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A few weeks ago, an appellate court in New York issued an interesting opinion in a car accident case discussing the ever-present element of foreseeability in personal injury cases. In the case, Hain v. Jamison, the court ended up agreeing with the trial judge that the plaintiff’s wife’s death was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant farm owner’s negligence in allowing an animal to escape.

CalfThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in this case is the husband of a woman who was struck and killed by a passing car as she tried to help an escaped farm animal that had wandered onto the road. After his wife’s death, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the driver of the car that struck his wife as well as the owner of the escaped animal. This opinion deals with the question of whether the farm owner’s alleged negligence in failing to properly maintain a fence to secure the animal could foreseeably have caused the death of the plaintiff’s wife.

The trial judge initially denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, but that decision was reversed on appeal to the intermediate appellate court. That court held that the defendant’s alleged negligence “merely furnished the occasion for, but did not cause, [the plaintiff’s wife] to enter the roadway, where she was struck.” The plaintiff appealed to the state’s highest court.

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Almost every type of lawsuit has a time limit within which the case must be filed to be considered timely. These time limits, more commonly referred to as statutes of limitations, provide certainty to those who are involved in an accident and believe that they may face liability. However, statutes of limitations are strictly enforced and can often result in meritorious cases being dismissed for no other reason than the plaintiff filing the lawsuit too late.

RollerbladersOne of the issues that arises with statutes of limitations is determining which one applies. In most states, including Florida, there are different statutes of limitations for different types of lawsuits. For example, in Florida, the statute of limitations for general negligence cases is four years. However, for medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations is just two years. In cases alleging the negligence of a government employee or entity, the statute of limitations is three years. Furthermore, when a case is filed against a government entity, additional procedures must be followed, or the case will not be considered timely and may be rejected.

The plaintiff in a recent premises liability case learned these lessons the hard way when an appellate court dismissed her case for being filed past the applicable statute of limitations.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion stemming from a car accident involving a drunk driver, his passenger, and the company that insured both of them. In the case, Peden v. State Farm, the court reversed a lower court’s ruling that had held State Farm did not unreasonably delay payment to Ms. Peden. As a result of the court’s decision, the case was remanded back to the trial court to proceed toward trial.

Parked VanThe Facts of the Case

Mr. Graf had just bought his fiancée a new van for her birthday. To celebrate the occasion, the couple gathered friends for a small party, where alcohol was served. The plaintiff, Peden, was one of the couple’s friends.

At some point during the evening, Peden and several others got into the van so that Mr. Graf could take a picture of the group in the new van. However, Mr. Graf then got into the driver’s seat and took the car on a joy ride. He crashed the van, seriously injuring Peden, who then filed a personal injury lawsuit against Graf.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Mississippi issued a written opinion in a truck accident case involving two separate accidents. In the case, Ready v. RWI Transportation, the court ultimately affirmed a judgment in favor of the defendant truck driver, who had caused a collision about three-quarters of a mile ahead of where the plaintiff was injured when he slammed into the back of another vehicle that was stopped in traffic caused by the first accident.

Truck TiresThe Facts of the Case

A truck driver employed by RWI Transportation caused an accident when he made an improper lane change on the highway, colliding with another vehicle. Both vehicles were disabled as a result and came to a rest in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. A long line of traffic formed behind the accident.

Mr. Ready was driving toward the accident when he crashed his vehicle into a UPS truck that had stopped in the far-right lane due to the traffic caused by the accident up ahead. Ready then filed a personal injury lawsuit against RWI Transportation and its truck driver, claiming that the driver of the truck was negligent in causing the accident and that the initial accident was the cause of the subsequent accident between his vehicle and the UPS truck.

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Earlier this year, manufacturing giant Johnson & Johnson was found to be liable in a product liability case involving the continued use of its Shower to Shower talc-based baby powder product. As it turns out, there has recently been significant research indicating that the continued use of talc-based baby powder in the genital area can cause ovarian cancer. According to one recent news source discussing the case, the plaintiff was a woman who had developed ovarian cancer after the continued use of the product.

Gavel and BooksAccording to the news source, Johnson & Johnson refuses to accept that its product can cause ovarian cancer, and it has initiated an appeal process, hoping to overturn the plaintiff’s verdict. Specifically, Johnson & Johnson claims that the jurors were tainted because they had been potentially exposed to ads run by the plaintiff’s attorneys notifying women that baby powder may cause ovarian cancer. The result of the appeal has yet to be determined, but for now the woman’s verdict will stand.

This case is the third in a recent string of cases finding Johnson & Johnson responsible for ovarian cancer developed in women who had used their product over the course of years. In total, the amount of the baby powder lawsuits is approximately $195 million. These cases seem to just be the beginning of what could be a very significant series of lawsuits. Indeed, approximately 2,500 other women have similar claims pending against Johnson & Johnson.

