Photo of Stephen M. Di Stefano

Recently, while I was walking in Center City Philadelphia on my way to a deposition, I took notice of the many construction projects occurring in various sites throughout my journey. Visit any major city and you are bound to see a skyscraper being constructed. Although construction sites can provide workers with good jobs, there are also many dangerous aspects of those jobs.

For example, in a recent case, a 20-year old construction worker was on a scaffold in New York installing metal siding on a building. The worker was asked to go to the roof of the building to provide assistance for a different job. The worker went to the roof wearing his safety harness, but was unable to find a place to tie off. While he was on the roof, he fell about 20 feet to the ground. The construction worker suffered many severe injuries, including a head injury, spinal fractures, rib fractures, and internal injuries including a renal hematoma, a lung contusion, a lacerated spleen, and cervical and lumbar disk herniations.

Even worse, as a result of his head injury the worker developed degeneration of the brain tissue, which is a condition called encephalomalacia. This resulted in memory loss, motor problems, and impaired thought-processing and other cognitive functions. He is permanently disabled as a result of his injuries from the accident.

Continue Reading Construction Workers and Construction Site Injuries

There’s a good chance you’ve heard the phrase, “Dogs are man’s best friend,” at least once in your life. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that more and more households have dogs as pets. If you go for a hike, or a run, or a walk around your neighborhood, it’s likely that you will see at least one person walking a dog. In most situations, everything is fine and the dog presents no issue to the approaching stranger. However, what happens when something goes awry and a dog attacks someone for no reason? As you may already know, the outcome can be catastrophic.

In a recent case in Georgia, an 8-year-old girl was playing in front of her home when two pit bull/mixed breed dogs, who were owned by a neighbor, attacked her. The dogs dragged the girl about 100 feet, mauling her arms, legs, torso, and face. A driver passing by saw the girl and called 911. The police arrived, but the dogs were still attacking the victim. An officer shot and killed one of the dogs. The other dog escaped but was caught later and then euthanized.

The victim sustained severe wounds to her arms, and she required vein transplants from both legs. Surgeons were unable to save her left, nondominant arm, and it was amputated at the elbow. Afterwards, the girl is now wearing a prosthetic arm. She also has permanent scarring to her face, upper torso, and legs, and will require future surgeries, including scar-revision procedures, as she grows up.

Continue Reading The Serious Impact of a Dog Attack

Even though autumn is upon us, the ongoing pleasant weather often allows us to continue to have parties, picnics and carnivals outdoors for at least another few weeks until the temperature drops. While these events are typically fun and enjoyable, it is important to note that accidents can happen at such events, and sometimes the consequences are quite serious.

In one such recent accident, a man was attending his wife’s company picnic in New Jersey. The company holding the picnic had rented a Eurobungy bungee-trampoline device for the event. The device consists of a trampoline base and a harness with bungee cords on each side, which are attached to poles extending from the trampoline’s base. A user is strapped into the harness, hoisted into the air, and encouraged to jump on the trampoline while holding onto the bungee cords. From there, the operator of the device can control how high the user is lifted into the air.

While the rider was descending from a jump, the operator began lifting him again before his feet had a chance to touch down on the trampoline. As a result, the rider’s left arm took the full force of his descent. The man immediately felt severe pain in the arm and was diagnosed with a hyperextension injury and a rupture of the distal biceps tendon, which required surgery to repair. He then had physical therapy and incurred about $8,500 in medical expenses. He continues to suffer from pain, weakness and a reduced range of motion in the arm. He also has two large scars on the arm from the surgery.

Continue Reading Be Aware of Potential Hazards at Outdoor Parties & Events

Throughout the year many of us will be traveling with family and friends on vacations from work and the everyday grind. Most of us will stay in hotels or rental homes while vacationing. While you should not get bogged down worrying about the possibility of getting into an accident or mishap while on vacation, it’s still worth noting that accidents do happen, and safety should always be a top priority.

In one recent case, a hotel guest slipped and fell on water surrounding an ice vending machine. The injured guest was later diagnosed as having a bulging disk at L5-S1 with facet joint hypertrophy and lumbar strain. This caused persistent low-back pain with radiculopathy. The pain caused the woman to develop an altered gait, which allegedly caused her to slip and fall down the stairs at her boyfriend’s home about two months later, further worsening her injuries. She underwent a series of 17 pain management injections and physical therapy treatment. She continues to suffer pain in her back, which is worse when she walks or stands for long periods of time.

