January 3, 2013

Personal Injury, Premises Liability, and Inherent Risk in Kentucky

Recently the California Supreme Court overturned an appeals court decision in a personal injury lawsuit involving an individual who was injured at an amusement park. The woman was riding on the bumper cars at Great America with her son when they were hit from the front and rear. She braced herself on the front of the car and broke her wrist. The Supreme Court ultimately decided that the amusement park was not liable for her injury because there is an inherent risk in riding bumper cars and there was no negligence.

What is inherent risk? In the context of personal injury, it means that certain activities, because of their nature, may be dangerous. Trying to remove the inherent risk from such an activity would change the activity to such a degree that its appeal may be lost. In the California case mentioned above, the woman was injured when the bumper cars collided. To remove the inherent risk, the cars would have to not hit each other or the walls of the ride, which means they would no longer be “bumper” cars. This would change the entire experience of the ride and would make it less thrilling.

Kentucky is known worldwide for its horses, and horseback riding and other agricultural activities are very popular here. In any type of activity involving animals, there is an inherent risk. Animals are living creatures and are unpredictable. The Kentucky law regarding farm animal activities states:

The inherent risks of farm animal activities are deemed to be beyond the reasonable control of farm animal activity sponsors, farm animal professionals, or other persons. Therefore, farm animal activity sponsors, farm animal professionals, or other persons are deemed to have the duty to reasonably warn participants in farm animal activities of the inherent risks of the farm animal activities but not the duty to reduce or eliminate the inherent risks of farm animal activities. Except as provided in subsections (2) and (3) of this section, no participant or representative of a participant who has been reasonably warned of the inherent risks of farm animal activities shall make any claim against, maintain an action against, or recover from a farm animal activity sponsor, a farm animal professional, or any other person for injury, loss, damage, or death of the participant resulting from any of the inherent risks of farm animal activities.

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December 10, 2012

Personal Injury Lawsuits and Liability

Personal injury law covers a wide range of situations, all involving at least one person being injured allegedly because of the fault or negligence of another. Probably the most well-known type of personal injury involves car accidents. There are approximately 6.5 million car crashes in the U.S. each year, and almost half of them involve some sort of injury. About 43,000 of those accidents are fatal. Numerous factors can cause car or truck accidents. Driving while under the influence, driving while drowsy, inexperienced drivers, faulty car systems due to improper production or lack of maintenance, and distracted driving are just a few of the factors that can cause an accident.

Sometimes, the actual driver that appears to have caused the accident is not entirely at fault. If, unbeknownst to the driver, the car they are driving has been manufactured improperly, they may have little to no control over avoiding an accident. Such was the case when numerous cars from Toyota appeared to accelerate on their own. These incidents were allegedly the result of the gas pedals becoming stuck, particularly under the floor mat. If someone is injured in this type of accident, it is likely that they can file a claim against the driver of the car that caused the accident and the manufacturer of the car that was defective. Trucking companies and bus companies may also be held liable if one of their drivers causes an accident. If it is determined that the company did not train the drivers properly, did not maintain their trucks or buses properly, or required their drivers to be on the road longer than federal regulations allow, they may be at least partially at fault if some is injured by one of their drivers. Someone seemingly unrelated to the accident may be responsible for an accident as well. If a company has a sign up that blocks visibility, or if landscaping is not maintained and blocks the views of drivers, the owner of the sign or the landscaping could be found to be at fault if an accident occurs in that location.

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September 13, 2012

Personal Injury Attorneys Hurt Themselves, and Potentially Their Clients, with Misconduct

Winters and Yonker is a personal injury law firm that practices in Florida and Kentucky. Known for their extensive advertising, the attorneys call themselves “the aggressive attorneys.” However, according to the Florida Supreme Court and the Florida Bar Association, William Winters and Marc Yonker were too aggressive when they set out to establish the firm of Winters & Yonker in 2001.

Both attorneys were employed by Richard Mulholland when they decided to open their own firm in 2001. According to charges from the Florida Bar Association, rather than attempt to build their own client base, the attorneys allegedly persuaded clients from Mulholland’s firm to switch to the new firm, even telling them a third attorney was going to be there, which never happened. According to the lawsuit, they also copied files and had a legal assistant who was dating Winters at the time change client information in Mulholland’s electronic files.

