A woman who suffered serious burns on her face and neck after tripping over in a parking lot and spilling hot coffee on herself has settled with the chain restaurant for $522,000. coffee1

Of course, cases like this tend to get media attention because they bring to mind the infamous “hot coffee” case of Liebeck v. McDonald’s, a 1992 injury lawsuit in which a 79-year-old woman was awarded nearly $3 million in punitive damages after suffering burns after coffee spilled on her. This was spun as an outrageous sum, but firstly, plaintiff only received a fraction of that award. Secondly, the restaurant served coffee at a scalding 190 degrees – despite the fact that industry standards held anymore than 140 degrees was dangerous. Plaintiff was horribly burned, and she wasn’t the first one either. Jurors carefully sifted through all the facts and carefully considered them before deciding on the award. Anyone who cites this as an example of a “frivolous claim” need only look at the horrific injuries Liebeck suffered.

The most recent coffee injury lawsuit relied on a theory of negligence known as premises liability. Specifically, the claim was the walking surface of the parking lot wasn’t safe for patrons because it contained an exposed spike from a dislodged curb stop. Plaintiff tripped on this spike and spilled the multiple cups of hot coffee she was carrying. In addition to the serious burns she suffered, she also had numerous cuts on her hands and knees. Her attorney also indicated she sustained a back and shoulder injury and had to undergo surgery.  Continue reading

Per N.C. Gen. Stat. 1-15(c) and N.C. Gen. Stat. 1-52(16), the statute of limitations on medical malpractice lawsuits in North Carolina is generally three years, though in certain exceptional circumstances, it could be 10 years. Those timelines are from the date the injury occurs or from the date the injury is discovered (or could reasonably have been discovered) or the cause of injury became known. pregnantbaby

However, plaintiffs need to be aware that the rules are different if the case is being filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Why would a medical malpractice case be filed in federal court? The answer has to do with how hospitals and other facilities are funded. If they receive federal grant funding from the U.S. Public Health Services program, the hospital and its programs would fall under the umbrella of FTCA. This means that instead of the three years North Carolina plaintiffs would normally have to file, they’ll only get two years.

In the recent case of Blanche v. U.S., this statutory timeline became the primary roadblock between plaintiff, whose daughter was diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy after suffering a birth injury, and compensation for that injury.  Continue reading

While most falls do not result in injury, 1 in 5 does cause serious injury, such as broken bones or a traumatic brain injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). stairs5

One of those was the plaintiff in Perry v. Bakewell Hawthorne, who took legal action against the owner of the property and its former tenant, a bank in Los Angeles, after falling on a set of exterior stairs.

Central to his claim was the testimony of expert witnesses who stated the stairway was in disrepair and in violation of both applicable industry standards and Los Angeles building codes. Unfortunately, plaintiff hadn’t participated in the exchange of expert witness information and did not designate any expert witnesses prior to the close of discovery. On this basis, the court granted summary judgment to the defense.  Continue reading

The North Carolina Court of Appeals made it clear in a recent ruling: Absent a contract delegating sidewalk maintenance, it’s up to the local city or town to make sure these public walkways are safe.crackedconcrete

The decision was handed down in in the case of Steele v. City of Durham, which involved a trip-and-fall accident about 2.5 hours east of Greensboro, outside of Raleigh. The city had argued firstly that it wasn’t responsible for sidewalk maintenance on that particular strip and secondly that plaintiff was contributorily negligent. While in other jurisdictions, contributory negligence would simply reduce the amount of damages a plaintiff could collect, in North Carolina, it bars the claim entirely.

But the appeals court discredited both of the city’s claims, reversing an earlier trial court decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the city. The case has been remanded for trial.  Continue reading

A decline in gas prices is often viewed by the American public as something positive: Some extra money in their pocket to take a road trip or the chance to forego public transportation to work and instead take their own car. But there is a downside: More traffic deaths. traffic10

That’s the conclusion reached so far by researchers at Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health. The trouble is that millions of other drivers are also taking advantage of these lower gas prices, and this ultimately means more vehicles on the road which increases the chances of a traffic-related injury or death.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) pegs the number of annual traffic deaths in recent years at about 30,000. A study currently underway at the school that focuses on the recession, the recent drop in gas prices and the effect these have had on traffic deaths. Preliminary results indicate that when gasoline prices drop by $1 annually, there is a more than 11 percent uptick in roadway fatalities.  Continue reading

The largest nursing home therapy provider in the U.S. – with 43 locations in North Carolina – has agreed to pay $125 million after a Department of Justice investigation revealed evidence of false claims to Medicare. Another $8 million will be paid by operators of individual facilities for similar allegations. elder

According to the DOJ, these facilities routinely performed therapy that wasn’t needed or charged for therapy they never gave.

Kindred Healthcare Inc. and its subsidiary, RehabCare Group Inc., contract with more than 1,000 skilled nursing facilities in 44 states to provide rehabilitation therapy to patients, many of whom are elderly. Continue reading

The Amputee Coalition reports more than 1.6 million people have suffered some type of limb loss, not including fingers and toes. More than 185,000 amputations are performed annually in the U.S., with the highest prevalence among those 65 and older. Diabetes is a major cause and 41 million Americans have pre-diabetes.prosthetic

Increasingly, these individuals have regained freedom of motion through prosthetic limbs. Advanced technology has made it so that the integration between humans and machines more intimate than ever.

This has raised questions in terms of whether harm to prosthetic limbs is property damage or a personal injury. The distinction matters in personal injury law because injury is compensated differently than property damage. Continue reading

When making a claim of strict product liability, the industry custom and practice may be admissible, depending on the type of evidence and the purpose for which the proponent seeks to introduce that evidence. steering

That was the recent holding of the California Court of Appeals for the Second Appellate District, Division Seven, in the product liability lawsuit of Kim v. Toyota Motor Corp.

The ruling was bad news for the plaintiff, who sought to exclude evidence of the industry practice and custom as it pertained to the manufacture of pickup trucks during a certain period of time.  Continue reading

Under South Carolina premises liability laws, property owners can be responsible for injuries suffered by lawful guests at the hands of third-party criminals. It depends on the situation, of course, but in general, it’s understood that property owners owe a duty to patrons, residents and guests to make sure the site is safe from foreseeable risks. On some properties, one of those foreseeable risks is criminal activity. opendoor

The standard isn’t going to be the same for every site or for every guest, and that’s why it’s important to discuss the statutory nuances with an experienced injury lawyer. But if you have been victimized by violent crime on property that is owned by someone else, it can be worthwhile to explore. For many victims, it’s not just about receiving just compensation, but making sure the same doesn’t happen to someone else.

In the recent case of Jenkins v. C.R.E.S. Mgt. LLC, plaintiff worked as a courtesy officer for an apartment complex, which provided him with a rent-free apartment. Part of his duties included responding to reports of criminal activity on the property, verifying such reports and, if necessary, contacting the police.  Continue reading

Medical malpractice is generally thought to occur when a doctor or other health care provider does something they are not supposed to – like operate on the wrong leg or prescribe the wrong dose of medication. But in many cases, it’s what they DON’T do that could be considered a breach of the accepted standard of care. mir

One of the most commonly-cited issues: Failure to diagnose. In fact, this is the No. 1 reason people sue their doctors. A missed or delayed diagnosis can result in extremely poor outcomes for patients suffering from acute illness or other serious medical condition. Those illnesses most often missed by doctors:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Lung cancers
  • Heart attacks
  • Meningitis (in children)

Continue reading

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