Continue Reading Slips and Falls and Vacations

Fast food restaurants are an American staple. Drive down any major highway in the US and you’re bound to see a sign or advertisement for some fast food chain’s restaurant. Although these restaurants can provide tasty meals at an affordable price, they have also been the subject of many personal injury lawsuits over the years. The McDonald’s “hot coffee” lawsuit is one case that many people think of when the topic of fast food restaurant lawsuits comes up. What many don’t realize, though, is that fast food restaurants have been the subject of personal injury lawsuits for other reasons. For example, these restaurants’ floors are often made of tile, which can create dangerous slip hazards to customers.

In one recent case, a woman and her family went to eat at a local hamburger restaurant. As she was walking back from the bathroom, she slipped and fell on grease that was on the floor. She was diagnosed with a back sprain and a contusion to her left elbow. Unfortunately, despite physical therapy, she developed severe, persistent elbow pain. She was later diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, a chronic permanent condition that caused her to suffer electric-shock-like pain, swelling, and burning to her arm. Her past medical expenses totaled about $36,000, and her future medical expenses are estimated to be about $359,400.

She attempted to return to her job, but was unable to remain on a reduced schedule and instead went on temporary disability. Her past lost earnings totaled about $94,600, and her future economic loss is estimated around $1.71 million.

Continue Reading Pedestrian Pitfalls and Other Dangers for the Unwary

Truck accidents often can result in serious or even fatal injuries. An example of such an accident is one that many people read about last summer: the accident where a Wal-Mart truck and a limo van collided. The accident severely injured comedian Tracy Morgan and two other occupants and killed fellow comedian James McNair.

Another example of a serious truck accident occurred recently involving a grain truck and a car. In that accident, a 32-year old woman was driving her car through an intersection when a farm truck driver, who was hauling grain for his employer, pulled out from a stop sign and into the woman’s path. Her car struck the side of the truck, resulting in serious orthopedic injuries. The woman suffered fractures to her right ankle and her femur at the knee. She underwent multiple ankle surgeries, including a fusion and surgery to repair the fracture to the femur. Her past medical expenses totaled $276,000. Her lost earnings totaled about $69,000. Since the accident, the fused ankle has made it difficult for her to participate in activities requiring prolonged standing or walking.

The injured woman sued the truck driver and the small farm that employed the truck driver. The plaintiff alleged that the truck driver failed to yield the right-of-way. She alleged that the farm was liable for the truck driver’s negligence. The truck driver argued that the plaintiff had failed to keep a proper lookout.

After depositions were conducted in the case, the parties settled the lawsuit for $900,000, which was paid by the farm’s insurance company.

These two accidents illustrate just how seriously someone can be injured or harmed when a truck collides with another vehicle. Accidents happen, and so you must always be careful when you are on the road, whether as a pedestrian, bicyclist, or driver. Truckers have important jobs and the vast majority of them are safe, conscientious drivers. However, sometimes they cause collisions, and when that happens, the consequences are serious.

At Stark & Stark, we have represented many people who have been injured in truck accidents. We have the skills, resources, and experience to understand and address the unique challenges that injured people face when going up against a trucking company in a personal injury claim. If you or someone you know has been injured in a truck accident, car accident or some other type of accident as a result of some else’s negligence, it is recommended that you consult with experienced legal counsel immediately.

With the summer in full swing, many people will see their social calendars filling up with fun events such as parties, gatherings, events, and the like. While summer is a time for fun, we need to remember that regardless of whether we are hosts or guests, safety is always an important factor that all of us need to consider. Always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you are in a new or unfamiliar place. In a recent case, a college student was attending an event at an off-campus house. While on the fourth floor of the house, she sat on a piece of flex board covering a raised skylight opening. The board gave way, and the student fell nearly 20 feet through the house before eventually sliding down the stairs and landing on her head. She suffered a T12-L1 spinal dislocation with transaction of the cord and a C4-5 disk herniation, resulting in paraplegia. She underwent spinal surgery and incurred $1.2 million. She now uses a wheelchair and requires assistance with many activities of daily living. Her projected future medical expenses and life-care costs are estimated at about $6.2 million. She sued the property owners, alleging they were negligent and reckless in allowing the skylight opening to be covered with a thin piece of flex board. She also alleged that they were negligent in failing to repair the condition or warn visitors of the hazard and prevent visitors from accessing that area.

