Articles Posted in Negligence

lion.jpgIf you haven’t heard yet, there are about 56 lions and tigers and bears that escaped and are 1 remaining monkey that escaped and is on the loose from a Zanesville, Ohio preserve Monday after the owner of the property, Terry Thompson, apparently decided to release all of the animals from his property and then decided killed himself. This has certainly disrupted life in Ohio, as the local school district canceled class in light of the threat of attack.

Our Annapolis Maryland injury attorneys and Annapolis Maryland Dog Bite attorneys often receive calls from those who have the misfortune of being the victim of dog bites from another’s pet. The law contemplates a remedy for a victim against the owner, although the remedy is different depending on whether the animal is a wild animal or domesticated animal.

Under Maryland law, an animal owner is Strictly Liable for injuries caused by wild animals as long as the injured person did nothing to bring about his or her injury. In other words, by the very nature of Mr. Thompson maintaining the lions, tigers and bears as pets, he is responsible for any damages they cause, whether it is damage to person or property. Since Mr. Thompson is now deceased, if one of Mr. Thompson’s animals attacks a human or damages another’s property, a claim will likely be made against his estate.

Domesticated animals, like dogs and cats, are treated differently. For an owner of a domesticated pet to be proven liable, an owner is not strictly liable for injuries caused by domestic animals unless the owner has knowledge of the animal’s dangerous propensities that are not common to the species. In other words, the owner has to know that the animal has the propensity to attack humans.

You might have heard the phrase that “every dog gets one free bite.” In other words, it is often misunderstood that unless the dog has bitten before then there is no owner liability. That is not always true, because an owner can also be liable for negligence when he exerts ineffective control over his animal where an injury is likely to occur.

If the dog has bitten a person before, however, obviously the owner is on notice of the animal’s tendencies and that certainly supports proving liability. If an owner knows that his dog is vicious, then the owner will be strictly liable for the injuries his animal causes, just like the owner of a wild animal.

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A Jefferson County, Kentucky Jury awarded $1.4 million in damages to a woman, whose premature baby was decapitated during delivery at a local hospital in 2006.

Our Baltimore Annapolis Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorneys have years of experience representing Plaintiffs who have been affected by traumatic birth injuries.

The jury found the two doctors who conducted the procedure, Dr. Joseph Bilotta and Dr. William Koontz, liable for the full extent of the awarded damages. Meanwhile, the hospital and nurses involved in the case were held not liable.

All parties to the suit acknowledged that it was an extremely rare occurrence that the fetus was decapitated during birth. The doctors’ attorney argued to the jury that the baby would not have survived regardless of the doctors and nurses actions, because the pregnancy was only about 21 weeks in duration.

The Plaintiff’s attorney, however, argued that the mother was about 24 weeks into the pregnancy, where babies are potentially viable.

The Plaintiffs argued that the doctors failed to remove a cerclage, a device resembling a string, which is a surgical tool used to keep the Plaintiff’s cervix closed. When the fetus was being delivered, the string acted “as a noose” which caused the decapitation.

The doctor acknowledged that he initially tried to deliver the baby with the cerclage intact, but eventually removed it. But the allegation was that it was removed too late in the procedure.

The $1.4 million the jury awarded was to compensate the mother, Micheatria Donelson, for her pain and suffering. Her attorneys argued that she is now depressed, has panic attacks and is unable to sleep more than a few hours each night.

On a slightly less somber note, she is now the mother of a two-year-old daughter.
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1160677_chicago_skyline.jpgA Chicago apartment management company settled Tuesday a wrongful death suit brought by the mother of a 24-year-old who suffered a severe brain injury and ultimately death after falling from the second floor porch of his girlfriend’s apartment.

Our Maryland attorneys have years of experience successfully representing Plaintiffs who have been catastrophically injured by accidents caused by the negligence of others.

The case settled for $975,000. The action was brought by Sean Heflin’s mother, Jane Heflin, and alleged that the porch railings were about 10 inches lower than the 42 inches required by the Chicago building code. The suit was brought against the apartment building’s owner, Stammich Management.

