Articles Posted in Unsafe Premises

When the news involving Astroworld, a two-day music festival in Houston, broke out earlier this month, people all over the country were shocked to hear that at least eight people had been killed in the tragic incident. In Washington, D.C., music festivals, concerts, and events of similar size take place each year and bring crowds that could involve thousands of people. In the event that crowd control or event planning safety protocols fail and you are injured, understanding how you may recover and protect yourself is crucial.

Based on a recent report of the incident, at least eight people were killed and dozens were injured during Astroworld. According to initial reports, a large crowd began pushing toward the front of the stage during artist Travis Scott’s performance, and the true cause of the surge remains under investigation. There were more than 50,000 people assembled at the festival when the injuries took place. Local authorities noted that the Astroworld tragedy was one of the deadliest crowd control disasters in the United States since potentially 1979, where a similar situation in Cincinnati left 11 people dead.

Despite various reports of chaos near the stage and videos showing the crowd pleading for help, concert organizers opted to not shut down the event too quickly. Nearly 40 minutes after city officials reported that the “mass casualty event” began did concert organizers stop the event—only thirty minutes earlier than planned.

As part of a D.C. premises liability claim, a plaintiff has to prove that a defendant had the duty to protect the plaintiff from foreseeable harm. Under D.C. law, generally, a defendant is not liable to an individual for the criminal acts of a third party, unless there is a special relationship between the parties. Special relationships can include employers and their employees, landlords and tenants, and businesses and their invitees.

Generally, business owners have a duty to protect invitees from injuries inflicted by third parties if the owner could have known that such acts were occurred or were about to occur. Cases involving criminal acts have a heightened burden of proving that the act was foreseeable. In cases involving criminal activity, because of the nature of criminal conduct, D.C. courts generally require that plaintiffs prove that the criminal act was “so foreseeable that a duty arises to guard against it.”

In a recent case before one state’s supreme court, the court considered whether a bar could be held liable for a person’s injuries sustained in a fight in the parking lot at closing time. In that case, the plaintiff and a friend were at the bar, and went outside when the bar was closing. The plaintiff did not have any disputes with anyone in the bar while he was inside. As the plaintiff and his friend were crossing the parking lot, they got into a fight with other customers, and the plaintiff suffered injuries that left him permanently blind.

In a truly disgusting and alarming story out of DC, a former employee of a local DC hospital has received a jury verdict for $237,000 for the emotional distress she suffered when she was bitten by a rat while working with cadavers. According to a report by the Huffington Post, the woman was working at Providence Hospital in Washington DC when the events took place.

Evidently, the woman was working as a contract employee with the hospital and was responsible for working with cadavers in some capacity. While employed at the hospital, she recalls seeing rats chew through body bags and enter bodies through the anus and vagina.

At some point during her employment, she was preparing a cadaver when she thought she saw a feminine product in one of the bodies. As she tried to remove it, it became evident that it was actually a rat. The rat, startled from having its tail pulled, bit the woman, sending her to the hospital. The woman claims that these conditions have been going on for years but had been effectively covered up by hospital administration.

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The family of a woman whose body was found in the stairwell of a San Francisco hospital weeks after she went missing from her hospital bed has filed a legal claim with the city, indicating their intention to file a lawsuit. The claim is a mandatory prerequisite to a lawsuit against city and county agencies. The family’s claim alleges medical malpractice, negligence, dangerous property conditions, and violations of the state elder abuse and adult dependency statute. Hospital workers have accused the hospital of serious understaffing, to the point that it compromises patient safety. The hospital has announced two rounds of changes to its security procedures as a result of the incident, including access controls, patient checks, and a missing patient policy.

The decedent, 57 year-old Lynn Spalding Ford, checked into San Francisco General Hospital on September 19, 2013. On September 21, a hospital worker reported her missing. The worker allegedly described Spalding, who is white, as a black woman, and some hospital paperwork described her as Asian. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD), which handles hospital security, searched the hospital perimeter but did not classify Spalding as missing. Surveillance footage was not available to authorities until October 4. The hospital did not ask SFSD to search the entire 24-acre hospital campus until September 30, after Spalding had been missing for nine days. The search did not include all of the stairwells.

On October 4, a hospital employee reported a person lying on the 3rd- or 4th-floor stairwell of Stairwell 8. A fifth-floor employee reported hearing banging from Stairwell 8 the same day. There is no indication that anyone searched that stairwell in response to these reports. An employee with the hospital’s engineering department finally found Spalding’s body during a routine check of an exterior stairwell on October 8. Spalding had been missing for seventeen days. Both the hospital and SFSD said that the stairwell is alarmed, only exits to the first floor, and is only used as a fire exit. The medical examiner listed her cause of death as dehydration and alcoholism complications, but could not say for certain when she died.

