December 5, 2011

Tis the Season for Kentucky Car Accidents Involving Deer

A tragic accident that began with a minivan hitting a deer on the Indiana tollway early last month ended up taking the lives of seven people and injuring three more. The minivan struck the deer, slowed down or stopped, and was hit by a semi. While the collision with the deer did not actually cause the fatalities and injuries, it triggered the rest of the event.

October, November, and December are the worst months of the year for deer accidents because the deer are breeding. Kentucky State Police state that 47 percent of all car accidents involving deer occur in these three months. The peak times of day are between 5:00 and 8:00, both in the morning and evening. A 21-year-old was driving his Chevy pickup in Christian County in Kentucky in November of this year when a deer jumped through the windshield, killing him and injuring his 14-year-old brother. The officers that responded to the accident said it occurred around 6:00 p.m.

Generally more deer are found near wooded areas, but they can appear anywhere, even in the suburbs and industrial areas. Western Kentucky counties that normally have the highest number of deer collisions include Hopkins, Henderson, Daviess and Muhlenberg. While deer populations are higher in more rural areas, which some may think would increase the number of accidents, the number of vehicles traveling in these areas are fewer, so there are not as many cars for the deer to hit. More heavily-traveled roads may be in areas with smaller numbers of deer, but the increased number of vehicles causes the collision rate to increase.

Deer accidents are frequently unavoidable, but some precautions can be taken. Pay attention to deer crossing signs. Studies have shown that posting these signs has actually decreased the number of deer-vehicle accidents. Do not become distracted by cell phones, food, radios, or other items in the vehicle; focus all your attention on the road. Use high-beam headlights when traveling in the dark. If you see one deer cross the road, slow down and allow any other deer traveling with it to cross before you proceed. Deer are usually not alone. Always wear your seatbelt. According to Kentucky State Police, most people injured or killed in collisions with deer were not properly restrained. If you hit a deer and it remains in the road, do not approach it or attempt to help it. A scared, injured deer could injure you in its attempt to get up and get away from the vehicle.

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November 28, 2011

Are Kentucky Hit-and-Run Accident Penalties Tough Enough?

Up until 2008, leaving the scene of a car or truck accident was a misdemeanor and could result in a fine between $20.00 and $2000.00 and a jail term not longer than one year. In 2006, a 14-year-old boy was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Owensboro, Kentucky. The driver was found and was sentenced to only seven months in jail.

In response to the boy's death, legislators introduced a new law, called "Eric's Law" in honor of the Owensboro victim, which makes leaving the scene of an accident with injuries or death a class D felony. The penalty for this class of felony is one to five years in jail and a fine up to $10,000, which can be reduced by $10 for every hour of community service performed. The law was enacted in 2008.

Numerous hit-and-run accidents have occurred in Kentucky since the law was put in place, including the 2008 accident that killed two young girls when the driver was trying to elude police during a traffic stop. That driver was caught and was eventually found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. One might wonder if the tougher hit-and-run penalties make a difference in deadly accidents that end in murder charges. But in the case of an involuntary manslaughter charge, or an accident that causes serious injury but not death, it can increase the defendant's jail time and fine significantly, maybe even enough to make the individual think twice about leaving the scene of an accident.

There are several reasons why someone might leave the scene of an accident. In the case of the two young girls that were killed near the University of Louisville, the driver was fleeing from police when the accident occurred. Some drivers may not want to see the damages or injuries they have caused. Others may be afraid of the legal consequences, so they flee in the hopes they do not get caught later. One reason may be how current penalties for leaving the scene of an accident compare to the penalties for drunk driving. Currently the penalty for killing someone while driving intoxicated is five to 10 years in jail. This penalty is much stiffer than the one to five years given for leaving the scene of the accident. This disparity may cause some individuals who have been drinking to flee the scene initially and turn themselves in later when they are sober. Prosecutor Ray Larson thinks the hit-and-run laws need to be even tougher to discourage people from leaving a car accident. A person staying at the scene and getting help versus leaving the scene could mean the difference between life and death for the injured person.

