Via America’s Lawyer: Prior to the devastating condo collapse in Miami, engineers had known about structural red flags for years. Mike Papantonio and Farron Cousins discuss more. Also, in February, the House of Representatives released an alarming report about toxic heavy metals found in popular baby foods, which can cause long-term developmental harm. Attorney Madeline Pendley joins Mike Papantonio to discuss how manufacturers now face a bundle of class-action lawsuits.

Click here to learn more about toxic baby food lawsuits and infant neurological injuries.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             The Miami apartment complex that collapsed last week shocked the nation, but it didn’t shock the engineers who’d been warning about that possibility for years. They put it down on paper, didn’t they, Farron? They said, here are the problems, you got cracks in the foundation. You got cracks in the wall. The whole building is sinking. The steel that’s supposed to be surrounded with concrete, the cracks in that concrete is causing the steel to break down and corrode.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah. And another thing too, the pool, you didn’t slant it. So the water sits at the bottom underneath the pool, corroding the concrete. And as you said, that salt air from those cracks around the steel beams and that concrete, that helps erode that, the oxygen getting to it. And the engineers pointed this out in 2018 and they said, listen, you may not be in imminent danger of collapse, but the clock is ticking. Here are your problems. You need to address these as soon as possible. And even when you rewind even further than that, 2015, I think it was.

Mike Papantonio:             It was 2015.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah. They, they faced a major lawsuit, which they ended up settling for similar problems with one of the tenants.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. This is not, this, this is not great intellectual analysis here, you know, you’ve got salt water. Okay. So on the salt water, the salt water corrodes. If you have cracks in the beams that hold the building up, that causes those beams to corrode. Other part of it is the, the, the building is sinking into the ground. And as it sinks into the ground, because it’s built on sand, I don’t care what kind of foundation you put in it, it’s sinking on sand. And so there’s supposed to be a re, kind of a relook every 40 years, 30 or 40 years, they’re supposed to come in and recertify the safety of the building. So, so my understanding of this, that the worst thing about it is they were told, look, this is about a $10 million project. You know, go spend the $10 million. You’ve made hundreds and hundreds of millions on this building already. Spend the $10 million and they were supposed to meet about it.

Farron Cousins:                  Right. That, that that’s one of the sickest parts is that this is, you know, a relatively cheap fix. You didn’t have to go and break the bank for this. You had the money. They had, apparently in recent months, been meeting with contractors to actually start the bidding process. But again, that’s still three years after the engineers gave you the warning. It’s six years after the first lawsuit you faced over not fixing these issues. They knew about these problems for years and years and years, they dragged their feet, you know, waited as long as humanly possible. And unfortunately time caught up with them, time, beat them on this. And that’s what led to this collapse and the deaths.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. I mean, you hear the 2018 report, there was no mention, they didn’t, it wasn’t top of the, top of the report. You know what, you’re building could collapse, that’s the risk. Do you really have to put that in there?

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             Of course not. These engineers understood that every part of what we were looking at has potential to, to fail. Now, the problem is that got the same architects and you have the same builders using the same architecture structure, using the same building materials, the same process that have built other buildings right along that line. Right?

Farron Cousins:                  Right. Including the sister property to this one, which has also been evacuated now. So yes, this could be a more systemic problem down there in South Florida. It certainly is a very vulnerable area for buildings. You know, the sea air, the salt, all of this adds up, the storms that they face, the effects of climate change in the region.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  Are absolutely making these problems worse.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. I mean, the worst thing they can do is make this into political volleyball. It’s the reality, you’re going to have to fix the problem. And so they just need to fix it. They need to do whatever has to take place, no blame game. You did this governor Chiles, you did, whoever, you know, whatever it is. They’ve got to deal with the problem.

Mike Papantonio:             Back in February, the House of Representatives released an alarming report about toxic heavy metals found in popular baby foods. Now manufacturers are in the hot seat facing a bundle of class actions, attorney Madeline Pendley joins me now to talk about this. You know, I, I, my takeaway on this, one of the first, one of the first things I read was the FDA has an action plan. That’s almost an, that’s an oxymoron.

Madeline Pendley:        Yeah, it’s discouraging. It doesn’t mean anything at all.

Mike Papantonio:             It means nothing’s going to happen. Tell us why these class action lawsuits are about.

Madeline Pendley:        Essentially the biggest baby food manufacturers in the country have been poisoning your children. So these manufacturers have sold baby food that’s contaminated with significantly high levels of very dangerous heavy metals, like arsenic, lead, mercury and children have been exposed to it for years.

Mike Papantonio:             It’s a long-term exposure that’s the issue. I mean, a doctor can say, yeah, if baby eats mashed up pears, that taste awful by the way, eats them, then they’re probably going to be okay for that.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             But when they do it day after day after day for years, it is that long-term exposure that causes the problem, right?

