Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Are duck boats death traps? Following a tragic accident that claimed 17 lives in Missouri last week, many experts are saying duck boats should be banned nationwide. Duck boats are amphibious vehicles (originally used during WWII) that can travel on land and water, and they have a deadly history.

Anyone living in the Boston area is likely familiar with duck boat accidents; a woman was killed and a man was injured when a Boston Duck Tours vehicle ran over their scooter in 2016, and another woman was seriously injured months later when she was struck by a duck boat from the same company. A MA personal injury attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

The recent accident in Missouri resulted in the death of 17 people, at least one of whom was a child. The Ride the Ducks vehicle capsized on Branson’s Table Rock Lake when a sudden storm brought 65 mph winds. Only 14 of the 31 passengers survived. One of those passengers, Tia Coleman, lost nine family members in the tragedy—three children, her husband, two nephews, her mother-in-law and father-in-law, her sister-in-law, and an uncle. Only she and a nephew survived. Coleman claims that the boat’s captain told them not to worry, and that there was no need to use life jackets. When it became apparent that they needed the life vests to survive, it was too late.

“When that boat is found, all those life jackets are going to be there,” said Coleman.

Sinking Coffins

Not only was this not the first fatal duck boat accident in the country (not even close), it wasn’t the first for this particular company. Ride the Ducks has been sued multiple times for fatal duck boat accidents. Experts are calling these vehicles “sinking coffins.” After an accident that killed 13 people in Arkansas nearly 20 years ago, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that the canopies on all duck boats be removed for safer escape. In those 20 years, almost nothing about duck boat structure or operations has changed. Not only are the canopies still there, but the design on most duck boats is nearly identical to their original WWII design.

In addition to their on-water dangers, duck boats are considered to be dangerous when driving on land because their unusual design creates a deadly blind spot. In last year’s fatal accident in Boston, the duck boat driver couldn’t see the scooter stopped at a red light directly in front of him because of the duck boat’s shape. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

In Seattle in 2015, a fatal collision involving a duck boat and a bus resulted in the death of five college students. Another 69 passengers were injured. Branson-based Ride the Ducks, who also manufactured the Seattle duck boats, was fined $500,000. And in 2015, a woman was struck and killed while crossing a Philadelphia street. That duck boat was also connected to Ride the Ducks. Continue reading

When an Uber SUV in self-driving mode struck an Arizona pedestrian in March, it was the first fatal crash of its kind. But it was far from the only accident involving an autonomous vehicle. In fact, such accidents have dominated the headlines in recent months, raising questions about the safety of self-driving technologies.

How Do Autonomous Vehicle Computers Work?

There are three different modules in the computer systems used to operate self-driving cars—the perception module, the prediction module, and the response module.

  • The perception module uses sensors—such as cameras, radar, and pulses of light—to identify nearby objects.
  • The prediction module determines how these objects are likely to “behave.” For example, is the truck ahead going to switch lanes?
  • The response model uses the information above to determine the most appropriate response. For example, should the autonomous vehicle accelerate, decelerate, or change lanes?

These technologies are currently being tested on public roadways in states across the nation. Arizona’s dry climate has played a major role in its becoming a hot bed for testing self-driving vehicles (which still perform better on dry roads). But Arizona’s loose laws and regulations concerning self-driving vehicles may see some changes now that someone has been killed. A Boston car accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

So, what actually caused the Uber self-driving crash that killed an Arizona woman this spring?

According to Sebastian Thrun, the Stanford professor who formerly led Google’s autonomous-vehicle department, the most challenging of the three modules mentioned above is perception. Although bicycles, pedestrians, and other vehicles are relatively easy to identify, rarely-seen objects (think of a plastic bag floating across the road) pose a problem. Thrun says that when Google first began testing autonomous vehicles, its “perception module could not distinguish a plastic bag from a flying child.”

Confused Computer

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the Arizona accident, and determined that the autonomous Uber’s computer system failed to identify Elaine Herzberg as she walked across the road with her bicycle. Her presence was detected six seconds prior to the crash, but the perception module identified her first as an unknown object, then as a vehicle, and then as a bicycle, with a path the system was unable to predict. A MA car accident attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

According to the NTSB report, at 1.3 seconds before the crash, the computer system recognized the need for emergency braking, but the emergency braking had been disabled due to a potential conflict with the autonomous system. In such an event, the human driver is expected to react. Unfortunately, the safety operator was looking at the self-driving display screen at the time of the accident, and was unable to brake in time.