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November 21, 2011

Kentucky Company Found Negligent in Truck Accident

Kentucky trucking company Dunaway Timber Company has been ordered to pay $7 million in damages to the family of a Missouri man who was killed by one of their truck drivers in Yellville Arkansas. On September 3, 2008, Morgan Quisenberry was driving a tractor-trailer when it crossed the center line and hit two passenger vehicles before colliding with the cab of the victim's tractor-trailer. The victim was able to climb out of the cab, but became trapped under the burning vehicle. He died before arriving at the hospital, leaving a wife and two children.

This was not the first truck accident Mr. Quisenberry had caused. Before being hired by Dunaway, he had been in an accident while hauling hazardous materials. He had also lost his license twice for driving under the influence. While Dunaway Timber wasn't aware of these infractions because Mr. Quisenberry lied on his application, the information could have been obtained through a background search that would have taken little time and cost the company about $15.00.

While Mr. Quisenberry was not actually intoxicated at the time of the accident, he was fatigued, which can have the same effect on a person's driving ability as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He had been driving three hours longer than allowed. Laws forbid truck drivers to drive more than 11 out of 14 straight hours before taking a 10-hour break. Mr. Quisenberry knew that he had exceeded the number of hours allowed and falsified the information in his log book.

Taking all of this information into consideration, the jury determined that the driver was 25 percent responsible for the accident and the company was 75 percent responsible. How can the company be more responsible than the person actually operating the vehicle? The company hired Quisenberry without doing a background check on his driving record and sent him out only 19 days after he was hired, allegedly without adequate training. The route the company assigned to him could not be completed in less than 13 hours, well over the 11-hour driving limit, forcing him to drive while fatigued. Supervision and oversight by the company were lacking. All of these factors caused the jury to find Dunaway Timber guilty of negligent hiring and negligent supervision. The driver's smaller percentage of fault was most likely attributed to his allowing the trailer of his truck to cross over the center of the road while he was driving around a curve and falsifying the number of hours he had driven in one shift in his log book.

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November 14, 2011

Drunk Driving in Kentucky and Across the Nation Destroys Lives

The most recent Kentucky car accident involving a drunk driver to receive a lot of press was the November 11th accident that involved two University of Kentucky basketball players. Stacey Poole Jr. and Terrence Jones were riding in an SUV early Friday morning when it was struck by Scott Roseberry, a 22-year-old from Versailles, Kentucky. Mr. Roseberry stated he drank four or five beers before driving and hitting the SUV on East High Street in Lexington. Fortunately no one was seriously injured. Mr. Roseberry has been charged with DUI.

What remains to be seen in this accident is how the DUI will affect Mr. Roseberry's future. First offenders of drunk driving in Kentucky face up to 30 days in jail, fines between $200 and $500, license suspension up to 120 days, and possible mandatory enrollment in an alcohol treatment program or community service. Because Mr. Roseberry swerved into oncoming traffic and caused an accident, he could be charged with aggravated DUI, which carries stiffer penalties. Hopefully this incident will convince this young man to not drink and drive again, so he does not suffer the fate of Ivanna Villanueva, a 19-year-old college student in Miami. Ms. Villanueva was driving her car on October 2, 2001 after a night of partying at three different clubs when she rear-ended another vehicle, killing the 68-year-old driver. Her blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit and she was going 80 mph in a 40 mph zone. The teen has been charged with DUI manslaughter and may spend up to fifteen years in prison. The victim's family has also filed a wrongful death suit seeking damages. While she is currently out of prison and able to attend classes, her life has been forever changed by this tragic accident caused by her bad judgment.

