William D. Kickham
Construction Accident
Car Accident
Nursing Home

Here it is Thanksgiving Day 2019, and I thought I’d post these thoughts before sitting down for dinner.  Actually, I’ve made it a practice to contemplate on what I’m grateful for almost every day of the year that I can:  It’s a smart habit to form.

On a professional level, as a Massachusetts car accident attorney, I’m grateful that – finally – a ban on hand-held cell phone use while driving has been signed into law.  I’ve been publicly advocating for this for a few years now, and Gov. Charlie Baker finally signed the measure into law this past Monday.  Very briefly, the new law’s provisions:

  • Use of hand-held electronic devices while driving a motor vehicle – importantly, whether cell phones or otherwise – is banned beginning February 23, 2020. That’s 90 days after the law was signed by the governor, but the law provides a grace period through to March 31, 2020, which means that drivers who are cited for violation of the law prior to March 31, will receive a warning, not a fine.  As a Boston injuries attorney who has seen far too many preventable injuries caused by driver cell phone use, I thought that this additional grace period was unnecessary, and represented too much of a politics-based concession to the members of the Flat Earth Society who claimed that drivers would “need time to adjust”.  My response:  Please.   At any rate, from April 1, 2020 forward, violators will be hit with fines, as discussed further below.  Aside from my observation above about the unnecessary ‘grace period’, inside each of the additional bullets below are my thoughts as an attorney who deals every day with accidents and injuries that are caused by Massachusetts distracted driving accidents.

In Part One of my post on this subject, I discussed what Roundup is, what the history of these cases is, how cases are being brought to the courts, and what the possible values of these cases might be for people who have been exposed to it and have developed Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL) or similar types of cancer.  Let’s proceed to whether or not someone who has been exposed to Roundup and has been diagnosed with NHL, might have a legally actionable claim for damages.

How Do I Know If I or A Loved One Has a Case Against Roundup?

One big misunderstanding that all the TV and internet ads about Roundup litigation have created is the idea that anyone who has ever bought and used Roundup, and who now may “not feel good”, has a valid claim. Not true. Plaintiffs who present valid Roundup injury claims, are typically people who have had long-term exposure to Roundup, and later developed Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or other cancers. Those types of plaintiffs typically are:

I’ve warned my clients, friends, and readers of this blog in previous posts several times, but I know that I can’t say it enough, so I’ll say it again in today’s post:  If you believe that your loved one in a Massachusetts nursing home, Massachusetts nursing care facility, Massachusetts long-term care facility or “Massachusetts Memory Care Center” (the newest term that the nursing home industry has developed to capitalize on the exploding elderly population suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia), is being neglected, mistreated, or abused in any way, you cannot rely on your reporting it to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to come in and address the problem rapidly or effectively.  They are not the cavalry – they are not going to come and “save the day” any time soon.

The Massachusetts DPH is part of a massive state bureaucracy.  It is over-worked, under-staffed, and while many of those who work there are dedicated to their jobs and sincerely care about their responsibilities, many more aren’t so dedicated.  Trust me, as a Massachusetts nursing home neglect lawyer, I know.  I’ve seen many such a lazy DPH staffer, in the many years that I’ve handled Massachusetts nursing home neglect cases.  But the average person who isn’t familiar with these matters doesn’t know this (they wouldn’t be expected to.)  They mistakenly think, if they suspect that their loved one is being neglected or abused, that if they threaten the nursing facility that they will report the matter to the state DPH, the nursing facility will react in fear and leap into action to immediately and permanently correct the neglect or abuse.

If you’re in such a position right now, you’d be a fool to believe that such a result will occur.  The fact is, most Massachusetts nursing facilities are fully aware that it takes the DPH months to even begin to act on a complaint against a Massachusetts nursing home, Massachusetts rehabilitation center or nursing facility.  More so, they know that once the DPH does get around to acting on the complaint, the nursing home will have long eliminated any evidence of the reported neglect or abuse, and as a result, in many instances the nursing facility will not be punished by the DPH.  And I’m sorry to say this, but you’d be very foolish to think that the standard technique (read:  ruse) that 99.9% of these facilities employ to assuage complaining family members, will be in any real way effective.

