Although our physical office is closed we are working from home. Do not hesitate to call or email us. Thank you and stay safe.

Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Published on:

Recently, the Supreme Judicial Court weighed whether or not an affidavit submitted by an administrator of an estate had to be based on personal knowledge. In Bayless vs. T.T.S. Trio Corp., (474 Mass. 215), the estate filed suit for a man who died after a solo car accident, which occurred after he left a restaurant bar he often frequented. The estate sought to hold the restaurant liable under the Commonwealth’s Dram Shop Act, G. L. c. 231, § 60J, which holds establishments responsible if they continue to serve alcohol to patrons when they knew or should have known the patron was intoxicated. As part of any civil action, the Act requires an affidavit to be filed within 90 days of filing the complaint. The defendant restaurant appealed the decision of the trial court, which allowed an affidavit submitted by the administrator as part of the initial pleadings. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided to hear the case under an interlocutory petition for relief.

The affidavit described the deceased’s behavior throughout his patronage of the restaurant and the evening he died. The statement was made based on information gathered from several witnesses who had witnessed his excessive drinking, which often caused him to have impaired movement and speech. Witnesses also described conversations between the deceased person and an unnamed female bartender, who would continue to serve the decedent alcoholic drinks after he was clearly intoxicated.

On the evening of his death, the decedent was witnessed drinking at 4 P.M., when he proceeded to become drunk once again. He spoke to his daughter several times, who asked him to come home to a family barbecue. The daughter also spoke to the bartender mentioned above, who tried to assure her he was fine. This same bartender later told a different patron that she was concerned about the decedent because he hadn’t eaten anything. The bartender, as was her custom, continued to serve him alcohol, and he bought and drank 12 drinks while he was at the restaurant. The daughter, during her last call to him at 9 P.M., noticed his speech was slurred. Soon afterward, he died in a vehicle crash from multiple traumatic wounds.
Continue reading →

Published on:

When medical malpractice lawsuits go to trial, both sides will likely use expert witnesses to aid in the presentation of their case. In order to recover damages in any medical malpractice case, the injured party or family of the deceased person must show that the injury was the result of the doctor, hospital, or medical staff failing to uphold their duty to follow the set standards in the industry in order to provide competent medical care. Since many injured patients were already sick when they sought treatment, it becomes necessary during trial to show the fact-finder, or jury, what ‘went wrong’ beyond the original illness of the patient. This requires specialized testimony from expert witnesses.

In Kace vs. Gants (SJC-11827), the Supreme Judicial Court reviewed whether the plaintiff’s expert witness testimony was properly disclosed under the Commonwealth’s statutes. In this case, the administratrix of a deceased patient’s estate brought suit against the Emergency Room physician who treated the patient for several symptoms that included coughing, fever, malaise, and pleuritic chest pains. The defendant doctor ordered chest x-rays, which showed no abnormalities, but didn’t order an electrocardiogram or any blood tests. The patient was diagnosed with bronchitis and given an antibiotic and pain reliever, but the doctor did not consider myocarditis, a condition that begins with respiratory issues and spreads to the heart. Records reveal that the patient was likely only examined for five minutes. The patient was found dead the following morning, and the autopsy revealed that he perished from bronchitis and myocarditis.
Continue reading →

Published on:

Recently, the appellate court of Massachusetts reviewed an appeal from the parents of a deceased delivery driver who was murdered while working for a Domino’s franchise. In the case, Lind v. Domino’s Pizza LLC (14-P-928) the parents appealed the trial court’s decision to dismiss the claims against the pizza corporation after considering its eleventh-hour motion for summary judgment. The case discusses how far liability extends and the legal concept of agency, which often plays into personal injury and wrongful death cases.

When determining whether a person’s injury or death was due to the negligence of another, the courts look at whether a duty, created by law, was owed to the person, whether there was a breach of that duty, whether the breach caused the alleged injury or death, and whether damages were incurred. Sometimes people are injured or hurt by another person who was working for a company when the injury occurred. For example, if an employee was responsible for cleaning up spills in a grocery store but failed to do so, the employee would be the immediate person responsible for any injuries sustained by a customer who slips and falls on the spill. However, the employer is also accountable for the injuries sustained because the employee was acting on behalf of the company, or as an agent.