On January 15, 2010, in Louisville, Kentucky, Amy Tomes drove her car the wrong way on I-65, causing a six-vehicle accident. She was driving without a valid license or insurance, and her blood-alcohol level was 0.32, four times the legal limit. One of the people involved in the crash had bruised kidneys and bleeding on the brain and had to be hospitalized. Ms. Tomes suffered numerous injuries as well. She initially pled not guilty to driving under the influence, reckless driving, wanton endangerment and assault, among other charges, but took full responsibility for the accident at the sentencing hearing, stating she couldn't remember the accident, but had seen it on TV. On November 10, 2011, the judge sentenced her to five years in prison, citing the seriousness of the accident and noting how miraculous it was that no one was killed.

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November 10, 2011

Kentucky School Bus Accident Injures Nineteen

911468_school_bus_with_child.jpgOn November 3, 2011, two school buses full of students and adults from Louisville Collegiate School in Kentucky were headed to Mammoth Cave on a field trip when one of the buses left the road and rolled over near Glasgow, Kentucky. Of the passengers aboard, 16 children and 3 adults were admitted to a hospital in Glasgow. Their injuries ranged from broken bones and cuts and bruises to a potential back and head injury. Lawrence Austin, the bus driver, stated that the trailer of a truck hit the side of the bus, causing the bus to leave the roadway and roll down the embankment. The driver of the truck did not stop and investigators initially saw no signs of collision on the bus.

Kentucky State Police completed their investigation of the bus accident and released their findings earlier this week. They did discover some white paint on the on the left side of the front fender of the bus, which confirms the bus driver's account of being hit by a white semi. The damage was so minimal the truck driver may not have even been aware that he struck the bus, so he did not stop. The search for the truck driver was called off just hours after the accident because there was no evidence of a collision found initially and the description of the truck was very limited. Kentucky State Police spokesman Jonathan Biven said searching for the truck would have been like "looking for a needle in a stack of needles."

What caused the truck trailer to veer into the other lane and hit the school bus will probably never be determined. Investigators believe the weather may have been involved because it was raining. Other factors such as the condition of the truck, the weight of the load in the trailer, and the truck driver's driving record and attention to the road will never be known since the driver did not stop and the search for the truck was called off before it was found. Charges are not expected to be brought against Mr. Austin, the driver of the bus. He has no known driving issues and the bus was recently inspected over the summer and had no mechanical issues.

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November 2, 2011

Fatal Kentucky Car Crash Lands Man in Jail for Five Years

On August 23, 2009, Bryan Lee decided to test-drive a new car. He went to Commonwealth Dodge on Preston Highway in Louisville, Kentucky with his brother and asked to test-drive a new Dodge Challenger. The two brothers left the dealership in the car with salesman Sayed Ghafoori. While driving on Fern Valley Road, Mr. Lee dramatically increased the speed of the vehicle and crashed into a Mercury Sable, killing both occupants.

During the trial, Mr. Lee showed little or no remorse until the sentencing, blaming everyone else for what happened, and he stated he was only going 60 mph, which is still above the posted 45 mph limit on Fern Valley Road. According to the vehicle's black box, which records data on the vehicle while it is being driven, the car had been going 102 mph just before the accident.

Almost exactly two years after the crash, a jury found Mr. Lee guilty of second degree manslaughter in the fatal car accident and recommended a five-year sentence for each death to run concurrently, with a possibility of parole in one year, after 20 percent of his sentence is served. On October 21, 2011, Judge Barry Willett confirmed the five-year sentence, denying the defendant's request for probation.

Both sides had differing stories regarding Sayed Ghafoori, the salesman in the car, during the test drive. Mr. Lee testified that Mr. Ghafoori had encouraged him to go faster, telling him to "hit it." In a statement released to the press, Commonwealth Dodge said "Mr. Lee was in no way encouraged to break the law by our salesman, whose life was also in jeopardy during these events, and who incurred injuries in this needless accident." Investigations into Mr. Ghafoori's background have found that he was charged with speeding six times, at one point going 34 mph over the speed limit. These findings do not make Mr. Lee any less guilty since he should have used his own common sense even if he was encouraged to speed by the salesman. However, a case could be made that the salesman is partially responsible for the accident.

