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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

GM Ignition Switch Lawsuits Set for Trial

What is the latest news regarding the General Motors ignition switch debacle?

As you may recall, 2015 was a tough year for a number of domestic and foreign automakers. With recalls at historic highs – and drivers’ trust slowly diminishing – brands from GM to Volkswagen have worked overtime to mitigate the damage caused by faulty (and in some cases, fraudulent) parts and components. During this time, General Motors began preparing for the onslaught of lawsuits to be filed against it regarding faulty ignition switches – all of which are scheduled to reach an apex with trials slated to begin later this month.

Beginning over 10 years ago, General Motors was allegedly made aware of problematic ignition switches in several of its compact and smaller models. The problem was, the company did not take any steps to rectify the situation until 2014, at which point it initiated an unprecedented recall of affected models. To further confound the issue, thousands of drivers had already experienced injuries or – in some cases – death due to the faulty switches.

According to the details of the personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, ignition switches would become unknowingly lodged in the “off” position, causing the vehicle to stall, airbags to malfunction, and power steering to fail. As a result, 124 deaths and 275 injuries were reported to the company – and it has since paid out over $600 million in settlement funds.

Nonetheless, several additional cases remain to be resolved, with the first trial set to commence on January 11, 2016. In that case, the plaintiff was severely and permanently injured after the airbags in his Saturn Ion failed to deploy when he struck two trees head-on. According to GM, the outcome of that trial will help guide the company toward determining appropriate settlement amounts for the remaining cases.

If you have been recently injured in an auto accident, you should discuss your options with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

For the First Time Bill Cosby Has Been Criminally Charged with Sexual Assault

What differentiates this accusation of sexual assault from all the others?

After many years of allegations, some dating back to the 1960s, Bill Cosby is, for the first time, facing criminal charges of sexual assault by prosecutors in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The comedian/actor has been charged with felony indecent assault for an event that took place in early 2004. The alleged victim, Andrea Constand, first accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her a year after the attack, but, at that time, the prosecutors declined to press charges.

Now, however, after a second investigation of available evidence and after more than 50 women have come forward with strikingly similar accusations, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele is seeking justice for the victim, reminding the public that the incident is still within the state's 12-year statute of limitations. During the intervening years, Cosby has sued seven of his alleged victims for defamation of character, claiming they were accusing him either to obtain financial settlement or to enhance their flagging careers. During the intervening years, Constand herself filed a civil lawsuit against Cosby as well.

Constand's story has not changed during these long, painful years. She reports that Cosby, whom she considered a friend and mentor at the time, drugged and assaulted her when she was a Temple University employee. She states that, on the evening in question, he urged her to drink wine and take herbal pills to "relax" her which, once they took effect, rendered her completely helpless and unable to move. It was during this period, according to her testimony, that the defendant "touched her breasts and vaginal area, rubbed his penis against her hand and digitally penetrated her." These actions are the basis of the felony sexual assault charge.

Fortunately for Constand, and for the other alleged victims of Cosby seeking validation, Pennsylvania law allows prosecutors to introduce other allegations if such allegations help to establish a pattern of criminal behavior. According to legal experts, there is little chance that testimony of other alleged victims will be kept hidden from the public since this material is crucial to Constand's case. It is considered likely that the testimony heard during the upcoming trial will finish off what is left of Cosby's once stellar reputation.

In some ways, Cosby has been his own worst enemy. As a popular actor and comedian who broke racial barriers early in his career, he went on to become a kind of self-appointed statesmen for ethical behavior among black males. Giving clear testimony of his own hypocrisy, Cosby acknowledged in a 2005 civil deposition (in answer to Constand's civil suit) that he rather routinely gave Quaaludes to women with whom he wanted to have sex with. This corroborates the testimony of dozens of women who stated that Cosby had a large supply of pills (sometimes described as a briefcase full) in his possession most of the time to "relax" women he interacted with.
This past July, U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno, while unsealing records, indicated that Cosby, by "donn[ing] the mantle of public moralist... and volunteer[ing] his views on...childrearing, family life, education, and crime" Crosby has "voluntarily narrowed the zone of privacy that he is entitled to claim."