A good number of my clients have called in to ask me about the Roundup cases that they’ve seen either on TV ads, or on the internet & social media.   It seems that anyone who has ever used this product has a lot of questions about it, so I’ll try to address them in the most accurate, efficient way that I can, given current case law and clinical information on this product.

First, what is Roundup?

Roundup is primarily a weed killer, an herbicide, and it has become the most widely used herbicide in the world. It’s used wherever weeds grow:  Lawns, farms, gardens, greenhouses, parks and more.  It is used commercially by professionals in the farming, landscaping and agricultural sectors, and by homeowners as well.  Monsanto makes Roundup, (though Bayer recently bought Monsanto), and this product earned more than $6 billion in revenue annually in recent years. More than 250 million pounds of it is used each year globally. The ingredient that many believe causes non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and other types of cancers is called glyphosate, and in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) termed glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen”.

In Part One of this two-part post, I outlined how seven U.S. war veterans were killed, and three other individuals seriously injured, when a Massachusetts truck driver plowed into them while allegedly high on illegal drugs. Making this tragedy even worse was the fact that several other states had issued written warnings to Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles officials, that the truck driver responsible for these motor vehicle fatalities, had been previously arrested in several other states for drunk and drugged driving offenses. Upon receipt of this kind of notice, Massachusetts DOT and RMV officials were required to immediate suspend that truck driver’s Commercial Drivers license (CDL), but they didn’t. Why? An investigation revealed that thousands of similar such notices from out of state police departments and DMV’s had been – literally – stuffed into boxes in a storage facility in Quincy, un-acted on. The envelopes of these out of state arrest notices were never even opened by RMV staff.

Words are begged for an adequate description of this story. “Mismanagement” doesn’t describe it. “Incompetence” doesn’t come close. Additional media reports about this literally unbelievable story, have revealed that Massachusetts RMV officials knew that these out-of-state license suspension notices, sent in writing to the Massachusetts RMV, were stuffed into dozens and dozens of storage boxes – never acted on – and stored in a state facility. All the while, well over 1,000 dangerous Massachusetts drivers, whose Massachusetts licenses should have been suspended by the RMV, remained on the road, every day. Death and carnage just waiting to happen. As of today’s date, media reports indicate that almost 870 additional Massachusetts drivers have been identified by the RMV as drivers that should have previously had their licenses suspended due to various driving offenses, but never did. That pushes the total of recently suspended Massachusetts drivers licenses, to nearly 2,400. That level of negligence is outrageous. Continue reading

By now, almost everyone in Massachusetts, as well as people around the country, have learned of the operational disasters inside the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (“Massachusetts DOT” below) and Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (“Massachusetts RMV” below), which led to the simultaneous deaths of seven motorcyclists in June in New Hampshire in one horrific accident. Almost all of the victims of this tragedy were war veterans who had served overseas, when they were all struck by a truck driver whose Massachusetts driver’s license was not suspended as it should have been by Massachusetts DOT and Massachusetts RMV officials, due to multiple prior out of state driving violations that the RMV had been notified of, but never acted on. Aside from the seven persons killed in that crash, three other persons were very seriously injured. The truck driver who hit these people was not injured. When the accident occurred, that truck driver was on Route 2 in Randolph, New Hampshire, driving a black 2016 Dodge 2500 pickup truck towing an empty car carrier trailer, when he veered into the motorcyclists, members of the “Jarheads Motorcycle Club” (“Jarheads” is a term that is often used to refer to soldiers.) Continue reading

I’ve written about this topic before during summer, but it bears repeating, especially in view of some recent Massachusetts drowning accidents: Unless someone is an expert swimmer, swimming is & always has been a hazardous activity. Of course – who doesn’t want to dive in to a nice cool pool, pond or ocean when it’s summer and hot outside? That’s perfectly normal and natural. I don’t intend to be a “killjoy” here, but in my experience as a Massachusetts drowning accident lawyer, too few people – especially kids and even their parents – stop to think how dangerous this fun activity can really be.

