On June 11, 2015, the Supreme Court of New Jersey reversed the Appellate Division’s decision in the Estate of Myroslava Kotsovska v. Saul Liebman case and held that the trial court was correct in awarding wrongful death benefits to the estate. In this case, Ms. Kotsovska was hired by Saul Liebman’s daughter to provide in home care for her father, who was 89 years old. She agreed to cook meals, do laundry and do light housekeeping in exchange for being paid $100 per day, cash. There was nothing in writing to formalize the agreement between the parties.

On December 8, 2008, Liebman and Kotsovska were running errands and stopped for lunch at a local diner. Liebman was driving. He dropped Kotsovska off on the sidewalk in front of the diner while he pulled into a parking space in front of where she was standing. Liebman accidentally pushed the accelerator, causing the car to pin Kotsovska against a wall. Unfortunately, she died from her injuries.

Ms. Kotsovska’s estate filed a wrongful death suit against Mr. Liebman, but did not file a workers’ compensation claim. Liebman argued that the case should be transferred to the Division of Workers’ Compensation for a determination of Kotsovska’s status as an employee versus an independent contractor. Mr. Liebman’s homeowner’s carrier stipulated that the accident arose from Kotsovska’s employment.

Continue Reading Does the Workers’ Compensation Court have Exclusive Jurisdiction to Decide Issues of Employment?

On March 27, 2015 a team of Stark & Stark attorneys obtained a $2 million verdict from an Indian River County, Florida jury in a wrongful death suit against Philip Morris USA Inc. and R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.  The verdict was a victory for widower Robert Gore, whose wife , Gloria, was a smoker for over four decades and suffered from carotid artery stenosis and later died of lung cancer.

In awarding the verdict, the jury asserted that Gloria Gore was 54-percent responsible for causing the illness that killed, while also asserting the balance of responsibility split evenly between R.J. Reynolds and Phillip Morris.  The jury did not award any punitive damages, a reversal from an August 2014 mistrial after a jury verdict in this same case found the tobacco companies liable for punitive damages by awarded no compensatory damages.

This case was one of thousands that came from a 1994 class action law suit decertifying Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., which concluded that tobacco companies sold an addictive and dangerous product.  Although the defense claimed that the deceased made the choice to smoke, prosecution explained, “Gloria wanted to stop. She tried to stop. She chose to stop, but her addiction wouldn’t let her.”

A recent article in Insurance Journal lists the top 10 causes of workplace injuries based on 2012 Liberty Mutual claims data for injuries lasting six or more days.

The ranking is based on total workers’ compensation costs but it is interesting to note the leading causes of injuries in this study. If I were to rank the types of injuries/causes of injuries I see most frequently in my own practice, I would have a very similar list. Particularly in the Winter months we see an increase in slip and fall injuries and motor vehicle accidents, but we also see a consistent number of cases where the injuries are based on overexertion. The article points out that the leading cause of injury on the list, overexertion, was typically related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing. Other exertions, which came in at number five, includes injuries due to bending, crawling, reaching, twisting, climbing, stepping, kneeling, sitting, standing or walking.

10 Leading Causes of Workplace Injuries in 2012:

  1. Overexertion
  2. Falls on same level
  3. Struck by object or equipment
  4. Falls to lower level
  5. Other exertions or bodily reactions
  6. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle
  7. Slip or trip without fall
  8. Caught in/compressed by equipment or objects
  9. Repetitive motions involving micro-tasks
  10. Struck against object or equipment

At Stark & Stark, our Workers’ Compensation lawyers dedicate their practice to representing injured workers. If you or someone you know is hurt at work, please call our experienced attorneys today for a complimentary, no obligation consultation.

Ten years ago, Candace Anderson, a 21 year old young woman, was convicted of criminal negligent homicide as a result of a one car motor vehicle crash. Ms. Anderson lost control of her 2004 GM Saturn Ion. Her fiancé, a front seat passenger, was killed in the crash when his passenger side air bag failed to deploy.  Since that time, Candace Anderson, who was sentenced to a $10,000 fine, 260 hours of community service, counseling and five years of probation, has been racked with guilt over the death of her fiancé

This week, Ms. Anderson, was cleared of any criminal responsibility for the crash following the admission by General Motors that her fiancé’s death was due to a defective ignition switch in the Saturn Ion.

