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I’m posting this very brief piece on Thanksgiving Day, a day I wouldn’t normally be working.

But as I was thinking last night of all that I have in this life – many things that others less fortunate than I don’t have – the idea of loss struck home as I noticed a news item that I had placed on my “To Do” list.  That item was the fact that, just 3 or so blocks from me here in Westwood, a six year-old boy was killed last Sunday, November 19.  The boy’s name was Edward “Eddie” Thomson.  He died two days after being hit as a pedestrian in a crosswalk by a car at around 3:00 PM  at the corner of Pond Street and Lakeshore Drive.  Westwood police have commented that the incident appears to be accidental.  I’m not surprised:  the At that time of day at this time of year, the sun is very low in the sky, and even if a driver isn’t heading west, at the angle that the sun sets at this time of year, at 3:00 PM it can blind you easily.  As I said, the corner of Lakeshore Drive and Pond Street is only about three blocks from where my wife Debbi and I live.  News like this hits home, when it happens five minutes from your own life.

Life can be so fragile.  As an attorney who specializes in auto accident cases, I see tragic accidents like this far too frequently.  It’s easy to think that these awful, fatal accidents happen mostly on the highway – out on Route 128 or the Mass. Pike – but they don’t just happen on high-speed roads.  Fatal pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents can happen in a neighborhood, as happened here – and lifelong injuries and yes, death, can result – from a vehcile traveling as slow as 10 or 15 MPH.

The recent horrific mauling death in Lowell of a 7 year old boy has led a lot of clients and friends to ask me, “What legal liability exists when someone is bitten by a dog?”   The answers can get technical, but I’ll try to address the outlines here.  First, however, I want to express my condolences to the young boy, whose name was  Javien Candelario.

Let’s talk about what you should do immediately after being bitten by a dog.  Note:  Unless the wounds you’ve suffered are life-threatening, it is extremely important that you take the following steps immediately after the attack, even though you or the person you are with has been bitten:

  • Unless the dog appears to be a stray and doesn’t have any apparent person who is with the animal, immediately get the name and address of the dog’s owner, dog walker, or whoever had custody of the dog at the time it attacked.
  • Use your (or someone’s) smart phone to immediately take pictures of the wound. This sounds gruesome, but you need to do it if you later take legal action and your lawyer has to prove the nature and extend of the injury.  Yes, there will be blood – don’t let that stop you.
  • Obviously, get medical attention without delay.
  • The next business day, file a report with the city or town animal control department, providing details of the attack.

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As many people have read or heard in the past few months, a rapidly growing number of cases have been filed by women who have contracted ovarian, uterine and vaginal cancers that they claim were caused by an ordinary, everyday item found in almost all homes in the United States:  Talcum powder (“talc”), or baby powder.

In August, a jury in Los Angeles found Johnson & Johnson (one of largest companies and most famous names in over the counter health products,) liable for a woman’s ovarian cancer.  The jury ordered that J&J pay a record $417 million in damages to the victim, Eva Echeverria.

The verdict marked the highest sum that a jury has awarded so far in a series of talcum powder cases against Johnson & Johnson in courts throughout the U.S.  The plaintiff in this case, as in other cases around the U.S., alleged that Johnson & Johnson did not adequately warn consumers about the cancer risks that were connected with the use of talcum powder. The plaintiff in the California case testified that she applied the giant company’s baby powder daily, for decades beginning in the 1950s.  She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, and claimed that she developed ovarian cancer as a ‘‘proximate result of the unreasonably dangerous and defective nature of talcum powder.” Continue reading

I’m going to weigh in here on the subject of sports and the subject of sports-related brain injuries, specifically chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE.)   CTE is caused by repeated and violent blows/impacts to the head, such as occur in boxing, football, rugby and hockey, and has become much more understood in recent years. A variety of psychological, neurological and behavioral symptoms result, which I’ll discuss at more length, below.