Sexual assault is a very serious offense. If you have been a victim of this traumatic crime, you should contact an attorney skilled in handling sexual assaults to ensure the best possible outcome of your case.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

More Dental Malpractice Claims Settled

In a string of cases that began to surface in 2011, several former dentists with Smile Center had been accused of performing unnecessary or excessive treatments on minors. The procedures were performed on more than 250 patients and then billed to Medicaid. Medical malpractice claims were subsequently brought on behalf of the patients. Smile Center and its owner reached confidential settlements with 253 patients two years ago. Now, another four dentists formerly with the outfit have also reached confidential settlements.

This story initially came to light in a series of television news stories four years ago. The reportage revealed the chain of 6 dental offices had performed numerous dental procedures that allegedly left the children in pain. Since then, lawsuits were brought on behalf of more than 250 children.

What is medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is harmed by a doctor or other medical professional's incompetence or failure to completely perform his or her medical duties. The rules governing these cases vary state to state. Generally, there are four keys to bringing a medical malpractice claim: a plaintiff must show that a doctor-patient relationship existed, the doctor was negligent, the doctor's negligence caused the injury, and the injury led to specific damages. Moreover, a plaintiff can base their claim on the following types of damage: physical pain, mental anguish, additional medical bills, and lost work and lost earning capacity.

Negligence, Fraud and Conspiracy

In some of the cases brought against the Smile Center, the complaints included allegations of fraud and conspiracy as well as gross negligence. The dentists engaged in a scheme to misdiagnose and over treat children who were covered by Medicaid. One of the dentists involved in this matter was also found to have taken undue advantage of the children and their parents by falsely diagnosing the existence of cavities and the need for a variety of unnecessary procedures. Moreover, he was also reprimanded by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners

While the malpractice suits, which were covered by malpractice insurance, have been settled, this may not be the end of the legal woes for the Smile Center. In the wake of the lawsuits, the Texas attorney general's office opened an investigation that remains "ongoing" and very active. In 2013, the law enforcement agency created the Orthodontic and Dental Fraud task for in order to investigate potential overbilling by Medicaid providers. The lawsuits, combined with the fact that The Smile Center disclosed that it received $28.5 million in Medicaid payments from 2008 to 2010, prompted the investigation.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are very complicated and it is essential to consult with a qualified attorney if you believe you have been injured by a doctor or other medical professional.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Government Warns Consumers: Takata Recalls Need Prompt Attention

What can I do if I am injured by an airbag or some other consumer product?

Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned that the Takata recall is not proceeding quickly enough to protect the public. So far, not nearly as many cars have been repaired as had been anticipated. Takata airbags have been linked to eight deaths and 98 injuries, yet, amazingly, as of a month ago, only 22.5 percent of the recalled airbags had been replaced with safer models.

The government has looked at some alternatives it may implement to speed up the rate of replacements, such as allowing mechanics, as well as delaters, to take care of the replacements, or for the government itself to take charge of the replacement process.

The trouble is allegedly being caused by a faulty chemical used in the inflation process. When airbag inflation is triggered, the inflator can spew metal fragments throughout the inside of the car, resulting in serious injuries to anyone struck. The government notes that such injuries are more likely to occur in humid areas, such as The Gulf Coast

Some examples of physical damage caused by the defective airbags are broken teeth, severe cuts, and loss of eyesight or hearing. Ironically, the airbag, a device designed to limit vehicular injuries, is actually exacerbating them.

Injuries like those listed are not to be taken lightly. When a product is used in a foreseeable way and it causes injury to the user, the injured person has the legal right to sue the retailer, distributor or manufacturer in order to be compensated for injuries incurred. This right is ensured under the legal theory of products liability which states that if someone (or some company) manufactures a product that injures another party, the manufacturer is responsible for making that individual whole again, and compensating them for the pain, suffering, and expenses that result fromt he injuries.

If you have been injured by a consumer product, call an experienced personal injury attorney promptly, since delay could cause you to lose your claim. Personal injury attorneys do not collect a fee unless they win your case.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Texas Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Pivotal Personal Injury & Product Liability Case

How does Texas law interpret the term “physical injury” within the context of insurance litigation?