Most distressing, is that five months before Ms. Anderson plead guilty, General Motors conducted its internal review of the crash and determined that the crash was due not to the fault of Ms. Anderson, but due to the defective ignition switch.  General Motors never advised Ms. Anderson, her fiancé‘s estate or the Court of its finding. In 2007, GM wrote to the National Highway Safety Administration, falsely stating that it had not accessed the cause of the crash.

GM is not alone. Toyota spent years wrongly blaming sudden acceleration events on drivers. See also the recent stories about Takata and Honda. This is why they want less regulation and more tort reform.  Sort of like terrorists arguing for less security at airports. Bad corporations should and need to be held accountable for their bad corporate choices.

More on this story can be found here and on Facebook here.

Personal injury attorneys are advocates for people who have been injured in an accident, whether it is a slip and fall, trip and fall, work related, car, motorcycle or recreational accident.  Our job is to represent the rights of the injured party, not the insurance company.  So, why do personal injury attorneys have such a bad reputation in our society and why are we so often seen as greedy ambulance chasers?  Whether the reason for the negative image is television, commercials or the few bad apples out there, the stereotypes are damaging to our legal system and society. The legal system is what people should turn to in their time of need. It is their last avenue for appeal and redress when private parties and the government will not act responsible for their negligent acts. And truth be told‚ the goal of the vast majority of personal injury lawyers out there is to help people in their time of need.

Injury attorneys not only help people‚ but the most important consequence of their work is a safer environment for all of us, our children, mothers, fathers and friends. Corporations and people have to be concerned about what can happen to them if they do not behave in a reasonable manner.  Safety laws and regulations that are currently in place are largely the result of injury attorneys; enacted in response to negligent behavior‚ and these laws provide a standard which intends to keep the public healthy and safe.

There may be a time in your life when you are faced with a situation that will require you to hire a personal injury attorney. You should be represented and protected and not made to feel like just another file in the filing cabinet. You are an individual with your own worries and hopes about your injury claim and we are here to help you.

This is especially true with us at Stark & Stark. We treat all of our clients with the utmost care and we do everything we can to ensure that your rights are represented. If you or your family are ever injured in an accident‚ please contact us  for a free consultation.

 

With the summer grilling season in full swing, you should take a minute and inspect your grill and grill cleaning brush, if you use one, before firing it up for your next barbecue.  A small but serious (and painful) culprit has landed people across the country in emergency rooms and even emergency surgery over the past few years: tiny, metal grill brush bristles.  The needle-like bristles come dislodged from brushes used to clean grills.  Sometimes the bristles stick to the grill.  The next time food is placed on the grill the bristles end up embedded in the meat or vegetables, which is then ingested by the unsuspecting barbecue guest.

A teenager in a Seattle suburb was recently hospitalized when he became violently ill after accidentally swallowing a metal bristle from a grill cleaning brush.  The 16-year-old boy began feeling stabbing pains in his stomach after a metal bristle from a grill brush hitched a ride on food he ate and sliced into his intestine causing a potentially life-threatening blockage. See full story here.

A grandmother developed a life-threatening infection after accidentally ingesting a wire bristle from a grill brush at a family barbecue.  The sharp wire pierced her intestine causing severe abdominal pain.  She was rushed into emergency surgery to remove the wire bristle after an infection developed and her intestines shut down. See full story here.

A Lehigh Valley woman was hospitalized and needed surgery to remove an eyelash-sized wire grill brush bristle from her throat that became seared to a steak cooked on her family’s barbecue grill.  She noticed intense, stabbing pain in the back of her throat after eating a bite of steak. See full story here.

Right here in the Philadelphia area, a man presented to the hospital with severe tongue and ear pain followed by swelling of his neck, altered mental status, shrinking of his airway, and ultimately causing a lingual abscess in the man’s neck.  This was the first case report of a near fatal lingual abscess due to a bristle from a grill cleaning brush. See full story here.