In Illinois, violation of an ordinance, establishes “negligence per se.” In other words, the fact that the Management company maintained railings that were 10 inches lower than the Chicago building code conclusively creates a presumption that the management breached a duty to exercise reasonable care. At trial, the Plaintiff would still need to prove that the management company’s breach of the duty caused the injuries and that Plaintiff suffered damages.

In Maryland, the law is subtly different. Violation of a statute or ordinance does not constitute negligence per se, but is generally considered evidence of negligence. In other words, Plaintiff still needs to prove that the defendant maintained a duty and breached his or her duty in addition to proving causation and damages.

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A Kanawha County, West Virginia jury awarded an 87-year old woman’s family $91.5 million after finding that low staffing levels at a nursing home led to her death.

Our Maryland nursing home neglect attorneys have substantial experience in representing Plaintiff’s who have suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of nursing home negligence.

The substantial verdict was delivered after a two-week trial where Plaintiffs alleged that workers at Heartland of Charleston (W.V.) failed to feed and care for Dorothy Davis, who died of complications from dehydration after a three week stay at the facility.

The jury deliberated for two hours before awarding $11.5 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages.

The testimony reflected that in the three week period Davis stayed at Heartland, she lost 15 pounds, she became unresponsive and suffered severe dehydration. She died one day after her transfer to a different hospital.

Plaintiffs alleged that Heartland lacked sufficient nurses on staff to care for the woman, which was supported by the testimony of former Heartland employees. In 2009, the nursing home had an employee turnover rate of 112 percent.

Heartland is owned by a parent corporation called Manorcare that has assets of $8 billion.

The nursing home defended on the grounds that the woman’s death certificate states that she died of Alzheimer’s, not dehydration and that staff did not breach the standard of care in the treatment of the woman.

Carlyle Group, a private equity firm that owns Manorcare, stated that it will appeal the verdict.
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Two Ohio men sued a woman who in 2009 they pulled to safety from a burning vehicle , when they subsequently learned that the woman’s accident resulted when she was attempting to kill herself.

Our Maryland Accident Attorneys have significant experience representing plaintiffs who have been injured by another’s negligence.

The two men–David Kelley and Mark Kinkaid–claim that they were both driving when they saw a bumper lying in the roadway and gray smoke coming from a distance. The men hopped a barbed-wire fence, knocked down trees and slid down a steep embankment to attempt to assist the woman in the vehicle. The woman apparently told officers after the accident that she was arguing with someone the day of the crash and wanted to end her life.

Two years later, both have sued the woman in Marion County Common Pleas Court in Ohio seeking damages of at least $25,000 as a result of learning that the crash was her fault and suffering permanent injuries.

With regard to his injuries, Kelley states that his lungs were badly damaged from the heavy smoke and that he now can’t carry a laundry basket up the stairs of his home. Furthermore, he said the fire burnt the hair from his body and melted the cell phone in his pocket.

The Ohio case is based on a concept known as the “Rescue Doctrine,” that states that if people who are being rescued are negligent or reckless when they created the danger, they could be liable if a rescuer acted reasonably and can prove injuries.

Maryland recognizes the concept of the “rescue doctrine,” which is a narrowly chiseled exception to the defense of assumption of risk, which focuses on the element of voluntariness and applies to emergency situations involving imminent peril, in which an individual acts to save the life or property of another. See, e.g., Warsham v. Muscatello, 189 Md. App. 620, 645 (2009). This would undoubtedly be asserted by the Plaintiffs if this case arose in Maryland.

Maryland also, however, recognizes the common law defense of “assumption of risk.” An assumption of risk is a defense to negligence if the plaintiff 1) had knowledge of the risk of danger, 2) appreciated the risk, and 3) voluntarily exposed himself or herself to that risk. See, e.g., Crews v. Hollenbach, 358 Md. 627, 643-44 (2000). This defense would likely be asserted by the defendant if this case rose in Maryland.

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bar.jpg A Maryland Circuit Court Judge ruled last Friday that a civil lawsuit against a Montgomery County Bar for knowingly serving a drunken patron who later killed a 10-year-old girl in a car accident could continue. The ruling contradicts long-settled Maryland case law, but will certainly provoke discussion about Maryland’s dram shop liability laws.