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The death of a camera assistant during a film shoot in Georgia has raised questions about film crew safety, amid allegations that the filmmakers placed a higher priority on completing the film on schedule and under budget. The woman’s family is expected to file a lawsuit in connection with her death, but many important details of the case remain unknown. Prior court cases involving film shoot injuries or deaths have involved employment-related questions, such as whether an injured person was an employee of a filmmaker, as a key part of determining liability.

The decedent, Sarah Jones, was second assistant camera on a low-budget independent film entitled Midnight Rider. On February 20, 2014, she and others were setting up to shoot a dream sequence, which involved placing a bed frame and mattress in the middle of the tracks on a bridge trestle spanning the Altamaha River outside of Doctortown, Georgia. Crew members were warned that, in the event a train approached, they would have sixty seconds to get out of its way.

When a train did appear, Jones, a hairstylist, and the director were still on the trestle. The hairstylist told the Hollywood Reporter that their only way off involved running towards the train. She ran for a gangplank, but the train struck her left arm before she made it there. She survived, but suffered a major fracture. Another crew member managed to pull the director to safety. Jones, however, did not make it to the gangplank, and was killed by the train.

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The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) to recent changes made to a federal regulation affecting hazardous materials. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) amended its hazard communication (HazCom) standard in March 2012. ATRA claimed that OSHA overstepped its authority, but the court disagreed. ATRA v. OSHA, No. 12-229, slip op. (D.C. Cir., Dec. 27, 2013). While the case involves a range of complex questions of regulatory law, the bottom line is that the ruling is good for personal injury plaintiffs. The HazCom standard mandates labeling and other warnings about materials known to pose health risks to workers and consumers. The court affirmed that it does not preempt state tort law, meaning that it does not prevent plaintiffs from recovering damages in a suit for injuries brought under state law.

OSHA has authority under the Occupational Safety and Health Act to promulgate regulations promoting workplace safety, but these regulations may not supersede or preempt state law claims for injuries or wrongful death. 29 U.S.C. § 653(b)(4). The HazCom standard, 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1200, requires classification of known hazards associated with exposure to chemical products and disclosure of those hazards to workers. This disclosure takes the form of labels placed on chemical containers and “safety data sheets,” along with programs for providing this information to employees.

Since the HazCom standard was first introduced in 1983, companies have had some leeway as to the format of the labels, but in 2012, OSHA issued a new rule standardizing all labels and data sheets nationwide according to the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. It stated that the rule would preempt state and local laws and regulations relating to labeling requirements, but not state law tort claims, such as failure to warn and products liability.

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According to school and law enforcement officials, several civilians and two police officers were injured when hundreds of disgruntled spectators rushed the gate at Howard University’s annual homecoming concert “Yardfest.”

The annual event has been a free event, open to the public, for at least 20 years. This year, however, the organizers decided to make the concert a ticketed event, charging $5 for each person. A spokesperson for the university also stated that officials had determined that only 14,000 people could safely attend the event, even though authorities had not enforced limits on crowd size in the past.

The result of the changes was essentially chaos, when the disgruntled crowd members, believed to consist mostly of un-ticketed individuals, decided to rush the gate, injuring eight civilians and two officers. All of the victims were taken to local hospitals, though the injuries were all reportedly minor. The concert was reportedly delayed as a result of the behavior.

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A professional baseball player, Kouichi Taniguchi, brought an unusual claim to the U.S. Supreme Court. Taniguchi sued a hotel over an injury he sustained falling through a deck. The hotel won the case, and obtained a judgment against Taniguchi for “interpretation costs,” per a provision in federal law. Taniguchi fought this all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor in May. The case demonstrates the complex nature of expenses in litigation, and how far some parties will go to get a non-prevailing party to pay, or how far a party will go not to have to pay. The amount in dispute was just over $5,000, which makes the case even more remarkable when one considers the cost of taking a case to trial, let alone to the Supreme Court.

Taniguchi is a professional baseball player from Japan. He reportedly played for Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants, but left after only seven games due to an injured shoulder. He also played minor league ball in the United States for a time. In November 2006, he visited the Marianas Resort and Spa in Saipan. Saipan is an island in the Northern Marianas Islands, an unincorporated, organized territory of the United States in the Pacific Ocean. During a tour of the hotel, Taniguchi fell through a deck, sustaining injuries.

