April 18, 2014

Massachusetts Distracted Driving Accidents: This Kind of Stupidity is Global

I've blogged here repeatedly about the dangers of texting and driving. So today's post isn't so much about the inherent and obvious dangers of texting and driving - or phoning and driving - or web surfing and driving - or any form of distracted driving. For anyone who still doesn't get it, those dangers are OBVIOUS, and I don't need to restate them here.

No, today's post is about arrogance and shallowness and vapidness. And of how those far-too-prevalent personality characteristics pervade this world, even outside the United States. Click here to see a video story from the Huffington Post about this type of stupidity, from as far away as Australia. Note: If you can appreciate an impression of how a vapid young woman talks, you'll really like this.

Stunning, isn't it? But unfortunately, not exactly unwitnessed here in the good 'ol USA: As a Boston, Massachusetts distracted driving lawyer, I see the sad and tragic effects of distracted driving all the time. The injuries that result from Massachusetts distracted driving violations are very often extremely severe - occasionally resulting in death. Whether due to texting and driving, phoning and driving, or web surfing and driving, the effects of a ton of steel and glass hitting someone else remain the same.

The message, once more: Use your head, and get OFF the (not so smart) phone.

April 1, 2014

Massachusetts Backover Accidents May Lessen Due To New Safety Rules

Anyone who has has been involved in – or responsible for – a Massachusetts automotive backover accident knows all too well the horror that ensues from such a terrible event. First comes the shock of knowing that you have actually backed over an adult – or a child – with your car. Then comes the emotional pain of possibly being responsible for such a terrible accident – and one that seems so highly preventable. As a Boston backover accident attorney representing injured parties, I know all about the recriminations plus the guilt and grief that responsible parties experience, in the wake of backover car accidents.

But nothing can compare to the tremendous serious personal injuries -- and deaths -- that affect the victims of Massachusetts backover car accidents. The devastation that vehicle backover accidents experience can be overwhelming. You can only imagine the pain, suffering and deaths that occur when tons of steel hit a human being. Children are especially vulnerable as victims of car backover accidents, as they do not understand the danger of playing near a car. In addition, their small size makes it difficult for drivers to see them in the rear-view mirror. The elderly are also vulnerable. If you were to be hit by a car – even one going only five miles per hour or less -- you would suffer broken bones, possibly a broken neck or back – and in many cases, death.

The most recent statistics, from 2010, indicate that every year more than 210 people die, while 15,000 more people are injured, in car backover accidents. These figures come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But the NHTSA has just issued a ruling to try and reduce those statistics. The new NHTSA ruling requires all light vehicles – which includes cars, trucks, SUVs and vans -- to have “rear-view visibility systems,” which essentially means that these vehicles must have backup cameras. These cameras must afford all drivers a view directly behind the vehicle, measuring 10 feet by 20 feet. This rule would become final in the next two months or so, and would begin a two-year phase in period in 2016, becoming universally effective in 2018.

The NHTSA says that perhaps up to 69 lives will be saved annually, due to these new rear-view systems. Due to consumer demand, many automakers have already begun offering these new devices as standard or optional features. But there are still many vehicles on the road without such cameras.

Do you have a rear-view camera in your car yet? As a Dedham, Massachusetts backover accident lawyer, I cannot stress enough how important it is to still drive carefully and defensively, even if your vehicle is already so equipped. My advice? Always stay alert. And drive safely. And if you don’t have such a device in your car yet, when you are backing up your vehicle, always make sure to do so S-L-O-W-L-Y and with great caution. No matter the case, you can never be too careful when you put your car into reverse, with or without a backup camera installed in your car. You just might spare someone’s life.

March 22, 2014

Defective Products Recalls With GM & Toyota: Are You Safe?

Over the past few days, a lot of people have asked me about “What’s going on with all these automotive safety recalls?” There’s been a lot of media buzz about this subject, so let me give you a quick explainer.

