November 15, 2013

One Indiana Man Killed, Two Injured in a Steel Mill Accident

Recently, an iron worker from Valparaiso was killed and two others were injured in an accident at the ArcelorMittal Steel West Indiana Harbor. The 39-year old victim was a contract iron worker associated with Iron Workers Local 395 in Merryville. Details about the accident remain unclear, but the victim allegedly died of blunt force trauma near the steel mill's oxygen furnace caused by a falling metal plate. The other two workers -- also contract iron workers -- were transported to a hospital in East Chicago with injuries that were not considered life threatening.

worker-1-week-169773-m.jpgArcelorMittal personnel, along with United Steel Workers, the East Chicago police, and the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration are all currently investigating the situation. They will see whether any corrective measures need to be taken. The victim is survived by a wife and three children.

In situations where a worker is injured during the course of employment, the worker usually receives workers compensation payments until he or she can return to work. That is because most states (including Indiana) require that employers carry workers compensation insurance; if an employer complies, then injured workers are required to accept workers compensation payments and waive their right to file a lawsuit. In some respects, this arrangement benefits the workers, who can collect payments, in most cases, regardless of fault and without having to pay the expenses of litigation.

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November 6, 2013

Indiana Bar Owner and Bar Tender Charged With Serving Alcohol to Underaged Drinkers Before Their Deaths

The owner of a bar in Armstrong County and his bartender waived their right to preliminary hearings and will likely file pleas in a case where they have been charged with serving alcohol to minors. Larry Pompelia, owner of The Final Score Saloon, and Karly Ann Good, the bartender, allegedly served three men who were younger than the legal age, prior to their pickup truck plunging into a pond, resulting in their deaths.

beer-glass-1252046-m.jpgThe three friends, who were 19 and 20 years of age, were headed to a party when the 19-year old driver became disoriented while driving his truck up a steep hill, which then overturned in a muddy overflow pond, just after midnight. Pompelia and Good were later charged with two misdemeanors for selling alcohol to minors. Pompelia waived a hearing on separate charges involving tampering with evidence, where Pompelia allegedly erased video footage that showed the three men drinking at The Final Score Saloon.

Both Pompelia and Good may have plea bargain deals in the works that would allow at least one of them to be admitted into Indiana's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for non-violent first-time criminal offenders. Those enrolled in the program do not need to enter a guilty plea, and whoever successfully completes the probationary period can petition to have his or her record expunged.

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October 30, 2013

Federal Judge Permits Kentucky Product Liability Class Action Suit to Move Forward in Naiser v. Unilever United States, Inc.

A federal court in Kentucky recently allowed a class action lawsuit to move forward against Unilever United States, Inc. (Unilever), LEK, Inc. (LEK), and Conopco, Inc. (Conopco) in Naiser v. Unilever United States, Inc. The case involves a hair product sold as Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30 Day Smoothing Kit.

hair-care-2-189882-m.jpgKentucky residents argue that they purchased the hair product from different retail stores across the state, based on representations that it was not a chemical relaxer, that its effects would not last beyond 30 days, that it did not have any formaldehyde, and that it was overall a safe product. In fact, the representations were false, in that the hair product actually contained a toxic mixture that caused major hair loss, scalp burns, and other harmful effects. The residents further argue that there was absolutely no warning that they could be at risk for such problems. Naiser, the named plaintiff, spent $10 on the initial product and then $2,000 on conditioners and haircuts after she began experiencing breakage and hair loss. Although the product was recalled in May 2012, the plaintiffs in the class action suit argue that Unilever continues to claim that the product was safe, and that it was recalled due to consumer misuse. The plaintiffs claim that Unilever, LEK, and Conopco manufactured, distributed, and promoted an unreasonably dangerous product.