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BP, Transocean, and several other companies have settled lawsuits with some of the individuals injured in the April 2010 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed eleven people and caused one of the worst oil spills in history. The companies have also settled some of the claims pending between the various businesses involved with the drilling operation. Still, the situation is a mess of competing claims and lawsuits that may take years to unravel, as injured plaintiffs seek to separate their claims from several thousand consolidated claims for damages.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, owned by Transocean and operated by BP, was a deep water rig positioned in the Gulf about 48 miles south of the Louisiana coast. It had drilled the deepest oil well in history, at more than 35,000 feet, in late 2009, and at the time of the explosion was drilling in an area called Mississippi Canyon Block 252. The explosion occurred on April 20, 2010, when a blowout, typically the result of a failure in pressure control systems, killed eleven workers on the rig and created a fireball visible for miles. The rig sank, while the well, located over 4,000 feet underwater, continued gushing and caused the massive oil spill.

A crew of 126 people was on the rig at the time, including a visiting group of Transocean and BP executives. Nearly all the survivors suffered injury. The person with the worst injuries, according to Bloomberg, is Buddy Trahan, a Transocean executive who suffered twelve broken bones when the explosion threw him thirty feet through a wall and buried him under rubble. A crew member freed him from the wreckage and found that a door hinge had nearly pierced his carotid artery. Trahan and numerous other individuals sued BP and other companies for negligence. Businesses and individuals affected by the explosion, including fishermen and tour companies, also have claims pending. State and federal governments have claims against various companies for damages and regulatory infractions.

The injury and wrongful death lawsuits have been delayed by disputes between BP, Transocean, and other companies over liability for the explosion itself and various property damage claims. Transocean recovered for the total loss of the rig, but other companies lost equipment as well. BP has made claims against manufacturers whose equipment may have caused or contributed to the explosion. The court consolidated several thousand claims for property damages and other economic injuries with the personal injury claims in order to facilitate pretrial processes. Around twelve personal injury claims are still pending.

One worker injured in the explosion, Oleander Benton, settled her federal lawsuit against BP, Transocean, and others. Benton asked a U.S. district judge in New Orleans to dismiss the suit in February. She had sought $5.5 million in compensation for her injuries, but the exact details of the settlement have not been disclosed.

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently released its report on a deadly gas pipeline explosion that ravaged a neighborhood outside San Francisco and killed eight people last year. The NTSB, after reviewing data and testimony presented at a meeting in August and over a year-long investigation, concluded unanimously that fault for the explosion lies with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), one of the largest gas companies in the country. The 140-page report issued by NTSB contains thirty-nine safety recommendations directed not only at PG&E, but also pipeline operators and government regulators. Lawsuits related to the explosion are also preparing for trial next year.

The accident occurred in the early evening of September 9, 2010 in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno, when a ruptured natural gas pipeline owned by PG&E exploded with sufficient force to make some first responders, residents, and media think an earthquake or plane crash had just occurred. The explosion caused a fire that destroyed thirty-five houses and damaged many more. Three more homes were later deemed too badly damaged and were demolished. The blast created a crater 72 feet long, 26 feet wide, and 40 feet deep. In all, eight people, mostly neighborhood residents, died in the explosions or from burns.

The NTSB’s report describes a “litany of failures” by PG&E and failures in oversight by government regulators, according to a Bloomberg report. It says the problem began over 50 years ago, when PG&E installed substandard pipe with poor welding, then subsequently failed to conduct tests and inspections that would have identified problems in advance. It further blames an inept response by PG&E for the severity of the destruction. PG&E control room operators allegedly did not relay information on the source of the fire to emergency responders or 911 operators, causing responders to still think they were dealing with a plane crash. The absence of emergency shut-off valves on the pipeline also allegedly prolonged the fire considerably.

PG&E’s problems with pipeline explosions do not end with the San Bruno incident. The California Public Utilities Commission approved a record $38 million fine against the company last week for a Christmas Eve 2008 explosion in Rancho Cordova, outside Sacramento. That blast killed one person, injured five, and destroyed a house. A utility employee and a firefighter were among the injured. The fatality was the elderly owner of the destroyed home. The owner’s family reached a confidential settlement with PG&E in 2009. An investigation found that, during a repair in 2006, PG&E installed the wrong kid of pipe in the gas line. It also found that PG&E responded too slowly to a report of a leak the day of the explosion.

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