December 2011 News: Injured
Injured - The FindLaw Accident, Injury and Tort Law Blog

December 2011 Archives

US to Pay $17.8M for Jet Crash that Killed 4

A federal judge has awarded $17.8 million to the family members of four persons who were killed in a December 2008 Marine jet crash. The plane crashed into Don Yoon's San Diego home, killing his wife, mother-in-law and two daughters instantly.

The military admitted it was at fault -- the plane was manned by a student pilot who panicked when the engine failed. Still, the two sides opted for a nonjury trial.

Yoon, his father-in-law and his wife's siblings wanted $56 million. The government wanted to pay significantly less.

NC to Pay Thousands to Sterilization Victims?

North Carolina's sterilization law harmed thousands of residents. Now, victims of the state's eugenics program may soon be compensated. A task force assembled by the Gov. Bev Perdue is attempting to locate and contact living victims.

North Carolina would become the first state to give sterilized individuals financial compensation.

The eugenics movement started in the early 1900s. Sterilization laws were adopted in around 30 states. They were passed to benefit the human race by ensuring individuals who were "defective" did not procreate.

Exploding Churros Cost Newspaper $163,000

Hot oil and sweet dough are ordinarily a good match. But when they form exploding churros? Not so much.

The Chilean Supreme Court has ordered newspaper La Tercera to pay 13 exploding churro victims a combined 85 million pesos. That's about $163,000 in the U.S.

The group had accused the paper of not properly testing its churro recipe before publishing it in 2004.

Air Jordan Riots Break Out at Malls Nationwide

The release of retro-style Air Jordan shoes has sparked riots in malls across the country. Hundreds of sneaker fans lined up, pushed, and shoved their way to claim a pair of the $180 sneakers. It might be only a matter of time before the shopping madness results in a mall injury lawsuit.

After all, the shoes did inspire a frenzied dash. There were long lines and instances of violence. In one California mall, a shopper pulled out a gun and fired a round into the air.

The violence wasn't just there. Police in Seattle used pepper spray on shoppers who were pushing and shoving. In Georgia, shoppers were arrested over the frantic dash for shoes, according to The Journal News.

Elsewhere, mall doors were torn off hinges. Police were called to serve as backup assistance to mall security.

Recent studies have diagnosed a growing problem in operating rooms: Distracted doctors and surgical staff are often texting or surfing the web while performing patient procedures. It's led to medical errors and lawsuits.

"My gut feeling is lives are in danger," a doctor and author of one of the studies told The New York Times. "We're not educating people about the problem, and it's getting worse."

Case in point: a patient in Colorado who was left partly paralyzed, allegedly by a distracted doctor. The neurosurgeon made at least 10 personal calls on his cell phone during the operation, the patient's lawyer told The Times.

What Is Toxic Mold?

Toxic mold. It's been getting a significant amount of media attention in recent years, especially as people become more aware of the associated health risks. It can show up in homes, businesses and schools. It's quite difficult and costly to remove.

But exactly what is toxic mold? Is it the same stuff growing on that old food in your fridge?

Unfortunately, no. It's actually much more dangerous.

Casey Anthony Sued for Defamation by Roy Kronk

Casey Anthony is being sued by meter reader Roy Kronk for defamation. Kronk discovered 2-year-old Caylee Anthony's remains in the woods near Casey Anthony's home in 2008.

He reported his findings to the police. 

But he later found himself a crucial part of Anthony's defense: he was accused of killing Caylee. He was also accused of putting the body where it was found, reports the Orlando Sentinel. The defense also said he was "morally bankrupt," and that he "took the body and hid it."

Muslim Men Kicked off Flight File Lawsuit

Two Muslim men were kicked off a plane because of their appearance. They have now filed a lawsuit against Delta Air Lines and a regional carrier. The men, Masudur Rahman and Mohamed Zaghloul, were heading to an anti-Muslim discrimination conference.

Rahman was dressed in traditional Indian clothing at the time. Zaghloul was clad in traditional Arab garb, including headgear.

