Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Published on:

medical-equipment-1342025-m-2.jpgIn the recent Maine Supreme Court case of Estate of Nickerson v. Carter, a man’s wife appealed from a judgment in favor of a doctor and a primary care facility after a jury found that the doctor was negligent, but that his negligence was not the legal cause of the man’s death. The estate argued that the trial court had erred in five ways. Among the errors it claimed was that the trial court had improperly admitted findings from the medical malpractice screening panel.

The doctor began seeing the man as a patient in the winter of 1993. In an initial visit, the doctor drew blood from the man and found that the man’s cholesterol level was moderately elevated, which is a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. The doctor decided he would follow up with another exam in the next two years. Although he saw the man a few times over the next three years, however, he did not order retesting of the man’s cholesterol levels.

In 1997, the man requested an exam and asked the doctor to help him with filling out forms required for participation in an outdoor expedition. The doctor signed the forms but again did not order testing of his cholesterol. The man returned for an exam in 2001, and the doctor finally ordered the test of his cholesterol level. The test revealed that the man’s cholesterol levels had risen. The doctor advised him of corrections he could make to his diet. The doctor made a note to himself to recheck the man’s cholesterol levels in 6-12 months, but did not check the man’s cholesterol within that time frame.
Continue reading →

Published on:

gloveimagemorguefilemelodi2.jpgAfter an accident, the responsible party may put into practice remedial measures to prevent the type of injury that occurred from happening again. If you are the victim of an accident that could have been prevented, you may believe that the remedial measures prove the responsible party was negligent. However, only under limited circumstances are those measures admissible in evidence.

In a recent Maine Supreme Court case, a deceased woman’s estate appealed a judgment in favor of the nursing home where she had fallen and died. The woman was 85 when she died. The nursing home had created an individualized care plan for the woman, as it did for all its residents. The plan accounted for her propensity to fall, and it was regularly updated to show her current condition and inform the staff of the level of assistance she required.

The woman routinely got up several times a night to use the bathroom, often without asking for help. The nursing home could not restrain her from doing this without a physician’s order. However, its staff was alerted by an automated bed alarm every time any resident got out of bed at night.
Continue reading →

Published on:

hospital-corridor-2-65904-m.jpgIf you are hurt by a professional’s negligence, you may be wondering what evidentiary rules apply to the professional’s apologies or expressions of sympathy. Can they be used to prove that the professional was negligent? In the recent Maine appellate case Strout v. Central Maine Medical Center, the Maine Supreme Court considered the effect of an apology in a medical malpractice case. The medical center appealed a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The case arose when the plaintiff sought treatment in the ER for pain in his abdomen. A lesion was found on his liver. A surgeon evaluated his CAT scan and decided he was most likely suffering from cancer.

Days later, the plaintiff went to the office for a follow-up. The doctor telephoned the pathologist in charge of testing the tissue. The pathologist said he would send it for more testing, but that he believed the cancer to be of hepatic or pancreatic origin. He also told the doctor he needed more tissue to finish the assessment.

The doctor told the plaintiff that he was waiting for final results but believed he had liver or pancreatic cancer. He also told the plaintiff that if this was so, the cancer would be inoperable due to the location of the lesion and that even with chemotherapy, patients with these types of cancer usually had less than one year to live.
Continue reading →

Published on:

MFile, ZeroSilence3 Snowmobile photo.jpgSnowmobile season started a little later in Maine this year because of unseasonably warm temperatures. Underneath the snow on Maine’s 14,000 miles of snowmobile trails, there was water and soft ground. The Maine Warden Service and Maine Snowmobile Association, promoting snowmobile safety, urged snowmobile riders to use the added time to prepare themselves better for the season and cautioned against riding the trails before they were groomed.

