Edwardsville, IL: A native of Puerto Rico was recently awarded a record $7.5 million settlement in a back and neck injury lawsuit following the sudden explosion of an air tank aboard a marine vessel that was docked for repairs. Plaintiff Edward Perez-Mossetty was seriously injured in the explosion.
Back and Neck Injury Plaintiff Scores Record .5 Million Jones Act SettlementAccording to an account in The Telegraph (11/19/14) of Alton, Illinois, the then-37-year-old was affecting repairs aboard the vessel on behalf of defendants American Tugs Inc. and an unnamed boat company based in Alton, Illinois. The plaintiff was in the engine room that also housed an aging air tank that was exhibiting signs of thinning and pitting.
According to court records in the back injury compensation claim, the tank had been installed without a working pressure relief valve and was normally operated in an automated fashion, with the air compressor automatically shutting down when the desired pressure within the tank was reached.
However, on the day of the accident, employees had been operating the compressor in manual mode as the compressor had been shutting off too soon. On the day of the accident, pressure within the tank had built up to a level that the pitted walls of the tank could not withstand. The ensuing explosion - akin to a balloon popping when the air within builds up to a force the walls of the balloon cannot withstand - caused Perez-Mossetty to be thrown into the air. He landed on his neck and sustained serious back and neck injuries from which, in spite of surgical intervention and months of rehabilitative treatment, he has failed to fully recover.
The accident occurred in 2009 aboard the MV Alejandro. The back and neck injury lawsuit was brought in 2010 under the Jones Act, general maritime law and common law negligence, according to the report.
An investigation by the US Coast Guard, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Illinois Boiler Inspector confirmed the pitted and weakened condition of the tank (due to water accumulation over time, according to the report), and the absence of the pressure relief valve. Officials noted that there would have been plenty of opportunity for the defendants to install the proper pressure relief valve over the many years the tank remained in the engine room of the vessel.
The plaintiff’s neck injury lawyer noted that Perez-Mossetty suffered a serious neck injury when he landed after being thrown into the air from the explosion. The plaintiff suffered partial paralysis and serious motor and sensory impairments. He requires assistance to walk and to maintain daily activities. Perez-Mossetty also remains in constant pain and will require assistive devices and ongoing medical care and treatment going forward for as long as he remains alive. He can no longer work.
Perez-Mossetty had initially sought $46 million when the neck injury compensation claim was filed in 2010. That amount notwithstanding, the $7.5 million settlement was described in the report as a record amount.
November 30, 2014, 08:00:00AM. By Heidi Turner Washington, DC: An executive for the company that manufactures airbags involved in recent airbag recalls, airbag-related deaths and airbag failures has said there is no need for a nationwide recall, despite growing calls for such a recall to occur. Meanwhile, some news outlets are reporting that airbag lawsuits are being confidentially settled, making it difficult for plaintiffs in pending lawsuits to rely on previous cases for information. Calls for Nationwide Airbag Recall Increase As Some Lawsuits Are SettledAccording to Bloomberg (11/20/14), an executive of Takata Corporation gave an apology at a US Senate Hearing and apologized for situations in which three deaths were linked to the company’s airbags. Two more deaths are currently being investigated and a third may also be linked to faulty airbags. Takata makes airbags for a variety of automobile manufacturers, including Honda Motor Co., who has faced lawsuits concerning its use of Takata airbags. At issue with the airbags is an inflator compound - ammonium nitrate - that can break down and deploy with too much force when exposed to a high humidity or temperature changes, according to the New York Times (11/19/14). That force can result in metal components of the airbag breaking and being sent into the vehicle’s cabin, causing serious and sometimes fatal injuries to occupants. So far, globally more than 14 million vehicles with Takata airbags have been recalled. A lawsuit has been filed by the family of Hien Tran, who died after a September 29 crash in which debris from a vehicle’s airbag caused fatal injuries. According to Reuters (11/17/14), Tran’s injuries so closely resembled stab wounds that investigators initially considered her death a homicide. The lawsuit alleges Honda and Takata failed to warn vehicle owners about the potential risk of airbag failure, despite recalls and reports of incidents linked to the airbags. Other lawsuits have been filed, but Bloomberg (11/17/14) notes that confidential settlements reached in some of those lawsuits prevented relevant information from being revealed, meaning clients in pending lawsuits do not obtain access to that information. According to Bloomberg, in at least five lawsuits, settlements were achieved before information came out in court. Meanwhile lawsuits seeking class-action status have reportedly been filed against Takata and Honda. In these cases, according to StarNews (11/19/14), the plaintiffs have not suffered injury but are suing for out-of-pocket expenses and damages linked to fixing their vehicles’ airbags. Lawsuits allege Takata and Honda officials knew or should have known about problems with the airbags and failed to take proper corrective action.