The plaintiff also sued the tenants of the property, alleging that, under the terms of the lease, they were required to notify the landlords of any conditions that were dangerous or in need of repair. The tenants acknowledged this was a dangerous condition, that it existed for a full year before the incident, and that they never told the landlords about it. The owners of the home argued that the skylight opening was nailed shut with a 3/4-inch plywood board during building renovations in the 1980 and they were unaware that the original plywood board had been removed. They also maintained that the tenants failed to warn them of the hazardous condition and argued that the lease specified that the tenants had a duty to warn them if an issue existed. The homeowners also argued that the tenants were in exclusive control and possession of the building and were therefore solely responsible. They alleged that the plaintiff was intoxicated at the time of the fall, with a blood-alcohol content of 0.26%, and that she had marijuana in her system. The parties settled the case during pretrial mediation for $11.6 million, paid by various insurers for the homeowners and the tenants.

This case is a clear example of the dangers that lurk for the unwary social guest. Hidden defects, sunken living rooms, broken exterior concrete steps, and doors that conceal basement steps are all common examples of hazards for guests. If you are a homeowner, make sure your house and property are in good condition and do not pose any safety hazards for people coming onto your property. If you are a guest at someone’s home or property, always look before you sit in an area or walk into an area. If you have been injured on someone else’s property as a result of their negligence, you should contact legal counsel right away to discuss your situation.

Now that summer is almost here, it is time to remind everyone of an important topic: trampoline accidents. Although they can be fun, trampolines also can be very dangerous, especially if multiple people are using one at the same time. Trampoline accidents have resulted in life-changing injuries to adults and children alike. Such accidents can cause spinal cord injuries, fractures, and in some cases even death.

In one recent case, a 10-year old child sustained serious injuries while playing on a backyard trampoline with a friend. The girls were playing a game called “popcorn” in which the victim sat on the trampoline and her friend jumped on it, propelling the victim into the air. During the game, the victim landed awkwardly on her left leg, fracturing it. She was diagnosed with a fracture to the growth plate of the left distal femur and underwent surgical external fixation with a pin. Approximately three years later, when she experienced a growth spurt, the growth plate in the left leg failed to grow. This resulted in the knee being bowed and the left leg being about two inches shorter than the right leg. Unfortunately, additional surgeries to lengthen her left leg and stop the growth in her right leg did not resolve the issue. Her medical expenses were approximately $60,000, and she may undergo a second procedure to lengthen her leg, at a cost of about $90,300. Future costs for pain management, counseling, and physical and occupational therapy are estimated at nearly $225,000.

The injured girl’s mother sued the homeowner who owned the trampoline, alleging that he was negligent in failing to supervise the girls. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant homeowner lost track of the girls after they entered his home and that he later saw them on the trampoline but failed to tell them to stop using it. The girls testified that the defendant saw them on the trampoline but said nothing. The defendant argued that he did not know the girls were on the trampoline. He failed a cross-complaint against the girls’ mothers, alleging that they were negligent for failing to supervise them. The parties settled before trial for $750,000, which was paid by the defendant homeowner’s insurance policy.

At Stark & Stark, we have represented people who have been injured in accidents on trampolines, amusement parks, roller skating rinks, and in other recreational activities. If you or someone you know has been hurt as a result of someone else’s negligence in one of these types of activities, contact legal counsel immediately to determine your rights.

Drive on any highway in America, and the chances are good that you will see at least one tractor trailer driving on the same stretch of highway.  They are as ubiquitous as road signs.  They may be called different things: big rigs, trucks, semis, tractor-trailers, but they all serve the same purpose: American commerce and industry.  Without them, society would not be able to function properly.  Fuel, freight, food, clothing, textiles, raw materials, parcels, and packages are just a few of the many items that depend on the trucking industry to get to and from various places across the country.

