December 25, 2014

White v. Vermont Mutual - Homeowner Insurance for Dog Bite Injury


In 2013, officials reported 32 dog bite-related deaths in the U.S., with more than half of those being children and many others visiting or living temporarily with the dog's owner when the attack occurred.

This is a serious considerations for all Carolina homeowners, but perhaps particularly so for those inviting a new dog into the home for the holidays.
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North Carolina was one of the top two states for the number of dog bite fatalities in 2012, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated some 885,000 people are treated in hospital emergency departments each year for dog bites nationwide. Victims incur an estimated $1 billion in medical bills and lost wages, according to the State Farm Times.

Many of these attacks may be covered by homeowners' insurance. Some insurers won't insure certain breeds of dogs, while others will decide it on a case-by-case basis. The Insurance Information Institute reports dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowner insurance liability claims paid out in 2013, costing nearly $500 million. The average cost per claim that year was $27,900 - a 45 percent increase over the last decade.

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December 23, 2014

Robinson v. Cianfarini - Ice Slip-and-Fall Liability


Winters in Asheville tend to be fairly mild, but we do occasionally experience winter weather - and all the dangerous conditions that come along with it. Among those are icy sidewalks, driveways and walkways, which can result in a slip-and-fall accident.
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When these accidents occur on commercial property, an injured person may have grounds on which to pursue a premises liability lawsuit, particularly if the condition existed for some time without action from the property owners.

But governments and private property owners have a duty of care to guests and the public as well as it relates to ice on the ground. Asheville city leaders passed a city ordinance - Chapter 16, Article I, Section 16-3 - to deal with this issue. The statute says property owners must clear the sidewalks abutting their property on or before 10 AM each day in which the temperature is over 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They also must clear abutting sidewalks of snow, sleet, hail or other accumulations within 48 hours of when that accumulation stops. Those who fail in this duty may face a citation and fine - and possible civil liability if someone is hurt.

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December 21, 2014

Izell v. Union Carbide - Appellate Court Upholds $24M Mesothelioma Award


Asbestos is a fibrous material that for decades was used in everything from flooring material to vehicle brakes. It also happens to be deadly when those fibers are inhaled, causing chronic and terminal illnesses such as lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, which often don't manifest until decades post-exposure.
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Many companies that manufactured and sold asbestos-laden products have been the subject of thousands of lawsuits, mostly because there is ample evidence these companies knew of the dangers this material caused and failed to warn users and workers. In some cases, it's been found the companies actively concealed this information.

Some firms have established asbestos trusts to pay out proven asbestos injury and wrongful death claims. Others continue to fight the claims in court.

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December 19, 2014

Wells v. Smith - Demolition Site Injury Claims Can Be Complex


Construction workers have some of the most dangerous jobs in the country. One of the most dangerous sub-categories of construction work is demolition.
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Earlier this year, after a series of demolition-related injuries and fatalities, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety & Health Administration noted far too many workers' lives were risked or sacrificed because employers and/or property owners neglected demolition safety fundamentals. The official went on to say all employers of workers involved in demolition projects have to be aware of the hazards and necessary safety measures before such work begins.

The agency recently updated its standards and page on demolition dangers, entitled, "Demolition: Construction in Reverse, with Additional Hazards."

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December 17, 2014

McMaster v. Dewitt - Statute of Limitations Bars Adderall Prescription Lawsuit


Adderall, a powerful medication frequently prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder, has come under heightened scrutiny in recent years for its many serious adverse side effects, particularly among those with a history of mental illness and/or addiction. It's an amphetamine-based stimulant, and is known to have a high risk for addiction.
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Incidents of overdose and suicide have in some cases given rise to product liability claims against the companies who make them. Additionally, physicians have been sued for allegedly prescribing the drug improperly or failing to properly monitor patients who took the drug.

As with any injury related to a prescription drug, injured parties need to weigh carefully whether to pursue litigation against the manufacturer/distributor of the drug or the physician/health care provider. The two involve very different theories of negligence. When suing a manufacturer/distributor, one alleges the medication was somehow defective, and there is usually an assertion of failure to warn consumers of those dangers. Litigation against a health care provider, meanwhile, involves the assertion he or she failed to adhere to applicable standards of care for that area of expertise.

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December 15, 2014

Teens With Brain Injury More Likely to Use Alcohol and Drugs


Victims of brain injuries will often endure lasting symptoms, including mood changes, personality changes, depression, emotional disorders and other disabilities. According to a recent study, brain injury victims are at risk of another complication--addiction. Teenagers who suffer from a traumatic brain injury are twice as likely to drink alcohol or use drugs compared to those who have never suffered from a head injury. The study was conducted by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital and Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). According to conclusions of the study of high school students, published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, there is a toxic relationship between brain injuries and substance abuse.