It was determined that, although the Arizona accident had multiple causes, the fault ultimately lies in the system’s design failure. The AV system should slow down, for example, if the perception module becomes confused. Of course, unexpected braking can have its own consequences. Confused self-driving vehicles have been rear-ended by human drivers when they slowed down unexpectedly. In fact, this is the exact reason why the responsibility of braking has been officially assigned to human safety operators, who are tasked with being the safety net when the AV system malfunctions or gets confused. In order for this to work, however, the human driver must be paying attention to the road as closely as the driver of a non-autonomous vehicle. Continue reading

Mass shootings have dominated the media in recent months and years, resulting in a heated debate about gun control laws nationwide. The number one question following every one of these tragedies is: How did the shooter get a gun?

In many recent mass shootings, the shooter obtained the gun legally, prompting many Americans to call for stricter gun legislation at the state and federal levels. In the most recent shooting, in which a white man shot four African-Americans in a Tennessee Waffle House, the shooter obtained the gun from his father, who had a legal right to possess the firearm.

Can Victims Sue Gun Sellers?

In a 2012 mass shooting that also claimed four lives, the gunman bought his gun at online gun retailer Armslist.com. Now the daughter of one of those victims is suing Armslist, alleging that they contributed to the murder of her mother. The court initially dismissed the case, but an appeals court has ruled that it can continue. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if another’s negligence has caused you harm.

Radcliffe Haughton shot and killed four people at a spa in Milwaukee in 2012. Among the victims was his estranged wife, Zina. According to federal law, Haughton was prohibited from owning any type of firearm due to his history of domestic violence. But Haughton found a loophole. In Wisconsin, purchases at dealers require a background check and waiting period, but private sales do not. Therefore, Haughton was able to purchase a gun, from a private seller, through the Armslist website.

The lawsuit against Armslist was actually filed by the shooter’s stepdaughter. Yasmeen Daniel, the daughter of one of Haughton’s victims who also happened to be his estranged wife Zina, alleged that Armslist lacked necessary safeguards to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands, and even facilitated and encouraged the illegal sale through its website’s design.

After the circuit court determined that Armslist could not be liable for the death of any of Haughton’s victims, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled that the company may have used a “website design feature to facilitate illegal firearms purchases,” and allowed the lawsuit to continue. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

Statistics on Mass Shootings

Between 1966 and 2018, there have been 154 mass shootings, resulting in 1,081 deaths. Some of the shooters had criminal pasts or a history of domestic abuse, while others seemed perfectly normal up until the attack. All of the shooters but three were men. Most were between 20 and 49 years of age, and more than half died at the scene, often an act of suicide.

There has been an increase in large, mass shootings in recent years, with just three—those at Sandy Hook elementary school, a Las Vegas club, and Parkland high school—claiming the lives of nearly 100 people, many of them children. Several states have tightened their gun legislation in response. With MA having one of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, our rate of gun violence has seen a dramatic drop. Continue reading

According to a recently-released National Safety Council (NSC) report, the number of accidental deaths and injuries is at an “all-time high.” In fact, the rate of accidental deaths spiked more than 7 percent in 2015, accounting for an additional 146,571 lives lost that year. As a result, accidental deaths have become the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States. Only heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory disease take more lives.

According to the NSC’s Ken Kolosh, we shouldn’t refer to these deaths as accidental because “they’ve been proven over and over again to be 100 percent preventable.” By using terms like accidental or unintentional, we create the assumption that nothing can be done to prevent these injuries and fatalities. The reality is, when people follow certain safety precautions, the risk of accidental injury or death drops dramatically.

Over the past thirty years, U.S. deaths have actually dropped by nearly 20 percent, while “accidental” deaths have risen about 27 percent. To further emphasize the severity of this problem, consider the following calculation: if accidental deaths had followed the trend of overall deaths, nearly 60,000 lives would have been saved in 2015. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Why the Increase in Accidental Deaths?

