Injured - The FindLaw Accident, Injury and Tort Law Blog

December 2010 Archives

Sugarloaf Accident: Lift Wasn't Realigned

More facts are coming out regarding the Sugarloaf ski accident that injured eight people in Maine. Apparently the chairlift had been declared unsafe by maintenance workers just minutes before it collapsed. High winds, hitting 45 miles per hour may have also contributed to the accident.

About 150 skiers were stuck on the 4,013-foot-long lift and five chairs fell 30 feet to the mountain below. Fortunately no one suffered critical injuries from the Sugarloaf accident. Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin told The New York Times that because of the heavy winds, the resort had decided to take several chairlifts out of service for safety reasons. The resort is now back open, although the lift in question remains closed as the State of Maine Elevator and Tramway Board investigates the accident.

New Car Smell Defense Cited in Hit and Run

Was it really the new car smell that caused the hit and run accident that left a doctor severely injured and in permanent pain? The answer is yes, possibly.

Morgan Stanley money manager Martin Erzinger was driving a new 2010 Mercedes when he lost consciousness or dozed off and hit Dr. Steven Milo who was riding his bike. Erzinger was charged with two misdemeanors and a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury.

Erzinger's defense team hired an accident reconstructionist to put the details of the accident together and determine the exact cause, reports the Vail Daily. According to defense attorneys, Erzinger suffers from sleep apnea and fell asleep or lost consciousness behind the wheel. The new car smell, or fumes, may have contributed to this. "Harmful and noxious gases emitted from the upholstery can infiltrate the driver's compartment and potentially alter the driver," John Koziol of Koziol Forensic wrote in his report.

NY Golfers Not Required to Yell "Fore!"


The phrase meant to warn others of an incoming golf ball is as synonymous with the game as bad plaid and popped collars. A common courtesy on the links, a recent case has shed some light on whether etiquette is a mandatory part of the game. The verdict: golfers are not liable if they fail to yell fore when hitting the ball into a crowd on the course.

Of course the case before the New York court that clarified this law was more complicated than that summary. Isn't it always? The case, between two friends (who both also happen to be doctors), ended in more than bumps and bruises as the plaintiff was rendered blind after being hit in the eye by his friend's errant golf ball.

Sugarloaf Mountain: Skiers Injured on Chairlift

More than 200 people were trapped in Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Carrabassatt, Maine on a ski chairlift Monday morning. The injuries were a result of a ski lift derailment, causing injury to several Sugarloaf skiers. The lift derailment caused five lift chairs to fall some 30 feet to the slope below, the Associated Press reports.

Sugarloaf Mountain is in Carrabassett Valley, about 120 miles north of Portland, Maine. According to the resort, six people were injured when the chairlifts fell. The ski lift derailment injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.

Skier Rebecca London told the AP that she was spared a worse fate because the snow beneath her was fresh and allowed for a soft landing. She hit her face on the retaining bar of the chairlift, but her goggles protected her from serious injury.

Ban on Smoking in Apartments? Kids are at Risk

Smokers' rights just received another large bucket of cold water. A new study says that children who live in apartment buildings are affected by secondhand smoke -- from other apartments.

Even those children who live in apartments where no one in the family smokes are showing elevated levels of a byproduct chemical from tobacco smoke in their systems.

A study of over 5,000 children living in multi-unit housing found that 99% of white children showed levels of the tobacco byproduct cotinine in their blood, while 96% of African American children did as well, according to a report by Time. This result should be of concern to parents as other research has shown even low levels of cotinine can result in long term cognitive problems and changes in antioxidant levels that can affect children's health.

Spiderman Musical Injuries Delay Show's Opening

With great theatrics comes great responsibility.

Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, the Spiderman musical has been delayed by an array of injuries to befall the cast. Considered one of the most technically complex shows ever to grace Broadway, there have been three injuries so far, including a concussion sustained by one of the lead actresses, Natalie Mendoza.

In addition to a lot of aerial stunts, the Spiderman musical actors do all of their own stunts, which are both demanding and dangerous.

Mass. Residents Must Clear Snow or Face Suits

In areas of the country where the winters are harsh, with each yearly snowfall comes a flurry of slip and fall lawsuits. This observation carries with it particularly interesting ramifications for Massachusetts residents this year. In a decision made when the weather was a bit warmer this past summer, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that homeowners will be liable for the buildup of snow and ice on sidewalks adjoining their property. This is a major change from previous law.