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Landowners have a duty to maintain their property so that it is safe for those whom they invite onto their property. When someone is injured on a landowner’s property, the injured party may be able to seek financial compensation for their injuries from the landowner through a premises liability lawsuit. There are various levels, or standards, of care that a landowner has, depending on the landowner’s relationship with the injured party. For example, the highest duty is owed to an invitee, who is someone that the landowner invites onto their land for business purposes. Most premises liability cases involve duties owed to invitees.

BathtubBefore an injured party is permitted to recover from the landowner, the injured party must prove several elements. Generally speaking, these elements are:

  • That the defendant owned the land where the plaintiff was injured;
  • That the defendant was negligent in maintaining the land;
  • That the plaintiff was injured; and
  • That the plaintiff’s injury was caused at least in part by the defendant’s negligence.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion broadly interpreting what is considered a medical malpractice claim under the state’s statutory framework for cases involving medical negligence. In the case, Nava v. Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, the court determined that the plaintiff’s injury that occurred while he was being transported in the hospital on a gurney should have been brought within the one-year statute of limitations applicable to all medical malpractice cases.

Hospital BedThe Facts

Nava was a patient at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center. One day during his stay, he was being transferred from one part of the hospital to another on a gurney when the gurney tipped and Nava fell to the ground. As a result of the fall, Nava suffered fractures to his clavicle and his knee cap.

Nava filed a personal injury lawsuit against the hospital. The complaint was filed more than one year but less than two years after his injury. This is important because the applicable statute of limitations for negligence claims is two years; however, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is one year.

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Most would agree that young and inexperienced drivers pose a threat when they get behind the wheel, if for no other reason than their lack of experience. However, given the prevalence of cell phones among teens, young drivers are increasingly becoming a danger due to their frequent use of a cell phone while driving.

Camera PhoneIn fact, a recent study suggests that teenage drivers who text while driving are more likely to engage in other dangerous driving habits, such as speeding, aggressive driving, failing to wear a seatbelt, and driving under the influence. According to one industry news source discussing the new study, an astonishing 80% of teens admit to using their smartphone while driving. Smartphone use is not limited to talking and texting, moreover. The survey respondents admitted to watching videos, browsing the internet, and even playing games while driving.

The study considered roughly 1,000 teens aged 16 to 19 years old and asked them about their driving habits. The results indicate that there is a direct link between smartphone use while driving and being involved in an accident. In fact, the teens who reported being involved in an accident were three times as likely to admit using their phone while behind the wheel. The survey revealed other interesting facts about teen drivers as well:

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Last month, an Illinois appellate court issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case, applying the “discovery rule” to potentially allow a plaintiff’s late-filed case to proceed to trial. Normally, all medical malpractice cases must be filed within the statute of limitations. However, when applied by a court, the discovery rule can act to toll a statute of limitations until the plaintiff discovers that there may be a viable medical malpractice case against the defendant. Thus, in the case of Moon v. Rhode, the court reversed a lower court’s decision that had held the discovery rule did not apply to the plaintiff’s case and remanded the case for further analysis from the lower court.

SurgeryThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s mother was treated by several doctors for rectal prolapse. Several days after she was treated by the doctors, she passed away, allegedly due to those doctors’ negligence. The plaintiff filed a timely medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctors.

During the course of the plaintiff’s investigation of the initial lawsuit, the plaintiff received an opinion from an expert that another doctor, the defendant in this case, was also partially responsible for failing to notice certain problems evident on an MRI his mother had several years back. The plaintiff then filed this medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant.

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One of the biggest hurdles personal injury plaintiffs face before initiating a lawsuit is determining which parties to name as defendants. Of course, a plaintiff does not want to frivolously name parties who had nothing to do with their injuries, but a plaintiff’s failure to name all potentially liable parties from the beginning can cause delays down the road. In some cases, it may even prevent a plaintiff from adding that party at a later date.

ChefOne often overlooked party that can frequently be named in personal injury lawsuits arising out of car or truck accidents is the employer of the at-fault party. The legal doctrine that allows for this form of vicarious liability is called “respondeat superior.” Of course, this doctrine only applies if the at-fault driver was performing some employment-related duty when the alleged act of negligence took place. Since so much is at stake for both the plaintiff and a defendant employer, the issue of whether an employee’s actions can be imputed to the employer is often a hotly contested issue. A recent case out of California illustrates the point.

Jorge v. Culinary Institute of America

The defendant was a private, not-for-profit college that focuses on culinary and baking education. Da Fonseca was a chef trainer at the defendant’s campus in St. Helena. One day on his way home from work, Da Fonseca struck Jorge and one other person with his vehicle. Jorge died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the accident.

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