It was known as the “Ghost Ship.” It served as a showcase for a cluster of artist studios, illegal living quarters and the occasional underground dance party. Now, the shell of the warehouse in Oakland, CA is the site of one of the deadliest fires in recent U.S. history, and a stark reminder of why it is so critical that property owners abide by fire and safety codes.warehouse

Authorities report 36 people died at the venue, and prosecutors were exploring whether murder charges might be filed once the investigation is completed. It’s not clear exactly how the blaze started, but it’s possible that culpable negligence could lead to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. Those familiar with the space called it “a death trap,” cluttered with piled wood, furniture, haphazard electrical cords and just two exits. Before the fire, the property manager had reportedly been confronted several times by neighbors regarding trash in the street and on the sidewalk. He was reportedly resistant to inspectors responding to complaints or pressing him to comply with building codes. In a television interview after the fire, he spoke to the families of those lost, saying, “I surrender everything.”

The property owners – a mother and daughter – said they were not aware of the space being used as a dwelling. The family offered their condolences, but that is of little solace to those struggling with enormous grief right now – especially when there is so much evidence these deaths didn’t have to happen. They shouldn’t have happened. It will likely be asserted that but for the negligence of those responsible to keep this property safe, these deaths almost certainly wouldn’t have happened.  Continue reading

School districts across Florida – and the country – are responsible for ensuring the safe transportation of millions of students to and from class each day. In so doing, these districts, contractors and employers assume a duty of care to students to take reasonable measures to protect the safety and well-being of these minors. In some cases, that involves not just the transportation that occurs to and from school, but also for the planning and protections in place at designated bus stops and while children board or disembark from buses.schoolrules

Recently, an appellate court in Florida decided in Davis v. Baez that an injured student may proceed with her lawsuit against a school bus driver. The driver reportedly insisted student and her brother cross a busy, dark road before school to be waiting on the opposite side of the street – where the bus stop was located – when he arrived. He informed the students if they weren’t waiting at the stop on the east side of the street when he got there, he would leave without them. There were several problems with this, the first being that such protocol was against school policy, which dictated that students who needed to cross a busy street to get to their stop should wait for the bus, so the driver could activate the flashing lights and “STOP” arm and allow children to more safely cross. The driver, who worked for a transportation company contracted by the school district, conceded he had given the children this instruction, despite knowing it was against district policy.

As it turned out, this was district policy for good reason. One morning as the 18-year-old high school senior crossed the dark street from the west side to the east side with her younger brother, a car can speeding past and struck her. The incident occurred around 5:50 a.m. The bus had not yet arrived at the time of the incident. Plaintiff suffered severe injuries.  Continue reading

A grandmother walking her young grandson home from church was killed nearly four years ago when she was struck by a hit-and-run driver. Now, her family has reached a settlement in their wrongful death lawsuit against the driver. They will receive $300,000 from his insurance company.crosswalk

According to SILive.com, the 56-year-old New Yorker was fatally struck by a sport utility vehicle driven by a 44-year-old man who did not stop after impact. Driver was reportedly traveling at speeds “well in excess” of the posted 45 mph speed limit along that road. The grandmother reportedly pushed her 8-year-old grandson out of the way just a split second before the SUV, careening toward them, made impact. The boy suffered several fractures, but survived. His injuries have largely healed, but his family says the emotional trauma of watching his grandmother die in so violent a way right before his eyes will likely never leave him.

The crash occurred around 9:50 p.m., and the driver, who said he was “in shock,” surrendered to police about 2.5 hours after the crash. However, he did not submit to a blood-alcohol test at that time, and officers had no probable cause to seek a warrant for it at that point because he showed no obvious signs of impairment. Although the judge in his criminal case noted there was no evidence presented that alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash, plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit alleged defendant had been drinking at a baseball game that afternoon, just a few hours before the incident. They also alleged he drank more at a bar shortly before the crash.  Continue reading

In a perfect world, the truth would be the only thing that decided the outcome of a civil injury lawsuit. And of course, the truth is a critical element. But what also matters is how skillfully your attorney can present it. What facts, records, testimony can he or she bring to support your assertions? How well does he or she understand the technicalities and procedures? How well-equipped is their law firm to meet the requirements? gavel

In the case of Small v. Sayre, several car accident victims, injured in a collision, were awarded lower damages than what they believed they were entitled to receive, based on the weight of evidence at trial. However on appeal, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that because the verdicts were not first challenged before the trial court, all of the challenges were waived. This really comes down to a technical issue, and it illustrates why it is so important to have an experienced injury attorney.

