CPSC Aims To Eradicate Buckyballs, Outstretch Its Boundaries

The Consumer Product Safety Commission serves a necessary purpose.  According to its website, the CPSC is charged with the burdensome task of “protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction.” (emphasis added) An important job, sure.

In its recent suit against Buckyballs, however, it misses the mark and oversteps its boundaries.

Buckyballs, distributed by New York-based Maxfield & Oberton, are spherically shaped magnets which together can be manipulated to form an infinite number of objects.  Last week, the CPSC initiated an action against Maxfield & Oberton seeking a declaration that Buckyballs constitute a “substantial product hazard” and an injunction prohibiting their distribution.  According to the complaint, the product poses a risk of ingestion and, once swallowed, presents further complications due to its magnetic qualities.  Allegedly, numerous instances of ingestion by children under 14 have occurred.

The CPSC alleges that the Buckyballs’ warning labels are defective as they do not adequately communicate the hazards associated with the small, magnetic spheres.  From March 2009 through March 2010, the product contained a warning on its packaging which stated:

Warning: Not intended for children.  Swallowing of magnets may cause serious injury and require immediate medical care.  Ages 13+.

Well, the warning sure sounds appropriate.  The CPSC wasn’t satisfied, however, noting that such products should not be marketed to children under the age of 14.  In response , Maxfield & Oberton recalled Buckyballs in March 2010 and changed its warnings to reflect the same.

Nonetheless, the CPSC alleges that the warning is ineffective because parents do not appreciate the hazards associated with magnet ingestion and will continue to allow children to have access to the products, “mouth the items, swallow them, or, in the case of young adolescents and teens, mimic body piercings.”  Really?  Even if parents and children/young adolescents are ignorant to the dangers of magnet ingestion, do they really not appreciate the risks of swallowing small metallic objects?  If so, then conceivably any object capable of being swallowed is not suitable for commerce.

To make matters worse, the CPSC alleges that Buckyballs are defectively designed because they do not operate exclusively as intended.  Again, really?  Buckyballs are intended to be used by adults and “shaped, molded, and torn apart.”  Any unintended operations (i.e. swallowing) are not the result of a defective product, but, rather, poor parental supervision or bad choices.

The question is not whether the ingestion of a small, metallic ball creates a substantial risk of harm.  Of course it does.  Rather, the question is whether Maxfield & Oberton has placed an unreasonably dangerous product on the market.  If Buckyballs were prizes in Happy Meals, then this may be a case for CPSC intervention.  These products, however, have been featured in the likes of Maxim, Rolling Stone, and Esquire magazine – not exactly children’s material.

Even so, once purchased, consumers should bear some personal responsibility.  Product manufacturers are not the absolute insurers of public health.  According to a report by USA Today, a 12-year old girl was hospitalized for 6 days upon swallowing Buckyballs after placing them in her mouth to mimic a tongue piercing.  If you are old enough to appreciate the apparent attractiveness of a tongue piercing, so to should you be able to recognize the risk of swallowing metallic objects.

Buckyballs should be treated like any product capable of ingestion.  Parents can and should keep them out of the reach of young children, not use them as refrigerator magnets.  No warning from Maxfield & Oberton or the CPSC should be necessary.  And, certainly, there is no reason to pull them from the market and risk putting a company out of business (Buckyballs and its progeny are Maxfield & Oberton’s only product).

Through its distribution of Buckyballs, Maxfield & Oberton is not putting consumers in danger.  Consumers are putting themselves and their children in danger by poor supervision and a lack of common sense.  It is one thing for the CPSC to not want the product marketed to children.  It is another to call for its extinction.

Bony Turkey Not What You Reasonably Expect

We have all heard tales of foreign substances found in food products. Hams glazed with syringes, sandwiches with human skin as a condiment, and bread stuffed with dead rats, to name a few. In these situations, you may expect the unfortunate diner would want his day in court. But what happens when the defective food isn’t so glaring and gross? Better yet, what if the injury-causing substance found in the product is natural to the food itself? Recently, in Estate of Pinkham v. Cargill, Inc., 2012 ME 85 (Me. July 3, 2012), the Supreme Court of Maine offered its opinion on the issue – producers of food products are liable for injuries caused by any substance the consumer would not reasonably expect to find in the product.