One accidental gulp of water, one disorienting plunge underwater, one wrong-way fall into the water, and a swimmer can end up in real trouble, in a couple of seconds. Panic then ensues, and the swimmer can lose his or her clear thinking, and slip underneath the water. I’m sorry to be so direct, but the next stop can be brain damage from lack of oxygen. Just this past Monday, an 18-year-old lost his life while swimming at Upper Mystic Lake in Medford. According to the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office,(Note: District Attorneys’ offices always investigate accidental deaths as a matter of standard procedure) the young man – a recent immigrant from Nepal who graduated only days before from Medford High School – did not know how to swim. Like many kids, all he knew was that he was hot and wanted to jump in the water. He had planned to attend UMass Amherst in the fall; now he is dead.

And this wasn’t the only drowning tragedy this year in Massachusetts — in June, Clinton High School freshman drowned in a pond. Unfortunately, if statistics hold true, this won’t be the last time this happens this year. The USA Swimming Foundation conducted a study in 2017, which found that over 60 per cent of children are a drowning risk – because they have basically don’t know how to swim safely. (No, safe swimming isn’t just jumping into the water.) Low income areas can see higher rates of the problem: It’s been reported that almost percent of kids from low income families have no to very limited swimming skills.

For years in Massachusetts, electric scooters, as a means of transportation (vs. recreation), were illegal in almost all cities and towns. In the past few months, however, the Boston City Council (not a body known for its intellectual acumen or common sense), voted to allow a pilot program that allows these “vehicles” into Boston. So has the town of Brookline, at least for this summer.

Under the program in Boston, officials there can issue ‘pilot licenses’, can supposedly limit the number of licenses granted each year, and can supposedly control how many vehicles can be utilized at a given time. So far, two scooter companies have injected themselves into the metropolitan Boston area:  Bird and Lime.  Other provisions supposedly require companies owning these vehicles to submit ‘safety plans’ (whatever they are), and supposedly detail how those scooter companies plan to communicate safety information to people riding these things. Did you notice how many times I wrote “supposedly”? That’s because the introduction of dangerous items like small, electric scooters, is an example of how some ideas, in a theoretical context, cannot be effectively managed in a practical context. Call it the “theory-practice” divide – and the idea of hundreds or even thousands of people all over the Greater Boston area whizzing around on these things – with no direction signals on them and no operator’s licenses being required to use them, is a disaster just waiting to happen.

Exhibit ‘A’: In the town of Brookline, where I grew up and was previously an elected Town Meeting Member, a scooter operator was injured on the first day of that town’s pilot program allowing the use of these death traps. Why do I call them “things” and “death traps”? Let me count the ways:

Welcome to the New World of transportation. A taxi?  What’s that? Most people now turn to their smartphone for an Uber (or Lyft) ride. Actually, the New World of ride-sharing services (“Transportation Network Companies”, as they’re known legally), have been around since about 2016 or so. While many people are familiar with how they can summon and pay for a ride-sharing service on their smartphones, very few people know how the legal system works in Massachusetts if they are injured either while a passenger in an Uber or Lyft ride, or hit and injured as a pedestrian by an Uber or Lyft driver. This is a really important topic.

Actually, “old-style” taxis and cabs, are a good jumping-off point to discuss the legal and liability insurance differences with ride-sharing services. I’ll try not to bore you here, so here’s the short version: Because of the powerful political influence that the conventional taxi industry carried on Beacon Hill for many, many years, taxis and cabs in Massachusetts were only required to carry bare minimums in bodily injury liability insurance coverage on their vehicles – a paltry $20,000 in liability coverage. An amount that low would barely cover the bills and expenses that a person injured in a Massachusetts taxi accident would likely face: Hospital & medical bills, lost wages and compensation for pain & suffering. For many years, if you were injured in or by a taxi, you’d have to hope that your damages were very low.

