May 18, 2015

Massachusetts Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect Cases Spike With Corporate Acquisition - Part Two of Two

In my previous post on this subject, I wrote of the disturbing trend of out-of-state corporations buying up smaller and struggling Massachusetts nursing homes – with extremely disturbing - not to mention unconscionable - results. One particularly egregious example of this new practice is found with a New Jersey and Florida company called Synergy Health Centers. They’ve bought up at least ten Massachusetts nursing facilities – almost all experiencing drastic decreases in patient care from the moment Synergy Health took over.

Some examples that state regulators have discovered:

• Elderly left to soak in their own urine and feces (New England Health Center, Sunderland Massachusetts.)
• Sudden spikes in lax infection control – a baseline requirement to any medical facility (Braemoor Health Center in Brockton.)
• Patients developing pressure sores because they weren’t turned or repositioned in bed – and then being neglected for weeks.
• Dishes and eating utensils found floating in dirty water.
• Insufficient staffing of nurses to care for patients in facilities.

Should anyone really be surprised at this unconscionable result? What’s going on with Synergy just reflects the increasing presence of corporate chains in the nursing home business – and the escalating worries of nursing home patient watchdogs. While some of these chains aren’t as bad as most, the fact remains that most are bad – very bad. As a Dedham Massachusetts nursing home neglect lawyer, I've seen this happen so many times it turns my stomach. Their M.O (method of operation).: Buy financially struggling nursing homes at fire sale prices. Slashing staff wages to the bone. Cut quality of products and services provided. And when cited for these unconscionable actions? Deny it. Just as Synergy’s founders have done, dismissing all of the above violations, and more, as “growing pains.” Some patients’ relatives are even afraid to speak to the media, out of fear that their loved ones will suffer even more neglect, as retaliation. The Boston Globe published a story on May 5 2015 on Synergy and its nursing home patient neglect. Relatives of three such residents refused to be quoted by a reporter out of fear that their family members’ “care” would coincidentally decline.

Since my previous post on this subject,The Boston Globe has published another, follow-up story on this disturbing issue: Massachusetts health regulators confirmed last week that officials still have no firm time frame for increasing the investigation of Massachusetts nursing home sales and closings. This despite the fact that the Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation 10 months ago, requiring stricter nursing home scrutiny. Worse, this inaction by the state is taking place in the wake of the rapid expansion of Massachusetts nursing home purchases by Synergy Health, and the corresponding decrease in quality of care at those nursing homes.

The admission came as a member of a board that sets state health policy urged regulators to move more swiftly, especially with the increased pace of for-profit companies buying up family-owned nursing homes. Dr. Alan Woodward, a member of the Massachusetts Public Health Council, urged much faster action by the state, commenting, “We have seen some sudden closures, and more of the for-profits coming in, and allegations about their quality of care.” State Senator Harriette Chandler, the Senate majority leader who championed the law passed last year requiring greater scrutiny of Massachusetts nursing home purchases, has stated that she is troubled the new is being effectively ignored. “There are lives that are being jeopardized as a result of not having these regulations,” Chandler said. “That’s why we [passed] the law, so nursing homes would not be bought and sold literally in the dark of night, and nobody would have a chance to comment.”

Had state officials implemented this important law, three of the most recent Synergy Health nursing home acquisitions — in Brockton, Revere, and Wilmington — would have undergone investigation and review before the deals were completed. Roughly 40,000 residents live in Massachusetts’ 420 nursing homes. Their well-being and safety is at risk.

Will anything be done about this shameful problem?

Answer: Not unless the public speaks up and demands that firm action be taken, and now. That means you, and me, and anyone who has ever had a loved one or friend in a nursing home. Call your state representative and state senator: Ph.: (617) 722-2000 – and tell them that you want immediate steps to be taken to make Massachusetts nursing home residents safer, by investigating conditions within these facilities. If you don't know who your state representative or state senator is, click here.

No excuses - Act. Do something positive. In the event you think this isn’t really relevant to you, consider this: You yourself may end up in one of these facilities one day: Even if you aren’t “getting up there” in age, you could be injured or become chronically ill, and find yourself in a place like these, long before you ever thought you might.

