Archive for the 'Personal Injury' Category

Employer Who Provides Bucket as Toilet Faces $4M Lawsuit

Andrew Lane was using the restroom at work when he was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning. Mr. Lane’s crew was cleaning the gutter and pressure washing a home in Oregon when Lane was killed. His employer, Superior Home Maintenance, only provided a bucket for its employees’ restroom needs. So when 22 year old Lane went to use the bucket in the rear of the work truck, he was poisoned by the carbon monoxide emitted by an adjacent washer.

The tragic incident occurred on May 13, 2014, in the afternoon, after which Lane’s co-workers discovered his body in the rear of the truck. They had been working outside a home, and according to the attorney for the victim’s estate, they were instructed not to use the bathrooms inside the home. The lawsuit depicts the company’s toilet policy for workers as “demeaning, debasing, and dehumanizing.”

In its defense, Superior Home Maintenance claimed that the main cause of the worker’s death was use of methamphetamines, and not carbon monoxide poisoning. While the first autopsy revealed that the victim died from using methamphetamines, a second autopsy determined that carbon monoxide poisoning was the cause of death. Bucket system toilet

The results of the second autopsy were confirmed by a report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that was issued in September 2014. According to the report, the pressure washer, which was secured to the floor of the cargo area inside the truck, filled the truck with toxic amounts of carbon monoxide in less than one minute.

Lane’s estate alleges that his employer was aware he suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a digestive disorder that is marked by a sudden and frequent need to use the restroom. OSHA requires that on the majority of jobs, employees have reasonable access to toilet facilities. An investigation conducted by OSHA disclosed that on the day of the victim’s death, the closest public restroom was eight minutes away from the job site by car.

Just three years ago, in 2012, two workers received a jury award of $332,000 in a lawsuit against their employer, who failed to provide toilet facilities at their job site. Like Andrew Lane, the two men also used a bucket, and after filing a complaint with OSHA, an inspector from OSHA cited the company for neglecting to provide bathroom facilities. The men were terminated from their jobs that same month. As the jurors in that case stated, “having easy access to a toilet is a basic human right.”

Mr. Lane’s death could easily have been prevented if his employer had merely read and taken heed of the warnings outlined in the owner’s manual for the pressure washer. Among the warnings were the following:

  • “Exhaust contains poisonous carbon monoxide gas that can build up to dangerous levels in closed areas.”
  • “Never run the engine in a closed or even partially closed area where people may be present.”

Had his employer had any respect or concern for him and his co-workers, management would have provided them with adequate toilet facilities. It is unconscionable that so many workers feel that they have to endure inhumane and atrocious conditions in the workplace, and are overcome by feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. And all too often, they don’t complain for fear of losing their jobs, which may be their only source of income.

Amtrak Crash Leads to Multiple Lawsuits

Amtrak Crash Leads to Multiple Lawsuits

The Amtrak crash just outside of Philadelphia on May 12 killed eight passengers and injured 200 others. The incident is considered one of the worst train crashes in American history. Traveling more than twice the speed limit at 106 mph, the train derailed at 9:21 p.m.

So far, two crew members and four passengers have filed lawsuits against Amtrak. The four passengers filed a federal lawsuit, requesting Amtrak pay for medical bills and lost wages. One of the passengers has undergone several surgeries to halt her arm from being amputated. Another crew member described a brain injury that occurred due to the crash.

One of the crew members, Emilio Fonseca, was operating the train at the time of the crash. He filed a civil complaint against the company, arguing he suffered “serious and permanent personal injuries” and should receive compensation under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act.          Amtrak Accident

In order to avoid bankruptcy, in 1997 Congress set a $200 million limit to compensation Amtrak can be held liable for. The mental and physical injuries of passengers and crew members were significant, but the limit will lessen compensation that can be rewarded to each victim of the accident.

The Federal Employers Liability Act

The FELA is a federal law that is specific to railroad workers. The act was created in 1908 to protect railroad workers by compensating them for injuries sustained while on the job. Workers are rewarded compensation only if they can prove the railroad company was at least partly responsible for injuries suffered.

FELA is similar to workers compensation, but FELA is a fault based system. Workers must prove the injury was caused by negligence of a railroad employee, its agent or contractor, or from a faulty piece of equipment. Also in contrast to worker compensation plaintiffs, railroad workers may sue in a state or federal court for damages if proof of liability of the railroad company exists.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the Amtrack accident. Time will tell whether the train’s engineer, Brandon Bostian, a mechanical issue, or an outside source will be held responsible for the crash.

Will Lawsuits Put an End to College Hazing Rituals?

A distraught family is suing Baruch College in New York City for $25 million after their son, Michael Deng, died in a fraternity hazing ritual. The lawsuit comes after Deng’s parents sued the fraternity Pi Delta Psi and multiple members for his 2013 death. The lawsuit states the school knew about the dangerous rituals the fraternity engaged in, and failed to intervene.

wrongful death college hazingThe ritual that ended in Deng’s death is called “The Gauntlet.” The fraternity went on a weekend retreat to a house in Pennsylvania in the middle of winter. New fraternities members were blindfolded and forced to carry a 20 pound backpack filled with sand across a snowy field while older members tackled and charged at them. Deng fell and hit his head after a member wrestled him to the ground, resulting in a serious brain injury.

Fellow fraternity members, too scared they would get in trouble themselves, called their organization’s president instead of 911. The president told the members to destroy all incriminating evidence, and members Googled Deng’s symptoms before finally driving him to the hospital. He died shortly after.