Insurance litigation is one of the most syntax-centric areas of the law, with each word in a policy agreement carrying a significant and meaningful definition. In one recent case before the Texas Supreme Court, oil giant Exxon Mobil, Corp. argued against U.S. Metals with regard to the definition of “physical injury” in the context of defective and broken oil rig components. While not expressly limited to personal physical injury, the term has been interpreted to include property damage and financial harm as well. This is the case in the litigation between the two companies. Depending on the outcome of the case, the definition of this pivotal term may  involve possible coverage for refinery damage under a Liberty Mutual insurance policy. 

As a bit of background, Exxon maintains an oil refinery in Baytown, Texas. Several years ago, the company installed metal flanges it obtained from U.S. Metals, which subsequently (and allegedly) broke, causing a massive production halt and substantial damage to the area.

Naturally, Exxon sued U.S. Metals for the damage – and it turned to its insurer: Liberty Mutual. The insurer, however, denied the flange-maker’s claim for coverage, stating that the damage to the refinery was not considered a “physical injury” within the definition. The insured appealed the decision, and the Texas Supreme Court recently heard the arguments for and against the expanded definition of physical injury within the product liability context.

To support its claim, Exxon advanced the argument that “physical injury” occurs whenever a defective part or component is implanted or installed – and pointed to a 1992 case holding the same. By contrast, U.S. Metals asserts that it did not commit physical injury against Exxon because the affected part, the flange, could have been removed and replaced at any time.

While a ruling has yet to emerge, one Justice stated it “seems perverse for the Liberty policy to not provide coverage for the replacement of defective parts.”

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Workers Compensation Claims Have Decreased in Texas

Is underreporting to blame for the decrease in workers' compensation claims? If so, how much of an effect is it having?

According to a simple calculation, a recent study tells us that workers' compensation claims have decreased in Texas. But the study raises an important question -- Why? One hypothesis is that other claims exist, but go unreported for long enough to render them unsuccessful. A recent interview with multiple workers brings to light all the all too common experiences of injured workers who cannot get the compensation they deserve for injuries that impede their ability to earn a living.

A common thread that presents itself is the combined reluctance of employees to report a workplace injury, and the reluctance of employers to act upon one if it is reported. Both of these actions can prevent a workplace injury from being compensated. If notice is not given to the employer in a timely fashion, the opportunity to gather evidence of the injury can disappear. Furthermore, if the employer attempts to either dissuade the employee from filing a claim or makes little effort to properly document the injury, it can have an adverse effect on the employee’s success. The important lesson, therefore, is if an injury presents itself at work, the employee is wise to consider taking action immediately.

One interviewee explained that his supervisor refused to allow him to seek treatment for a workplace injury and refused to report the injury. When the injury became infected, treatment was finally sought. Such intimidation tactics are, unfortunately, all too common. Another interviewee explained how his injury arose slowly over a number of years from regular and constant lifting, and because of that the workers' compensation insurance carrier could not link it to a specific, reported incident. This is another tactic insurers use to deny an otherwise valid claims.

If you have been hurt at work in the state of Texas, do not delay. You work hard. You deserve to be compensated for your injuries. There are consequences to inaction. Speak to the experienced workers' compensation attorneys at the Sawicki Law Firm today before it is too late. Call 888-468-8844.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Texarcana Bar Sued Following DUI Fatality

Can a bar or bartender face liability for serving an intoxicated patron who then causes an auto accident or alcohol-related injury?

Under Section 2.02 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, the provision, service or sale of alcoholic beverages may be a statutory cause of action for an individual injured or killed as a result of such over-service. However, the statute contains several requirements in order for a bartender or establishment to face liability, including:

  • At the time the sale of alcohol occurred, the patron was obviously intoxicated “to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others”
  • The intoxication of the individual was a proximate cause of the resulting accident or injury.

To explain these principles more clearly, a bartender or bar can face liability only if the patron is obviously drunk at the time of the service – a fact-based determination that will require the input and deliberation of a jury based on eye witness testimony and/or surveillance footage. From there, the plaintiff must also prove that the bartender’s over-service of the patron was the proximate cause of the resulting injury, meaning there were no other intervening forces at work that could have caused the accident.

