November 2011 Archives

Family Brings Wrongful Death Suit Against American Airlines, but not as a result of Plane Crash

November 30, 2011

The wife and daughter of the late Othon Cortes, of Miami, are bringing suit against American Airlines as the result of Cortes' death. However, the cause of his death was not the result of a plane crash, as one may expect. According to Mr. Cortes' family, he died as a result of ingesting contaminated food that he was served in an on board meal. According to the wrongful death suit filed by Cortes' wife, Raquel, in the U.S. District Court in Miami, FL, Cortes died after being served an on board meal that contained contaminated chicken.

The incident that lead to Cortes' death occurred on May 18, as the 73 year old Cortes was traveling with his wife from Barcelona, Spain to New York. During the flight, Cortes consumed an inflight meal that contained chicken. CNN reports that according to the suit, after the plane landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and Cortes and his wife waited for their nest flight to Miami, Cortes began to experience "discomfort and pain that included sharp stomach cramps and sudden thirst and other clear outward manifestation of severe physical illness." During the flight to Miami, Cortes began to experience further symptoms, like nausea and shortness of breath. Subsequently, Cortes underwent a cardiac episode and became unresponsive. As a result, the plane he was aboard made an emergency landing in Norfolk, VA. Cortes was pronounced dead when the plane landed.

American Airlines is not the only party that the Cortes family alleges is responsible for the death of Othon Cortes. According to IBTraveler.com, Cortes' wife and daughter have also named Sky Chefs, an airline catering company, as a defendant in their suit. In their suit, the Cortes family is seeking one million dollars in damages as a result of Cortes' death, which the suit alleges was caused by contaminated food that American Airlines and Sky Chefs served aboard the international flight. As reported by CNN, the suit charges the companies with "failing to properly maintain or prepare the food" and alleges the companies allowed the food to become contaminated with Clostridium perfringens bacteria. According to the FDA, perfringens poising is one of the most commonly reported foodborne illnesses in the U.S. Although it is very rarely fatal, a few deaths have been reported as a result of dehydration and other complications.

According to IBTraveler.com and USA Today Travel, in addition to alleging that the two defendants were negligent in failing to properly maintain of prepare the food served aboard the flight, the Cortes' family lawsuit also charges the Airline with negligence for allowing Cortes to board the domestic flight, failing to give Cortes medical attention before boarding the second flight, and waiting too long to (opt for) an emergency landing.. Although American Airlines has yet to comment on this particular legal action, their co-defendant Sky Chefs has made a statement through its spokesperson, Josefine Corsten.

On behalf of Sky Chefs, Corsten denied any liability on the part of Sky Chefs. Corsten told CNN: "Based upon the allegations in the complaint it is not possible that Sky Chefs is the responsible party because we did not cater the Barcelona flight in question."

As a Georgia wrongful death attorney, it is my sincere desire, if these defendants are indeed liable, that they are held accountable, and are ordered to fully compensate this family for their loss.

The Colorado Supreme Court Reverses Lower Courts decision and approves $10 Million Dollar Verdict against Wal-Mart in Slip and Fall Case

November 23, 2011

According to the ABA Journal.com, earlier this month, the Colorado Supreme court reversed a lower court's determination that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was entitled to a new trial, and approved a $10 million award to a truck driver who had to undergo multiple spinal surgeries as a result of the injuries she sustained after slipping and falling while making a delivery to a Wal-Mart store in Greeley, Colorado. According to Denver attorney Gregory Gold, who represented the plaintiff in the case, the award could be one of the highest slip and fall verdicts in the country.

As reported by TheDenverPost.com, this case began when Holly Averyt, a 41 year old truck driver, slipped and fell on ice and grease on December 13, 2007, as she delivered a load of food to a Wal-Mart store. TheDenverPost.com also reported that as a result of her fall, Averyt ruptured a disk in her back and had to undergo several surgeries, which left her unable to work. According to her attorney, after her fall in December, Averyt had to undergo three spine surgeries, one on her neck and two on her back. Also according to her attorney, because Averyt was unable to return to work, the truck that she lived in was repossessed, and she incurred about $500,000 in medical bills.

Gold, Averyt's attorney, took her case to trial last year, and was successful in convincing a jury that Wal-Mart knew about the grease spill, did nothing to clean it up and then lied about it in court. According to TheDenverChannel.com, Gold presented city documents showing that some grease from the store's deli didn't get trapped in a device designed to keep it from getting into the sewer. He argued that the overflow caused a 185-foot slick of grease into the parking lot and the truck ramp area, which accumulated for seven days.

At trial, Gold claimed that the ramp to the store's loading dock was covered with used cooking oil and other greases that Averyt she could not see. According to Gold, she tried to report the fall to a Wal-Mart employee who met her at the receiving door, but he refused to take her report. Although Wal-Mart denied that Averyt fell at the store and also denied that a grease spill ever occurred, Averyt's lawyer presented evidence at trial that Greeley city officials had investigated a complaint about grease coming out of a manhole cover near the Wal-Mart building in the store's parking lot. City inspectors who went to the Wal-Mart found a blockage in the store's grease interceptors. According to TheDenverPost.com, a man who identified himself as the store manager said the problem had been going on for a week.