Madeline Pendley:        Right. So part of the problem with heavy metals is the exposure kind of builds up or accumulates in the body each time somebody is exposed. So really any exposure can add to a harmful amount of heavy metals in the body.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. In other words, you don’t just rid your body of heavy metals, every 24 hours. It’s bioaccumulative is what they would call it.

Madeline Pendley:        Exactly.

Mike Papantonio:             Some of them are what we call biopersistent.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             But we do know this, it’s bioactive. It affects, it affects your systems, your, your brain, other, other systems in the body. And they’ve known about, they, they’ve known about the dangers of heavy metals for decades and decades. Who are the companies that are involved in this?

Madeline Pendley:        It’s a lot of really big household names, actually, you know, like Campbell’s, Beech-Nut, Gerber, Happy Baby by Nurture and Parent’s Choice by Walmart.

Mike Papantonio:             Doesn’t it, doesn’t that sound sick? Happy Baby has now, my memory is Happy Baby had, where it came to, it came to arsenic, it had like 600 times what it should have, 600 parts per billion. Is that right?

Madeline Pendley:        Exactly, yes.

Mike Papantonio:             And that is, that’s off the scale.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             And nevertheless, Happy Baby’s selling the product and they’re saying, gee whiz, everything’s going to be okay. Your, your baby’s going to be well taken care of. Some of them even advertise that it’s organic and you don’t have to worry about it, right?

Madeline Pendley:        Right. And the problem with organic is, I mean, whether this is true or not, when people are purchasing organic products, they’re doing it because they want it to be safer to some extent, you know, they want it to be free from harmful chemicals and things like that. So it’s especially frustrating that these companies were allowed to market their product as organic and therefore safer although it had significantly high levels of dangerous heavy metals.

Mike Papantonio:             What are the potential health impacts that we’re talking about here? What would, what do we expect when you take a child that’s in those developmental years and you expose them to heavy metals for years?

Madeline Pendley:        So what we know is, is one, this is not some hypothetical harm that we’re talking about. There are many studies that correlate heavy metal exposure to children with developmental delays. So we see things like cognitive disabilities, behavioral problems, permanent reduction in IQ, and all of these things can lead to the child needing, you know, special education programs and a reduction in their overall quality of life.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, I know the science has been around a long time. We know, for example, the lead paint cases where children would often take the paint off the wall and eat it, and, you know.

Madeline Pendley:        Right. Yeah. There’s no question that this stuff is dangerous to people, especially young children and especially at regular regimented doses like daily baby food exposure.

Mike Papantonio:             So there’s no guesswork here. We’re not just, there’s no, what we call medical causation, scientific causation questions, that science has been out there long time. Is there any movement in the federal system to maybe make the FDA for once, just one time, have the FDA do what they’re supposed to do, or is it still controlled with whoever’s in office? Of course this has been going, this, this has been going on for so long. It’s every administration, it’s not any one administration.

Madeline Pendley:        Right. So this issue has been on the FDA’s radar for at least a decade. You know, from what we can see in publicly accessible information, they’ve known for at least a decade. And so we can see that if they want to, they can establish heavy metal exposure thresholds for other things. They’ve done it for water, you know, you can’t have more than like five parts per billion of lead, 10 of arsenic. But for some reason, the FDA is okay with over 900 parts per billion of arsenic in baby food, which is what we’re seeing. So what, what the FDA needs to do is develop a proactive system for detecting heavy metals in baby food so we can get this stuff off the market.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, I mean, don’t you at least warn the parent?

Madeline Pendley:        You would think, at least.

Mike Papantonio:             I mean, isn’t it a failure to warn case here, when you say, look, you need, need to know this.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             We’ve tested it for arsenic and there’s arsenic in here and we’ve tested it for. What mother’s gonna say, yeah, that sounds good? Let me feed this to my child.

Madeline Pendley:        Well that’s, that’s why they won’t tell us about it because if anybody actually knew, as far as the companies, I mean, if anybody actually knew how much dangerous material was in this food, nobody would buy it. And so actually these companies were investigated by the US House of Representatives investigation committee. And that report was released earlier this year. So this is all publicly accessible. And what they found is that all of these companies involved that we talked about earlier, either tested their product, saw the dangerous levels and sold it anyway or never tested their product at all. So either knowingly exposed children to a dangerous toxin or didn’t care enough to figure out whether or not they were.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah, at this point, full disclosure, our law firm is involved in these class actions that are being talked about. But I think this, this, this is bigger than that. It’s not a class action. You have children, the mother can say, there’s no other exposure my child had, they had developmental problems. Yeah, they took a Happy Baby and ate it three times a day for three, four years. You know, you do the math, you do the science and there are plenty of experts that can say this threshold, this burden of heavy metals, absolutely had a connection to these developmental problems. So I, to me, what I’m amazed about is that there was no national case put together. The MDL, which is the multi-district litigation panel should have granted that, they should have said, yeah, let’s look at this nationally, but they didn’t.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             So, you know, we’re going to do what we always do. Go after them anyway.

Madeline Pendley:        Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             Thank you for joining me.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.