Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Mississippi issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case that illustrates why it is important for accident victims to secure dedicated and knowledgeable counsel to assist them with their claims. In the case, Davis v. Blaylock, the court dismissed three wrongful death cases against various defendants the plaintiff alleged were responsible for the death of her father because the plaintiff had previously filed a case based on the same series of events.

Medical RecordsThe Facts

The plaintiff, Long, lost her father while he was in the care of the defendant doctors. Believing that her father’s death was caused by the negligent care he received from the doctors, she filed a series of wrongful death lawsuits against the doctors in different counties. The first lawsuit was filed on November 4, 2014.

Two weeks after the filing of the first lawsuit, Long filed a second lawsuit against a different doctor she claimed was liable for her father’s death. On the same day, Long filed a third wrongful death lawsuit against the medical center where her father was being treated. Three weeks later, Long filed a fourth wrongful death case against the same medical center, making slightly different claims.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case that was filed by a man who was paralyzed after he dived off a diving platform in a state park. The court noted that it was sympathetic to the plaintiff, but that the law had to be applied in an unemotional way. In so doing, the court found that the state was immune from the lawsuit based on recreational immunity.

Roy v. State: The Facts

Roy was Wooded Lakeparalyzed when he dove off a diving platform into the murky waters below it. He filed a premises liability lawsuit against the state, as well as the owner and operator of the park, alleging that the state had not done enough to protect against the type of injury he sustained.

The evidence presented at trial showed that there were “no swimming” signs up around the park, but that people routinely disobeyed the signage. There was even testimony that there were bathhouses and lifeguards occasionally on duty who would only stop swimmers when they would dive head-first into the pond.

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Last year, actor and comedian Tracy Morgan was involved in an accident when a Wal-Mart truck rear-ended the limo Morgan and friends were riding in, seriously injuring Morgan and fatally wounding one of his friends, fellow comedian James McNair. According to one news source covering the issue, the National Transportation Safety Bureau will meet next week in Washington D.C. to conduct a hearing investigating the cause of the fatal accident.

truck-on-hwy-1615510Allegations of Drowsy Driving

While the NTSB is still conducting its investigation into what occurred in the moments leading up to the fatal accident, a preliminary report issued just weeks after the accident showed that the driver was traveling 65 miles per hour in an area with a designated speed limit of 45 or 55 miles per hour due to ongoing construction. Additionally, there have been claims that the driver was awake and on the road for almost all of the preceding 24 hours, which is in violation of state and federal laws. In New Jersey, where the accident occurred, causing an accident after having not slept for 24 hours can result in an “assault by auto” charge.

Morgan was seriously injured with a broken leg, serious head trauma, and several broken ribs. James McNair was pronounced dead shortly after emergency responders arrived on the scene. Several others in the limo at the time of the accident also suffered varying injuries.

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Earlier this month, the long-time partner of a man who was killed by the Fairfax Police Department filed suit against the Department seeking $12 million in damages for her loss. According to a report by CBS DC, the lawsuit that was filed in federal court claims that the police chief and three unnamed officers engaged in wrongful conduct that was grossly negligent and caused the wrongful death of her loved one.

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Evidently, back in August of this year the woman called 911 during an argument that the couple was having. At some point during the encounter, police shot the woman’s partner in the chest despite several witness reports that he was unarmed. The man died shortly after. The cause of death was officially listed as loss of blood.

The woman told reporters that she filed the suit to get some answers for herself and for her two teenage daughters. The Fairfax Police Department has thus far refused to discuss the case, or to say whether it believes that the shooting was justified.

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Earlier this week in Prince George’s County, a teen was killed when he crashed his dirt bike into a tree after running from police. The family of the teen has recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Prince George’s County, seeking $20 million in damages.

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According to a report by the Washington Post, two teens were riding on a Kawasaki dirt bike in an apartment complex when an officer began to tail them. The officer claims that he suspected the pair were involved in a recent armed robbery. As the officer initiated a traffic stop, the teens fled. The officer pursued the teens across county lines and into Washington DC. Once in DC, the teens crashed the motorcycle into a tree. The driver of the motorcycle died as a result.