Most truck drivers operate their rigs safely and efficiently.  Likewise, most truck owners keep their vehicles in top-notch condition, allowing them to travel many thousands of miles without a problem.  There are exceptions, and sometimes an owner fails to inspect, maintain, and service his truck.  When that happens, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Recently, a man was riding in a pickup truck on the highway when a drive shaft broke off from beneath a tractor-trailer in the oncoming lane.  The 20pound metal shaft bounced off the road and crashed through the windshield of the pickup truck, striking the victim’s face and neck.  He lost consciousness, and three hours later, he was dead.  The victim’s estate and his survivors sued the owner of the tractor-trailer, alleging the failure to adequately inspect, maintain, and service the vehicle.  The plaintiffs in the lawsuit presented evidence that the U-joint holding the drive shaft in place had melted because of insufficient lubrication, permitting the drive shaft to rip out of its yoke.  The lawsuit alleged that the U-joint component had not been lubricated for at least four to six months before the incident.  The lawsuit also alleged that the company’s fleet manager established an inadequate maintenance policy calling for the U-joint cross piece to be lubricated every 10,000 miles or two months–whichever was longer–even though the U-joint manufacturer recommended a lubrication interval of every 5,000 miles.  At a deposition and at trial, the fleet manager testified that he had no expertise or special qualifications that would have enabled him to determine the proper lubrication interval and that he did no research to determine the manufacturer’s guidelines.  The plaintiff’s contended that the president of the company that owned the truck knew that the fleet manager lacked the necessary qualifications but allowed him to proceed anyway.  The plaintiffs offered evidence that during the year before the incident, a mechanic at the company knew about as many as 20 other U-joints in the fleet’s trucks that had failed because of inadequate lubrication.  The plaintiffs contended that although the mechanic  reported this to his supervisor, and the mechanic’s supervisor confirmed that the lubrication was inadequate, the company failed to conduct a general inspection of the entire fleet or establish an adequate lubrication policy.

The jury awarded $281 million, including $100 million in punitive damages.  The plaintiffs voluntarily requested and received remittitur, also known as a reduction, in the amount of the punitive damages award to $4.5 million, which was the maximum allowed under Texas law, which is where the trial occurred.  It is possible that the defense may ask the court to issue a new trial, or further lower the verdict, or grant judgment in the defendant’s favor. This case shows how something as simple as adequate lubrication of one part on a truck can cause major safety issues if it is not done properly.

At Stark & Stark, we represent people every day who have been injured in truck accidents and car accidents.  We know what it takes to make sure your rights are protected, regardless of whether the defendant who caused the crash is a small local company or a multi-million-dollar corporation.  I only represent injured people.  I do not defend or represent insurance companies or defendants.

This winter has been one of the coldest in recent memory, at least for those of us in the Northeast.  It seems like every day is a new record low for daytime temperatures.  If you have grown tired of driving in icy and snowy conditions on your morning commute you’re not alone.  The good news: in less than a month, spring will be upon us.  The bad news: there’s still plenty of time for Mother Nature to throw some more winter weather at us.  This means that we must be extra careful when driving and even when we are just walking to and from our cars.  Be especially careful when walking to or from your car in the early morning or evening hours.  It’s only natural to sometimes be in a rush when walking from the workplace to your car in the parking lot, especially when the temperature if below freezing and arctic wind is hitting you.  But this is when you have to be especially careful.  Snow and ice that melted in the sunshine easily can refreeze and turn into ice when the sun goes down.  Many times ice will look like water on the ground.  This is especially prevalent near snow banks where snow runs off from the bank or the pile and then collects in areas many feet away from the snow back.  Walk slowly and carefully in these areas, especially at night and in the morning.  Sometimes snow accumulates in parking lots in the areas between cars.  This can cause people to slip and fall after they step out of their cars or as they are stepping into their cars.  Always look at the ground before you step in or out of your car.  Make sure to wear proper footwear with good traction for ice and snow.  Although it’s a good idea to have snow brushes and ice scrapers at home, be sure to keep a snow brush and ice scraper in your car so that you can clean your car if there is a snowstorm while you are away from home.

Now that I have given you some general safety tips for the winter, here are some tips for driving in the snow:

  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  • Always look and steer where you want to go.
  • Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could   cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And     take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to         maneuver by driving slowly.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased  to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry   you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill  as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road.  Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to            be, watch the snow from indoors.

In addition, some other safety tips worth mentioning are:

  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Be sure that your tires are properly inflated.
  • Never mix radial tires with other tire types.

At Stark & Stark, we care about your safety and hope these tips help you cope with this tough winter weather we’ve all been experiencing.  We represent people throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania who have been hurt in car accidents, slips and falls, and other unfortunate incidents.  We hope that you will not need our assistance, but if you do, or if you know someone who does, we are here to help.  Call me right away if you have been hurt as a result of someone else’s negligence.