The effects of the change in law are amplified in the city of Newton, Mass., where a local city ordinance will now additionally fine a property owner who does not make an attempt to clear snow from sidewalks abutting his property, reports As goes the state, so goes Newton. The city law will set out a system of warnings and fines, to be determined by city leaders in the coming weeks.

Can a Snowball Fight Land You in Court?

A legal fight over a snowball fight has broken out in Washington State. Last week, a fan injured in the alleged Shaun Ellis snowball attack after a Jets/Seahawks game sued Ellis for personal injury, mental distress, humiliation pain and suffering. The suit did not specify damages.

The snowy fracas took place after the Jets game on Seahawks home turf in December of 2008, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. As the Jets leave the field, they are pelted by snowballs from the stands. In the video shot of the incident (see below), one fan in a black jacket and hat waves a sign at the departing players. As they walk off under flying snow, an unhappy Ellis picks up some snow and hurls it at the fan with the sign, apparently hitting him in the head or upper torso. In the video, the fan comes back in what seems to be seconds later, grasping the chunk of snow and waving happily at other fans, hopping up and down slightly with excitement and pointing to the snow chunk clutched in his arm.

Katt Williams Fined $575K in Dog-Bites-Dog Case

Here's a lesson in how not to handle a bill dispute. Comedian Katt Williams owed music producer Merion Joseph Powers $28,000 for his use of Power's studio to record some of his comedy routines. Rather than pay or dispute the bill, Williams showed up at the studio with an attack dog. But the attack was not on Powers but on Power's dog.

After giving his dog what Power's believes was a "verbal attack sign" Williams dog did just that, ultimately inflicting "substantial and nearly life-threatening injuries" on the dog, TMZ reports. If Williams had trouble paying the $28,000 studio fees, he is really going to struggle with the $575,000 personal injury award he has been hit with.

Brilliance of the Seas: Dozens Injured on Ship

Brilliance of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship carrying 2,100 vacationing passengers on a journey through the Mediterranean did a little more than cause some sea sickness. The ship, which encountered "severe movement" while approaching Alexandria, Egypt not only caused aesthetic damage to the interior and exterior of the ship but also injured dozens of passengers that were literally tossed around during the rough seas. Two passengers aboard the ship experienced broken bones.

A combination of extreme wind and sea conditions tested the sea worthiness of the Brilliance of the Seas, which passengers aboard the ship are describing as a "horrific experience." In addition to assuring the safety of the ship and continuing on the scheduled 12-day cruise, Royal Caribbean has given all passengers a full refund of their fares.

Could UGG Boots Cause Foot Fungus, Back Pain?

Whether you consider Ugg boots a fashion friend or foe there now may be some health concerns associated with the popular sheepskin boots. Which begs the question: Are Ugg boots bad for feet?

Because of the minimal arch support and toasty environment of the boots, users are now experiencing some unwanted side effects: back and foot pain as well as skin infections such as foot fungus and dermititis.

The lack of arch support means that feet and ankles are put into unnatural walking patterns when worn for extended periods of time. Ugg boots then reportedly cause pain to shoot to the hip and back. Ugg-associated pain seems to stem from overuse and each person's individual feet.

BP Will Pay Victims 'Quick' if They Don't Sue

Part of a $20 billion fund for BP victims can be claimed as quickly as two weeks. Sound too good to be true? Well, of course, there is a catch: you can't sue. The April 20 oil spill that blew over 170 million gallons of crude oil into the water has been a very costly mistake for British Petroleum.

The BP quick pay program is designed to ease the administrative burden for BP and allow claimants to get some much-needed funds. Individuals can receive up to $5,000 and companies can claim $25,000 without presenting further documentation of a claim.

The program is available to the 160,000 individuals and companies that have already collected from the BP emergency fund and all it requires is a simple signature on the waiver giving up further rights to sue.

Toyota Personal Injury Suits Can Move Forward

It looks like the Toyota personal injury and wrongful death cases will be going forward.

A federal judge issued a preliminary opinion indicating that he will deny Toyota's motion to dismiss on several causes on action. U.S. District Judge James V. Selna did not indicate when he will make his final order. Assuming oral arguments did not change his preliminary opinion, the decision by Selna would be an early victory for plaintiffs suing over the Toyota recall, The Associated Press reports.

In the aftermath of the Toyota recall for sudden acceleration and brake defects this year, the automaker has been sued for claims including negligence, fraud, design defects and failure to warn. The judge's preliminary decision, if upheld, means that even more periphery lawsuits can go forward, such as claims that the value of the vehicles dropped after the recall.