May 6, 2015

Massachusetts Nursing Home Neglect/Abuse Cases Jump With Corporate Acquisition

As a Boston injury lawyer, there’s one thing I cannot stomach or tolerate, and that’s the abuse or neglect of a patient in a nursing home, or “skilled nursing facility.” Most people I know dread the thought of visiting the majority of these places – and with good reason: Unless the facility is one of the most expensive, highly-rated nursing homes in Massachusetts, what happens inside these places would likely shock you.

Such as what? Try to think of the following (warning: You’ll need a strong stomach for what follows)::

• Urine-soaked diapers being left on a patient for hours on end. Even worse – feces-soaked diapers.
• Pressure sores – bed ulcers – going untreated for days and even weeks – resulting in wounds so bad they perforate muscle.
• Cold meals that are left in front of patients who can’t feed themselves.
• Patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia disorders being given anti-psychotic drugs – as though they were mentally ill.
• Patients who are strapped into beds and left there for hours on end.
• Patients who are not given medications that are prescribed for them.
• Patients whose calls for help are not answered for hours.
• Poor infection control – making many nursing facilities giant manufacturing plants for bacteria and viruses of all kinds – which end up infecting a near-majority of Massachusetts nursing home residents
• Patients that are physically abused and man-handled as though they were furniture.

How and why does this type of inhuman treatment of other human beings take place? A variety of factors, but Number One on that list is: Corporate greed and indifference - the drive for profit at the expense of morality and decency. Couple that with a lax regulatory enforcement system due to strained state government budgets, and you have the Perfect Storm for this type of abuse to become commonplace.

Exhibit “A” : A company called Synergy Health Centers – a large corporation that has been a recent entry into the Massachusetts nursing home market. Who are they? They’re a business headquartered in Miami Beach, Florida. What do they do? They’re a chain that buys up unprofitable nursing home facilities throughout Massachusetts and other states. While they claim to be in the admirable business of providing adequate care to the residents of their facilities, advertising that Synergy provides the “finest in clinical and rehabilitative services,” and “impeccable customer service,” the facts tell a very different, opposing story: A story of patient neglect on a scale that is shocking to even the most veteran regulators and industry-watchers. Synergy essentially buys up existing nursing homes that are struggling financially due to low reimbursements from the federal and state governments (Medicare & Medicaid.) They swoop in, buy these unprofitable “skilled nursing facilties” (don’t let that term ever fool you,) and then cut costs and quality to the bone, at the expense of the patient neglect and human suffering that results in these facilities. Worse, as part of this corporate strategy, these multi-state nursing home chains set up shell companies that they pay “administrative fees” to. Why? To shift the money they make from this human suffering, to subsidiary companies: This practice shields their profits if they are sued due to this rampant neglect. For example, they’ll set up a real estate company, a management company, or a staffing firm that hires the employees. They’ll set up specialized companies for “physical therapy services” and “occupational rehabilitation.” It’s nothing than a shameful (but legal) shell game.

Some examples of what results from such practices:

• New England Health Center, a nursing home operated by Synergy Health Centers in Sunderland Massachusetts, was found by state regulators for leaving elderly soaked in urine, due to cheap, inadequate adult diapers.
• Braemoor Health Center in Brockton, also owned by Synergy Health Cednters, had a blemish-free state review before Synergy took over. After Synergy took over, health inspectors were called to the facility three times in just the past year alone, finding lax infection control, among other serious inadequacies.
• In another Synergy nursing facility, a patient’s pressure sores had been neglected for weeks.
• In yet another Synergy nursing facility, serving dishes and eating utensils were found floating in dirty water, just before being used to serve food.
• In yet another Synergy nursing facility, there weren't enough nurses to care for the number of patients in the facility.

As a Massachusetts nursing home neglect attorney, this infuriates me. But it doesn’t surprise me. State regulator reports have documented the shocking increases in these types of problems that have developed since Synergy arrived in Massachusetts. Tracking this increase in Massachusetts nursing home patient neglect, Synergy's expansion in this state has been extremely rapid — the chain bought 10 Massachusetts nursing homes since December 2012 - a little more than 2 years ago as of this post. Those facilities are located in in Amesbury, Arlington, Brockton (where they own two), Newton, Revere, Sunderland, Watertown, Wilmington, and Worcester.