At issue in Pinkham is a turkey sandwich made in the kitchen of Dysart’s Truck Stop and Restaurant in Maine.  Dysart’s utilized a boneless turkey product manufactured by Cargill, Inc. for its sandwiches.  The kitchen staff occasionally found pieces of bone in the Cargill turkey.  One night, the plaintiff, a line cook at the truck stop, consumed a turkey sandwich during a work break.  Immediately thereafter, he experienced a severe pain in his abdominal area.  Thinking he was having a heart attack , he was rushed to the hospital.  After some diagnostic testing, the plaintiff was found to have an “esophageal tear or perforation.”  Doctors found small, white cartilaginous fragments that appeared to be bone fragments at the site of the injury.  Thereafter, the plaintiff filed suit against Cargill, alleging that the turkey was a “defective or unreasonably dangerous” food.  The court granted Cargill’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that average consumers would reasonably expect to find fragments of bone, a naturally occurring substance, in turkey – even of the boneless variety.

In reaching its decision, the trial court had difficulty determining the proper test to evaluate a strict product liability claim for an allegedly defective food product – an issue undecided in Maine law since the enactment of its strict liability statute in 1973.  Traditionally, Maine utilized the “foreign natural” doctrine, which provides that there is no liability if the substance is natural to the ingredients.  The modern trend applies the “reasonable expectation” test, which provides that a manufacturer is liable for injuries caused by a substance which the consumer would not reasonably expect to find in the product even if that substance is a natural ingredient thereof.  The Court of Appeals held that the “reasonable expectation” test is consistent with the Restatement (Second) of Torts – from which Maine’s strict liability statute was crafted – and, thus, should be the law of Maine.  Finding that questions on reasonable expectations are to be left to the jury, the Court reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Cargill and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

Regardless of the test applied, there has to be some comparative fault in this case.  Even though the product was labeled “boneless,” the truck stop kitchen staff of which the plaintiff was a member had observed bone fragments in the product.  It probably should have been a red flag that this isn’t turkey worthy of a Thanksgiving dinner. On top of that, the turkey was served at a truck stop of all places. Any reasonable court should find as a matter of law that one assumes the risk of truck stop dining – or, at least that is what one would reasonably expect.

Friday Links: 700 Posts!

Above, you’ll find the cover of Superman #700, published not so long ago in 2010.  We showcase this cover today because this, today’s installment of Friday Links, is our 700th post here at Abnormal Use. Can you believe that? We’re shocked ourselves.

You know what this means.

We occasionally, well, perhaps more than occasionally, pause to reflect upon our place in the world when we reach such milestones. Back in May of 2010, we remarked upon our very first milestone: 100 posts. Way later, in November of 2011, we celebrated the occasion of our 500th post.  We’ve even held parties for ourselves on our first and second blog birthdays. You know how we are.

Some would say 700 is not an appropriate number for recognition. Perhaps we should have waited until we reached 750, or even 1000 posts, to pat ourselves on the back as we do today. However, to anyone who says that, we must note that Superman never reached issue 750, so what comic book cover would we have used if we waited until that point? So there’s that issue.

Of course, this enterprise would simply not be possible without the support of our firm, Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A.. But the real heroes are our lawyer writers: Frances Zacher, Nick Farr, Rob Green, and Steve Buckingham. Week in, and week out, they submit thoughtful and funny posts to the site. Each of them offers a different voice and a unique perspective on the legal issues of the day. As friend of the blog Tony the Tiger would say, “They’re great!” (And yes, we too are surprised that this is the first time we’ve quoted a cartoon cereal mascot).

We also have you, our dear readers, to thank for reaching this milestone. In the two and a half years we’ve been doing this blogging thing, we’ve enjoyed your comments and your friendship. We’ll see you again at 1,000 posts!

Lawyer Advertisements on iPhone applications?

After the end of a wearisome day practicing law, we here at Abnormal Use often like to review the news of the world (or, more likely, our friends’ social media updates) on our iPads or iPhones.  Sure, we receive legal news via the same medium, but it has become a tradition to peruse the Internet and our favorite social sites at the end of any given business day. Recently, we thought that we might have enough free time to see a movie, but not knowing what was playing at the local theatre, we downloaded a certain movie times mobile app.  It’s one of those magical programs that utilizes your phone’s GPS function to locate the nearest movie theatre and provide you its schedule of showings.  We continue to marvel at that type of technology, even though after several years of its use and popularity, it really should cease to amaze.  (An aside: Imagine telling yourself in 1997 that you would one day, in the not so distant future, be able to utilize your mobile phone for such things.   Science fiction, we would have thought.). However, our quest for cinematic enjoyment was interrupted by something sinister.

