Via America’s Lawyer: Hundreds of service members were promised compensation for medical malpractice over a year ago. So why haven’t they seen a penny from the Pentagon yet? RT correspondent Brigida Santos joins Mike Papantonio to explain how troops and veterans are still awaiting payouts to the tune of $2 billion. Also, Juul has been in the hot seat since 2019, after the company was found to be aggressively marketing its products to children. Meanwhile, the FDA has yet to crack down on their e-cigarettes despite users reporting seizures, lung disease, and strokes. Attorney Madeline Pendley joins Mike Papantonio to how regulators continue to turn a blind eye when it comes to Juul.

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

Mike Papantonio:             A new law allows troops to seek compensation from the military for medical malpractice at the defense department’s healthcare facilities and that’s unusual for more than a year after the law was passed, many victims haven’t received a payment. Brigida Santos joins me now to talk about this story. Brigida, since this law was enacted, how many medical malpractice claims have been filed at the Pentagon?

Brigida Santos:                   According to the most recent data available as of April, at least 227 cases are still pending. The landmark law passed as part of the 2020 national defense authorization act. But the final rule will take effect this July. So far, total compensation sought by troops or their surviving family members now exceeds $2 billion. And the reason this law is so important is because troops and their families have been barred from suing the military for injury or death at military hospitals since 1950, when a Supreme Court ruling concluded that the government is not liable for injuries to service members. While the new rules still don’t allow troops to sue, they do allow troops to seek compensation for harm caused by military health providers for the first time in cases unrelated to combat and they can do so by filing administrative claims with military branches.

Mike Papantonio:             What kinds of malpractice have troops been subjected to at the military, from the medical facilities over these years? I mean, you hear these stories, I mean, since I practiced law here, the most horrible stories that take place in these facilities where the, the soldier has no recourse. What types of things should we expect to see?

Brigida Santos:                   Yeah, lawmakers were inspired to pass the new law after hearing many stories about troops not getting adequate healthcare at military medical facilities. And for example, in 2017 military health providers failed to see a lung mass during a CT scan on retired special forces officer Richard Stayskal. They told him he had asthma or pneumonia, but he was then diagnosed with stage four terminal lung cancer by a civilian doctor. DOD employed healthcare providers in military hospitals and clinics are no longer exempt from facing financial consequences for negligence or wrongful acts against troops and Congress passed this law despite objections from the Pentagon. So they’re trying to make it right by these troops.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, there’s no risk for the doctor, is there? I mean, the troop comes in, the soldier comes in, they cut off the wrong leg. Gee, I’m sorry, I got it wrong. There’s this, there’s this immunity that exists under what they call the Feres document, the Feres doctrine, that, that’s now been overturned. And as we look at it, it’s long past due for this. So why, why has it taken so long for the Pentagon to go ahead and start paying these claims now that we know this is, this is the law, this is law of the land now, what’s happening?

Brigida Santos:                   Yeah. The Pentagon has been dragging its feet. It’s still finalizing its required compensation policy, but it does now have a uniform standard and procedures that are outlined for considering and processing claims. While this is a step in the right direction, preventing troops from having their cases heard in civilian courtrooms means that compensation can be limited by the military. There’ll be no discovery process for claimants to build their cases upon. They won’t be able to, you know, ask questions of doctors about things that went wrong. The review process will not be transparent and there will be no judicial review after a settlement is adjudicated by the military.

Mike Papantonio:             Brigida, thank you for joining me. This, this is a beginning, at least. This, this gives a, a soldier, a chance to get good medical care because now, now the government is going to be responsible for putting the wrong doctor in the wrong place without the kind of background check that that doctor ought to have. Thank you for joining us.

Brigida Santos:                   Thanks, Mike.

Mike Papantonio:             Juul has been in the hot seat since 2019 after the company was found to be aggressively marketing its product to children. Meanwhile, the FDA has yet to crack down on their e-cigarettes despite users reporting seizures, lung disease, and strokes. I have Madeley, Madeline Pendley with me to talk about this. Wow, seizures, strokes, the FDA completely sitting on the sidelines, not doing what they’re supposed to do. Did I get that right?

Madeline Pendley:        You did. So this is just the latest issue we’re having with Juul. As you mentioned, we’ve been dealing with this litigation for years, their problems with marketing to children, which we’ll get into. Now we’ve got seizures. And so essentially the seizures are being caused by nicotine toxicity, which just means you’re being exposed to more nicotine than your body can handle and it causes other things like respiratory failure as well.

Mike Papantonio:             Hmm. Okay. So the FDA responded to these seizures how? They’re, I mean, there’s no question they’re getting these reports. People are dying of seizures.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             They’re dying of a list of things. And the FDA says, well, we’re going to do it someday. That has been going about five years.

Madeline Pendley:        Yeah. And so they did what they’ve, what they typically do is this non-committal answer of, well, we can’t prove e-cigarettes are causing these seizures. But recently they did acknowledge that due to the volume and uptick in reporting of these seizures, that there’s probably a correlation there that does need to be investigated. When, I don’t know, but at least they said it. And they also mentioned that there’s likely more cases out there than we’re currently aware of because of the issue with self-reporting, which is all the information the FDA has right now.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. Who are these people at the FDA? I mean, who literally, who the hell are they?

Madeline Pendley:        They’re people that used to work at corporations

Mike Papantonio:             Exactly.

Madeline Pendley:        So they don’t care.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. So this isn’t Juul’s only problem. They’ve been hit for going out and specifically trying to market to, to children’s with goofy grape cigarettes, olly olly orange, Susie strawberry. It’s like candy. And that’s been going on for five years. It has been reported for about five years and the FDA has done nothing for five years until finally they get hit. Right?

Madeline Pendley:        Right. And actually earlier this year, Juul settled with the attorney general of North Carolina for $40 million to resolve those exact allegations that you mentioned. And so the way they’ve been marketing to children is they use, you know, young people in their ads. So people who at least appear to be teenagers, they made their device look like a USB or a flash drive that kids take to and from school anyway. So it’s very discreet, it blends in, and then the flavors. So they’re using candy and fruit stuff that obviously appeals to children more so than adults so they can market their product.

Mike Papantonio:             I had Juul children’s camp. Did you know this?

Madeline Pendley:        Yes.

Mike Papantonio:             Where kids went to Juul children’s camp and they were introduced. Now the, what they said was, well, we’re only doing the camp so we can talk to them about the dangers of smoking. But oh, by the way, we’ve got olly olly orange here, we’ve got goofy grape. You might really like these things.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             What does it take for the FDA to say enough is enough? I know I’m working for the FDA, and I know I want to go to work for corporate America, but at some time, at some point, doesn’t your decency meter kick in? Doesn’t your shame meter kick in?

Madeline Pendley:        You would hope so. And the FDA has already acknowledged that there’s been an 80% increase in high school vaping, a 50% increase in middle school vaping, you know, people younger than 13, all in the last few years, all since Juul has been on the market. And so Juul did pull their fruit flavors, you know, as a result of all of this. But they’re still hoping to get permission to continue selling their menthol and tobacco flavors because they think it’s safer than smoking.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. Full, full disclosure, we’re the ones that brought the case against the tobacco industry. We started that case right here. We have all the documents, you know, I know the documents really well. The documents show that the Juul company is using exactly the same marketing scheme that all the tobacco companies used. This isn’t new. It’s not new to the FDA. The truth is the FDA simply won’t do their job because they want a job with corporate America. They’re owned by corporate America.

Madeline Pendley:        Exactly.

Mike Papantonio:             Thank you for joining me. Okay.

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.