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Public health officials, school administrators, parents, as well as young victims should be wary of the potential link between brain injury and addiction to drugs or alcohol. According to researchers, underlying substance abuse issues can make it more difficult to treat a brain injury. Similarly, it can be more difficult to treat addiction when the patient has also suffered from a brain injury. Doctors involved with the study said that there was an ongoing pattern of drug and alcohol abuse in patients who have also suffered from a brain injury. Some of the patients were injured while they were under the influence and others became dependent on drugs or alcohol after the brain injury.

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December 13, 2014

Home and Vehicle Safety During the Winter Months


Changes in temperature and new winter activities should shift homeowner safety awareness. Rather than focusing on outdoor barbecues and your swimming pool, you may have to deal with winter-proofing your home to keep your family safe. While North and South Carolina don't get as cold as the northern states, storms have been known to have a potentially dangerous effect, especially for residents in higher altitudes. Snow can wreak havoc, especially in the Appalachian Mountains, and all residents, visitors, and travelers should be wary of potential risks of colder weather. Here are some tips to keep your family safe this winter season:

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Winterize your home. To make sure that your home is prepped for winter, install weather stripping, insulation, and storm windows. Water lines that run along any exterior walls should also be insulated. Before it freezes, you should clear out gutters and repair any leaks in the roof.

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December 11, 2014

Laser Hair Removal Causes Disfigurement and Burns


For many women, undergoing painful procedures in the sake of beauty is not unheard of. However, going through painful procedure with resulting disfigurement and burns is never expected. According to New York Magazine, many women have suffered from serious burns and scarring after getting laser hair removal. Many of the victims have been young teens, and now the practice is being scrutinized. While women may take certain risks to meet beauty standards, parents, physicians, and other advocates should be concerned about the potential danger of laser hair removal.

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Laser hair removal is a procedure that obliterates hair follicles to prevent future hair growth. Teenagers have been known to seek out the procedure for legs, underarms, or even unsightly facial hair that has led to bullying. Though the practice has been noted among many teenagers, and even 11 or 12 year-olds, there have been significant reports about the potential dangers of laser hair removal. According to reports, patients have suffered burns that turned to discoloration. According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, nearly half a million laser treatments were performed in the U.S. in 2011 by trained doctors. Treatments are also performed by non-doctors, which can increase the potential for risk and injury.

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December 5, 2014

New Bill Would Require Breathalyzers in Watercraft Accidents


Boating accidents can result in catastrophic and fatal injuries for victims. Unfortunately, many victims suffer because of preventable accidents involving the use of alcohol. A new law proposed by South Carolina legislators would require Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officers to administer a breathalyzer test for all drivers involved in a boating accident. The law has been spearheaded by a mother who lost her 19-year-old daughter in a jet-ski accident in May. The mother of Millicent "Milli" McDonald is asking residents of South Carolina to sign the petition for what she would like to be called, "Milli's Law."
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According to reports, the May accident occurred when a 26-year-old man and the victim were both riding personal watercrafts near the landing. The other man crashed into the victim who was airlifted from the scene, but never regained consciousness after the accident. The young victim was pronounced brain dead less than 24 hours after the collision. Though alcohol was suspected in the accident, the other driver was never tested. The watercraft collision occurred on May 19th and the victim was pronounced dead on May 20th. The man was charged with reckless homicide by watercraft and has two previous DUI charges, but was never given a breathalyzer after the accident. Some legislators are hoping to work a policy out directly with the Department of Natural Resources.

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December 2, 2014

Black Friday Injuries and Retailer Liability


In the weeks leading up to the notorious "Black Friday" for bargain-seeking shoppers, media sources reflected on past incidences of injury, even death related to stampedes, fighting, and brawls between customers and employees. In the event that a shopper is injured onsite, who is at fault? Can a consumer take action against a shop owner or corporation if they have suffered an injury? Black Friday attracts shoppers from all over the nation and has even spread to the UK. It is the busiest and most publicized commercial day of the year, but has also resulted in serious injuries and poses risk to consumers as well as retail employees.

