Most of us know that when products are defective and injure people, a consumer has the right to sue the manufacturer and the seller for damages. We usually think of defective products as ordinarily safe items that are made poorly, or “one-offs,” which come off the assembly line different than other similar products.

But often, products that we use every day, and which perform as expected, can injure people and be the subject of a product liability suit. Often, defective items are ones that you may use every day.

The Dangers of the Key Fob

One such item is the ubiquitous car key fob. A key fob is the electronic device on many keychains that electronically communicates with cars that have keyless entry or keyless ignition. Simply press the ignition button in your car, and as long as the fob is within a certain distance, the car will start.

But one lawsuit is alleging that there is a problem with key fobs. The problem is that you need the fob to turn the car on, but it has no role in turning it off. Many people assume that if you move the fob away from the car, it will turn off. In fact, it does not. In most cases, a running car will keep running, even if you walk away with the key fob. That, some attorneys say in a lawsuit, is an often fatal defect.

Running engines emit carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that silently kills. When people walk away from their cars, either forgetting to turn it off, or believing it will do so automatically as the fob is distanced from it, and that car is in an attached garage, carbon monoxide permeates the home, and the occupants can be killed.

By one report, there have been 19 such fatalities since 2009 and 25 near deaths. Even the National Highway Safety Administration has admitted that keyless entry cars pose a problem, but there has been no regulation.

Private Class Action Seeks Changes

Thus, a private attorney has taken automakers to task in a class action lawsuit.

The lawyers point to the fact that some cars do, in fact, have automatic engine shutoff. Thus, they argue, there is no reason why all of them should not have such features. They also argue that if headlights shut off automatically, there is no reason why engines should not have the same feature.

It remains to be seen what will happen in the litigation. But it is a reminder that product liability suits can often bring about change that government regulation can not or will not.

If you have been injured by the negligence of another or by a defective product, you should make sure the party responsible is held to task. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss getting reparation for your injuries.

When someone is injured in an accident, particularly a catastrophic accident, we often focus on the person who was injured and label him or her the victim—as we should. But it is easy to forget that in these kinds of cases, there are other victims as well, and the suffering can often extend beyond just the person who is injured.

Law Allows for Consortium Claims

We tend to overlook the loss suffered by family members of a victim who is injured. They are often burdened not just with coping with a loved one’s injuries and needs, but the loss of the way things used to be.

The law does allow for family members and loved ones of a victim to recover for damages in these kinds of situations. The claim is often called a consortium claim (or loss of consortium). In consortium claims, the loved one is an additional plaintiff in the lawsuit, suing the negligent defendants alongside the injured person.

Consortium claims can be powerful, allowing a jury to hear how the lives of the victim and his family have changed from someone other than the victim. This different perspective can lend a different voice to how an accident affects a family.

Damages in Consortium Claims

Consortium claims are claims for anything in a relationship that is lost when someone gets injured. They can include the loss of companionship between a husband and wife, marital problems, (such as fighting that arises because of a spouse’s injuries), or simply the loss of the ability to do things a couple used to enjoy, such as taking walks or shopping together.

The spouse may not be able to engage in activities that he or she used to enjoy because of the injured spouse’s increased physical or emotional needs after an accident. The spouse may have to spend more time caring for the children at the detriment of his or her own career or hobbies because of the injured spouse’s inability to do so.

It is important to remember that if someone has a consortium claim, he or she may have to testify as to sensitive information. It can be difficult to tell a jury of strangers how much you now fight with a spouse. It may even make someone feel guilty to say that driving a spouse who can not drive him or herself everywhere he or she needs to go is creating difficulty.

You can be certain that a defendant seeking to dispute a consortium claim may ask invasive questions about a couple’s intimate life, prior marriage counseling, and mental health issues.

Still, for couples that have had their lives torn apart due to a major injury, a consortium claim can be an opportunity to recover from a significant aspect of damages arising out of injury, and one that jurors are often sympathetic towards.

Make sure you obtain recovery for every aspect of your damages after sustaining an injury. Contact the personal injury attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss any and all claims you may have.