I’ll report more on this troubling (but predictable) problem- and what people can do about it - in my next post, in a couple of days.

May 3, 2015

Massachusetts Workplace Fatalities: Too High A Number

Most people are aware that there are a high number of fatalities involving motor vehicle accidents and such, but I’ll bet that most aren't aware of the number of people killed on the job in this state. The fact is, Massachusetts workplace fatalities happen more frequently than many think.

A report released jointly a few days ago by two labor groups - the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupation Safety and Health, revealed that fifty (50) workers died due to injuries they suffered on the job last year in Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, transportation workers — taxi drivers, bus drivers and truck drivers, figured prominently in the Massachusetts employee deaths report. Equally unsurprising, but troubling still, were too many deaths caused by falls from heights, such as those involved in Massachusetts construction site injuries and Massachusetts scaffolding injuries.

As a Boston Massachusetts construction site accident lawyer, I've seen too many of these types of injuries – they can be horrific. Another fact that might surprise some people is that – yes, people are murdered in the workplace: Three Massachusetts workplace homicides took place in 2014, in just the first three months of 2015, another three took place.

Rule of thumb from an experienced Boston accident lawyer: Don’t ever “assume” that being at your job, can’t get you seriously injured – or even killed. It does happen.

April 14, 2015

Patients Injured By Defective Hip Implants Should Seek Experienced Massachusetts Defective Hip Implant Law Firm

Almost everyone these days knows someone who has had a hip replacement; this type of surgery has become very common.

The problem is, many of the hip implants that were manufactured for this surgery, were defective and caused unwitting patients to suffer serious complications. Certain implants were recalled due to patient safety issues, and class action litigation on behalf of injured patients was commenced a couple of years ago against the manufacturer of these defective hip implants, known commonly as “Stryker implants.” The corporate name of the manufacturer is Howmedica Osteonics Corp. (“Stryker.”)

Last November 3, 2014, Stryker announced the formation of a National Settlement Program for affected patients who had received selected Stryker implants, and who met certain criteria. Stryker invited patients who had received the “Rejuvenate” and “ABG II” hip systems to participate in the settlement program, but also required that substantially all other eligible patients participate. Stryker offered the settlement program only to patients who have had their Stryker implant removed prior to November 3, 2014; who registered with the program online by December 16, 2014; and who enroll in the program by a deadline was extended to March 30, 2015.

The problem with Stryker’s program is that it is far too confusing for any patient to participate in, who is not represented by an experienced defective hip implant law firm. There are many patients injured by these defective hip implants who may not be aware of their legal rights and options, and dealing with a multi-billion dollar medical device manufacturer alone, without an experienced medical device attorney by your side, is a prescription for disaster. Because of the very complicated legal issues and procedures involved in this type of defective medical products litigation, any patient who has received a Stryker hip implants should immediately seek legal advice and counsel from an experienced defective hip implant attorney. This includes hip implant patients who:

1) May not yet be not eligible for this settlement program because they have not yet had their hip replaced;
2) Mistakenly believe that they have forfeited their rights to receive damages because they did not yet register or enroll in the program; or
3) Who have claims that need to be evaluated by a competent Massachusetts defective hip implant law firm, in order to determine whether they can receive damages under the settlement program.

Because of the manner in which Stryker has announced this settlement program, there are many patients who are still not aware of this defective hip implant recall. Other eligible patients may have been led to believe that their Stryker hip implant will not have to be removed, when it may need to be. Many patients may have substantial damages claims and require an experienced Boston defective hip implant law firm to represent their legal interests. These patients must speak with an expert Boston defective hip implant law firm before the statute of limitations prevents their claims from being acted on.

If you or someone you know has received a Stryker Rejuvenate or ABG II hip implant, please contact us by calling (617) 285-3600, or by emailing us by clicking here. We’d be glad to advise you as to your legal options, and what they involve.

February 20, 2015

Massachusetts Distracted Driving: You Snooze, You Lose

In my work as a Boston car accident lawyer, I have seen firsthand the devastation that is caused by accidents – everything from distracted driving to drunk driving. Texting, talking on cellphones, eating, applying makeup – these are all threats to everyone’s safety, when done when you are sitting in the driver’s seat.

