Safety Tips for Traveling During Busy Travel Times, and Anytime, and When Traveling Alone

travel blog november 26 2014When you are heading out for travel during busy travel times whether it be for a short trip or a long trip, and whether it be in warmer or colder weather, these safety tips from AAA can make for a more pleasurable journey. In some instances, these safety tips can save lives as well:

1.) Make sure that your Vehicle has been Properly Maintained.  If the maintenance is not up to date, then at the least have the tires and vehicle inspected prior to making a long journey;

2.) Map Out your Route. Prepare for road delays such as busy roads, construction, and other instances that may delay or reroute your journey. You may want to leave earlier if you expect delays to reduce the stress of traffic delays;

3.) Keep Valuable Items out of Sight.  If you take items of value with you, then leave these items in your trunk or in another covered area in your vehicle to avoid any theft of your valuable items;

4.) When Traveling with Children Remind them of some Basic Rules of Safety.  If you have children with you when you travel, then be sure to remind them of the rule, “Do Not Talk to Strangers.” Also have them carry a whistle and instruct them to use it if they get separated from the pack; and

5.) Roadside Assistance.  It is very important to have the contact information for road side assistance handy in the case that you have an incident on the road such a flat tire or other break down.


GM Ignition-Switch Defect Claims: Proper Documentation Must be Filed to be Eligible for Compensation in the GM Fund

iginition switch for nov 26 2014 blogLast Summer GM (General Motors Co.) stated that any victims of the GM Ignition-Switch Defect would be compensated fully for injuries and/or wrongful death sustained as a result. Since GM is in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court has not ruled whether or not GM is or is not barred from lawsuits under the terms of said bankruptcy, many claimants are filing claims in the massive GM fund lest they have no other legal remedy.

If the bankruptcy court were to lift the liability shield and allow lawsuits against GM, then GM could be held liable for punitive damages. It has been speculated that if someone were to file an action against GM in one of these cases, then GM might very well have a serious legal problem if GM can be held liable for punitive damages.

The ignition-switch defect is one that would disable the air bags and the power steering and, as a result, people in these vehicles died, were in accidents that were catastrophic in nature, and/or were injured severely. GM recalled over two (2) million vehicles. Since the fund was created, almost four and a half (4.5) million people have been notified yet only 2105 people, as of November 14, 2014, have filed claims into the fund.

Of those 2105 claims filed, only 72 have been deemed eligible for compensation in the fund. The other claims are either ineligible, deficient, under review, or, as with the vast majority of the claims (1106 total as of November 14, 2014, over half of the 2105 claims that have been filed) are lacking proper documentation.


Comparative Negligence is found in a Hall County, Georgia Pedestrian Case and, therefore, the Pedestrian Gets Nothing for Injuries he Sustained when Hit while in the Cross Walk

cross walk signOn July 17, 2013, at approximately 8 p.m., the Plaintiff, Mr. Frank Day, then age 65, was in Gwinnett County, Georgia when he attempted to cross seven lanes of traffic for a newspaper and was hit while in the cross walk by the Defendant, Mr. Gregory McLaughlin. The Plaintiff suffered injuries and incurred $ 140,000 in medical bills of which $ 100,000 he tried to collect from the Defendant’s insurance company, Geico, but was offered only $ 25,000.

The Plaintiff, therefore, filed a lawsuit whereby there was a jury trial in Hall County, Georgia.  The case is Day v. McLaughlin, No. 2013 CV 2407-A.

In the consolidated pre-trial order there was no argument between the Plaintiff and Defendant that the Plaintiff was in the final lane of seven lanes in the cross walk when he was hit by the Defendant. What was at issue at trial, however, was whether it was the Plaintiff’s fault or the Defendant’s fault for the accident.

The jury, after a three (3) day trial, found that the Plaintiff was fifty percent (50%) at fault for the accident and the injuries that he sustained as a result thereof.  Under Georgia Law, as I have discussed in prior blog posts, this is called Comparative Negligence, and, as set forth under O.C.G.A. Section 51-12-33(g), if it is shown that the Plaintiff is fifty percent (50%) or more responsible for the injury or damages claimed, then the Plaintiff shall not be entitled to receive any amount of damages.

What is interesting in this case is the evidence presented at trial that appeared to show that the Plaintiff in this case was half (50%) at fault for the accident, and the Plaintiff’s approach in failing to educate the jury about the theory of comparative negligence that ended up barring him from any recovery.


A Fulton County Georgia State Court Judge Awards a Plaintiff a Total of $ 9.6 Million for the Death of her Son from a Gun Shot Wound from a ‘Saturday Night Special’ Pistol

pistol for blog nov 18In the year 2000, a young woman of age 20, Tiffany Hardware, bought a new .38 caliber pistol, also known as a ‘Saturday Night Special’ with the brand of Bryco/Jennings from a pawnshop in Macon, Georgia.  At the time of the purchase, the pawnshop was owned by a man by the name of Ronald Richardson.

After the gun was purchased, Hardware’s friend tried to shoot the weapon, but instead the weapon jammed.  As a result, the young Hardware returned the weapon to the pawnshop owner Richardson. Richardson then attempted to unlock the slide of the pistol that had been locked in place. He was not successful in doing so, however.