A recent United States Supreme Court case has upheld an arbitration clause in a class action dispute against DirectTV. While the case may seem more applicable to contractual or consumer claims, as the law crawls towards upholding these kinds of clauses, personal injury victims may also find their rights adversely affected.

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a process by which a plaintiff’s case is heard before an arbitrator instead of in open court. The arbitrator is often not a judge, but rather a practicing attorney or retired judge. The process can be faster and much less formal than a full trial in a court. The arbitrator makes the decisions in the case, instead of a jury. Thus, a victim’s claims are no longer decided by his or her peers as they would be with a jury. In many cases, arbitrators derive significant business from insurance companies and big businesses, including the ones whose cases they hear, creating an inherent conflict of interest.

Why Companies Like Arbitration

Many companies like arbitration for this very reason—they feel it removes the emotional impression that a case may make on a jury, and thus, the logic goes, reduces the amount of the average verdict. Many companies have begun to force consumers to sign contracts that require arbitration if there is a lawsuit. While many such contracts limit consumer claims, in many cases, arbitration clauses affect the rights of personal injury victims.

Any establishment where a consumer signs a contract may be subject to arbitration. Examples include nursing homes, businesses that supervise children, or gyms.

Supreme Court Again Upholds Arbitration Clause

The Supreme Court already held arbitration clauses enforceable in 2011. This recent dispute arose because of California law, which prohibited arbitration clauses, and DirectTV’s contract, which required arbitration unless the consumer’s state law stated otherwise.

The consumers tried to argue that because California law prohibited arbitration, the DirectTV arbitration clause was not applicable. But the Supreme Court disagreed, stating that California law couldn’t restrict arbitration based on the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision. Thus, the applicable law at the time the consumers signed the DirectTV contract didn’t prohibit arbitration, making the contractual clause enforceable.

It is admittedly a convoluted fact pattern that involves some contractual analysis of the DirectTV agreement. The overriding trend is still disturbing—that the nation’s highest court continues to uphold provisions that ultimately take away a consumer’s (or victim’s) constitutional right to have their cases decided by a jury of their peers.

If you have been injured, make sure your constitutional rights are protected and that your case gets in front of a jury. Contact the personal injury attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

For many of us, taking pills and medicines is a routine of everyday life. Whether to cure disease, avoid disease, or improve our lifestyle, we depend on the safety of medicines every day. While there is never a guarantee of effectiveness, we do expect medicines to work the way they are supposed to and do what they say they will.

When they do not, we are probably all aware that a lawsuit can be filed from the barrage of attorney class action ads that run on television, informing consumers of the negative effects of medicines that have harmed people.

One kind of pharmaceutical that we often do not consider in this category is birth control. Surely, if birth control medicine harms us, there can be a lawsuit. But what happens when birth control simply does not work or perform as advertised? A recent lawsuit is exploring this interesting legal issue.

Contraception Manufacturer Sued

A class action lawsuit has been filed against a company that manufactures birth control pills. The suit alleges that the company manufactured a batch of pills that worked, but were switched in the package. The result is the consumer ingesting the “inert” pills at the wrong time of month than they should have for the contraceptive be effective, and subsequently becoming pregnant when they did not intend to.

There is no doubt that this is negligent of the pills’ manufacturer. But what are the damages? Is having an unexpected child a “damage”?

The Concept of Wrongful Birth

Actually, as off-putting as it may sound, the idea of “wrongful birth” (that is the legal term, although it is sometimes called “wrongful conception”) is not new. Many doctors who fail to perform effective vasectomies have been sued under this theory. In vasectomy cases, it is hard to blame the patient—the procedure is supposed to be effective once performed.

When contraceptive pills do not work, manufacturers can always say that the patient is not taking the pills, or taking them incorrectly. Despite the error, the company in this suit will likely allege that contraception is not foolproof anyway, and argue that it is impossible to argue that the pregnancies were caused by the mislabeled pill packages.

The plaintiffs also will have to prove that they incurred damages. It is likely that they will allege as a damage the financial expense that they will incur raising a child that they did not want. But as you may imagine, courts have balanced the unintended financial expense, with the emotional benefits of having a child. In other words, courts are hesitant to call a child a “damage”.

