Articles Posted in Negligence

Plaintiffs are able to recover damages when they are injured due to the negligence of another. However, who is at fault and what is considered negligent are very fact specific inquiries. Your knowledgeable Massachusetts personal injury attorney can help you understand whether you may be eligible to recover damages for your injuries. A case recently heard by the federal court in the District of Massachusetts looked at a situation where a woman was injured after luggage fell on her.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff here was riding on a shuttle bus to the airport while on an Italian tour that she booked through the defendant travel agent. She alleges that while she was on the shuttle, the driver was speeding and then slammed on the brakes. The quick stop caused a suitcase to fall from the overhead storage compartment and hit her on the head. She then brought thus suit against the travel agent and the company that operated the tour. The plaintiff is alleging negligence, vicarious liability, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and breach of contract.

Many people in the U.S. depend on lifesaving medications. When those medications are unavailable or inaccessible, it can lead to severe consequences, up to and including death. That is what happened in this tragic case heard by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by the actions of someone else – whether due to a car accident, slip and fall, medical malpractice, or any other kind of wrongdoing – you should contact an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney to see if you are able to hold the wrongdoers accountable under Massachusetts law. 

Medications and Prior Authorization 

The plaintiff in this case was 18 when she had her first seizure. She was brought to the hospital and given Topamax, an anti-seizure medication. She was instructed to continue taking the Tomamax. She filled her initial prescription at her pharmacy with no issues. When she tried to get a refill of the prescription, she was told it was too early and that in the future her insurance provider would require an authorization form to be filled out by her prescriber.

The plaintiff’s mother testified that the pharmacist told her it was the pharmacy’s policy to inform the prescriber through phone or fax, but in this case there wasn’t any evidence showing that the prescriber was notified. Though the court points out that there is no law requiring the pharmacy to do this. The pharmacy’s computer system requires only one click of the mouse to make the notification happen. However, at the time of this incident the pharmacy did not keep records about its contacts with prescribers. Continue reading

The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently decided a case about the duty of care that psychiatrists and psychiatric hospitals have to people who may be harmed by current or former patients. Specifically, in this case a man was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital after acting bizarrely and making threats of violence toward family members. After he was released from the hospital he murdered his neighbor. This claim was brought as a wrongful death claim by the family of the neighbor. The neighbor’s family alleged that the hospital and the man’s psychiatrist were liable for wrongful death by negligently letting the man leave the hospital. If you have been injured or a loved one was killed due to the acts of another, you should contact a knowledgeable Massachusetts wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. You may be able to hold the wrongdoers accountable for their actions.

Involuntary Hospitalization

Massachusetts law allows physicians to hospitalize patients against their will if they have a reason to believe that without hospitalization the person would create a likelihood of serious harm due to their mental illness. The initial period for these hospitalizations is up to three days. However, the superintendent of a psychiatric hospital can initially petition for someone to be held up to six months against their will if they present a risk of harm. This involuntary hospitalization can be renewed if necessary.

If you have been injured by a faulty medication, you may be able to hold the drug company accountable for your injuries if your case meets certain standards. The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently heard a case regarding drug companies and their responsibilities regarding generic drugs and the required labeling. The court held that cases against drug companies based on medication injuries from generic versions of drugs can only go forward if the original manufacturer knew about possible injuries but intentionally failed to update this label. Cases against pharmaceutical companies are not only complicated, but they can also be expensive due to the resources that pharmaceutical companies have at their disposal. If you are concerned that you have been injured from a medication, along with seeking the necessary medical care to treat your injuries, you should also contact a knowledgeable Massachusetts product liability attorney as soon as possible to help you with your case.

Generic Labeling Requirements 

In order to bring a new drug to market, drug manufacturers must go through an onerous approval process with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Part of the process includes approval of the warning label for the drug that alerts consumers to potential side effects and other risks of the medication. The process for bringing generic versions of already existing drugs to market is much simpler. The manufacturers of generic drugs just need to prove that their medications are essentially the same as the name-brand drug in terms of active ingredients, strength, and route of administration. In order to get FDA approval, generic medications are legally required to show that the warning label is exactly the same as the name-brand medication. Therefore, a generic version is required to have the same label as the name-brand version.

A Massachusetts farmer owned a dump truck for hauling soil. One morning in April 2009, he was seen at his farm working on the truck. Later that day, he was found dead underneath it, with his clothing caught up in a spinning universal joint (U-joint) that was part of the mechanical system used to tilt the truck. The medical examiner identified the cause of death as accidental asphyxiation.As an executrix of his estate, his widow filed a Massachusetts wrongful death action. She sued, among others, Mack Trucks, which manufactured the original version of the truck, and Parker-Hannifin Corporation, which had acquired the assets of Dana Corporation. Dana manufactured a piece of equipment known as a “power take-off” (PTO), which was another part of the system used to tilt the dump body of the truck. In two separate summary judgment rulings, different superior court judges ruled in favor of each of these defendants. The Massachusetts Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments.