As a result of these actions, the Supreme Court has found both of the attorneys guilty of professional misconduct and has suspended Winters for 91 days and Yonker for 60 days. After their suspensions are over, Yonker can resume practicing law, but Winters must be reinstated because he was suspended for over 90 days.

What happens to their clients in the meantime? Winters and Yonker have 30 days to make arrangements for them. Their cases will most likely be taken over by other attorneys in the firm who already have a full caseload and are not familiar with their cases. Hopefully their cases will not fall through the cracks and important filing deadlines will not be missed.

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April 21, 2012

Widow Files Wrongful Death Suit for Husband Killed by Lightning on Job Site

In Indianapolis, tragedy struck at the Indiana State Fair when numerous people were killed or injured by a stage collapsing in stormy weather. This incident sparked a large number of lawsuits blaming various individuals and companies for the death and injury of innocent concertgoers. With so many people involved in the fair and the concert, determining who was ultimately at fault could prove to be challenging.

In a more recent tragedy, one man was killed and two others were injured in September 2011 when they were struck by lightning while working at a construction site. The two surviving victims remember watching the lightning approach the site and becoming nervous. But they were told to keep working, so they did not take shelter right away. They did finally leave the site, caring more about their safety than their jobs. But it was too late. As they were headed toward shelter, a bolt of lightning struck an 800-foot-tall crane, sending electricity through all three men. The victim who did not survive was hit the hardest because he was holding a metal bucket of concrete in his hands.

The victim’s wife has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against two of the construction companies involved in the project. The suit claims that the companies should have had the victim take shelter because of the dangerous weather that was evident both in the forecast and the lightning that was flashing through the sky. The companies are denying responsibility, saying they cannot control Mother Nature.

One of the companies has responded verbally to the lawsuit saying “We were not cited or found to be at fault by any entity investigating the incident last year, including OSHA." Even if this is true, that still does not mean filing the wrongful death lawsuit is a lost cause. If the case makes it all the way to trial, the judge and maybe a jury will hear the facts from both sides and will draw their own conclusions as to whether or not this tragedy could have been prevented. It is true that no one can control the weather, but it may be determined that there were enough warning signs to warrant bringing the workers off the site and into a safe place to ride out the storm.

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December 8, 2011

$210 Million Settlement Reached in 2010 West Virginia Mine Blast

In April 2010, 29 miners lost their lives and two more were injured in a blast at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. The former owner of the mine, Massey Energy, sold the mine to Alpha Natural Resources earlier this year. The record-setting settlement will be paid by Alpha, which in return will not face any criminal charges in the explosion.

The settlement will be divided in three parts. Families of the 29 miners killed and the two injured miners will split $46.5 million as compensation for the wrongful deaths and personal injuries that resulted from the explosion. Fines for safety violations at all of the Massey mines that Alpha acquired will be paid with $35 million of the settlement. The remaining $128 million will be dedicated to safety issues, including upgrading equipment, training of employees, and research into future mine safety. Kevin Crutchfield, CEO of Alpha, expressed satisfaction with the settlement, stating, “we’re particularly pleased that a substantial portion of the settlement is going toward furthering miner safety.”

Some families of the miners who were killed were not quite as satisfied with the settlement. One family wanted to know what charges were going to be brought against specific people. Another family member said he wants executives at Massey to be charged rather than just middle management, and he also believes the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) should be held accountable. While MSHA representatives said they will review their own handling of the situation, one administrator said they did what they could by shutting down the mine 48 times in 2009. Because MSHA cannot permanently shut down a mine, inspectors had to allow the mine to reopen once the violations were fixed. Families who receive their $1.5 million portion of the settlement are still able to pursue lawsuits, but will have the settlement amount subtracted from any award or additional settlement.

There are multiple parties that could be sued in this situation. The company that owned the mine at the time of the blast, Massey Energy, could be sued as a whole, as well as any of its employees that were involved in the situation. The report issued by MSHA shortly after the settlement showed there were 369 safety violations at the mine in April 2010, 12 of which directly contributed to the blast. A large amount of methane gas and coal dust was built up in the mine, and a spark from unsafe cutting equipment ignited the two. The disaster was made worse by the lack of functioning water sprayers, which could have kept the fire from spreading throughout the tunnels.