Vexing as it is, some of these apps, particularly the free apps, maintain advertising to support their operations. There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, although advertising on one’s mobile phone, particularly on mobile apps, is really, really annoying. Of course, that’s the compromise we make in able to enjoy free apps that allow us to unlock the magic of today’s mobile telephone technology. Usually, it’s all good.

But there was something peculiar about the ad which popped up in the app that day.

Take a look:

The advertisement reads: “Have you ever been injured?  Talk to one of our guys.  They can get you a *phat* settlement.  Learn more.”

The reader is then called upon to click the “Learn more” button to investigate and, presumably, learn more about the offer.

Really?

Who is this advertisement targeted towards?  Is there a significant enough market of movie time seeking smart phone users with potential personal injury claims that such an app is rewarding?  The ad suggests that the reader “talk to one of our guys,” although it is unclear whether one of the “guys” is in fact a lawyer (not to mention the implications for diversity of the profession by mentioning only “guys”).

Further, there appears to be no disclaimer or geographic reference to be found in the advertisement.  Although we must confess we did not click the “Learn more” button for fear of what might happen if we did so. Perhaps some braver souls than we can do so and report on the results of that endeavor.

Oh, and after all of this, we decided not to see a movie.

In re: Maternity Leave and Warning Labels

I recently returned to work from maternity leave.  (For those of you interested: boy, 8 lbs., 5 oz., doing very well, thank you).  Leading up to the birth of the baby, we were in a frantic push to finish the house renovation we started after I became pregnant.  (Can you say nesting on overdrive?)  Between the renovation and the baby, I have been dealing with more warning labels than you can shake a stick at.  (WARNING!  Shaking a stick at people could lead to injuries to you or to them.)

Any parent knows there are warning labels on anything baby-related, from their pajamas (WARNING!  FLAMMABLE!) to their bath seats (WARNING!  DROWNING HAZARD!) to the carseat, with its bright yellow ADVERTENCIA label interrupting the cuddly, cute polka dot fabric.  Anyone who has done a home renovation knows that warning labels are stubbornly affixed to everything you install in your house, from the screens on the new windows (WARNING!  Screen will not prevent you from falling out the window!) to the hydrotherapy bathtub (WARNING!  DROWNING HAZARD!).  Months later, I am still finding – and attempting to peel away – warning stickers.

As if juggling a new baby, a pre-schooler, a full time job, and a husband with a full time job wasn’t enough stress, I have the added stress of being a new mom/products lawyer.  The other day I started to wonder if I’d read all of the warning labels and reviewed all of the user manuals, knowing that if I am ever deposed on the [mal]function on one of these baby or household items, I would be asked that very question.

All of this crazy thinking led me back to a point I come to often – wondering if having too many warnings on products in the world dilutes the truly important warnings for hazards that are not obvious to the normal consumer, and causes us to totally abandon (or mistrust) our own common sense.  There is a place for this argument in our products liability discourse – the “open and obvious” defense.  This defense does not absolve defendants of liability often enough against plaintiffs who shut off their brains or at least beat their common sense genes into submission.

I ran across one of the “your e-cards” the other day that sums up the reaction I sometimes have when I review the facts of products cases, mine or someone else’s.  It’s probably a bit over-the-top in the cynicism department, but I believe that it also leaves some room for optimism – that we can restore common sense to its rightful place in the world.  Of course, when this post is entered into the record as Exhibit 1 at my deposition, I will absolutely deny having expressed any of these opinions, and claim that my blog password was hacked.

Why wouldn’t a lawyer attend his client’s deposition?

It seems silly not to attend an important deposition in person, particularly when the deponent is your client.

Everyone knows that plaintiff’s attorneys and defense lawyers think differently, both in the way that they litigate cases but also in the manner in which they approach the handling of those cases.  Further, both sides operate on dissimilar  economic models, and accordingly, that distinction affects the manner in which they pursue their claims of defenses.  This is also why the two different sides of the bar do not always see eye to eye.

