February 2012 Archives

San Francisco Shuttle Bus Company Potentially Liable for Wrongful Death and Elder Abuse.

February 29, 2012

As reported by The San Francisco Chronicle in early February, a San Francisco elder abuse attorney filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that a shuttle bus company and its driver were negligent in the transport, care and death of an elderly dementia patient who went missing for ten days, and are thus liable for the patient's wrongful death. The suit is styled: San Francisco County Superior Court, Case Number: CGC-12-518046.

The lawsuit alleges that MEDSAM Enterprises, its driver, San Francisco Paratransit and Jewish Family and Children's Services (JFCS) engaged in elder abuse and negligence in the wrongful death of 73-year old dementia patient Kenneth Chin, who went missing for ten days after he was allegedly dropped off in the wrong location and not taken directly to his assisted living facility.

According to the lawsuit filed on Mr. Chin's behalf, on February 24, 2011, Mr. Chin allegedly boarded a MEDSAM shuttle van, driven by Eugene Pearlman, for his regular shuttle ride from Irene Swindell's Center for Adult Day Services to his home at Nacario's Home #5, an assisted living facility. The lawsuit complaint states that when Mr. Chin did not arrive at the assisted living facility at his scheduled time, his conservator, JFCS, was notified as required. However the lawsuit is alleging that JFCS hampered search efforts by negligently failing to notify Mr. Chin's family in a timely manner.

According to the attorney representing Mr. Chin's interests, Ingrid Evans, "The three-hour notification delay by JFCS was critical to Chin's safety especially since his dead body was found approximately one mile from his house. By the time the family was notified that Chin was missing, darkness had already set in and an approaching storm made search conditions extremely difficult." Also according to Evans, "The bus driver had an obligation and a duty of care to walk Chin to the door and ensure his safe arrival due to Chin's dementia," said Evans. "Instead, no one knows for sure where Chin was dropped off. All we know is that he was left stranded in the freezing cold and wandered around San Francisco for days and died," added Evans.

Continue reading " San Francisco Shuttle Bus Company Potentially Liable for Wrongful Death and Elder Abuse. " »

Filthy Surgical Instruments may lead to Patient Infection, which may in turn lead to Medical Malpractice Suits against Hospitals.

February 22, 2012

In 2009, John Harrison, a then 63 year old oil industry sales manager in Mission, Texas, had surgery to repair the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, a routine procedure that usually requires at most a single night's stay in the hospital, followed by physical therapy. For Harrison, however, there was nothing routine about the ordeal that ensued, which eventually led to Harrison filing a medial malpractice lawsuit against the hospital that rendered his treatment.

According to the Center for Public Integrity's iwatch News, in the weeks following the surgery, his scar turned bright red, hot to the touch, and oozed thick fluid that looked "like butter squeezed from a bag." Alarmed, Harrison's wife, Laura, called The Methodist Hospital in Houston, where the surgery was performed, to inform them of the problem. That night, surgeons opened up Harrison's shoulder and found that infection had eaten away part of his shoulder bone and rotator cuff. After Harrison underwent surgery to remedy these issues, he imagined his nightmare was over. But in reality, it had just begun. Since then, what began as a simple operation has turned into a lengthy struggle that left him suffering from personal injuries for months at a time, dependent on hired nurses, unable to dress himself, take a shower, or work, and afraid for his life.

Harrison at first blamed himself, thinking he had not taken proper care of his surgical wound. The truth was much worse: Harrison was one of at least seven joint surgery patients at Methodist who acquired dangerous infections during a two-week period. The outbreak led Methodist to close operating rooms and cancel knee and shoulder surgeries while hospital and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigators searched for the cause.

They found two likely sources in unlikely, yet terrifying, spots, deep inside a handheld power tool called an arthroscopic shaver, which surgeons use to shave away bone and tissue during surgery, and inside a long narrow metal tube called an inflow/outflow cannula, which is used to irrigate and suction the surgical site.