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November 9, 2011

Deadline Has Passed for State Negligence and Wrongful Death Claims in Indianapolis Stage Collapse

On August 13, 2011, high winds caused a stage to collapse at the Indiana State Fair, killing seven people and injuring dozens more. Multiple personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits have been filed as a result of this tragedy, including 100 claims filed with the State of Indiana. Although the deadline for filing with the state was November 1, 2011, a few more claims that were postmarked on that date but arrived late may be added to the total.

The state of Indiana has a cap of $5 million on what it will pay for the accident, which sounds like a large sum of money, except it has to be divided among numerous victims. The maximum payout per person is $700,000. If this amount is paid out to the seven families whose relatives were killed, that adds up to $4.9 million, leaving only $100,000 for all of the other victims to split, including those who were seriously injured. The state has not decided how the money will be split, only that families of those who were killed and those who were seriously injured will be compensated first.

One of the attorneys representing some of the victims is fighting the $5 million cap with a lawsuit and is questioning whether someone other than the state should be deciding how to divide the money. He thinks having individual cases heard by judges and juries would be fairer to the victims. Another attorney cautions victims to read the fine print if they receive part of the settlement from the state. She says accepting the money may preclude them from pursuing lawsuits against other parties.

In addition to the $5 million from the state of Indiana, a State Fair Relief Fund was established for victims of this accident. This fund is made up of money donated by the public to assist those victims that were hospitalized. Unfortunately, not all injured victims qualify for aid from this fund. An overnight hospital stay before October 2, 2011 is a requirement to receive money from this fund, which Kenneth Feinberg, a compensation specialist said is “a pretty good indicator of seriousness of injury.” Not all victims are seeing it that way. One woman who suffered a head injury and is unable to work for at least 2 ½ months does not qualify because she did not stay overnight. Another man who required knee surgery after October 2nd also does not qualify, even though he is unable to work and is only receiving two-thirds of his pay through workers compensation. The deadline to file a claim for part of the $500,000 remaining from this fund is November 14, 2011.

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May 26, 2009

Kentucky Sex Abuse Lawsuit: Court of Appeals Affirms $3.7 Million Award that Fayette County Board of Education Must Pay Victim

The Fayette County Board of Education must pay Carol Lynne Maner $3.7 million for her Kentucky sex abuse lawsuit—affirmed the Kentucky Court of Appeals on Friday. In 2007, a Fayette Circuit Court jury issued its verdict that school officials in the 70’s and 80’s ignored allegations that four teachers, an assistant principal, and a guidance counselor at Beaumont Junior High School and Lafayette High School had sexually abused Maner while she was a student. The board, claiming the statute of limitations for Maner’s case had run out, appealed the verdict.

Maner, who filed her Kentucky civil lawsuit in 2003, claimed that she had been denied her right to an education because the sexual abuse caused her to suffer from depression and drug addiction. She also contends that other students were sexually abused. A few other ex-students have stepped forward over the last few years to affirm Maner's claims.

Roberta Walter and Russell Hubbard, two of the four former teachers that are defendants in Maner’s Kentucky sex abuse lawsuit, have been criminally charged for their alleged abuse of the plaintiff. Hubbard is charged with four counts of first-degree sodomy and third-degree rape. Walter is charged with third-degree rape and third-degree sodomy.

The $3.7 million sexual abuse verdict is among the largest awards issued in Fayette County.

Kentucky Sex Abuse Lawsuits
If you are the victim of sexual abuse, you may be entitled to Kentucky personal injury compensation from your perpetrator or others that were negligent and allowed the abuse to happen. Even if its been years since the abuse incidents occurred, the statute of limitations in Kentucky may still allow you to file your claim against the person responsible for your pain and suffering.

Sex abuse survivors' scars are seldom visible to other people, but the mental and emotional anguish resulting from this kind of sexual violence can last a lifetime, wreaking havoc on the victim’s life. The damage is very real to the victim, who may have problems sustaining relationships, develop an eating disorder or addiction to alcohol or drugs, need to take medication to cope, or have to undergo years of therapy.

