Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) counted 743 bicyclist deaths in the U.S. in 2013. Of those, 6 occurred in Alabama. That’s slightly fewer than the 9 counted by state Department of Transportation officials in 2012, but doesn’t necessarily indicate a downward trend. There were 176 crashes involving bicyclists in the state that same year, resulting in 138 injuries.biketrail1

We are likely to see these numbers increase as bicycling grows in popularity in the state. The Alabama Bicycle Coalition reports there are dozens of popular trails throughout central Alabama, particularly around Tuscaloosa and Birmingham.

Most bicyclists fatally injured die because of a collision with a motor vehicle, usually by drivers who aren’t paying adequate attention. However, there are cases in which cyclists are killed or injured on unsafe trails. In these cases, recovery of damages in civil court will depend on the circumstances of the crash, but also on who maintains the trail – and why. Continue reading

The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed a $15 million verdict in favor of plaintiffs in the dram shop lawsuit of Nineteenth Street Investments Inc. v. Robertson et al., and did so without opinion. beerbottles

Trial court awarded collectively $15 million in both compensatory and punitive damages to four plaintiffs in this consolidated case. Claims were filed after a horrific drunk driving accident before which the driver, then 19, purchased beer from a local convenience store, despite not having yet reached the legal age of 21. In her vehicle were three minors, who had also been drinking. The driver lost control of the vehicle, veered off the road and crashed into a tree, ejecting all passengers. A 13-year-old passenger was killed and the three others in the car were seriously injured.

Lawsuits were filed by the two other passengers, the mother of the decedent and the mother of the driver – all against the company that owned the convenience store. Those cases were later consolidated and tried as one in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County. Continue reading

The ending of the story of a long-married couple in Wisconsin at first glance seems to have been ripped from the pages of, “The Notebook,” the novel by Nicholas Sparks in which elderly lovebirds die together side-by-side, holding hands in a hospital bed. oldhands1

Except, although they died hours apart, it didn’t happen that way. They weren’t together, as they had wished, and family members say it wasn’t time for the 85-year-old wife to go.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the 86-year-old husband – former owner of several newspapers, father of four and avid traveler – was dying of cancer. It had been a long, difficult battle. In November 2012, his time had come. Doctors at the local hospital released him to hospice care. He was being transported via ambulance to hospice. It was less than a week after Thanksgiving. His wife of 62 years was in the ambulance beside him. But, as the lawsuit now asserts, she wasn’t properly secured in her seat. The driver of an ambulance stopped suddenly to avoid collision with another vehicle. That motion caused the 86-year-old woman to pitch forward, slamming her head on the interior of the ambulance. Continue reading

A new study of medication errors and adverse drug consequences during surgery at one of the country’s top hospitals has revealed a startling statistic: There was an issue in almost 50 percent of all surgeries. That included minor procedures to to serious open-heart operations. operation

The study, published in the medical journal Anesthesiology, was recently presented to the American Association of Anesthesiologists, where doctors indicated to the study authors that the problem isn’t isolated to this one renowned facility. In fact, it’s a major point of concern at hospitals and surgical centers throughout the country.

The error rate calculated by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital – 124 out of 277 – was far higher than previously reported. In these cases, one-third resulted in harm or injury to the patient. Three of those incidents were life-threatening. Two of those were caught by the staff in the operating room, while a third was caught by researchers. No one died as a result of these errors, but the message seems quite clear: They likely could and probably do in procedures across the country. There just isn’t a team of researchers standing by to watch. Continue reading

It’s not always the pilot of an aircraft would have grounds to sue passengers for a fatal crash landing. However, in the case of Krinitt v. Dept of Fish and Game, the mother of a pilot killed in a helicopter accident is suing the state government agency that contracted with the pilot’s employer for a job.
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Plaintiff, as executrix of pilot’s estate, alleges defendant government agency’s employees were negligent, and their actions were the cause of the crash. The case was recently before the Idaho Supreme Court, which reversed an earlier grant of summary judgment favoring the defense.

The high court determined lower court erred in its summary judgment decision because the facts are to be liberally construed in favor of the non-moving party, with all reasonable inferences taken from the record to be drawn in their favor. Because it was the defense filing for summary judgment, the facts were to be considered in the light most favorable to plaintiff. That didn’t happen here. The reversal means plaintiff may now proceed to trial with her case.