Additionally, many states have outlawed such suits, fearing that by legally recognizing any birth as “wrong,” courts would tacitly be favoring abortions. Thus, while courts generally try to avoid public policy and public opinion, very divisive issues come up when dealing with errors that result in unwanted pregnancies.

If you have been taking a medicine that you feel has caused you adverse effects, or you have been injured by any product that you think was defective, contact the product liability attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

People who are injured in catastrophic accidents often have injuries that can be seen. Broken bones, herniated disks, lacerations, scars, and loss of the use of limbs can have immediate impact on a jury when a case goes to trial. Often the most catastrophic type of injury is the kind that can not be immediately seen—injuries to the brain, which can be subtle and often require in-depth storytelling to allow a jury to understand the severity of these types of injuries.

Brain Injury Can Be Difficult To Demonstrate

Part of the problem with traumatic brain injury (TBI), is that unlike physical injuries, for a jury to understand its severity, the jury must have an accurate before and after picture of a victim. A jury can assume someone who is paralyzed could walk before the accident, but it may be harder to understand that someone who is now ornery and mean because of a TBI used to be kind and understanding. Stereotypes such as “he is sleeping a lot because he is lazy, not because he is injured,” often need to be overcome.

Most TBIs can be cured by surgery. Thus, jurors do not get to see the extended hospitalization or gory photos. This means that the seriousness of TBIs must be imparted to jurors without persuasive visual aid.

Much of this understanding has to come from the victim’s interactions with family members, neighbors, or co-workers. Proving a TBI case is thus largely dependent on getting as many witnesses as possible to testify on a victim’s behalf.

Any type of accident that involves trauma to the head could involve a TBI. Anything from gunshot wounds to slip and falls to car accidents can involve a TBI. Although blacking out at the time of the accident is a sure sign that TBI could have occurred, it is not a requirement.

There are different kinds of TBI. Some TBIs can be temporary, lasting up to a year before resolving. This kind of TBI is often missed in early diagnosis. While an ER can generally diagnose concussions, an ER is generally ill-equipped to recognize subtle cognitive changes, making it important that a victim’s family monitor him or her for mood or behavior changes.

A professional that can evaluate the victim will likely ascribe the victim a Glascow Coma Score, which is not just for people in a coma, but measures alertness, speech, reaction, and coherence. Medications may also be needed.

Changes in sleep patterns, mood, behavior, memory, and overall demeanor should be watched for by the victim’s family. At any sign of abnormality, treatment by a professional should be sought out, both for treatment’s sake and to document the progress or regression of the victim. Treatment may need to be long term, to determine which symptoms resolve themselves and which remain long enough to be considered permanent.
If you or someone you know has suffered a brain injury, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

Sometimes accidents happen and they are nobody’s fault. Not every accident ending in injury constitutes negligence. A typical example is someone driving into a tree. At first glance, it does not seem like anybody is responsible for injuries sustained in that kind of accident.

Often, accidents need to be looked at more closely. When they are, it is often revealed that there is more to the accident than meets the eye.

The Death of Paul Walker

This is exactly what happened to popular Fast & Furious actor Paul Walker, who was killed when his Porsche ran into a tree at high speed. It is easy to blame the death on carelessness, high speed, or fate. But Walker’s family is now suing Porsche, and the allegations of the lawsuit are an important lesson on why it is vital to understand every fact of an accident before concluding that nobody is responsible.

Walker’s case relies upon causation. Specifically, Walker’s family alleges that the crash was survivable and that Walker died not because of the impact or force of the crash, but because of design defects in the Porsche.

The lawsuit alleges that the car did not have a properly functioning crash cage, which would prevent outside objects from intruding into the passenger compartment. The suit also alleges that the car was designed in a way that made it easy for the fuel tank to ignite, as it did in the crash. It also alleges that the car had no electronic stability system, a feature found on many lower-priced cars, including ones made by Porsche.

In fact, Walker’s family’s investigation shows that the car was going at 55mph—not 100mph—at the time of the accident, making it more likely that the crash was survivable had the Porsche been properly designed to withstand crashes.

