Disclaimer - By publishing this information on this Web site, the Boston, Massachusetts law firm of Altman & Altman LLP is not claiming to represent any clients or cases mentioned here. The content provided is designed to inform readers and is not intended as legal advice.


About 1.3 million elderly Americans live in about 15,000 nursing homes nationwide. It is an unfortunate reality that many families simply cannot provide the attention or medical care that is often required when their loved ones get older. Many nursing homes take great pride in caring for our most vulnerable population and go to great lengths to ensure that our loved ones’ golden years are filled with happiness and dignity.  Sadly, this is not the case for all nursing homes. Statistics indicate that, every year, as many as one out of every 10 senior citizens will experience some form of elder abuse. Abuse can take many forms – physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial or horrendous incidents of widespread neglect.

Statistics regarding elder abuse are also one of the most underreported kinds of incidents, since many elderly are physically unable to report abuse. In more sinister cases, like what has been revealed in the case of Philip Esformes – a super-wealthy nursing home operator who allegedly stole hundreds of millions of dollars by charging the elderly for services they didn’t need – the elderly victims simply were not aware the abuse was happening.  Anecdotally, over half of all certified nursing assistants admitted that they have personally yelled at, verbally assaulted, or used foul language when dealing with their elderly clients. This number, too, is much likely higher than what is actually reported.

Signs your loved one is a victim of elder abuse

As stated before, elder abuse is not always something that can be seen visually. Neglect, emotional distress or verbal abuse can be much harder for an elderly person to convey or prove. The following are some warning signs that your elderly loved one may be experiencing abuse or neglect.

  • Cleanliness of the facility or the elderly individual can be a sign of how the facility operates overall. If the facility itself is dirty, it may be a sign that the staff is overworked or undermanned, which increases the likelihood that your loved one is not getting the attention they need. If your loved one continuously complains about being dirty, this is an obvious sign of neglect.
  • New or recent psychological issues may indicate that something traumatic has happened or is happening with your loved one. If they are depressed, distressful or unwilling to talk about the treatment they are receiving, they may be scared of potential repercussions if they speak up.
  • Obvious signs like malnutrition, bruises, broken bones or an unexplained and unprecedented lack of mobility more than likely point to something being wrong. Whether it is excessive force, neglect or something more foul, you should never ignore such signs.

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It’s almost time to don the witch, ninja, and princess costumes and go trick-or-treating in neighborhoods across America. It’s easy to make Halloween a safe and enjoyable holiday, but injuries can occur. Hundreds of children running around in the dark, dressed in costumes and amped up on sugar can present some hazards. With proper supervision, however, the risk of serious injury is dramatically reduced. Continue reading for tips to keep your child safe this Halloween.

Trick-or-Treat Safety Tips

  • Costume safety: Brightly colored costumes are best. Of course, if your daughter wants to be a witch or vampire, bright colors probably won’t work. But you can remedy this problem with a bit of reflective tape on the dress or cape, or by having your child carry glow sticks or a flashlight. In addition, costumes should be flame resistant and not so oversized or long that they create a tripping hazard. Non-toxic face paint is preferable to full-face masks, which can easily obstruct a child’s vision.

Walking and biking are two modes of travel that, as traffic times bubble and motor vehicle accidents continue to pose large threats to public safety, are increasing in popularity. Especially in Massachusetts, where scenic towns and accessible streets give plenty of reason to take things a little more slowly.  But as with anything else when you venture out in the world, regardless of your transportation method, there are inherent risks. Pedestrians and cyclists are incredibly vulnerable when walking in even moderately-populated areas, since the slightest mistake made by somebody in a car can mean life-threatening consequences for anybody without a protective, metallic shield around them.

Fatal accidents involving pedestrians thankfully do not happen with alarming frequency, but when they do happen they are often catastrophic. A 65-year-old Watertown resident was just killed, and another 70-year-old was seriously injured, when an SUV hit them while walking through a pedestrian crosswalk. Two cyclists have been killed in Cambridge since June while passing through a highly-populated area.  According to the Boston Globe, between 2010 and 2012 there were nearly 5,000 people injured or killed by cars while walking in Massachusetts (meaning nearly five accidents a day), based on MassDOT records. However this number is most certainly on the low end of an estimation, since large municipalities like Boston have been criticized in the past for not properly reporting pedestrian accidents.