Unilever and Conopco then filed motions to dismiss under 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Chief Judge Joseph McKinley of the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Kentucky reviewed the claims in the case of Unilever only. He first looked at the argument that the Kentucky plaintiffs had failed to pinpoint the exact affirmations of fact or promise made that the product was safe. He found that the product's packaging, which promoted it as a "smoothing" product rather than a chemical relaxer, did amount to an affirmation of fact. He also found that an affirmation of fact or promise was made regarding how long the product would last: the packaging is described as a "30 Day Smoothing Kit," and that the smoothing lasts "up to" 30 days. Finally, Judge McKinley found that the plaintiffs pled enough facts to indicate that the defendant misled them into thinking the product was safe.

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October 23, 2013

Three People Die in Indiana After Their Truck Collides With an Oncoming Train

Recently, three people died in Vigo County, Indiana after a train crashed into their truck as they tried to cross the tracks. The three Illinois natives were 30, 24, and 20 years old respectively.

railway-tracks-1428076-m.jpgThe accident occurred around two o'clock in the morning, when a northbound train struck the vehicle at the intersection of Gallagher Road and Rio Grande. Vigo County Sheriff's deputies later found that two of the individuals had been ejected and pinned under the truck. Now the question is what caused the accident.

Authorities have noted that the flashing lights and gates were working at the time of the accident. Some evidence has been found that the truck was traveling at a high speed, and containers of alcohol were found in the vehicle. While it is too early to determine whether alcohol was an important factor, authorities have already determined another one, which is that none of the individuals was wearing a seatbelt. Further investigation, including from the train's black box, will reveal whether the train engineer bears any responsibility for the collision.

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October 15, 2013

Jury Selected for Case Involving an Indiana Police Officer Who Killed a Motorcyclist While On Duty

A jury has been selected in Fort Wayne, Indiana for a trial involving a state police officer accused of crashing into two motorcycles with his car while intoxicated.

crash-car-1-748020-m.jpgIn 2010, while rushing to help catch a suspect, David Bisard of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department slammed his police cruiser into a pair of motorcycles, killing one rider and injuring two others. He had allegedly been driving on East 56th Street at speeds as high as 73 miles per hour, and his blood alcohol level was later found to be .19, more than twice the legal limit.

Since then, Bisard has been charged with six felony counts, including operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level higher than .15. He was suspended from the police department, although attempts to have his driver's license suspended were unsuccessful.

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October 2, 2013

University of Kentucky Tries to Dismiss Medical Malpractice Suit By Man Who Claims He Was Misdiagnosed With HIV Eight Years Ago

A Kentucky man has filed a lawsuit against the University of Kentucky Medical Center, claiming that the medical staff misdiagnosed him with HIV back in 2004. The University of Kentucky has requested that the Fayetteville Circuit Court dismiss the case.

hospital-1031747-m.jpgIn 2004, Bobby Russell went to the University of Kentucky emergency room with symptoms including a sore throat, fever, and open sores and wounds. After undergoing testing, Russell was diagnosed with HIV and started on an antiretroviral medication that seemed to suppress the illness. The only problem was that in 2012, Russell underwent more testing at Bluegrass Care Clinic, an infectious disease and HIV/AIDS clinic that is affiliated with the University of Kentucky's medical school. There, he learned that he did not have HIV.

Russell argues that none of the University of Kentucky Medical Center's staff ordered the full spectrum test for HIV, and thus did not take reasonable care. Meanwhile, the University of Kentucky's spokesmen argue that proper testing was conducted back in 2004, and that using proper testing techniques, Russell was properly diagnosed with the HIV virus. The University of Kentucky Medical Center took every precaution to ensure that Russell's illness did not progress. The University of Kentucky also asked for the court to dismiss the Medical Center and Bluegrass Care Clinic from the case because the Kentucky Supreme Court had established that the university was entitled to sovereign or government immunity from medical malpractice claims.

