Archive for the ‘Press release’ Category
Northeastern University School of Law to Host Conference Examining Individual Choice and Public Health
Friday, February 26th, 2016
Are individuals responsible for their own health?
Or does the health of individuals depend upon the health of their communities? And, can we have healthy communities without restricting individual choice? Conflicts between individual choice and collective action underlie many of the most contested and challenging debates relating to health and health care, from the very existence of Obamacare to government responses to the obesity and tobacco epidemics.
This conference will bring together legal and public health scholars and practitioners from across the country to discuss and chart the role of individual choice and public action in response to these —- and many more —-public health debates.
Alfred Smart Professor of Law
Director, Project on Law and Mind Sciences
Harvard Law School
Chief Medical Executive
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
Friday, April 15, 2016
8:00 am – 4:30 pm
Egan Research Center
Boston, MA 02115
Monday, October 26th, 2015
A review by a prominent public interest law organization based in Boston revealed that online sports gambling operators like DraftKings are in “clear” violation of Massachusetts law.
The findings were included in an October 16th legal memo to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office that was prepared by the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) at Northeastern University.
PHAI, led by Northeastern University Distinguished Professor of Law Richard Daynard, is nationally-recognized for its effective legal advocacy combating the epidemics caused by tobacco and obesity.
In contrast, Attorney General Healey, has publicly said the law regarding online fantasy sports gambling is “unclear.”
“The lack of any action to stop the illegal business of online fantasy sports gambling and look the other way or wait until some future legislative action allows it sends the wrong message: that it is acceptable to engage in an illegal business now and, if it generates enough revenue, wait until lobbyists and corporate interests change its legal status,” said Mark Gottlieb, Executive Director of PHAI.
PHAI conducted its review after being contacted by Stop Predatory Gambling, a national government reform group against state-sponsored gambling operations.
The findings of PHAI’s review include:
- “Daily Fantasy Sports” constitutes illegal internet sports gambling under Massachusetts law and is legally indistinguishable from a privately run lottery or numbers game.
- The Supreme Judicial Court has long ago settled what constitutes illegal gambling and online fantasy sports gambling operators clearly fall into this category
- The profit model for online fantasy sports gambling operators is based on the mass recruitment of unskilled players, which is why state residents have been blanketed with nonstop advertising
- Online fantasy sports gambling operators are targeting Massachusetts youth
- Other states have recognized that online fantasy sports gambling IS gambling
“The internet gambling operations run by DraftKings and FanDuel are predatory, deceptive, illegal and coming at the expense of everyday citizens,” said Les Bernal, National Director of Stop Predatory Gambling.
After Settlement, PHAI Continues Commitment to Ending Youth Access to MA Lottery Ticket Vending Machines
Tuesday, October 6th, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mark Gottlieb at (617) 373-2206
As part of its mission to end youth access to lottery ticket vending machines in Massachusetts, the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) announced today that it has settled a lawsuit with Star Markets.
In March, PHAI, a non-profit organization based at Northeastern University, brought suit against the supermarket chain in the Massachusetts Superior Court on behalf of the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation and Cambridge City Councilor Craig Kelley, who alleged that his teenage son had been able to use lottery ticket vending machines at two Star Market stores.
Under the settlement, Star Markets commits to using an age verification device that the Massachusetts Lottery Commission recently installed on all lottery ticket vending machines in Star Markets’ Massachusetts stores. The device prohibits a person from using the vending machine until a driver’s license or government-issued identification card demonstrating that the user is at least 18-years-old is scanned.
Plaintiff Councilor Kelley observed, “My son and I are very happy to have been part of this effort to protect children in Cambridge and throughout Massachusetts.”
Andrew Rainer, Litigation Director of PHAI, applauded Star Markets for ensuring that the vending machines in its stores are not used by children. “Unfortunately,” he noted, “there are still almost 1,200 older lottery ticket machines in the state that don’t yet have the age-verification technology,” He continued by noting that “some of those machines are located in kid-friendly locations, like bowling alleys and convenience stores.”
Monday, September 21st, 2015
In March, the non-profit Public Health Advocacy Institute (“PHAI”) announced that it had formed a center to bring important public health litigation, and had hired a former Assistant Attorney General to oversee this litigation in the Massachusetts courts. Today, PHAI, which is based at Northeastern University, announced the filing of its latest suit, and also the formation of a strategic alliance with a group of prominent Boston lawyers to pursue important public health cases, including cases against the tobacco industry on behalf of the families of former smokers who have suffered devastating disease from cigarettes.