Richardson then removed the magazine from the gun and put the gun back into the gun case, gave it back to Hardware, and told her to return to the pawnshop the following Monday for Richardson’s “gun guy” to inspect it. When Richardson placed the gun back into the case, a round of live ammunition was still in the chamber of the gun and, to make matters worse, the gun was cocked.

Later that evening, when Hardware was putting her purse and some other things on a table, she dropped the gun. The gun fired, and it hit her younger brother, Billy Bullard, age 15, in the stomach. The young brother Bullard was rushed to the hospital where he passed away a short while after his arrival at the hospital.

Linda Bullard, the mother of Billy Bullard, filed suit against the pawnshop owner Richardson for negligence in leaving the live round in the the gun after he was unsuccessful in unjamming the weapon. Ultimately, there were a total of three (3) Defendants in the lawsuit including Bruce Jennings who was the owner of the gun manufacturer, Bryco Arms.


Georgia Supreme Court Holds State Workers’ Compensation Act Does Not Violate U.S. Constitution

IMG_5451_vert morguefile usename revwarheartThe Supreme Court of Georgia has held that a non-dependent parent may not collect benefits under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Statute. In Barzey v. City of Cuthbert, an unmarried 37-year-old man with no dependents was tragically killed in a workplace accident. His mother and only heir at law filed a lawsuit against the man’s employer, seeking to collect benefits under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act. In her complaint, the woman acknowledged that the law is the only avenue through which a Georgia worker’s heir may collect financial compensation following a work-related death.

Under the Act, benefits are only paid to the dependents of an employee who is killed at work during his or her dependency. If the decedent leaves no dependents, the law states only reasonable funeral expenses may be recovered from an employer. Since the language of the statute barred the decedent’s mother from collecting financial compensation for his death, she claimed the act violated her due process and equal protection rights under the United States Constitution.


A $ 350 K Settlement is Reached whereby the Georgia Department of Corrections Pays a Family for the Death of an Inmate who was Murdered while in Custody

prison for nov 15 blogOn December 24, 2012, Damion MacClain, at just the age of 27, was an inmate at Hays Correctional Facility in Trion, Georgia when he was in his cell and he was stabbed and beaten to death by another inmate. The young MacClain’s mother, RaHonda MacClain, filed a lawsuit in 2013, September naming as Defendants the Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens and the Hays wardens plus four (4) prison staffers and officials.

The main allegation in the lawsuit was that the Hays’ security conditions were below constitutional levels, constituting conditions that rose to the level of cruel and unusual punishment for the inmates and the staff, and were deteriorated to the point that there were many beatings, stabbings, and assaults on inmates as well as officers. For example, the cell doors did not lock for many of the cells and these had been broken for years among many other conditions that were dangerous.

The bottom line: Hays Department of Corrections was out of control. MacClain was among three (3) men who had been killed at the facility from December, 2012 until February, 2013 which is only a five-week period. The families of the other two (2) men who were killed have also filed lawsuits in the Northern District of Georgia, U.S. District Court.

The MacClain case moved along swiftly as the Department of Correction settled the lawsuit for $ 350,000.00 with the MacClain family on October 11 without any formal discovery. Unfortunately, the mother of the young victim Daniel MacClain was not alive to see that day as she had passed away earlier in 2014.


Drug Addict Dies from Withdraw while Incarcerated and Family is Awarded $ 3 Million Dollars Against the Institution

prison cell november 12 blogOn June 23, 2001, 21 year old Daniel Sisson was arrested for possessing heroin while on probation. Due to his probation violation, he was ordered directly back to the Vista jail in California County.

Sisson was a heroin addict and, while in custody, he suffered an asthma attack which is a symptom caused by heroin withdrawal. Two days later, he was in his jail bunk dead from said asthma attack according to the testimony of an expert forensic pathologist during trial.

The young Sisson’s parents brought a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court against California County and the Sheriff’s Department claiming, among other things, that Sisson was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of his constitutional rights, and that he suffered a wrongful death. Most specifically, the Sisson’s found the method that the county used in training staff on how to deal with detoxing inmates such as how they check their cells was at fault. The jurors agreed and awarded the family $ 3 Million Dollars .

It should be duly noted that the lawyer for the county did tell jurors that the young Sisson did not tell the truth about his drug use when he was booked into the jail, and, at one point, he also refused medical treatment. This did not seem to matter much to the jury in this case.

As we know too well, money may be awarded to a family for the loss of a loved one as in this case, but money rarely actually compensates a family for the loss of a loved one. As such, in this case, the Sisson family hopes that this case will bring attention to this issue and bring about change in the system about training staff and revamping procedures and policies in these types of situations. The counsel for the county agreed and said that he would be exploring the next steps possible with his clients in an effort to effectuate change.

In Georgia, we see this happen far too often in jail settings with not just detoxing inmates but inmates who are ill and need medical treatment while incarcerated. In our law practice, probably the one most common complaint of inmates is the lack of proper medical treatment and the medical negligence that occurs behind bars.