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September 30, 2013

Two Recent Indiana Fatalities Highlight the Risks of Riding a Motorcycle

Motorcycles can be a great way to travel, but the risks of injury and death are also much higher than with larger vehicles. According to national statistics, motorcyclists are 35 times more likely to experience a deadly accident than drivers of cars, accounting for approximately 13% of all roadway fatalities. Passengers on a motorcycle are 5.5 times more likely to die than passengers in a car or truck. The leading cause of death is head injury, and riders are 40% more likely to die if they are not wearing a helmet.

speed-of-motorcycle-1016169-m.jpgA couple of motorcycle crashes in Indiana over the past month highlight these grim statistics. A few weeks ago, a Plymouth, Indiana, woman died after a motorcycle crash on northbound Interstate 65, near Crown Point. The 55-year old woman was a passenger while her husband drove the motorcycle. As her husband was changing lanes, the motorcycle struck an area of road that was uneven because of recent repaving, and lost control of the motorcycle. The motorcycle flipped over and both husband and wife flew over the barrier cables, into the median. The wife died at the scene, while the husband was airlifted to a hospital in Crown Point and later to a hospital in Oak Law, Illinois with severe injuries. Authorities claimed that signs were in place notifying drivers of the roadway conditions. There is no word as to whether the husband failed to see the signs, or drove in a manner that was reckless or unreasonable.

Recently, another motorcycle passenger died after a collision with a pickup truck. The 27-year old woman was riding with her boyfriend southbound on State Road 135, with the boyfriend allegedly passing other vehicles in a no-passing zone. At a hill crest, they encountered the pickup truck, which was northbound. The boyfriend swerved to avoid hitting the truck, losing control of the motorcycle in the northbound lane. The pickup truck likewise tried to avoid the motorcycle, but wound up hitting the woman before hitting a nearby tree. Neither the woman nor her boyfriend were wearing motorcycle helmets, and the woman died at the scene. Her boyfriend was taken to a hospital for toxicology screening, while the truck driver was taken to a local hospital for neck and back pain.

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September 23, 2013

Two Kentucky Men Killed After Pulling Over to Help Those Involved in a Car Accident

Recently, a scenario that one never hopes to see happened: two good samaritans were killed while trying to help other people injured in a car accident.

car-accident-1-774604-m.jpgThe accident took place in the morning on Interstate 64 Westbound near Shelbyville. Two semi-trucks got into an accident with multiple passenger cars, though none suffered injuries. After they pulled over to the side, two drivers who witnessed the accident came by and offered to help. They pulled their cars over to the shoulder to the left of the fast lane, and within moments of getting out, were struck by an approaching semi-truck. The semi-truck was allegedly trying to avoid the accident when it veered to the left, struck the guard rail, and ran along the shoulder.

In a situation like this, it is difficult to sort out who is the most at fault. Kentucky has a law known as the "Good Samaritan Law" (KRS 411.148) that offers protection to those who attempt to administer aid to someone in distress. However, it only extends to those who are already licensed to deal with emergency situations (such as nurses), and who administer the treatment without expecting compensation. Furthermore, the Good Samaritan Law protects the good samaritan from liability only, should the treatment go wrong. It does not give the good samaritan the right to make a claim if he or she gets injured while offering emergency aid. In general, an individual has no duty to rescue other individuals in distress unless that person is an emergency worker or a common carrier with a duty to rescue its patrons.

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September 16, 2013

Indiana Woman Dies After Speeding Car Crashes Through Metal Fence, Lands in Lake George

A woman died recently in Hobart, Indiana, after crashing her car through a metal gate and landing in Lake George.

lake-george-211920-m.jpgWitnesses who travelled behind the woman, 83 years old, noticed that she was speeding and driving erratically as she traveled down Route 130 and Route 51. She would weave in and out of traffic, and racing through red stoplights at up to 60 miles per hour.
At some point after the woman reached downtown Hobart, she "went airborne" at the top of a hill and her car smashed through a metal gate that separated the town from Lake George. Her car eventually landed in the lake, 50 feet from the edge, where the water was 10 feet high. Witnesses dove into the murky lake after her and spent 10 minutes working to pull the woman out, during which time they sustained injuries from broken glass. The Hobart Fire Department treated her at the scene and she was then transported to St. Mary Medical Center, where she later died. Lake County divers also spent more than one hour working to pull the car from the lake.