Both men were screened through regular security measures at the airport last May, the AP reports. En route from Memphis to Charlotte, they were screened again when they stood in line at the gate to board the plane. They boarded, and the plane pulled away from the gate. That's when the pilot announced that the plane was going to return to the terminal.

A small plane crashed onto a New Jersey freeway Tuesday morning. Initial reports say three adults and two children on board the plane were killed. No one on the freeway was hurt.

The plane took off from New Jersey's Teterboro Airport and was headed to an airport near Atlanta, an FAA spokesman told New York's WABC-TV. Witnesses say the plane spiraled out of control, slammed into a wooded median strip on Interstate 287 in Morris County, N.J., and exploded about 10 a.m.

"It was like the plane was doing tricks or something, twirling and flipping," one witness told the Associated Press. "I thought any second they were going to pull up. But then the wing came off and they went straight down."

Teen Dies After Wisdom Tooth Surgery, Parents Sue

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Jenny Olenick, a 17-year-old girl who died after wisdom tooth surgery this past April. The teen's parents have accused the oral surgeon and anesthesiologist of negligence and medical malpractice.

The two doctors reportedly failed to resuscitate the teen after her heart rate slowed to a dangerously low level. Emergency personnel were not called until she began losing oxygen.

Apparently, dental-related deaths are not that rare.

A Connecticut man who was severely hurt in a Segway accident has won a $10 million verdict against the Segway scooter company.

Jurors announced their verdict Wednesday in John Ezzo's suit against Segway Inc. The New Hampshire-based company makes unique, two-wheeled personal transporters that riders control while standing and leaning in different directions.

Ezzo, 23, of Norwalk, Conn., suffered a traumatic brain injury in a Segway accident at Southern Connecticut State University in 2009, The Hour reports.

Segway company representatives had set up an obstacle course on campus called the "Segway Challenge," Ezzo's lawyer told The Hour. The "Challenge" was to steer a Segway through the obstacle course while blindfolded. Participants were not provided with helmets, Ezzo's lawyer said.

Cancer Patient got HIV from Clinic, Lawsuit Claims

Federal authorities arrested Dr. Meera Sachdeva in August and indicted her on 15 counts of Medicare and Medicaid fraud. She's accused of diluting cancer drugs and reusing needles at the Rose Cancer Center in Summit, Miss.

When the clinic was closed in July, the Health Department urged patients to get screened for Hepatitis B and C and HIV. There have been no reports of positive results -- until now.

The family of James Ralph Patterson Sr. has filed a lawsuit against the doctor claiming that he contracted HIV from the clinic.

D.C. Man Gets $2.3M for 10 Years in Prison

A jury awarded D.C. man Charles Singletary $2.3 million in damages for the 10 years he spent in prison after his wrongful parole revocation.

Singletary previously spent time in jail on an armed robbery conviction. He was released but later arrested in 1995 for his role in a murder. The murder charges against him were dropped, but the D.C. Board of Parole relied on hearsay evidence and revoked his parole.

He was sent back to prison in 1996. In 2006, roughly ten years after he was sent to prison, an appeals court ruled that there simply wasn't enough evidence to keep him there. He was given another parole board hearing, this time by the U.S. Parole Commission.

Food Poisoning: What Are Your Rights?

This year's Listeria cantaloupe outbreak has left consumers wondering about the safety of the nation's food products. In fact, there are legal remedies in place to help victims of food poisoning. Plaintiffs can file products liability lawsuits against food producers.

Not all food poisoning cases will be the same. However, most are similar to lawsuits filed against dangerous or defective products.

Food poisoning generally occurs when someone consumes food that is contaminated with pathogens. Illnesses can occur as the result of viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals.

A woman was crushed to death in what rescuers are calling a freak elevator accident in a New York City office tower. Two other women were taken to a hospital.

The accident happened about 10 a.m. Wednesday in a 1920s building near Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan, the Associated Press reports.