In Lind, the question comes up about how far this logic extends as far as liability is concerned under civil law. Popular chain restaurants are often franchises, in which an individual or group purchases the rights or ability to use the logo, menu, and recipes of an established brand but holds the majority of the day-to-day responsibilities of running the store. The murdered employee worked for a franchisee of the Domino’s Pizza brand. As part of the wrongful death action, the administrator of the estate filed a wrongful death action against several parties, including the murderer and the pizza franchisor.
Continue reading →

Published on:

If you or a family member has suffered an injury while working in construction, there may be multiple legal routes to obtaining monetary relief. Typically, an injury is covered by workers’ compensation insurance held by the employer, but the injured person may also hold other parties accountable through personal injury actions. A recent unpublished Massachusetts case, Leahy v. Daniel O’Connell’s Sons, Inc. (14-P-1215), looks at suits filed by an injured subcontractor employee as well as the suits filed by his employer, all stemming from his injury. The injured worker was on a break and sitting on a pallet when a previously installed limestone panel fell on him, crushing his legs and arm. These injuries caused serious and permanent damage.

The injured worker filed a personal injury suit against the general contractor, the masonry company that was installing the limestone, the insurance company insuring the masonry, and other subcontractors on the job. The general contractor filed a third-party complaint against the injured worker’s employer and the insurance company used by the property owners to cover the general contractor and its workers. The general contractor also filed against the subcontractor and its policy, also alleging they were owed indemnification. The general contractor felt the insurance company was obligated to indemnify them in the subcontracting injured worker’s suit, since the work was part of the project covered by the umbrella insurance policy.
Continue reading →

Published on:

In Escobar vs. Universal Health Services, a Massachusetts couple’s daughter was treated at a counseling service that participated in the Medicaid program, MassHealth. The parents took their daughter, who was a MassHealth benefits recipient, to this service after she experienced behavioral problems at school. The daughter was treated by staff who had no professional license to provide mental health therapy. The parents became concerned when they began to recognize that the clinical director was not meeting with their daughter. The daughter was transferred to a different staff member, but this staff person was also unlicensed and proved to be unsatisfactory to the parents.

The third staff person held herself out to be a psychologist with a Ph.D., but was someone who trained at an unaccredited online school and was rejected for a professional license. This woman diagnosed the parents’ daughter with bipolar disorder. The daughter’s problems at school continued, and the school insisted that she see a psychiatrist in order to remain at the school. The parents relayed this to the “psychologist,” who referred her to a nurse, while calling her a doctor.

This fourth staff member then prescribed a medication called Trileptal for the purported bipolar disorder. The daughter quickly began having an adverse reaction to the drug. The daughter attempted to call the nurse for guidance, but her messages were unreturned. The daughter had a seizure a week after she took the medicine. The daughter was hospitalized, and the parents expressed their frustration at the counseling service for the lack of supervision and failure to return calls. The daughter had a second seizure a month later and died as a result.
Continue reading →

Published on:

Personal injury suits in Massachusetts that involve cancer are typically medical malpractice actions that involve a misdiagnosis or negligent care. One specific type of cancer, mesothelioma, has a unique status due to the history of employees suffering negligent and reckless asbestos exposure at the hands of their employer or a business owner. Usually those affected were employed in the construction industry or by a company that manufactures products often used in the construction business. Over the last several decades, several civil actions have been filed for those who have suffered from asbestos-related diseases. Recently, the First Circuit Court of Appeals released a precedential opinion in February that upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a suit filed by a trust that was created to assist injured employees’ claims after an asbestos-manufacturing company went into bankruptcy.

In Barraford v. Lydon, the First Circuit addressed a set of claims filed by a trust created as part of an asbestos manufacturer’s bankruptcy plan. While most companies have their liabilities discharged upon plan confirmation, the liability for the company’s asbestos exposure suits remained. The trust was formed to act as an agent for those injured by the exposure. The trust brought a suit on behalf of a group of injured employees, nearly 10 years after the claim accrued. The company claimed that the statute of limitations had run on the collective claims and moved for dismissal of the case.
Continue reading →

Published on:

With the holiday season upon workers and residents of Massachusetts, it is important to remember to stay safe when traveling to and from festivities during the holidays. Several establishments and events serve alcohol, and other drivers may become reckless by driving while intoxicated or become distracted by texting others, which are both prohibited under Massachusetts law. While it may be easy to determine that the driver of the other car should be held accountable for your injuries, it may become apparent and necessary that other people or entities should be held responsible as well.