“We are so pleased to be working with this outstanding group of lawyers to help some of tobacco’s victims in Massachusetts,” said Andrew Rainer, PHAI’s Litigation Director and Director of the Center for Public Health Litigation. Working together with PHAI will be:
- Lisa Arrowood, Kevin Peters and Jed DeWick of Arrowood Peters, LLP
- Sam Perkins of Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten, LLP
- Neil Leifer, of Neil T. Leifer, LLC
- Leo Boyle, Michael Bogdanow and Valerie Yarashus of Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow, PC
PHAI’s latest suit, filed today in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn together with Perkins and Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten, LLC, is brought on behalf of Linda Troupe and her husband Carleton against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Donelan’s Supermarkets, Inc. of Littleton, Massachusetts. Mrs. Troupe, who smoked Winston and Kool cigarettes for over 35 years, was diagnosed in 2013 with throat cancer. The suit alleges that, in order to treat Mrs. Troupe’s cancer, doctors had to remove her larynx, and she has lost most of her ability to speak with her four children and eleven grandchildren.
Arrowood, Peters, DeWick and Leifer will be working with PHAI on two cases previously filed in the Middlesex Court — the first brought for the family of James Flavin, Jr., a former executive of Filene’s and Staples, who died of lung cancer in 2012 after smoking Newport cigarettes for over 40 years, and the second brought for Patricia Greene, a Newton realtor, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013, even though she had stopped smoking Marlboro cigarettes 25 years earlier.
Arrowood is the current President of the Boston Bar Association, and a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Perkins is a founding partner of Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten, and a previous Lawyer of the Year. Leifer, a former partner of Thornton & Naumes (now the Thornton firm), represented the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in its successful litigation against the tobacco industry to recover the health care costs incurred by the state in caring for residents harmed by smoking. Boyle and Yarashus are past Presidents of the Massachusetts Bar Association. Boyle also served as President of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (now the American Association for Justice), and is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Wednesday, August 5th, 2015
In 2014 and 2015, the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) conducted testing to determine whether kids could purchase lottery tickets from the vending machines located in a number of area supermarkets. At markets in Cambridge, Somerville, and Arlington, Massachusetts, a teenage tester was easily able to purchase lottery tickets in every attempt.
Massachusetts law expressly prohibits the sale of lottery tickets to “any person under age eighteen.” Yet the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling reports that over two-thirds of teenage boys (aged 14-17) have gambled in the past year, and over half of teenage girls have done so. About a third of these children gambled by playing lottery games.
On March 10, 2015, PHAI sent Stop & Shop a legal demand under Massachusetts’ consumer protection law, on behalf of the father of the teenage purchaser, Cambridge City Councilor Craig Kelley, and on behalf of the national non-profit Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation, seeking steps to prevent children from using the lottery ticket vending machines in the company’s stores. According to the demand letter, selling the tickets to minors is an unfair and deceptive sales practice prohibited by law.
The action drew media attention and led to an editorial in the Boston Globe urging that the problem be addressed. Representatives from Stop & Shop responded by working with the Massachusetts Lottery Commission to activate drivers’ license scanners in the lottery ticket machines, which operate to confirm that a lottery ticket purchaser is at least 18 years old before the machine will vend a ticket. Stop & Shop informed PHAI last week that all of its lottery ticket vending machines would have these protections in place by the end of July, 2015.
PHAI staff spot checked Stop & Shop machines in 3 counties and found that its machines will, in fact, not operate without first scanning an adult driver’s license.
Cambridge City Councilor Kelley said he was pleased to see some progress made. “It’s a real problem,” Kelley said. “As a father and as a city councilor, I was truly shocked at how easy it was for a kid to buy tickets from these machines.”
Mark Gottlieb, executive director of PHAI, noted that “While Stop & Shop’s efforts to quickly address the problem are laudable, the vast majority of lottery ticket vending machines in the state don’t have driver’s license scanners. This includes many places like bowling alleys and convenience stores that are frequented by kids.” Gottlieb added that “we will continue to work to prevent sales of scratch tickets to kids through vending machines as a public health policy measure.”
Thursday, March 26th, 2015
For Immediate Release
Contact: Mark Gottlieb – 617-373-2026
The Public Health Advocacy Institute (“PHAI”) announced today that its newly formed Center for Public Health Litigation has filed lawsuits against two major tobacco companies and several local distributors on behalf of the families of two former smokers who suffered devastating disease from smoking cigarettes.