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October 26, 2011

Defendants to pay $90 Million in Nursing Home Negligence Case

On October 20, 2011, a West Virginia circuit court judge upheld over $90 million of the $91.5 million in damages awarded to a man in connection to the death of his 87-year-old mother.

Tom Douglas placed his mother in the Heartland of Charleston Nursing Home temporarily in September 2009. She suffered from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and was waiting for a room to open at Heritage Center, a facility that Mr. Douglas felt was better equipped to care for her. After three weeks at Heartland of Charleston, the victim was moved to Heritage Center where nurses noticed sores and bruises on her body, and she appeared to be dehydrated. She was also unresponsive. The next day, she died in Cabell Huntington Hospital. The cause of death, the suit alleges, was dehydration.

Mr. Douglas filed a negligence lawsuit against Heartland of Charleston Nursing Home. Negligence occurs when one party does not fulfill its duty to another party, resulting in injury to the second party. In this case, the duty of the nursing home and its staff was to provide proper care to the victim, but they neglected to do so, resulting in her deteriorating condition and eventual death.

The damages award in this case is broken into two types, compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate the plaintiff for lost income, pain and suffering, and medical costs. The compensatory damages were $11 million originally in this case. Punitive damages are awarded to the plaintiff as a punishment to the defendant in the hopes that the defendant will not act in the same manner again. The punitive damages were $80 million.

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October 18, 2011

Trucking and Driving Safely on Kentucky Roads

232052_semi-truck_2.jpgA recent report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding the truck accident in which 11 people were killed brings to light again the safety issues of truck drivers and those around them. The recommendations in the NTSB report and other changes will hopefully make the roads safer for all drivers.

After a March 2010 collision in Kentucky killed a truck driver and 10 passengers in a van, NTSB began a thorough investigation of the accident. Almost 18 months later, the board concluded the accident occurred because the truck driver was distracted by his cell phone when he crossed the median and hit the passenger van. The recommendation that all commercial drivers be prohibited from using a cell phone, regardless of whether it is handheld or hands-free, while operating a vehicle, was sent to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Current rules already ban texting for commercial drivers, and a ban for handheld cell phone use for commercial drivers is expected to be ruled on this fall. The rule currently under consideration does not include hands-free calls, which may be just as distracting and dangerous as handheld calls.

Several other changes have been implemented or are being considered to help keep drivers in and around trucks safer on the road. In 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) added new regulations to make the driver of the truck more liable for both the operation and maintenance of the truck. Just as commercial carriers are graded, commercial drivers will be graded on factors including their driving abilities, accident records, and vehicle maintenance. For example, if the truck the driver is operating fails an inspection, or if the driver is involved in an accident or found to be fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it will be reflected on the driver's record. Too many negative reports can cause the truck driver's license to be suspended, effectively removing him from the roadways.

Some safety changes do not directly involve Kentucky truck or car drivers, but rather the road itself. Crossover barriers installed between highway lanes can help to stop vehicles from crossing over into oncoming traffic and causing deadly head-on collisions. These barriers do not always help, as was evidenced in the March 2010 accident mentioned above - the semi drove right through the steel cable barriers into oncoming traffic. But they have helped in other situations, and stronger types of barriers are being considered. The widening of Kentucky highways as traffic increases also makes the roadways safer for all drivers.

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October 13, 2011

Kentucky Road Fatalities Decline as Accidents Increase

Traffic accidents have increased in Kentucky in 2011, even by as much as 27 percent in some counties. Reasons for this increase could include large construction projects or more distracted drivers. Fortunately, the number of people killed in Kentucky car and truck accidents has decreased this year, as it has in the last five years. As of October 10, 2011, 549 people have been killed on the road in Kentucky, about 7.7 percent fewer than last year at this time. Although this is a positive trend, Bill Bell, director for the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety says, "The problem is people still are dying on the highways, and that's unacceptable."