Both GM and Toyota have been the subject of government and consumer organization investigations into deaths and injuries caused by defects in its motor vehicles. The defects in GM’s motor vehicles surround ignition switches, and with Toyota the defect involved driver’s side floor mats that caused a sudden acceleration in the vehicles. These types of product safety defects are legally known as defective product cases or product liability litigation. The deaths and injuries that were caused by these defects have occurred in several states. What makes this such a big deal, you might ask? Do manufacturing mistakes not happen, innocently? No large manufacturing organization is perfect, is it? Yes, innocent mistakes do happen, to everyone. And true, no corporation is perfect. But it’s not those points that are making the news with GM and Toyota.

No, it’s the same-old, same-old: Big business trying to cover up its mistakes, while unknowing consumers who buy the products that the company knows are defective, become injured or worse. You see, it’s become apparent, so far at least, that both GM and Toyota separately knew about the respective defects in certain of its cars, yet said and did nothing. Why? Why did Ford say nothing in the 1970’s when it knew that its now-famous Pinto model was a rolling time-bomb, with a defectively designed and shockingly unsafe gas tank? Why did the tobacco companies say nothing when they knew they were manufacturing a dangerously unsafe product with their addictive cigarettes? While many words can answer this question, one word strikes to the heart of it: Profit. These huge corporations quietly conduct their own cost-benefit analyses, and they determine that if they go public and release information about the defect, they will suffer more revenue losses in decreased sales, than they will if they’re sued here and there. So they say and do nothing.

Think I’m being perhaps a little too cynical here? You’d be wrong about that. As a Boston, Mass., defective products lawyer, I have seen so many cases of shockingly immoral corporate behavior when it comes to defective products cases and Massachusetts product liability cases, that it would stun most people. They say a leopard never changes its spots. When it comes to corporate misconduct, that expression could not be more apt.

Perhaps some minor, and very initial, credit should be given here to GM's new chief executive, Mary Barra. She has placed herself at the front of GM’s efforts to take responsibility for mishandling the defective ignition switches. A day after assuring her employees that GM is revising internal procedures to correct safety issues more rapidly, she appointed a director of global safety, Jeff Boyer, who is a longtime company engineer. Barra met with reporters this past week for the first time since last month’s recall, which is speedier than past automotive company presidents have done. But notably, she did not affirmatively say that GM would compensate the families of victims killed in crashes caused by its vehicles’ defective ignition switches. ‘‘I am very sorry for the loss of life that occurred, and we will take every step to make sure this never happens again,’’ she said. That’s a good start, but I suspect that this initial, out-front response may be a spin control effort to stem any threat to GM’s reputation and sales figures.

As for Toyota, this story is even worse: Following an extensive criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, Toyota has agreed - finally – to pay $1.2 billion (yes, that’s a “b,”) to settle that investigation, which surrounded deaths caused by the sudden acceleration of its vehicles. Don’t giver Toyota too much credit: It didn’t do so quickly, and it didn’t do so freely. Making the announcement earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed that the penalty was the largest in its category levied against an automobile company. The four-year criminal investigation resulted in Toyota admitting to misleading consumers and government regulators by assuring them that it had safely corrected the acceleration problem arising from its defectively designed product - its floor mats. When it made these safety “assurances,” Toyota knew that it had not recalled other vehicle models vulnerable to the very same problem. Toyota also deliberately concealed from government regulators a separate acceleration danger related to a faulty pedal. To quote Attorney General Holder, ‘‘In other words, Toyota confronted a public safety emergency as it if were a simple public relations problem.”

As I said, a leopard never changes its spots. Especially the very large corporate leopard.

P.S.: Update, Mar. 25 2014: If anyone wants to know the devastating, life-changing impact that kind of corporate deception (legally speaking, "nondisclosure,") can have on a person or family, see this story on GM's actions in The New York Times. Makes the point, doesn't it?