“This is the first time a non-profit organization has directly taken on the tobacco industry in court,” said Richard Daynard, University Distinguished Professor at Northeastern University School of Law and the President of PHAI. “Big Tobacco kills more than 50% of the people who buy its products, and it has for years tried to deny its legal responsibility for this public health calamity. The Center for Public Health Litigation is going to ask the Massachusetts courts to hold the tobacco companies accountable in these two cases, and in more cases to be filed soon.”
The two cases were filed yesterday afternoon in the Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn. The first was brought for the family of James E. Flavin, Jr., a former executive of Filene’s and Staples, who died of lung cancer in 2012 after smoking Newport cigarettes for over 40 years. Mr. Flavin had tried repeatedly to quit smoking, using almost every method he could find, including
nicotine patches, hypnosis, and numerous other cessation products. The companies named as defendants in Mr. Flavin’s case are Lorillard Tobacco Company, manufacturer of Newport cigarettes, and two local distributors, Garber Bros, Inc. of Stoughton and Albert H. Notini & Sons, Inc. of Lowell.
The second case was brought for Patricia Greene, a Newton realtor, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013, even though she had stopped smoking 25 years earlier. Ms. Greene, like many others, had begun smoking as a result of being given free Marlboro cigarettes in downtown Boston when she was a teenager. The companies named as defendants in Ms. Greene’s case are Philip Morris USA, Inc., manufacturer of Marlboro, and Star Markets Company, Inc. of West Bridgewater, owner of the store where Ms. Greene bought her cigarettes for years.
According to Andrew Rainer, the Director of the Center for Public Health Litigation, “Massachusetts is now the best state in the country in which to bring suit against the manufacturers and sellers of cigarettes, because of a 2013 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.” In that 2013 case, Evans v. Lorillard Tobacco Co., the Court ruled that a manufacturer of cigarettes could be held responsible for the death of one of its customers, because it could have manufactured a cigarette that was safer and less addictive, but chose not to. The high Court’s decision also upheld an award of damages to the deceased customer’s family of $35 million plus interest. The case was later settled for $79 million.
Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
The Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) today sent a demand letter to the Star Markets supermarket chain, charging the company with violating the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act by illegally selling lottery tickets to minors. The letter calls on Star Markets to remove lottery scratch ticket vending machines from its stores.
PHAI sent the letter on behalf of Craig Kelley, the father of a 14-year old boy who purchased lottery tickets from vending machines at two Star Market locations, and also on behalf of the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation. The Foundation is a national non-profit organization with an office in Massachusetts, whose mission is to end the unfairness and inequality created by government-sponsored gambling.
According to the letter, Massachusetts law expressly prohibits the sale of lottery tickets to “any person under age eighteen” (G.L. c. 10, sec. 29). Yet, the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling reports that over two-thirds of teenage boys (aged 14-17) have gambled in the past year, and over half of teenage girls have done so. About a third of these children gambled by playing lottery games.
The boy’s father, Craig Kelley, said, “Both my son and I were amazed at how easily a 14 year-old boy could walk into a major supermarket and buy lottery tickets from a vending machine. This easy access to gambling simply does not give our children the safe environment that we owe them, and we need to stop it.”
The boy purchased the lottery tickets on the evening of September 24 at the Star Market stores in Porter Square in Cambridge, and on Beacon Street in Somerville. He was able to get access to the machines and purchase Mega Millions and $500 Frenzy game tickets without any difficulty, and without being asked to provide any proof of age.
“The future of lotteries and casinos hinges on luring kids to develop a gambling habit,” said Stop Predatory Gambling’s National Director Les Bernal of Lawrence. “Our state government appears to be training kids with these free-standing lottery machines and their addictive scratch tickets – training them for slot machines in casinos.”
Northeastern University Professor Richard Daynard, President of PHAI, also addressed the implications for casinos: “If a basic protection like age restrictions on the sale of state lottery tickets is not being enforced, what can we expect if casinos and slot parlors are actually allowed to open in Massachusetts?”
Thursday, September 25th, 2014
On September 16, 2014, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida returned a verdict of $27,010,000.14 against Philip Morris USA on behalf of Judith Berger, who started smoking in 1958 at the age of 14. Clearly outraged by evidence of Philip Morris’ conduct in targeting children, the jury awarded over $20 million in punitive damages and added fourteen cents to the total. Judith Berger, as did her now-deceased twin sister, developed severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) from smoking.
