Many people know who Ralph Nader is as a political activist, but few would know that he recently opened a Tort Museum in Connecticut. “Tort law” is a legal phrase that gets tossed around a lot, but not many people understand what it truly entails. Tort law is the part of our judicial system that governs claims for wrongdoing, whether the wrongdoing is something done by a corporation or an individual. If you are injured by the acts or omissions of big business, or by the negligent driver of a car that ran into you, you have the right to participate in tort law by filing a law suit in the appropriate court.

This summer, Mr. Nader opened a museum in Winsted, Connecticut to address the history of tort law and the important cases where consumers have been helped by someone filing a law suit against “big business.” Recently, he participated in an interview where he stated that the judicial system in the United States is the only part of our government where one individual acting on their own can change the way business is done.


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The New Jersey courts, like the court in South Dakota, tend to focus on whether horseplay constitutes a major deviation from work when assessing compensability of injuries. In Trotter v. City of Monmouth, 144 N.J. Super. 430 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 73 N.J. 42 (1976) the Appellate Division addressed the issue of major

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.


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The Supreme Court of South Dakota recently found a case involving an employee who was injured while engaging in “horseplay” with a coworker, while at work, to be a compensable. Petrik v. JJ Concrete, Inc., 2015 S.D. 39 (June 3, 2015), involved concrete laborers who had idle time during their work day while they waited for concrete trucks to arrive or for other work to be completed before they could continue their own. Petrik testified at trial that during these lulls in work, he and others often played jokes and tricks on each other.

On this particular day, Petrik and others had completed their work and were waiting for a concrete truck to arrive. It was a hot day and some of them sat in one of the employer’s air-conditioned trucks. Petrik wanted to sit in the truck to cool off, so he told a co-worker that one of the workers on the far side of the work site needed to talk to him. When the co-worker left the truck, Petrik took his seat inside the cool cabin. After a while, he got out and saw his co-worker coming back. Petrik started to run and the co-worker pursued him. During the short chase, Petrik attempted to jump a five-foot wide trench and landed awkwardly and broke his ankle.

Petrik filed a workers’ compensation claim, but this was promptly denied by his employer and insurer, on the basis that his injury did not arise out of and in the course of his employment.  Additionally, his employer prohibited horseplay by employees during work hours. The Department of Labor found that Petrik’s injury arose out of the course of employment, but did not occur in the course of that employment. The circuit court affirmed.


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Effective September 1, 2015, new child passenger safety laws will go into effect in New Jersey.  These new laws were designed with enhanced safety in mind – specifically on improving protections for young children riding in cars.  So what are these new rules?

  1. Every child under 2 years old and weighing less than 30 lbs. must be secured in the back seat of a vehicle in a rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness.
  2. Every child under 4 years old and weighing under 40 lbs. must be secured in the back seat of a vehicle in a rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness until the child grows larger than the height and weight standards set by the manufacturer.
  3. After a child outgrows the manufacturer’s height and weight standards, the child may begin sitting in a front facing child seat with a five-point harness.
  4. Every child under 8 years old and less than 57 inches in height must be secured in a rear-facing or forward-facing child seat with a five-point harness or a belt-positioning booster seat.
  5. Any child older than 8 years old or taller than 57 inches in height must be properly secured by a regular adult seat belt.


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Grocery stores and other large retailers generally have plans, policies and procedures designed to keep their customers safe. Unfortunately, far too often store employees either do not know or do not follow corporate safety policies. This is why thousands and thousands of people are injured in grocery stores here in New Jersey every year.

Many people feel an intense loyalty to “their” grocery store and spend large portions of the family budget on groceries. Stores like ShopRite expect to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars from each of their customers over the course of a lifetime. Is it too much to ask for customers to actually be kept safe while they shop? Sadly, for many grocery stores and other large retailers, the answer is yes. In my experience, corporate profit is frequently more important than customer safety.

Grocery store owners know there are “problem areas” in every grocery store. These include the produce department, floral department, frozen food aisles, checkout areas, entrances and exits, to name a few. These are high traffic areas where there is often water or slippery produce on the floor.

Grocery store owners and operators have a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care for the safety of their customers. Store owners must take steps to correct or give warning of dangerous conditions (like water on the ground), so long as the owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. Furthermore, the grocery store owner must make inspections of the store to try to find dangerous conditions. Store employees are typically required to conduct “floor sweeps” to check for dangerous conditions, like spills or tripping hazards. This is where most grocery stores fail their customers because employees do not perform regular “floor sweeps” or follow any inspection schedule. This means that dangerous conditions frequently go unnoticed, and that is why thousands of people are injured in grocery stores each year. Of course, this is not the only area where grocery stores fail to keep their customers safe from harm. Other causes of customer injuries will be explored in some of my upcoming posts.


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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

Veterans service-connected disability benefits are often denied or awarded at the incorrect rating or date of disability. If you find yourself in this position, you have the right to an appeal and you increase your chances of winning if you are represented by an attorney.

You can find a list of VA accredited attorneys here. An accredited attorney has been screened by the VA for character and fitness, has been trained to represent disabled veterans, and is required to engage in additional training to maintain accreditation every two years. Because appeals can take 3 ½ to 4 ½ years to process, attorneys fees are based upon benefits they obtain on your behalf and paid out of your past due benefits.


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