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.

Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Losing a loved one is amongst the most difficult thing a person can experience. This pain and sorrow may be multiplied if they were killed as a result of the actions of somebody else’s negligence, which may have been entirely avoided. After dealing with the emotional trauma caused by the death, a loved one left in the wake of such a tragedy may wish to pursue a wrongful death suit.

But how does filing a wrongful death suit work? Who may file one? And how may you be successful in such a claim? This guide will help navigate you through these questions.

How much time do I have to file a claim?

“An action to recover damages under this section shall be commenced within three years from the date of death.” – MA General Laws, Chapter 229, Section 2

Recovering from a tragic, wrongful death isn’t something that happens overnight. It is an ongoing process that may require counseling, therapy and much self-exploration before any amount of peace may be achieved. Knowing this reality, the law of Massachusetts allots three years between the death of the individual and the ability of a wrongful death suit to be filed.

Who may file a wrongful death claim?

Following a death, only the representative of the deceased’s estate may serve as a plaintiff in any wrongful death suit. This representative may be appointed in the deceased’s will. However, if the deceased did not leave a will, a family member or other eligible party must petition the court in order to be named the legal representative of their estate.

This representative may be represented by an attorney to assist them with the complex legal issues that come up in any wrongful death suit.

Who may be liable in a wrongful death suit?

Chapter 229 of the Massachusetts General Laws defines a few specific instances where someone would be liable in a wrongful death case, including: anyone whose negligence causes a loss of life, including someone whose job required carrying passengers (such as a bus driver).

However, the law also points out that certain individuals are not liable for certain instances that cause a death, such as a person operating a train killing someone who trespasses and walks on the train tracks. In this case, the deceased was not following the law and the train operator could not be held liable for the unlawful and unexpected actions of such an individual.

How are wrongful death claims paid?

Wrongful death suits which result in compensation being paid out are a burden to be paid by the responsible party. They are distributed to the deceased’s estate, which then must be disseminated according to their will, if such a document had been prepared.

For most wrongful death suits, the limit on damages is capped at $500,000. These damages may encompass damages described as “noneconomic,” which include punitive damages, mental anguish caused by the death as well as pain and suffering sustained as a result of the wrongful death. Continue reading

In 2015, a Maryland teen began having an asthma attack during gym class. Fourteen-year-old Taylor Walton requested permission to get her inhaler, but the gym teacher refused. A second request was also refused. By the third request, Walton explained to the teacher that she was having severe breathing problems and that she needed to leave class to get her inhaler. This time, the unnamed teacher granted permission, but nobody accompanied Walton – who was struggling to breathe – to the locker room. She was later found collapsed outside the gym. Efforts to revive the child were unsuccessful.

Walton’s family has filed a lawsuit against the gym teacher, the high school, and the county’s board of education, claiming that their daughter’s wrongful death was the result of gross negligence, and that the teen’s civil rights were violated. According to the lawsuit, the school was aware that Walton suffered from asthma. In fact, this wasn’t the first asthma attack she had suffered in that gym teacher’s class. The school also failed to distribute an “emergency treatment plan” to Walton’s teachers. As such, the teen’s family is seeking $10 million from the school district, alleging that multiple breaches of duty played a “substantial factor in proximately causing injury and then death of Taylor.” A MA wrongful death attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve lost a love one due to another’s negligence.

How is Wrongful Death Defined in Massachusetts?

Tennis Superstar Venus Williams was involved in a crash on June 9 that fatally injured another. The victim, 78-year-old Jerome Barson, died two weeks after the incident. According to Palm Beach Gardens police, Williams ran a red light and the other driver crashed into the side of her 2010 Toyota Sequoia SUV.

The victim’s wife, Linda Barson, was driving the couple’s 2016 Hyundai Accent at the time of the crash. Williams was crossing an intersection at low speeds when Barson crashed into the SUV, according to a report. However, despite the low speeds, Williams “violated the right of way” of Barson’s vehicle when she ran the red light. Barson suffered non-life threatening injuries. Williams was not injured.

No Drugs or Alcohol Suspected

Although the incident is still under investigation, neither driver is suspected of having been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to Williams’ attorney Malcolm Cunningham.

