While rideshare apps provide quick and easy ways for people to get from place to place in and around Boston, there are unfortunately several risks and dangers that can arise for people when using these services. With the rise in popularity of rideshare apps Lyft and Uber, the number of sexual assaults reported by passengers in Massachusetts continues to rise. If you or a loved one has been sexually assaulted while using Lyft, Uber or another rideshare service, consider hiring an experienced, compassionate Altman & Altman attorney to provide you with the empathetic, quality representation that you deserve.

Uber and Lyft Lawsuits

There have been several high profile lawsuits filed against both Lyft and Uber in recent years alleging that each company failed to put reasonable safety measures in place to protect patrons. In 2019, a group of more than 30 women sued Lyft for this reason. The same year, Uber released a safety report revealing that more than 6,000 incidents of sexual assault had been reported in 2017 and 2018. In cases like these, the courts have tried to determine whether the companies could have done more to prevent the attacks to determine if they are partially at fault for the attacks.  More extensive safety measures that the companies may have taken may include a more thorough background check. A more thorough background check  may reveal  prior sexual assault convictions for someone applying to work for the service. This information could be used to help prevent or ban a driver with a previous violent conviction from mistakenly being approved to be a driver for the rideshare app.

What Measures Are These Services Taking To Increase Safety?

In response to public outcry about these attacks, both Uber and Lyft have committed to increasing and improving their existing safety standards. Some examples of these increased safety standards to combat the risk of sexual assault include:

  • In-app emergency assistance
  • Continuous background monitoring on drivers – which resulted in the removal of over 20,000 Uber drivers within just a year of implementing the practice
  • Mandatory feedback for rides that had less than a 4 star rating
  • Enhanced background checks

Even with these additional safety measures, people continue to report incidents of assault while using the services of both of these companies. Continue reading

When a loved one dies, their family members are met with the emotional burden and pain of the loss. In addition to the energy that is spent coping with the death, loved ones may also be responsible for covering funeral expenses and other financial hardships that can be overwhelming to manage. To help ease the financial strain that a death can cause, people will buy life insurance policies which can provide beneficiaries with the financial support that they need during a difficult time.

What does a life insurance policy cover?

Life insurance policies provide beneficiaries with a lump sum payment in the event that a policy holder dies. The amount that is paid out, called the death benefit, is dependent upon the amount specified in the policy. When a policy holder dies, their beneficiary will need to file a claim with the insurance company to begin the process of filing to receive the death benefit. As challenging as the task may be to file the claim, it’s important that beneficiaries submit the request as soon as possible. By filing the claim quickly, beneficiaries are closer to getting the financial security that the policy holder intended them to receive in their death.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigated the potential link between certain defective breast implants and higher instances of cancer.  In July 2019, the FDA issued a statement requesting that Allergan, the manufacturer of BIOCELL textured breast implants and tissue expanders, recall all of their BIOCELL line of products. The FDA found that people with BIOCELL implants and/or tissue expanders were six times more likely to develop breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

If you or a loved one was diagnosed with BIA-ALCL and after having BIOCELL implants and/or tissue expanders, you may be entitled to compensation for the damages that you’ve experienced. The attorneys at Altman & Altman have the experience and resources to support you. Contact us today by phone at 617.492.3000 or toll free at 800.481.6199 for a free consultation to discuss the details of your case.

Which Allergan products were recalled?

The list of Allergan products that were recalled because of an increased risk of BIA-ALCL includes:

  • Natrelle saline breast implant styles 168, 363, 468
  • Natrelle and McGhan 410 breast implant styles LL, LM, LF, LX, ML, MM, MF, MX, FL, FM, FF, FX
  • Natrelle and McGhan 410 Soft Touch breast implant styles LL, LM, LF, LX, ML, MM, MF, MX, FL, FM, FF, FX
  • Natrelle 510 Dual-Gel styles LX, MX, FX
  • Natrelle Inspira breast implants, styles TRL, TRLP, TRM, TRF, TRX, TSL, TSLP, TSM, TSF, TSX, TCL, TCLP, TCM, TCF, TCX
  • Natrelle and McGhan Round Gel Implants, styles 110, 110 Soft Touch, 120, 120 Soft Touch
  • Natrelle Komuro breast implants styles KML, KMM, KLL, and KLM
  • Natrelle Ritz Princess breast implant styles RML, RMM, RFL, RFM
  • Natrelle 150 Full Height and Short Height double lumen implants
  • Natrelle 133 tissue expanders with and without suture tabs: styles 133FV, 133MV, 133LV, 133MX, 133SX, 133SV, T-133FV, T-133MV, T-133LV, T-133MX, T-133SX, T-133SV, 133FV-T, 133MV-T, 133LV-T, 133MX-T, 133SX-T, 133SV-T
  • Natrelle 133 Plus tissue expander styles 133P-FV, 133P-MV, 133P-LV, 133P-MX, 133P-SX, 133P-SV, T-133P-FV, T-133P-MV, T-133P-LV, T-133P-MX, T-133P-SX, T-133P-SV, 133P-FV-T, 133P-MV-T, 133P-LV-T, 133P-MX-T, 133P-SX-T, 133P-SV-T

What is BIA-ALCL? 

BIA-ALCL is a form of cancer that affects the lymphatic system and develops in the scar tissue that surrounds a textured breast implant. In most cases when the cancer is caught early, BIA-ALCL can be successfully treated. If left untreated, BIA-ALCL can spread to other areas of the body and in the worst cases, can cause death.

What are symptoms of BIA-ALCL?

Some of the common symptoms of people who have BIA-ALCL include:

  • Breast asymmetry
  • Changes in breast appearance
  • Hardening of the breast
  • Lumps in the breast or armpit area
  • Swelling around the implant
  • Pain around the implant
  • Fatigue
  • Weight Loss
  • Rash or unusual itching
  • Swollen lymph nodes

These symptoms typically develop between 7 – 10 years after the product is implanted; however, some patients have reported that they developed BIA-ALCL symptoms earlier. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

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

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