According to the NSC, factors contributing to the increase in accidental deaths may include:

  • An increase in unintentional poisonings, fueled mostly by the nation’s opioid crisis (opioid overdoses are involved in 46 deaths every day in this country);
  • An unexplained rise in fall-related deaths;
  • Rise in deaths related to car crashes (nearly 38,000 deaths in 2015)—many experts believe distracted driving is to blame, but there are also simply more motor vehicles on the road than at any time in history.

The NSC predicts that the 2016 figures will be even higher—it estimates a six percent or greater increase (these figures won’t be released for at least several months).

How to Prevent Accidental Deaths

Accidental poisonings by way of opioid and other prescription drug overdoses can be avoided by discussing possible drug interactions with your doctor and ensuring that all medications are properly labeled and stored in your medicine chest. You should also:

  • Take medications exactly as prescribed;
  • When first taking a medication, report any problems to your physician immediately;
  • Never take another person’s painkillers’
  • Use a pill box to organize multiple medications;
  • Keep a diary of how much medication you are taking and when you take it.

Motor vehicle accident fatalities can be reduced by following the safety precautions below:

  • Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • Do not speed;
  • Always wear a seatbelt;
  • Avoid driving in inclement weather whenever possible;
  • Avoid driving late at night whenever possible;
  • Never text or talk on the phone while driving;
  • Make sure your vehicle is in good working order at all times;
  • Obey traffic rules.

Accidental deaths related to falls can be reduced by following the tips below:

  • Avoid getting excessively drunk;
  • If you need glasses, wear them;
  • Area rugs should have non-slip backing, and corners that stick up should be nailed down;
  • Place a rubber mat in your tub or shower;
  • Keep walkways well lit and clear of clutter and debris;
  • If using a ladder, make sure that it is in good repair and you know how to use it properly;
  • Avoid walking on icy sidewalks or wet floors;
  • If you have balance problems, use a walker or cane;
  • Maintain your health and physical fitness through regular exercise.

A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in any type of accident. Continue reading

Earlier this month, a pedestrian bridge collapsed at the Florida International University. Six people were killed and nine were injured. One of those injured—a cyclist—has filed the first lawsuit following this tragic accident.

According to the lawsuit, 24-year-old Marquise Rashaad Hepburn was cycling under the bridge when a large section of the bridge fell onto the roadway below. To avoid being crushed by the 174-foot span of concrete, a motor vehicle driver swerved, crashing into Hepburn. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

Hepburn’s lawsuit claims that the negligence of three companies contributed to the bridge collapse. It names the company responsible for designing and constructing the bridge, the company responsible for providing inspection services, and the company responsible for reviewing the bridge’s design.

Tests Were Being Performed at Time of Collapse

The brand-new pedestrian bridge wasn’t even officially open when the collapse occurred. All of the victims were on the roadway below. Inspectors had noticed some cracking a few days earlier, but said the cracks were not a safety issue. According to the complaint, stress tests of the bridge were being conducted on the morning of the collapse. Workers adjusted the bridge’s tension rods, a delicate process which can become problematic if a rod is over-tightened or made too loose.

Had traffic been re-routed during these tests, the injuries and fatalities could have been avoided. Further, a March 13 voicemail left by the bridge project’s lead engineer for an official of the Florida Department of Transportation, reveals the engineer’s comments about visible cracks in the bridge. According to the lawsuit, the engineer didn’t seem overly concerned with the cracks.

In addition to the pending civil lawsuit, the Miami-Dade Police Department is launching a criminal investigation into the matter.

What Causes a Bridge to Collapse?

Bridge failure can occur for myriad reasons. Some of the most common include:

  • Design defects
  • Improper construction materials
  • Inadequate maintenance
  • Inadequate inspections

Continue reading

A two-year-old girl was killed in a tragic accident inside a Payless ShoeSource store last week. Ifrah Siddique was crushed when a large mirror fell as she was trying on shoes. The child was rushed to the Southern Regional Medical Center, but died from her injuries.