Continue reading "Filthy Surgical Instruments may lead to Patient Infection, which may in turn lead to Medical Malpractice Suits against Hospitals." »

E-Cigarettes Don't Have the Nicotine, but Do Present a Risk: Product Liability Suit Likely

February 15, 2012

With recent campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of cigarette smoking, e-cigarettes have been touted as a reasonable, more "healthy" and non-addictive alternative. It's an electronic device that creates a mist that can be inhaled. They run on batteries and use either heat or ultrasound to have an aerosol effect - giving users the look and feel of smoking, without actual smoke inhalation and nicotine. A report by the Boston University School of Public Health found that the level of carcinogens in electronic cigarettes was almost 1,000 times lower than the level found in regular cigarettes. But, as a consumer recently discovered, e-cigarettes also may harbor a unique risk of their own - a possible design defect that may soon give rise to an increased number of products liability lawsuits.

ABC News reported recently that a man is recovering in a Florida hospital after suffering severe burns when an e-cigarette exploded in his mouth. His wife told investigators that it sounded like a rocket had exploded in the house, and the chief fire inspector who responded to the scene immediately attributed the incident to a faulty rechargeable lithium battery. Product liability attorneys, however, know that the real cause has yet to be determined - and it's a determination that may one day take place in a court of law. Currently the use of e-cigarettes is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means that consumers who opt to use the devices basically do so at their own risk.

Continue reading "E-Cigarettes Don't Have the Nicotine, but Do Present a Risk: Product Liability Suit Likely" »

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Settled by Ohio School Bus Company

February 8, 2012

When we send our children off to school, we expect them to be taken care of, and we also expect them to be kept safe. From the school bus to the school house doors, it is expected that the school system, school administrators, and school personnel will act in such a manner that ensures the safety of our children. However, in the case of one Missouri young man, adequate care was not taken by school affiliated personnel to ensure his safety. Mason Adams, a then high school junior, was struck and killed by a school bus.

According to Cincinnati.com, a Cincinnati, Ohio based school bus company paid $5 million earlier this month to settle the wrongful death lawsuit that stemmed from the wrongful death of Mason Adams, who was killed after one of the drivers for First Student drove a bus over, and killed the teen.

The wrongful death case, filed by Mason's mother, Bridgett Blasi, alleged that a 23 year old First Student bus driver failed to defrost or scrape the windshield of the bus he was operating, and as a result drove the bus over the 16 year old, who was legally crossing the street in St. Joseph, Missouri. The incident, which occurred on November 15, 2010, resulted in Mason Adams' death.

Despite the obvious negligence of its employee, First Student, which also has a contract to transport Cincinnati Public School students, refused to admit its role in Mason's death, until First Student finally decided to settle the suit, earlier this month. According to Blasi's attorney, Michael Kuckelman "What Ms. Blasi has been seeking for over a year was an apology and acknowledgment of responsibility from First Student. What she wanted for over a year was to stop blaming her son. They said he wasn't paying attention and that just isn't true."

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Drivers Sue Deceased Victims for Car Accidents: Georgia Representative Seeks Passing of Bill that would Give DUI Drivers Clean Slate

February 8, 2012

Recent years have seen a trend that is especially disturbing to car accident attorneys: at-fault drivers suing their victims or victims' families. In 2010 a teenager on trial for the vehicular homicide of a pregnant woman and her son sued the victim's family in civil court. In that case, a failed suicide attempt was the impetus for the crash. In what some might say was a weird twist of events, she then sought to be compensated for mental pain and suffering, loss of income and medical expenses she incurred following the car accident that she caused.

This week, almost two years later, a Tampa Bay man convicted of driving while under influence (DUI) and causing a crash that resulted in the deaths of three people, announced that he has decided to sue the victims, and his sibling lawyer stands beside him. Much like the teenager in the earlier case, David Belniak is seeking compensation from the estate of the deceased driver, claiming the other driver actually caused the crash. Belniak, who was convicted and is now serving a 12-year jail sentence, seeks more than $15,000 in compensation for medical bills, "pain and suffering," and "loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life" - also known as incarceration.