March 15, 2014

Liability Insurers Still Fighting Boston Marathon Claims, Almost One Year Later

As if we here in Massachusetts haven’t spent the past 11 months being inundated with the media’s (especially The Boston Globe’s) nonstop dead-horse-beating of last year’s April 2013 Marathon bombings, the media here is now gearing up to re-hype the whole thing all over again. Talk about both sickening and pathetic …

When this happened last year, the first thing I thought of was the direct victims of this event. However, the second thing I thought of, being a Boston injury lawyer, was the liability insurance claims that would follow the event, from affected businesses and individuals. The claims I’m referring to aren't injury claims, but instead property/casualty claims. They’re filed by businesses and individuals that suffered both physical property damage to stores and facilities, as well as economic losses from the events of that day. Claims submitted to insurers for economic losses generally arise from loss of revenues due to the fact that the businesses could not operate for several days or weeks after the bombing events. That type of claim is made pursuant to a special type of coverage known as “Business Interruption Insurance.”

Within all this renewed news media “coverage,” a little factoid has made its way out: I know this will come as a shock to many readers of this blog, but guess what? Many business in the Boylston Street, Dartmouth Street and Newbury Street areas of the Back Bay, are still fighting with their insurance companies because their coverage claims have been denied. Yes, even almost one year later. According to the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, the state’s largest property /casualty insurers have paid a total of $1.9 million in bombing-related claims. First of all, as an attorney who works with liability insurance companies all the time, I can say that’s not a very high figure, given the number of businesses involved. Second, according to reports from The Boston Globe, insurers have rejected nearly half of all bombing-related claims connected to losses from business interruption. Third, insurers have also rejected payment for just fewer than 50% of claims for commercial property damage.

Of course, insurance industry officials insist there are valid reasons for all these rejected claims. Their answer, essentially: “It’s complicated.” Funny, I thought that was the name of a B-rated comedy film released in the past year…

As a Boston Massachusetts accident lawyer, I can assure you that this is par for the course when it comes to insurance companies. I see it every day in my Boston injury law firm. Whether it involves a Massachusetts car accident, a Massachusetts bus accident, a Massachusetts liquor liability claim, a Massachusetts Nursing home neglect case, a Massachusetts slip & fall claim, a Massachusetts negligent security claim, a social host liability claim or a Massachusetts wrongful death claim, it’s always the same story: If you don’t have a talented and experienced Massachusetts injury law firm at your side, insurance companies will take you to the proverbial cleaner. Their business model has always been the same – it’s remarkably simple, actually:

• Take in as many premium dollars as possible with slick and even humorous advertising (do Geico’s talking Gecko and Progressive’s Flo and ring any bells?)
• Invest premiums in the highest investment vehicles available, to generate maximum investment income.
• Deny as many claims as possible, using every legal and technical maneuver possible, to keep as much of money as possible.

Sad, but true. If you’ve been injured in a Massachusetts accident and wish to make any kind of a liability insurance claim, make sure you are represented by an experienced Massachusetts injury law firm.

March 7, 2014

Massachusetts Car Accidents More Likely for Drinkers 55 & Older

Rick James & Eddie Murphy used to have a hit song in the mid-1980’s called “Party All The Time.” Sometimes, I think it was written for the lifestyle I used to live in my 20’s. I remember backpacking through Europe one summer in my 20’s, and my friend and I would drink all night, sleep for 5 or 6 hours, get up and hike all day with a full backpack – no problem. But I’m not in my 20’s anymore, and I’ve known for a long time that I can’t drink and party the way I used to (in fact, those skills left a long time ago.)

The problem is, a lot of drivers who have “graduated,” shall we say, from those earlier days, don’t quite get that they can’t drink like they used to, and still drive responsibly. Too many people think that unless they feel a definite buzz, or feel “drunk,” they’re okay to drive. Not true, at all. In fact, it’s been shown that if you’re a driver who’s 55 years of age or older, a single glass of wine can render you a dangerous driver. No six packs needed.

A study published in the journal Psychopharmacology a couple of weeks ago, pointed out that for people aged 55 and older, the effects of even minor amounts of alcohol are drastically different from what they are for younger drinkers.

