North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

According to a recent news article form CNN, a shooting at Winston-Salem State University has left one student dead and another seriously injured. The gunman, who is not believed to be a student at the university, has not been arrested as of this time.

ggun1.jpgThe shooting occurred around 1:20 a.m. on Halloween night, and the school was placed in lockdown for the next few hours. All students on campus were told to stay inside and not leave for any reason. There were also many students who had left for the evening to go to Halloween festivities, and they were told not to return to campus until the lockdown was lifted. Authorities say they are still concerned the gunman may still be around campus and have told visitors to stay away at this time.
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Most studies pertaining to medical errors have in the past focused on those that occur in hospitals. That would include things like surgical mistakes, medication blunders or failure to properly clean, resulting in preventable infections.
However what is apparently an even bigger problem, according to a new study, is the problem of diagnostic errors, which frequently occur in doctor’s offices, in laboratories or in outpatient centers.

The new report by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of American Sciences, indicates that most Americans who seek medical intervention, will receive a wrong or late diagnosis at least once in the course of their lives. In fact, this type of medical error is much more common than surgery mistakes or medication errors, yet it’s been largely ignored by the medical community.
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The family of a Clemson University fraternity pledge at the start of the 2014 school year has prompted his family to file a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the school, the national fraternity and three of the fraternity’s brothers. The local chapter of the fraternity was initially also named as a defendant, but was dissolved by the time a complaint was filed.
As a 19-year-old political science major at the school in Oconee County (about an hour northwest of Anderson), he had sought membership in the local chapter of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He was on an early morning run with a number of members of the group in September 2014 when he died.

Later that same day, his body was found below the State 93 bridge over Lake Hartwell. A coroner determined he died from head injuries from falling onto the rocks in shallow water. His mother said she always believed his death was the result of hazing, but there hadn’t been any solid proof – until August, when a new witness came forward.
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In any civil tort lawsuit, plaintiffs are required to prove each element of basic negligence.

These elements are:

  • Defendant owed a duty of care;
  • That duty of care was breached;
  • Plaintiff suffered harm as a result of that breach;
  • Proof of monetary losses.

If any one of these points isn’t proven, plaintiffs cannot collect damages from defendant.

In the recent case of Spierer v. Rossman, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled friends of a missing college student owed no duty of care to her on the morning she disappeared. The court, while expressing deep sympathy for the parents, say there are no decisions under Indiana state law (where this incident occurred) that allows persons to be held liable for the actions of their social peers absent additional factors that aren’t present in this case.

The appeals court ruling was an affirmation of an earlier dismissal by the circuit court.
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An estimated 30 million people in the U.S. are victimized by crime annually, and the consequences of that crime often extend far beyond the individual act. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates victims – and those who survive them – are left with substantial costs for medical treatment, rehabilitation, counseling, lost wages and property damage.
Every year, those costs stack up to $450 billion.

But the criminal justice system is not designed to compensate victims of crime for their losses. True, some cases do result in orders of restitution. But the victim has little control over the proceedings, and the goal of the criminal justice system is punishment of the offender, not restoration of the victim.

This is why many victims of violent crime (and/or their surviving loved ones) may seek justice through the civil court system. In this forum, victims have a greater amount of control. They can seek financial compensation. They can hold offenders directly accountable. They can also pursue action against other third-party responsible parties, such as businesses, apartment complexes and shopping centers that failed to have adequate security. They may also pursue a civil lawsuit even if the criminal action sputters out and fails to result in a conviction.
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A popular blood-thinning drug is widely prescribed to elderly patients across America.
Coumadin and its generic counterpart, warfarin, has been a noted lifesaver for those who suffer certain heart issues or stroke risks. But the drug must be carefully monitored by health care professionals, or else it can quickly become deadly. Too much, and the patient runs the risk of uncontrollable bleeding. Too little, and there is a chance of developing potentially fatal blood clots.

Nursing home patients in particular are at high risk of these complications because, as a recent ProPublica investigation reveals, this population is already vulnerable to the kinds of lapses in oversight that result from poor staffing levels and lack of training.
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Statutes of limitations are the way the legislature has worked to keep the courts from becoming clogged with years-old cases that are often not winnable due to lack of evidence.
This is true in both civil and criminal cases.

In North Carolina, N.C. Stat. 1-52(16) allows three years from the date of injury for someone to bring a personal injury lawsuit. Meanwhile, N.C. Gen. Stat. 1-50(6) doesn’t bar action on product liability claims for six years. Different types of claims may have varying statutes of limitations, and that can change depending on the state you’re in too.

While the courts take these time limits quite seriously, there are some situations in which they may “toll” or lengthen the window of time in which a claim may be filed. Generally, the clock starts ticking on these claims from the time at which the injury occurred – or plaintiff should have known it occurred. So for example, car accident-related injuries will almost always be known or knowable from the date of the crash, so that’s when the statute of limitations clock starts ticking. However, in cases where there is a latent disease – such as mesothelioma or silicosis – a person may be seemingly healthy for decades after exposure, and only much later learn the extent to which exposure to asbestos or silica dust sickened them.
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All land owners – whether public or private – owe some duty of care to those who enter. The degree of that duty depends not only on the type of establishment, but also the nature of the visit.beach1.jpg

For example, business owners owe the highest duty of care to members of the public who enter to patronize that establishment. However, if a trespasser enters a private property unlawfully, private property owners owe a minimal duty of care not to intentionally inflict harm or avoid gross negligence where they know those trespassers may be on site. (The rules are slightly different when there is an attractive nuisance – such as swimming pool or abandoned appliances – and the trespassers are children.)

Owners of public property also owe a duty of care to those who enter. However, most states – including South Carolina – have a “recreational use statute.” These measures are intended to encourage land owners to make property available for public recreational use by limiting liability should something happen on that property.
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When a person is injured or killed at work, typically workers’ compensation or workers’ compensation death benefits is the first – and sometimes only – avenue of compensation available. hardhat.jpg

In most cases, workers’ compensation bars any other form of payment from one’s employer, even if the company was in some way negligent for the accident.

However, there are sometimes cases in which third parties may be held liable too. This could be the property owner, other contractors and sometimes product manufacturers or distributors. This was the case in Genie Industries, Inc. v. Matak, where a worker was killed after falling from an aerial lift.
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After a jury issued a conflicting verdict in the product liability case of Coba v. Tricam Indus., the defense made a crucial error: They did not object to it right away.
It was only after that the defense pressed the trial court for a reconsideration, pointing out the discrepancy. Specifically, defense noted the jury found the product in question – a ladder – was not defectively designed, but still decided the defendant manufacturer was strictly liable for the injuries of decedent who fell from it.

Trial court denied consideration, but a Florida appellate court reversed, citing the “fundamental nature” exception to the widely accepted rule that defense must challenge inconsistent verdicts with a timely objection. However, the Florida Supreme Court reversed, siding with trial court on this issue and finding the $1.5 million verdict (reduced by 80 percent per a finding of comparative negligence) should be upheld.
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