Many people would be shocked to discover the rate at which sexual assault occurs within nursing homes. There have been over 16,000 complaints of sexual assault at long-term care facilities since 2000. When we put our family members and loved ones in a Massachusetts nursing home, it is often because we believe they deserve a level of care and attention that we are unable to give them. Not only do we expect the professionals we trust with our loved ones to treat them with the care they deserve, we absolutely do not anticipate that they will be the victim of sexual assault. Sexual assault within nursing homes in not limited to staff either; it may also be propagated by other residents or visitors. The nursing home has a duty to protect your loved ones against sexual abuse, and our Boston nursing home lawyers will hold them liable if they did not take adequate measures to prevent against the abuse.

If you suspect that your loved one is a victim of nursing home sexual assault, you may be entitled to compensation. If you can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that your loved one was sexually abused while at a long-term care facility, you will be awarded damages. Importantly, this standard of proof is lower than that in a criminal trial, which opens up options for people who may not have sufficient proof to initiate criminal proceedings against an abuser. No matter who the abuser is, the nursing home may have to provide compensation. Our experienced nursing home abuse attorneys can help you uncover any relevant facts that will help your case.

There are any number of ways a nursing home may act negligently in protecting their residents from sexual assault. Here are a few examples in which nursing homes fall short:

  • Negligence in hiring staff. Nursing homes need to screen all applicants and check their criminal records to ensure they will not pose a risk to patients. Previous allegations of abuse or sexual assault ought to be taken seriously and be thoroughly investigated.
  • Negligence in investigating sexual assault complaints. If a nursing home has reason to know of a staff member sexually assaulting residents, they must adequately investigate the allegations and take steps to prevent the assault from happening again.
  • Negligence in protecting residents generally. If the nursing home is found to have fostered a culture that allows for this abuse, this almost certainly will give rise to a finding of negligence on their behalf.

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Plaintiff Morgan Helfman brought a negligence action against Northeastern University when she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a classmate in 2013. She alleged that resident advisors knew she was heavily intoxicated and did nothing to protect her from harm.

To understand the decision, we must look to the facts of the specific case. The alleged assault occurred on October 31, 2013. Helfman, a freshman, was drinking in her dorm room and later attended a party where she drank more. She became intoxicated and was vomiting at the party. She later walked home with A.G.. During the walk, Helfman and A.G. kissed multiple times. The proctor at the front door let both students inside. They went to A.G.’s room where Helfman alleges that he initiated sex. Helfman later told her roommate that she would have stopped the encounter had she been sober. The university investigated the incident and did not find that A.G. committed a sexual assault. Helfman brought a negligence claim against Northeastern and several members of the administration. The court granted the school’s motion for summary judgment, after which Helfmam appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court.

While the court held that in this case, Northeastern had no duty to protect Helfman, it rejected Northeastern’s argument that institutions of higher education have no duty to protect students who voluntarily drink alcohol. This argument would effectively shield them from blame whenever a student is harmed while under the influence of alcohol. The court instead found that universities have a special relationship with their students, prompting a heightened level of care: to take “reasonable measures” to protect students who are in “imminent danger.” The court also grappled with issues of balancing a student’s autonomy as a legal adult and the recognition that college students are often not fully adults and may need some level of protection at times. Continue reading

It is your right to hire a competent lawyer that you trust with whatever matter you are dealing with. Sometimes you may choose one at the outset of your case only to discover that they are not a good match. No matter the reason, you should know that you can change your lawyer at any time, including in the middle of your case.

The most common complaint about lawyers are that they are difficult to get ahold of. All too frequently, we hear of clients that hire a lawyer that they can never get in contact with. Calls and emails go unreturned and communication gets pushed off over and over again. Maybe they have an unusually large caseload and are being overworked. No matter the excuse, when you hire a lawyer, you have a right to be a priority. You have the biggest interest in the progress of the case and your lawyer should frequently update you on his or her work. At Altman & Altman LLP we pride ourselves on being highly available to our clients. You can contact us any hour of the day on any day of the week. This includes weekends and holidays. Lawsuits can be stressful. The job of your lawyer is to usher you through this process as seamlessly as possible, and certainly not to add even more stress.