Appellate court upholds verdict against Fayette schools in sex-abuse lawsuit, Kentucky.com, May 23, 2009

Ex-principal accused of sex with students in '70s and '80s, Cincinnati.com/AP, September 10, 2004

Related Web Resources:
Child Sexual Abuse, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Understanding Child Sexual Abuse, APA

April 23, 2009

Louisville Premises Liability Lawsuit Filed Over Kentucky Stairwell Collapse

In Jefferson Circuit Court, two people who got hurt when a stairway in a Louisville building collapsed are suing the owners of the century-old building for Kentucky premises liability. The Louisville personal injury accident occurred on March 3 when Alan DeLisle and Pattie Clare took a tour of the Fort Nelson property with owners Paul and Carolan Bariteaus. DeLisle oversees Louisville’s downtown development and Clare is his chief deputy.

The stairwell fell two stories, and Paul Bariteau, Clare, and DeLisle became trapped beneath the debris. Carolan was able to arrive at the 3rd floor before the stairway dropped out. She was rescued by firefighters.

According to the Louisville premises liability lawsuit, the Bariteaus should have been aware the structure was not safe, should have maintained the building, should have repaired any hazardous conditions, and should have warned the victims of possible hazards. The two metro workers are seeking a jury trial and compensatory damages. Their lawsuit also names Forte Development Inc. as one of the Louisville premises liability defendants.

According to a spokesperson for Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, no city inspectors have been to the building over the last five years because no work occurred on the premise that warranted a safety inspection. The building was constructed in the 1880’s. Paul Bariteau purchased the building over 10 years ago.

If you were injured on another person’s property, you may be entitled to Kentucky personal injury compensation. Examples of some common kinds of premises liability cases, include:

Slip/Trip and Fall Accidents: Slipping, tripping, or falling on the ground because there was an unsafe condition that caused the accident. This can result in painful, debilitating injuries, such as head injuries, neck injuries, back injuries, and hip injuries.

Inadequate Security: A person becomes a victim of a violent crime because there wasn’t enough security or lighting on the property that could have prevented the incident from happening.

Defective Conditions: A person is hurt because of a defect on the property or a defective product on the premise that the property owner could have and should have removed or repaired but failed to do so.

Inadequate Maintenance: A property owner fails to repair an existing hazard on a premise and/or fails to warn patrons or visitors about the danger.

Related Web Resources:
Metro employees sue over stairwell collapse, Courier-Journal, April 14, 2009

Premises Liability Overview, Justia

August 28, 2008

Kentucky Jury Awards Louisville Woman Over $1 Million in Police Brutality Case

A Louisville woman who says she was the victim of police brutality has been awarded more than $1 million by a Kentucky jury. Maria DeCamillis Raque filed a Kentucky personal injury lawsuit against Strathmoor Village and former police officer James Wilder because she says that Wilder attacked her and filed charges against her for crimes she did not commit.

The incident occurred in October 2003 when a neighbor contacted police complaining about DeCamillis Raque’s son and friends, who she says were playing hide and seek. DeCamillis Raque says that when she told her son’s friends to go home, Wilder grabbed her neck and dragged her into his squad car before smashing her head against the vehicle’s divider and spraying her on the face with pepper spray.

DeCamillis Raque says the beating took place in front of her children. Wilder then charged her with committing felony crimes, including assaulting a police officer, that could have led to her spending 15 years in prison if she had been convicted. DeCamillis Raque says that Strathmoor Village said it would drop the charges against her if she agreed not to file a police brutality lawsuit. During her criminal trial in 2004, it took a Jefferson County jury four minutes to acquit her of all charges.

Apparently, Wilder had been cited in the past for insubordination, using excessive violence against citizens, and getting into altercations with coworkers. He has also been sued in the past for using excessive force. DeCamillis Raque’s attorney says that Strathmoor Village failed to do a proper background check before hiring Wilder and gave him a gun and badge following a 15-minute interview in a parking lot.

Police Brutality
Police officers, FBI agents, and other law enforcement officers are not allowed to use excessive physical or verbal force when dealing with citizens, including suspects, defendants, and persons convicted of crimes. If you are a victim of police brutality, you may be entitled to receive personal injury compensation for the harm that you have suffered.