“This is an unfortunate accident, and Venus expresses her deepest condolences to the family who lost a loved one,” said Cunningham in a statement.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed

Barson’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the tennis celebrity, alleging negligence. According to the lawsuit, Linda Barson suffered a shattered right arm and cracked sternum, among other injuries to her wrist and hand. Jerome Barson suffered multiple injuries, including “severed main arteries, massive internal bleeding, a fractured spine, and massive internal organ damage.” He succumbed to these injuries after two weeks in the intensive care unit, on his wife’s 68th birthday. Barson claims that Williams cut in front of her car and she had no time to stop.

This case illustrates the difference between a civil wrongful death lawsuit and a criminal manslaughter or murder case. To be liable for the wrongful death of another, a person doesn’t need to have acted with malice. In Williams’ case, she hadn’t tried to harm Barson, nor was she necessarily reckless. But at least according to the court, she was negligent. A Boston wrongful death attorney can help you obtain compensation if you’ve lost a loved one to another’s negligence. Although money can’t bring back a loved one, it can help provide you with the time and space to heal.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Case

In order for a wrongful death claim to be successful, four elements must have been present. These are negligence, breach of duty, causation, and damages.

  • Negligence: The person responsible for the wrongful death must have acted in a reckless or careless way. For example, if someone is texting while driving, he will likely be found negligent in the event that an accident results. A MA wrongful death attorney can help you determine if negligence played a role in your loved one’s death.

 

  • Breach of duty: The person responsible must have owed a duty to the victim. For example, a driver has a duty to remain focused and follow the rules of the road when she’s driving. If she ignores these rules, she has breached that duty.

 

  • Causation: The death must have been caused by the responsible person’s negligent actions. For example, Venus Williams allegedly disobeyed the rules of the road when the accident occurred. As such, she was negligent. But did her negligence cause the death of Jerome Barson? In this particular case, the answer is likely yes. However, had Barson’s wife been speeding and intoxicated at the time of the accident, the outcome may have been very different.

 

  • Damages: In order for a wrongful death claim to be successful, someone must have actually died. This isn’t hard to prove. However, damages may add up to more than the death itself; there may be property damages, loss of income, loss of consortium, funeral expenses, and more.

Continue reading

Philando Castile’s tragic death garnered worldwide attention earlier this month when the officer who had fired seven shots into the chest of the African-American man was found not guilty of manslaughter. This case provides an illustration of the differences between a criminal charge, such as manslaughter, and the civil nature of a wrongful death lawsuit. Although Officer Yanez isn’t being held criminally liable for Castile’s death, civil liability is another story altogether.

In 2016, officer Jeronimo Yanez stopped Castile for a busted taillight. Although the 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor of a Montessori school informed Yanez that he had a weapon in his car, the officer claims he feared for his life when Castile reached for something. That’s when Yanez opened fire. During a routine traffic stop, Castile had announced the presence of a weapon and – based on video footage of the stop – appeared to be cooperating with the officer the entire time. Further, there was a four-year old child was in the backseat when Yanez fired multiple rounds into the car.

Not Guilty

On July 16, 2017 Yanez was acquitted on manslaughter charges, prompting nationwide (and global) outcry. If you have lost a loved one due to the negligent or willful actions of another, a Boston wrongful death attorney can help you determine how to move forward.

Castile’s mother has reached a $3 million settlement in the wrongful death case she brought against the man who killed her son. Those funds will be paid by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust. In addition to dimming the media spotlight on the family so that they may move on with their lives, the settlement prevents a civil murder trial, which could drag on for an extended period of time.

Michael Brown

With this settlement, Castile’s family can focus on making an impact through their foundation. The Philando Castile Foundation was established to help victims of police violence and gun violence. The news of the Castile settlement comes days after a settlement was reached with the family of Michael Brown, the black teenager who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. According to reports, Brown’s family settled for $1.5 million. Although the Yanez acquittal has outraged people around the world, these civil successes and large settlements are a small step in the right direction. Settlements of this size dominate headlines and let the world know that racial injustice will not be tolerated.

What is a Civil Murder Trial?

Although Yanez was found not guilty on criminal charges, proving guilt in a civil murder trial may have been an easier process. Civil cases have a lower burden of proof than criminal cases. In layman’s terms, you don’t need as much evidence to prove a case. In a criminal case, allegations must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” whereas in a civil case, they just need to be more likely true than not. This is known as a preponderance of evidence. A MA wrongful death attorney can help you recover damages if you have lost a loved one to another’s negligence or harmful actions. Continue reading

In 2013, an unsecured brick wall collapsed onto a Salvation Army store in 2013, killing seven people and injuring another 12. The tragic incident occurred when the wall, which was located at a demolition site, fell onto the Philadelphia, PA thrift store. Following a 17-week long trial, victims were awarded a total of $227 million, to be divided among the survivors and family members of the deceased. In total, 19 families were affected by this devastating accident.

