Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

The police are supposed to serve and protect citizens, but sometimes things can go wrong. In this tragic case, a Massachusetts State Trooper shot and killed a man who was threatening to kill him. Representatives of the deceased man brought this wrongful death suit. In certain circumstances, citizens may be entitled to damages from law enforcement after a wrongful death or other tort actions. Your experienced Massachusetts wrongful death attorney can help you to understand your rights in this regard.

Motion for Summary Judgment

The defendants moved for summary judgment. Summary judgment motions will be granted when there is no issue of material fact between the parties. In other words, both sides agree on the basic facts. For summary judgment to be granted, the moving party must also show that even when the facts are looked at in the light most favorable to the other party, the moving party is still entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In this case, both sides agree on the essential facts of the case.

A man was driving erratically when he was pulled over by a trooper. Unbeknownst to the police, he suffered from severe mental illness. Another trooper came and the man began to lunge at him with a pen and threatened to kill him. After pepper spraying the plaintiff twice without slowing him down, the plaintiff continued to lunge at the trooper. Another trooper pulled up and saw the plaintiff with something in his hand lunging at the officer. The trooper that came on the scene shot the man twice and he died from his injuries at the hospital.

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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 father of a son who committed suicide brought this wrongful death action against the college he was attending at the time. The father alleged that the school had a duty to prevent his son’s suicide. However, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that the school had no duty to prevent the suicide of his son.

Facts of the Case

This tragic case involves a 25 year old graduate student who was living off campus while studying marketing. A couple of years before his death he sought help with test taking from his academic advisors. His advisor recommended that he take advantage of the services for students with disabilities, but he declined. He was also referred to the mental health and counseling services on campus.

While he went to a few mental health appointments, the young man said that he found the appointments to be “useless,” and believed his test taking problems were unrelated to his mental health. He did disclose that he suffered from depression and had previous suicide attempts but did not currently have suicidal ideation. He also stated that he was seeing a private psychologist. 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.

A six-figure jury verdict against the manufacturer of an adhesive product called FM-37 was recently set aside by the Connecticut Supreme Court. The plaintiff sought to recover damages under the Connecticut’s Product Liability Act (CPLA) for the wrongful death of the decedent, claiming negligence and strict liability. The plaintiff contended that the decedent was exposed during his employment to an asbestos-containing product (FM-37) manufactured by the defendant and that the exposure contributed to his contraction of deadly mesothelioma. This type of theory is also relevant to cases brought by Massachusetts wrongful death plaintiffs.Malignant mesothelioma is a rare cancer that usually forms on the protective lining of the lungs and abdomen. The disease has no definitive cure, but advancements in conventional treatments along with emerging therapies are helping patients improve their survival rate. Incidence rates still hover around 3,000 new cases each year in the U.S., according to a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, scientific research and increased awareness are leading to earlier diagnoses and improved treatments. Exposure to asbestos remains the leading cause of mesothelioma. Asbestos, a mineral fiber, can release toxic chemicals in the air if improperly handled.

Asbestos litigation has been going on for decades, ever since the substance was linked to mesothelioma. Individuals affected by this disease have sued companies that made products containing asbestos. Last month, for example, a Massachusetts developer agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit over accusations that workers improperly removed and disposed of asbestos. According to the lawsuit, unlicensed workers were allowed to remove materials containing asbestos without taking proper safety precautions. The lawsuit also alleged the company threw away unsealed asbestos near apartment buildings.

Also last month, the Montana Supreme Court announced that hundreds of asbestos cases could proceed through a special “Asbestos Claims Court.” The claims can include personal injuries or wrongful deaths arising out of an asbestos-related disease alleged to come from vermiculite mining, processing, or the transfer, storage, installation, or removal of a product containing vermiculite. The formation of the court was approved by the Montana legislature in 2001.

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 plaintiff, in his capacity as the personal representative of the estate of a victim, brought a Massachusetts nursing home negligence action against Park, Marion, and Vernon Streets Operating Company, LLC d/b/a Brookline Health Care Center (BHCC), and John Doe Physicians and Jane Doe Nurses. As alleged in the complaint, as a result of the defendants’ negligence, the victim choked to death when she was left unsupervised to eat in the dayroom of the assisted living facility in which she resided.The victim was admitted to BHCC in April 2012 for nursing care and rehabilitation after a hospitalization for seizures and falls, and she remained there until her death in May 2014. Throughout this period, she was deemed to be at risk for falls. Her medical records also indicated that she was on a soft diet, customized for her diabetes, and at variable times during her residency at the facility, she required continual supervision while eating, since she was at risk for aspiration. On the morning of May 7, 2014, a resident in the day room alerted the nurses to help the victim, who was holding her chest and in distress. A nurse’s note later in the day said that the victim was seen holding her neck and tapping on her chest and that she became unresponsive as she was being assessed by staff.

When ambulance personnel attempted to insert an endoctracheal tube, they had to remove a silver dollar-sized piece of food before they were able to successfully intubate her. The victim was pronounced dead upon her arrival at Beth Israel Hospital. The cause of death was respiratory distress, secondary to aspiration.

Suit was originally filed in Norfolk Superior Court in February 2017. BHCC removed the action to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in May 2017, alleging that this court had diversity jurisdiction. (Diversity jurisdiction is a form of subject-matter jurisdiction in civil procedure in which a United States district court in the federal judiciary has the power to hear a civil case when the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 and when the persons that are parties are “diverse” in citizenship, which generally indicates that they are citizens of different states or non-U.S. citizens.)

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.

In a medical malpractice action not unlike some Massachusetts medical malpractice cases, the defendant Emergency Medicine Physicians of New London County, LLC, appealed from the judgment of the trial court after a jury verdict was rendered in favor of the plaintiff. On appeal, the defendant claimed that there was insufficient evidence supporting the jury’s verdict and award of noneconomic damages. Specifically, it claimed that the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence for the jury (1) to find that the defendant’s negligence caused the death of the decedent, and (2) to award $150,000 in damages for the destruction of the decedent’s capacity to carry on and enjoy life’s activities. The Connecticut Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court.On November 29, 2008, the decedent was found unresponsive and was brought to a hospital emergency department, where she was treated for a suspected drug overdose by the attending emergency department physician. After the decedent’s vital signs improved and stabilized, she was discharged and returned to the home of a friend, where she was found unresponsive the next morning and was pronounced deceased.

The plaintiff alleged that the hospital was vicariously liable for the medical malpractice of the doctor in treating the decedent for a suspected drug overdose. The plaintiff claimed that the doctor’s discharge of the decedent after only four and one-half hours of observation was premature in that the doctor should have kept the decedent under medical monitoring for 24 hours, which is the period of time during which the fatal side effects of methadone toxicity may occur. If the decedent had remained under medical monitoring for the full 24 hours, the fatal overdose side effects she experienced after her discharge would have been treated, and her eventual death from methadone toxicity would have been averted.

The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, and the trial court rendered judgment in accordance with the verdict, from which the doctor appealed. The hospital claimed that there was no direct evidence as to when the decedent consumed the fatal dose of methadone, and the undisputed scientific evidence established that if she had actually overdosed on methadone on November 29, 2008, she would have had a recurrence of overdose symptoms before she was discharged from the hospital’s emergency department.

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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