Takata Corporation is the Target for the Latest Air Bag Litigation and Several Popular Auto Companies are Not off the Hook Either

airbag for blog nov 9 2014Deaths and serious injuries involving air bags made by Takata Corporation that allegedly explode and cause metal shrapnel to hit drivers have placed the legal sites on Takata Corporation and have resulted in several lawsuits Nationwide. Takata Corp. manufactures air bags for over 50 models of cars from companies including, but not limited to, Ford, Chrysler, GM, BMW, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Subaru.

Although the exact number of lawsuits and recalls is currently unknown, it is estimated that approximately 7.8 million trucks and cars of U.S. models manufactured by ten (10) different auto makers have been recalled to date.

As a result of Takata’s air bag alleged defects, there have been at least three (3) Nationwide Class Actions filed, two (2) lawsuits in Federal Court filed, and numerous recalls issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) encouraging drivers to “act immediately” to have their cars repaired of the defect.

If you are concerned about your vehicle for any type of defect or recall, then you may visit the NHTSA’s website here and enter your vehicle information for a list of recalls that could potentially pertain to your vehicle.

In the case of the Takata airbags, despite the NHTSA’s diligent efforts insisting upon recalls, the organization was criticized by legislators for not insisting that the recalls were made Nationwide as the recalls were initially only limited to vehicles in humid and hot climates such as Texas, Puerto Rico and Florida. The reason the scope was so limited for the recalls in the beginning was that it appeared that the problems were caused in part due to climate conditions such as high heat and humidity.

For example, a case was filed in Puerto Rico for $ 2 million for a woman who suffered hearing loss, another case was filed in Florida on behalf of a woman who suffered injuries from shrapnel piercing the air bag, two (2) class actions were filed in Texas and Miami, and one complaint has been filed in the Southern District of Florida for consumers of Puerto Rice and six (6) other states.

There has also been a Nationwide class action lawsuit filed in the Central District of California, the headquarters of the subsidiary of U.S. Honda, and this lawsuit has named Takata, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan as Defendants. The complaint in the Southern District of Florida referenced above also names BMW, Honda, Toyota, and Ford as well as Takada as Defendants.

Both of these suits, and more to surely follow, indicate that the car manufacturers are far from being off the hook in this litigation arena.


Beginning in 2015, Defective Stryker Hip Device Settlement will bring in over $ 1 Billion Dollars in Settlements for Claimants Against the Hip Device Manufacturer 

human skelton blog nov 7 2014In a Product Liability Case with legal representation out of the State of Georgia, claimants are expecting to receive over $ 1 Billion Dollars in Settlements beginning in 2015 for defective hip devices. The awards come from a negotiated settlement with the manufacturer of the implant, Stryker. The device is called the Rejuvenate also known as the AQBG II implants.

The claimants who will receive settlement awards presented with poisoning from metal from the devices along with other symptoms that were adverse reactions to the devices. The settlements are meant to compensate the injured claimants for complications from the devices such as infections, dropping of the feet or foot, wages that were lost, hip dislocations, and more operative issues that occurred during the procedure as well as after the procedure of the insertion of the devices.

Apparently, there is not a cap for the manufacture Stryker in this settlement meaning that more claimants may come forward as well as the current claimants may receive more if further injuries are incurred. This may be one of the largest settlements of this type in Georgia history for many years.

In Product Liability Cases, if a product is recalled or injuries are incurred as result of a defective product, there are several actions that a potential claimant may take such as starting a class action, opting into a class action that already exists involving the defective product, or opting out of a class action and seeking a remedy directly from the company who manufactured the defective device as well as others in the chain of distribution. There are pros and cons to each of these choices when faced with a product liability case.


$40K Medical Malpractice Verdict Raises to $ 250,000 Due to a High-Low Agreement between Attorneys while the Jury Deliberates

blog november 4 2014In September, 2010 Steve Gables, then age 45, sought treatment with Dr. Robert Burkich the owner of Preventative Medicine Anti-Aging & Chelation Inc. with complaints of low libido and fatigue. Blood tests performed showed low testosterone and Mr. Gables was prescribed testosterone replacement along with the drug Tamoxifen.

Tamoxifen was prescribed since the testosterone treatment would raise Mr. Gables’ estrogen levels and those levels needed to be in check for the therapy to be successful, and Tamoxifen could block the estrogen levels.  Tamoxifen is most commonly known as the drug of choice prescribed to women who have had breast cancer.

Tamoxifen, however, can cause blood clots.  Later, in 2012 in the month of January, Mr. Gables found himself in the hospital for a blood clot in one of his legs that had broken off and travelled to his lungs. As a result, Mr. Gables remained in the hospital for six (6) days and was then on bed rest for two (2) months.

When the case went to trial the Plaintiff blamed the Tamoxifen for his injuries where the defense blamed the Plaintiff’s weight at 320 pounds for a 5 foot 8 inch tall man.  At trial, Gables claimed $ 26,000.00 in past medical expenses and asked for $ 2,000 a year for the rest of his life for future medical expenses. He also claimed that the injury caused him to lose his work as a repair man who worked on heating and air conditioning units and that he had to take a lower paying job as a janitor at a bank as a result.