By Jon Herskovitz AUSTIN, Texas, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Amusement park operator Six Flags and a German roller coaster maker have reached a settlement with the family of woman who was killed last year when she plunged to her death from a roller coaster at a park in Texas, they said in a statement. Six Flags and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides of Germany reached the deal with the family of Rosy Esparza. Her family had been seeking more than $1 million in damages but terms of the settlement were not disclosed, a lawyer for the Esparza family said on Wednesday. "The Esparza family is very pleased with the settlement and appreciates the condolences offered by Six Flags and Gerstlauer," Frank Branson and Garret Chambers, attorneys for the family, said in a joint statement released on Tuesday with the companies. The two companies were not immediately available for comment. Police said Esparza, 52, fell from the car in which she was riding on the 150-foot-high (45-meter-high) Texas Giant roller coaster at the Six Flags Over Texas Park in the Dallas suburb of Arlington in July 2013. Esparza's relatives had filed a wrongful death lawsuit in September, alleging the park was negligent in not having an adequate restraint system. Investigators looking into the accident ruled out mechanical failure as a reason for the accident, the park said. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz)
November 6, 2014, 10:30:00AM. By The National Trial Lawyers The survivors of 52-year old security guard were awarded $10.5 million after he was killed by a CBS van that was transporting passengers. CBS Pays .5M to Survivors of Guard Killed on NCIS SetJulio Vilamariona had emigrated from San Salvador, El Salvador, in hopes of providing a better future for his wife and three daughters. Villamariona was securing the set of the CBS detective show NCIS. The driver of a 15-passenger van, Ralph Blunt, was transporting employees at CBS studios, when he passed out and crashed into Villamariona, killing him instantly. CBS admits, then denies liability At the outset of the case, CBS issued an apology statement addressing the friends and family of the victim, and showing its sincere condolences. However, when it came time to defend the case, CBS changed its agenda. At trial, CBS asserted that the driver’s medical emergency was completely out of its control, therefore, making it not liable for the accident or the death. A few days before the trial began, CBS had “admitted that they were the sole party responsible for the death,” according to plaintiff attorney Brian Panish. But when it came to trial, it denied all claims of liability. Plaintiffs attorneys Panish Shea & Boyle proved that CBS was liable for its employee’s negligence. CBS attorney Dana Alden Fox in his closing argument stated, “the plaintiffs are deserving of damages, but not as much as Panish was seeking on their behalf.” However, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs granting them $10.5 million. The family was grateful for the amount they received in damages however, but Villamariona’s oldest daughter said, “No one will understand the emptiness we feel.” Attorney Panish stated, “I am so proud of the surviving family members and the jury for standing up to a powerful entity like CBS.”