After similar reports of grill brush injuries in New Jersey, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York has called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to review hospital injury data to determine whether there is a pattern of injury that would require a product recall for wire grill cleaning brushes.  He also called on the CPSC to evaluate whether the manufacturers and importers of wire grill brushes have failed to report product-safety-related information as required by law. See full story here.

Mounting reports of serious grill brush injuries led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a statement warning people of the dangers posed by the wire bristles of grill brushes.

So what can we do to help prevent these injuries?  First, we need to increase awareness of the threat posed by wire grill brush bristles.  When you show up at your next barbeque or if you’re just cooking on the grill for your family, spread the word about the dangers of dislodged wire bristles.  If someone you know develops symptoms of mouth, neck, stomach or abdominal pain after eating grilled foods, they need to know that it may be from a wire from a grill brush.

Second, each of us should inspect our own grills and grill brushes to see if there are any loose or dislodged wire bristles present.  If the wire bristles of your grill brush are damaged or coming loose, it’s time to throw it away.  You can also check for bristles on your grilling surface and wipe it down before cooking on it.  If you are a guest at a barbecue, you may want to politely warn the host and chef of the dangers associated with grill brush bristles.

If you or someone you know has been injured by ingesting a wire grill brush, DO NOT discard the faulty grill brush or return it to the store or manufacturer.  Keep it in your possession.  At Stark & Stark, we have experience with grill brush injuries.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.  Now when it comes to summer grilling, keep a close eye out for stray bristles, keep it clean, have fun, and as always, stay safe out there!

Many members of the general public find themselves closer than ever to seemingly safe and suitable reservoirs and other waterways for recreational activities.  As the population density of the United States continues to rise, previously remote waterways and hydraulic structures are now easy to access and are neighbors to residential communities.  Reservoirs, waterways and other areas near dams are popular locations for recreational activities.  Further, new hydraulic structures which change the character of the waterway may appear to create new opportunities for recreation.

With the growth in popularity of recreational activities and an increasing use of reservoirs associated with hydraulic structures, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of incidents and fatalities related to the use of these facilities.  It is an unfortunate truth that unskilled, novice recreational users may not recognize the serious threat posed by some innocuous appearing hydraulic structures. While high dams and spillways present an imposing facade, low head and small diversion dams and weirs do not appear menacing.  The placid, shallow water in areas surrounding such structures can lull the novice into a false sense of security.  Short drops over low heads during high water can seem harmless, much like a waterside at an amusement park.                    

While the water downstream of a low head often appears harmless, the plunging water flow over the dam may result in turbulent, hazardous conditions which can be deadly.  Under certain flow conditions, a “reverse flow” or “reverse roller” is created.  These flow conditions carry objects back towards the face of the dam where they are subject to the water falling over the crest.  Objects (or persons) are then submerged by the falling water only to resurface and recirculated towards the face of the dam by the “reverse roller.”  The uniform nature of the current along the length of the structure makes escape or rescue difficult and sometimes impossible.  (Chambers, 6/03)

The hidden, deadly hydraulic hazard of the “reverse roller” has claimed the lives of many paddle sport participants. Tragically, attempted rescues of trapped victims have also resulted in deaths among rescuers.  While it is impossible to estimate the number of fatalities which have arisen from recreational activities near low head dams and other water control structures, statistics obtained from specific rivers support the significance of the public safety hazard.  Twenty nine (29) people died on the Fox River in Illinois over a ten year period.  As such, these structures have been described by some as “drowning machines.”  

Recreational activities in rivers, streams and lakes are enjoyed by millions of Americans every year.  Paddle sports and other water based recreational activities have dramatically increased in popularity over the past twenty years.  The American Canoe Association reports that 202 million paddle trips occurred during 2012.  It is estimated that at least fifty million Americans have experienced canoeing, kayaking and other paddle sports.  Of these, at least four million people consider themselves avid paddlers.  In addition, specific activities have surged substantially in popularity.  For example, kayaking has experienced an exponential growth since the 1990s.  It is expected that participation in kayaking, canoeing and boating will continue to increase.  The barriers of entry to these sports have fallen.  Kayaks, canoes and other craft are becoming less expensive and commonly available through “super” sporting good stores. 

