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As I write this post, I am on Cape Cod, in the early hours of July 4 2018, having spent a glorious, happy day on the Cape Cod National Seashore. I am, with thousands of other people, celebrating our nation’s Independence Day. Everyone seems happy.

Yet, hidden among the pleasure, happiness and enjoyment that bring so many people to Cape Cod in summer, tragedy can occur . It happened most recently within a subject matter that I have blogged about previously: The subject of swimming pool accidents, and of how dangerous swimming pools actually are. In fact, while they are nowhere near as common as other types of accidents such as car accidents, truck accidents, or slip-and-fall accidents, Massachusetts swimming pool accidents are not exactly rare. Swimming pool injures are quite common, and when the reasons for this are examined, it’s not surprise why these types of injuries happen. Continue reading

The media has been doing a lot of broadcasting and publishing recently – very justifiably – on the subject of the Massachusetts Legislature’s shameful failure to act promptly in passing a revised distracted driving bill in this state. In the meantime, the lives of millions of drivers on the roads of Massachusetts remain at heightened risk due to people using their cell phones while behind the wheel. Distracted driving – whether talking on a phone, texting, or surfing through apps – is killing people every month that state government fails to crack down – as in, “Big Time.’

When is this Roadshow of Russian Roulette going to cease? Continue reading

The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled earlier this week that colleges and universities can, under some circumstances, be held liable for the suicides of their students. While the plaintiffs who brought the suit – the parents of the student who committed suicide – ultimately did not prevail in this particular suit, they paved the way open for future liability on the part of schools, under certain conditions. While these courageous parents lost their case, this ruling is still a win for future such families, because a legal door has been opened now, which was never open before.

The case name is Nguyen vs. MIT, brought by the parents of Han Duy Nguyen. As an undergraduate at Stanford, Nguyen twice tried to kill himself. When he enrolled at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, he was visibly in distress, so much so that his own academic adviser believed he was extremely vulnerable. School officials offered him mental health counseling, but took no other special measures to assure his safety despite his extremely depressed state of mental health. On June 2, 2009, Nguyen, 25 years old, went to the sixth floor of a campus building and jumped to his death. Nguyen’s parents believed that MIT personnel knew about Nguyen’s vulnerable state, but failed to do enough to help him. They brought suit against the school and fought a valiant, seven-year effort to hold MIT liable for failure to act more responsibly surrounding Nguyen’s well-documented fight with depression. The legal theory of their case singed on the concept of “foreseeability,”which is a central element of tort law (generally speaking, the law of negligence.) Continue reading

I’ve blogged previously on the topic of the potential dangers of “energy” drinks. Still, seemingly every supermarket I shop in these days, I see these drinks proliferating left & right. Without doubt, these drinks and similar products can potentially injure you. Very high levels of caffeine can cause serious health problems such as cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat,) anxiety attacks, dangerously blood pressure and, in some cases, even sudden death. The obvious reason: They’re packed full of high-concentrated caffeine. High concentrate caffeine isn’t limited to energy drink products – it’s also marketed in powdered form, pills, and is widely available online. Hospital ER visits caused by high concentrate caffeine and energy drinks doubled over the past four years – from 10,000 to 20,000.

Aside from adults, an enormous number of teenagers and college kids consume the drug in these drinks. And yes, caffeine is a drug – and a highly addictive one, at that. Ever tried talking with someone who hasn’t had his/her morning fix? So, just how concentrated is this stuff? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported that a single teaspoon of powdered caffeine is equal to the amount of caffeine contained in a stunning 28 cups of coffee: That’s approximately 1,600 milligrams of caffeine — equal to about 70 cans of Red Bull!  How much caffeine is safe? The FDA recommends a maximum daily limit of 400 milligrams of caffeine (about 5 8 oz. cups of coffee) to minimize safety risks.

So, can you sue if you’ve suffered physical or emotional harm from them? First, remember the maxim that anyone can file a suit over anything – that’s a constitutional right. The salient questions is, would you win? The answer to the last question, is “It depends”

I wrote in this blog recently of the many suits filed in the past few years against Johnson & Johnson alleging that its famous baby powder products cause cancer in women. That fight remains ongoing. But J&J’s legal woes over its products aren’t in any way limited to over-the-counter consumer goods like talc or baby powder. Many of the lawsuits it has faced involve its prescription drugs.

One of those drugs is Levaquin, which was developed by J&J as a type of antibiotic. Levaquin belongs to the fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics, and was marketed by J&J to treat relatively minor infections, such as sinus infections and urinary tract infections (UTI’s.) Sounds admirable enough, except that plaintiffs’ suits in several states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, allege that the giant health and pharmaceutical company very aggressively marketed Levaquin, while knowing that the antibiotic could cause a dangerous medical condition called peripheral neuropathy – a very serious nerve disorder. Often times, this dangerous disorder can become permanent – resulting in loss of nerve sensation and partial paralysis. Many of these suits allege not only that Levaquin is a defective medical product, but that J&J knew about this while it was marketing the drug to doctors, and intentionally failed to warn doctors about the risks of neuropathy to their patients. Continue reading

At this stage, more than 5,000 lawsuits have been filed against the iconic baby powder manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, most alleging that cases of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma were caused by asbestos contained in the pharmaceutical giant’s baby powder & talc products.

There is even a new shareholder lawsuit that was filed February 9 in federal court in New Jersey, on behalf of investors who purchased J&J shares between February 2013 and February 2018—alleging that J&J “has known for decades that its talc products, such as its Baby Powder, include asbestos fibers and that the exposure to those fibers can cause ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.” The tentative class action suit alleges that J&J harmed its stockholders by allegedly concealing the truth claimed in hundreds of other lawsuits and articles contending J&J’s talcum powder products contain asbestos.

Seems even investors are smelling something suspicious here. The investor suit, filed by one Frank Hall, named J&J as defendant along with J&J CEO Alex Gorsky and J&J CFO Dominic Caruso.

Many people have heard of the term “Statute of Limitations,” but they aren’t quite sure what this is, or how it might affect them if they’ve been injured in some kind of accident in Massachusetts. This post will hopefully clear up some of these questions for you.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

First, the point of a statute-of-limitations is to set a time limit, or deadline, within which a lawsuit to recover for damages must be brought (for any type of case, negligence & personal injury or otherwise). This purpose of the statute is not to prevent a lawsuit, but place a reasonable period of time within which either a formal lawsuit or some other kind of legal claim for injuries must be brought – if a case is going to be brought forward at all. In personal injury and accident cases, the person who commences the legal claim is called the plaintiff; the person or party against whom the claim is brought is called the defendant. It is important to note that the term “defendant” in civil cases means something very different than in a criminal case – a defendant in a criminal case has been charged with a crime against the state, and if found guilty can be imprisoned. In a civil case, a defendant is usually being sued for some type of monetary (financial) damages.

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.

Continue reading

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

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