On September 14, 2015, the surviving family members of an individual killed as a result of a DUI-related auto accident launched a wrongful death lawsuit against Texarcana’s Hopkins Ice House, the bar’s owners, and the individual having caused the accident – who is already serving a 20-year prison sentence for assault and manslaughter.

According to the complaint, the intoxicated driver was served 20 beers and 5 mixed drinks on September 28, 2013 into September 29, 2013. He then got behind the wheel of his Jeep and ran a red light, colliding with an oncoming vehicle. Two of the passengers in that vehicle were pronounced dead at the scene, and a third suffered permanent, irreversible brain damage. Immediately following the crash, the driver’s blood alcohol content was .301 – nearly four times the legal limit of 0.08.

If you were recently injured in an automobile accident and would like to discuss your options under Texas law with an attorney experienced in this area of law, please contact the Sawicki Law Firm today: 888-468-8844.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Family Initiates Lawsuit Over 2009 Airplane Crash

Aside from pilot error, what other factors can give rise to an airplane crash?

Airplane crashes are among the most deadly and tragic accidents that can occur, often leaving very few survivors and more questions than answers. While pilot error may be to blame in some scenarios, defects and malfunction with the airplane itself are all-too-common reasons for a mid-air tragedy, reasons that can expose airline manufacturers to significant liability.

In a recent case filed in Galveston, Texas, an adult guardian filed a lawsuit of personal injury against the manufacturer of a private aircraft that severely injured a child in her care. According to the complaint, the minor child was traveling as a passenger in a 1946 Piper Cub J3 when it suddenly lost engine capabilities while in flight. The pilot attempted to make an emergency landing, but became entangled in adjacent power lines, causing the aircraft to plummet to the ground.

As a result of the accident, the minor has had to endure significant medical interventions and will likely need lifetime care. The lawsuit further alleges that the manufacturer failed to assemble and maintain an airworthy engine, resulting in severe injury to the plaintiff.

In airplane accident lawsuits – which include both personal injury and wrongful death actions – it is not uncommon for victims to raise strict product liability claims against the manufacturer of the entire airplane and the manufacturers of its various component parts as well. Strict product liability lawsuits generally allege that the manufacturer place an unreasonably dangerous product in the stream of commerce, resulting in physical and/or financial harm to the victim. These cases often require testimony from engineering experts to help the jury better understand the ways in which airplane parts are designed to work, and how the defendant’s parts did not comply with industry standards.

If you were recently injured in an automobile, airplane, motorcycle or boating accident in Texas, and believe malfunction may be to blame, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney  Sawicki Law Firm today: 1-888-468-8844.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Texas Supreme Court Issues Pivotal Ruling in Premises Liability Action

What should a business owner know about recent premises liability legal updates?

In June, 2015, the Texas Supreme Court considered a pivotal lawsuit against grocery store chain Kroger involving alleged injuries sustained by a grocery store janitor. In that case, the maintenance worker was asked to clean up two oil-based spills in two separate restrooms. He was able to clean the first spill without incident, but slipped and fell – causing alleged physical injuries – during the cleanup of the second spill. In his subsequent personal injury lawsuit, he contended that he should have been provided “Spill Magic” to apply to the floors prior to cleaning, and his accident would likely have been prevented. In other words, the store’s was negligent in failing to provide the cleaning solvent and so was responsible for his resulting injuries.

After winding its way through the state court system, the case finally made its way to the Texas Supreme Court. After much consideration, the court held in favor of the grocery store, stating that it owed no duty to the plaintiff to warn about “open and obvious” dangers. In other words, the plaintiff was made fully aware of the greasy substance on the floor by the mere fact he was asked to clean it up, and no further mitigation by the store was necessary.

By contrast, plaintiffs experiencing a slip-and-fall who have not been made aware of known substances or hazards on the floor may still be in a position to recover from the property owner, provided the plaintiff can show that a reasonable shopkeeper should have known that the substance was on the floor in a public area.

In the context of the employee-injury noted in the case above, the Court also highlighted the fact that the analysis applies equally to those employers who do not subscribe to the Texas workers’ compensation structure – which is voluntary.

