November 11, 2014

May and Hill v. Melrose South Pyrotechnics, Inc. - Trial Slated in Fireworks Tragedy

Trial is slated to begin this month in the case of a 2009 explosion of a truck containing fireworks on Ocracoke Island that killed four workers and seriously injured a fifth.
Earlier this year, plaintiffs in May and Hill v. Melrose South Pyrotechnics, Inc. won a substantial victory at the North Carolina Court of Appeals when the court declined to dismiss the case simply because defendant labeled decedent's as employees. The court found such a ruling would be premature. That will be decided as a matter of fact by the jury, as opposed to being decided as a matter of law by a judge prior to trial.

The question of the relationship between the workers and defendant pyrotechnic company is an important one because if they were employees, as defendant asserts, any claims for recovery would be limited to workers' compensation law. However, if the workers were independent contractors, as alleged by plaintiffs, they are not bound by the exclusive remedy provision of workers' compensation benefits.

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November 8, 2014

Roe v. Bibby - Homeowner Had No Duty to Warn of Child Sex Abuse Risk

The South Carolina Court of Appeals recently affirmed a trial court's grant of summary judgment favoring a homeowner who did not warn the family of neighboring children who visited of her husband's prior child sexual abuse conviction or propensities.
The decision in Roe v. Bibby was split, with Justices J. Konduros and J. Williams dissenting. The fact that the ruling was not unanimous indicates the South Carolina Supreme Court could very well reach a different conclusion, should it accept review of the case.

Although the underlying allegations are criminal in nature, two separate civil lawsuits - one against the alleged molester/husband and the second against his wife - are rooted in legal theories of negligence and premises liability. Plaintiffs obtained a default judgment against the alleged molester for assault, battery, false imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress (he did not respond at all to the litigation). However, his wife insisted she owed no duty of care to the children, and therefore could not be held liable. The courts agreed.

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November 6, 2014

Aycock v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. - Product Liability Litigation

North Carolina is the site of many tobacco-based industries, including giants Lorillard (Greensboro) and R.J. Reynolds (Winston-Salem). While these industries have in some ways benefited the local economies, they have also resulted in countless people nationwide contracting serious and often fatal illnesses. What's worse, for a long time, these companies concealed the extent to which their products were harmful.
It's for this reason tobacco companies have been the subject of thousands of lawsuits from former smokers and relatives of those who died after suffering a smoking-related disease.

Just last year, the North Carolina Attorney General announced the state would be receiving a total of $211 million from tobacco companies (R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard) for smoking-related health care costs among taxpayers.

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November 4, 2014

Lyons v. Richmond Cmty. Sch. Corp. - Disabled Student Choking Deaths at School

No parent sends their child to school in the morning thinking that will be the last good-bye.
Although parents of disabled and autistic children will encounter more difficulties throughout their day, they should never have to fear this is a possibility. When it comes to children with disabilities, school districts are expected to have health and safety plans firmly in place, with protocols clearly communicated and strictly followed.

The worst part is that when this doesn't happen, these children are poorly situated to speak out about and let their parents know when a lapse has occurred. That's why often, parents don't know there is a problem until too late.

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November 2, 2014

Zuppardi v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. - Slip-and-Fall Lawsuit

Slip-and-fall cases are harder to prove than you think. This is especially true in North Carolina, where not only must plaintiffs prove defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of a given hazard, they must also defend against claims of contributory negligence. tile2.jpg

Contributory negligence is the degree to which a plaintiff shares the blame for the injury in question. In most states, the damages awarded are reduced by whatever percentage of fault a plaintiff is found to share. In North Carolina, however, a finding of just 1 percent contributory negligence means you are barred from collecting anything at all.

So for example, you might slip and fall on a gob of ketchup in the grocery store. The store knew about it and failed to clean it up in a timely manner. However, the store could argue you had a duty to notice the open and obvious hazard of bright red ketchup on the floor and take precautions to avoid it. And they could win on that theory.

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October 30, 2014

77-Year-Old Woman Killed in Tragic Swamp Boating Accident

Tourists and visitors to the Southeast region may be put at additional risk if they are unaware of their surroundings or attempting new recreational activities. According to reports, a 77-year-old North Carolina woman drowned in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia after she fell out of a boat in the Suwanee Canal. The woman was visiting the swamp with her husband at the time of the accident. Authorities reported that the Efland woman was staying with her husband at the Laura S. Walker State Park while visiting the swamp.