Once, many years ago, I was defending a series of mass tort cases.  At the time, I was practicing in Southeast Texas, and we were deposing plaintiffs all across the state.  On one such occasion, I flew from Southeast Texas to Amarillo, Texas,  not an immense jaunt, but not a short trip, either. Because of the nature of the mass tort cases, the plaintiffs had already responded to written discovery and provided initial fact sheets detailing their personal backgrounds and alleged injuries.  As neither I nor the plaintiff’s attorney maintained an office in Amarillo, we noticed the deposition for the conference room at an upscale hotel in town.  I don’t recall if I flew up the night before or caught an early flight from Houston to Amarillo, but as I typically do, I arrived at the deposition at least a half hour early to review my notes and get into character.  Also, as per usual, the court reporter arrived relatively early to set up the stenography equipment.  In the room, we discovered the plaintiff, sitting alone, with a telephone sitting on the conference table.  Shortly before the deposition, the telephone rang.  I answered. It was the plaintiff’s lawyer, calling to relate that he would not be attending in person but would be participating by phone.  Further, from the initial discussion in the room, it appeared that the plaintiff’s lawyer had not yet met his client in person (the tip off was when I walked in the door she asked if I was her lawyer.)  The court reporter and I left the room briefly so that the plaintiff’s attorney could speak privately with his client, presumably to prepare her for the lengthy deposition.

I’ve always wondered why it was that the plaintiff’s lawyer in that case made that decision to attend his client’s deposition by telephone.  From my perspective, it makes no sense.  First, and foremost, a personal injury plaintiff is typically an unsophisticated litigant; he or she has usually never brought a suit before. He or she is generally unfamiliar with the litigation process.  Accordingly, I suspect that most of them would be somewhat nervous prior to something like a deposition.  So, it would make sense that his or her attorney would be present in the room to defend the deposition and to assuage any concerns that the client might have about the process.

Additionally, there are other reasons to be present for a deposition.  If you are hundreds of miles away from the deposition and attending by phone, you may not have access to the exhibits that are being introduced into evidence.  If you do not alert your opponent that you will be attending by phone, then opposing counsel may not know to provide copies before hand, or if the rules require, simultaneously with the entry of the exhibit into the record.

Quite simply, there are too many things left to chance if one does not attend the deposition, and the deposition of one’s client seems to be something that one must attend in person.  After all, if the client performs poorly, or the plaintiff offers testimony which threatens his or her claim, it would seem that the the attorney’s absence would be of particular interest to a lawyer in a subsequent proceeding alleging potential malpractice.

SCUTPA: Reining in Discovery With A Self-Critical Analysis Privilege

In my last two posts, I’ve been discussing the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act, its overuse, and how that overusage can ironically—yet quite foreseeably—thwart the public interest the statute is designed to protect. The problem, specifically, is that the breadth of discovery in actions involving unfair trade practices claims provides a compelling disincentive for businesses to engage in thoughtful self-critical analysis to determine if their goods or services can be provided in a way that is safer or more effective in the hands of consumers. Chilling self-critical analysis is good for no one. The question becomes: How can we give businesses the latitude they need for self-improvement in a way that doesn’t punish them for being responsible corporate citizens? One way this can be accomplished is by the creation of a qualified privilege which would shield self-critical analyses from disclosure in the course of discovery.

Now before we go any further, let me confess that this is not-in any way, shape, or form-an original idea. I have never claimed to be original, and now is no time to start. The idea of a qualified privilege for self-critical analysis dates back at least 40 years, to Bredice v. Doctors Hospital, Inc., 50 F.R.D. 249 (D.D.C. 1970). Bredice was an action for medical malpractice. During discovery, the plaintiff sought information relating to the treatment of a particular patient (who was injured by the alleged malpractice) which had been disclosed to an internal committee comprised of health care providers, as well as the notes and records of the committee regarding the patient’s care. The committee existed for the purpose of monitoring the quality of patient care generally and, perhaps more importantly, for improving standards of health care delivery going forward. The court held that the discovery requested was privileged from disclosure precisely because of the need for health care providers to speak freely about the quality of patient care. The court identified four critical elements to the existence of the qualified privilege for self-critical analysis: (1) that the analysis had been performed by the party claiming the privilege; (2) that the analysis had been conducted under the expectation of confidentiality; (3) that the information sought through discovery would probably not have been prepared if it were discoverable; and (4) that the information prepared as a result of self-critical analysis promotes a significant public interest.