When snowmobiling on new snow, there is a danger of hitting rocks that can throw you into trees or other obstacles. In addition, the quality of the snow can dramatically affect steering. The forward momentum of the snowmobile causes a buildup that can cause the snowmobile to turn away, but if conditions are hard or bare, there is no buildup of snow, which changes the steering. If the condition of the snow is poor, you cannot safely travel at a fast speed. In some cases, snowmobiles travelling on lakes and streams break the ice, falling through. In Maine advisories are issued by the state government and private snowmobile clubs regarding the safety of frozen surfaces, and it’s important to always check those before you go out throughout the entire snowmobiling season.

Last season, there were 177 snowmobile crashes in Maine. Six of these were fatal. According to the Maine Warden Service, the most common reasons for these crashes are speed, driving beyond one’s ability, and driving outside the distance of people’s headlights at night. Alcohol can also contribute to crashes. Other factors that can affect the ability to drive a snowmobile safely are visibility, snow and ice conditions, faulty equipment, operator fatigue, and the rider’s age. If you are planning to go out snowmobiling, it is important to tell friends or family about your trip plans. Often, riders fail to leave a plan behind, which can make a rescue much harder.
Continue reading →

Published on:

motorcycle-stunter-tyre-burnout-1301096-m.jpgMotorcycles in Maine and elsewhere are often associated with rebellious youth. In 1990, only one out of 10 bikers was over 50 years old. In 2003, one out of every four bikers was over 50 years old. However, a number of bikers today are over the age of 60. From 2000-2006, the number of crashes increased by 145%. This hobby is only gaining popularity among baby boomers.

A 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal examined the injury patterns and the severity of those injuries among younger and older bikers. The study found that bikers over the age of 60 were up to three times more likely to be seriously hurt due to a collision with a car compared to younger bikers. The data for the study found that there were 1.5 million crashes involving adults over age 20. Importantly, injuries to people over the age of 60 tend to be more severe than injuries to younger people. Older people are less resilient, and therefore they take a longer period of time to heal.

The data for the study came from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program. The program assessed injuries from motorcycle accidents that were handled in the emergency department between 2001-2008. The researchers compared trends among three groups: 20- to 39-year-olds, 40- to 59-year-olds, and those over age 60.
Continue reading →

Published on:

country-road-322990-m.jpgThe most common way to die is not through recreational risk like scuba diving or skydiving. As you may know, driving your car everyday on American roads is the activity that presents the greatest risk of getting killed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that car or other vehicle accidents are the leading cause of the death in the U.S. for people between ages four and 27. You can reduce these risks by being aware of dangerous times and places to drive.

In the event that a loved one is killed in a traffic accident, you may be able to bring a claim for wrongful death. Someone suing for the wrongful death of a family member may be able to recover damages for medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of earnings potential, loss of inheritance, loss of care and protection, pain and suffering and possibly punitive damages, depending on whether the conduct that caused the accident was egregious.

The Maryland Strategic Highway Safety Plan identifies six deadly factors that drivers should avoid to avoid a fatal traffic accident. These six are: distracted drivers, drunk drivers, aggressive drivers, road construction, failing to use seatbelts and walking.
Continue reading →

Published on:

asbestos-244234-m-2.jpgMaine has a long history of thriving shipbuilding and paper industries. These two industries are known for the industrial use of asbestos, which is associated with a high rate of health problems such as mesothelioma. In the two decades between 1980-2000 there were 387 fatalities from asbestos poisoning, from both asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that arises in the mesothelium, a layer of tissue that is found inside human bodies, covering internal organs. It is aggressive and it is deadly. Work-related or occupational exposure to asbestos puts workers at high risk for mesothelioma.

How does exposure to asbestos trigger cancer? Asbestos occurs naturally and microscopic fibers of it can become lodged in the mesothelium, often the mesothelium covering the lungs. Over time these fibers can result in the development of cancerous tumors. Exactly how this process occurs is still being researched. One theory is that the asbestos fibers cause cells in the mesothelium to become irritated. This leads to cellular damage giving rise to cancer. Another theory is that the fibers enter the mesothelial cells. This disrupts the ordinary cellular division and causes genetic changes leading to cancer. Still another theory is that free radicals are produced by asbestos exposure. Free radicals are molecules that damage DNA and trigger mutation in otherwise healthy cells.
Continue reading →

Published on:

hand-holding-mobile-smart-phone-1417191-m.jpgAdults in Maine and other states know that texting and driving is dangerous. Yet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that in 2011, 387,000 people were injured and 3331 were killed in car accidents due to distracted drivers.

