Articles Posted in Damages

FDA-300x221On May 23, 2017, Dr. Amy J. Reed, an anesthesiologist and mother of six children, passed away in her home at the age of 44. Her life was cut short by an aggressive form of uterine cancer, leiomyosarcoma. For her husband, the tragedy of her early death is entwined with regret and anger, as the two of them fought not only Stage IV leiomyosarcoma, but an intractable profession and the industry which profits from its practice.

At the age of 40, Dr. Reed was diagnosed with uterine fibroids. Fibroids are masses of the smooth muscle cells lining the inside of the uterus. Although fibroids are generally considered benign, their presence can cause serious discomfort and pain in the pelvic area. To treat her condition, Dr. Reed underwent a hysterectomy. She chose to have the procedure performed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston—the hospital is affiliated with the Harvard Medical School, where both Dr. Reed and her husband, Dr. Hooman Noorchashm both held teaching positions.

After her surgery, the tissue was removed, and a biopsy was performed. The tissue contained leiomyosarcoma cells, an extremely aggressive form of uterine cancer. Although the biopsy revealed that the cancer cells had been confined to a very small area within a fibroid, the procedure through which the fibroids were removed seeded malignant cells throughout her abdomen. The dissemination of cancer cells caused her cancer to accelerate to Stage IV. The five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed with Stage IV leiomyosarcoma is only 14%.

Lots-of-Guns-300x200As I explored in a previous blog, the Protection of Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, 15 U.S.C. § 7901 (2005), et seq., (“PLCAA”) has shielded gun manufacturers from suit since its enactment in 2005. The law bars any civil liability action against a firearms dealer or manufacturer, except for certain limited exceptions. My previous blog revolved around the parents of the victims killed in the Sandy Hook massacre, who survived summary judgment on a motion conceived under PLCAA filed by the defendant, Remington Arms Company. Now, the city of Kansas City is bringing a claim against a manufacturer and several firearms dealers, which may further chip away at the Act’s once impenetrable protection.

PLCAA’s protection is broad. 1515 U.S.C. § 7902 provides that “[a] qualified civil liability action may not be brought in any Federal or State court” against a firearms manufacturer or dealer. The definition of a qualified civil liability action is explored in § 7902, which defines the term broadly, encompassing ostensibly all civil claims against licensed gun dealers and manufacturers. However, § 7903(A) identifies certain claims that will not be considered a qualified action.

Contractual disputes or claims for breach of warranty are not qualified actions. § 7903(5)(A)(iv). Neither are claims related to defective design or manufacture of a firearm. § 7903(5)(A)(v). Claims arising out of negligent entrustment, where a manufacturer or a dealer puts a firearm into the hands of someone likely to injure themselves or others, are permitted. § 7903(5)(A)(ii; § 7903(5)(B). Similarly, if a manufacturer or dealer knowingly provides a gun to a person intending to commit a crime of violence or engage in drug trafficking, immunity from suit is not available. § 7903(5)(A)(i).

Court-with-Flag-300x200One of the most horrific mass shootings in the nation’s history occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooter killed 20 children, all between the ages of 6 and 7, as well as 6 adults before killing himself. The families of those killed have brought a number of legal actions in response to the devastating losses they sustained on November 30, 2012.

Parents of children killed have brought several legal actions under various legal theories. One of the successful suits was against the shooter’s mother’s estate. Since she was also killed in the rampage, her estate was liable for injuries resulting from her negligent acts that contributed to the killing. The plaintiff’s claimed she negligently kept a Bushmaster AR-15 unsecured, allowing her troubled son access to the weapon. The parties settled for $1.5 million to be divided among the plaintiffs.

One family brought suit against the town and school district, alleging the school was unprepared and the response was insufficient. The trial court dismissed the case in 2018, ruling that the situation was so unexpected, intense, and wildly dangerous that hindsight regarding safety protocols could not be deemed negligent.

car accident

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Each year in Massachusetts there are over 120,000 car accidents. These accidents seriously injure more than 4,000 people and claim upwards of 320 lives per year. Those who have been injured in a Massachusetts car accident may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries they have sustained through a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible parties.

While some Massachusetts car accidents are the result of one party’s negligence, it is often the case where the fault is shared between multiple parties. In some situations, the plaintiff is found to have been partly responsible for causing the accident. As a result, courts need a way to determine which plaintiffs should be entitled to recover for their injuries, and how a plaintiff’s own negligence should be factored into that recovery. Thus, Massachusetts lawmakers passed Massachusetts General Law section 85, implementing a system known as modified comparative negligence.

Under a comparative negligence analysis, a plaintiff may pursue a claim for compensation – even if their own negligence contributed to the accident. A “pure” comparative negligence model allows for a plaintiff to pursue a claim regardless of their own percentage of fault. However, under Massachusetts’ modified comparative negligence approach, a negligent plaintiff can recover so long as the plaintiff’s “negligence was not greater than the total amount of negligence attributable to the person or persons against whom recovery is sought.”

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financial accounting

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Court cases can take a very long time. However, the medical bills, lost wages, and other losses suffered by the victim are still occurring while the victim waits for the trial and subsequent damages. That said, Massachusetts law allows some parties to obtain interest from the date the filed the action until the date of the judgment. This can help to offset some of the costs and losses incurred by plaintiffs while they wait for trial. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts heard a case that addressed when prejudgment interest has to be paid by defendants.

Massachusetts Law

Massachusetts case law has noted that prejudgment interest is a remedy that is based in state law and applies when state law claims are brought in federal court. When interest begins to accrue, and the kinds of damages that are permitted to accrue interest, depends on a number of factors. Specifically, Massachusetts law says that interest begins to accrue at the time the action is commenced. This gives plaintiffs another reason to bring their claims forward as soon as possible. The interest stops accruing at the time that the final verdict is rendered.

The law specifically requires that the clerk of the court add an additional 12% yearly interest on top of the original damage amount. This is the case even when the total verdict with interest goes beyond the maximum liability allowed by law.

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