Archive for the 'Personal Injury' Category

R.J. Reynolds May Be Found Liable for Smoker’s Death

A former smoker’s widow named Joyce Hardin filed a lawsuit in Miami against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. She alleges that the company’s statements and omissions regarding the addictiveness of cigarettes as well as their harmful effects caused her late husband to become ill. She is requesting more than $20 million in compensatory damages.

In 1996, her husband, named Thomas Hardin, was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to plaintiff’s attorney Allan B. Kaiser, Hardin was raised in rural Alabama, and started smoking at the age of nine. Kaiser alleges that the company conspired with other cigarette makers to hide facts about how addictive and detrimental cigarettes can be over the course of several years.88642-full

Hardin did not know how addictive cigarettes could be when Hardin was younger because the tobacco company and its conspirators hid the facts from people like Hardin. Although tobacco awareness and education is well known today, the jury should not use today’s standards to evaluate cases like Hardin’s. The risks of smoking were not as well advertised in the 1950’s, when Hardin first began smoking. Young Hardin could only rely on statements made by the tobacco industry, which failed to issue any warnings about the risks of smoking. Thus, without any knowledge of the dangers of smoking, Hardin became addicted, and his addiction led to his illness, and eventually to his death.

Preventing Future Hardins

There were thousands of cases, such as this one, arising from the 1994 Engle class action lawsuit against tobacco companies. The Florida Supreme Court permitted up to 700,000 individuals to use a jury’s findings about addictive tobacco to file their own lawsuit. The jury found that smoking causes certain diseases, and that the perils of smoking were concealed by tobacco companies.

In order to win a judgment, Hardin’s estate must persuade the jury that Hardin suffered from an addiction to nicotine that was caused by his cigarette smoking. The Hardin estate must also convince the jury that Hardin’s smoking of R.J. Reynold’s cigarettes caused his COPD and emphysema that ultimately resulted in his demise. In the event that the jury arrives at these conclusions, the jury is then required to decide the percentage of fault that is attributable to each party for Hardin’s disease, and perform a calculation of compensatory damages for his widow.

I think that the jury should render an award as close as possible to the requested amount of $20.2 million to compensate Joyce Hardin for her pain and suffering, and her loss of companionship. The jury should take into consideration Hardin’s early stages of COPD, the severe illness that he suffered for six-and-a-half years, and his projected lifespan of 12 years that was reduced.

I also believe that the jury should render a verdict that includes punitive damages. By adding punitive damages, other tobacco companies will be dissuaded from engaging in the same type of deception about the dangers of smoking that was committed by R.J. Reynolds.

Decriminalization of Marijuana in Delaware

The governor of Delaware, Jake Markell, recently signed a bill that decriminalizes possession and private use of miniature quantities of marijuana. The maximum amount of marijuana you can legally possess and use is one ounce. However, police can still seize the drugs.

According to the statute, the penalty for using marijuana publicly will be reduced to a fine of $100. Previously, possession of marijuana was a misdemeanor for which you could face up to six months in jail, and be fined up to $1,150. However, simple possession of marijuana is still a criminal offense for anyone who is under age 18. In addition, if you are caught using marijuana in a moving vehicle, in a public place, or within 10 feet of property that is open to the public, you will be charged with a misdemeanor.

Governor Markell signed the bill into law on Thursday, June 19th, and the law becomes effective six months from then. The bill passed the Senate and the House of Representatives, both of which are controlled by Democrats, and was opposed by Republicans, who claim that the bill sends the wrong message to youth.   Marijuana

A lobbying group called the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has said that 18 states, including Delaware, have enacted laws decriminalizing personal use and possession of marijuana in small quantities. There are 23 states, including Delaware and the District of Columbia, that permit the use of marijuana for medical reasons. Ballot measures legalizing marijuana for recreational adult use were approved by voters in Washington, D.C., Colorado, Oregon, Washington state, and Alaska. Nevertheless, marijuana is still an illegal narcotic under federal law.

The Dark Side of Marijuana Legalization

Despite the growing popularity of marijuana, I am inclined to agree that legalizing the drug sends the wrong message to young people, who are very impressionable, and will be more likely use, and even abuse, the drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana can have adverse effects on the brain, such as impaired memory, altered senses,  altered sense of time, mood changes, and impaired body movement. Marijuana can also make it harder to think clearly and solve problems.

Marijuana also has long-term adverse effects on the development of the brain, especially when people start using the drug during their teenage years. Use of the drug can diminish thinking, memory, and learning functions, as well as impact the ways in which the brain forms connections between the areas needed for these functions. The effects of marijuana on these abilities may be lengthy or could even be permanent.

Other health effects of marijuana include lung irritation, which can lead to breathing problems; increased heart rate, which can give rise to heart attacks; and child developmental problems during and after pregnancy. Use of marijuana on a long-term basis can cause mental illness, including temporary hallucinations, temporary paranoia, and aggravated symptoms in patients who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Thus, with the exception of medical marijuana, I think that legalization of the drug can only lead to an increasing lack of awareness concerning its ill effects, and a rise in the use among young people. There may also be an increase in the number of people who suffer from the above-mentioned health problems.

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.