As discussed in other posts, there are a number of distractions that drivers need to avoid, but texting is especially dangerous, and it affects a vulnerable portion of the population that may not understand the consequences: teenagers. Teenagers often think it’s no big deal to send a quick text, even when they know talking on the phone is a bad idea.

NTSA has found teens to be six times more likely to crash while dialing a telephone. They are 23 times more likely to crash if they text while driving. Their reaction times start to approximate a 70-year-old driving without a cell phone, which is particularly dangerous because teens are also less likely to have a visceral understanding of the hazards of excessive speed and leaving enough space between cars.
Continue reading →

Published on:

lost-at-sea-894895-m.jpgMesothelioma is an aggressive, rare type of cancer, often triggered by materials found in the workplace, which gets its start in the thin layer of tissue (the “mesothelium”) that surrounds internal organs. Types of mesothelioma include pleural (lung) malignant mesothelioma and peritoneal (intestinal) mesothelioma. Although treatment is available, for many people there is no cure and mesothelioma frequently results in death. In 2009, the US Centers for Disease Control discovered that Maine had one of the highest per capita incidence of mesothelioma of any state. In fact, Maine had more than twice the average rate of malignant mesothelioma cases (27.5%) than in other states.

Why does Maine have such high rates of malignant mesothelioma? Many older Mainers unwittingly contracted mesothelioma from their workplace as young adults because they worked in an industry that used asbestos, a dangerous mineral. Asbestos was used in the 1800s to prevent corrosion and the impact of high temperatures on many types of building materials. People did not realize it was a dangerous product until the mid-1900s.

Maine’s history of shipbuilding is associated with asbestos products, which were commonly used in this industry to construct and repair navy and commercial ships and submarines. Other industries once common to Maine have also used asbestos products, in the form of asbestos insulation. Some of the workplaces that used asbestos include paper and wool mills. The risk of asbestos exposure also exists when demolishing older buildings, and construction workers on those projects must take special precautions against exposure. There have even been cases of mesothelioma contracted by a person in the household of a worker exposed to asbestos. Asbestos clings to clothes and can be inhaled by members of a household who interact regularly with someone who brings it home with him or her.
Continue reading →

Published on:

seatbelt-602535-m-2.jpgParents in Maine and other states put their infants and children in car seats as a safety precaution. These safety seats can reduce the incidence of fatality for infants (under age 1) in car accidents by 71%. It reduces toddler fatalities in accidents by 54%. Unfortunately, many people believe that their children are safe, when 7 out of 10 children are, in fact, improperly restrained in their car seats. Graco is one of the more popular brands of child safety seats, and many families in Maine rely on this brand to keep their children safe in the event of a car accident. Recently, Graco announced a recall of 3.7 million of the buckles on their car seats in a variety of models because these buckles are faulty.

Apparently the flaw in the buckles arises when food or dried liquids get embedded and stuck in certain harness buckles. This can make the buckles difficult to open or lock them into the latched position even when trying to release the latch. A problem like this could become problematic if there were an emergency. These buckles are not used on every Graco model; they were the ones manufactured between 2009 and July of 2013. Certain car seats, like the Graco SnugRide, were excluded from the recall because of a unique design.

Many different models of the toddler convertible and harnessed booster car seats were affected, including the Argos 70, Argos 70 Elite, Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, certain My Ride models, Head Wise with Safety Surround and Nautilus models. The buckle types affected are Signature and QT buckles. These are the buckles with rounded red buttons, not the square red button buckles.
Continue reading →