So how is the number of traffic deaths decreasing while the number of accidents increases? Mr. Bell thinks the installation of cable barriers between the roadways is a big factor. These barriers keep cars and trucks from crossing over into oncoming traffic, eliminating deadly head-on crashes. Having more police cruisers parked in construction zones also appears to help by slowing down motorists through these areas that can be more congested and confusing with constantly changing barrels, cones and signs.

Individuals can make changes to their driving habits to help reduce the number of accidents and fatalities on the road. One of the most important aspects of safe driving is being focused on the road and the other drivers rather than being distracted. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says cell-phone users are four times as likely to be involved in an accident. Cell phones should not be used for texting or making phone calls unless the vehicle is pulled over and stopped in a safe location. Do not attend to pets or young children in the back seat until the car is stopped as well. Loud music and rowdy passengers can be distracting, especially for teens. Keep the volume down in the vehicle.

Eating, drinking, shaving, and applying makeup are all driving distractions.
Although this should be common knowledge, it bears repeating. Do not drive any vehicle while sleep-deprived or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These conditions not only hinder the driver's ability to control the car, but they also make the driver less aware of his surroundings and less able to react in a potentially unsafe situation.

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October 6, 2011

Eastern Kentucky Personal Care Home Closed

After years of mismanagement, Golden Years Personal Care Home in Letcher County has been closed by the state of Kentucky. Problems at the home ranged from resident neglect and abuse to theft by the home's administration. By June 2011 the home was under an emergency protection order and Linda Bell was appointed to oversee the facility. Ms. Bell reported that the home was not properly maintained and was running a deficit. The state was not able to find a new owner for the facility, so the current 27 residents are being relocated to other homes.

In 2010, the home's administrator, James Tackett, was indicted in more than 150 counts for allegedly stealing over $500,000 dollars from the home. Most of the funds to pay for personal care homes come from federal disability checks and state funding. The majority of the monthly payments are signed over to the administrator of the home, with less than $100 given to the resident for personal use. Mr. Tackett's grandson, Jonah Tackett, was also an administrator at the home and was indicted on seven counts including theft and bribing and tampering with a witness in July 2011.

The State of Kentucky has been involved with Golden Years Personal Care Home since 2007, when Tackett was accused of injuring a resident by hitting him on the head. He pled guilty and was told to resign and have no contact with the residents of the home. In 2009, the home was cited again because Tackett was still involved with the residents. The home was also put in the negative spotlight in 2007 when a resident wandered off and froze to death. The resident, who suffered from schizophrenia and had a history of leaving the home, was not reported missing by the staff for 17 hours after his disappearance. Other complaints regarding the home included a lack of clean towels and fresh milk for the residents and limited social activities.

While personal care homes, which offer less care than nursing homes, are supposed to be a positive alternative to an institution for individuals with mental disabilities, oftentimes the homes are not much of an improvement. Residents are still shut off from the outside world and homes of this type frequently do not have staff trained to handle patients with multiple or complicated issues.

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September 27, 2011

Public Access to Physician Medical Malpractice Records Removed

Since our September 9th post regarding doctors charged with medical malpractice still practicing, there has been a significant development. As a result of the Kansas City Star's article regarding Dr. Tenny's most recent medical malpractice settlement, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has removed public access to its National Practitioner Data Bank. Even though the information was presented in a way to keep the doctors and hospitals involved in the suits anonymous, journalists were able to compare the database information with medical malpractice court records to determine which entries applied to Dr. Tenny.

The National Practitioner Data Bank became aware of the Kansas City Star's intention of using the data when Dr. Tenny's attorney contacted the association. The journalist reporting the story had contacted Tenny to give him an opportunity to comment on the findings; instead he contacted his attorney. The HHS attempted to persuade the Star to not run the story by mentioning fines that could be imposed for misuse of the data bank information. The Star went ahead with the article and included the information because it was public, not confidential.