MassDOT keeps detailed records of all recorded accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists, including an interactive map that can be filtered for more specific data. According to MassDOT data, Cambridge had the highest fatality total for pedestrian accidents between 2004 and 2013 with four deadly accidents occurring. There were 136 other nonfatal accidents involving pedestrians in Cambridge.  According to crash cluster data by MassDOT ranging from 2004 to 2013, 8 of the top 10 most dangerous spots to be a cyclist in Massachusetts were found to be in Cambridge or Somerville, accounting for one death and 884 total crashes. Continue reading

You’re the parent of a high school student and have done a tremendous job so far of encouraging your child to always be honest and always ask you questions, even the ones that make you uncomfortable. One day, you get a question you never truly expected to get: “Mom, dad, I want to invite over a few friends. They were going to drink, so I thought it would be safer for us to do it here. Is that okay?”  You know that your child is a good kid, and you know that teenagers will probably find a place to drink anyways, so you agree. After all, you’ll supervise the party and make sure that nothing goes wrong, right? By 2:00 a.m., the party has died down and mostly all of the teens are asleep. You feel like the coolest parent on the block and you finally allow yourself to go to bed.

In the morning you are jolted awake by a call from the police. One of your child’s intoxicated friends snuck out shortly after you dozed off and got into a severe car accident with another motorist. The child survived but the other driver was killed. Not only was your decision to host an underage drinking party illegal, you are also now completely liable for both the injured teenager and any action taken by the deceased driver’s family.

Providing alcohol or a place to drink for anyone under 21 is illegal

Massachusetts has strong laws on the books about “furnishing” alcohol to any individual under the age of 21. To furnish means to knowingly and intentionally supply, give, or allow the possession of alcohol to those under 21. If found guilty perpetrators can face up to a $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison, not to mention the thousands, or potentially millions, of dollars in civil suits that could follow.  Adults will be liable for any individual who gets drunk on their property – even if it’s a rented hotel room – and proceeds to cause damage or harm to any property or other individual. Homeowners insurance likely won’t cover these costs, especially if the intoxicated, underage individual causes damage or harm after getting behind the wheel of a car.

While parents might think that they are being cool and responsible by keeping a close eye on the activity, underage drinking is still underage drinking. The better approach is to always talk with your child about the dangers of underage drinking and what the consequences of such actions could be. While you can’t control every action your child makes, you can always control what goes on in your own home. Continue reading

Whether you’re a fan of powerful, wide-bodied choppers or enjoy the unparalleled speed and acceleration of a sport bike, riding motorcycles is a popular part of a deeply-ingrained driving culture for Americans everywhere. There’s something inherently and romantically American about the notion of an open road, a setting sun and nothing but the roar of an engine beneath as you disappear into the distance.

Motorcycles are all about achieving a feeling of pure freedom, and legendary gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson captured it best in his book that chronicled his short stint following around the Hell’s Angels:

“But with the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right … and that’s when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see at a hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears. The only sounds are wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers.”

  • Hunter S. Thompson, excerpt from “Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga”

There is no doubt that such experiences can be rare, incredible and form long-lasting memories. But inescapably, when the luck runs out, the same experiences can result in permanent injuries or death for the riders and passengers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,586 people died as a result of motorcycle accidents in 2014, which accounted for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities. Another 92,000 were injured. This means motorcyclists were 27 more times likely to die and more than five times likely to be injured that drivers of passenger vehicles.  Fatalities also occur primarily in riders aged 40 or older. According to the NHTSA data, 54 percent of motorcycle fatalities occurred in riders aged 40 or older. Given the obvious factors of exposure to elements like traffic and the road itself, motorcyclists are at a far greater risk of bodily harm and death than drivers of automobiles.  Other factors may include drunk driving (which was a factor in 29 percent of fatalities in 2014) and speeding (which was a factor in 33 percent of fatalities). Wearing a helmet was also reported to have saved 1,669 lives in 2014. However, only 19 states and Washington D.C. had laws requiring the use of helmets as of 2015.

After an accident, get legal representation to fight for you

Many accidents involving motorcyclists are the fault of the motorcyclist. Maybe they were speeding, weaving in between traffic or they overestimated their skill level in pulling off a dangerous maneuver. However, many accidents are also the fault of other motorists. If you or somebody you love has been injured while riding a motorcycle, the resulting injuries are likely life-altering; physically, mentally and financially. Continue reading


There’s really no way to describe the feeling unless you’ve been through it. You enter a hospital room somewhere in Massachusetts and are ushered through a series of procedures and given many different lectures about what is about to happen. Eventually, all that remains is your lingering remnants of consciousness as you slip off into an anesthetic slumber, leaving your life in the hands of a surgeon who will proceed to cut into your body.  The medical field of surgery is an undeniable testament to the progress of mankind’s endless thirst for knowledge and our progress in being able to treat diseases and ailments that were, at one time, completely untreatable and debilitating. Over 26 million surgeries were performed in 2012, and that number steadily increased from 1992 by 17 percent.