The victim apparently took one step into an elevator on the 25-story building's first floor. That's when the elevator, with its doors still open, unexpectedly shot up to the second floor, the AP reports.

$14M Award to Bus Crash Victim Capped at $500K?

Ashley Zauflik was awarded $14 million by a jury in Bucks County, Penn. She sued the local school district after she and other students were hit by a school bus in 2007.

The jury awarded approximately $3 million for past and future medical expenses, and another $11.1 million for pain and suffering. Ashley lost her leg, fractured a number of bones, and suffered from a crushed abdomen.

But under Pennsylvania's statutory damage cap, she's only entitled to $500,000.

A fatal chain-reaction crash, caused by a driver who sent and received 11 texts in 11 minutes, is driving the NTSB to call for a nationwide cell phone ban for drivers.

The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending an across-the-board ban on non-emergency cell phone use while driving. Even going hands-free is far too distracting behind the wheel, the NTSB says.

The NTSB's recommendation follows the agency's investigation of a chain-reaction crash in Missouri, the Associated Press reports. In the crash, a 19-year-old driver sent and received 11 texts in 11 minutes -- the last one just before his pickup slammed into a semi truck. Two school buses were also caught up in the crash.

What is fracking? You may have heard about it in the news: Fracking has been blamed for triggering earthquakes and making tap water flammable, and now the EPA is fueling concerns about drinking water contamination.

Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing -- forcing water and chemicals, at a very high pressure, into shale rock deposits deep in the ground, the EPA explains. Fracking releases natural gas that's trapped in shale; byproducts are trucked away as toxic waste.

More than 40% of all U.S. natural gas is extracted by fracking, Reuters reports, and gas companies want to expand its use. But does fracking harm the environment, or pose a risk to public health?

A class action against a New York City dentist, sued over a contract she required patients to sign, could change the way medical professionals try to protect their online reputations.

A former patient filed the suit against Stacy Makhnevich, a dentist and opera singer who touts herself as "the classical singer dentist of New York," the New York Post reports.

Makhnevich required her patients to sign an agreement promising not to post negative reviews about her online, the NYC dentist lawsuit states. In return, Makhnevich promised to adhere to federal patient-privacy laws.

Investigators are at the scene of a Hoover Dam helicopter crash that killed everyone on board.

Four passengers and the pilot were killed when the helicopter crashed into a mountainside just after sunset Wednesday, KSNV-TV reports.

Authorities have not released the victims' identities. But a relative identified the deceased pilot as Landon Nield, an employee of Sundance Helicopters. Sundance offers helicopter tours of Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon.

Former Syracuse basketball coach and accused child molester Bernie Fine is facing his first civil lawsuit by an alleged victim who is accused of fabricating his story.

The lawsuit, filed today in Pennsylvania, claims Fine sexually abused Zach Tomaselli at a hotel room in Pittsburgh in 2002, the Associated Press reports. Tomaselli, now 23, claims Fine showed him pornography and fondled him.

Fine insists he's innocent of all charges. But Syracuse fired him last month over these and other allegations, ending a storied 35-year coaching career.

Tomaselli's Bernie Fine lawsuit comes one day after a New York prosecutor publicly questioned the alleged victim's story.

The victim of an anger management class stabbing is suing the nonprofit that ran the class, accusing the company and its instructor of negligence.

What triggered the in-class stabbing? A dispute over the instructor's showing of a "Dr. Phil" DVD, KING-TV reports.

Luna Oraivej, 37, of Issaquah, Wash., filed suit Dec. 5, seeking damages for her stab wounds and emotional distress. She also wants a refund for the $180 anger management course.

'Mythbusters' Cannonball Hits House, Van

An errant Mythbusters cannonball tore through a Northern California home and a minivan last Tuesday night.

The popular Discovery Channel show debunks various "myths" using science experiments.

The cannonball was supposed to go through some water-filled barrels and a concrete wall. Instead, it shot clear of the barrels, through a wall, then bounced. 