But now, an auto manufacturer - one of the most upscale - has come up with a new feature in their cars, that is almost certainly going to make drivers fall asleep at the wheel. I’m not kidding.
Mercedes-Benz has designed a new car so that it creates a spa-like experience while you drive. My jaw has dropped as I read about this. I have represented people who have fallen asleep at the wheel, and trust me -- it isn't pretty. The new Mercedes-Benz S550 4-Matic was designed by German engineers to become a spa-like escape on four wheels. To me, this is the very definition of distracted driving.

Scent is pumped into the car, in four different aromas, and it turns off and on intermittently, so that your senses are not dulled to the smell. Some of the heated seats have a seat back that inflates and deflates, massaging your shoulder blades to lower back. Yes, that’s right – you get a relaxing, "mini massage" as you drive. In my opinion as a Massachusetts distracted driving lawyer, heated seats and massage chairs lead to one thing: Dozing off. Falling asleep. And in this case, if you snooze, you really lose. Your life.

Other parts of the automobile are also heated – the armrests, door rests and even the steering wheels. Isn’t all of this car marketing just another way of turning the driver’s seat into a comfy bed? The only thing missing is a blanket and turndown service with chocolates.

I’ve heard of luxury car marketing, but this idea pushes corporate irresponsibility to its limits, and borders on automobile product liability.

Auto manufacturers should be creating safety features that help you to wake up and be alert behind the wheel. If you’re going to pump in fragrance, make those scents in coffee or sweet-orange oil to wake you up and energize you . Massage chairs for drivers' seats should be against the law. Heated massage chairs only want to make you snuggle up and snore.

For Heaven’s sake, please stay awake at the wheel and don’t fall for marketing that does NOT have your best interests at heart.

February 14, 2015

Don't Cause A Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Accident: Clear Snow & Ice From Your Vehicle!

We've all been there. You’re driving your car after yet another snowstorm. Traffic begins to move, and both the cars in front of you as well as yours, pick up speed. And then suddenly, from the vehicle in front of you, a totally unexpected block of snow or an “ice missile” smashes into your car windshield.

Like most motor vehicle accidents, it happens in the blink of an eye – you barely have time to react. You may not have even seen where the snow or ice came from. 9 times out of ten, it was from a vehicle in front of yours – and not necessarily the one immediately in front of yours: Depending on the speed of the vehicles in motion and the wind speed, that flying chunk of snow or ice may have come from two or even three vehicles ahead of yours. Most times, the snow dislodges from the roof, the hood or trunk lid of a vehicle. Why? Because the driver of that vehicle in front of you didn’t remove the snow from the hood, the roof or the trunk lid of his vehicle. It doesn't take an engineer to figure out what happens when a large amount of snow or ice is left sitting on a vehicle that's heated inside and is moving at any speed faster than 10 MPH: Driven by the wind speed produced by the car’s movement, that snow and ice will come off the vehicle - either in a blinding cloud of snow, or a huge piece of snow and ice,crashing into someone else's windshield.

The result? The startled driver slams on the brakes, swerves into another lane, loses control of the vehicle and either crashes into another vehicle or something like a tree, pole, or worse. These are the kinds of circumstances that can cause a fatal Massachusetts car accident. As a Boston motor vehicle accident lawyer, I've seen too many of these otherwise preventable accidents. Many drivers don’t realize that when they don’t remove snow from their car roofs, they’re creating extremely serious safety hazards on Massachusetts roads.

If an accident occurs because you did not clear the snow or ice from your vehicle, you can, be cited for either of two Massachusetts motor vehicle offenses: One is legally called "Driving with an Unsecured Load," which carries a fine of up to $200.00. This other is called "Driving To Endanger”; This is a more serious, criminal offense (as opposed to receiving a civil fine.) Either way, it's going to cost you. Connecticut passed an “ice missile law” last year, and police in that state enforce it vigorously. The Boston Globe previously ran an editorial exactly a year ago in February 2014, urging the Massachusetts Legislature to pass an equally specific law; click here to see that clip.