According to court records, the helicopter crash happened in 2010, resulting in the death of the pilot, and ultimately both passengers, who worked for the state Department of Fish and Game.
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The teenage son of a state trooper was killed last year following a wedding reception where he allegedly consumed alcohol purchased by the underage son of the hosts, the father and mother of the bride.
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Now, the hosts are facing criminal charges for aiding and abetting underage drinking, and several businesses involved in furnishing the alcohol have been named in a civil lawsuit filed by the decedent’s parents.

Reports indicate the decedent’s parents may also sue the hosts separately for wrongful death.

The case is a tragic example of why hosts should never be lax when it comes to teens and alcohol, even when the atmosphere of the event is jovial.

News reports indicate decedent was with his 19-year-old friend when he walked into a local liquor store and purchased a fifth of whiskey. The purpose was to share it among a small group of teen friends, who had been invited last minute to the wedding reception.

In addition to consuming this liquor, the teen reportedly drank wine served by a catering service owned by the groom.
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With summer in full swing, many families and young children will gather around the pool. Usually, this is the stuff of memories. But tragically, absent the proper supervision, it can end in a nightmare.
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The fact is, there are an average of 62 unintentional drowning deaths of children under 14 annually. In fact, drowning is the second-leading cause of injury-related death in Alabama (and the U.S.) after motor vehicle accidents.

Forty percent of these incidents happen in pools and 37 percent happen in open bodies of water. Nearly one-fifth happen in or around the home. Much of the time, adults either believe someone else is supervising the child or are nearby but engaged in distracting behavior, like reading or talking.
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A new report indicates over the last four years, the number of injury-related deaths spiked significantly in 17 states, while remaining relatively steady in 24 states and falling slightly in nine states.
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Injuries are the No. 1 cause of death for people in the U.S. between the ages of 1 and 44, resulting in nearly 195,000 fatalities annually.

While Alabama was one of those states that saw the injury rate remain relatively stable over the last four years, the state ranked 13th highest nationally for injury-related deaths.

The analysis, “The Facts Hurt: A State-by-State Injury Prevention Policy Report,” was prepared by Trust for America’s Health, a D.C. health policy non-profit organization.

On a national scale, the No. 1 cause of injury-related death was drug overdoses, killing on average 44,000 annually. Researchers learned over the course of nearly 15 years, the number of people who died as a result of drug overdoses doubled. Approximately 50 percent of those – or about 22,000 each year – can be attributed to prescription drug overdoses. In fact, prescription drug overdose deaths now exceed deaths caused by motor vehicles in 36 states and Washington, D.C.
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It is well-established under Alabama’s workers’ compensation law that the exclusive remedy workers have to pursue action against their employer is worker’s compensation. That means employees in most cases can’t sue their company for on-the-job injuries.
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However, workers can pursue legal action against third parties who may be responsible for injuries arising from employment.

Such was the case in Lemley v. Wilson, wherein a city-employed worker was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic. He later died of his injuries. The worker’s father pursued legal action against the driver who struck him.

The case went to trial, and jurors sided with defendant. However, trial court granted plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. Defendant appealed, and the issue of the new trial was heard by the Alabama Supreme Court, which reversed and remanded. The high court ruled there was ample evidence to support jury’s findings, even if there was also ample evidence to support plaintiff’s assertions.
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In the spring of 2005, a man who was heavily intoxicated barreled down U.S. Highway 278 shortly before Midnight in Double Springs. He slammed into another vehicle head-on, and the other driver was killed. The drunk driver was severely injured, suffering traumatic brain injury.
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A year later, he was indicted by a grand jury on vehicular homicide for causing the death with criminal negligence by committing three traffic violations – driving drunk, speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road. However, before trial, defendant was deemed not competent to stand trial, and the criminal trial judge dismissed the charges with prejudice, meaning they couldn’t be refiled. The state didn’t appeal this order.

But then six years later, the state moved to indict again on these same charges, in spite of that order, on grounds defendant’s condition had improved. Recently, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the charges based on the new indictment, finding prosecutors never sought modification of that “with prejudice” order, and therefore had not covered all their procedural bases.
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