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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”

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

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.

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