When dealing with a process as dangerous, complicated and unpredictable as surgery, patient deaths are an unfortunate certainty. What is most unsettling, though, is that a huge volume of patient deaths occur annually as a result of completely preventable mistakes, such as operating on the wrong person, or performing the wrong procedure, or something as careless as leaving a surgical device in somebody’s body.  Numbers for this tragic reality are hard to pin down, but recent investigations have revealed that anywhere between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die every year due to preventable mistakes, which would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America behind only heart disease and cancer. Medical institutions take issue with this number, saying it is closer to 100,000. Realistically, any preventable death is a tragedy.

Specifically related to surgery, John Hopkins University published a study in 2012 reporting that about 4,000 “never events” – events that should never happen during happen surgery – happen annually in the United States.  The study indicated that, every week in America, a surgeon leaves a surgical device such as a sponge or towel in a patient’s body 39 times, performs the wrong surgery on a patient 20 times, and performs surgery on the wrong part of a patient 20 times a week.  These “never events” can have no consequences or life-threatening consequences, and are most likely underreported as some people will simply not be aware if the incident occurred unless something after the surgery goes wrong. Continue reading

Skilled nursing facilities are institutions that provide rehabilitation, medical, and nursing services for patients on a short or long-term basis. Under the Social Security Act, these types of services are covered by Medicare if they are medically necessary. Unfortunately, some skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes put profits above the health and safety of patients and residents. In some cases, they even commit insurance fraud. If you suspect that a skilled nursing facility is committing Medicare fraud, contact a Boston whistleblower law firm today.

$1 Billion Medicare Scam at Miami SNF Chain

In the largest health care fraud case in U.S. history, three Florida health care execs were recently charged by the Justice Department for their part in a $1 billion Medicare scam. Philip Esformes, the owner of a skilled nursing chain with more than 30 Miami-area facilities is charged with fraudulent activity against Medicare. According to the recently released 34-page indictment, Esformes conspired with two other people to provide medically unnecessary services and treatments to patients. The indictment also alleges that the trio received kickbacks for referring patients to other health care providers. To conceal their illegal actions, many of the kickbacks were paid in cash or disguised as charitable donations.

Medically-necessary admission to a skilled nursing facility is generally covered by Medicare and other government health care programs. However, several qualifying circumstances must be present to obtain reimbursement. If these requirements are not met, or the facility bills for treatment that is not medically necessary, the facility may be guilty of Medicare fraud.

RUG Upcoding

There is another common form of Medicare fraud in skilled nursing facilities: RUG upcoding. Using information provided by the facility, Medicare categorizes each patient into one of seven categories using a program called the RUG III Grouper. The assigned category is directly related to the per diem Medicare payment received by the facility. Unfortunately, some facilities falsify reported information so that Medicare places the patient in a high-paying category.

Federal False Claims Act

If you are aware of fraudulent activity in a skilled nursing facility or nursing home, you should report this information to a Boston whistleblower attorney immediately. As this type of fraud is a violation of the False Claims Act, whistleblowers who come forward with information that leads to financial recovery are often rewarded with substantial sums of money. These rewards act as an incentive to encourage individuals to report fraud and abuse against the government. Whistleblower compensation is generally a percentage of the recovered funds. Considering that some fraud cases recover tens of millions of dollars, whistleblower compensation can be quite significant.  Continue reading

Citing safety reasons, the short-lived Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has been officially recalled by the worldwide leading technology company after at least five reported incidents within the past week of the phone’s lithium ion battery overheating and causing violent explosions.  These recent explosions put the final nail in the Note’s coffin because they happened with so-called “replacement phones,” which were supposedly safe; a measure that Samsung took after dozens of reports, just in the U.S., of the originally-launched phones having similar failures. As of Oct. 10, Samsung officially called for all Galaxy Note 7 phones to be returned and for its stores to stop selling the device.

All Galaxy Note 7 users should halt use of their phones and return them to their providers for a refund. Samsung announced that returns will be eligible for refunds until at least Dec. 31, 2016. Since one of the explosions happened mid-flight on a commercial airliner, the FAA has issued a statement forbidding the use of the device by flight crew or passengers on any aircraft.  The unprecedented recall of a device that just released in August will send serious shockwaves throughout the tech world. It has been reported that Samsung’s mobile phone stock dropped 8 percent due to the announcement, and The Verge reported they will lose approximately upwards of $17 billion. The exact cause of the mechanical failure is under investigation with Samsung and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Lawsuits likely incoming for Samsung

The recall is sure to spawn class action lawsuits and potentially civil suits against Samsung from the individuals who were harmed from the exploding phones.

One man from Nicholasville, Kentucky was woken up in the middle of the night by a sharp hissing sound. Scared to death, he saw his room filling with black smoke and saw his phone was ignited. A terrible smell filled the air. Later that day, the man went to the emergency room due to feeling nauseous, and reported “vomiting black stuff.”  To make matters worse for Samsung, one of their employees responding to the man’s correspondence about the incident accidentally sent the victim a text message outlining what was obviously intended to be an internal affairs conversation talking about how to handle the man’s situation.  “Just now got this,” the text message from the Samsung employee read. “I can try and slow him down if we think it will matter, or we just let him do what he keeps threatening to do and see if he does it.”  It isn’t known if the man was threatening a lawsuit, but he would have firm ground to stand on if he were to pursue a suit for a faulty product. That accidental text message might not look good for Samsung in a courtroom. Continue reading

It has been well-established since at least the 1970’s that asbestos – a naturally-occurring, fibrous mineral most commonly used for decades to fireproof and insulate homes and businesses – is a potentially dangerous material. Medical science is now conclusive that inhaling asbestos particles routinely over a long span of time, or even in isolated incidents, is detrimental to your health.  In the worst of cases, asbestos inhalation can cause a cancer to form in the membranes that surround your lungs and abdomen. This cancer is known as mesothelioma, and there is no early detection procedures, reliable treatment or any cure for the disease. 70 to 80 percent of people with mesothelioma got the disease because of exposure to asbestos.

Since asbestos is most commonly found in the insulation of older buildings, construction workers and demolition technicians that worked back when asbestos was the standard material used are at high risk of developing mild to severe mesothelioma.  Asbestos wasn’t just used domestically either. It was used in all assortments of military and industrial applications, so a large portion of our older workforce is also at risk. In all, there are about 3,000 cases of mesothelioma reported annually in the United States, but the numbers are reported to be increasing each year as the exposed population gets older. Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma are aged 55 or older.  Mesothelioma may not present in patients for 20-50 years after the damaging exposure, so there is no guarantee that a person exposed to asbestos will not eventually develop the disease. Even scarier, medical experts report that one single exposure incident to asbestos can eventually lead to developing mesothelioma.

Symptoms of mesothelioma

The birth of a newborn baby is as natural of a miracle that we can observe in our world. A newborn baby represents hope, potential, and a clean start. Hundreds of thousands of births occur every single day, and unfortunately many of them have complications that result in various difficulties for the newborn baby and its family.  One form of complication, Erb’s Palsy, occurs in infants who sustain nerve damage in their brachial plexus, a cluster of nerves that root in the shoulder, near the neck, and flow down into the arms. These nerves can be injured in various ways, such as during a difficult or abnormally stressful breach birth or when the baby is excessively large.

Sadly, one of the ways Erb’s Palsy can also happen is as a result of a doctor pulling on a baby too forcefully during a challenging birth. It most commonly manifests when a newborn’s head is twisted too sharply in one direction, tearing or cutting off circulation to the nerve cluster. The condition can cause long-lasting or permanent physical disabilities in the child, from temporarily being unable to move its arms or fingers to having full limb paralysis throughout its life.  Most cases of Erb’s Palsy, which happens in about one out of every thousand births, are minor cases where the child can heal over a short amount of time on its own, due to the rapid cell growth and development of newborn babies. Parents can work with doctors and physical therapists to help gradually progress the newborn into overcoming the condition and establishing a normal life.

However, in some cases, if a child who suffered damage to their brachial plexus doesn’t heal naturally within three to six months, the doctors may recommend performing surgery on the baby’s nerves. This is only usually used for young infants, since their bodies can more adequately recuperate nerve function. The child may have to endure a nerve graft, which involves taking nerves from elsewhere in the child’s body and replacing the damaged nerves. In more severe cases, they may need donor nerves.  Even if the surgery if successful, children who suffer from Erb’s Palsy may still experience weakness or loss of function in the affected arm. They will need to undergo months or many years of physical therapy if there is any hope for them to regain normal function. Some may even need to have surgeries later in life. Physically, children affected with Erb’s Palsy will have one arm that is noticeable smaller or shorter than the other. Continue reading