Examples of Police Brutality:

• Verbal abuse
• Physical assault
• False arrest
• Sexual assault
• Intimidation and threats

Jury Awards Louisville Woman In Police Brutality Case, WLKY.com, August 15, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Police Brutality, Human Rights Watch

Top 5 Police Brutality Videos, Huffingtonpost.com

August 5, 2008

Kentucky Accident Lawyers: Two Friends of Girl Whose Feet Was Severed on Thrill Ride Can Join Her Family's Kentucky Personal Injury Lawsuit

In Jefferson Circuit Court, Judge Barry Willet has ruled that the two girls that were sitting with Kaitlyn Lassiter, the then 13-year-old girl whose feet were severed while riding the Superman Tower of Power ride at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom last year, can join in the Lassiter family’s personal injury lawsuit against the amusement park.

Arin Valsted and Blair Johnson are friends of Kaitlyn, and they were sitting next to her when the accident happened on June 21, 2007. They sustained bruises and cuts during the incident and continue to seek counseling. The two girls are seeking damages for medical costs, pain, and emotional trauma.

While the judge is allowing Arin and Blair to join the lawsuit, their parents, who had wanted to sue the Six Flags park for emotional trauma and travel costs incurred while helping their children recover from their injuries, cannot join the suit.

The Lassiter family filed an amusement park accident lawsuit against the Louisville park after a cable that snapped on the ride severed Kaitlyn’s feet. Their lawsuit contends that Six Flags could have prevented the serious injury accident if they had properly maintained the ride. The ride is no longer in operation and state officials are citing a faulty cable and the amusement park operators slow response during the incident as causes of Kaitlyn's serious injuries. A personal injury trial is scheduled to begin in January.

While thrill rides at amusement parks can be a great source of enjoyment for children, they can also lead to serious, even fatal injuries, if a ride malfunctions or a ride operator makes a mistake.

Injuries to Minors
In Kentucky, an injured minor cannot file a personal injury lawsuit without the assistance of a parent, a guardian, or another adult.

Kentucky Kingdom Suit Expands, Courier-Journal.com, August 5, 2008

Judge: Teens can join Kentucky amusement park suit, WHAS.com, August 4, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Factors in ride accident cited, Courier-Journal.com, May 31, 2008

Read the Six Flags Accident Report (PDF), WHAS.com

A good personal injury lawyer can determine whether your child was injured because a driver, a doctor, a product manufacturer, an amusement park, the owner or a business or residence, or another party was negligent.

July 7, 2008

Louisville Mother Sues Crocs Inc. for $4 Million After 3-Year-Old’s Foot Gets Caught in Airport Escalator

In Kentucky, Alison Cox Pregliaso, a Louisville mother, is suing Crocs Inc, for her 3-year-old daughter’s personal injuries. Pregliaso’s daughter sustained permanent injuries last month when her foot got caught in an escalator at Hartsfield-International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. Her daughter was wearing Crocs footwear.

Not only did the shoe get shredded, but Pregliaso says that her daughter’s big toe broke and its skin was ripped off. Pregliaso is suing the company for $4 million in punitive damages.

According to the personal injury lawsuit, filed in Kentucky in federal court, Pregliaso is accusing the manufacturer of trying to blame the children or parents for her Crocs-related injuries. This is not the first time a child has been injured while wearing Crocs. In February, the parents of a 3-year-old injured at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York sued Crocs for $7 million. In another Crocs-related injury accident last September, a 4-year-old Croc wearer got hurt when his foot got caught in a mall escalator.

Earlier this year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that there have been at least 77 escalator entrapment incidents since January 2006 involving soft-sided flexible slides and clogs. Although the report did not name Crocs directly, the CPSC said that the shoe line is part of this category of shoes.

In Japan, the Trade Ministry asked the Crocs manufacturer to change its design following 65 complaints of escalator accidents over a six-month period involving mostly children using Crocs and fake Crocs.

If you or your child were seriously injured because of a defective product, it is important that you speak with an experienced Louisville, Kentucky products liability law firm that can help you evaluate your case during your free consultation. A good defective products lawyer can assess whether a defect occurred during the design, manufacture, or marketing process. The responsible party can also be held strictly liable for the injury accident even if they didn’t do anything negligent but the product still proved dangerous for use.

Crocs cited in lawsuit over girl's injuries at airport, AJC.com, July 2, 2008

Crocs and similar soft shoes linked to escalator entrapments, Consumer Report, May 20, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Crocs Inc.

Crocs shoes dangerous on escalators, The Japan Times, April 19, 2008