Hopefully, this will never happen to you. But if your vehicle is struck by snow or ice because another driver didn’t remove snow or ice from his or her vehicle, and you are injured in a resulting Massachusetts motor vehicle accident, you're going to need an experienced Massachusetts car accident lawyer. You may be entitled to significant financial compensation for your injuries, based on the damages involved.

As a Dedham, Massachusetts car accident lawyer, I hope this post reminds all Massachusetts drivers to take the time to clear snow & ice off their vehicles, before they hit the road. We all have enough to worry about when driving in this awful winter weather, without having the unnecessary anxiety of never knowing if a flying avalanche will come crashing down and cause another Massachusetts car accident.

Use your head. And your hands, to clear that snow & ice off your car.

January 30, 2015

Reducing Massachusetts Liquor Liability Injuries: When Will Colleges Here Ban Hard Liquor on Campus?

If you've ever seen the movie Animal House you know the havoc that is wreaked from too much drinking, and the hazing that tragically still goes today on at many college fraternities around the United States.

It's always been pretty much acknowledged, at least tacitly, that this movie was based on the drinking culture that has for many years been reported at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, one of the world’s preeminent Ivy League colleges. Perhaps you’ve heard the nickname for Dartmouth's location? No, not Hanover, but Hangover, New Hampshire.

We’ll all that reported alcohol abuse may be at least slowing down, as Dartmouth College this past Thursday announced that it will ban hard liquor on campus. It will also forbid pledging at Greek sororities and fraternities – an event that usually entails binge drinking – and the college will require all students to undergo a special four-year program designed to prevent sexual violence.

As a Boston, Mass. liquor liability lawyer, I applaud Dartmouth College for taking the lead to curb drinking on its campus. Dartmouth is to be admired for its stance and having the courage to speak out and make sure that their school does not further tolerate excessive drinking on campus. The plan is called “Moving Dartmouth Forward,” and is designed to reduce dangerous behavior on campus.

I’m a Boston personal injury attorney, and I have seen firsthand the problems and tragedies that result when people drink too much. The script is usually all too familiar: Before you know it they get behind the wheel of a car and injure someone else – or kill them. Or their behavior gets out of hand – and they commit a sexual assault – or become the victim of a sexual assault. Or they simply wind up doing stupid things – like jumping off a roof – and permanently injure themselves by suffering a spinal-cord injury. The list goes on and on, and I’m glad that Dartmouth is enforcing a zero-tolerance policy on this issue. Though it should be noted that altruism is not likely the sole motivator behind this toughened campus policy: Liquor liability laws can hold colleges and fraternities liable for injuries caused to persons by students who become intoxicated on campus, and resultantly injure innocent persons. When a person becomes intoxicated at someone's home and later injures a third party because of that intoxication, a similar liability can attach to the person who hosted the gathering where the alcohol was served. The law that applies in that type of circumstance is called social host liability.

Dartmouth’s restrictions start at the end of this March 2015, and ban the possession or alcohol consumption of alcohol that is 30 proof or stronger than that. The Ivy League college will also create what they call a “consent manual,” which is meant to specifically outline what is acceptable – and not acceptable – in terms of sexual behavior, to reduce all "ambiguity." Not that I think "ambiguity" is a problem when it comes to sexual assaults.

Other colleges that ban hard liquor on campus include Colby, Bowdoin, and Providence colleges.
I hope that Massachusetts colleges will soon follow suit.

January 19, 2015

Massachusetts Texting & Driving Accidents: How To Stop Them? Part Two of Two

In my previous post on this subject, I discussed how Scott Tibbitts, a chemical and space engineer who previously designed motors and technology for NASA, formed a company named Katasi to find a way to tackle the problem of preventing people from texting while driving. Mr. Tibbitts devoted his time and energies to this task, following the death of a colleague who was killed by a driver who was texting while driving. This is a dangerous behavioral problem that has vexed public safety professionals for several years now.

Tibbitts and his team did it! Their answer is Groove: A small device that plugs into a port that’s located just under any steering wheel (these ports are located in most car models made after 1996): Once plugged in, the device connects the car to the Internet. Each driver of the vehicle must first be registered with Groove. Once that drive plugs his device into the port under the steering wheel, within seconds of the car moving, Groove determined who that particular driver is and immediately notifies that person's smart phone carrier (AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, etc.,) allowing the carrier to block all incoming distractions (such as texts) before they reach the phone. No worries about the texts being lost: After the ignition is turned off, Groove again notifies the carrier, and all messages and texts that were blocked while the car was on and moving, come rolling right in, so no messages are missed.