Jets Coach Trips Player: Lessons We Can Learn

Football would be a different game if they allowed 12 players on defense instead of 11. That doesn't mean it was wise of Sal Alosi, New York Jets' coach, to intentionally trip a player on the opposing team. The NFL is reviewing the matter. The NFL isn't alone is reviewing the tape as millions of people have been searching for the "Jets coach trips player" video.

Alosi, the Jets' strength and conditioning coach, tripped Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll as he ran out of bounds while covering a punt.

"I made a mistake that showed a total lapse in judgment," Alosi said in a statement released by the Jets about 2 1/2 hours after the game. "My conduct was inexcusable and unsportsmanlike and does not reflect what this organization stands for ... I accept responsibility for my actions as well as any punishment that follows," The Huffington Post reports.

Vikings Stadium Collapse: Who Will Get Sued?

Have you seen the footage of Minnesota's Metrodome collapsing? It's pretty powerful stuff. The Minnesota dome collapse left Minnesota Vikings fans upset and over something not involving Brett Favre for a change. The Vikings-Giants game was moved to a neutral field where the stadium has not collapsed: Ford Field in Detroit.

But what about the larger questions of potential and actual legal liability?

It seems that despite the freakish nature of the roof collapse, it was not a completely freak incident. Fox intentionally pointed at the roof of the Metrodome Saturday night and promptly captured the Metrodome collapse video, which has gone viral.

Producers were tipped off that the roof had been leaking and that something could go wrong. "We knew what we were looking for ... This was specifically for the roof collapsing ... But we'd heard that it had happened here before," Fox NFL game producer Richie Zyontz told USA Today. "It was nice to see a disaster where no one got hurt."

Snowbirds, Uninsured Motorists can Cause Havoc

It's the time of year when the snowbirds take flight and drive down to the Sunbelt to become part-time residents of Florida, Arizona and other warmer climates. This may present an often unrecognized hazard to other motorists in the area. Residents who only spend part of the year in a given area may or may not fully insure the vehicle they use while there.

In a still-struggling economy, you can count on the fact that if there is a choice to save or spend, people will save. And that can cost you.

If you are hit and injured by another driver (be they snowbird or local) who is an underinsured or uninsured motorist, you will want to look to your own insurance to make up the difference for your expenses. A policy for uninsured/underinsured motorist (UI insurance) is the one you should turn to.

Your UI policy will take effect if the driver at fault in an accident was uninsured, underinsured or otherwise insufficiently covered. One example would include an at-fault driver who used a vehicle without its owner's permission.

Unborn Son can Sue After Dad's Murder

How old do you have to be in order to pursue wrongful death action against the killer of your father? According to an appellate court in New York, negative 42 days old is sufficient. That's right, the court ruled that Colon's unborn son can sue. Confused? Here's how the story goes.

In 2002, Jose Colon learned that his off-and-on girlfriend Tina Feliciano was pregnant. Days later, Colon, 20, was exiting a house as police officers approached. The police were there as part of a drug raid. At some point, an officer tripped and accidently bumped into another police officer. Somehow the officer inadvertently fired three shots, one of which hit Colon in the head, killing him. Feliciano later gave birth to Colon's son, whom she named Jose A. Feliciano-Colon. DNA tests would later confirm that Jose Colon was the father.

Patient Safety: Doctors Still Kill 100K Yearly

Patient safety in hospitals is not improving. That is the conclusion of recent study, conducted from 2002-2007 that looked at 10 North Carolina hospitals -- a sample that researchers believe is accurately indicative of a national problem.

The main issue when with patient safety involves complications from medical procedures, drugs and hospital-related infections. The study also found that although the majority of the problems were preventable, there did not seem to be a change over time.

Toilet Paper Dispenser Injury Suit Moves On

Have you ever wondered why steps on a ladder are printed with instructions like, "step here" or "don't step here?" Could it be due to lawsuits like this one? A woman in Michigan has received permission from that state's supreme court to take her case of personal injury to a jury. Her hand was broken by something we don't ordinary worry about (until now, anyway): a toilet paper dispenser.

Sheri Schooley's case went all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court as the defendant tried repeatedly to dismiss it, writes the Associated Press. However, the state's highest court found there were actually real questions of negligence, risk of harm and liability that should go before a jury. The case began in 2007, when during dinner at the Texas Roadhouse, Sheri Schooley visited the restroom and the toilet paper dispenser fell onto her hand. At first she thought it was just bruised, even though she couldn't use her hand at dinner that night. She later found out the hand was broken, causing her to lose the ability to type for her job and bowl for fun.