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The National Retail Federation reports that there were over 90 million consumers participating in online and in-store Black Friday events. Those who decide to brave it in the masses could face potentially dangerous conditions. While many retailers will invest in a few extra security guards--they are not always sufficient or able to properly manage large crowds. A website found at www.blackfridaydeathcount.com tracks the number of injuries and deaths that have occurred as a result of Black Friday mobs. Individuals who have suffered a Black Friday injury do have the right to take action to collect compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and additional personal losses that may have been incurred.

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December 1, 2014

Cricket Player Dead from Traumatic Brain Injury


Traumatic brain injury in sports can be deadly. In a recent case that has made international headlines, a well-known Australian cricket player died after suffering a traumatic brain injury. According to reports, Phillip Hughes, a 25-year-old player never woke up after being struck in the neck with a short-pitch ball. He was carried off the field in a stretcher in critical condition where he was put in an induced coma. Doctor's pronounced him dead shortly after surgery. The accident highlights the danger of sports, both for amateur and professional athletes.

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Traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, have become a target of medical inquiry and investigation. The brain is a very delicate organ, encased by the skull and cushioning fluid. The upper neck is also vulnerable because it contains the major arteries to the brain. In the event of trauma to the neck or head, like when a player is struck by a blow from a ball or other player, the arteries can rupture causing a massive head injury. In this case, the player was struck in the back of the head and neurologists suggested that he stopped breathing immediately after the vertebral arteries in his neck were ruptured.

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November 30, 2014

DeCormier v. Harley Davidson - Enforceability of Liability Waivers


If you have ever participated in a high-risk activity - think sky-diving or rock-climbing - you were almost certainly asked to sign a "waiver of liability," releasing the organizer and/or property owner from any claims of negligence relating to that activity.
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These waivers, also known as "exculpatory clauses," are becoming increasingly popular, even for participation in seemingly innocuous activities, such as a gym class or a charity 5K.

In South Carolina, these agreements may be enforceable as valid private contracts, but only if the language is sufficiently specific and the negligence asserted does not stem from a reckless or intentional act by defendant. It's also worth noting the South Carolina Supreme Court, in its 2003 ruling in Fisher v. Stevens, established exculpatory contracts are not favored by the law, and will be strictly construed against the party relying thereon.

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November 28, 2014

Chavez v. Cedar Fair - Amusement Park Injury Weighed


Carnivals and amusement parks have come under intense scrutiny in recent years, as injuries mount and the industry remains poorly-regulated.
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Although the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission oversees how amusement park rids are manufactured, there is no federal agency in charge of regulating how they are set up, maintained are operated. This is left to the states, and the rules vary widely.

North Carolina has stiffer regulations than most. N.C. Gen. Code. 95.111.1-18 provides guidance on how amusement devices are designed, constructed, assembled, disassembled, maintained and operated so as to prevent injuries.

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November 24, 2014

Report: Bad Nursing Homes Get Billions in Federal Loan Breaks


Before 1965, owning and operating a nursing home was seen as risky business. That's because prior to then, there was no Medicaid, meaning families had to subsidize the care of infirm, elderly loved ones on their own. That meant there was no guarantee these centers would be consistently paid. abuela.jpg

It was in this climate legislators passed a measure that would make it easier for nursing homes to get decent rates on loans for everything from new construction to remodeling to obtaining equipment. This program, under the National Housing Act of 1959, allowed for reduced interest rates on loans that were federally-guaranteed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Today, the nursing home industry is booming, with for-profit centers accounting for a growing percentage of the market share. Even though there is little need to continue offering the reduced, federally-backed interest rates to these centers, the program persists. But what's worse, according to a recent investigation by The Center for Public Integrity, nursing homes that received an abysmal one-star federal rating for care quality apparently have no problem securing these advantageous rates - even when those poor ratings persist for years.

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November 21, 2014

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against SC Nursing Home Advances


Some contractual agreements--between landlords and tenants, employer and employee contracts, or in a nursing home residential agreement--will include an arbitration agreement which is intended to determine how a case should be resolved in the event of a dispute. Mandatory arbitration clauses have been criticized for limiting a victims' right to seek redress in a court. In some cases, an arbitration clause will also identify a predetermined arbiter, who already knows the contracting defendant. The results can be unfair and unfavorable to plaintiffs who have been wronged.

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In a recent case, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed a woman to proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit against a nursing home, despite an arbitration agreement she signed on behalf of her sister. After her court case was denied at the state level, the plaintiff brought her case to the Supreme Court. According to reports, the plaintiff is allowed to proceed with the wrongful death case, even after signing an arbitration agreement and financial documents on behalf of her sister who resided at a care facility in Florence, South Carolina. The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit after her sister died under the care of the nursing home.

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