Despite her erratic driving, the woman managed to avoid causing injuries or fatalities. One witness speculated that her behavior might have been due to a medical condition, or possibly due to a broken accelerator. The age and condition of her vehicle prior to the crash is unknown.

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September 10, 2013

Two Missouri Men Killed in a Speed Boat Accident on Kentucky's Lake Cumberland

This past weekend, two men from Missouri were killed in a speed boat accident in southern Kentucky. They were driving a high-powered speed boat on Lake Cumberland when, unexpectedly, the boat flipped over, throwing both men into the water. Their bodies were retrieved one hour later. Investigators attributed the accident to driver error.

The driver apparently was new to boat-water-trail-1343298-m.jpgspeed boating and was described by friends as an enthusiast. The two men were participating in an event known as the Lake Cumberland Power Run, which supposedly combined "the raw fury of over 150 of the country's meanest and fastest powerboats with the fun and energy of Mardi Gras." Yet the driver's inexperience may have led him to underestimate the potential speed of the boat he was powering. A Kentucky Fish and Wildlife investigator noted that the boat's top speed may have been as high as 100 miles per hour. When both men were ejected, the driver suffered blunt force trauma to the head, while the other man suffered blunt force trauma to his abdomen and lower extremities.

Despite the deadliness of boat accidents, not nearly as much attention is given to boat safety as car safety. In Kentucky, someone operating a boat unsupervised is required to get an education certificate in boat safety only if that person is between the ages of 12 and 17 and only if the motorized boat has more than 10 horsepower. The state's DMV encourages those who don't fall within the age range to get an education certificate anyway, but does not require it. Therefore, a Kentucky resident of the driver's age, with his level of experience, would not be required to obtain any sort of training prior to operating a high-speed boat. Instead, the only requirement is that the boat must be registered.

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August 29, 2013

Kentucky High School Football Player Back at Practice After a Serious Car Accident

This fall, Somerset High School in Somerset, Kentucky will welcome back their tight end/defensive end, Jacobi Gilmore, who was involved in a serious car accident the previous year.

football-1-645083-m.jpgIn October 2012, Gilmore and his Briar Jumpers teammate, Will Hinton, got into the accident when their car collided with a tractor trailer while pulling onto East Kentucky 80 after football practice. Hinton, the driver, suffered a broken pelvis, while Gilmore suffered a concussion, brain bleeding, a broken jaw, separated shoulder, and a collapsed lung.

Hinton, then a senior in high school, saw his football career come to an end. He spent two months in a wheelchair and was absent from school for four months while he rehabilitated. While he missed football, he found it tougher to be out of his school routine and away from his friends. Gilmore, meanwhile, spent two weeks in a Lexington Hospital and was absent from school until January. The accident caused him to lose more than 40 pounds, and a lot of strength. However, Gilmore managed to go through rehabilitation and strength training, eventually packing 235 pounds on his six-foot-four frame.

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August 22, 2013

University of Kentucky May Be Part of Woeful Trend of Failing to Hold Doctors Accountable

USA Today investigation found a disturbing lack of accountability for doctors nationwide, and Kentucky is likely no exception. The investigation found that state medical boards allow doctors to keep practicing medicine even after findings of serious misconduct. From 2001 to 2011, as many as 6,000 doctors had clinical privileges restricted or were barred from practicing in certain hospitals, but retained unblemished licenses. Of the 800 doctors with the most malpractice actions, fewer than one in five faced license suspension or restriction.

operation-1389104-m.jpgThe University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center may be among those who should take a closer look. One recent article noted that although the University of Kentucky ranks high on the list of U.S. News and World Report, it has fared badly on other lists related to patient care. Consumer Reports gave Chandler Medical Center just a 47 out of 100 for patient safety, as well as low marks for surgical complications. Likewise, the Leapfrog Group, a hospital safety group, gave Chandler Medical Center a "C" compared to the higher grades it gave other area hospitals, like St. Joseph East.