Drowning and boating accidents are common along the coast and on inland streams, rivers, and lakes throughout the Southeast. According to reports, the victims' husband stopped to look at something and had turned off the engine. When he restarted the motor, the boat lurched forward, "standing on end" and they both fell backwards out of the boat. Police reports indicate that the husband tried to help his wife, but she become entangled in the boat's propeller and suffered fatal injuries. The accident occurred approximately 7 or 8 miles down from the boat basin where they launched. After initial calls for help were made, local law enforcement officials, fire and rescue personnel, as well as officers from U.S. Fishing and Wildlife Service and the State DNR responded to the scene. Though attempts were made to revive the woman, she was pronounced dead at the refuge by the Ware County coroner.

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October 29, 2014

Family Awarded $97 Million for Death of South Carolina Mayor

The family of a South Carolina mayor who was shot by a police officer has been awarded $97 million in a wrongful death case. According to reports, the mayor was shot and killed after he complained about the officer's aggressive behavior. The wrongful death verdict was considered a success for the family who tragically lost their loved one in a preventable crime. The mayor was shot in the chest with a revolver belonging to an officer in May 2011. The mayor was shot on a small dirt road and, according to local authorities, the officer still has not been charged with the crime.


The tension between the mayor and the officer grew after the mayor objected the arrest of an employee in his construction business. The family sued the officer and the town of Cottageville, alleging that it should never have hired the officer due to his checkered past and troubled employment history. An attorney representing the officer alleges that the mayor had bipolar disorder and was enraged when he confronted the officer. A defense attorney claimed that the officer only shot the mayor in self-defense.

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October 28, 2014

One Year Later: North Carolina State Fair Accident Victims Still Recovering

Victims who suffer injuries are often in recovery long after the headlines fade. The victims of an October 2013 North Carolina State Fair accident are still in recovery after being severely injured on the "Vortex" ride. While it's been a year since the accident, the family remains in recovery after suffering permanent and debilitating injuries. According to local reports, the family injured while at the state fair included a woman, her husband, their son, and their niece. Despite being released from the hospital since the accident, all of the victims are still under doctor's care.


Last October, the family arrived at the state fair to enjoy the festivities, but the night quickly turned tragic. According to eyewitnesses, the riders fell approximately 30 feet. They were initially unconscious but then regained consciousness before being taken away by paramedics. According to investigators, a key safety mechanism was tampering with, leaving victims at risk of serious injury or wrongful death.

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October 24, 2014

Powers v. 31 E 31 LLC - Apartment Fall Premises Liability Lawsuit

Building codes are established to keep structures safe. When those codes are violated or ignored, innocent people - including tenants, guests and bystanders - may become injured. In these situations, injured parties may be entitled to relief through a premises liability lawsuit.
However, sometimes claims are not as straightforward as they appear on the surface, particularly when older buildings are involved. That's because while older buildings may not conform to current standards of construction, sometimes those structures are "grandfathered in," so long as they adhered to the previous codes at the time they were built or renovated.

Still, that might not be a catch-all defense, depending on the facts of the case.

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October 22, 2014

Christensen v. Alaska Sales - Early Head Injury Treatment Critical

Several years ago, a woman in rural Alaska struck two moose on a dark highway. She found herself disoriented, but she hadn't broken any bones. She had the capacity to call police and her husband. They noted a large mark in the middle of her forehead, but she shrugged it off, declining emergency treatment.
But in the days that followed, she began to experience dizzy spells and headaches. Her balance increasingly worsened, and she kept falling. Her short-term memory began to suffer. Her speech became disjointed. Her symptoms continued to worsen. After a week, she sought help from a doctor. She was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. The injury gave rise to a claim of seat belt defect in Christensen v. Alaska Sales & Service, Inc..

Latent head injuries are common, as the effects are not always immediately apparent. Early intervention can be key in reducing the damage. This is why it's critical for anyone who has suffered a head injury - whether in a car accident or sports injury or fall.