I think it important that this subject be addressed legally, especially in light of the $20 million lawsuit that the family of former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez has filed against the New England Patriots and the NFL. Hernandez’ family is basing their claim on the fact that an autopsy of Hernandez’ brain showed that he suffered from CTE   Hernandez, as we all know, killed himself in prison after being convicted of the murder of another former NFL player, Odin Lloyd, in June of 2013. Continue reading

In my previous post on this case, I discussed the tragic murders of Dr. Richard Field and Dr. Lina Bolaños, who were murdered in their multimillion dollar condominium, in the luxury Macallen Building, in South Boston on May 5 2017. This upscale building reportedly advertised 24-hour concierge and security services.

This tragic event raises a legal subject that not many people know about – a category of liability cases called “Negligent Security Lawsuits.”  These types of lawsuits are a sub-specialty of a broader area of law known as Premises Liability, and in sum they are brought when a person has been attacked or injured by a third party at or in a property when the property owner has not provided adequate security to protect persons lawfully at or on that property. (Common examples include (office buildings, commercial properties or parking lots.)   The families of Dr. Field and Dr. Bolanos have filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court alleging that the building’s owners, managers and the security company that they hired did not provide adequate security that could have prevented this tragedy.

As you might suspect, the key in the preceding sentence is “adequate security” – and what this term does – and more often, doesn’t consist of.  Because most property and building owners would have the public believe that placing someone who is wearing a security uniform is “adequate” security, and it isn’t.  In fact, it’s almost always a charade; a false image, and essentially a misrepresentation, to the persons lawfully in or on that property, designed to create the appearance of safety and security, when in fact this is not being provided.  What allegedly happened to this promising young couple, may well illustrate this point:  The alleged murderer, a previously convicted bank thief by the name of Bampumim Teixeira, was able to get inside the building, then gain access to the 11th floor where the doctors’ condo was located.  Teixeira  reportedly overpowered the Dr. Field and Dr. Bolanos with a knife, then held them hostage while ransacking the condo for money and valuables.  The two doctors were then murdered – their throats slashed.

As a Massachusetts negligence attorney, one of the areas of practice that I specialize in is called “Premises Liability.”  This is an area of tort practice that allows victims of injuries that were caused by inadequately and negligently maintained property – usually (but not always) commercial buildings and commercial property.  The types of cases that can fall under “premises liability” type of lawsuit can vary from slip and fall injuries, to cases where someone died due to inadequate security measures being taken.

Many people here in Boston are aware of the horrific double murder of two young, promising doctors this past May 5 2017.    A couple, their names were Dr. Richard Field and Dr. Lina Bolanos, and they were savagely murdered, allegedly by a man who previously worked as a “security guard” at the upscale building where their condominium was.  That individual, one “Bampumin Texeira,” has been arrested and arraigned for their murders, and is being held without bail pending trial.

There is a saying in the legal profession that “bad cases make good law,” and that maxim applies very well to this case.  The reason?  In my opinion as a Boston Massachusetts negligent security lawyer, this type of tragic story was bound to happen sooner or later. By “tragic story”, I’m referring not only to the murders of these two young doctors, but the façade that the private security industry operates under.  We all regularly go into buildings and various properties on a regular basis, where we see a “security guard” at the entrance.  These are employees of private security companies/guard companies, that wear “official-looking” uniforms, designed to create the appearance and resulting feeling of some kind of ‘police’ presence, or at the very least a highly-trained security professional, that knows how to spot danger, and knows how to react to it instantly.

The Involuntary Manslaughter conviction 6 weeks ago of Michelle Carter, in the texting-suicide death of Conrad Roy III, has generated international attention.  I’ve written previously in my Massachusetts criminal law blog about why I believe this conviction was sound and supported by both the law and the facts.  I’m writing this post today in my Massachusetts Injury Law blog, because a twist has developed in this, involving civil law, not criminal.

Yesterday, a Sentencing Hearing was held before the judge who found her guilty in June of Involuntary Manslaughter in this case, Massachusetts Juvenile Court judge Lawrence Moniz.   I joined host Aaron Keller at Dan Abrams’ LawNewz broadcast yesterday for over two hours of live analysis to examine and discuss Carter’s conviction in this case, and the sentence she received yesterday from Judge Moniz.  That criminal sentence was especially lenient, but did not surprise me.