Obviously, the key link in making Groove work effectively and seamlessly is the cell phone carriers: Katasi is now working actively with two major U.S. carriers to deploy Groove in 2015, Tibbitts knows this is not enough. "Our goal is to have every carrier on board with Groove, providing the capability to limit distractions before they get to the phone when a subscriber is driving" he said.

Dave Sueper’s widow, Diane Misgen, told Couric that she was both honored and hopeful that Groove will make a huge difference, and prevent needless tragedies of the kind that took her husband from her. Speaking to Couric, she said "It was so reassuring to me that this was going to save so many lives. And I think for my kids, it's also heartwarming to know that someone else who had nothing to do with our family took on that challenge in honor of their dad."

As a Boston Massachusetts distracted driving lawyer, my message in today’s post is to ALL of the wireless cell phone carriers in the United States: Get on board and be part of this incredible SOLUTION to this deathly epidemic. Stop dragging your feet in the name of expenses and corporate profits. Get off your butts and work with Katasi to make this a universal reality across this country, now.

To know more about Groove and find out whether it is available to you, visit katasi.com.

January 11, 2015

Massachusetts Texting & Driving Accidents: An Electronic Solution May Be On The Way – Part One of Two

Readers of this blog know that I’ve posted many times on the subject of Massachusetts texting and driving accidents – pleading with drivers to put down that smart phone when behind the wheel. Despite the numerous deaths and injuries that have resulted, human behavior just doesn’t seem to change: People think they can do this, without causing any problems. Thinking that is like thinking you can walk across the Massachusetts Turnpike, blindfolded, and not get killed. Yet, this behavior goes on.

Well, if human behavior can’t seem to change on its own, perhaps science and technology can help it change. The impetus for this technological change was caused by a tragedy: On May 8, 2008, a man Dave Sueper, a husband and father of two, was driving in his car, on his way to a business meeting with a colleague. Driving through an intersection, Mr. Sueper was “T-boned” when by a distracted teenage driver who was texting as he ran a red light. The person Mr. Sueper was on his way to meet was a man by the name of Scott Tibbitts, a chemical and space engineer who previously designed motors and technology for NASA. Mr. Tibbitts was deeply affected by the tragedy. As Dave Sueper was, Tibbitts was the father of two children at the time. As an electronics engineer, he obsessed with finding a way to prevent more motor accidents and deaths due to texting while driving (distracted driving.)

Tibbitts had recently sold his space engineering company, Starsys Research Corp., and the time was right for a new challenge, professionally. He devoted himself to finding a way to stop the growing scourge of texting while driving. Just how serious is this epidemic? The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that cellphones (smartphones) are implicated in 1.6 million car crashes each year; these motor vehicle crashes cause over half a million injuries and claim 6,000 lives each year. Think drunk driving is the worst or only insane thing you can do while behind the wheel? Texting while driving has replaced drinking while driving as the leading cause of teenage vehicular deaths; Teen distracted driving is the cause of 20 percent of all teen highway deaths in the U.S. I’ve been a Brookline, Massachusetts car accident lawyer for 20 years, and I can assure you: The emergence of cell phones, smart phones and texting has caused and explosion of these injuries and deaths. It is quite horrific.

Tibbitts knew drivers were obviously not changing their habits, and he became consumed with finding a technological answer to how this behavior could be prevented. In an interview with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric, he commented, "There has got to be something that will fix this technically. (BTW: Watch that video link with Katie Couric to see a fascinating social experiment with Japanese movie goers, about texting while driving. I think you'll find it very interesting.) Tibbitts continued, "This feeling — it just wouldn't let [me] go." The technological challenge wasn’t going to be easy: Several previous attempts to stop this behavior had been tried, typically using apps on smart phones that would tap into GPS signals to pick up on when a phone is traveling more than 10 MPH, and then disable distracting phone features such as texting. But the problem was that those apps can easily be overridden by the driver. Further, those apps don't make any distinction between whether the phone’s user was traveling in his own car, someone else’s car in which he is merely a passenger, or even a public bus that’s traveling faster than 10 MPH. This was the challenge that Tibbitts and his team at his new company, Katasi, had to solve. Click on that link to learn more about this fascinating company, and what it's doing to create a safer world.