Many clients hire the first lawyer they speak to. You should keep in mind that the lawyer your hire could actually be the difference between winning or losing your case. It is usually a good idea to meet with a lawyer at their office before you hire them to represent you. Altman & Altman offers free initial consultations so you can meet with our attorneys and decide if we would be a good fit.  You can get a feel for the culture of our office. Some people recommend paying attention to how the receptionist talks to clients calling in to see if they are actually put through to their attorney. Many firms also have testimonials from previous clients on their websites which can help you determine how they treated past clients.

Here are some questions you should ask a lawyer you are prospecting:

  • Have you handled cases similar to mine?
  • Have you been successful with these cases?
  • How long will the process take?
  • What are my options?
  • How long will it take for me to reach someone at this office?

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Premises liability determines who is responsible if you are injured on a specific type of property. Whether it’s a home or a business, someone is at fault.

Residential Properties

On residential properties, homeowners or tenants may be liable for injuries on the property in question. Property owners have a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition for people on the property lawfully. Injured people can make a claim against a property owner if they can prove that the owner breached this standard duty of care and that led to the injury. Assuming the injured party was lawfully present, the question in this type of litigation is namely: what condition was the property in at it pertains to the injury? Was the condition unreasonable for the property owner to leave unrepaired? Things get a bit complex when a landlord is leasing property to a tenant. The general rule is that the residential landlord is responsible for repairs that he had reason to know were required, even if the property is leased to a tenant.

Military personnel deal with countless risks in their everyday lives, including exposure to incredibly loud noises. U.S. military veterans are 30% more likely to suffer hearing loss than the average citizen. During their service they may be exposed to noises from gunfire, explosions, heavy machinery, plane and jet engines, and much more. Military personnel have enough to worry about, and hearing loss is a preventable injury that ought to be taken seriously.

Defective dual-ended military earplugs have come under fire recently, likely enlarging the risk factor of hearing problems to four times as likely as the average citizen. The earplugs were manufactured by 3M Corporation as part of a deal with the U.S. military and were issued to service members deployed between 2002 and 2015. They were issued to protect service members from loud noises associated with their service, while still allowing them to hear low volume noises such as peers trying to communicate with them. 3M was the exclusive supplier of earplugs to the military at this time. After it was discovered that over 2 million service members have deafness and ringing in their ears, authorities found that the earplugs did not protect against what they claimed to. The result: thousands suffering from hearing loss and tinnitus who are now bringing suit against 3M.

This litigation was originally brought by Moldex-Metric, Inc., 3M’s rival company. The U.S. Department of Justice joined the case soon after. The earplugs at issue, The Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2, was designed by Aero Technologies with a defective seal that allowed dangerously loud noise to penetrate the ears. Evidence surfaced that the company knew of these defects dating back to testing done in 2000 and failed to inform the military. When 3M acquired Aero several years later, they continued these deceptive practices. The poor design allows the earplugs to become dislodged and allows high levels of noise to enter the ears and cause damage. The packaging also had improper instructions, increasing the chances of hearing damage.

In 2018, The U.S. Department of Justice reached an agreement with 3M, in which they would pay a $9.1 million settlement to the government. The company has yet to remedy the toll on former military personnel and has not yet admitted liability. Continue reading

College is a major transition for young adults and is oftentimes the first experience they have out of their family’s household. This can be overwhelming, and for many, they may deal with new and different mental health struggles that they do not necessarily know how to cope with. Students may feel isolated from friends and family, pressured with their newfound freedom, and stress from the academic demands of their school. Some may be presented with alcohol or drugs for the first time, which may trigger an unknown predisposition to depression or suicidal thoughts.

Suicide among college students has been rapidly rising and is currently the second leading cause of death of adults ages 15-24. Studies indicate that 1 in 5 college students have had thoughts of suicide, with 9% reporting suicide attempts. In response, colleges have tried to counter this uptick by widening mental health services on campus and availability or suicide awareness programs.

Risk factors include

  • Major depression or personality disorders
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Traumatic or stressful life events
  • Prior suicide attempts
  • Isolation and lack of support
  • Impulsiveness
  • Lack of coping skills
  • Access to a suicide method

Warning signs include

  • Mood swings
  • Decreased hygiene
  • Talking about suicide
  • Statements of hopelessness
  • Interest in death
  • Sudden happy or calm state
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Poor academic performance
  • Saying goodbyes
  • Giving away possessions
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-harm
  • Risky behavior or recklessness

What You Can Do

Friends and family that notice these warning signs can do a lot of things to help. Simply being there for the person can make a difference, but it is important to remember that your support is not a substitution for professional help. Medications and therapy have proven invaluable in treating symptoms that contribute to suicide. The national suicide prevention hotline is available 24/7. You can access it by calling 1(800)273-8255. Continue reading

A huge win for the residents of Merrimack Valley occurred through a plea agreement announced in February involving one of the state’s leading energy companies. Colombia Gas of Massachusetts was ordered to pay a $53 million criminal fine for violating the Pipeline Safety Act, causing a series of natural gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley including Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover in 2018. After a long wait, residents harmed by the explosions were finally able to hold the utility accountable for its actions.