According to court records, plaintiff was idling in traffic with his wife and daughter when defendant rear-ended his vehicle. Plaintiff, his wife and daughter were each transported to the hospital, where they were treated, prescribed pain medication and advised to follow up with their primary care doctor. In the months and years that followed, the family members sought treatment for a variety of ailments they asserted were the result of the crash. Plaintiff sought treatment from doctors and chiropractors for neck and back pain. His wife sought treatment from a half dozen medical providers, including neurologists, chiropractors, an orthopedic surgeon and physical therapists. She suffered from chronic migraines and upper body pain. She was recommended for spinal fusion surgery, but ultimately did not undergo it, first due to her pregnancy and later due to cost.  Continue reading

More than 30,000 people die and many tens of thousands more are injured every year in the U.S. as a result of gunshot wounds, either self-inflicted or as a result of violence. Firearm manufacturers and dealers are largely shielded from liability by federal law. However, that does not mean they are totally immune. gun

Recently in Missouri, a pawn shop owner agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a woman whose mentally ill daughter shot and killed her father before attempting suicide on herself. Days before the incident, plaintiff had gone to the pawn shop to beg them not to sell her adult daughter a gun. Just weeks earlier, her daughter had purchased a firearm legally from the shop, only to use it to attempt suicide. Plaintiff explained to the shop owner that her daughter is schizophrenic and may be a danger to herself and others. This request was reportedly ignored.

While immunity statutes enacted by the federal government and 34 states protect gun shops and dealers – but there are exceptions. In 2005, Congress enacted a federal law that gives broad immunity to gun dealers from most civil liability actions asserting injury or death as a result of firearms.  Continue reading

Under limited circumstances, Florida law allows those injured by drunk drivers to recover from the establishments who served alcohol to the impaired motorist. F.S. 768.125 allows recompense from bars, restaurants and other establishments when the drunk driver either:

  • Was under the age of 21 OR
  • Was known to be habitually addicted to alcohol. beerbottles

Other states allow compensation when a bar or restaurant serves to someone who was clearly intoxicated. That’s not the case in Florida, unfortunately. Still, our dram shop law can be a useful tool in some situations.

Recently, The Lakeland Ledger reports one such lawsuit has been filed by the brother of a man tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident. The at-fault driver was later identified as a 52-year-old man from Mulberry. He is now facing charges of leaving the scene of a crash involving death and tampering with physical evidence. Continue reading

Our roads and bridges are in terrible shape, and that puts us all risk for serious injury and death while driving. cars

According to a recent report by TRIP, a transportation solutions research group in D.C., we would need to shell out $740 billion to repair the infrastructure deficiencies that exist right now on highways, roads and bridges. And even that wouldn’t be a long-term solution. We need to find a sustainable source of funding if we’re going to keep pace with the ever-increasing amount of vehicle miles traveled – which has increased 15 percent in the last year and is expected for heavy trucks to increase 72 percent in the next 15 years.

The report, “Bumpy Roads Ahead, America’s Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make Our Roads Smoother,” details how poor road conditions affect our wallets and our safety. Potholes and pavement deterioration are bad for our tires and for the level of control we maintain over our vehicles. This is especially perilous on highways, which get high volumes of heavy vehicles. If those drivers lose control of their vehicles – even momentarily – the it could prove deadly.  Continue reading

A diner at a restaurant in Texas seafood restaurant reportedly became seriously ill after consuming shellfish. Now, in a personal injury lawsuit filed against the restaurant corporation, he alleges that he ordered a dish of fried oysters and crawfish, making explicit instructions to the waiter to make sure there was no shrimp or shrimp residue on the plate. But allegedly, the waiter failed to relay that message to the kitchen staff. restaurant

The waiter returned to the table and assured the patron there was no shrimp in the food on his plate, according to the SE Texas Record. However, soon after the plaintiff began eating, the plaintiff began to suffer a severe allergic reaction. An ambulance had to be called and the man was whisked to a local emergency room. It was his wife who reportedly learned that their server that night had forgotten to report her husband’s shrimp allergy to the kitchen.

Now, that man has filed a personal injury lawsuit, seeking unspecified monetary damages, likely for medical expenses and lost wages (if he was forced to take time off work).  Continue reading

In a multiple-vehicle accident, there are more than two cars that hit each other or are involved in a chain of rear-end collisions. It can be difficult enough to sort out liability in these scenarios, but it can be even more complicated when there is an allegation of a phantom vehicle or a “John Doe” driver. A “John Doe” or  phantom vehicle is one that may have played an integral role in causing the crash, but never actually made contact with any of the others and either has not been identified or is not a party to the case.traffic

This is what was being alleged by the defendant in Reboulet v. Schlosberg, tried before a jury in Georgia.

Ultimately, jurors concluded defendant was liable for the collision and awarded plaintiff $813,000 for his spinal damage.  Continue reading

An artist hired to paint a giant mural on the side of a luxury beachfront condo under construction in Hollywood died after falling four stories when the scaffolding he was standing on collapsed. According to The Sun Sentinel, two other painters were also on the scaffolding, but were rescued by their personal safety harnesses. construction

The 32-year-old decedent, of Miami, was reportedly on a swing stage at the 41-tower site when the stage collapsed shortly after 1 p.m. The two other painters, both 36-years-old, were treated at a local hospital for injuries and later released. The general contractor for the site said work has been suspended while the Hollywood Police Department and the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) conduct simultaneous investigations. Authorities haven’t said at this juncture whether the decedent worker was wearing a safety harness.

The 41-tower building, which is on the border of Hollywood and Hallandale Beach, is slated to accept its first residents in January.  Continue reading