present, call 911 immediately.


New Case Clarifies Emergency Room Standard in Georgia: What Level of Care are Patients Entitled To?

If you or a family member go to an Emergency Room in Georgia, what level of care do you expect to receive?  Some lawyers for doctors and hospitals say that you are only entitled to receive something called “slight care” which is lower than the historical standard of “ordinary care” or reasonable care” that we’ve operated under for many years in Georgia medical malpractice cases.

This lowering of the standard of care was done without a lot of public participation, and my guess is that most folks who go to the E.R.- or take their children or family members there – expect to receive a reasonable level of care.  Nonetheless, in 2005 a new law was passed in Georgia that attempted to lower the standard of care to the level of “slight care” in ERs, at least in some circumstances.  The truth of the matter is that this is a terrible law, and puts our families at greater risk when we go to ERs.  Seems to me that we deserve better care than that.

The law in question generally says that the “slight care” standard – also known as “gross negligence” ( a doctor is grossly negligent when he does not use slight care, these are two sides of the same coin) – only applies to patients who are not stable.  The idea seems to be that if a patient is stable, then that patient is entitled to the same care they would get if they went to a regular doctor’s office or received other types of medical care in a non-emergency situation.  In other words, emergency room doctors should only get the benefit of this low standard of care when there is a real emergency and little time for reflection or for getting a complete history of the patient.

But few cases had addressed this issue of stability.  A new case has done that and made it clear that a jury will often have to decide if a patient is stable, thus triggering application of the ordinary negligence standard.  In Bonds v. Nesbitt, 13 FCDR 1342, Case Number A13A0348the Court made this rather clear:

The statute provides that a doctor’s conduct becomes subject to the more rigorous ordinary negligence standard of care rather than the gross negligence standard when the patient’s condition improves, or at least stabilizes. In other words, the statute provides that the condition of the patient controls, not the opinion of the physician. If a physician or health care provider mistakenly concludes that a patient has become “stabilized” and “capable of receiving medical treatment as a nonemergency patient” and therefore stops providing emergency care to that patient—notwithstanding that the patient still needs emergency care—and if the patient is injured or killed as a result of the withdrawal of emergency care, the physician or health care provider is entitled to claim the protection of the gross negligence standard.

The Court went on to say that in the context of the  factual circumstances of the Bonds’s case “that claim must be made to the jury.”  This case is very important because it pays close attention to the actual words of the statute, and clarifies that the issue of stability is an issue to be determined by the jury, at least in cases where there are facts in dispute about it.