Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

No one throws a party with the intention of a guest being seriously injured or killed. But as we head into the holiday season, it’s important to consider the ways in which a social host can be liable for injuries to those in attendance. beers

The two most common types of liability in these situations will stem from one of two things:

  • Premises liability (a failure to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition and exercise reasonable care to protect guests); or
  • Social host/dram shop liability (furnishing alcohol to minors or those who are already extremely intoxicated).

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Accidents that result in a serious injury or death are often the result of negligence, or even gross negligence, which is a complete disregard for the safety of others. However, poor outcomes in these cases are generally not, on their own, enough to prove negligence.sandbar

General negligence requires proof that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty, and the plaintiff suffered injuries as a result.

In the case of Elliott v. Carter, a boy in Virginia tragically drowned while on a Boy Scout camping trip. His parents sued the troop leader for gross negligence. However, as the Virginia Supreme Court recently decided, the leader’s efforts to save the boy – while ineffectual and inadequate – were enough to overcome the assertion of gross negligence. One justice dissented.

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The state supreme court in Washington has imposed more stringent time limits on certain wrongful death lawsuits. In a 5-4 ruling in the case of Deggs v. Asbestos Corp., the justices ruled a wrongful death lawsuit cannot move forward if the statute of limitations has already run on the decedent’s own cause of action by the time of his or her death. Asbestos Dust Hazard

The majority in this instance rejected the plaintiff’s assertion that the heirs’ cause of action for wrongful death can’t arise until after the decedent dies.

According to court records, the decedent filed a lawsuit in 1999 against nearly 40 defendants for negligence regarding injuries arising from exposure to asbestos. He settled with a number of those defendants, and some others were dismissed. He ultimately went to trial with the last defendant remaining and secured a judgment in excess of $1.5 million. He died nine years later at the age of 84.

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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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Just weeks ago, the River Bluff High School community was left devastating when a 14-year-old football player died just before his 15th birthday after collapsing in the school locker room. He’d just spent two hours and 15 minutes training outside in oppressive heat. The teen, standing 6-foot-2, was a defensive tackle in reportedly great health. Although the sophomore made it through practice, he started to stumble near the end, according to The State. He collapsed in the locker room, where his coaches gave him CPR and used a defibrillator. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead. football

Although the autopsy results were inconclusive, some questioned whether proper safety protocol for outdoor practices were followed. At the least, the coroner opined that external environmental factors – namely heat and humidity – probably contributed to the stress caused by strenuous physical exertion. The school and coaches insist players are encouraged to let them know when they don’t feel well, to constantly drink water and sports drinks – both before and during practices – and to take rest breaks. Coaches, though, need to be mindful of the temperature, safety experts say, and take that into account when determining how hard to push their players.

On the day in question, school officials say coaches were in fact using a wet-bulb device. For those unfamiliar, it’s the same kind used by drill sergeants training U.S. Army recruits outdoors. The devices measure not just the temperature, but the humidity and the radiated heat from the surface and sun. These readings allow the sergeants – or in this case, coaches – to adjust the training schedule, making more allowances for water, shedding heavy equipment or clothing and more frequent rest breaks in the shade. When conditions are too severe, conditioning can be canceled.  Continue reading

Sixteen people were killed in a recent central Texas hot air balloon crash in which the balloon reportedly caught fire in the air and crashed. Local authorities say there were no survivors in the incident, which is believed to have occurred as a result of the balloon striking power lines around 7:30 a.m. around 30 miles south of Austin.hotairballoon4

The area is reportedly frequently used for hot air balloon landings, though the activity itself remains relatively rare. A witness who lives near the site described seeing a “big ball of fire.”

If all 16 deaths are affirmed by officials, it will be the deadliest hot air balloon crash in U.S. history. Previously, the highest single number of people killed in a hot air balloon accident was six in 1993. Officers found the balloon basket on fire on the ground. A maximum of 16 passengers were allowed on this particular type of balloon.  Continue reading

Exclusive remedy provisions of North Carolina’s workers’ compensation law prevent injured workers or their families from pursuing litigation against employers for almost all work site accidents. However, third-party liability litigation may be appropriate if another person or entity was at least partially responsible for what happened. sad

This was the allegation in the case of Fleming v. Sanders Lead Co., an appeal before the Alabama Supreme Court.

Tragically, one worker was killed and another severely and permanently brain-damaged when a tanker trailer on the back of a semi-truck backed over them while they were at work. The families of the workers filed lawsuits – one for wrongful death and another for personal injury – on their behalf, alleging that a lead company across the street undertook safety inspections at the work site, and failed in this duty to adequately carry them out.  Continue reading

An Asheville-area man who alleges his leukemia was the result of consumption of toxic solvents dumped into a local stream by a manufacturing plant will have another chance to litigate his claim.sadness2

In Stahl v. CTS Corp., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed an earlier grant of summary judgment in favor of defense after concluding precedent set by the North Carolina Supreme Court would allow a claim for latent disease to proceed.

Central to the case is the so-called “discovery rule,” which under  North Carolina General Statutes Section 1-52(16) holds that personal injury actions – for which there is a three-year statute of limitation – do not accrue until bodily harm to plaintiff becomes apparent or reasonably ought to have become apparent to the affected person. Statute further states no cause of action shall accrue more than 10 years after the last negligent act or omission alleged.  Continue reading

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recently affirmed a $3.3 million wrongful death verdict against trucking company giant J.B. Hunt Transport. forklift1

Plaintiffs alleged the firm was liable after a worker helping to unload a truck load of baby chicks died from complications of an injury he suffered when a trucker operating a forklift ran over the worker’s ankle.

The trucking company argued it was prevented from making its entire case because the driver refused to testify in court, despite being issued a subpoena. However, the 10th Circuit panel ruled that trial judges have much discernment in how they run their trials, and that extended in this case to the judge’s decision not to send a U.S. marshal to force the trucker to testify.  Continue reading

Asbestos-related disease does not reveal itself until many years after airborne exposure to the toxic fibers, which were present in a host of construction materials and auto parts in the 20th Century. Asbestos causes a host of serious health problems, including mesothelioma, an aggressive terminal cancer. laundry

In the first waves of complaints that were filed, we were seeing mostly workers who had become ill decades after working closely with materials containing the substance. Today, those cases are still being filed, but we have also seen the emergence of another kind of case: secondary exposure.

This is when another person, usually a relative, of the worker who was exposed also claims exposure via daily contact with the fibers present on the worker’s clothes. Often, these claims are filed by spouses of workers, who often laundered these asbestos-ridden clothes, and children of workers, who greeted their parent with a hug as they returned home, before cleaning up. Continue reading

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