Thankfully, that liability picture has changed with the explosion of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. Now, if an Uber driver in Massachusetts is negligent and causes an accident that results in someone’s injury, passengers and pedestrians have expanded legal options in seeking compensation for their injuries. The Massachusetts Ride Sharing Bill, which became law in August 2016, created the state’s first regulations for ride-sharing services like Uber. Under this law, such drivers must now carry at least $50,000 of coverage for bodily injury claims per individual, a minimum of $100,000 of coverage for bodily injury claims per accident and $30,000 of coverage for property damage, uninsured motorist coverage and personal injury protection. (We can explain all those to you  when you call us.) The transportation network company must pay for excess insurance coverage, above those limits. The cost of this liability insurance coverage is shared by both Uber corporate and individual Uber drivers. A massive improvement from the measly $20,000 of coverage that the taxi industry got away with for years, no? That’s great news! As Massachusetts Uber accident lawyers, that enables us to obtain far higher financial damages and compensation for clients injured in Uber accidents.

I’ve written many times in this blog about how far too often I’m called by clients and prospective clients, reporting their suspicions that a loved one or friend in a nursing home is being neglected or abused.  As a Massachusetts nursing home neglect & abuse lawyer, I see these cases too often, and I can assure you that they are among the saddest – and most infuriating – of injury cases that I litigate.

Just yesterday, Massachusetts Attorney General’s office reported that it was imposing fines on seven Massachusetts nursing homes for substandard care, revolving around cases of patient neglect or abuse.  The fines range from a low of $30,000 to a high of $200,000.  As part of this civil settlement (and the civil nature of this action is key to this post,) these nursing homes will be – supposedly – required to “improve staff training”, conduct yearly self-audits of their progress, and report that progress to the attorney general’s office for the next three years.  While some might see this as severe disciplinary action against these nursing homes, as a Boston nursing home abuse attorney, I find these actions lacking in more severe punishment, and lacking in tougher oversight of these businesses.  Example ‘A’:  Exactly what does “improve staff training” mean?  It’s vague and nonspecific, as an attorney I have little idea of what it means, and I’m sure that these nursing homes don’t have any specific ideas, either.  Worse, Example ‘B’:  The “auditing” – i.e., oversight – that these nursing homes are required to follow up on, is self auditing – not auditing and oversight conducted aggressively submitting by an independent authority such as either the Attorney General’s office, or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  Expecting a nursing home to self-audit its “improvement” is like asking a physically abusive person to report to authorities that he doesn’t push anyone around anymore, and expecting that person to be honest.  If anyone in the Attorney General’s office thinks for one minute that these businesses will honestly, aggressively and diligently police themselves, I have a bridge I can sell them a bridge in Brooklyn.

What was needed here was criminal prosecution, not merely civil fines and ‘settlement agreements.’  The neglect and abuse that these nursing homes were found to have engaged in, was not merely ‘troubling’, but sickening:  One patient was dropped by aides, and broke her legs.  The staff knew about the injuries, but didn’t report it for over a day.  The patient died after suffering massive internal bleeding.  Two other patients bled to death after suffering cuts that were not attended to.  Another died from a fatal medication error, and others were negligently allowed to wander off the property.  Yes, hitting such substandard and negligent nursing homes with financial fines will hurt them – but only temporarily.   Financial penalties, alone, won’t be enough to stem the tide of Massachusetts nursing home neglect and abuse.  As an attorney who specializes in nursing home neglect & abuse cases, I see the failure of the state to criminally prosecute these businesses, as analogous to the state failing to criminally prosecute the Catholic church for failing to stop sex abuse of children and minors by clergy members – instead expecting church leaders to police themselves. Such myopia, and frankly, stupidity, is stunning.  Had criminal prosecution of church authorities been pursued a long time ago, that crisis never would have escalated to the level that it did.