An appeals court has affirmed in part and reversed in part an $8 million damages award in favor of a California couple who sued a doctor and a hospital for medical malpractice after the husband, undergoing pain management treatment, was rendered quadriplegic. Hospital Room

Jurors had awarded nearly $7 million to the patient and another $1 million to his wife (who sued for loss of consortium). The personal injury lawsuit, Markow v. Rosner, was recently considered by the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District, Division One.

The plaintiffs filed claims against two defendants:  the doctor who provided care and the hospital where the care was received. While hospitals certainly can be negligent in their own right for medical malpractice resulting in a patient’s injury, the assertion here was that the hospital was vicariously liable for the actions of the doctor. Employers can be held vicariously liable for the actions of employees acting in the course and scope of employment. However, the doctor in this case wasn’t an employee; he was an independent contractor. The question was whether the plaintiff’s belief to the contrary was reasonable (i.e., did the doctor or hospital make it clear that the doctor was not an agent or employee of the hospital?).

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Inadequate inspection policies at a Dollar General Store resulted in serious injuries in a slip-and-fall accident in Alabama. That’s according to the findings of jurors in Alabama, who awarded the plaintiff $1.75 million in damages.spill

According to AL.com, the incident in question occurred four years ago at the retail chain store, where a customer, then 60, slipped on a clear liquid on the tile floor in the chemical aisle. That liquid was later determined to be laundry detergent. As a result of the fall, she sustained severe fractures to her leg and shoulders that necessitated eight surgeries. Additionally, she required nearly 400 doctor visits and incurred some $470,000 in medical bills.

The plaintiff was rendered permanently disabled as a result of the fall, according to her lawsuit.

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Three teenage sisters were in the car with their parents and 90-year-old grandmother on their way to a family reunion. Their oldest sister, in her 20s, had to work and couldn’t join them. In their Kia Sedona minivan, the family traveled along U.S. 67 in Texas. That’s when a man in a Pontiac Bonneville crossed the center line.

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Instantly, both parents and the grandmother were killed. The girls suffered serious physical injuries, although they did eventually recover. But the emotional scars will likely never heal, they say. Then came the questions. Specifically:  why didn’t the airbags in the van deploy? Numerous lawsuits have been filed due to faulty airbags, but that is not what is being alleged here.

The decedents had purchased the vehicle just a few weeks earlier, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. As they would later learn, that very same vehicle had problems with the airbag. The plaintiffs now believe that the dealership that sold the vehicle may have failed to put in the fuse or reconnect the airbag sensors while troubleshooting a problem with the previous owner’s complaint. That previous owner had made numerous complaints about the airbag light over the three-year period in which she owned the car. Even in spite of these chronic airbag warning light problems, the dealership accepted the vehicle as a trade, later selling it to the decedents.

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A woman was seriously injured while descending a set of stairs that lacked a railway after singing in her church choir. When she sued the church for damages, it was undisputed that she fell on the defendant’s stairs and suffered injuries as a result. The question recently before the North Carolina Court of Appeals was whether the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff and breached that duty, foreseeably resulting in the plaintiff’s injuries. church

According to court records in Thompson v. Evergreen Baptist Church, a key issue in this case was the plaintiff’s own knowledge of the potential danger.

The plaintiff was a member of the church for 34 years. Her husband had been a member of the congregation his entire life, and their children and grandchildren were baptized there. At various times, the plaintiff helped with the children’s choir and served as a youth director, a Sunday School teacher, and the Director of Missions. At the time of her fall, she was serving as a youth director. Additionally, she was a regular church attendee, noting she was there any time the church doors were open and she was able to attend.

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Juror misconduct is getting tougher to police in this age of advanced technology. Sequestration of jurors is not a logistical possibility in the vast majority of cases. That means our system relies on trust that jurors will only consider the facts presented to them in the case – facts that have been carefully vetted by a court of law in order to ensure fairness to both sides. But some jurors find it just too tempting when there may be unanswered questions and they have instant access to almost any bit of information that was ever publicly available about the case. soap

Experienced injury attorneys know that while not every instance of juror misconduct warrants a mistrial, we must be vigilant in identifying it and calling it out and, when necessary, asking for remedy to unfairness. In some cases, that does mean a new trial.

However, as the Missouri Supreme Court recently ruled in Smotherman v. Cass Regional Medical Center, every party is entitled to a trial that is fair, but not necessarily one that is perfect. This was a slip-and-fall lawsuit that was decided in favor of the defendant property owner. Plaintiff sought a new trial after it came to light that a juror was looking up weather report information on the day of the accident. Her case, the court conceded, was not perfect and the juror did commit misconduct. However, the supreme court sided with the trial court in determining a new trial wasn’t warranted because plaintiff did not suffer prejudice as a result of the juror’s misconduct.  Continue reading

The state of North Carolina recognizes the importance of timely filing a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover for damages. North Carolina General Statute 1-15 holds that one has just three years from the date a medical mistake was made to file a claim against a health care provider. However, one has up to two years from the date the mistake was discovered (up to four years) if there was no way to have immediately discovered the injury. In claims that involve objects left inside one’s body during surgery, plaintiff may have one year from the date of discovery and up to 10 years from the date of the surgery to file the claim. Those who were children at the time of a medical malpractice injury have up to their 19th birthday to file a claim for injuries sustained when they were minors. doctor5

This “discovery rule” allows patients some leeway when they aren’t immediately aware that some medical negligence has occurred. Often, the question of when a plaintiff knew or had enough information to raise the issue is a factual determination and it will dictate how much time a person has to file the claim.