The deceased teen’s family is claiming that the officer did not have the authority to pursue the teen, citing to recent changes in Prince George’s County police protocol. Pursuant to police protocol, an officer can only chase a fleeing suspect when he or she suspects the suspect of certain enumerated crimes. While riding a dirt bike on public roads is illegal, it is not one of the crimes listed. Moreover, the officer did not have police authority in the District of Columbia, once the teens entered that jurisdiction.

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Algodones_sand-dune-fence.jpgA series of investigations and lawsuits seek to shed light on shootings by agents of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency which includes the U.S. Border Patrol (BP), involving Mexican nationals located across the border on Mexican territory. Asserting civil claims over these incidents has proven difficult, both practically and legally. The CBP and related agencies suffer from a lack of transparency, which makes the discovery process difficult. Courts have been reluctant to exercise jurisdiction over claims by foreign nationals, raising questions about jurisdiction and rights when an agent fires a gun on one side of an international border, and the injury occurs on the other side.

According to the Arizona Republic, BP and CBP agents have been involved in at least forty-two fatal uses of force since 2005. Thirty-eight of those deaths occurred near the U.S.-Mexico border. The Republic describes them as varying from “strongly justifiable to highly questionable.” Four BP agents have died in “direct conflicts with aggressors” in roughly the same timeframe.

Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, age sixteen, was shot and killed by BP agents on October 10, 2012. The agents were located in Nogales, Arizona, while Rodriguez was in the Mexican town of the same name. The agents claimed that Rodriguez was throwing rocks at them. Agents are permitted to use deadly force in response to threats, and they treat rocks as a deadly weapon as a matter of policy.

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199388_4363.jpgThe 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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Amtrak_Across_the_James.jpgThe 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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IMG_8031.jpgThe family of a child who died of an infection possibly contracted from a rat bite has filed a lawsuit against the pet store that sold them the rat. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death to be a bacterial infection sometimes known as “rat-bite fever.” The lawsuit alleges general negligence, claiming that the pet store, part of the national chain Petco, failed to warn of the dangers associated with owning a rat as a pet. The plaintiffs are seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.

The ten year-old boy, who lived in San Diego, California, reportedly purchased the rat from a Petco store with his grandmother on May 27, 2013. He began experiencing severe pain at around midnight on June 11, including a fever and stomach pain. Paramedics took him to the hospital, but he died about an hour later. After conducting an autopsy, the medical examiner determined that he died of streptobacillus monliformis infection, or rat-bite fever.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people can contract this infection from infected rodents via a bite or scratch, or by ingesting food or water contaminated with the bacteria. Common symptoms include fever, chills, and joint pain or stiffness. The infection can be serious and even fatal, with a mortality rate of ten percent, if left untreated. A significant risk of delayed diagnosis exists because the initial symptoms are often nonspecific and the bacterium itself is reportedly difficult to culture. As rats become more popular as pets, some clinicians have expressed concern about increased risk of exposure.

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Washington_DC_view1.jpgThe U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia partly granted and partly denied a motion to dismiss brought by the defendant in a lawsuit alleging failure to supervise a group home resident. Colbert, et al v. District of Columbia, et al, No. 1:13-cv-00531, opinion (D.D.C., Dec. 13, 2013). The plaintiff sued the District of Columbia and a private contractor operating a group home, asserting various tort claims and a constitutional claim after her daughter, a developmentally disabled woman, became pregnant while in the custody of the District. The court declined to dismiss the suit outright, but it dismissed the constitutional claim without prejudice, giving the plaintiff an opportunity to amend her complaint. If the court dismisses that claim with prejudice, it may lose subject matter jurisdiction over the remaining claims based on DC law.

The plaintiff’s daughter, identified in the court’s opinion as KC, was hospitalized at the District’s request in the fall of 2008. A psychological assessment determined that KC needed 24/7 care and supervision, so she went to live at a group home operated by a contractor, Total Care Services, Inc. According to the plaintiff, KC had a history of sexual abuse and neglect, a history of failing to take her medication consistently, and mental impairment.

Total Care and the District were aware of KC’s history and how it affected her condition, the plaintiff claims, but they allegedly allowed her to have unprotected and nonconsensual sex with multiple individuals. The plaintiff does not appear to claim that any employee of either Defendant participated in sexual activity with KC. KC became pregnant and gave birth to a girl named TC, who was born prematurely in April 2011. The plaintiff was awarded sole custody of TC, but she was born with significant health problems and required frequent surgeries and hospitalization. TC died nine days after her first birthday.

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