The explosion’s killed 18-year-old Leonel Rondon when a chimney collapsed on his car in a friend’s driveway. 2 dozen more were injured requiring hospital care including two firefighters. More than 100 homes caught on fire and over 8,000 people were displaced.

$53 million is the largest fine ever imposed for a violation of the Pipeline Safety Act and is over two times the profits earned by the state’s Gas System Enhancement Plan program between 2015 and 2018. The full payment is due by July 23.

The company took full responsibility for the explosions and plead guilty to a federal felony. Its parent company, NiSource Inc., was ordered to sell off its subsidiary. It reached an agreement with Eversource in mere hours to sell the company for $1.1 billion. NiSource agreed to forfeit any profit it earned from the sale and implement safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board. The plea agreement also called for a three-year probation during which the company will be closely monitored for compliance with federal and state safety regulations. The probationary period will end when the sale is complete.

The deal still requires approval of the State Department of Utilities and the U.S. Department of Justice. The Department of Utilities has since opened a separate investigation and could eventually impose its own multi-million-dollar penalty on Columbia Gas.

The cause of the accident was determined to be over-pressurized gas lines, improper monitoring of pressure sensors, and old piping on the company’s South Union Project in South Lawrence. As a result, high pressure gas flooded the neighborhoods and caused multiple explosions.

The company knew of the disastrous potential of these gas lines evidenced by an internal memo dating back to 2015. The memo indicated that executives knew of failure to monitor gas lines, saying over-pressurization could lead to a “catastrophic event.” Federal authorities posit that Columbia Gas exhibited careless disregard for the community resulting in cutting corners and leading to this disaster.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera hopes the money can be used to help families in the affected communities. “It is clear, now more than ever, that the people of Lawrence and North Andover would have more use for this money than the federal government,” Rivera said. Most of the money is set to go to the Justice Department’s Crime Victims Fund, providing support to victims of many crimes across the country. Continue reading

Has your Massachusetts business been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? Has your business been forced to lay off or furlough workers, or close down entirely due to the effects of the coronavirus? Have you been denied a business interruption claim by your insurance company despite clearly being affected by the impact of the virus? If so, contact the Cambridge attorneys at Altman & Altman LLP immediately to discuss options that may be available to you.  We have successfully been handling insurance disputes for over 50 years.

What is a business interruption claim?

Although it is not mandatory for businesses to purchase an insurance policy regarding the sudden and unforeseen halting of their business operations, many will understandably do so to safeguard themselves against significant losses that may be incurred from a sudden and unexpected fire, flood, hurricane or other natural disaster.

Zantac – the medication often seen on television commercials and long touted as one of the leading over-the-counter remedies for heartburn – has been pulled from all shelves by the U.S. Food And Drug Administration (FDA) due to the confirmed presence of a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compound. The nationwide recall will go into effect immediately, and as a result all manufacturing of Zantac will cease.

Because Zantac was so popular and so heavily advertised for so many years, it is possible that millions of Americans were potentially exposed to a carcinogenic compound. Even worse, tests have shown that there could be tremendously high amounts of this cancer-causing compound in each dose of Zantac. If you believe that yourself or a loved one has contracted cancer as a result of repeated use of Zantac, contact an attorney from Altman & Altman LLP right away to discuss possible legal action.

What is dangerous about Zantac?

Zantac is simply a brand name used to market the medication. The active compound in Zantac is ranitidine, which is used to fight acid buildup in the stomach and esophagus – the cause of heartburn. However, recent tests have confirmed that Zantac also contains N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which has long been classified as a potential carcinogen in humans by the FDA.

Exposure to NDMA has been linked to various diseases, from multiple types of cancer (including the most potentially deadly forms and less severe forms) to liver failure. Although testing the effects of NDMA on humans has been limited in scope, the FDA and independent studies have long identified NDMA as potentially harmful to humans through observation of its negative effects on lab mice. More pointedly, NDMA is a compound commonly found in industrial grade pesticides and even in high octane fuels.