It's a lawsuit that could definitely backfire on him - six witnesses identified him as the man who was driving 70 to 90 mph before rear-ending the victim's car as he idled at a stoplight. Having already agreed to a plea deal to escape life imprisonment, Belniak's new allegations could turn a sympathetic jury against him completely.

Continue reading "Drivers Sue Deceased Victims for Car Accidents: Georgia Representative Seeks Passing of Bill that would Give DUI Drivers Clean Slate " »

Are Hospitals Doing all they Can to Ensure Patient Safety and Decrease Instances of Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death Suits?

February 6, 2012

Are hospitals doing all they can when it comes to patient safety? The February issue of Washingtonian magazine addresses that very question in an article entitled "Minor Mistakes, Deadly Results." The story presents some alarming data when it comes to this issue. Despite touting stringent procedures in the operating room and on the floor, medical malpractice certainly isn't a thing of the past: In 2010 alone faulty medical care contributed to the deaths of 15,000 Medicare patients per month. The author writes that hospitals "are hierarchical organizations resistant to change, they haven't done enough to create environments in which patient safety is a priority." 15,000 deaths per month is a rather hefty number, and it may just get at the core reason why hospitals have been reluctant to publicly share patient-safety data. The Institute of Medicine has estimated preventable errors resulted in as many as 100,000 deaths annually in US hospitals.

In many cases, hospital mistakes are easily avoidable - a fact which raises key questions for wrongful death attorneys about internal structure and methodology. Washingtonian recants one instance in 2009 where the hospital staff's failure to follow physician orders resulted in an elderly woman contracting an infection in her leg. The woman was taken to another hospital where her leg was amputated, but five months later she died from complications. An investigation the DC Department of Health revealed that staff had only to take off the patient's compression stockings after each shift for at least 30 minutes.

Continue reading "Are Hospitals Doing all they Can to Ensure Patient Safety and Decrease Instances of Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death Suits?" »

After Being Associated with a Salmonella Outbreak, Taco Bell May be Liable in Possible Products Liability Cases

February 2, 2012

After weeks of anonymity as "Restaurant Chain A" in an investigation into a salmonella outbreak that infected dozens of people in ten states, Taco Bell has been identified as the "Mexican-style" restaurant chain linked to the dangerous infections. The salmonella outbreak, which occurred in October 2011, infected 68 people in total, mostly in Texas, and sent more than 20 people to the hospital, according to a January report by the Centers for Disease Control. Although no deaths were linked to the outbreak, Taco Bell may still be on the hook for possible products liability claims made by those who became ill and suffered personal injury as a result of eating its food products.

While the CDC and Food and Drug Administration officials were unable to pinpoint exactly what food product may have caused the outbreak, the report said "data indicat[ed] that contamination likely occurred before the product reached Restaurant Chain A locations." It was not until Wednesday that Restaurant Chain A was identified by Food Safety News as the fast food favorite Taco Bell, based on data provided by a health official at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. In that state, 16 people had been infected with salmonella.

In a document provided by the Oklahoma State Department of Health to ABC News, health officials noted that of the 16 cases, at least half of the victims had eaten at Taco Bell prior to their infections. Taco Bell noted in a statement to ABC News that the CDC had not discovered the definitive source of the outbreak and said the department only "indicated that some people who were ill ate at Taco Bell, while others did not." Accoridng to the statement made by Taco Bell, "We take food quality and safety very seriously."

The CDC kept Taco Bell's name out of their report in accordance with long-standing policy of not necessarily identifying restaurants involved in investigations as long as there is "not a public health threat." According to ABC News, CDC spokesperson Lola Russell stated, "By the time we posted information about this outbreak, it was over." She also stated, "If it was over, there would have been no public need to disclose it." Russell added that this latest case hasn't triggered conversations about changing the policy.

Continue reading "After Being Associated with a Salmonella Outbreak, Taco Bell May be Liable in Possible Products Liability Cases" »

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