A former executive of a peanut company was recently sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in distributing tainted peanut butter back in 2008 and 2009 that made dozens of people seriously ill and killed several others. According to one industry news source reporting on the criminal case, this marked the first time that an executive was prosecuted criminally in a food poisoning case.

Peanut Butter ToastEvidently, the prosecution submitted evidence that the executive signed off on shipments of peanut butter that he knew to be tainted. He also submitted fraudulent lab tests, claiming that the product had been tested for salmonella. When investigators conducted an inspection of the facility, they discovered leaking roofs, cockroaches, and evidence of a rodent infestation.

Establishing Civil Liability After a Criminal Prosecution

While the case discussed above was a criminal prosecution, it may have laid the groundwork for the families who were affected by the tainted peanut butter to seek financial compensation through a civil lawsuit. Manufacturers of all products, including food, assume a duty to ensure that the products they sell are reasonably safe. When a product causes an injury to a customer, or tainted food is consumed and results in an illness, the manufacturer may be held liable.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Idaho issued a written opinion affirming a jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that there was sufficient evidence to support the verdict. In the case, Hoffer v. Shappard, the court affirmed the jury’s determination that the defendant doctor was liable for the injuries sustained by the plaintiffs’ daughter after she was misdiagnosed by the defendant doctor.

Doctor's InstrumentsThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs’ daughter was born five weeks before she was due. For the first six weeks after her birth, various doctors treated the girl and did not notice anything wrong with her. However, her mother took her to one of the defendant doctors when the girl was two months old for a regular check-up. That doctor saw the girl for five visits in total.

During the visits, the plaintiffs expressed concern that their daughter had an asymmetrical skin fold, had one leg that was significantly longer than the other, and walked on her “tippy toes.” The defendant doctor dismissed the plaintiffs’ concerns, telling them that it was normal for a child under two years old.

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Earlier last month, one state’s supreme court issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case that was dismissed by the lower court because that court determined it had been filed after the applicable statute of limitations. The court also held that the “discovery rule” did not apply in wrongful death cases caused by medical malpractice. However, the court hearing the appeal in the case of Moon v. Rhode held that the the discovery rule does apply and that the lower court failed to make a factual finding as to when the statute of limitations began to run. Therefore, it was an error to dismiss the case.

ClockThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving family members of a 90-year-old woman who died while under the care of the defendant doctors. After the woman’s death on May 29, 2009, the plaintiffs submitted a request for medical records, had them reviewed by an expert, and was told that there was more that the doctors could have done to treat their mother. During the course of the plaintiffs’ investigation, an MRI was conducted, after which it became apparent that there may have been another doctor who was also partially responsible for their mother’s death. However, this discovery was made after the two-year statute of limitations had expired. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit nonetheless.

The defendants argued that the two-year statute of limitations should start from the date of the plaintiffs’ mother’s death. They argued that there was enough evidence present at that time to put the plaintiffs on notice that there could be a potential medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit. The plaintiffs, on the other hand, claimed that the only way they could possibly know about the facts giving rise to the case was after reviewing the MRI. The plaintiffs argued that since they could not have discovered the potential lawsuit until their review of the MRI, the statute of limitations should not have started until they were made aware of the MRI results.

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After someone is injured in any kind of accident, they may seek financial compensation from the at-fault party through a personal injury lawsuit. However, before a party’s case is heard by a court, several facts must first be established. One very important fact that must be determined before a case is heard is whether the court where the case is filed has “jurisdiction” over the defendant and the case.

Ford MustangJurisdiction is a legal term that refers to a court’s ability to issue a binding order on a party. If a court does not have jurisdiction over the parties, it will not be able to legally hear the case, and any ruling or verdict in the case will be invalid. Therefore, before a case proceeds to trial, jurisdiction must first be established.

Jurisdiction is actually a complex legal subject that is often argued and contains many nuances. There are two types of jurisdiction, each of which must be established. They are personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to implement an order binding the parties. Subject matter jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to hear the specific topic of the case being filed.

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All medical malpractice lawsuits must be brought within a certain amount of time. This is generally known as the statute of limitations. In most cases, if a plaintiff files a case after the statute of limitations expires, the court must dismiss the case. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule that may allow a plaintiff to file a medical malpractice lawsuit after the applicable statute of limitations has technically run out.

DoctorThe Continuing Course of Treatment Doctrine

In both Maryland and Washington, D.C., plaintiffs who allege medical malpractice against a doctor must bring that lawsuit within a certain number of years from the date of the injury or the date that they discovered the injury. However, if the same doctor continues to provide treatment for the same condition, the statute of limitations may not begin to run until that treatment stops. A recent example of the continuing course of treatment doctrine arose in the case of Parr v. Rosenthal.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs’ son was born with a large bump on the back side of his calf. It took a few years to diagnose, but it was eventually determined in 2003 that the bump was a desmoid tumor, which is a rare but benign tumor that can grow to such a size that it may impair bodily function. In fact, the tumor did begin to alter the boy’s gait, and the parents discussed the removal of the tumor with the team of doctors treating their son.