On appeal, the plaintiff did not argue that the incomplete vehicle that Mack Trucks sold, or the PTO that Dana sold, contained any design defect. Instead, the gravamen of her claims was that the manufacturers had a duty to warn installers and end users about the dangers posed by the use of unguarded auxiliary drive shafts and U-joints because such future uses were foreseeable. After all, she argued, the transmission of the truck was designed so that it could accept a PTO, and PTOs could be operated to power an auxiliary drive shaft. In fact, the plaintiff maintained that the foreseeability of the risks posed by exposed auxiliary drive shafts and U-joints was best demonstrated by the fact that Mack Trucks and Dana each provided some warning about them (warnings that the plaintiff claimed ultimately were inadequate). In the alternative, the plaintiff argued that even if the defendants did not face an independent legal duty to warn about such dangers, they voluntarily assumed such a duty when they provided their warnings about such uses.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has endorsed the prevailing view that a supplier of a component part containing no latent defect has no duty to warn the subsequent assembler or its customers of any danger that may arise after the components are assembled. A component part manufacturer has no duty to provide a warning of a possible risk created solely by an act of another party that would not be associated with a foreseeable use or misuse of the manufacturer’s own product. This rule recognized by Massachusetts courts became known as “the component parts doctrine.”

A recent case arose from a bicycle collision on the Cape Cod Rail Trail between a child on a supervised school field trip and a passing cyclist. The injured cyclist and his wife appealed from a Superior Court judgment entered on the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, dismissing their negligence claims against the town of Williamstown and others. On appeal, the plaintiffs contended that (1) the chaperones who supervised the field trip were not public employees and thus could be held personally liable for their negligence, and (2) the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (MTCA) did not preclude their claims against the town. The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment for the defendants in this Massachusetts bicycle accident case.The plaintiffs argued that the lower court erred when it concluded that the chaperones supervising the elementary school field trip were public employees as a matter of law. They suggested that the chaperones were independent contractors who had broad discretion in exercising their duties and therefore should not be afforded the liability protections provided by the MTCA.

The test for determining whether an individual is a public employee, the appeals court explained, is the same as that used to establish whether an agent is a servant for whose negligent acts a principal may be liable under the common law doctrine of respondeat superior. The basic question is whether a person is subject to the direction and control of a public employer.

The appeals court explained that even if it were to draw all of the inferences in a manner favorable to the plaintiffs, the undisputed facts showed that the principal and the teachers retained the right of control and that the chaperones were subject to their direction and control as a matter of law. Before the field trip, the school held a chaperone meeting in which the chaperones were given guidelines for their duties on the trip. The guidelines stated that the teacher was in charge, and their directions must be followed at all times. The guidelines also instructed the chaperones to follow all safety rules, not leave children alone or unescorted, and keep the groups together.

A defendant and a third-party plaintiff, C M & B, Inc. (CMB), a general contractor, appealed from a judgment dismissing its indemnification and related claims against its subcontractors Ferreira Concrete Forms, Inc. (Ferreira), and Laserdig. The trial judge ruled, among other things, that the indemnification claim was barred by a governing Rhode Island statute. The Massachusetts Appeals Court agreed and affirmed.In 2009, CMB, having contracted with a property owner to construct a retail store in Rhode Island, subcontracted certain concrete work to Ferreira and certain underground utility work to Laserdig. The subcontracts specified that they were to be construed in accordance with Rhode Island law, and they included indemnification clauses. The owner separately contracted with Meade Construction, Inc. (Meade), to perform certain roofing work.

On September 13, 2009, just as Meade was about to commence work, a tree fell on the partially completed building. Since time was of the essence, CMB asked Laserdig if its on-site personnel could assist in clearing the tree, and Laserdig agreed. Although Ferreira had largely completed its concrete work and had no employees on the site that day, Ferreira and Laserdig were under common ownership and sometimes loaned each other their employees as circumstances required. Accordingly, the common owner decided to loan a Ferreira employee to Laserdig in order to assist the other Laserdig employees, as well as CMB and Meade, in clearing the tree. In the course of this work, Meade placed a ladder against the building but did not sufficiently secure it, nor did CMB safety-check it. As the worker climbed the ladder, it slid to one side, causing the worker to fall and suffer injuries.

He sued both CMB and Meade; CMB filed a third-party complaint for indemnification and other relief against Ferreira and Laserdig. After a trial on the third-party claims, the judge found that the accident resulted from the negligence of both CMB and Meade rather than from any negligence on the part of Laserdig, Ferreira, or the worker. The judge ruled that, under Rhode Island law, CMB could not enforce the indemnification clauses to obtain indemnification for its own negligence, and he therefore ordered judgment for Laserdig and Ferreira on the third-party claims. CMB appealed.