The family alleges that because of the high-powered nature of the car and the lack of basic safety features found on most vehicles, the Porsche was too dangerous to be commercially sold or driven on public roads.

Product Liability Issues Can Often Contribute to Injury

It is quite common for product liability issues to arise in seemingly faultless accidents. The question is whether the occupants of a car were injured more severely by a product defect than they would have or should have been.

For example, it is common for airbags to improperly deploy, causing significant injury to occupants who would have otherwise only sustained minor injuries. In the 80s and 90s, many SUVs came under fire for tipping over, thus making what would be minor accidents much more severe. Poorly constructed tires can also cause accidents or make them worse.

Product liability cases can require expert testimony and can be difficult to prove. Product failures can be devastating, and in any accident, the contribution of poorly designed or manufactured products needs to be considered.

Make sure your attorneys understand every avenue for recovery and every responsible party if there is an accident. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

In catastrophic injury cases, especially those involving larger companies, there is often more than one defendant that needs to be considered liable for a victim’s injuries. It is common for a good personal injury attorney to use multiple causes of action to make sure that all responsible parties are held accountable for negligence.

Truck Accident Involves Driver With a History

A good example of suing all responsible parties is a recent suit that was filed involving an accident that occurred in Howard County. The accident, involving a commercial truck, caused horrific injuries. A father suffered permanent brain injury and his 7-year old son lost his leg and also sustained permanent brain injury. They were injured when their car, stopped at a traffic signal, was rear ended by the defendant, driving a Ford F-350.

It is pretty clear that the driver in this case was negligent in the operation of his vehicle, but were there other parties that were also responsible?

It turns out that the truck driver had a long history of driving mishaps. The victims allege that the driver had pleaded guilty to negligent driving in the past and had a long history of traffic citations including speeding and driving with an open container of alcohol.

This is where the liability of the driver’s employer comes in.

Because of the driver’s history, the victims are suing his employer for negligent entrustment, a theory that in lay terms means that an employer should have known a driver was dangerous or accident-prone, and that the employer negligently trusted the driver to drive on the open road on behalf of the company.

Proving Negligent Entrustment

Proving negligent entrustment can be difficult, but in some cases a driver’s past history can be an indication that an employer should have known that a driver could be dangerous. This is why most employers who put drivers on the road will do extensive background and driving history checks.

It is important to remember that negligent entrustment is not just for employers and employees. A parent who trusts a child with a vehicle that ends up injuring someone, can also be held liable for negligent entrustment. Someone who allows a friend who may have a bad driving history to borrow his or her car can be liable if the friend causes injury.

Why the Theory is Important

Negligent entrustment can be a valuable tool for injury attorneys, because it allows them to not just sue a driver, but also the company the driver is working for.

An individual driver may have no insurance or no assets to satisfy a judgment, and pay whatever is needed to make victims whole. Many individual drivers may even allow a judgment to be entered against them, knowing that the judgment will never be paid. Making sure that all responsible parties are sued can be the difference between an empty judgment and one that can help accident victims recover from their injuries.

Make sure that you know all the parties who are responsible for your injuries and every legal theory that could assist you in recovery. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is always dangerous and particularly so when it involves minors. A new case explores the civil liability of parents who allow kids to drink alcohol on their property, when those kids end up driving under the influence of alcohol and causing injury to others.

Tragic DUI Accident Leads to Lawsuit

The case arose when a 17-year-old boy died in a car accident that his family alleged was caused by the driver of his vehicle. That driver, he alleged, was intoxicated. The deceased’s family sued the family of the driver. The family alleged that the driver’s house was used as a “party house,” and that days before the party, the parents of the driver had purchased alcohol in preparation for the party.

According to testimony, the mother in the house knew that the driver was intoxicated and observed him as such, yet failed to do anything about it. Eventually the intoxicated driver left the house, driving the other boys in his truck. A boy riding in the truck bed was ejected and killed. Continue reading

Sometimes the most clear-cut injury cases can end up being the most difficult. To the general public many injury lawsuits seem cut and dry, winnable by almost any personal injury attorneys. In fact, many are much more complex behind the scenes and can involve significant contested issues of liability.