According to the spokesperson for HHS, Martin Kramer, the information may be available to the public again in the future, but it is unclear when, or in what format the data would appear. He said federal law requires that the information be confidential and it will take time to review the data and determine how to present it so that it remains confidential.

Several groups, including journalism organizations and the Public Citizen's Health Research Group, have lobbied members of Congress to have the database made available to the public again. A letter submitted by the journalists states, "Without stories written by our members, it's fair to say that some unsafe doctors would continue to be practicing with clean licenses and patient protection legislation in several states likely would not have been enacted." A letter from the Public Citizen's Health Research Group to HHS said "The continued availability of this data is crucial to patient safety and research aimed at informed public policy decisions concerning malpractice, tort reform, peer review, and medical licensing."

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September 19, 2011

Cell-Phone Ban for Commercial Drivers May Save Lives

In March, 2010, 11 people were killed in Munfordville, Kentucky when a commercial truck crossed the median and collided with a 15-passenger van. After reviewing the accident for almost 18 months, the National Transportation Safety Board Commission (NTSB) determined that the semi driver was using his cell phone at the time of the collision. The last of four calls the driver made in the 23 minutes before the accident was only connected for one second before the crash at 5:14a.m. A total of 69 calls and text messages appeared on the phone in the 24 hours leading up to the accident.

As a result of this truck accident, NTSB is recommending that hand-held and hands-free cell phone use by commercial drivers be banned, unless there is an emergency. What the states and other transportation agencies do with the recommendation remains to be seen. Chuck Wolfe, spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, suggested that the banning of cell-phone use be handled by Congress rather than by the state of Kentucky since the drivers operate in multiple states. Kentucky currently has laws that prohibit all drivers from texting while driving and drivers under 18 from any cell-phone use. NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman encourages everyone to consider eliminating cell-phone use while driving, saying, "Changing behavior can start right now, for big-rig drivers and also for the rest of us. When you are at the wheel, driving safely should be your only focus. You owe it to yourself and all the people on the road you put at risk..."

While the families of the victims in the van did not file any lawsuits because of their religious beliefs, accidents that are attributed to driver distraction can have legal consequences. Gross negligence can be charged if the driver was distracted by texting. The fact that the semi driver was operating the vehicle on only four hours of sleep could have also been a basis for gross negligence. Employers of individuals who cause accidents while using their cell phones could be liable as well. A 2002 New York Times article regarding doing business by cell phone discusses a settlement of $500,000 between Smith Barney and the family of a motorcyclist killed by one of its brokers who was on the phone when the accident occurred. The actual driver of the car was charged individually with manslaughter and pled guilty.

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September 15, 2011

Crib Standards Raised to Keep Sleeping Babies Safe

Many parents feel, and rightfully so, that their babies are safest in their cribs. They are in their own homes, unable to get into unsafe situations. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Between 1990 and 2008, over 7500 infant injuries involved cribs. As a result, new federal rules have been enacted to make cribs safer for babies.

One major culprit has been drop-side cribs, responsible for up to 32 infant deaths. The movable sides of drop-side cribs have been shown to drop unexpectedly, causing a baby to become trapped or suffocated by the crib side, or allowing an infant to fall. As of June 28, 2011 manufacturers are no longer allowed to make drop-side cribs. Although over 11 million of the cribs have been recalled, many are still in use by daycare centers and hotels, which have until December 28, 2012, to replace drop-side cribs with those with stationary sides. To see if a crib has been part of a recall, individuals can check www.cpsc.gov, www.keeping babiessafe.org, or www.recalls.gov. Parents who own a drop-side crib that was not recalled can contact the manufacturer to see if an immobilizer is available. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns that these immobilizers are not subject to the more rigorous standards, so it would be better to replace the crib.

According to the CPSC, crib manufacturers must also "strengthen crib slats and mattress supports, improve the quality of hardware and require more rigorous testing." Faulty crib slats and mattress supports can come loose, creating an opening large enough that a child could get trapped. Hardware can come loose and create an entrapment situation or a hole large enough for a child to fall.