The demolition site owner, the architect and contractor managing the demolition, and the Salvation Army were all found to be liable for the collapse, and thus the resulting injuries and deaths. The Salvation Army will pay $200 million of the settlement, and the demolition site owner is responsible for the remaining $27 million. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if another’s negligence has caused you or a loved one harm.

How Will the Settlement be Divided?

In cases where large settlements are divided among multiple recipients, juries decide how much each plaintiff should receive. In some situations, however, parties may agree to divide the award outside of court. That is exactly how the Philadelphia case is being handled; the survivors and families will divide the proceeds in arbitration. This is different from a class action verdict in that every plaintiff must be in agreement with the way the award is to be distributed. In smaller cases, this agreement may be reached with a conversation and a handshake, but with nearly 20 parties involved in the Philadelphia case, an arbitrator is crucial to a fair, friendly, and efficient distribution process.

What is Arbitration?

Arbitration is one form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), a process that provides an alternative to going to trial. In arbitration, each individual involved will be asked to sign an agreement that describes what was agreed upon. This effectively means that plaintiffs will not be permitted to appeal the decision, with very few exceptions. Once all parties have agreed to be bound by the agreement, anyone who wishes to receive a portion of the award must submit evidence of their damages to the arbitrator. Following this process, and based on the findings, the arbitrator will divide the damages as deemed appropriate. Although the trial above lasted several years, arbitration is rarely as long. In fact, this case will likely be concluded within a few months.

Disadvantages of Arbitration

In some cases, arbitration can dramatically reduce stress and legal costs. But it’s not always the best course of action. For starters, you have limited recourse following arbitration; if the arbitrator’s award isn’t fair, there is little to nothing you can do to air your grievances in court. Arbitration may also present an uneven playing field, created by the arbitration clauses of large companies, for example. And the process of choosing an arbitrator is rarely an objective one. If you are unsure whether arbitration is right for you, a MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to move forward. Continue reading

The parents of a three-year-old child who died in a tragic accident at a Head Start child care program are suing for $10 million. The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that the child’s death could have been prevented if reasonable care had been exercised to ensure a safe environment.

The accidental death occurred at a Head Start in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Several retractable lunch tables were leaning against a wall that the child was playing next to. The heavy, decades-old tables fell from the wall, opening up, and crushing the small child. In addition to not being properly secured to the wall, the tables were in disrepair and hadn’t been used for years. The lawsuit alleges that proper inspection of the tables would have prevented this tragedy.

What is Wrongful Death?

When negligence, carelessness, or recklessness results in a death, surviving family members can obtain compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death liability differs from liability for death caused by misconduct and criminal behavior in that the liable person or persons didn’t intend to cause the death. As such, wrongful death lawsuits impose civil, not criminal, consequences. In many cases, a surviving spouse, parent, or child can file a lawsuit and obtain compensation to effectively replace the loss of income, benefits, and other forms of financial and emotional support.

There are time limits to filing a claim for wrongful death. An experienced MA personal injury attorney can help you determine if you should file a wrongful death lawsuit following the death of a loved one. In addition to time limits, the loss of evidence over time can negatively impact the outcome of your lawsuit. As with most types of injury lawsuits, time is of the essence.

Liability of Child Care Facilities

Kids get hurt. And not all bumps and bruises are the result of negligence. But serious injuries, and even chronic minor injuries, may indicate negligence. In some cases, injuries can even indicate abuse. A Boston injury lawyer can provide a free consultation to help you determine whether you have a strong enough case to warrant a lawsuit.

Common Injuries Related to Child Care Negligence and Abuse

Negligence and abuse can take many forms, resulting in minor or serious injures, even death. Some of the more serious injuries include:

  • Injuries from high falls
  • Drowning
  • Dehydration from lack of access to water
  • Choking on non-food objects
  • Injuries suffered from “wandering away” due to inadequate fencing or gating
  • Burns or injuries related to exposure to chemicals and toxic or poisonous substances
  • Cuts and wounds from sharp or rusty objects

Proving Liability

Determining whether your child’s injuries are a result of negligence or abuse isn’t always an easy task. There are certain elements used to determine liability in child care negligence claims. These elements include:

  • The care provider had a duty to exercise reasonable care.
  • The care provider breached that duty.
  • The injury would not likely have occurred if the care provider hadn’t breached his or her duty.
  • The injury was caused by the breach.