In response to the tragic death, Baruch College instituted a ban for three years on all Greek rush and pledge activities. Organizations must submit lists of their members to the Office of Student Life and organize all of their social activities on campus grounds. All the Greek houses must also participate in anti-hazing, anti-bullying, and sexual assault prevention training programs. Baruch also completely banned Pi Delta Psi, and the national fraternity revoked its affiliation with the chapter.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Hazing Rituals

Wrongful death lawsuits against fraternities is an ever growing problem. Since 2005, more than 60 people have died in incidents stemming from fraternities. In addition to wrongful death, multiple students in the Greek system suffer from assaults, serious injuries, and sexual crimes.

Joining the Greek system is a dream for a majority of high school students. Being in a fraternity or sorority is a huge part of the whole college experience. In movies, the Greek houses are fun, a great way to meet friends, and throw the biggest parties. For most chapters, all of this is true. What most movies do not show though, is the price you have to pay to join one.

In addition to physical torment, mental issues are also linked to the Greek system. Sorority girls are more likely to develop eating disorders and be victims of sexual assault. Fraternity men, due to the highly sexist atmosphere houses provide, are more likely to commit sexual assault. Greek members are also more likely to abuse prescription drugs.

Forty-four U.S. states currently have anti-hazing laws. Most of the time, these laws will not stop the Greek system from engaging in historic rituals. Due to the estimated $3 billion collective value of these houses, private owners and colleges won’t be demolishing any fraternity or sorority anytime soon. We can just hope more restricting hazing laws are implemented, and members will be more worried about their friends’ safety, instead of their own legal liability.

Do the Faces Behind Memes Have Legal Rights?

Grumpy cat, Overly Attached Girlfriend, and Bad Luck Brian —these are familiar terms for anyone with a social media account. “Memes” are viral creations that are prevalent in Internet culture and are spread from person to person. They are often catchphrases, videos, or images used to mock, satirize, or convey a concept.

Internet Meme Legal RightsMost memes are harmless images that poke fun at relatable topics, like First World Problems Girl, but sometimes the use of images and concepts are less than pleasant or fun. For example, no one wants to be known as Scumbag Steve, a meme about unethical behavior regarding hedonistic tendencies, but Blake Boston will forever be known as the face for this meme. Luckily, Boston isn’t bothered by the infamy; instead he embraces his celebrity and uses it to connect with other Internet personalities.

Unfortunately, not everyone can have the same experience as Mr. Boston. Kyra Pringle knows firsthand how devastating and cruel the Internet can be to a loved one. Her two-year old daughter suffers from a rare genetic disorder, which caused unique facial features. After celebrating her daughter’s birthday, Pringle shared a photograph of her child on Facebook. The image was meant for family and friends, but the picture quickly became a meme. People were using rude captions and compared her ill child to a monster, leprechaun, and alien.

Since memes are so popular on the Internet, what can you do if someone uses your photograph for a meme? Some believe it’s a First Amendment right and that content shouldn’t be restricted on the Internet. Others say this is a privacy law matter and that they have a right to be forgotten and left alone.

Internet laws are still slow to the debate and there aren’t any laws that truly protect individuals from becoming memes or having their pictures used in this manner. However, some social media companies are taking on the task and have terms and conditions that ban the use of inappropriate images, especially if the use is the same as Pringle’s situation.

The misuse of photographs is not a new concept, but memes are more difficult to police because there is no commercial purpose behind the sharing. Creating memes is viewed as an artistic or political expression. Unless legislative action happens, it seems the only way to stop this cruel practice is the same way it started—through online users. Online users can create and spread memes, but these same users can also stop the perpetual cycle and police their own online communities. This may not be the best answer for those that are victims of memes, but it seems you just have to hope that your time in the limelight truly is only fifteen minutes of fame.

Indiana HIV Epidemic – Rights for Those Infected

Over 100 people in southeastern Indiana recently tested positive for HIV. Governor Mike Pence declared a public health emergency within the county on March 26 due to the massive amount of cases for a town with a minimal population.

hiv epidemic in indianaThe HIV outbreak is caused by intravenous drug users sharing of needles. Most of the infected people injected a liquefied version of Opana, a prescription painkiller.

State health officials introduced a new needle-exchange program that allows drug users to turn in their used needles in exchange for clean ones. Officials announced participants will not be arrested for participating in the program, nor will they receive any repercussions for engaging in drug use. The program was initiated to combat the HIV epidemic that is taking over Scott County, Indiana.

Rights for Those Infected

What rights do you have if infected by a needle? Infection can occur at a hospital, tattoo parlor, or anywhere needles are used. Many diseases can be contracted through needles: HIV, Tetanus, Cellutitus, etc. What can you legally do if infected through a needle?

First, you need to prove the accused caused the transmission. Evidence including sexual history, testing history, and scientific evidence are needed in order to prosecute. Intentional sexually transmitted HIV is much harder to prove than intravenous transmitted HIV. The needle holds DNA and strains of HIV within the liquidated drug. The needle is the most important piece of evidence to use in this type of case.

What If You Were Infected at a Tattoo Parlor?

What if you contract a disease through tattooing? The legal principle used in such cases is negligence. Even though waivers are required in order to receive a tattoo, shops can be held liable if negligence is proven.

To avoid claims based on negligence, tattoo parlors should do the following:

  • Artist asks a series of questions about your medical history and any allergies you may have before beginning the tattoo
  • Artists asks if you are over 18 (it is illegal to tattoo anyone under that age)
  • The tattoo parlor displays health and safety certificates
  • The artist to uses a new and sterile needle on each client
  • The artist to washes his or her hands thoroughly and wears disposable gloves, and
  • The artist to gives you adequate after-care advice.

Implied assumption of risk is commonly used as a legal defense. There is obvious risk in receiving a tattoo or injecting drugs. Therefore, tattoo parlors or the person providing the needle can use the implied assumption of risk defense to avoid prosecution.