Our Maryland injury attorneys have significant experience representing Plaintiffs who have suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of another’s negligence in car accidents.

The Judge’s ruling affects the lawsuit filed by William J. Warr, Jr., who filed a $3.25 million lawsuit in Montgomery County, Maryland against the owners of Dogfish Head Alehouse. The lawsuit alleges that the bar sold alcohol to a patron, knowing that the patron was already drunk, and allowing him to drive off in his Land Rover on August 21, 2008. The patron eventually drove 100 miles per hour before he crashed into Warr’s Jeep Cherokee and killed his granddaughter and severely injured Warr, his wife and another granddaughter.

The patron, Michael Eaton, was sentenced to 8 years in jail and is not a party to the lawsuit.

The Court of Appeals last addressed this issue in the case of Felder v. Butler. In Felder, the Plaintiff sued a bar owner who continuously served a patron who was alleged to have been visibly under the influence of alcohol. She ended up striking a vehicle driven by the Plaintiff.

The Felder Court upheld the common law rule that an innocent third party does not have a cause of action against a vendor for injuries suffered as a result of the intoxication of the vendor’s patron. The Court recognized that other state legislatures have established laws permitting lawsuits against selling alcohol to an intoxicated person. The Court reasoned that permitting such a lawsuit, without applicable legislation, would usurp the role of the legislature.

The Maryland General Assembly has periodically attempted to draft such legislation, but such bills (e.g. House Bill 1120) have not succeeded. The restaurant lobby has vocally opposed such bills and as recent as this year these efforts have failed.

The Judge’s ruling is unusual because procedurally a circuit court judge is bound by precedent of the Maryland Court of Appeals. Under the principle of stare decisis, a trial judge would usually be mandated to grant a defendant’s motion to dismiss and allow the Plaintiff to challenge the judge’s decision in the Court of Special Appeals.

The Montgomery County Judge, however, believes that “times have changed” since the Felder decision, and that “a bar owner who continuously serves drinks to intoxicated individuals and makes no attempt to ensure that the individual has alternative means home should expect that the intoxicated person can get into an accident.”

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seatbelt.jpg Carmakers are not shielded from liability when they manufacture cars that comply with federal regulations, but are alleged to be defective under state tort law, the Supreme Court unanimously held on Feb. 23.

In Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, the Supreme Court held that a California family can continue its lawsuit alleging that Mazda’s installation of a lap belt in the middle-rear seat in the 1993 Mazda MPV, even though the seat belt technically complied with the federal standard at the time it was manufactured. Our Annapolis Maryland Injury Attorneys have substantial experience aiding injuring people who have been injured by defective products.

The Williamson family argued in California State Court that the defective seatbelt system, which involved just a lap belt in the second-row middle sea, caused the death of their daughter Thanh Williamson.

Mazda argued that its seatbelt system complied with the federal standard when the vehicle was manufactured in 1993. The Federal Standard at the time gave automakers the choice of a lap belt or a lap and shoulder harness seatbelt in the middle rear-suit. Mazda argued that the Federal standard essentially gave Mazda a choice.

The California Courts agreed with Mazda, holding the doctrine of preemption applied. Under a doctrine called pre-emption, when a state law conflicts with a federal law, the federal law usually wins out.

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wrestling.jpg An 18-year-old Kentucky Wrestling fan filed suit this week against World Wrestling Entertainment and two wrestlers alleging the company’s negligence combined with the negligence of two wrestlers caused the fan, then 7 years old, to sustain an injury to his right leg and knee, according to a news report.

Our Annapolis Maryland injury attorneys have experience representing plaintiffs who have suffered personal injury accidents by another party’s negligence.

The Complaint names World Wresting Entertainment and wrestlers The Rock and Triple H. Plaintiff Ronald Basham, III, alleges that due to the negligent “script” of the match (i.e. the wrestlers continuing their match outside of the ring in the vicinity of fans), that the WWE breached a duty in failing to warn spectators that they could be injured by the wrestlers.

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