Sara Jo Nixon, Ph.D., who is a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Florida, along with her doctoral candidate Alfredo Sklar compared how drinking even legally non-intoxicating levels of alcohol, differently impacts the driving skills of two age groups: Drivers age 25 to 35 and drivers age 55 to 70. The study showed that even though neither age group drank enough alcohol to put them over the legal driving limit, (blood alcohol level of 0.08,) even one drink impacted the driving skills of the 55 and older group, but not the 25 to 35 age group. The study is important because while driving studies have been conducted of older adults, and while research has looked at how alcohol impacts younger drivers, no study yet had examined the combination of older drivers and alcohol.

All this points to the obvious: Just as someone in his or her fifties can’t run and jump like they did 20 years earlier, they can’t drink like they used to, either. Literally one drink can leave a driver aged 55 or older vulnerable to causing a serious Massachusetts car accident - and the results can be devastating. As a Boston, Massachusetts car accident lawyer, I’ve seen too many different types of motor vehicle accidents than I care to remember: Massachusetts car-bike accidents; Massachusetts rear-end collisions, Massachusetts backover accidents, Massachusetts pedestrian-car accidents, Massachusetts rollover accidents, Massachusetts truck-car accidents, and Massachusetts distracted driving/cellphone accidents.

In case you think that a lot of these are “fender-bender” accidents that don’t cause much damage, you’d be wrong. Try, instead, broken necks. Broken backs, Brain damage. Burn injuries. Soft tissue injuries that never fully “heal,” leaving the victim unable to ever fully function again. The list of consequences goes on and on.

My message to Massachusetts drivers in their mid-fifties and older: If you plan on having even one drink and driving, cancel those plans: Get a designated driver, walk, or take a cab. The risk of possibly terrible consequences, isn’t worth it.

February 13, 2014

Massachusetts Nursing Homes Given New Care Standards for Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Patients

The rapidly growing population of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease, has, both fortunately and unfortunately, given rise to a new sub-industry of the broader nursing home industry: “Alzheimer’s Care Centers,” and “Alzheimer’s Specialty Facilities.” With names like these (and similar,) the public has been led to believe that these facilities possess some type of “specialty” designation or certification, isolated medical credentialing, or particular and highly –focused training. For years, families have placed their trust in these nursing homes and care centers, believing they had specialized skills and insights that a “regular” Massachusetts nursing home wouldn't have.

In most instances, those beliefs were induced by nothing more than slick marketing language, targeting an ever-growing medical market for this ever-growing patient population. The reality behind the marketing? Aside from the advertising, most of these facilities possessed little more substantive knowledge or nursing home patient care skills than the “average” nursing home. That’s the ‘unfortunate’ part of this growing industry: It capitalizes on an exploding market with claims of “unique” skills and “specialized patient care” for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients – when in reality most of them neither possess nor practice any more substantive care regimens or skill sets than “ordinary” nursing homes.

Thankfully, a great step forward was taken today, when the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Mass. DPH) finalized new regulations for the care of dementia patients. The standards were originally proposed in August 2013 by the Massachusetts DPH. Those standards were finalized today by the Massachusetts Public Health Council, which is a state-appointed group of academic and public health experts that sets policy standards in areas of public health. The impetus for these new standards was a bill passed by the Massachusetts Legislature almost two years ago, requiring minimum training and qualification standards for specialized dementia care units. As part of the new regulations, facilities will be required to have at least one “therapeutic activities director” dedicated to the dementia unit, to ensure meaningful and appropriate activities for residents.

The new rules close a dangerous loophole that had allowed nursing homes to advertise “Dementia Care Units”

• Without providing any specific training for their employees,
• Without providing any specialized activities for residents,
• Without ensuring that safety measures were taken and monitored, such as high fences, to prevent Alzheimer’s patients and other dementia patients from wandering away from the facility grounds - a constant and serious risk for these patients.