Since Bredice, many states have codified a qualified privilege for health care providers, including South Carolina. See S.C. Code § 40-71-10. However, as a matter of common law, courts have rarely recognized a qualified privilege for self-critical analysis, and almost never in circumstances other than health care. If any professional field deserves a privilege for discussion involving consumer deliverables, medicine is at the top of the list. But should medicine be the only field that deserves a privilege for self-critical analysis? Surely not. Any commercial actor who has the capacity to affect the health and welfare of consumers through the delivery of their products or services should have the benefit of discussing improvement in a venue that can be free from the reach of discovery. Yet the law has been terribly reluctant to embrace any type of general protection for self improvement.

A general qualified privilege, along the same lines expressed in Bredice, would be a welcome development in terms of corporate protection. Though there is no sign that such protection is forthcoming. However, in my next post, I’ll discuss how South Carolina may have already established a framework for reining in discovery of confidential, sensitive information in actions involving the Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Friday Links

Lois Lane and Superman have a troubled relationship, it seems. Superman has cross-examined her during a lie detector test in a murder case, confronted her in jail and secured a confession of some sort, and accused her of murdering Lana Lang while Lois sat on the witness stand in a courtroom. Above, on the cover of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #84, published way, way back in 1968, we see a bit more of the same. “Superman! Identify Me! Tell him I’m Loise Lane . . . your friend,” she exclaims from her jail cell.  Superman replies: “Officer, I give you my word of honor this girl is a dangerous criminal. She must be imprisoned for life!” These two have serious problems.

A Southwestern University law professor has authored an article entitled “Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, Verse 2: A Close Reading With Fourth Amending Guidance For Cops and Perps” about the famous rap song. We direct that prof to our compilation of songs about lawyers.  (Hat Tip: Gawker).

As we we all know, lawyers thrive on caffeine, so check out this advertisement for coffee – from the year 1652. (Hat Tip: Walter Olson).

Once again, we return to the topic of My Cousin Vinny, that movie of movies. In an interview with Will Harris of The Onion AV Club, Ralph Macchio, the actor who played the title character’s cousin and client, shares some memories of that role.  Published earlier this week, the piece includes these thoughts from Macchio:

We all knew it was a funny script, and obviously Joe Pesci was at a peak there, with Goodfellas and everything going on. And Marisa [Tomei]… Who knew she would be the spectacular talent she is? I mean, we knew when we saw her, but who knew that was going to be an Oscar-winning performance? And Fred Gwynne… The whole cast was great. I had the part that was the least funny, but I had to be in the movie. And I got to say “the two yoots.” [Laughs.] People yell that out to me. I could walk down the street today, and someone could yell that out. That, and “I shot the clerk.” But it’s great to have a couple of those. My Cousin Vinny, The Outsiders, The Karate Kid… When I look back at that time, any one of those, you’d be happy with. So I got pretty lucky.

You can see our earlier My Cousin Vinny twentieth anniversary coverage here.

Lastly, be  honest, dear readers. How many of you are actually at work today, and how many skipped to go see The Dark Knight Rises?

New Jersey Court: No Dice on “Innovator Liability”

A basic principle of products liability law is that liability follows the product in the chain of distribution. In other words, if the manufacturer did not make the product, it cannot be held liable.  But precedent and legal principles be damned, plaintiffs’ attorneys have been pushing a new theory of  liability called “innovator liability.” Under this theory, brand-name drug manufacturers (the “innovators”) may be liable for injuries to plaintiffs who only ingested generic versions of their drugs.  In other words, it requires brand-name manufacturers to answer for injuries allegedly caused by drugs they did not manufacture.  Sounds a bit ridiculous, right?  Fortunately, a New Jersey court recently said “no dice” to innovator liability in the case of Coundouris v. Wyeth, et al., No. ATL-L-1940-10, 2012 WL 2401776 (N.J. Super. Jun. 26, 2012) [PDF].

The plaintiffs  alleged that the brand-name defendants were liable for injuries caused by generic versions Reglan/metoclopramide.   Specifically, they alleged that that the defendants owed a duty to exercise reasonable care to adequately warn doctors and users about the risks of metoclopramide.  The defendants argued that under the New Jersey Products Liability Act (“PLA”), brand-name drug manufacturers could not be held liable for injuries allegedly caused by the use of a generic drug manufactured by another company. The plaintiffs asserted that their claims were not governed by the PLA and were instead negligence claims governed by common law.