Continue reading "The Colorado Supreme Court Reverses Lower Courts decision and approves $10 Million Dollar Verdict against Wal-Mart in Slip and Fall Case " »

Physician Profile Database similar to the one restored in Illinois may be Helpful to Georgia Patients

November 18, 2011

Knowledge is key, especially when it comes to making healthcare and medical decision. The more information a patient has on his or her perspective physician, the better decisions that patient can make regarding their medical care. Giving patients more access to information about physicians may lead to less medical malpractice, and would keep dangerous doctors, who have committed malpractice in the past, or have been censured in some other way, from harming future patients.

According to STLtoday.com, in an effort to protect its state's patients and to provide them with much needed information, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation launched the physician profile website in 2008. This profile gave patients access to information about the physicians and surgeons licensed to practice in the state, which total around 46,000. This database included information regarding physicians disciplinary, criminal and malpractice records. Patients could also learn how many years a doctor has practiced, what medical school they attended, where they have hospital privileges, whether they accept Medicaid or offer translation services and if they have published research papers.

This resource aided several patients in Illinois. The website where this database could be found receiving around 150,000 weekly hits prior to its removal in 2010. According to the Chicago Tribune, the database, which could be found on the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation's website, operated between 2008 and 2010, but was removed after a decision handed down by the Illinois Supreme Court. The State Supreme Court decision which led to the dismantling of the site was regarding medical malpractice reforms.

In response to the actions of the Illinois Supreme Court, the Illinois Legislature enacted the Patients' Right To Know Act, which was signed into law by the Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, in August. This Act, allowed for the reinstitution of the physician profile website, which again can be found at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation's website. According to both the Chicago Tribune and STLtoday.com, State Representative Mary Flowers, a co-sponsor of the bill, said that it was important for patients to have as much information about their doctors as possible to make informed decisions about their health care, and that the measure could help protect patients from seeking treatment from shady doctors who put lives at risk.

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Car Manufacturer Finds a Way around New Distracted Driving Laws: Car Crashes and Texting While Driving Still Pose Problems

November 17, 2011

The Governor's Highway Safety Association, headquartered in Washington, D.C. has crafted a synopsis of all state cell phone and text messaging laws, available on its Website at http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html. According to their site, texting while driving has been banned in approximately 35 states so far, with Georgia joining the roster in late 2010. Aimed at curbing instances of distracted driving and subsequent car accidents, violation of the ban in Georgia (and cell phone use by drivers under 18) carries a $150 fine.

Called the Caleb Sorohan Act after a young man who died in a car crash while texting, the law applies to text messages, instant messages (IM), email, and Internet data. It's even enforceable at stoplights. That summer, Atlanta car accident attorneys kept an eye on the act, watching as it was approved by the House (131-19 vote) on April 27, signed by the governor on June 4 and, after a one-month delay, enforced beginning Aug. 1. Today, we continue to keep our eye on the act with one particular question in mind: Will the ban actually result in a marked decrease in car accidents?

It's certainly true that text messaging while driving causes considerable problems for the average driver. A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducted in 2009 found that for truck drivers alone, text messaging made the risk of crash or near-crash event 23.2 times more likely than non-distracted driving. Similarly, a 2007 Clemson University simulated driving study discovered that text messaging and fiddling with iPods caused drivers to swerve from their lane 10% more often. Georgia State Patrol officers made their own observations about the phenomenon. Texting drivers tend to weave in and out of lanes, and drive more slowly and, if an accident results, drivers' cell phone records may be subpoenaed.

Continue reading "Car Manufacturer Finds a Way around New Distracted Driving Laws: Car Crashes and Texting While Driving Still Pose Problems" »

School Bus Seatbelt Safety and Manufacturer Liability in Crashes: Accident and Wrongful Death Claims to Continue

November 1, 2011

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, two drivers were injured Wednesday morning when two school buses collided in DeKalb County. A bus from Bright Beginnings Learning Center, traveling southbound, rear-ended a DeKalb County special needs bus en route to McNair High School.

While no children were harmed during this particular bus accident, the collision itself brings back to minds of auto accident attorneys the as of yet unresolved question regarding school bus seatbelt safety and the requirement of safety belts on large school buses. It's a question that causes concerns about accident and wrongful death claims as well.

In 2008, in a move designed to curb the approximate 10,000 child injuries that occurred each year as a result of school bus crashes, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration did require the installation of seat and shoulder belts on smaller buses. The new federal regulations also stipulated that seat backs be raised on all school buses from 20 inches to 24 inches high, preventing children from tumbling forward during sudden stops.

However, as a story from the Injury News Board pointed out, there was still a "huge gap left by the regulations. Seat belts are still not required on the large school buses. NHTSA has not resolved that question, but instead it sets standards for seat belts on the larger buses in which most children ride."

The choice by the NHTSA to allow this question to go largely unresolved seems to be starkly incongruous, especially in light of the fact that bus drivers themselves are required to wear restraints when transporting students. Furthermore, the standards set, while providing guidelines, are nothing more than mere suggestions that protect bus manufacturers against liability for accidents. Consumer group, Public Citizen, sees the omission as extending a "blanket of immunity to the manufacturing industry," writes reporter Jane Akre.

Continue reading "School Bus Seatbelt Safety and Manufacturer Liability in Crashes: Accident and Wrongful Death Claims to Continue" »

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