Not unexpectedly, nursing home operators resisted many of the proposed changes, particularly the requirement for a six-foot fence around facilities with Alzheimer’s and dementia care units, to prevent these patients from wandering and getting lost. A compromise was reached when the Public Health Council changed the 6-foot requirement, to instead require a “fence or barrier to prevent injury and elopement.” Equally unsurprising, several nursing home operators also objected to a regulation that requires nursing homes with dementia care units to institute the specialized new employee training within 90 days after the rules go into effect. Thankfully, the Alzheimer’s Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire and other nursing home patient advocates argued that the time frame was actually too long. The new rules also mandate ALL licensed nursing homes, and not just those with special dementia units, to provide dementia-specific training for all direct-care employees within 180 days.

Confirming the growing population of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, regulators this training must be mandated, due to the fact that approximately 60 percent of nursing home residents suffer from some form of dementia.

This is the proverbial “good start.” It is not – and must not be - the end of the battle to ensure that Massachusetts nursing home patients are cared for better than many now are. As a Dedham Massachusetts nursing home neglect lawyer, I have seen far, far too many cases of Massachusetts nursing home abuse and neglect – and the vast majority of these cases not surprisingly involve Alzheimer’s patients and dementia patients. Trust me, what goes on in many nursing homes would grey your hair and bring tears to your eyes. If more people knew of the misery and suffering that takes place in nursing homes – and realized that they, too, could end up in a nursing home one day – they’d protest all day long. Unfortunately, the thought of these issues too scary and too depressing for most people. They look the other way.

I thank God for the wonderful and admirable advocacy efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association, which is the leading watchdog and public policy advocate on this subject. If you can, please visit their site to offer whatever support you can for their critically important efforts.

Remember, getting old, infirm and mentally weak is something that we will all face.

February 7, 2014

Avoid Causing A Massachusetts Car Accident: Remove Snow From Your Car Roof!

We've all been there. You’re driving your car after a significant snowfall. Roads are plowed. Ice is melting. Traffic is flowing. You're humming to a tune on the radio. And then suddenly, out of the blue, a totally unexpected chunk of snow or “ice missile” smashes into your car windshield.

Where the heck did that come from? From the vehicle in front of yours - most likely the roof, or possibly the hood or trunk lid. That driver cleared all the snow off his car – except for the snow on the roof of his vehicle. What happens when a large amount of snow or ice is left on top of a vehicle that's moving at any speed faster than 10 MPH? That snow comes off the vehicle - either in a blinding cloud of snow, or a huge chunk of snow. Airborne, it will crash into someone else's windshield, obstructing that driver's view of the road and creating significant danger.

The result? You’re startled. You slam on the brakes, swerve into the other lane, lose control of your vehicle and crash into another vehicle, likely resulting in serious injuries. If your car is struck by snow or ice due to another driver’s failure to remove that snow from the roof, hood or trunk of his vehicle, and you are injured in a resulting motor vehicle accident, you're going to need an experienced Boston, Massachusetts car accident lawyer. You may be entitled to significant financial compensation for your injuries, based on the negligence of the other driver.

Many drivers do not realize that when they fail to properly remove snow from their car roofs, they are causing serious safety hazards on Massachusetts roads. If an accident occurs and you happen to be the driver who had not cleared the snow or ice from your vehicle, you can, and probably will, be cited for either what is known legally as "Driving with an Unsecured Load," which can cost you up top $200.00, or "Driving To Endanger," which is a more serious, criminal offense. Either way, it's going to cost you. A recent video clip from WBZ-TV4 on this subject can make this a little clearer; click here to see that clip.

As a Dedham, Massachusetts car accident lawyer, I hope that I can convince all Massachusetts drivers to take the extra five minutes, when clearing snow off their cars, to make sure they clear their car roofs, hoods and trunks. All drivers have enough to worry about on the road, 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. Enough said.

