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.

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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.
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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 number of group homes in South Carolina have received millions in taxpayer funding the last few decades, despite dozens of allegations of abuse involving those in their care.
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A few have been forced to shut down, but others remain open.

One of those now shuttered was in Belton. The group home for troubled youth received an estimated $1.5 million annually in state funding. And yet, according to a recent investigation by the Post and Courier, the facility was investigated more than three dozen times for alleged abuse and neglect of the children there since 2000.

However, it wasn’t until a personal injury lawsuit was filed by one of the former residents, now a 23-year-old man, that the facility actually closed its doors. His lawsuit alleges he was raped and tortured by staff members and their friends. He claims he reported the abuse to a social worker and another employee, but nothing was done. Eventually, he said, he just gave up. And he wasn’t the only one – and neither was that facility.
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There is a pervasive belief that hands-free cell phones are safer than handheld cell phones when driving. smallheadphones.jpg

It’s an erroneous assertion, but it’s underscored in the many state statutes across the country that allow exceptions for cell phone conversations by a driver who is using a wireless headset, dashboard system or speakerphone instead of a handheld device.

Now, the MythBusters has debunked this myth.
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South Carolina nursing homes often require new residents or their close relatives to sign stacks of paperwork upon admission. Increasingly, within this paperwork, are documents that force residents to hand over their constitutional right to have any future torts handled in a court of law.
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Instead, nursing home corporations expect residents who are abused, neglected and suffer from negligence to settle their cases through a process called arbitration. The contracts they are made to sign are called “arbitration agreements.”

The conditions of these agreements are often heavily skewed in favor of the nursing home. While arbitration can end in a result favorable to a plaintiff, the likelihood of success is lesser than in court and the damage awards are often greatly diminished. No wonder nursing homes are compelling people to sign it.
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When we take medication prescribed by our doctors, we assume those products are as safe as possible and that any known risks will be disclosed so that we can make informed decisions.
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Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Pharmaceutical companies routinely market their drugs for off-label purposes, and they don’t always warn of the potential dangers of this.

This was the case in Cooper v. Takeda Pharmaceuticals, where a jury in California granted $6.5 million to plaintiffs in this product liability case against the maker of the diabetes drug Actos. Despite the verdict, the judge in the case granted a judgment notwithstanding verdict in favor of defendants, after deciding to strike the testimony of plaintiffs’ expert witness post-trial.
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A popular blood-thinning drug is widely prescribed to elderly patients across America.
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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.
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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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Many personal injury cases involve efforts to collect damages from the insurance companies that provide coverage for accidental injury and negligence.
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For example, an auto insurance policy may expressly indicate it will not cover punitive damages for an insured’s wrongful acts. It may bar coverage from certain high-risk drivers in the home of the insured (sometimes called a “named driver exclusion”).

The problem is, insurance companies have woven into these policies a host of exclusions, or situations for which the company will not provide coverage. Some of these are understandable. But insurance companies will often stretch the facts of the case in an attempt to meet the criteria of the exclusion, even when the claim is in fact legitimate.
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In some cases, property owners or managers may be held liable for third-party criminal attacks or crimes when there was a failure to provide adequate security. This is a form of premises liability law, sometimes referred to as “negligent security,” as recognized by courts in South Carolina.
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However, as the recent South Carolina Court of Appeals case of Wright v. PRG Real Estate Mgt. Inc., establishing “duty of care” in these cases – an essential element of negligence – can be a challenge.

In tort law, a duty of care is a legal obligation imposed on a person or a company that requires adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could result in foreseeable harm.

In the Wright case, plaintiff had leased an apartment from defendants for five years prior to the incident in question. The property had numerous public walking trails that wove throughout the community, with this and other properties being accessible via these trails. On the night in question, plaintiff parked her car and began walking to her apartment when she was accosted by two men. One held pointed a gun at her and both demanded money. She told them she had none.
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