Continue reading

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the membranes surrounding your lungs and abdomen. Between 70 and 80 percent of mesothelioma cases are caused by the inhalation of asbestos particles – a naturally-occurring, fibrous mineral that was used for decades as a fire retardant and insulation in homes and businesses across the world.

Since asbestos was used for decades in every different kind of building possible, the people most at risk for exposure to asbestos are construction workers and demolition technicians who work on renovating or destroying older homes and business buildings. Asbestos is harmless when it is left unbothered, but when asbestos is disturbed, it releases microscopic particles that can enter the body and cause many health issues.

Health professionals have known since at least the 70s that exposure to asbestos could result in negative health complications, but recent studies have shown that even a single exposure event to asbestos could result in developing respiratory and other diseases at some point down the line. Asbestos particles are jaggedly-shaped and do not clear out of the body once they are introduced.

Sometimes symptoms of asbestos exposure do not become apparent in patients until 20 to 50 years after the exposure event, so even if an exposure to asbestos happened a long time ago, please contact Altman & Altman LLP if you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Breathing difficulties, chest pain or a combination of both
  • A general feeling of illness
  • Weight loss
  • Fevers
  • Persistent coughing
  • Night sweats
  • Developing a mass or swelling in the chest cavity
  • Increased presence of fluid in the lungs

The only way to be certain if you are suffering from mesothelioma is to be diagnosed by a doctor, usually through various tests such as MRIs and tissue samples. Sometimes, invasive surgery is required to observe the membranes in your body to determine a diagnosis one way or another.

Should you find out that you or a loved one is suffering from mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness, you may be eligible to make a claim to collect financial compensation for your pain and suffering, as well as money spent on medical bills and money lost due to being unable to work during your treatment.

Thousands of cases involving exposure to asbestos have been filed in recent years, many of them stemming from exposure events that happened many years ago. Do not feel as though you don’t have a case to make simply because it occurred in the past. The only way to find out if your case is eligible for compensation is to team up with legal professionals who can look at the unique details of your situation.

At Altman & Altman LLP, we have over 40 years of experience handling suits involving everything from personal injuries to negligent companies causing harm. The costs stemming from dealing with mesothelioma can be significant, and without proper legal representation you may have to suffer through these challenges alone. Continue reading

When most people think of IKEA, they think of affordable, sleek, modern furniture that customers assemble themselves. However, three recent tragedies may change the way some of us think about the stylish Swedish furniture company. Three wrongful death cases have been filed against IKEA for the deaths of three toddlers who were crushed when defective dressers fell onto them. The lawsuits, for three separate incidents, were filed in the state court in Pennsylvania. IKEA has agreed to settle the lawsuits, which claim the company was negligent in its manufacturing of the dressers, for $50 million.

Although these recent tragedies are especially disturbing, they are not the only wrongful death lawsuits filed against IKEA for defective furniture. In fact, there have been a total of seven deaths linked to the company’s unstable furniture. Further, new evidence shows that IKEA may have known about the risk of death. If you have been injured by a defective product, contact a Boston injury lawyer today.

In the cases involving the three toddlers, IKEA initially denied blame, arguing that the parents were at fault for not properly anchoring the dressers to a wall. The manufacturer’s assembly instructions did, indeed, include this last step. However, the court ruled in favor of the victims’ families, saying that consumers commonly ignore instructions to anchor furniture to a wall. Although this last step may provide better stability, a reasonable person wouldn’t think that ignoring it would result in the death of a child. User error is certainly taken into account in defective product cases, however, it can only go so far. In the above cases, a warning to anchor the dresser was not sufficient to insulate the company from liability.

Massive IKEA Recall

Earlier this year, nearly 30 million IKEA dressers were recalled because they didn’t meet safety and stability standards. In addition to the recall and the large settlement, IKEA is increasing efforts to raise awareness about the importance of furniture anchoring through its “Secure It” program. If you’ve been injured by a defective product, contact a MA injury lawyer today.