January 31, 2014

When Will Massachusetts Drivers Get It? Calling and Texting While Driving = Disaster

The lunacy of people using their smartphones while they drive, continues unabated. This problem has become far more than a “bad habit” - it’s almost as serious a problem as drunk driving. In fact, it’s very similar: A drunk or drugged driver is mentally, neurologically, and physically impaired. Someone using a smartphone is little different: Their mental acuity is reduced due to their concentrating on whatever phone conversation is taking place, or whatever other function or application they are using on the phone. Neurologically, their response and reaction times are reduced due to their focus being taken off the road, and physically, one hand is almost always either holding the phone or using it in some manner.

Yet, Massachusetts drivers go on with this dangerous, even deadly practice. The law that was passed here a few years ago has barely any enforcement teeth in it at all. Worse, the schizophrenic approach to the statute makes the same activity a crime for a juvenile, but not for an adult. I’ve blogged about this before. Recently, another state is taking some added measures to further penalize this conduct, and I think it makes sense. The Wisconsin state legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit drivers from using their smart phones while in a construction zone. That includes phoning, or texting. The ban would apply when workers are present in construction zones, the focus being protection of road crews. Drivers could still make 911 calls in those zones. Wisconsin law currently bans texting while driving, and bans new drivers who are on a probationary license from making calls on their phones.

As a Boston, Massachusetts cell phone accident lawyer, I think that such a measure should be passed here I Massachusetts. In fact, I think that all smartphone use while driving should be banned entirely, unless the phone call were made to 911, or the text involved an emergency. Unfortunately, I don’t think a near-complete ban on smartphone use in Massachusetts is likely, but it ought to be enacted. When will people “get it,” that driving a ton of steel and glass at speeds over 5 MPH, while talking on a smartphone, texting or searching the internet, is a prescription for disaster? Answer: When they are the ones who are seriously hurt.

How sad. As a Boston car accident lawyer, I see the damage and heartache from this practice, all too often. If people knew how dangerous and foolish this “habit” really is, they’d think twice.

January 14, 2014

Hope Chest That Caused Death of 2 Franklin, Mass. Children: A Tragic, But Classic Case of Product Liability

By now, most people have heard about the tragic suffocation deaths in a hope chest of two young siblings in Franklin, MA. It really is heartbreaking: A brother and sister, Lexi Munroe, 8, and Sean Munroe, 7, died after climbing into a hope chest Sunday night and without knowing it, locked it shut with no way out. It seems they were playing what almost all children that age do: Hide and seek. Autopsy results have yet to be officially released, but all signs point to accidental asphyxiation as the cause of death. The Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office is reportedly confident that no criminal issues are presented here.

The hope chest involved was manufactured by Lane Furniture, a popular Virginia furniture maker, in 1939. On a legal or evidentiary level, this is important because both Lane and the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission have confirmed that Lane recalled hope chests manufactured from 1912 through 1986 specifically due to the threat that small children could become trapped inside the chest and suffocate. Millions of these hope chests manufactured in these years were recalled. The lids of these chests were locked from the outside, upon closing. There were no locks or latches on the inside of the chest, to allow it to be opened from the inside, once closed. An exterior button or latch needed to be pressed or manipulated to open the lid. Federal product safety officials had, for years following the 1996 recall of the chest, warned that several of these dangerous products might still be somewhere in circulation. However, in 2001 Lane was issued a $900,000 fine by the government for failing to report the entrapment risk in a timely manner.

Lane Furniture had recalled 12 million “Lane” and “Virginia Maid” cedar chests, advising the chests needed to have the locks on them replaced due to reports of children becoming trapped inside. Heritage Home Group acquired Lane’s assets in November 2013. Heritage issued a statement that it “extends its deepest condolences to the family that has suffered this unthinkable tragedy. We wish them comfort at this most difficult time.” The company also stepped up its efforts to notify the public of this risk, and is offering free lock replacement kits for the affected chests.

This awful tragedy is made worse by the fact that the children’s family had apparently bought the chest secondhand some 15 years ago. As a result, it seems they never learned about the manufacturer’s recall of the chest due to the very threat that resulted here.

