William D. Kickham
Construction Accident
Car Accident
Nursing Home

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.

While this blog’s purpose is to help clients, media and the public better understand important legal issues affecting criminal law and injury law in Massachusetts, my post today has to do with some bragging rights.

On March 4 2019, I was sworn in at the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. to become a member and officer of the Court.  The ceremony took part along with other selected members of the bar and Suffolk University Law School.  Obviously, I was very proud of this accomplishment, as not every practicing attorney is admitted as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. A nomination to the Court must first be submitted by a sponsor who is a member of the Court, and certain credentialing criteria have to be first met before the nominee will be considered.  This accomplishment distinguishes me as having reached a very high level of professional achievement and credentialing in my fields of practice, and I would be displaying false modesty if I said it was “no big deal.”  But I would never have had the chance to achieve this level of professional recognition, if a lot of people along the way hadn’t invested their confidence in me as an attorney and an individual.  Those people range from my clients of many years ago to my clients of today, to fellow attorneys, and to mentors that I looked up to.  In life, we all provide each other wisdom, professional and personal.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to produce the superior legal results that I do for my clients.

I hope that this career accomplishment instills even further confidence in people to turn to me when they have a legal problem or issue that needs the counsel of an effective and experienced Massachusetts attorney, especially in the fields of injury/accident law and criminal defense law.  There are a great many lawyers and law firms to choose from these days, and I’m flattered each time someone calls me to represent them or to provide them legal counsel.

Following up on my previous post on this topic, not only is not clearing one’s vehicle of ice and snow before your drive foolish, inconsiderate, and potentially deadly, in Massachusetts it’s illegal.  Not because our myopic legislators have had the motivation to enact a specific stature mandating removal of snow & ice from the hoods, roofs and trunk lids of their vehicles (that would be too sensible, after all.)  It’s illegal due to a handful of other motor vehicle operation statutes – and police departments across the state have shown they are very willing to cite drivers for violations of those statutes, which are as follows:

  • M.G.L. Chapter 90, Sec. 13, which addresses safety precautions for proper operation and parking of vehicles. This law prohibits anything on or in a vehicle that interferes with proper operation of the vehicle.  And yes, snow and/or ice on car’s surfaces – especially the roof and hood – meets this definition.
  • M.G.L. Chapter 85, Section 36, addressing unsecured vehicle loads. Violation of this statute imposes fines of up to $200 – and if an accident were part of the vehicle stop and a driver was cited with this violation, that citation will put the driver cited at a serious disadvantage in any civil liability case that followed as a result of any Massachusetts motor vehicle accident.

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shattered windshieldWhether it’s politically correct or not, I have to say it: Some people really amaze me with their level of foolishness – or downright stupidity. These days, people just seem to lack ordinary, run-of-the-mill common sense. Whether it’s (literally) racing to supermarkets, to (again, literally) raid the shelves for food if a weather forecast involves a mere 2-4” of snow, or in general acting like brainless idiots, so many people truly amaze me. Here in the greater Boston area, depending on one’s location, somewhere between 2-4” or perhaps 3-6” of snow was forecast this past weekend. Result? Madness on the roads, everywhere (even though not a flake had yet fallen). The shelves of nearly every supermarket, were emptied of anything that could be reached. I noticed one very haggard-looking checkout clerk in a supermarket, and commented that she must have been exhausted from the day. She looked at me and said (with much insight), “For a few inches of snow. People are insane these days.”   She captured that thought pretty well.  One person told me that he went to get gas at a local Costco gas station this past weekend. There were so many cars at that Costco, (thousands, as he recalled it), that it took him over 2 ½ hours to get gas and leave.

Because 2-4” of snow had been forecast (of which 1” actually fell; not unusual).  Amazing.

Care to know what else is amazing? The fact that in winter (which in Massachusetts, we’re now in the pit of), people will clear their vehicle windows of snow & ice, but won’t clear the snow & ice from their vehicle hoods and roofs. Result?  Once the vehicle heats up, and speeds of as low as 20 MPH are reached, huge chunks and layers of that snow and ice will become airborne missiles, hitting cars and trucks behind them as though they were giant boulders. Large chunks of snow & ice, once airborne, accelerate to the force that snow-making guns throw at ski resorts. The larger the chunk, the heavier it is, and these large, heavy chunks of snow & ice can hit a vehicle behind it with as much speed as hitting a small deer.  Even with smaller chunks of snow & ice, these size projectiles can hit your vehicle with the speed of a baseball pitch. Apparently, these clueless drivers think the snow & ice on their hoods and roofs are cemented there until spring, when an auto mechanic will remove them with special equipment.

As I was pondering what to write about this New Year’s Eve 2018, I thought about various topics of Massachusetts injury law that I could talk about to my readers.  Defective and dangerous products? Medical negligence?  Commercial property slip & fall accidents?  Construction site accidents?  Workers compensation?  Wrongful death?  There’s a lot that I could write about.

But two areas stand out as requiring greater attention and vigilance both in the new year, and every year.  And they are these:

  1.  Cell phone use when driving, and 2)  Nursing home neglect & abuse.

Tragically, it happened again yesterday: Another death from a bicyclist being hit by a motor vehicle – in this case, a dump truck. Given the large number of bike riders on the traffic-congested streets in and around the Boston area, it was only a matter of time. And worse, it will only be a matter of time until the next such Massachusetts pedestrian-motor vehicle accident happens.