By BARBARA ORTUTAY Nearly everyone agrees that texting and driving is dangerous. Most people do it anyway. In a new survey, 98 percent of motorists who own cellphones and text regularly said they were aware of the dangers, yet three-quarters of them admitted to texting while driving, despite laws against it in some states. Two-thirds said they have read text messages while stopped at a red light or stop sign, while more than a quarter said they have sent texts while driving. More than a quarter of the texting drivers believed they "can easily do several things at once, even while driving." The telephone survey of 1,004 U.S. adults was released Wednesday by AT&T Inc. as part of an anti-texting-and-driving campaign. AT&T designed the survey with David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and a professor at the University of Connecticut's School of Medicine. The survey came as AT&T expanded availability of a free app that silences text message alerts and activates automatically when a person is moving 15 miles per hour or faster. (Passengers can turn it off.) The DriveMode app is coming to iPhones after being previously available on Android and BlackBerry phones for AT&T users only. The iPhone version will be available to customers of competing carriers as well, but some functions will work only on AT&T devices. The study in May was of cellphone owners ages 16 to 65 who drive almost every day and text at least once a day. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Researchers conducted surveys with people on their cellphones, and it's possible those who would have picked up on a landline might have different attitudes. Greenfield said the survey is the latest to show a discrepancy between people's attitudes and behaviors. It found a broad range of reasons why drivers text. Forty-three percent of the texting drivers said they want to "stay connected" to friends, family and work. Nearly a third did it out of habit. Among other reasons for texting and driving: — Twenty-eight percent said they are worried about missing out of something important if they don't check their phones right away. — More than a quarter believes that their driving performance is not affected by texting, and just as many people said they believe that others expect them to respond to texts "right away." — Just 6 percent answered that they are "addicted to texting," although 14 percent admitted that they are "anxious" if they don't respond to a text right away, and 17 percent feel "a sense of satisfaction" when they can read or respond to a text message. Reggie Shaw was 19 in 2006 when he caused a car accident while texting, killing two people. Today, he speaks out against texting and driving. "It's something I struggle with every day," he said. "I know that I need to go out and talk to others about it. I don't want others to make the same mistake I did." Shaw does not remember what he was texting about right before the accident. Back then, he said, "being on my phone when I drove was something I did all the time. It was just driving to me. I guess you'd call it ignorance but I never understood that it was dangerous. How could me being on the phone cause a car accident?" Today, his phone is off when he's driving. Never in the past eight years since the accident, he says, has he gotten a phone call or text message that was so important that it couldn't wait until he stopped the car. Greenfield, who studies the effects of digital technology on the brain, likes to call smartphones "the world's smallest slot machines" because they affect the brain in similar ways that gambling or drugs can. Dopamine levels increase as you anticipate messages, and that leads to higher levels of pleasure. Getting desirable messages can increase dopamine levels further. While all distractions can be dangerous, much of the focus has been on texting and driving, Greenfield said, because "it's ongoing and because there is an anticipatory aspect to it." Greenfield said people should not use their phone at all while driving, but acknowledges that this might not be realistic. Apps, public education and laws that ban texting and driving, he said, will all help change people's behavior, just as anti-drunken-driving laws and public education campaigns have reduced drunken driving over the past few decades. 2014-11-05 06:03:09 GMT
Study: Roller Coaster Injuries Not As Prevalent As Bouncy Castle Injuries March 23, 2014, 04:15:00PM. By Heidi Turner Denver, CO: Although it may seem like thrill rides and roller coasters are the rides that would most commonly result in theme park accidents, it may in fact be the less adrenaline-pumping attractions that result in the most injury. Amusement park accidents get a lot of media coverage, but a recent study suggests that it is the bouncy castles that result in the most injuries. Meanwhile, trampoline parks are falling under scrutiny after reports emerged of serious injuries sustained in trampoline accidents. Amusement park lawsuits have been filed concerning some trampoline parks. A study conducted by researchers at Ryerson University in Canada suggests that more children are injured on inflatable attractions, such as bouncy castles, than on amusement park rides. According to a press release that accompanied the study, a 2010 report issued by the National Safety Council found that the risk of being injured on an amusement park ride is four in a million, and of those four, fewer than one percent are hospitalized for a night. To conduct the study, researchers gathered information from the US National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), reviewing hospital emergency room injury reports linked to amusement rides. Lead researcher Kathryn Woodcock found that 42 percent of the injuries reported were linked to inflatable bounce attractions and 20 percent were linked to roller coasters. Carousel-related injuries and bumper car-related injuries were third and fourth on the list. Researchers noted, however, that in one-third of the 13,000 injuries included in the report, no specific ride was linked to the injury. Owners of trampoline parks, becoming increasingly popular, might want to take note of that study. Lawsuits have been filed against various trampoline parks - attractions that focus on bouncing on trampolines - alleging park visitors were seriously harmed due to problems at the park. One such lawsuit was filed against a trampoline park in Houston, after a 16-year-old fell through a rip in the trampoline canvas, striking his head on the concrete below. According to Fox News (2/18/14), the teen sustained skull fractures, seizures and bleeding on the brain. His family says that although he survived, he has suffered long-term injury, including no longer being in honors classes. Meanwhile, an investigation by 9 News (2/20/14) in Denver, found paramedics were sent to trampoline parks in the area dozens of times in the past three years. Injuries reported included fractures, concussions and neck injuries. Trampoline parks are currently for the most part unregulated, although officials in some states are reportedly investigating enforcement of the parks.