In a civil action, the injured person, or plaintiff, must show the defendant, or the party alleged to have caused the injury, had a duty toward him or her. If a person violates this duty, and this causes an injury, he or she is responsible for damages under Massachusetts civil law. If there is no duty or link between the accident and the injury, liability does not exist. Examples of duties toward others can be found in Massachusetts statutory law. A driver has a duty to others on the roads or sidewalks to operate his or her vehicle safely. Businesses that sell or serve alcoholic beverages have a duty, known as Dram Shop Liability (Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 138, Sec. 69), to stop or abstain from serving alcohol to an intoxicated person. Likewise, a host is responsible under Social Host Liability laws (Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 138, Sec. 34) to refrain from providing an underage or intoxicated person with alcohol. Both commercial establishments and private hosts must remain vigilant about how much alcohol is being served and to whom it is served.
Continue reading →

Published on:

Assumption of the risk is a term you may have heard while participating in an activity that is either strenuous or involves an amount of danger. A company may ask you to sign a waiver of liability before you or a friend bungee jumps or rides across a zip line. Waivers of liability can also be found at gyms or participant sporting events. When death or injury happens to a participant in an athletic activity, the tragedy is amplified by the fact the injured person was attempting to enhance, not hinder, health. If injury or death occurs, questions may arise as to whether or not a signed waiver of liability can act as a complete shield to accountability in the civil justice system.

Recently, the United States District Court of Massachusetts rendered a Memorandum and Order in Angelo v. USA Triathlon, which supported a portion and denied a portion of the organization’s Motion for Summary Judgment. The deceased person was a member of a Triathlon association and signed an agreement to waive and release the liability of the organization. During the triathlon, the man died during or shortly after the swimming event. The wife filed suit on behalf of his estate and alleged that the organization wrongfully caused his death, pain and suffering prior to his death, and infliction of emotional distress as a result of the company’s gross negligence. The triathlon company moved for partial summary judgment, based on the signed waiver of indemnity agreements.
Continue reading →

Published on:

When you seek medical care in Massachusetts, you expect the procedure or treatment to help you heal. However, if a physician’s or hospital’s actions lead to medical malpractice, it can worsen prior health conditions or result in death. A 2014 Federal First Circuit Court of Appeals case, Sanchez v. United States, underlines how essential it is for you to have knowledgeable counsel at your side.

All personal injury lawsuits filed in Massachusetts must adhere to the statute of limitations, a deadline imposed by law to ensure timely claims that are not subject to memory lapses and loss of evidence. In Sanchez, a woman who had given birth to her third child through caesarean section died two days after the birth. The lawsuit initiated by her estate in Massachusetts state court sued both the obstetrician and anesthesiologist and was filed nearly three years after the death of the mother. The estate met the three-year statute of limitations under Massachusetts state law, but the doctors were federal employees and covered under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which limits the timeframe for lawsuits to two years.

In the decision, the Court explained that, while the doctors may have appeared to work for a nongovernmental agency, any doctor who works for a facility that receives federal funds is considered a federal employee. The Court also reviewed the history of the FTCA, which allows lawsuits to move forward under federal jurisdiction if they were filed within two years in the state court system. The Court of Appeals did not believe the actions taken in the lawsuit by the estate’s attorneys showed due diligence in researching the hospital and its doctor employees to determine the best course of legal action.
Continue reading →

Published on:

In Massachusetts, if someone dies due to the negligence of another, recovery for damages like lost wages, loss of companionship, and funeral expenses may be available through the Wrongful Death Act. The Wrongful Death Act allows recovery if a willful, wanton, or reckless act caused the death of a person who would have been eligible for personal injury damages if he or she had survived. If there was malicious, willful, wanton, or reckless conduct or gross negligence by the at-fault party, punitive damages may be available.

Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling in Estate of Moulton v. Puopolo, which prevented the estate of a counselor from pursuing damages under the Wrongful Death Act. The counselor was killed at a mental health clinic by a patient who had a long history of criminal acts and violent behavior. The pleadings alleged willful, wanton, reckless, and malicious conduct that constituted gross negligence by the collective defendants. The defendants included the directors of the mental health institution, psychiatric consultants involved in the patient’s admission, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the patient himself. The pleadings claimed that the directors should have known the patient’s history of violence and that the directors failed to enact policies to handle a patient with such violent tendencies. The estate left out the hospital because the hospital was the direct employer and immune from suit under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

The director defendants appealed the lower court’s decision, which refused to extend the immunity from suit extended to employers under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The court first looked at the history of the Workers’ Compensation Act, which was designed to provide quick payment for injuries suffered by employees. In exchange for quicker, more assured recovery, employees are not allowed to pursue personal injury actions against their respective employers. Employers are provided with immunity from personal injury suits so that they aren’t entrenched in time-consuming and expensive litigation.
Continue reading →

Contact Information