Kenny Byrd, the lead trial counsel for Lieff Cabraser, which represented the plaintiff, was delighted with the verdict. “We are pleased that the jury held Philip Morris accountable for their calculated choice to target children, such as Mrs. Berger, to take up smoking. The addition of the 14 cents is just as meaningful as the $20 million before it. The jury understood our society should protect 14-year-olds, not target them for profits as the cigarette industry does.”
One of the pieces of evidence presented to the jury was a Philip Morris memo that said “today’s teenager is tomorrow’s regular customer.”
This case in federal court is one of thousands of “Engle Progeny” lawsuits that were filed following the Supreme Court of Florida’s 2006 ruling in Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc., 945 So. 2d 1246 (Fla. 2006). The trials in these lawsuits, which began in February 2009, have resulted in plaintiff verdicts in approximately two-thirds of the 120 such trials that have reached a jury verdict. While most of these cases are being tried it state court, it is encouraging to see plaintiff victories occurring in federal court as well.
Not surprisingly, Philip Morris relied on its well-worn “personal responsibility” defense as its main attempt to evade accountability. Plaintiff co-counsel Lance Oliver of Motley Rice LLC, commented that, at trial, “Philip Morris attempted to lay all the blame on Mrs. Berger for choices she made as a kid. Thankfully, the jury saw through this and held Philip Morris accountable for its choices.”
When juries learn the details of outrageous tobacco industry behavior, the end result will be more verdicts – including punitive damages – comparable in size and scope as the one in this case. After the verdict, Mrs. Berger reacted as follows: “I am so grateful that the jury held Philip Morris accountable for its actions over the past 60 years. Before this lawsuit, I had no idea that the tobacco industry deliberately designed cigarettes to make them addictive and then conspired to lie to the public about their deadly effects. I fought this battle in part for my twin sister Josephine – may she rest in peace – who died from the same disease that will take my life in the next few years. I encourage anyone whose rights are violated by Philip Morris – or any corporation – to stand up, fight for justice and hold them accountable for their actions.”
Achieving justice and holding powerful corporations accountable for their wrongdoing: that’s what the Engle Progeny litigation is all about.
PHAI’s Gottlieb and Wilking Co-author study in JAMA Pediatrics Showing that Fast Food Giants Confuse and Deceive Kids
Monday, March 31st, 2014
After much criticism and prodding, Fast food giants McDonald’s and Burger King agreed to depict healthier food options in advertising directed at children. Researchers at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, along with the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) at Northeastern University School of Law, found that attempts to honor these pledges by depicting healthier kids’ meals frequently go unnoticed by children ages 3 to 7 years-old. In research published on March 31, 2014 in JAMA Pediatrics, these researchers found that one-half to one-third of children did not identify milk when shown McDonald’s and Burger King children’s advertising images depicting that product. Sliced apples in Burger King’s ads were identified as apples by only 10 percent of young viewers; instead most believed that the ads were depicting french fries.
Children in the study were confused by the images of food. One typical participant said, “And I see some…are those apples slices?”
The researcher replied, “I can’t tell you…you just have to say what you think they are.”
“I think they’re french fries,” the child responded.
“Burger King’s depiction of apple slices as ‘Fresh Apple Fries’ was misleading to children in the target age range,” said principal investigator James Sargent, MD, co-director Cancer Control Research Program at Norris Cotton Cancer Center. “The advertisement would be deceptive by industry standards, yet their self-regulation bodies took no action to address the misleading depiction.”
Mark Gottlieb, Executive Director of PHAI and an author of the study, observed that, “when young children believe they will be getting french fries with their meals because of deceptive or confusing advertising imagery, they may insist that the adult bringing them orders french fries instead of apple slices. Likewise, if advertising leads children to expect a sugary drink rather than milk, they may well end up getting the sugary drink. This has the effect of undermining the self-regulatory pledges that the companies made.”
Study author and PHAI Senior Staff Attorney Cara Wilking said she found it, “troubling that fast food giants would publicly make a self-regulatory pledge, fail to live up to the pledge, and receive no sanction from the relevant self-regulatory body. Such failures suggests that self-regulation is often more about public relations than about fulfilling the role of actual governmental regulation.”
Sargent and his colleagues studied fast food television ads aimed at children from July 2010 through June 2011. In this study researchers extracted “freeze frames” of Kids Meals shown in TV ads that appeared on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and other children’s cable networks. Of the four healthy food depictions studied, only McDonald’s presentation of apple slices was recognized as an apple product by a large majority of the target audience, regardless of age. Researchers found that the other three presentations represented poor communication.