The court concluded that the PLA governed the plaintiffs’ claims, noting that the focus of plaintiffs’ claims was the defendants’ failure to warn about metoclopramide’s dangers and that the state legislature’s intent was for such claims to fall under the PLA.  The court further noted that it is well-established that product identification (proof that the product that allegedly harmed the plaintiff is actually the defendant’s product) is an essential element of a plaintiff’s prima facie product liability action.  As such, the court held that the plaintiffs’ claims must fail under the PLA to the extent that the plaintiffs never ingested products sold or manufactured by the brand-name manufacturers.

The court’s  decision seems based on sound legal precedent and is in line with the decisions of other states that have evaluated the viability of innovator liability.  In case you’re counting home, so far California is the only state to adopt the theory of innovator liability.  It did so in the case Conte v. Wyeth, Inc., 168 Cal. App. 4th 89 (2008).  We’re every bit as shocked as you are that California would be on the outside looking on any legal issue (insert sarcasm here).

(Hat tip to John J. Sullivan at the Drug and Device Law blog).

This Post Contains Peanuts?

Ouch!  I have been called out by Max Kennerly of the Litigation and Trial law blog for perpetuating myths about plaintiff’s lawyers.  I recently wrote about the “CONTAINS PEANUTS” disclaimer on my container of delicious peanuts.  But, doggone it, I did not make reference to the federal statute which resulted in such warnings.  Max, a friend of the blog, reminded me that the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) took effect in 2006 and requires the word “contains” when a food contains an ingredient that is a food allergen.  Kennerly correctly points out that this federal statute is why my container of peanuts says that it “CONTAINS PEANUTS” and not, at least presumably, because of some pre-legislation frivolous lawsuit.

Indeed, the FALCPA was enacted for consumers such as myself, the father of a young man who is allergic to peanuts, as I pointed out in my original post.  As Kennerly suggests, the rule is very sensible, at least generally.  But speaking of sensibilities, how about some common sense?  Sometimes, these warnings defy common sense, and as a result, the average consumer does not take them seriously.  Certainly, we here at Abnormal Use appreciate that it may have been “worth it,” as Kennerly says, to enact such legislation.  Yet we, as lawyer commentators ourselves, certainly reserve the right to comment on the occasional “silly result” and unintended consequences of even the most well-intended statutes and regulations. After all, it is one thing to warn consumers, who may not know the specific ingredients of a product, to a component of the purchased food product. But it is quite another to require that a separate “contains” warning be placed on the product’s packaging when the allergen is caused by the very product itself – not some component thereof. A peanut is a peanut is a peanut, and if you buy peanuts, which are clearly labeled as such by virtue of the fact that they are, in fact, peanuts, then it seems silly to require a federal warning that the package of peanuts – already clearly marked as such – contains peanuts.

On a side note, I must say that no one appreciates the consequences of allergens more than myself. In my original post, I mentioned that I had my own anaphylactic reaction to fire ant bites several years ago.  I hopped into a hot tub at a resort in South Carolina with my son, the same one with the peanut allergy.  Upon entering the hot tub, I immediately began experiencing a burning and itching sensation and noticed that a number of fire ants had trailed down into the hot tub.  There was a small mound of fire ants just several feet away from the hot tub, and some of them had actually gotten into the water.  My son and I immediately went inside to take a shower.  My eyes began to water, my lips swelled, my mouth felt funny, and I became quite dizzy.  I knew instantly that I was having a life-threatening reaction to the fire ant bites.  We rushed to the car and headed to the local convenience store to buy some Benadryl.  Before I could pay the cashier, the room started spinning, and down I went!  While I did not pass out, I also could not stand up.  While I was laid out on the cold hard floor, with my son standing over me, wondering what was going on, the cashier called 911.  The fire department arrived first and they tried unsuccessfully to get a blood pressure reading.  When EMS arrived, the paramedic asked the first responder about my blood pressure.  He said he could not get a reading.  At that point, I thought it was important to let them know I was alive and conscious!  When the paramedic did get a blood pressure reading, it was 60/40.  By the way, none of these folks were making jokes or even smiling.  This was serious business.

EMS loaded me into the back of the ambulance, and rushed me to the local emergency room, lights flashing and sirens blaring.  My son rode in the front seat of the ambulance, and an EMS attendant was in the back with me.  I received two injections of Epinephrine.  After four hours in the emergency room, and a course of steroids, I made a full recovery.

While we are on the subject, I wonder if that resort should have had a warning sign next to the hot tub: “CONTAINS FIRE ANTS!”.