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October 19, 2014

Young v. U.S. - Federal Park Hazard Injury Lawsuit Proceeds

Suing a local government entity is accompanied by a unique set of legal hurdles. Suing the federal government for injury can have mountainous hurdles.
Bu that doesn't mean a case isn't ever worth pursuing, as Young v. United States recently revealed. Here, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted plaintiffs the right to continue their case under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), after a woman suffered serious injuries after she fell into a deep hole formed underneath the snow near a buried transformer in a national park, close to the main visitor center. She alleged the National Park Service knew of the danger because it had created it and failed to warn visitors.

Although the lower court dismissed the claim as barred under the discretionary function exception under FTCA, the appellate court flatly rejected this defense. Justices called the decision not to warn "totally divorced" from any other policy consideration except the one the park service should have upheld: the safety of some 2 million visitors who patronize the park every year.

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October 16, 2014

Temple v. Mary Washington Hospital: On Discovery Motions in Medical Malpractice Cases

Temple v. Mary Washington Hospital, a case from the Supreme Court of Virginia, involved a medical malpractice case filed in the name of decedent. According to court records, decedent went to defendant's emergency room complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath. Four hours after getting to the hospital, he was deceased.

ekg-293359-m.jpgAfter filing the personal injury case, plaintiff, through counsel, requested certain discovery from defendant. Included in these requests were copies of defendant's policies and procedure related to how a patient in decedent's condition should be treated by hospital staff. Defendant responded to plaintiff's requests for production of documents, claiming these documents were not relevant to the lawsuit and were privileged documents.

Plaintiff filed a motion to compel discovery, requesting that the trial judge order defendant to produce the requested documents. The trial judge found that these documents were not relevant, as they would not lead to discoverable evidence, agreed that they were privileged, and denied the motion.

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October 14, 2014

Nguyen v. Western Digital Corp: On the Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases

Nguyen v. Western Digital Corp., a case from the Court of Appeals of the State of California, Sixth Appellate District, involved plaintiff who was born in 1994. Her mother worked for defendant from the late 1980s through 1998. Her mother worked in clean rooms in which she was exposed to tetratogenic and reproductively harmful chemicals for extended periods of time.

3mspraymount-138829-m.jpgThese chemicals are now known to cause serious harm to unborn children. Plaintiff's mother was pregnant during the time she was exposed to the chemicals. Her employment involved the manufacturing of semiconductors that required the use of a combination of toxic substances and chemicals, and there is to no way to separate which specific chemical she was exposed to at any give time.

Plaintiff (through her guardian) alleged in her complaint that the clean rooms were clean in terms of protecting the company's products but not in terms of protecting workers from toxic chemicals. The protective clothing given to workers was also to protect the semiconductors from contamination from the workers and did nothing to prevent the workers from absorbing the toxic material through their skin or inhaling toxic vapors into their lungs.

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October 12, 2014

Santana-Concepcion v. Centro Medico del Turabo, Inc.: On the Discovery Rule in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Santana-Concepcion v. Centro Medico del Turabo, Inc., a case from the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, involved a plaintiff who was a registered nurse. She had a head CT (CAT scan), which revealed a large arachnoid cyst. An arachnoid cyst is fluid-filled membrane sac that forms between the base of the brain and the spinal chord.

mri-head-scan-370098-m.jpgAfter being diagnosed with the cyst, her doctors told her that surgery was not necessary. Later that same year, she experienced extreme pain and went to a local emergency room. She was referred to a neurosurgeon who recommended surgery to remove the cyst and medicine to reduce the intracranial pressure. The surgeon told her that it was a matter of life or death.

Plaintiff told the surgeon to do whatever he needed (including the placement of a shunt) as long as she wouldn't be in any more pain. This occurred while she was on vacation in Puerto Rico.

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October 9, 2014

Jones v. Imperial Palace of Mississippi, LLC: On Slip and Fall Lawsuits

Jones v. Imperial Palace of Mississippi, LLC, is a premises liability case in which plaintiff was walking through a casino parking garage when he was injured. Plaintiff was walking in the space between the wall and the front of the parking space when he tripped on a concrete parking bumper at the front of one of the spaces and fell to the concrete floor. It should be noted that the area in which he was walking was not designated for pedestrian travel, but there was nothing to indicate that pedestrian travel was prohibited in that area.

fence-726216-m.jpgPlaintiff's allegation is the concrete parking bumper was not properly aligned with the front of the parking space to the point where it was is in his path of travel and that the bumper was the actual and proximate cause of his injuries.

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