I’ll talk about just how Tibbitts and his company, Katasi, went about tackling those problems.

December 29, 2014

AVOID MASSACHUSETTS SOCIAL HOST LIABILITY BY HAVING GUESTS SIGN WAIVERS?

It’s the Holiday Season, and that means house parties, correct? My parents, neighbors and relatives had them each year, and they were always fun, lighthearted events. The only thing most people needed to be really concerned about was whether your oddball relatives would cooperate, or whether the food would be good. However, things are different nowadays, aren’t they? (Note: I didn’t say “better,” I said “different.”)

In the newest social development to give rise to the ongoing debate of whether people these days think & act foolishly, or prudently, consider Exhibit “A” on that topic: It seems that an idea is circulating around the internet, suggesting that Massachusetts residents who plan on throwing a holiday party in their home, might want to present a Liability Waiver to their guests who arrive at the front door. Yes, you read that correctly: A Liability Waiver, otherwise known as a Release of Liability, supposedly waiving any liability claims against the homeowners, for any injuries the guest might suffer at or after the gathering to which the guest has been invited. Presumably, this idea was cooked up to supposedly protect the homeowner if the guest was injured because he or she drank too much alcohol at the party, and somehow became injured at or immediately after the party. This idea arose over the internet, presumably because the non-lawyer people who dreamed this idea up, think that it will actually work.

Not exactly. The legal reasons for this are twofold: 1) First, such a waiver would only act to possibly – though not certainly - prevent a liability claim by the guest, and the guest only, for injuries he or she suffered as a result of becoming intoxicated at the party. Such a Release would not act to automatically prevent a successful claim against the homeowner under Massachusetts social host law. It might act to reduce the homeowner’s proportion of negligence within the case if an issue of comparative negligence were raised, but how much protection it would provide would be highly variable case-to-case, and would be highly dependent on the surrounding facts and circumstances particular to each case. 2) No such Release or Waiver would ever act to bar liability claims of third parties who might be injured as the result of a drunken party guest. For example, if a guest became intoxicated at a house party, left the house, drove away in his car and struck and injured or killed an innocent third party, that third party would still be able to sue the homeowners under the Massachusetts social host law.

As a Boston, Massachusetts Social Host Liability Attorney, I've seen a wide variety of cases come before me. For a case like this to succeed, a number of factors need to come together, and it takes a very experienced Massachusetts Alcohol Liability Lawyer to successfully litigate and win these cases. So, for those who are throwing holiday parties in their home, try a different set of tactics: Use common sense: Limit the number of guests to a reasonable amount that you can comfortably observe. Monitor your guests’ alcohol consumption. Hide the car keys of anyone appearing at all intoxicated.

P.S.: If you have a dog and Fido doesn't like strangers, put him or her in the basement with a chew toy and water for the night. Because you won’t get out of hot water if Fido bites a guest, either.

December 24, 2014

Man Killed in Boston Pedestrian-Motor Vehicle Accident on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve, 2014. A time when families and friends gather to celebrate the blessings they have, and to give and receive gifts. A time of warmth, hope, and ideally happiness.

Yet tragedy knows no holiday. And tragically, earlier today in East Boston, a man was killed in a pedestrian-motor vehicle accident. You can read an initial news report of the tragedy, filed by CBS4 Boston (WBZ-TV,) by clicking here.

How awfully sad. While the victim's identity hasn't yet been released, all that you need to know is that he was somebody's someone: Somebody's son, somebody's brother, somebody's husband, somebody's friend. Killed in a Boston pedestrian-car accident, on Christmas Eve. As a Massachusetts pedestrian-motor vehicle accident attorney, I see far too many of these types of accidents. They are almost always very serious, given the obvious reality that when a pedestrian is struck by a 2,000 lb. vehicle, terrible injuries are likely to result. My plea, yet once again, to anyone with a driver's license: Watch what you are doing when you're driving. Do NOT text and drive - do NOT engage in distracting conversation with anyone else in the car, kids or adults. Do NOT read your email. PUT DOWN that cell phone.