Some Amusement Park Accidents Have Little to Do with the Rides October 15, 2014, 08:00:00AM. By Gordon Gibb Upper Marlboro, MD: In most cases an amusement park accident or incident involves a mechanical problem with a ride or other attraction through mechanical breakdown, poor maintenance procedures or operator error. Newer riders are increasingly sophisticated, and faster. Some Amusement Park Accidents Have Little to Do with the RidesHowever, a fact of amusement park life that is not often mentioned is park security - especially when there are targeted events that draw specific demographics and clientele in large numbers. In the story we are about to tell you, a horrific theme park accident had nothing to do with the rides, but everything to do with crowd control and security. As reported by The Washington Post (Washington Post Blogs 9/29/14), Six Flags America, located in Maryland, hosted what is billed as “Fright Fest,” a themed weekend targeting teens and young adults during the lead-up to Halloween. This year, on September 27, it has been reported that a massive fight broke out amongst attendees at the event. According to The Washington Post, two juveniles were transported to the hospital with what were described at the time as “non-life threatening injuries.” However, one of the boys, who is 15 years old and not identified, was found to have suffered a fractured skull, amongst other injuries. He worsened in the hospital and his situation became dire. Doctors reportedly placed the teen in a medically induced coma in order to minimize brain stimulation, and on September 29, according to the report, doctors had planned to remove part of the boy’s skull in an effort to relieve swelling in his brain. Zina Pierre was identified as a spokesperson for the injured teen’s family and characterized injuries to the teen as a random act. It is not known if the family has considered an amusement park lawsuit on behalf of their injured son. A spokesperson at Six Flags America characterized the situation as isolated. “The safety and security of our guests is always our number one priority,” Six Flags officials said in a statement published in The Washington Post. “The unacceptable events that took place Saturday evening represent an isolated incident.” There is a suggestion, however, that the amusement park accident involving the injured teens might have been prevented had the event been canceled in advance. There are reports the fights may have been planned in advance, according to various postings on Twitter that referenced “fight night” at Six Flags, or making references about people “planning to fight at six flags.” Others on Twitter denounced the plans to brawl: “people still gonna fight at six flags,” someone tweeted on the day of the incident. Another wrote, “If You Fight At Six Flags, Your Childish.” (sic) “I hope nobody don’t fight at six flags, but I already gotta feeling they are,” tweeted yet another. (sic) The scene was described as chaotic. Injuries were random acts. Critics liken the event to a rave that can attract multitudes of people - so many in fact that police have a hard time controlling unruly crowds. An eyewitness to the amusement park melee, Dianne McNair, described the scene in The Washington Post report as chaotic as she arrived to pick up her 15-year-old grandson. McNair noted there were about 20 police cars surrounding the area. She described swarms of random altercations on a grassy knoll outside of the park perimeter. When one swarm was broken up by police, a new swarm formed and fighting resumed. “[The fighting] was popping up in so many places like a firestorm,” McNair said, in comments published in the report. The eyewitness said that when the second scrum was broken up, she saw a girl lying on the ground, unconscious and limp. As for the injured teen with the fractured skull, family spokesperson Pierre noted that “he was hit blindly by the perpetrators and he was staggering trying to get up and someone else came along to finish the deed,” Pierre said. An update from The Washington Post on October 3 described the injured teen as progressing well following surgery. Officials at Six Flags America noted it had beefed up security and moved the visitor pick-up and drop-off points in time for the second weekend of Fright Fest, the annual lead-up to Halloween. There have been no reports of subsequent brawls. However, officials at Six Flags America said on September 29 that they had no intention of canceling the event that appeals to young people and fans of All’s Hallowed Eve each year. Theme Park accidents tend to increase on holidays and long weekends, such as Memorial Day and the 4th of July. Theme Parks like to tag onto holidays as a way to attract larger numbers of patrons to the park. Halloween is one such occasion. However, beyond theme park accidents involving the rides and attractions themselves - that sometimes result in amusement park deaths - are the events that can sometimes occur when large groups of a single demographic gather. Six Flags America has opted to increase security to prevent a further occurrence, but appears to have no plans to cancel the annual event. The report also noted that fighting took place outside the perimeter of the park, potentially providing an escape for liability for Six Flags. Plaintiffs in an amusement park lawsuit might argue that the fighting, regardless of where it occurred, might not have been mitigated had Six Flags not “invited” the potential for random scuffles by holding the event in the first place…