How much NDMA is in Zantac?

According to Valisure, the Connecticut pharmaceutical company that made the initial discovery of NDMA, there were extremely high levels of the compound in the batches of ranitidine they tested – regardless of the dosage or where the drug was manufactured. They reported that there was as much as 3 million nanograms of NDMA in each Zantac tablet – which is over 31,000 times more than the recommended daily intake of 96 nanograms set by the FDA.

Unfortunately, the FDA did not immediately take heed from Valisure’s testing, and Zantac continued to be manufactured and sold to people across the country. It was only until this week that an independent investigation from the FDA finally convinced them to act.

What is the status of Zantac now? Should I stop taking it?

As of this week, the FDA has officially called for a full recall of Zantac products – meaning that manufacturing and sale of all variants of the drug must come to an end. This adds to a series of voluntary recalls that have occurred over the years from various manufacturers of the drug – as well as retail chains such as Walmart, Walgreens and CVS, which previously halted sale of Zantac and its generic forms.

This new recall means that anyone who regularly uses Zantac for heartburn relief should instantly stop doing so, as there is good reason to suspect it may negatively impact your health – especially if you rely on it regularly to treat heartburn and indigestion issues. As always, contact your healthcare provider with concerns you have, and with questions about what medication might work in place of Zantac. There are multiple medications, such as Pepcid, Nexium and Prilosec which have not tested positive for the presence of NDMA.

Did drug manufacturers know about this health risk?

There is some evidence to suggest that Sanofi – the manufacturer of Zantac – could have reasonably known about the possibility of Zantac being an unstable drug as far back as 2002, and that such instability could potentially result in the production of NDMA. In fact, the FDA’s most recent findings included the fact that improperly stored Zantac – for example, if it was stored at high temperatures – could especially lead to the production of NDMA.

Prior studies have found that patients taking ranitidine had large increases in the concentration of NDMA in their urine following tests. Others showed that ranitidine is a possible “precursor” to NDMA. This essentially means that the study found ranitidine is a chemical building block to the more harmful NDMA compound.

These findings suggest that there was always a chemical instability in Zantac that could potentially lead it to being dangerous, and if drug manufacturers were aware of this possibility but failed to warn consumers about it, that could mean they are liable for damages that have occurred due to the drug’s widespread use. Continue reading

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Wednesday that it would implement a full, nationwide recall of the popular over-the-counter heartburn medication, Zantac, over concerns that it could potentially introduce a cancer-causing compound into those who take it. If you or a loved one has used Zantac in the past and subsequently developed cancer, contact a personal injury attorney from the Cambridge firm of Altman & Altman LLP right away to get started on a claim.

You may be eligible to receive financial compensation through a class action lawsuit or other legal action against drug manufacturers, or other negligent third parties who allowed the production or sale of Zantac to continue despite independent lab tests showing the possible dangerousness of using Zantac.

What made the FDA recall Zantac?

Up until this week when the news broke, the FDA had been hesitant to respond to claims from independent laboratories that Zantac was potentially dangerous. Independent tests had demonstrated that there was a possibility that Zantac broke down into a compound known as NDMA (N-nitrosodimethylamine), which is a likely carcinogenic (meaning cancer causing) contaminant.

The tests revealed the creation of NDMA could occur inside of the patient’s digestive system once the medicine was ingested. One alarming study showed that just one Zantac tablet could potentially create 3 million nanograms of NDMA – when the recommended maximum amount of NDMA that a human should absorb in a day, according to the FDA, is just 96 nanograms.

Despite these alarming tests, the FDA only decided to issue a nationwide recall of all Zantac products once their independent investigation into the popular drug showed that NDMA production could occur if the medicine was stored at a higher-than-normal temperature. In their statements to press, they make the claim that they only pulled the medicine out of an abundance of caution.

How dangerous is NDMA?

NDMA is presumed carcinogenic due to its cancer-causing qualities in laboratory experiments on mice. It has been observed to be linked to various cancers, including liver, intestinal, esophageal, stomach, colorectal and, in more limited capacities, it has been linked to prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma and leukemia.

Claims and lawsuits against Zantac for its presumed role in the causation of cancer are already in motion, but none have come to a settlement or award yet. With the announcement of the full, nationwide recall, it is likely much more attention will be paid to this issue and more claims will likely begin to pile up. Continue reading

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