Car-on-Pedestrian Accidents
One type of case that falls into this category is the car-on-pedestrian accident (or car-on-cyclist). Sadly, these kinds of accidents often involve the most serious and catastrophic injuries.

When a car hits a pedestrian, it may seem easy for the pedestrian to prove the car was at fault. After all, drivers are supposed to recognize and avoid pedestrians. But subtle factual issues can make proving these cases difficult. Maryland, like most states, requires that victims take some consideration of their own safety and can hold victims responsible for their injuries to the extent that they, and not the other party, caused them.

Factors Determining Liability
We would all likely agree that someone who bolts out into the middle of the road or walks into the middle of a freeway would be almost entirely responsible for his or her own injuries if he or she is hit by an oncoming car. In many cases, the liability is not so clear-cut–the pedestrian did not just bolt out into traffic, and likewise, the driver of the car that hits him could have and should have seen the pedestrian and avoided him. Recreating the actual accident scene to determine what really happened can come down to a matter of seconds and inches. Questions arise, such as:

● When did the driver first see the pedestrian?
● How fast was the driver going?
● Was there time after seeing the pedestrian for the driver to slow down or avoid him?
● Where in the road did the pedestrian get hit? For example, was it in a crosswalk where he legally had the right to be, or in the middle of the road?
● Are there physical clues such as skid marks on the road that would tell us when the driver saw the pedestrian?
● How did the pedestrian get struck? For example, was he thrust backwards, or did he go forwards, over the hood?

All of these questions will assist in dividing up the responsibility between the two parties. Almost always, experts need to get involved–they can testify that based on a certain speed, certain distances, and other factors, whether an accident was avoidable or not. A slight change in even one factor or variable can alter the expert’s opinion and change the liability that is apportioned to each party.

Never assume your injury case is easy, clear cut, or that just anyone can handle it. Winning and losing, especially when you have serious injury, can hinge on even the slightest factual detail and depends on lawyers who know what they are doing. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

When there is injury or damage because of the failure to provide any or adequate security, we often want to hold the security company liable. We rarely give thought to whether the company is responsible for the negligence, acts, or omissions of the guards they employ.

Maryland law does make security companies vicariously liable for the acts of their employee guards, but a recent case tested the boundaries of that law, where employees commit acts that are not in the course and scope of their security duties.

Guards Actions are Outside Scope of Employment

The case involved two security guards, who the homeowners allege set forth on a plan to set homes on fire in Charles County, Maryland. There was some indication that the fire may have been a result of racism, specifically, that the guards were seeking to prevent residents from moving in. Although many homes were damaged, there were no injuries.

Discovery revealed that one guard had been fired by the security agency previously, but then rehired, despite having negative comments in his personnel file.

The homeowners filed suit, not just against the accused arsonists, but against the company hiring them, for negligent hiring claims. The company defended by saying that they could not be liable, because if the guards had committed the arson, they did so without the company’s knowledge, consent, or permission, and outside the scope of their employment. Thus, the company argued, it could not be vicariously liable for the guards actions.

The court agreed, and dismissed the company as a defendant in the case, and an appeal ensued.

Interpreting Maryland’s Security Guards Act

On appeal, the homeowners argued that the company could be held liable for the guards’ actions because of the Maryland Security Guards Act, which makes employers vicariously liable for negligence of security guards. The homeowners contended that there was liability, even if the guards were not acting in the scope of their employment.

Put another way, under the statute, the homeowners argued that as long as an act was conducted while a guard was on duty, no matter what the act was, the hiring company is responsible.

The question has traditionally been whether an employee has been furthering his or her employer’s goals. If not, the employer is not liable. Did the Act change this analysis?

The Act could be read many different ways. Thus, the court looked to policy considerations, to see how broad the Act could be read. The court felt that it would be unfair to hold a company responsible for acts of its employees that have nothing to do with their job. Simply making employers liable for what employees do, just because they happen to be on the job, was too far from traditional notions of vicarious liability for the court, and thus, it held the employer was properly dismissed from the case.

Negligent security cases can have multiple defendants and require detailed factual analysis. There may be parties liable you aren’t even aware of. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.