A combination of these factors caused the death of a Kentucky infant when the plastic hardware holding the drop side of the crib broke, allowing the side to slide down and the infant to become entrapped between the side and the mattress. The 7-month-old's death in 2009 was one of 11 attributed to cribs manufactured by Simplicity, which no longer is in business. The parents of a Florida 9-month-old who died in a Simplicity crib settled a wrongful death lawsuit for an undisclosed amount in 2010.

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September 9, 2011

Are Doctors Charged with Medical Malpractice or Misconduct in Kentucky Still Practicing?

Thumbnail image for 1080174_stethoscope_1.jpgA woman who went to a neurosurgeon in Kansas to have a pool of blood removed from near her brain never went home again. Instead, she was left paralyzed on one side and wasn't able to talk as a result of a brain injury that occurred during the operation. She never regained consciousness and died after several days. Her family filed a wrongful death suit. Her surgeon, Dr. Robert Tenny, was very familiar with lawsuits, having been sued at least 16 times previously for alleged mistakes. The family's $1 million settlement is the most recent part of the $3.7 million that has been paid over the last 20 years on behalf of Dr. Tenny. Had the victim or her family been aware of the doctor's previous suits, they could have selected a different physician and avoided this tragedy.

Most doctors will be sued at least once during their practicing years, but to be sued repeatedly or have multiple misconduct issues is unusual. Indiana doctor Mark Weinberg has been sued more than 300 times by patients alleging he performed unnecessary surgeries and billed them for services he never provided. One of his victims died in 2004 after he misdiagnosed her stage four throat cancer as nasal polyps and a deviated septum. The victim's family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Weinberg and was awarded $13 million.

In Kentucky, several doctors have been accused of and disciplined for sexual misconduct. Most recently Dr. Ashok Alur was arrested for sexually abusing a patient in his office. Even after his arrest, and two more victims coming forth, Dr. Alur is still able to practice in his Crestwood office as long as a chaperone is present. Kentucky medical malpractice lawyer Charles Miller, of Miller & Falkner, who represented one of the victims, states, "It's a threat to the community at large to allow someone who's admitted to sodomizing a patient to continue practicing medicine under any circumstances."

So how does one know if a doctor has been sued for malpractice or accused of misconduct? Information available to the public varies by state.

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September 1, 2011

Second Gross Negligence Lawsuit Filed in Indianapolis Stage Collapse Fatality

The family of a 23-year-old victim, who died when a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis, has filed a lawsuit against Indiana and the companies who organized the concert, claiming recklessness and gross negligence. This suit follows another filed by the same attorneys for the family of a 42-year-old woman who was killed, and her injured partner. The first suit was filed in LaPorte County, but was moved to Indianapolis.

Gross negligence occurs when a person or entity disregards the safety of others. A party can be considered negligent even if natural causes are involved. In this case, the fair and concert organizers allegedly did not warn concertgoers of an impending storm, which caused the stage to collapse with wind gusts up to 70 mph. The attorneys filing the case also allege that the stage was not inspected and was not strong enough to withstand high winds.

If gross negligence is found, a plaintiff may be awarded punitive damages, as well as general damages. Punitive damages are different than general damages in that they are awarded to the plaintiff as a punishment to the defendant and a deterrent to acting in a similar manner in the future. The plaintiff's attorney in this lawsuit thinks $50 million would be fair compensation to the parents for the loss of their child.

Gross negligence can occur in many types of cases. An example of gross negligence in a medical malpractice case would be a doctor removing an incorrect limb or organ, or leaving a piece of medical equipment in the body during surgery. Injury or death can also be attributed to gross negligence in auto accidents. If the defendant was intoxicated or texting while driving, gross negligence may be charged. Companies can be charged with gross negligence for requiring employees to use tools that are known to be defective or for knowingly renting out faulty equipment to consumers. Professionals can also be negligent if an injury occurs when they attempt to perform their duties while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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