In the recent case of Moon v. Rhode, the Illinois Supreme Court was asked to consider a case where the discovery rule was central. Plaintiff, executor of his mother’s estate, alleged his 90-year-old mother received improper care when she was hospitalized for rectal prolapse. During her period of hospitalization, she suffered a host of complications and ultimately died. That was in May 2009. In April 2011, after asking a medical consulting firm to review his mother’s medical records, he received an opinion that the doctors were negligent in treating her following her admission to the hospital. A written report submitted by the firm soon after was critical of delayed oxygen treatments and infection control. In May 2011, plaintiff filed a complaint against the doctors, alleging they had failed to timely treat his mother’s pneumonia and respiratory distress.  Continue reading

An appeals court in California affirmed a nearly $7 million jury verdict in favor of a worker who sustained third-degree burns four years ago while examining swimming pool equipment under construction. The equipment exploded due to a build-up of propane in the underground vault, which was not appropriately ventilated. construction

Authorities investigating the accident later determined that the propane line that was used to heat the pool ignited while plaintiff, working for a subcontractor, was examining the equipment. The home construction project was being overseen by the owner of the property, a licensed concrete subcontractor who was building his wife’s “dream home.” He was acting as the general contractor on the construction of his own home – including the installation of the pool equipment.

Acting as the general contractor of the project, the property owner/ defendant obtained all the permits for construction and also served as the person responsible for construction. He did the concrete work himself and then hired licensed subcontractors to finish the other work. He was on the site every day, tracking the progress, asking when subcontractors were finished with each job so that he could have inspectors approve it.  Continue reading

Parents in South Carolina are working hard to pay their bills and take care of their families. Federal data tells us in most U.S. families, all the adults work. Fewer than 1 in 3 children have a full-time, stay-at-home parent. In order for that to be possible, families must entrust their young children to other caregivers. Often, that is a day care facility. childgroup

Approximately 11 million children are in non-relative child care programs across the country. Although many of these places are well-run, too often, daycare injuries result in hospitalization, long-term recovery, disability and death. Part of the issue had long been a lack of oversight. This is one area at least we can say in which South Carolina has greatly improved in recent years. Unfortunately, it took a horrific case of abuse and murder to spur those changes.

It’s been more than 20 years since the operator of a private home daycare in Irmo was investigated for the deaths of two babies in the injury of a third. A case was filed against the woman in 1993, and she was eventually sentenced to prison for life. Horrific as the case was, it forced the state to confront systemic regulatory failures of in-home day cares. It also exposed problems with how social workers and police investigated child injuries and deaths and how pathologists determined whether those injuries/ deaths were natural or the result of a crime. These changes have helped to improve safety for South Carolina’s children, though parents and loved ones still need to remain vigilant. Even where daycare workers do not intentionally harm children, acts of negligence (i.e., failure to supervise, failure to properly feed, failure to maintain playground equipment, etc.) can have the same tragic effect. Continue reading

It’s been nearly three years since the death of 14-month-old Jaylen Halley. He was killed in Lee County in December 2013 in a common – and preventable – mishap when a car driven by a relative backed up in a driveway and ran over him. South Carolina Highway Patrol troopers wanted to make sure everyone who heard about the incident knew it takes only a second, and that drivers should never back up unless they are sure there is no one and nothing behind.driveway

But these types of incidents – as well as other so-called “non-traffic crashes” – were not studied intensively by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The organization Kids and Cars (KidsandCars.org) has studied the issue of child vehicle backovers, but it isn’t a government agency.

Now, almost 10 years after Congress began requiring the agency to start collecting and maintaining information pertinent to these type of events (referred to as “non-traffic accidents”), the agency has released its first report. It defined non-traffic crashes as those that occur off public traffic ways. These are mostly single-vehicle crashes that happen on private roads or two-vehicle crashes that happen in parking facilities or pedestrian accidents that occur in driveways. (The agency also has been investigation “non-traffic incidents,” which might involve situations like a vehicle falling on top of a person or unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning or a child getting trapped or left in a vehicle.) Continue reading

Many people on-the-job are also on the roads each day. If those workers are involved in an accident, there may be grounds to hold the employer accountable. The worker could seek workers’ compensation insurance and, if the worker was at-fault, the other driver could pursue a claim of vicarious liability against the employer. However, in order for either of those claims to stick, there has to be proof the worker was acting in the course and scope of employment. driver2

The legal theory under which an employer can be held liable is called respondeat superior, or “Let the Master Answer.” However, there are all sorts of legal exceptions, such as the “coming-and-going rule” (employees aren’t covered while commuting to-and-from work) and others.

In the recent case of Jorge v. Culinary Inst. of Am., the California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District, Division Two, reversed an earlier jury trial finding awarding damages to a man injured when he was struck by a car driven by a chef instructor employed by defendant. The appellate court ruled the coming-and-going rule was applicable because as a chef instructor, defendant driver didn’t take his work home with him so the coming-and-going rule applied.  Continue reading

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