My firm is a Boston dangerous products law firm. We specialize in representing clients that have been injured, within Massachusetts product liability cases. Because of this, we’re in a unique professional position to analyze the question: While no criminal issue appear present, on a civil level, is anyone legally liable here for the tragic deaths of these two children? Is Lane Furniture? Is Heritage Home Group? Are the people who sold the chest to the children’s family some 15 years ago? Could any retail stores be liable? What is the legal standard to which any potential defendant might be held, if a law suit were filed?

These are difficult and complex legal questions, and they are difficult to answer in a brief blog post here. However, I can assure you that multiple potential civil defendants are presented in this situation. These potential defendants include:

• Almost certainly Heritage Home Group
• Possibly any still-existing assets or owners of Lane Furniture.
• Any suppliers that provided parts in the manufacture or assembly of the chest – especially any lock or hasp manufacturer(s)
• Any outside design firm(s) that assisted in the design of the chest.
• Any retail outlet(s) or retailing firms that can be traced as having sold this particular chest may be defendants.
• Any marketing firms that worked or were retained in the promotion of this product.
• Any distributors or shipping companies that were hired in the distribution of this product.
• Any marketing and/or advertising firms that were retained or assisted in the marketing or promotion of this product may also be potential defendants.

As to the legal standard that would be applied to determine liability in any potential suit, that is a long legal answer, but at its most basic level, it boils down to a test of foreseeability: Was it reasonably foreseeable to someone in the defendant(s) position, that an accident of this type might occur as the result of the design and manufacture of these chests? Again, that is a very short summary, but for now, it will have to do. A very wide variety of evidence and testimony would be introduced in a case like this – and the fact that a recall was ordered for this product is extremely powerful and favorable to any potential plaintiffs’ suit. But for now, that is not what is important to this family. What is important is that they receive the emotional support of all who are close to them. All that we or anyone can say is that we extend our sincere condolences to the family of these two young siblings.

Lastly, we’ve been involved in so many Massachusetts defective product cases where victims have been badly injured, we can only ask: When will corporate America ever put customer safety first? Common sense by the manufacturer, and maybe a few dollars on a better design for this chest, would have prevented this problem completely. It’s terribly sad.

December 26, 2013

Brookline, NH Auto Accident Fatality: Horrible Christmas Tragedy Points to Distracted Driving As Cause

My previous post on Christmas Day was about a horrific story of an auto accident, heartbreaking in its details. Tuesday morning, Christmas Eve, a serious car accident occurred at the intersection of Route 13 and Route 130 in Brookline, New Hampshire. Car accidents happen all the time, right? So what’s the big deal about this?

Because the woman who was killed, Katie Hamilton, was a young mother with a husband and three young kids, aged 2 to 9. Because she had just dropped her kids off at her mother’s house , before she headed to her job as a plumber working for her father, Steve Whitcomb, who owns Whitcomb Plumbing & Heating in the Brookline NH area. Because those three kids will forever more be without their mother. Because her husband Liam Hamilton will never see his wife alive again.

Oh, there’s one other “because” here: Because her father Steve Whitcomb, aside from being a plumber, is a firefighter in Brookline NH, and he answered the 911 call for the accident. And because the victim he helped extricate from the wreck with the Jaws of Life, was not the male victim that initial police reports indicated. Because the body he pulled out of the wreck was his own daughter. On Christmas Eve.

One would think that things could not get much worse than that. Christmas Eve. Holiday gatherings planned. A young family embraced in the safety of a rural New Hampshire community – home for the holidays. In picturesque New England; an idyllic, Norman Rockwell-like setting. But does get even worse, and why? Because all indications at present point not to speeding, or alcohol, or drugs as being the cause of the accident, which resulted when Ms. Hamilton was rear-ended by a Toyota Tundra, as she lawfully waited at the intersection of Routes 13 and 130. The rear-end collision propelled Ms. Hamilton’s SUV into the middle of the intersection, where it was broad-sided by a Ford F-250 pickup truck, which flipped her SUV over and pinned her underneath.