Arlington, TX: It was three years ago that an army veteran who had previously lost both legs while serving his country in Iraq was strapped into a roller coaster in Upstate New York. The man was not wearing his prosthetic legs, but attraction supervisors permitted him to ride anyway. Tragically, the absence of his legs meant he was unable to remain in his seat while the ride was in motion and he fell 150 feet to his death in a horrific Amusement Park Accident. Where Is the Federal Oversight to Prevent Theme Park Accidents? Whether patrons are not properly vetted for suitability for the ride by staff - or the ride itself is fraught with risk - the fact remains that federal oversight of, specifically, roller coaster safety ended in 1981. That was 33 years ago, long before most of the current, push-the-envelope thrill rides were ever conceived and built. The New York Times (7/27/14) reports that the Consumer Product Safety Administration (CPSA) only regulates portable rides that tour around and migrate with traveling shows to various county fairs. Instead, fixed-site rides are regulated by each state - and oversight is inconsistent amongst the various states. Fixed-site rides, in some cases, can be inspected by building departments, for example, that normally oversee building codes and labor issues. Little wonder Theme Park Accidents are continuing. According to data released by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), about 300 million people paid a visit to the roughly 400 amusement parks that exist in the US in 2011 - the same year the US Army veteran and amputee fell to his death. Those patrons, in sum, took in about 1.7 billion rides. The Association insists that Americans have a greater chance of becoming injured in a car, or struck by lightning, than sustaining an injury from an amusement park ride. The IAAPA pegs the risk at about one in 24 million. But that doesn’t placate critics calling for more oversight. “Roller coasters that hurtle riders at extreme speeds along precipitous drops should not be exempt from federal safety oversight,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, in comments published in the New York Times. “A baby stroller is subject to tougher federal regulation than a roller coaster carrying a child in excess of 100 miles per hour. This is a mistake.” There are various issues at play that appear to create a perfect storm for amusement park safety, or lack thereof. Thrill rides have become much faster and steeper in the 33 years since federal regulation ended in 1981. Over that same time frame, body size has evolved. Americans are, generally, becoming more obese. A tragic amusement park death preceded by an ominous comment. The late Rosa Irene Ayala-Gaona, who fell to her death last summer, had commented that the T-shaped lap bar designed to hold her in place during the pending ride on the Texas Giant roller coaster at Arlington, was not fitting properly and didn’t appear to be fully secure, according to witnesses that talked to a local TV news crew following the horrific theme park accident. The Texas Giant is a good example of the modern-day thrill rides that patrons increasingly seek. It rises 14 stories in one section. Ayala-Gaona tipped the scales at over 200 pounds. Was the Texas Giant roller coaster car designed, optimally, for someone with a lower weight and different body type? Such speculation may come out in the discovery phase of an Amusement Park lawsuit. Nonetheless, the fact remains that Ayala-Gaona was thrown from her seat while the ride was in motion - unable to be held in place by the T-bar restraint that allegedly was not secure - and the woman fell to her death. A spokesperson for an association representing amusement parks notes that in their view, increased federal oversight would do little to make rides any safer, with “no evidence federal oversight would improve on the already excellent safety record of the industry.” Colleen Mangone cited a report, released last year by the association, which indicates injuries from theme park accidents have been relatively unchanged over the past 10 years or so. However, critics suggest that such a report is flawed because it is based on self-reported data by association members. Those parks with the worst safety records could - and did - simply opt out of the survey. Meanwhile, a