As it becomes easier to experience and enjoy these activities, it should be expected that the knowledge and training of the average entry level participant will likely be low as there is no formal training, certification or license requirements for such operators of these crafts.  Unfortunately, many new canoe and kayak enthusiasts fail to understand the significant danger created by otherwise unassuming hydraulic structures such as low head dams. Further, hydraulic engineers designing these structures may not appreciate the recreational activities enjoyed in the vicinity of proposed structures.

If you or a loved one has been injured, contact Stark & Stark today. 

The New Jersey Department of Corrections recently added the names of corrections officers who lost their lives in the line of duty between 1894 and 1978. Until now, their stories were forgotten.  Thanks to the efforts of Lt. Wayne Sanderson, the stories of these brave heroes will never be forgotten.  Lt. Sanderson, himself a corrections officer, was researching his own family history when he found a newspaper article about the 1913 murder of an officer by an inmate.  If there was one story, he knew there must be more.  His research unearthed the names of men who had been shot, stabbed, beaten, suffered heart attacks and broken bones.  12 names altogether were added to the Memorial, which is on the grounds at the Department’s Central Office headquarters in Trenton.    Lt. Sanderson is pleased that the memorial gives identity to the officers and the relatives who never knew them.  

At the recent dedication ceremony friends and family members of some of those officers were present.  Speaking at the ceremony, Commissioner Gary Lanigan said, “by memorializing our fallen heroes in this fashion, all of us can gain a measure of appreciation of the impact these brave individuals had on the correction field, the communities they were sworn to protect and to protect and the lives of those who knew and loved them.”.  

Congratulations to the New Jersey Department of Corrections for keeping the memory of these, and all fallen officers alive.

Vicki Beyer is a Shareholder in Stark & Stark’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office, concentrating in Workers’ Compensation Law. For more information, please contact Ms. Beyer.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal focused on “how to stop hospitals from killing us”, the author, a surgeon at John Hopkins Hospital and a frequent writer on physician accountability, and highlighted a number of troubling statistics. While the Institute of Medicine’s estimate that 98,000 deaths occur annually from medical errors in the United States is well publicized, here are some statistics that you may not have heard. Dr. Marty Makary wrote that medical mistakes kill enough people each week to fill four jumbo jets. If medical errors were a disease, they would be the sixth leading cause of death in America, ahead of Alzheimer’s and just behind accidents. Surgeons in the United States operate on the wrong body part as often as 40 times a week.

Dr. Makary asserts that the same preventable mistakes are made over and over again, because an unspoken rule in American hospitals is that the mistakes of colleagues should be overlooked. He argues that this disturbing closed-door culture of American medicine should be replaced with greater transparency in the health care system, which is more achievable than ever because of the advent of new technology. He believes that public reporting of medical care statistics will give consumers information upon which to base their healthcare choices, which will serve as a stimulus for higher-quality care. A recent survey showed that 60% of New Yorkers look up a restaurant’s performance rating before going there, but that same sort of information is not available when selecting a care provider or institution. Changes such as those suggested by Dr. Makary do not happen overnight, and healthcare consumers should seek out as much information as possible when selecting a healthcare provider.

Medical negligence is often defined as conduct which deviates from the accepted standard of care, and causes an injury as a result of the deviation. This conduct can be both affirmative, such as the doing of something that should not have been done, and negative, in the sense that something which should have been done was not done. If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of medical negligence, you should seek advice from a qualified attorney who has the resources available to properly investigate your concerns. Stark & Stark employs a number of attorneys who focus their practice efforts in this specialized area, as well as a forensic nurse practitioner. There is no charge for a consultation with our medical negligence team.

John Sakson a Shareholder in Stark & Stark’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office, concentrating in Accident & Personal Injury Law. For more information, please contact Mr. Sakson.