Or the next story about someone being killed or seriously injured in a Massachusetts pedestrian-car accident, may mention your name as the deceased. Worse still? You may be the one who lives - and you will carry the guilt of killing someone accidentally, for the rest of your life.

December 15, 2014

Massachusetts Regulators Propose Crack Down on Assisted Living Facilities

In Massachusetts right now, there’s a bit of a war going on between the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. As is so often the case, while the consumer is the party who is supposedly is designed to benefit from these regulatory skirmishes, that isn’t always what results.

Have you ever noticed these 'Assisted Living Facilities' when driving around Massachusetts (or elsewhere,) and wondered, “What are these places?” Well, in theory, they were developed about 15-20 or so years ago as a kind of an alternative to a nursing home, for primarily elderly residents who need some kind of care outside their families’ homes, but weren't so seriously disabled that they needed a nursing home or skilled nursing facility with round-the-clock care. These facilities – or real estate developments as many would call them – supposedly offered primarily elderly residents (or otherwise infirmed persons) an alternative environment to a nursing home. In theory, many such residents would need limited assistance – perhaps to bathe or similar functions – and many would hire their own part-time nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN,) or nurses’ aide to come in for a few hours every day to help with these daily living functions. In practice, many assisted living facilities operate more like apartment complexes that have almost exclusively elderly residents, than anything else. Advocates for the elderly have criticized this practice, saying it’s an essentially low-ball way to make money off elderly patients – without being regulated as nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities.

This ‘sub-nursing home’ option became quite popular with the public, for a variety of reasons: 1) The primary one is that the cost for an assisted living facility is usually far less than that for a nursing home of skilled nursing facility. 2) Next, in theory at least, these facilities offered the resident a greater degree of independence and autonomy; but 3) - and as a Massachusetts nursing home neglect attorney, in my opinion this next one is very important – they offer the adult children of the elderly parents that they place in these facilities, a ‘way out’ of the guilt that usually results when placing an aging parent in a traditional nursing home. So, for a variety of reasons, assisted living facilities have grown rapidly, to the point now where approximately 14,000 in Massachusetts live in these facilities across the state. These facilities are regulated by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs – but trust me, as a Dedham Massachusetts nursing home lawyer – the oversight to date hasn’t exactly been strict or aggressive. However, it looks like that’s about to change, and that’s what the current battle between the state, the nursing home industry and the assisted living facilities is all about.

The state, through the state Office of Elder Affairs, believes that assisted living facilities are too eager, in their quest for revenue and profits, to accept residents that need a sufficient level of care that they really ought to be in nursing homes or in a skilled nursing facility. To this end, the state has drafted new regulations that would prohibit assisted living facilities accepting residents who are so frail or disabled that they need more than 90 consecutive days of skilled nursing care. The trade association which represents the interests of the assisted living facility industry, the Massachusetts Assisted Living Facilities Association, is trying to push back these proposed changes, claiming that regulations that force frail or infirm elderly residents to leave these facilities would force many into nursing homes against the wishes of the residents and/or their families. The industry is also concerned about a provision in the new regulations that the state has drafted, which would allow the state to make these changes without public hearings that allow interested parties to speak in opposition to them.

So, which party here – the state, the nursing home industry or the assisted living facility industry, has a greater claim to the truth on this issue? And most importantly, what is the best policy for the elderly and frail residents of these facilities? As a Brookline, Massachusetts nursing home neglect lawyer, I’ve seen far too many cases of nursing home neglect and abuse. If that is ultimately what is going on with assisted living facilities accepting residents who end up at risk because they need more care than such a place can provide, then we’re going to essentially create a whole new category of elders who are being neglected or abused.

I certainly don’t want to limit the housing options of elders who don’t want to go to a nursing home. Believe me – having seen the inside of too many nursing homes in my lifetime, I’m in favor of any reasonable option to keep an elder either in their home or in an assisted living facility. But not if placing the elder in such a facility will end up causing even more neglect to the elder. A very careful balancing act is needed here. We'll see what develops as these regulations move forward.