study also released in 2013 by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, found that more than 93,000 children under the age of 18 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for amusement park injuries over a 20-year period ending in 2010. The researchers estimate a child is hospitalized once every three days each summer from an amusement park injury. Federal oversight ended in 1981 The New York Times observes that some parks have specially designed seats for amputees or patrons with a larger girth. But not all do - and again, there is no federal, uniform oversight. Other parks use sample seats for a patron to try before determining suitability for a ride. But again, not all parks have this. And weight restrictions are interpretive, given that a 200-pound patron at 6' 1" has a much less pronounced girth than someone with that same weight spread over a smaller frame, say, 5' 5" or even 5' 0". While parks will attempt to improve safety, they also put a heated focus on developing the next thrill ride that will draw patrons to their park v. a competitor. Jim Seay, identified as president of Premier Rides, noted that new technology has improved safety. “Parks in general know they need to provide something new for their guests every year,” he said, in comments published in the New York Times. In the meantime, amusement park deaths and theme park accidents will continue. The New York Times reports that last month about two dozen patrons were stranded in midair for hours after a roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain was partially derailed due to a fallen tree branch. And last summer, the same day that Ayala-Gaona fell to her death in Arlington, a boat at the Cedar Point Shoot the Rapids water ride in Sandusky, Ohio, rolled backward and flipped over. At least six patrons were injured. Such water park injuries can certainly bring an amusement park lawsuit.
Philadelphia, PA: A denied disability claim has resulted in a $22 million settlement in a bad faith insurance lawsuit filed against Allstate Insurance. The settlement is reported to be the largest ever in Pennsylvania. Bad Faith Insurance Lawsuit Results in Million SettlementAccording to The Times-Tribune (9/30/14), the original lawsuit was filed by Patrick Hennessy, who suffered severe injuries in a car accident. Court documents note that Hennessy had originally been in a car driven by Ryan Caruso when Caruso’s car rear-ended a car at a traffic light driven by Bruce Reikow. Caruso’s car stalled and Hennessy moved to push it out of traffic when a car driven by Shawn Robertson struck them. Hennessy required a leg amputation and filed a claim against Allstate, the company that insured Caruso’s car. Shawn Robertson, the driver of the vehicle that hit Hennessy, was not insured. Hennessy filed suit in state court but offered to settle with Allstate for the policy limit of $250,000. Allstate refused the offer, so Hennessy went to trial against Caruso and Robertson. The jury awarded Hennessy more than $19 million, finding Caruso 40 percent responsible and Robertson 55 percent. Caruso assigned his rights against Allstate to Hennessy. According to court documents, Allstate refused to pay the judgment, so Hennessy filed another suit. The suit named Allstate employees and agents Kevin Broadhead, Paul Fraver, John Russell and Henry Ricci, III. Allstate argued that Hennessy fraudulently joined the company’s Pennsylvania employees in the case, to defeat diversity of citizenship, but the judge ruled that the claims against the company’s Pennsylvania employees were neither insubstantial nor frivolous, noting that joinder is fraudulent when there is no reasonable basis supporting the claim against joint defendants. Specifically, Judge Stengel wrote that the lawsuit alleged Mr. Ricci fraudulently represented to the Caruso family that Allstate’s internal policies were consistent with its “Good Hands” advertising campaign, leading the Caruso family to purchase the policy. “Mr. Broadhead, Mr. Russell, and Mr. Fraver are alleged to have sent several misleading letters to the plaintiff’s attorneys insisting that Allstate was continuing to conduct an investigation of the claims, when, in fact, the letters were actively concealing that Allstate was not investigating the claims at all,” Judge Stengel wrote. “Further, Mr. Broadhead had also not informed the Caruso family that the plaintiff would have accepted the policy limit of $250,000 as settlement of the entire case on the eve of trial.” That failure to notify Caruso was deemed unfair because Caruso was later found liable for damages greater than the $250,000 initially offered as a settlement amount. The second suit was settled for $22 million. The Times-Tribune notes that the $22 million is 88 times what Allstate would have paid if it had initially approved Hennessy’s claim. The lawsuit is Patrick Hennessy vs. Allstate Insurance Co., et al., case number 13-6549.