Some background on sentencing issues, first. The relevant statute in Massachusetts provides for a maximum of 20 years’ incarceration upon a conviction of Involuntary Manslaughter.  The prosecution (Bristol County District Attorney’s Office) asked for a range of 7 to 12 years’ incarceration – in state prison.  Carter’s defense attorney asked the judge to impose no prison time at all, but instead only five years’ probation.  Absent a statute that imposes mandatory minimum sentences upon a conviction, which removes all discretion from a judge, the judge retains discretion in sentencing, between the minimum and the maximum.  Give that this case was in juvenile court, that range runs from no incarceration at all, to a maximum of 20 years in a state prison.

I’m going to comment on something tonight, but what occurred surrounding the events that I’m going to speak to in this post are so lacking in any common sense on any level, so thoroughly disproportionate to rational and reasoned thinking, and so tragic, that I wasn’t immediately sure if I should post it here in my Injury Law blog, or my Criminal Law blog.  The events in this incident strain belief, and the non-answers surrounding it, issued to today’s date by the Police Department involved, further strain credulity.

Full disclosure, before proceeding further:  I am basing my understanding of the events described below, on published reporting from The Boston Globe,  MSN and other media sources. (click on link for Boston Globe story published July 17 2017.) I have not yet had the opportunity to fact-check every description of this incident that follows.  However, based on the media accounts that I have reviewed, these reports are consistent with each other, and thus as of this date I have no reason to doubt their fundamental accuracy.  If, after publishing this post I learn of any errors within it, I will issue an appropriate correction in this blog (in a separate post) promptly.

A young man killed himself Saturday night, July 8, in the wealthy town of Hingham. His name was Austin Reeves.  He was 26 years old, and universally liked by all who knew him – employers, friends, schoolmates, and more.  Said one of his employers of him, “He was charming and funny and outgoing. He could talk to anyone, and everyone always enjoyed him.”   Austin had no history of either mental illness or violence of any kind. After finishing working for his employer at a 75th birthday party reception earlier that day and evening, Austin had a phone conversation with a former girlfriend, with whom his relationship had failed a month earlier.  Something was said  in that conversation that apparently hurt him a great deal.  During the conversation, Austin mentioned that he owned a gun.  Note:  No information to date indicates that Austin made any specific threat in that conversation.  However this former girlfriend became worried about him, and phoned the Hingham Police Department at approximately 9:19 PM, asking them to simply conduct a wellness check on Austin at his home – that is all.  The Hingham Police then called the Reeves household, where they spoke to Austin’s father, Russell Reeves, and asked Russell if Austin had a gun in his possession.

How does this picture look to you?  Pretty scary, huh?  Well, you’d be surprised how often I see these types of Massachusetts motor vehicle accidents, caused by distracted driving.  That’s code for “Using a smart phone when behind the wheel.”

Mass Pike rollover
Despite the gravity of this problem, some would say that this subject is a classic battle between civil libertarians vs. law-and-order types.  I prefer to call it Realists vs. Members of the Flat Earth Society.

Because, as a Massachusetts car accident attorney, it’s my opinion that one would have to believe the earth is flat, to conclude that the time is long past due to ban the use of all hand-held devices while driving any motor vehicle.  An anemic attempt to address this massive problem was enacted in 2010, banning drivers aged 16 and 17 from using the devices while driving – but not adults.   The assertion at that time that this was “really a youth problem” was pathetic, and driven largely by special interest groups that didn’t want to interfere with “adult use” of these accident-causing devices.  Predictably, that embarrassing excuse of an effective public safety statute did little to stem this deadly, and growing, problem.

OK – Here it is, July 2 2017 and people everywhere are celebrating the Fourth of July (in what will very likely turn out to be a very short work week this coming week – added bonus, no?) Yes, that means parades, cookouts and each outings.  I love this time of year; I’m a summer person.

But Fourth of July celebrations also mean something else:  Fireworks celebrations.  And while the vast majority of these fireworks displays are run by cities and towns under professional management, an enormous amount of the fireworks that you hear in any given neighborhood, are being lit off by individuals – usually young people.  As I write this post, I can hear the occasional firecracker now (or entire pack of them!)  Most people – especially young people – don’t appreciate the real danger of lighting off fireworks such as firecrackers, bottle rockets, ground spinners, ladyfingers, M-80’s, sparklers, and more. Continue reading

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