If you have recently been injured in a slip-and-fall accident or would like to speak to a reputable Texas personal injury attorney for any reason,  please contact Sawicki Law. Serving clients throughout Texas with skill and compassion, we can be reached at 888-468-8844.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Dallas Rape Victim Awarded $21 Million Following Civil Lawsuit Against Lascivious Job Interviewer

Is sexual assault or rape compensable in a civil lawsuit? If so, what is the cause of action?

In many Texas personal injury cases, plaintiffs plead the cause of action known as “negligence,” which essentially asserts that the defendant failed to act reasonably given the facts and circumstances at hand. Negligence does not involve an intentional mental intent, and it often occurs as a result of an accident or reckless behavior.

On the other hand, a body of law known as “intentional torts” addresses misconduct against a plaintiff that involve purposeful, intentional conduct. Intentional torts include assault, battery, false imprisonment or intentional infliction of emotional distress, and are equally as compensable as accidental negligence.

In one recent case, a Dallas-area woman recovered $21 million in a civil lawsuit for damages against a restaurant owner accused of sexually assaulting her during a job interview in 2011. Following a four-day bench trial (i.e., a trial without a jury), the court ordered a $21.43 million verdict after hearing testimony that the interviewer lured the victim with beer and whiskey under the pretext of a job interview. After passing out, the victim awoke in a nearby hotel room while the defendant was engaged in overt sexual activity.. After he fled the scene, the victim alerted authorities and the perpetrator eventually pleaded no contest to the sexual assault charges. He filed for personal and business bankruptcy protection the day following the assault. Ttragically, his violent sexual assault resulted in the transmission an incurable herpes simplex virus to the victim.

At the conclusion of the trial, the judge remarked that the facts of this case were some of the most egregious in recent memory, resulting in one of the largest bench trial verdicts in Dallas County history.

If you or someone close to you has recently been injured and/or sexually assaulted by another person and would like to discuss your rights under Texas personal injury laws, please do not hesitate to contact Sawicki Law by calling 888.468.8844 today  Our skilled, compassionate attorneys are available to serve you anywhere in the state of Texas.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Wife Files Lawsuit After Husband Killed in Golf Cart Incident

Can I recover for a totally unforeseeable, unexpected personal injury? 

As any personal injury lawyer can attest, foreseeability is one (of many) issues that can arise in an injury or wrongful death lawsuit. More specifically, a defendant can escape liability upon showing that the incident and injury were so unforeseeable, unpredictable and unlikely, that no reasonable person would be expected to take safeguards against that type of risk. Like many aspects of a negligence lawsuit, foreseeability is generally a question of fact for a jury to consider – and could really swing either way in a close case. 

Do not be confused, however, with the concept of foreseeability versus frequency, as the rate of occurrence of a particular injury is generally irrelevant if that injury is reasonably foreseeable – and, therefore, reasonably avoidable. 

Take, for instance, a recent injury lawsuit filed in Fort Bend County involving a victim’s sudden and tragic death while aboard a golf cart. Of course, golf carts travel at a relatively low rate of speed and are not generally associated with severe personal injuries or death. This does not mean, however, that a successful plaintiff could not recover the costs of an injury sustained while riding on this type of vehicle. And, as in today’s case, a plaintiff may also be able to recover under the Texas wrongful death statute upon a showing of negligence by the driver, manufacturer, and/or any other individual involved in the accident. 

While the full details of the incident have yet to be released, the grieving widow has alleged that her husband suffered a severe head injury after falling from the back seat of a golf cart while touring a prospective apartment complex for a new home. In this particular case, the wife has sued the leasing agent – who was driving the cart at the time – for the wrongful death of her husband, who died eight days after the fall from massive head trauma. 

In the words of the surviving widow, “I wasn't prepared for this, and it was just so unexpected….”

Also named in the lawsuit is the company that owns the apartment complex that employed the leasing agent at the time. 

If you were recently injured in an unexpected or unforeseeable accident, do not give up hope – you may have rights! For more information, contact the Dallas, Texas personal injury attorneys at the Sawicki Law Firm today: (888) 468-8844. 

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