This study follows an earlier investigation conducted by Sargent and his colleagues, which found that McDonald’s and Burger King children’s advertising emphasized giveaways like toys or box office movie tie-ins to develop children’s brand awareness for fast food chains, despite self-imposed guidelines that discourage the practice.
While the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission play important regulatory roles in food labeling and marketing, the Better Business Bureau operates a self-regulatory system for children’s advertising. Two different programs offer guidelines to keep children’s advertising focused on the food, not toys, and, more specifically, on foods with nutritional value.
“The fast food industry spends somewhere between $100 to 200 million dollars a year on advertising to children, ads that aim to develop brand awareness and preferences in children who can’t even read or write, much less think critically about what is being presented.” said Sargent.
Bernhardt AM, Wilking C, Gottlieb M, Emond J, Sargent JD. Children’s Reaction to Depictions of Healthy Foods in Fast-Food Television Advertisements. JAMA Pediatr.2014;():. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.140.
This study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research program.
Thursday, March 13th, 2014
On March 11, 2014, Richard Daynard, University Distinguished Professor of Law at Northeastern University and President of the Public Health Advocacy Institute, Dr. Tim Howard, President of Cambridge Graduate University and PHAI board member, along with former U.S. environmental litigation attorney Stanley Alpert, and James Haggerty filed a class action in US District Court in Brooklyn, NY against the United Nations. The lawsuit, Marie Laventure et al. v. United Nations et al., seeks to force the UN to take responsibility for the massive Haitian cholera contagion which has killed upwards of 9,000 Haitians and sickened hundreds of thousands, compensate victims, and bring critical sanitation to Haiti. The contagion has since spread to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the United States, with at least three cases of cholera confirmed in New York City since 2010, and a sustained outbreak in Mexico.
Marie Laventure is one of 1,500 plaintiffs in the legal action. Laventure resides in Atlanta, is the sister of a Haitian US citizen of New York, and the oldest of 12 siblings: two residing in New York, one residing in Atlanta, and eight in Haiti. Some of her Haitian siblings are as young as ten years old. Marie and her family lost their father and stepmother to the UN Haiti cholera contagion outbreak. She and her US brother and sisters are sending money to help their young siblings survive.
An independent panel, appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to study the epidemic that has killed more than 8,300 people and sickened more than 650,000, issued a report in 2011 that did not determine conclusively how the cholera was introduced to Haiti. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others can prove that U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal were the source after they set up a camp near the Meille River, which was improperly handled by U.N. contractors who dumped infected waste into the water supply. Before this occurred, cholera was wholly absent from Haiti. The disease was endemic in Nepal and Nepalese soldiers were not screened before being sent to Haiti by the U.N.. Attorney Dr. Tim Howard stated, “The United Nations knew that disease, injury and death would result from a cholera contagion outbreak, and that conditions in Haiti were ripe for a cholera contagion outbreak if proper sanitation was not in place.”
The lawsuit asks the court to declare that the U.N. does not enjoy legal immunity from liability for the cholera outbreak, despite its humanitarian role in assisting Haiti. Among the documents referenced in the lawsuit is the United Nation s 2004 agreement with Haiti, which explicitly waived sovereign immunity, stating that “[t]hird-party claims for…personal injury, illness or death arising from or directly attributed to [the Stabilization Agreement] shall be settled by the United Nations…and the United Nations shall pay compensation . . .” Another document referenced in the lawsuit shows that the UN General Assembly expressly admits that international law requires the UN to pay compensation for damages caused through its operations. Attorney Stanley Alpert added, “Imagine if the UN had killed 9,000 in the heart of New York City or Paris. Would they cry ‘immunity’ then? The lack of regard for the value of Haitian lives is distressing and indefensible.”
On March 7, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice supported the U.N. in a written court filing asserting that the United Nations’ mission to Haiti was “absolutely immune from legal process” in an earlier class action suit on behalf of the country’s cholera victims brought by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti last year.
The Haitian cholera contagion outbreak still kills approximately 1,000 Haitians each year and sickens many thousands more.
Public Health Advocacy Institute executive director Mark Gottlieb agreed that the United Nations needs to be held accountable for this public health crisis stating, “Cholera, previously unknown in Haiti, is a severe and devastating disease that, in this case, was entirely preventable. It is deeply disappointing and shocking that the United Nations’ actions caused so much suffering, illness and death in Haiti and beyond.
The complaint can be downloaded here.