One reason for Chandler Medical Center's failings is its policy of nondisclosure. For instance, it recently filed a lawsuit against a medical reporter who submitted an open records request. If no one on the outside knows how serious its problems are, no one can hold it sufficiently accountable. The situation is such that one family was advised to get treatment at the University of Michigan, due to its policy of full disclosure and thus its superior care. Chandler Medical Center's lack of disclosure may be traced to decisions by the hospital's board of trustees, rather than federal privacy laws or other claims.

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August 15, 2013

Kentucky Law Enforcement Officials to Participate in the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" Campaign

Car accidents are the leading cause of death in the United States. Kentucky law enforcement officials are trying to do something about that, at least where drunk driving is concerned. Kentucky State Police, Louisville Metro Police, and other metropolitan police agencies are combining with the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety for the campaign "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over." The campaign runs until after Labor Day.

police-car---louisville-kentuc-240373-m.jpgThe "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign is part of a nationwide crackdown on drunk driving. In 2012, Kentucky alone experienced 5,750 car accidents related to alcohol, which resulted in 3,000 injuries and 146 deaths. During last year's Labor Day weekend alone, 388 were injured and nine killed, with two of the deaths directly linked to alcohol.

Kentucky law enforcement officials therefore have a multi-pronged plan for combating alcohol abuse this year. One part will be to stage a comprehensive advertising campaign about the dangers of drunk driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving have set up a booth at the 4th Street Live news conference to discuss problems like underage drinking. Both Yellow Cab and the Transit Authority of River City have agreed to advertise on vehicles that travel around Louisville.

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August 8, 2013

Kentucky Nursing Home Patients Are Moving to Ohio Due to a Shortage of Beds

An unfortunate trend is taking place that speaks poorly of Kentucky nursing home care: the state's nursing home population is moving out of state, to Ohio.

im-still-mobile-1114180-m.jpgKentucky nursing homes suffer a shortage of beds, forcing elderly residents to move north of the Ohio River. The result has been that Ohio taxpayers end up shouldering the cost of Kentucky residents covered by Medicaid, which pays for only 60% of their care. That means that Ohio residents might pay up to $6 million each year. Statistics show that as many as 90% of elderly Kentucky Medicaid patients left the state in 2011, a number that is likely to increase.

Beds are limited in Kentucky nursing homes due to a state mandate that nursing homes undergo a "certificate of need" process, designed to keep Medicaid costs low and ensure that supply is on par with demand. However, the actual result of this practice has been that many Kentucky nursing homes have far fewer beds than people who need them. Three counties in northern Kentucky have only 1,500 beds certified for Medicaid patients, compared to four counties around Cincinnati, which have 12,000 beds for Medicaid patients. Ohio does not require a certification process.

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May 10, 2013

Children on Summer Vacation can Mean More Injuries on Amusement Rides

The June 2007 amusement park accident at Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville that severed a young girl's feet brought national attention to the safety of amusement park rides. Ever since the accident, her parents have been lobbying the federal government for stricter control over amusement park rides. However, even if laws are passed requiring more oversight of the nation's theme parks, it may not cover some of the other rides that kids encounter.

There are basically three types of amusement rides. "Fixed rides" are those found in amusement parks. They are built on a particular site and never move. "Mobile rides" are taken to carnivals and festivals for a week or two, then are partially disassembled and moved to another location. The last category is "mall rides," which is fairly self-explanatory. These smaller rides are sprinkled throughout malls and grocery stores as entertainment for kids who have been dragged along on a shopping trip. The last two categories of rides are generally tamer than those found at permanent amusement parks, but they can still lead to injury.

One of the leading causes of injuries on mobile rides is the very fact that they are mobile. The constant taking down and putting back up allows for plenty of opportunities for something to be incorrectly installed. It also creates additional wear and tear on certain components of a ride. Mall rides, which are generally geared toward very young children are dangerous simply because they seem so safe. Unsuspecting parents may put their child on a ride without even noticing there is no safety belt to keep the child in place or realizing that their child will hit a very hard floor if they do fall off.

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