This tragedy calls into question the legal responsibilities of stores and other businesses, as well as the legal rights of those who are injured on their premises. Sadly, serious injuries and deaths in retail stores occur with relative frequency. Stores and other businesses open to the public often have heavy foot traffic, leading to an increased risk of something going wrong, eventually. Usually these incidents are minor, but not always.

Add frequent moving and re-arranging of displays and other heavy items to the inherent hazard of heavy foot traffic, and the risk of slip and fall accidents, traumatic brain injuries and death increases dramatically. Although minor accidents are sometimes difficult to predict – or prevent – serious injuries and fatal accidents should never occur. But they do. If you are injured due to a store’s negligence, a Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed.

Who is Liable?

Patrons of retail stores and other businesses open to the public have legal rights protecting them from harm. When a patron or guest is injured, property owners can be liable under the theory of premises liability. In many cases, the property owner and business owner are two different parties. Because there may be multiple parties involved, determining liability can be a complex process. The property owner may be entirely off the hook if the injury was a result of negligence on the part of the business itself, or its employees. In some situations, all three are liable. And if an outside vendor was involved, things can become even more complicated.

When negligence – whether on the part of the property owner, business owner, employees or outside vendor, or any combination thereof – results in a patrons death, the family may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties. A MA wrongful death attorney can help you recover damages if you have lost a loved one due to another’s negligence.

Premises Liability in MA

If a property owner owes you a legal duty of care and breaches that duty, you may be able to recover compensation for any injury or damage that results. That being said, whether you are entitled to compensation – and the level of that compensation – will be dependent on multiple factors. Why you were on the property is one of the most important factors.

  • Customers and others invited onto a property for the purpose of doing business are classified as invitees under MA law. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care.
  • Under MA law, friends and others who are invited onto a property for the purpose of a casual visit are classified as licensees. The duty of care owed to them is intermediate.
  • Trespassers are, of course, owed the lowest duty of care.

Continue reading

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally-occurring fiber commonly used in building for decades. Before the dangers of asbestos were known, construction workers and other professionals often spent hours working with this toxic substance every day. As mesothelioma is a particularly slow-growing form of cancer, it’s not uncommon for people who were exposed more than 30 years ago to just now be diagnosed with the disease.

Mesothelioma begins as small tumors that form on the lining of the abdomen or lungs. Symptoms don’t usually become apparent until the tumors begin to press against the abdominal cavity or chest wall, which usually occurs around state III or IV.

In addition to slow growth, mesothelioma is commonly overlooked or misdiagnosed because its symptoms often mimic those of less serious conditions. Initial symptoms may include pain in the chest or abdomen, shortness of breath, dry cough, and bloating.

Most Common Mesothelioma Signs and Symptoms

If you ever worked with asbestos and have developed any of the following symptoms, it may be in your best interest to speak with your doctor as soon as possible. Of course, all of the symptoms below can be related to other, less serious conditions. But when it comes to your health, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  • Wheezing
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal distention
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Hernia
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pleural effusion (when fluid forms around the lungs)
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty swallowing

In most cases, mesothelioma is first detected by accident through a routine blood test or X-ray. Anyone who worked with asbestos for an extended period of time should inform their physician and request cancer screenings to improve the chances of an early diagnosis. If you have developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, a MA work injury attorney can help you recover damages for your injuries.

Misdiagnosis

There are two main types of mesothelioma – pleural and peritoneal. Pleural affects the lining of the lungs, whereas peritoneal affects the lining of the abdomen. Both types of mesothelioma are frequently misdiagnosed. The pleural form is commonly misdiagnosed as COPD, pneumonia, or a bronchial infection, while doctors often think the peritoneal form is irritable bowel syndrome or ovarian cancer.

Is Mesothelioma a Work Injury?

In most cases, an individual’s asbestos exposure occurred at work, years ago. As such, resulting injuries are work injuries. Most work injuries are covered by workers’ compensation, but mesothelioma is typically an exception. Since symptoms of this deadly cancer often fail to show up until 20 or 30 years after exposure, few people still work at the employer responsible for their exposure. Many of these employers don’t even exist anymore. This is why it is so critical to obtain legal counsel as soon as possible. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure. Continue reading

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that used to be a key component of many industrial and construction products. Unfortunately, asbestos also happens to be highly-carcinogenic.