According to media reports including The Boston Globe, the bicyclist who was killed in the collision was named Meng Jin, and he was a 24 year-old Boston University graduate student from Shanghai.  Boston University’s official news site, BU Today, also released this information. Technically, the collision occurred in Cambridge, but it was only feet from the Boston city line and the Science Museum, at the intersection of Monsignor O’Brien Highway and Museum Way. Massachusetts State Police reported that the young man was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead due to his injuries. Continue reading

Everyone loves Halloween – especially two groups: Kids and candy manufacturers.

But here’s a horrifying reality: More than any other day of the year, children are more than twice as likely to be hit by or killed by a motor vehicle (car, truck, SUV, or whatever) on Halloween. In 2017, the month of October ranked No. 2 in motor vehicle deaths for the year, with 3,700 occurring. July was No. 1 in the year, reaching 3,830 deaths. 

Locationally, Halloween injuries occur in one of two places: 1) At a residence property that trick-or-treaters are visiting , or 2) Streets and roadways. Between face masks, flowing costumes, eye make-up, darkness and leaves on the ground, when it comes to a perfect mix for accidents and injuries, this combination is an ominous “thriller”, to quote Michael Jackson’s macabre hit song. Whether you’re a homeowner passing out candy to visitors, or a parent accompanying your kids out for fun, everyone needs to exercise care and caution to prevent injuries. Otherwise, one or both of two things can happen: 1) Someone gets hurt – a fall down stairs leading to a homeowner’s front porch; a trip & fall on a homeowner’s walkway; a pedestrian-motor vehicle accident. (These are just a few examples, see more below.) Then, 2) Someone gets sued (usually a property owner or a driver.) No one wants this outcome, so here are five important safety points to bear in mind this Halloween:

By now, millions of people have learned about how, in seeming staccato fashion, dozens of homes in North Andover, Andover and South Lawrence Massachusetts literally blew up, one after another, yesterday (September 13.)  Fire, police, and disaster crews from across northeastern Massachusetts poured in to these communities in response.  As of right now, there has been one fatality reported – a young man – 18 year-old Leonel Rondon of Lawrence, was killed when a home on Chickering Road exploded, causing the chimney to collapse on a car that Rondon was in, inside the driveway of that home.  A photo of the boy is below.  Other fatalities may follow.

News helicopters observing from the sky have commented that these communities looked like they were bombed by enemy airplanes, strafing the region.  The word “Armageddon” has been used by more than one source to describe the devastation, which from accounts issued so far, would indeed replicate house after house, exploding one after the other, as if either on timers or bombed from above.   I hope to observe some of the damage myself, but rescue and safety crews will likely mean that aerial news footage will have to suffice, for now.

MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz stated that emergency crews have so far responded to somewhere between 60 and 80 fires, and multiple explosions within a brief time frame.

The Boston Globe published a story recently, that as a Boston construction worker injury lawyer, I find very illuminating about a fact that many people, in the midst of the current opioid epidemic don’t know. Which is: Nearly a quarter of the overdose deaths recorded in a five year time frame involved construction workers. That’s a lot, and it’s no surprise: Construction jobs involve a lot of physical stress, injuries are common, and the pressure to stay on the job even though pain can be severe, is very prevalent. The pressure to continue to stay on the job is due largely to two reasons: 1) Financial & economic pressure to continue working, and a social culture that highlights machismo, or a “tough guy” attitude. (Think about it: Did Arnold Schwarzenegger’s characters ever quit or take time off because he was hurt somehow? Or – for readers of a certain age – John Wayne? Didn’t happen. A construction site is usually male-dominated, and “wimps” usually aren’t welcome. Continue reading

Readers of both this blog and my Massachusetts criminal law blog, , know that I’ve written a great deal recently on the subject of the 3 deaths that resulted last month from a car crash in Cotuit Massachusetts, that followed a high-speed police car chase of a criminal defendant who was out on probation at the time. In fact, I wrote a 3-part post on that subject, which dealt with the criminal law aspects of that case and probation issues.

Today’s post here deals with potential civil liability of the Town of Mashpee Police Department, for engaging in a high-speed chase of that suspect, who according to police reports was driving at speeds of 100 MPH or faster. To its credit, the Mashpee Police Department issued a public statement just a couple of days ago, publicly acknowledging that the police should have broken off the high-speed chase in the interests of public safety. Readers will likely have two questions: 1) Can the Police Department here be held liable for the 3 deaths that resulted – one of whom was Kevin P. Quinn, a 32 year-old Afghanistan combat veteran who was killed by the speeding driver being pursued by Mashpee Police – even worse so – after he had just left the hospital where his wife had given birth to his and his wife’s newborn son? 2) Why would a police department call off a pursuit of a criminal suspect?

First, as to whether a municipal police department can be held civilly liable (i.e., ordered to pay monetary damages) for the injuries or death of someone caused by a high-speed chase by its officers, the answer is: Yes – depending on the specific circumstances involved. The legal test is one of negligence, and in order to determine if the police were negligent under the factual circumstances that were present, a number of factors will need to be weighed as evidence, including but not limited to: