It is the dream of millions of kids across the country to play professional baseball when they grow up. But can you imagine if you worked your entire life towards that dream, only to have it shattered in your very first professional game before you even got to step up once to the plate?

Such was the sad case of Dustin Fowler, a prospect who got his first shot in the MLB with none other than the Evil Empire themselves – the New York Yankees – in June of 2017. Chasing a foul ball and trying to make a play, Fowler ran at full speed into what appeared to be a padded section of wall during an away game in the ballpark of the Chicago White Sox.

However, the section of wall that Fowler unluckily found himself on a collision course for was actually an unpadded electrical box, indistinguishable from its padded wall surroundings. Fowler suffered an injury to his patellar tendon, requiring season-ending surgery and slamming the brakes on his dream that was finally becoming a reality.

Rather than wallow in despair and wonder what could have been, Fowler tackled his rehab after successful surgery and went one large step farther – he filed suit against MLB and the White Sox stadium ownership for failing to ensure a reasonably safe work environment, which ultimately caused his injury, pain and suffering and potential loss of significant income.

Taking the MLB to court

As Michael McCann points out in a recent Sports Illustrated article, professional athletes aren’t likely to pursue legal action against their employers due to a number of reasons. Perhaps they fear public backlash they might receive, perhaps they don’t want to deal with court proceedings and the disruption that could cause to their training regimens. Besides, professional athletes are paid among the highest of employees in the country and have collectively bargained for outstanding health care – so suing to receive financial compensation may not be a top priority either.

Most importantly, however, professional athletes don’t often sue following an injury because they assume the risk of injuries when they sign their contract to play professional sports. Had Fowler simply slipped while tracking the foul ball and broke his arm, he’d have no real legal recourse against Major League Baseball, as that situation is one that could be reasonably expected to happen throughout the course of any baseball game, to any player at any position.

What makes Fowler’s case unique – and why a federal judge just upheld the case’s right to proceed despite an attempt from the MLB and White Sox to have it thrown out – is because it challenges the notion of what a reasonable assumption of risk is for professional baseball players.

The defendants in the case have essentially argued that safety issues within major league ballparks are handled by a specialized safety committee that is charged with addressing potential hazards to players’ health, and that they are not liable for injuries that occur due to safety hazards that aren’t realized and addressed by the committee. However, the judge ruled in favor of Fowler – who argued that the language within the MLB’s collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union only states that the safety committee will address hazardous situations as they arise, and therefore are not expected to safeguard against every potential, unknown safety hazard at every ballpark.

If a player were to sue Wrigley Field because they slammed into their famous ivy-covered brick wall, they would be unlikely to succeed, as the brick walls at Wrigley are a well-established, well know feature of the ballpark that is essentially engrained into baseball’s storied history. Players could be expected to know the brick wall exists.

However, a random electrical box that has no protective padding and is placed along the same span of wall as other padded sections – and is painted the same color – is not something the average player would know about. This is partially why Fowler’s case has persisted. Continue reading

The story of an Arizona woman who gave birth to a baby boy despite being in the midst of a more than decade-long vegetative state made headlines around the world and shocked all who heard the story – not just about how such a thing was physically possible, but how such a deplored act could occur in a facility where the woman was supposed to be cared for. It shows how even in places where we hope our loved ones will remain safe, predators may still be roaming the halls looking for an easy victim.

Elder abuse and other vulnerable victims

While the Arizona story rightfully grabbed headlines due to its bizarre and sickening details, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that similar acts of abuse actually happen relatively frequently throughout the nursing homes and palliative care centers across our country. All such crimes have a similar backdrop – facilities with little oversight, vulnerable clients and potentially dangerous caregivers who feel emboldened by those first two factors.

The National Council on Aging estimates that as many as 1 out of every 10 senior citizens is abused in some way – whether it is physical, mental, sexual abuse or abuse in the form of being manipulated through targeted schemes to take their money. The Arizona case showed a clear example of a caregiver taking advantage of a helpless individual for their own sexual satisfaction, and such horrible activities unfortunately do happen each year in care facilities around the country.

Despite the estimation that nearly five million senior citizens are victimized each year, only 1 out of every 14 victims is likely to report. This could be because they are unable to report the crime due to dementia or memory loss causing them to forget the abuse happened, or perhaps they are scared of speaking up for fear of being ignored and facing retribution from their abuser.

However, as this case clearly showed, the elderly are not the only ones at risk of being exploited. Those in a coma, those in vegetative state and even those who are simply incapacitated while staying in a hospital due to chronic conditions are all at risk of being abused by caregivers, many of whom might be the very people charged with taking care of them.

Any abuse of helpless victims is inexcusable

A perpetrator for the Arizona sexual abuse case has thankfully been captured through DNA evidence. It is not known at this time if the family of the victim will seek retribution against Hacienda Health Care, the facility where she was held for more than 10 years during her vegetative state, but it would certainly not be a case without merit.

Caregiving facilities have a dire responsibility to ensure the safety of their clients, especially those who do not have the ability to take care of themselves and rely on their caregivers. For a caregiver to not only ignore their responsibilities and oaths to provide care, but to actively take advantage of the vulnerable people they are charged with helping, is a sick violation of humanity that must be accounted for utilizing the full extent of the law. Continue reading

The country’s taxpayer-funded healthcare plans – Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE – provide important benefits to our aging citizens, our economically disadvantaged and our combat veterans that is necessary for millions to survive. However, greed coerces many bad actors to commit acts of fraud each year that cost taxpayers billions of dollars and undermine the crucial system. If you have any reason to believe you were used as part of a Medicare fraud scheme, or have any information about one, contact the Cambridge white collar crime experts at Altman & Altman LLP today.

How does Medicare fraud happen?

With a system as large and complex as Medicare, it guarantees that there will be opportunities for morally-bankrupt doctors, nurses, beneficiaries and others in the healthcare field to take advantage of weaknesses in that system. There is an entire branch of the Office of the Inspector General responsible for investigating and rooting our Medicare fraud.

While no case of Medicare fraud can ever be identical, there are certainly common threads between acts of Medicare fraud. Often they involve one or multiple of the following elements:

  • Overbilling for services
  • Billing for services multiple times
  • Fraudulent billing using falsified patient information or information obtained illegally
  • Billing for services never rendered
  • Falsifying medical diagnoses and charging for their treatment
  • Kickback schemes to secure illicit referrals of patients
  • Prescribing unnecessary medication

A recent 2017 bust of a comprehensive Medicare fraud scheme revealed a $1.3 billion operation that spanned 41 federal districts and involved 412 individuals, including 115 medical doctors, nurses and other medical personnel. It was the largest Medicare fraud bust in the country’s history, and revealed a lot about the extent of Medicare fraud in the country.

The gist of this comprehensive scheme, actually, was quite simple. Medical doctors billed Medicare for services that were never rendered, for prescriptions that were never ordered, and individuals paid kickbacks (incentivized bribes) for beneficiary information so that they could be used as “patients” for fraudulent charges to Medicare that never occurred. Get enough people involved in the scheme and it becomes a billion-dollar operation born from a lack of morality and an abundance of greed.

Fraudulent billing to Medicare is not only illegal, it is incredibly unethical, as it drives medical costs up for everybody else as a result and can leave those who have had their information shared unbeknownst to them vulnerable to identify theft and other financial crimes. Continue reading

In November, five separate accidents involving school bus stops and distracted drivers resulted in the deaths of five children and injuries to six more. The tragedies, which occurred in Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania have prompted law enforcement officials nationwide to highlight the “huge problem” of distracted driving.

Three Children in One Family

Three of the fatalities affected one family in Rochester, Indiana; a nine-year-old girl and her six-year-old twin brothers were killed when they were struck by a pickup as they crossed the street to board their bus. Another child was airlifted to a local hospital. The driver of the pickup truck is facing charges for three counts of reckless homicide. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by the negligence of another.

David Sweatt, a top neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University, has been accused of drugging and raping a student last year. Despite the allegations against him, Sweatt remained in his position at the university until recently, 11 months after his accuser reported the abuse to school officials.

Sweatt was officially placed on leave in August, shortly after a tweet by another scientist. Following a blog post in which Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, praised the neuroscientist, a University of Washington climate scientist by the name of Sara Myhre tweeted something notably less endearing about Sweatt.

“Hello NIH Director,” she wrote. “Do you know that Dr. David Sweatt, the ‘gifted painter’ you are lauding here, has been accused of drugging and raping a student?”

The next day, Myhre tweeted that “Sweatt is a serial rapist. There are multiple women victims.”

Incident Reported to Vanderbilt in 2017

In 2017, an anonymous Oregon Health & Scent University (OHSU) student alleged that she was assaulted by Sweatt at a 2015 scientific conference. Although Vanderbilt was alerted to the incident, the school’s Title IX office says the anonymous student “did not wish to be identified to Vanderbilt’s Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action and Disability Services (EAD) office or to make a report.” Further, the office claims that after exhausting all options, Vanderbilt simply “did not have sufficient basis for conducting an investigation.”

But Myhre’s tweet changed everything.

In addition to her public comments on twitter, Myhre reported having been contacted by two other women who were both able to confirm, separately, the “extent and nature of the allegations” against Sweatt. Shortly after Myhre’s tweets, an official investigation was launched by the university’s EAD.

“Vanderbilt takes reports of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, very seriously,” wrote the university in a recent statement. “We have a robust process for investigating sexual misconduct reports and do not tolerate any sexual misconduct on our campus. Our process protects the well-being and safety of our community members and respects the rights of everyone involved.”

“Potential Safety Threat”

When Sweatt’s alleged victim alerted officials at her school last year, OHSU warned Vanderbilt of the “potential safety threat” posed by Sweatt. Yet the chair of Vanderbilt’s Department of Pharmacology remained on campus for another 11 months.A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment.

When Sweatt was finally placed on leave in early August, Larry Marnett, Vanderbilt’s medical school dean of basic sciences, released an email to inform colleagues.

“I want to make you aware that as of today David Sweatt, Chair of Pharmacology, is on leave,” Marnett wrote,

“Providing a safe and welcoming environment is a priority, and we take seriously any complaints of misconduct,” wrote another Vanderbilt spokesperson. A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment.

Sweatt’s bio was removed from the school’s website last week.

Sweatt has denied any wrongdoing.

“Beginning in August, and set in motion by people with a destructive, political agenda that is not tethered to reality, Dr. Sweatt has been targeted by anonymous, irresponsible and unfounded allegations,” wrote the neuroscientist’s attorney, Andrew Miltenberg. “He has always conducted himself, both professionally and in his private life, in a respectful, thoughtful and consensual manner.” Continue reading

Last weekend, passengers aboard the Carnival Sunshine got more excitement than they paid for when the ship tipped sharply to one side, causing general panic and sending items falling and sliding all over the vessel. The incident occurred as the ship was headed for the Caribbean, only hours after leaving its port of origination, Port Canaveral, Florida.

“I was shifting, falling out of my seat,” said passenger Kyla Williams. “This was very much the ship rolling to one side and everything falling down from that, and it was something you’ll never forget.” She says her husband had to keep her from falling over.

Another passenger, David Crews, was unfazed at first, knowing that ships commonly rock from side to side. But when it didn’t rock back, he became concerned.

“Plates and silverware started sliding off the tables. Then the tables themselves started to slide. Glasses and plates started to fall and shatter. At this point, it was pure chaos. Screams. Cries. Panic,” said Crews.

Like a Scene from Titanic

Another guest reported to an Orlando news station that she was “at the table where the window broke and the water came in,” when they were seated for dinner that evening. “Next thing we know, the whole boat tilted … we were literally hanging on for our lives, dangling…it was really like a scene from the Titanic.”

“[We went] down to our room and got our life jackets and literally carried them around the rest of the night … that’s how scared we were, every time you felt the boat move you were like, oh, crap, is it happening again?” reported another angry passenger.

Several people took to social media, tweeting and posting that elevators were taking on water, cans were falling from shelves and exploding, and bottles were flying through the air. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been harmed by another’s negligence.

Carnival’s Response

According to a spokesperson for the cruise line, the rocky incident—which Carnival says lasted approximately one minute—was the result of a “technical issue.” The next day, each guest received an explanation letter and a $50 on-board credit. But many passengers were unsatisfied with the meager consolation prize.

One passenger posted the following on social media: $50 credit is not enough. I did not sleep at all we got no explanation until this morning. My cruise is ruined. I cannot wait to get off this ship. I’m terrified.

In response to the disgruntled passenger’s comments, the cruise line issued the following statement: “We appreciated our guests understanding of this disruption and provided compensation as a gesture of goodwill.

Was Anyone Physically Harmed?

At least one passenger explained having hurt her back when the ship tilted hard to one side. In fact, she claims to have been unable to partake in any of her planned excursions because of the pain from the injury. A Carnival representative confirmed that “some minor injuries” had occurred.

Some passengers were so upset by the terrifying incident that they cut their cruise short, flying home as soon as the ship docked in the Dominican Republic. A MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been harmed by another’s negligence.

One of Carnival’s oldest-running ships, the Carnival Sunshine first went into service in 1996, under the name Carnival Destiny. At the time, it was the largest cruise ship in the world. Continue reading

Last week, the University of Southern California (USC) said it would agree to a $215 million settlement of a federal class-action lawsuit brought by current and former students. The large payout is expected to be the first of many stemming from the sexual misconduct of campus gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall.

It is unknown how many students were abused by Tyndall, who practiced at the school for 27 years, but as many as 17,000 students may be eligible as members of the class-action lawsuit. According to a university lawyer, the settlement will provide $2,500 to students who were treated by Tyndall and up to $250,000 to students he abused. USC’s interim president Wanda Austin reported that, “Patients who are willing to provide further details about their experience could be eligible for additional compensation up to $250,000.”

In a letter addressed to the campus community, Austin wrote “we hope that we can help our community move collectively toward reconciliation,” through the settlement.

To date, there are more than 400 lawsuits filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The $215 million settlement is likely just scratching the surface. In addition to the civil suits, Tyndall is also under criminal investigation. A Boston sexual abuse attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment.

Plaintiffs Not Satisfied

As substantial as the settlement may seem, many plaintiffs are unsatisfied. Some allege that USC allowed Tyndall to continue working at the school’s clinic after multiple reports of sexual misconduct, dating back to the early 1990s. Others are critical about how the class-action was handled, claiming it was used to block discovery, delaying sworn testimonies that may have uncovered even more pertinent—and disturbing—evidence. Still others are frustrated, and insulted, by the $250,000 cap. Consider the recent Michigan State settlement of $500 million in a similar case involving the school’s athletic trainer, Larry Nassar. That settlement, which was twice the USC settlement, was divided among only 332 women. As a result, it is likely that many plaintiffs in the USC class-action suit will pursue their own case, choosing to opt out of this recent settlement.

Don’t Suffer in Silence

These days, it seems there’s a new sex abuse scandal in the headlines every week. Fortunately, this onslaught of scandals isn’t because of an increase in sexual abuse, but a shift in how our society reacts to victims, and those who commit the abuse. Victim shaming and blaming, which used to prevent women (and men) from coming forward about sexual abuse, is going the way of the dinosaur. And the collective strength of victims to come forward en masse has helped many others come out of the shadows. All across the nation, people are saying, we will no longer stand for the sexual abuse and harassment of anyonewhether female or male, straight or gay, black or white, prominent figure or low-income worker. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been the victim of any type of abuse or harassment. Continue reading

In 2016, a 62-year-old man was seriously injured in a New York Costco store when a steel rod fell, striking him in the head. Peter Aurigemma Jr. has filed a lawsuit against the bulk retailer, alleging that he suffered damages due to dangerous and/or defective conditions.

According to the lawsuit, the victim was reaching for paper towels, which were located at least seven feet above floor level, when the steel pipe fell and struck him. Following the accident, Aurigemma Jr. suffered serious medical complications, including a concussion, loss of dexterity in his left hand, damage to the nerves and muscles surrounding his left eye, migraines, noise and light sensitivities, lapses in short-term memory, and even behavioral changes. As a result of these injuries, Aurigemma Jr. is seeking compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost wages. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

Premises Liability

Under premises liability law, property owners are responsible for maintaining reasonably safe conditions on their property so that visitors aren’t harmed. The “status” of the visitor is important when determining liability. For example, trespassers have less rights than invitees. If you are injured while trespassing on store property after hours, your chances of winning a premises liability lawsuit are quite limited. In the Costco case above, however, the victim was not trespassing. In this particular scenario, he would be considered an invitee, or someone who is invited onto the property for a certain purpose, such as shopping. When a store is open to the public, the invitation is implied.

What if Both Parties are at Fault?

Although fault in Aurigemma Jr.’s case is yet to be determined, it is possible that both parties could be at fault. Maybe he grabbed a ladder marked “employees only” to reach the paper towels, possibly making him partially at fault. And maybe the placement of a steel rod on top of a roll of paper towels also makes Costco partially at fault. In MA, when both parties are at fault, a “comparative fault” system is used to reduce the victim’s legal damages by his/her percentage of fault. Therefore, if the victim is found to be 25 percent liable for the accident, his/her personal injury award will be reduced by 25 percent.

And this isn’t Costco’s “first rodeo” when it comes to premises liability lawsuits. The company was ordered to pay more than $400,000 to a slip-and-fall victim with a fractured ankle in 2017, and a New York woman who was hit by a shopping cart on a Costco escalator was awarded nearly $10 million in 2014. In this most recent lawsuit, Costco will have to prove that it took reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of customers. The allegation that paper towels—intended for customer use—were stacked more than seven feet high may have the greatest impact on the outcome of the case. Aurigemma’s lawyers will also likely question why a steel pipe was placed in close proximity to those paper towels. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fadil Delkic allegedly drove his car too close to a family in a Snellville, Georgia Walmart crosswalk. Troy Hunte and his girlfriend confronted Delkic, who remained in the vehicle and attempted to avoid an altercation (as evidenced by a surveillance video). Unfortunately, his attempts were in vain. Hunte shot and killed Delkic a few moments later. The victim’s widow, Bahra Delkic, has brought a wrongful death lawsuit against Walmart, claiming that the mega-retailer lacked adequate security.

“Given the history of violence in their parking lots,” the lawsuit claims, “and Wal-Mart’s [sic] knowledge they were not employing adequate security measures, it was foreseeable to Wal-Mart that the Plaintiff would be attacked in their parking lot and sustain serious injury or death.” A Boston wrongful death attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve lost a loved one due to the negligence of another.

Nothing New for Walmart

Walmart has experienced somewhat of a crime wave in recent years. Last year, law enforcement was called to the four Walmarts in Tulsa, OK nearly 2,000 times. While most of those calls are for shoplifting, there are plenty of more serious offenses, including five armed robberies so far in 2018, a murder suspect who shot himself in the parking lot in 2017, and a 2014 parking lot shootout that killed one and injured several others. In fact, more than 200 violent crimes have occurred at the country’s 4,500 Walmarts so far this year, including stabbings, shootings, murders, and attempted kidnappings.

What Happened?

Delkic was actually able to drive away from the initial confrontation and found a place to park. “Then, more or less, the fight was brought to him,” said Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter. Hunte’s girlfriend allegedly smacked Delkic across the face just before Hunte took out his gun and shot him in the chest.

Bahra Delkic’s lawsuit against Walmart also names Troy Hunte, who was shortly thereafter arrested and charged with murder. She is seeking compensation for “the full value of the life of Fadil Delkic, in an amount to be determined by the evidence.” A MA wrongful death lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve lost a loved one due to another’s negligence.

Is Walmart Doing Enough?

When Doug McMillon took over as Walmart CEO in 2014, he made crime reduction at Walmart stores nationwide a priority. As a result, the retailer allegedly maintains a detailed database of crimes occurring at their stores. According to reports from law enforcement in Port Ritchie, Florida, Walmart incidents comprise nearly 50 percent of all criminal offenses in that city. Even so, Walmart’s attorneys claim that the Delkic murder was an isolated incident and that Walmart had no way to know that the argument would escalate the way it did.

Is Walmart Liable?

In recent years, courts have become increasingly likely to hold retailers liable for parking lot crimes. Whether or not Walmart is liable in the Delkic case will come down to determining how foreseeable the murder of Fadil Delkic was. If this particular store has a history of crime, or is located in a high-crime area, Walmart is likely to be found liable. Continue reading

We all know the dangers of texting and driving, yet more and more American drivers are failing to take them seriously. In fact, a recent AAA study revealed that distracted driving is now the number one danger on American roadways, followed by aggressive driving, and drunk/drugged driving. Many experts blame it on our “productivity culture,” saying the pressure to respond to texts, emails and calls right now is making us more distracted, and less safe.

To reduce this rapidly-growing threat to public safety, we need more than just billboards and ad campaigns. Drivers must understand what happens—to their brains—when they drive while distracted. Taking your eyes off the road to glance at a text impacts more than just your line of vision. Reading that text is a visual distraction, yes, but it can also be a cognitive distraction. A Boston car accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Categories of Distraction

There are three main types of distraction: manual, visual, and cognitive. Manual and visual are fairly straightforward—you take your hands off the wheel to adjust the stereo, or you take your eyes off the road to read a text. But there’s a third kind of distraction, and this one gets a bit more complicated. When a driver takes his/her attention off the task at hand—driving—he/she may experience inattention blindness, which is the inability to perceive critical driving cues due to cognitive distraction (a.k.a. “zoning out”).

Although inattention blindness can occur at any time, it’s more common following a manual or visual distraction. As a result, even after you’ve read that text and returned your eyes to the road, your mind may be too distracted to notice that the car ahead of you is braking, or that an animal is about to run into the road.

What About Fatigue?

And zoning out doesn’t only occur when a driver is texting or taking his/her hands off the wheel. Fatigue is another leading cause of distraction because it also contributes to inattention blindness. Combined with other distractions, such as reading a text or taking a sip of coffee to stay awake, fatigued driving is particularly dangerous. A MA car accident attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Distracted Driving Statistics

The consequences of distracted driving are often devastating. In 2016, 3,450 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in distracted driving-related motor vehicle accidents. Considering that during the day, more than 480,000 people are estimated to be using cell phones while behind the wheel, these statistics aren’t particularly surprising.

And distracted driving doesn’t only involve cell phones. Anything that takes the driver’s eyes, hands, or mind off the task of driving is considered to be a distraction. This includes everything from adjusting the stereo or navigation system, to eating, drinking, or applying make-up. Continue reading

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