Mesothelioma is a slow-growing type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Although this carcinogenic substance has been mostly-banned since the early 1980s, exposure is still possible.

Even people who haven’t worked with asbestos in decades can be at risk of asbestos-related disease. In fact, symptoms of mesothelioma can take up to 40 years to appear. For many people, the diagnosis comes too late.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, what are your options? With diagnoses often coming decades after exposure, what is the statute of limitations on mesothelioma lawsuits? A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

How Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is only caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos has long been used for its fire-retardant properties. When microscopic particles of asbestos are released into the air in the form of dust, they can be inhaled, becoming lodged in the lungs or digestive system. These particles can lead to inflammation of the lungs or abdomen, leading to chronic health problems or mesothelioma.

Before the dangers of asbestos were widely known, it was used in everything from brake pads and cement to electric ovens and hotplate wiring. Asbestos exposure is still common in shipyards, oil refineries, power plants, auto repair shops, and in sites involving the construction or demolition of buildings built prior to 1980.

MA Follows the General Tort Statute of Limitations

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you must file a lawsuit within a certain amount of time. This is known as the statute of limitations. Although this time period varies from state to state, Massachusetts does not have a statute of limitations specific to asbestos-related illnesses. As such, the statute of limitations for mesothelioma lawsuits in MA follows the general tort statute.

The general tort statute holds that a lawsuit must be filed within three years of the cause of action, which – in this case – would be the plaintiff’s diagnosis of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease. If the individual dies of mesothelioma, the three year statute of limitations would begin on the date of death, or on the date the heirs should have known about their loved one’s diagnosis, whichever comes first. A MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

As stated above, mesothelioma symptoms may not appear for decades. As such, if you worked with mesothelioma in the past, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor, even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Pain or pressure in the chest, especially under the ribs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing, especially if painful
  • Strange lumps under the skin on your chest
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Strange lumps in the abdomen

Continue reading

Moments after being reprimanded by one of his professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 25-year old Han Nguyen committed suicide. Nguyen had been struggling with depression, according to his attorney, but the prestigious university failed to get him the treatment he required. Could MIT be liable for a student’s suicide?

Universities across the nation are watching this legal battle unfold, with baited breath. A decision against MIT would likely cause alarm in institutions of higher education. Critics believe that such a decision would put an unfair burden on employees who are not trained to detect potentially-suicidal students. But Nguyen’s family claims that officials at the university knew of his suicide risk and did nothing to help. According to court records, a professor told colleagues to pass Han or they might end up with “blood on their hands,” and he was “read the riot act” moments before committing suicide for an allegedly-inappropriate email he had sent.

According to MIT, the school was unaware of the severity of Nguyen’s condition because he was receiving treatment by outside professionals. In fact, he had refused on-campus treatment.

“Mr. Nguyen’s suicide was a tragedy. That does not warrant a legal conclusion that MIT or any individual associated with MIT had a legal duty to prevent it”

We will continue to monitor this case and have blog updates once the court rule on this important issue.

Could a Decision Against MIT Have Unintended Consequences?

Harvard and Boston College, along with 16 other colleges and universities, have voiced concerns that a decision in favor of Nguyen’s family could have harmful consequences. Fearing liability, untrained professors and other staff might overreact to situations concerning students’ safety, resulting in a reluctance among students to report their problems. Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, thinks their concerns are valid.

“To the extent that you heighten every resident assistant’s sensitivity to the risk of suicidality, with the threat of liability hanging over them, they are far more likely to over predict, over intervene, see it where it’s not,” said Appelbaum.

Did MIT Fulfill its Duty to Provide Reasonable Care?

But supporters of Nguyen’s family think these concerns are invalid. According to the family’s attorney, they only wish to affirm that the duty to provide a reasonable level of care ““extends to the ivory tower as it does every other civilized corner of the Commonwealth.”

In 2005, a MA judge ruled that an MIT dean and housemaster were not responsible for the death of a student who set fire to herself on campus. However, Elizabeth Shin’s case was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount. A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

MIT has refused to respond to questions about the Nguyen case, but said in a statement that it “remains committed to the well-being of its students, offering a robust network of support resources, including comprehensive mental health services.” Continue reading

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

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