McDonald's 'Hot Coffee' Movie to Debut at Sundance

"Plasma gettin bigger, Jesus gettin smaller.
Spill a cup of coffee, make a million dollars." - Toby Keith, American Ride

Toby Keith mocked it, Seinfeld parodied it. It's the McDonald's coffee case, something that has become synonymous with the idea of a court system filled with frivolous lawsuits and runaway juries.

Nevermind that of all the possible examples of a frivolous lawsuit, the McDonald's case is probably one of the least frivolous imaginable. For example, few people are aware that the coffee in question was not just *hot*, it was scalding and capable of nearly instantaneously destroying skin, flesh and muscle.

'Droid Explosion' Sends Texas Man to Hospital

Looking for a new smartphone feature? According to one man, the Motorola Droid 2 has a feature that he never requested: Self-destruction mode.

Aron Embry, of Texas, claims that his new Motorola Droid 2 phone unexpectedly exploded in his ear days after he and his wife purchased Droid 2 smartphones. Embry said that he was getting in his car to go to work and decided to make a phone call. During the phone conversation, the Droid explosion injured his face, Embry alleges. Embry continued driving to work, and startled his colleagues when he arrived bloodied, his wife Kara Embry said at a press conference. Motorola is investigating the incident, WFAA reports.

Toddler's Fatal Falls at Lakers Game an Accident

The Los Angeles coroner has ruled that the death of a child who fell from a third-level luxury suite at the Staples Center was an accident. According to the autopsy, Lucas Anthony Tang, 2, died of multiple injuries from the fatal fall, but no foul play was found, according to the Los Angeles Times. According to David Lara of the city building department, the luxury box barriers do comply with California building codes.

Tang was having his picture taken with his parents and sister in front of a glass barrier. Tang hit a row of empty seats below, causing critical injuries. Somehow the parents lost track of Lucas and he got over the barrier and fell almost 30 feet to his death. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Diner Sues After Choking on Artichoke

Pull the artichoke leaf from the hearty steam, dip in sauce of choice, eat bottom portion of leaf, discard remaining leaf. Repeat. 

Those are the general steps to consuming an artichoke. The appetizer favorite is one that typically does not come with an instruction manual, and that is the backbone of an artichoke lawsuit out of Florida.

Arturo Caravajal, a family practice doctor, is suing Houston's restaurant for an unpleasant artichoke experience he had at the chain's North Miami Beach restaurant. Specifically, he ate the entire artichoke because he had never seen one before. Not too surprisingly, his stomach was none too happy with him. Now he is none too happy with the table servers for failing to warn him that parts of the vegetable were inedible. 

Looks can be deceiving.

Chicago Bears Fan's Fatal Fall at Soldier Field an Accident

Tragedy struck Soldier Field during a recent Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles game when a 23-year-old spectator fell to his eventual death. Stuart Haverty fell almost 35 feet from the colonnade level of the stadium and was pronounced dead at the hospital hours later.

The open-air concourse has a railing about 3 feet high and, beyond that, a ledge about 2 feet wide. The Baltimore Sun reports that there were conflicting reports as to Haverty's reason for being in such close proximity to the railing -- ranging from a witness claiming he ran over the edge to another claiming that Haverty went by the railing to smoke. This is the first fatal fall at Soldier Field since the stadium was renovated in 2003.

Bed Bug Lawsuits Now Target Apartments

Cimex lectularius: two Latin words unfortunately becoming all too familiar because they are the scientific name for the common bed bug. As noted in several previous posts, bed bug infestations and the resulting damage to homes and people are increasingly making news. So are the bed bug lawsuits that inevitably result.

Bed bugs have been making a comeback since the 1990's, after being all but eradicated earlier in the century by the use of strong pesticides, including the now banned DDT. The U.S. has been facing increasing infestations due to increased global travel and a lack of a DDT replacement.

In New York, recently dubbed the "bed bug capital of North America" by The Washington Post, the bugs have affected tourism and even shopping, as hotels are hit with lawsuits and stores in Manhattan are closed to deal with infestations.

Now a Maryland man has made a name for himself as "the bed bug lawyer." According to, attorney Daniel Whitney has taken on the role of champion of those looking for relief from infestations in legal action.