A $20 million federal lawsuit has been filed against the NFL and the New England Patriots on behalf of the former fiancee and daughter of Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide this year while serving a murder conviction. The lawsuit was filed the same day it was revealed that Hernandez had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).Doctors at Boston University studied the brain of the former Patriots tight end and determined that Hernandez had Stage 3 CTE, an advanced form of the neurodegenerative disease. CTE, which can only currently be diagnosed in an autopsy, can be caused by repeated head trauma and leads to symptoms like violent mood swings, depression, and other cognitive difficulties. Hernandez’s CTE was allegedly the most severe case of CTE that the Boston University researchers had ever seen for someone of his age. Advanced stage 3 of CTE is usually found in the median age of 67-year-old men.

Beginning in 2005, a forensic pathologist and neuropathologist found CTE in the brains of diseased NFL players Mike Webster, Terry Long, Andre Waters, Justin Strzelczyk, and Tom McHale. Between 2008 and 2010, the bodies of twelve former professional American football players were diagnosed with CTE postmortem by Dr. Ann McKee.

In 2012, roughly four thousand former NFL players joined civil lawsuits against the League, seeking damages over the League’s failure to protect players from concussions. On August 30, 2013, the NFL reached a $765 million settlement with the former NFL players over their head injuries.  According to the settlement, players whose careers concluded before July 2014 gave up the right to sue the NFL unless they opted out. Hernandez’s last NFL game was in January 2013.

A plaintiff, while working as a police officer, responded to a call at the home of the defendant. The call indicated that the defendant had locked himself inside the house and was threatening to hurt himself. After arriving at the home and making numerous requests of the defendant to enter, the plaintiff ultimately attempted to kick the door down and was seriously injured as a result. He alleged that his injuries were proximately caused by the defendant’s negligence. He did not make any allegations relating to conditions on the premises.The common-law firefighter’s rule provides that a firefighter or police officer who enters private property in the course of his employment duties generally cannot bring a civil action against the property owner for injuries sustained as a result of a defect in the premises. The plaintiff appealed from the trial court judgment in favor of the defendant. In granting the defendant’s motion to strike, the trial court concluded that the firefighter’s rule precluded the plaintiff’s sole claim, which was rooted in ordinary negligence. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Connecticut concluded that the firefighter’s rule should not extend beyond claims of premises liability. The court therefore reversed the trial court’s judgment in favor of the defendant and remanded the case to the trial court.

On appeal, the plaintiff asserted that the trial court incorrectly granted the motion to strike because his claim was not barred by the firefighter’s rule. Specifically, he claimed that the issue was controlled by the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in Levandoski v. Cone, in which the firefighter’s rule was limited to claims of premises liability.

In Levandoski, the Connecticut Supreme Court considered whether the firefighter’s rule should be extended beyond the scope of premises liability to bar a police officer from recovering from a defendant who does not control the premises. The Connecticut Supreme Court held that the firefighter’s rule should not extend to a non-premises liability case. In so holding, the court noted that since the firefighter’s rule is an exception to the general rule of tort liability, any loss should be endured by the negligent party. The burden of persuasion should rest with the party seeking to broaden the exception.

An 18-year-old woman was fatally shot by Maine police in February. Her mother recently filed notice for a wrongful death lawsuit against the three officers who fired the shots, the town of Vassalboro, Kennebec County, the Vassalboro Police Department, and the head of the Maine State Police. She was appointed the personal representative for her daughter’s estate by a Kennebec County Probate Court judge. She is seeking $500,000 in damages.The victim was shot to death on February 10th of this year on Arnold Road in Vassalboro. A 25-year-old man was also killed in the incident. He was driving a truck in which the victim was the passenger. The man allegedly rammed into a police cruiser, and two Maine police officers and the Vassalboro police chief  all fired their guns. The officers were responding to a reported robbery when the man hit the police cruiser. All three officers have been placed on administrative leave without pay since the shooting.

The woman claims that the victim was merely an innocent bystander. At the time the shots were fired, she’s said, the victim was not a threat to any of the officers or anyone else. She hadn’t committed a crime, and she wasn’t trying to escape or flee. The police didn’t need to use deadly force, she said, and “they could have took that car out.” Her notice of suit claims the agencies had inadequate training and policies to cause the use of force that caused her daughter’s death.

Neither the law enforcement agencies involved nor the Maine attorney general’s office have released information regarding the killings of the two people. It is unclear how many shots were fired, where the officers were positioned when they fired, which officers fired the deadly shots, and whether the officers believed their own lives were in peril. It is likewise not known whether either the man or the woman was armed. Pursuant to standard practice, the Maine attorney general has opened an investigation into the fatal shootings. Since 1990, however, the attorney general’s office has never ruled a deadly shooting by an officer to be unjustified.

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