The Four Elements of a Defective Product Liability Claim

If you have suffered personal injury or property damage because of a product, you may have a defective product liability claim. To win your case, you must prove that the elements below existed:

  • You were injured or suffered a loss as a result of using the product
  • The product was defective
  • The product’s defect directly caused your injury
  • You were using the product for its intended use

If any of these elements did not exist, you may have a difficult time winning a defective product lawsuit. With the help of a skilled defective product attorney, however, your chances of a successful lawsuit are dramatically improved. Defective product liability is a complex area of the law; find an attorney who has extensive experience in this specific area. Continue reading

A Florida-based event company, Walker International Events, has momentarily ceased all of its business and has been fined $24,000 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after an investigation revealed multiple safety failures led to two deaths and multiple injuries when a tent collapsed in New Hampshire during a circus act in August of 2015.   In total, there were 14 total serious violations of workplace safety that were found as a result of the OSHA investigation. Primarily, the company most egregiously decided to go forward with their outdoor circus act, despite imminent and well-established thunder storms raging through the area.

The storm ultimately played a large role in the tent’s collapse, as did the company’s failure to properly set up the tent to adhere to OSHA’s workplace safety standards.

The fine and subsequent closing of the company (pending the creation of new safety regulations and standards) will do nothing to console those affected by the tragedy that claimed the lives of a child and their father and injured dozens more onlookers.

OSHA regulations exist to prevent these tragedies

No matter how unconventional or unexpected the setting, workers in America are put into dangerous situations every day, including circus workers and performers. These workers are all supposed to be properly protected by their employers, who are responsible for adhering to safety standards that ensure the workplace is as hazard-free as possible.  By choosing to ignore severe weather warnings and not properly constructing their tent, Walker International Events is complicit in the two deaths and dozens of injuries that resulted as a result of their negligence. In addition to the immediate implications this has for them financially and for their business, they will be liable for civil lawsuits from those affected by the incident as well.

All employers must take great care to not put their employees, or any civilians such as those coming to see a circus show, into any undue risk of injury or death. Failure to ensure this safety is simply unacceptable, and Walker International Events is learning that the hard way. Continue reading

Deaths resulting from accidents are becoming increasingly more prevalent.  According to a report from the National Safety Council, there were more than 136,000 accidental deaths of Americans in 2014.   This is up 4.2 percent from 2013 and up 15.5 percent over the past ten years.  The rate of accidents has risen even though there has been a 22 percent decrease in automobile related deaths since 2005.  Most shockingly, overdose and accidental poisonings are up 78 percent over the past ten years, killing 42,032 in 2014.  Falls are also up 63 percent over that last decade, but experts attribute this to an aging society.  The element of these statistics that is difficult to grapple with is that these are all deaths caused by accidents; accidents by their very definition are preventable.  Ken Kolosh, statistical manager of the National Safety Council notes that these increases in accidental deaths are not due to people becoming more prone to accidents, but rather due to society not implementing enough preventative measures.  Statistics show that an American dies of an accidental injury every four minutes, and one American needs medical help as a result of an accident every second.  The region in which you live also can drastically affect the rate of accidental deaths.  Maryland, California, and New York have the lowest rates, 30 per 100,000 people, while West Virginia has the highest rate, 75.2 per 100,000.  The national average is 41.3 accidental deaths per 100,000 people.  Drug abuse is rapidly becoming more deadly while accidents like car crashes have become less deadly.  In 1999, overdoses, poisonings, and falls only accounted for 25 percent of accidental deaths but now account for over half of them.  In the annual Injury Facts report, the top three causes of American deaths continue to be diseases: heart disease, cancer, and lower respiratory diseases.  However, unintentional deaths come in at the fourth spot, beating out stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, flu and suicide.  People often worry about murder as a real hazard in America.  Yet, there are eight accidental deaths for every homicide and twice as many suicides as murders.

There may be several moving gears that explain accidents as a cause of death moving up to the fourth spot.  The U.S. has made great strides in preventing and treating diseases, causing deaths as a result to decrease.  That being said, the U.S. has not been as proactive about preventing accidental deaths, causing these to rise.  The Injury Facts report also shows data how far the country has come in reducing motor vehicle deaths.  In 2014, these deaths were at 35,398 annually, down from a high of over 53,000 in 1980.  It’s clear that far less young people are dying on the road than before, but U.S. numbers are still higher than those of other developed countries.  Kolosh attributes this to our relatively loose drunk driving regulations and other laws when compared to other comparable countries.  Continue reading