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The California Court of Appeals recently published an opinion reversing a lower court ruling favoring the defendant in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The trial court had granted summary judgment to the defendant and disposed of the plaintiff’s claim by ruling that the plaintiff’s proposed medical expert, who was a licensed physician in Mexico but not the United States, could not offer testimony in support of crucial elements of the plaintiff’s case. Since the appellate court has reversed the lower ruling, the plaintiff’s lawsuit will proceed toward a trial or settlement of her claim.

GavelThe Plaintiff Suffers Worsening Symptoms After Having a Surgery Performed by the Defendant

The plaintiff in the case of Borrayo v. Avery is a woman who sought treatment from the defendant in 2009 for chronic pain in her right shoulder and arm. She was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, which was said to be the result of repetitive stress on her joints from her history of working in clothing production. In September 2009, the defendant performed a surgery on the plaintiff, removing one of her ribs to alleviate her symptoms and treat the diagnosed condition. According to facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff’s symptoms failed to improve, and she developed new medical problems approximately one year after the procedure. Based on her worsening condition, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant in November 2012.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a case between a man injured while walking his friend’s dog and the dog owner’s insurance company. In the case, American Family Mutual Insurance v. Williams, the court determined that the injured party was not excluded from the homeowner’s insurance policy, so the insurance company was responsible to defend against the lawsuit.

Pug JumpingThe Facts of the Case

Williams was visiting his college friend, Van de Venter. When Van de Venter was getting ready to leave for work, he explained that his dog, Emma, would ring a bell by the door when she needed to go outside. He did not mention anything about walking Emma, only about letting her out.

At some point during the day, Emma rang the bell. Williams came downstairs and attached her leash to take her for a walk. As Williams was walking Emma, another dog in the neighborhood barked, attracting Emma’s attention. As Emma ran toward the other dog, she jerked the leash and Williams fell, sustaining a serious injury to his shoulder.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nevada issued an opinion in what turned out to be a medical malpractice case, although the plaintiff filed the case as a battery case. In the case, Humboldt General Hospital v. Sixth Judicial District Court, the appellate court hearing the case determined that the lower court should have dismissed the plaintiff’s case because she failed to comply with the requirements of a medical malpractice case.

DoctorsThe Facts of the Case

Ms. Barrett had an intrauterine device (IUD) implanted in her body at the defendant hospital. About one year after the procedure, the hospital sent a letter to Barrett, explaining that the IUD implanted in her body had not been FDA-approved. As it turns out, the IUD was made in the same facility as the FDA-approved devices. However, since it was shipped to Canada prior to its arrival in the U.S., rather than directly to the U.S., the exact device was not approved.

Barrett filed a negligence claim against the hospital, claiming that it had a duty to only use FDA-approved devices. Barrett also filed a battery claim against the hospital, claiming that the hospital should have known that she would not consent to a non-approved device being implanted in her body. She did not file any expert affidavit or any other supporting documentation because she saw this not as a medical malpractice case but as a battery case.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a woman who slipped and fell on a piece of watermelon in a grocery store. In the case, Edwards v. Hy-Vee, the court ultimately dismissed the case against the grocery store because the plaintiff was unable to prove that the defendant had knowledge of the dangerous condition prior to her accident. As a result of the case, the plaintiff will be unable to recover damages to help her cover her medical costs and related expenses.

Wet Floor SignThe Facts of the Case

Edwards was with her daughter, shopping at a grocery store owned by Hy-Vee. On her way out of the store, she slipped and fell on what appeared to be a piece of watermelon. Less than 10 feet from where she fell, an employee of Hy-Vee was handing out samples of watermelon.

Edwards filed a premises liability lawsuit against Hy-Vee, arguing that the company either created the dangerous condition that caused her fall or had constructive knowledge of the condition but failed to do anything to remedy it. At trial, the court resolved both arguments in favor of the defendant, and Edwards appealed.

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Earlier this month, an Arizona appellate court issued a written decision in an auto accident case, holding that the lower court erred in not allowing the sole defendant to name an additional defendant whom she believed to be in part liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. The court in Cramer v. Starr based its decision on the fact that Arizona was a “several liability” state.

Car AccidentIn short, Cramer struck another motorist, Mungia. Mungia then sought out medical treatment, culminating in a surgery. The surgery ended up making her symptoms worse, and she sued Cramer for negligence without naming the doctor in the lawsuit. Cramer then asked the court for permission to name the doctor as an additional defendant under a medical malpractice theory of liability.

“Several Liability” Versus “Joint and Several Liability”

There are two basic statutory schemes that states use to determine how much an at-fault defendant can be required to compensate a plaintiff. In a “several liability” state, defendants are severally liable to the plaintiff for the damages they caused. This means that any one defendant cannot be required to pay more than their share of the damages. For example, if a defendant is determined to be 30% at fault in an accident, and the total damages suffered by the plaintiff were $500,000, the defendant who was 30% at fault will only be required to pay $150,000.

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