The bounce sent the metallic orb into the sky. It then bounced in front of the home. The cannonball tore through the house's door, then through a wall at the back of the home before bouncing again.

It finally slammed into a minivan where it crashed onto its dashboard.

Philip Morris Must Pay $99M for Smoker's Death

Jesse D. Williams, a long-time smoker, died of lung cancer in 1997. His widow, Mayola Williams, filed a lawsuit against the tobacco company and prevailed in 1999. The Philip Morris lawsuit resulted in an award of $79.5 million in punitive damages.

Now, 12 years after a jury found Philip Morris culpable for Williams' death, the legal battle over damages may finally be over.

Philip Morris has long been appealing the damages decision. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the tobacco company's appeal. They ended up paying 40% of the original $79.5 million plus 9% interest to Mayola.

Model's Hand Cut Off by Small Plane Propeller

Fashion model Lauren Scruggs walked into a small plane propeller, losing her left hand and suffering facial injuries. The 23-year-old editor of LoLo Magazine is now recovering from the accident at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.

Scruggs took the small plane to the McKinney area, which is located around 30 miles from Dallas. She had taken the flight to view Christmas lights.

The accident occurred when she walked into the front of the prop. One aviation enthusiast explained in an interview that if engines are running at a certain speed, the prop can fatally suck someone in if they get too close.

Record $210M Settlement in Big Branch Mine explosion

Federal prosecutors have settled a number of criminal and civil claims related to April 2010's Big Branch Mine explosion. Alpha Natural Resources, which bought mine operator Massey Energy in June, has agreed to a $210 million settlement.

It is the biggest settlement ever reached in a U.S. mine disaster, the BBC reports.

Approximately $165 million will go towards government fines and improving safety at the Big Branch Mine. The remaining $45 million will compensate the victims -- 2 survivors and the families of 29 miners killed by the blast.

That comes to $1.5 million each.

How Can You Lose Criminal Case But Win Civil Trial?

Have you ever wondered how a defendant can be tried in both civil and criminal courts? Take, for example, the recent $3 million judgment against Arizona self-help guru James Arthur Ray. He is already serving time in jail after being found guilty of negligent homicide. The $3 million settlement was in response to civil lawsuits filed by some victims' families.

Civil and criminal cases do have marked differences. In certain situations, a civil case's burden of proof is lower, making it more likelihood that plaintiffs prevail in civil court.

There's an infamous example we all remember: the OJ Simpson case. Simpson was acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife and her friend. In his civil trial, he was found liable for their wrongful death.

Who Pays After a Multi-Car Pileup?

Car accident liability is a huge area of contention when it comes to multi-car pileups. You've got 10 cars, 10 drivers and 10 different stories. Who's responsible?

It all comes down to negligence. Multi-car pileups are governed by the typical negligence laws and the rules of the road. Whose negligent actions set off the chain reaction? Were other drivers speeding or driving too close?

Responsibility is thus a product of the facts and not any specific legal rule. Consider the example below.

Did Bad Airline Food Kill Miami Man?

A federal lawsuit filed against American Airlines is alleging that contaminated airline food killed Othon Cortes. On a flight from Spain to New York, the 73-year-old Miami resident consumed a chicken meal. During a layover at JFK International, he fell ill.

Despite stomach cramps, he and his wife boarded the flight to Miami. Once on board, he suffered from nausea and shortness of breath and eventually a heart attack. He was pronounced dead on arrival. His family is now asking for $1 million.

NV Sup. Ct. Says Pharmacists Have Duty to Warn

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled in November that pharmacists may be liable for adverse reactions to drugs in some limited circumstances. The court said that they have the duty to warn customers of certain adverse effects when filling out prescriptions if they are aware of a customer-specific risk.

The suit, filed against Walgreen Co., alleged that the drugstore fulfilled a prescription despite a computer notation that the customer, Helen Klasch, was allergic to the medication. Klasch later passed away when her condition worsened.