Driving drunk, speeding, and drugged driving are all terrible behaviors, that anyone would condemn. No, at this stage of the investigation it seems that the accident was caused by “driver inattentiveness” – in the event you didn't know, that’s preliminary law enforcement code for distracted driving. Translation: Smart phone use while driving, almost certainly. Why does that make things even worse here? Because almost no one openly condemns this practice - because almost everyone’s doing it. Come on – admit it. You see everyone around you doing it, and you may well do it yourself. As a Boston, Mass. distracted driving lawyer, I see the tragic results of this all the time. American culture has become so collectively self-absorbed in its smart phones, that it’s not only sad – it’s deadly. And the worst part is, nowhere near enough people “get” it.

Unfortunately, I've seen too many car accidents that were entirely preventable, yet cause lifelong injuries and death – Massachusetts pedestrian accidents, car-bike accidents, rollover accidents, teenage driver accidents, cell phone accidents, truck-car accidents, and more. When will people learn to stop taking driving so casually, and start taking it more seriously? As a Boston injury attorney who has been practicing over 25 years, I know that the honest answer is, “probably never.”

Regardless, I’ll say it one more time: No matter how long you've been a driver, no matter how old you are, LEARN to be a LOT MORE CAREFUL when driving your car. Pay attention. Turn the Smart phone OFF. And even if you for some reason don’t care about someone else, drive like your own life depended on it.

Because it does.

December 25, 2013

Christmas Day, 2013

What to say today?

That I hope all who read this blog, whether occasionally or regularly, will be spared the suffering of an accident or injury this day and this season. But that won't happen. In fact, a story of a motor vehicle accident beyond comprehension in its tragedy occurred this very day, Christmas Day, in nearby New Hampshire. I'll write it about it tomorrow - it's late and I'm tired. But I am all too conscious that this story could be about me or someone I love.

Never take your eyes off the road. Not for a second. The tragedy that can happen in an instant is beyond words. As a Boston motor vehicle accident lawyer, I know this all too well.

November 30, 2013

Defective Hip Implant Settlement Reached With Johnson & Johnson

Readers of this blog know that I’ve written previously about the dangers associated with defective hip implants. Most of these dangers arise from very small metal fragments in these hip implants, some microscopic, which are absorbed into a patients’ bloodstreams. These metal fragments can migrate into surrounding tissues and eventually into the bloodstream, due to the fact that several of these hip implants involved metal-on-metal joint components. The physical illnesses and injuries that can result from this exposure, can be extremely severe.

Most of the defective hip implants producing these problems were made by either Stryker Orthopedics, or DePuy Orthopedics, which is a division of Johnson & Johnson. Stryker’s “Rejuvenate Modular Hip System” and the “Stryker ABG II Modular Neck” were both voluntarily recalled by in July 2012 due to the health risks to implant patients. Many lawsuits followed – so many that these suits, along with suits against medical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, were consolidated into federal court, to more efficiently handle the volume of these particular cases. Just a few days ago, Johnson & Johnson announced that the company had reached a settlement deal with plaintiffs’ lawyers who were representing a wide class on injured patients. J&J will pay for a $2.5 billion settlement fund, which will be used to pay damages to injured patients in an estimated 8,000 lawsuits in the consolidated litigation. Those cases involved injuries that range from modest, to much more serious. The settlement agreement will also include an additional $475 million to pay for the most severely injured plaintiffs.

As a Boston hip implant attorney, I know that it’s this kind of financial punishment that makes our civil justice system work. Without the ability to bring these kinds of lawsuits – without the ability of the average American to hold corporate giants accountable for their errors –no one who buys any kind of product in this country would be safe. The reason is obvious” With little fear of being punished financially or legally, corporations would automatically place profits before people, money before safety – and our country would be a lot worse for it.

Be sure to tell that to the next person who tells you that ‘tort reform’ is needed in this country.