Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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In a blog post earlier last month, we addressed a speedway crash that occurred at a prominent Kentucky speedway. As a local news report reiterated, the young man was celebrating his birthday at the speedway when something went awry and an accident occurred. He was lift flighted to a medical center, where he eventually passed away.

daytona-track-779675-m.jpgEven after all this time has passed, the raceway has been unable to provide any insight as to how or why the crash occurred. The family has been attempting to garner the assistance of witnesses who may be able to provide support in the investigation. To further complicate the investigation, no law enforcement agency was called to the scene of the accident following the crash.

Establishing Premises Liability against Speedways and Amusement Parks
In Kentucky, owners of a public property, high-thrill activiy, or amusement park may be held liable for accidents and injuries that occur on their property. It is the duty of the amusement park to maintain its property and ensure that it is safe for those who are utilizing its property or services. The property owner does not only need to correct any safety dangers that it knew about but is also liable for dangers that it should have known about.
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The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded a case to district court because of an evidence-rule violation. A woman brought a wrongful death action on behalf of her husband. She claimed that her husband developed lung cancer because of his addiction to cigarettes. She brought a suit against the manufacturer of the cigarettes.

untitled-1391828-m.jpgApparently, the defendants discovered evidence that the plaintiff’s husband was addicted to alcohol in addition to cigarettes. The plaintiff filed a motion in an attempt to exclude the evidence of her husband’s alcoholism. She focused on the expert’s report and his opinion that additional data was needed to determine the cause of her husband’s death and any relationship his alcoholism had to his cancer. Her motion was granted by the judge.

The plaintiff was awarded a large settlement. However, the defendants appealed the decision and claimed that evidence of the plaintiff’s husband’s alcoholism should not have been excluded. The court found that under Federal Rule of Evidence 403, the evidence of the plaintiff’s husband’s alcoholism was “highly probative and did not cause a high amount of unfair prejudice.” The court remanded the case for a new trial.
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Early this week, a Kentucky forklift operator was involved in a fatal workplace accident. A local newspaper reported that the woman was only employed with her employer for approximately two weeks when the accident occurred. An investigation has yielded information indicating that some part of the machinery malfunctioned, which resulted in the accident. Employees who witnessed the accident explained that the woman was operating the forklift in the driver’s position when it continued to move upwards, eventually decapitating her. Sadly, the woman was only in her 20s, and she was the mother of a young child. The company explained that it is still investigating the accident.

forklift-1-1125238-m.jpgManufacturer Liability

In many personal injury cases, individuals are not only injured by the negligence of an individual person but by a defect in a product or part of a product. In the above case, the victim may pursue her company for negligence, but she may be able to bring a suit against the manufacturer of the forklift that malfunctioned as well, or her company may choose to do so.

In Kentucky, product liability follows the rules and regulations put forth by the Kentucky Product Liability Act. Individuals or their representatives may bring a suit for product liability if they are injured, or if it results in their death or damage to their property. The suit can be based on things such as the design, manufacture, and assembly of the product.
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Late last month, a teen was hit and killed by an ambulance in Knox County. A local news syndicate reported that the young man had just began high school before the tragic accident occurred.

ambulance-1334533-m.jpgApparently, the young man was spending time with his friends riding his bike on the median on US 25, near Corbin. At the same time, an ambulance was driving a patient to the hospital down US 25. The report explained that at some point and for an unknown reason the ambulance went off the road and hit the young man and two of his friends, who were also riding their bikes.

Two of the victims were taken to Baptist Regional Medical Center in Corbin. Sadly, the other young man was declared dead at the scene of the accident. He was only 14 years old, and his family had only recently moved to Corbin.
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An assistant coach for Catholic University’s basketball team recently died in Kentucky while on a charity bicycle ride from Baltimore, Maryland to Portland, Oregon. The 24-year-old woman was struck and killed by a truck in Scott County, just outside of Lexington.

bicycle-crossing-sign-1431139-m.jpgThe woman and roughly 30 other bicycle riders had been riding cross country to raise money for the Ulman Cancer Fund. The objective was to cover 4,000 miles in 70 days. The woman had paused on the side of U.S. Route 25 to change a tire when the truck struck her. She was pronounced dead at the scene, while the riders around her suffered injuries that were not life threatening. There is no indication as to whether the truck driver stopped to aid the injured riders, or whether the truck driver was being negligent, or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Those who knew the woman praised her for her fun-loving personality and her willingness to take on challenges. She knew ahead of time that the 4,000-mile bicycle ride was going to be her greatest challenge yet, but she was prepared to see it through. She would be remembered for “her caring nature, considerable warmth, subtle sense of humor, and consistent thoughtfulness.”
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A young Indiana woman who lost her husband in a car accident, and nearly lost the child she was carrying, has recently stated that she forgave the driver of the other vehicle. In early April, she gave birth to a baby girl just hours after her husband was killed.

car-accident-671890-m.jpgOn April 6, the young couple were driving in their 1996 Buick from church services when they were slammed into from behind by an SUV driven at 92 miles per hour. The impact caused their car to veer off of the road and slam into a utility pole. The other car was driven by an off-duty police officer, James Foutch of Edgewood, who was later found to be high on the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and the painkiller hydrocodone. While Foutch escaped without serious injury, the young couple were not so fortunate. The husband died almost instantly when he leaned over his pregnant wife to shield her from the impact of the crash. The young wife held him as he took his last breath.

She was later rushed to an area hospital, where the doctors — fearing for her baby’s life – delivered the baby via Caesarian section, before rushing her to another hospital to treat her broken bones and other internal injuries. The baby and her mother were reunited one week later, with the baby healthy and suffering no damage from the accident.
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Recently a 50-year old woman from Kentucky was killed in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, after being struck by a train. At close to 10 pm at night, the woman apparently was crossing the tracks when she was struck by a northbound Norfolk Southern train near the East German Street crossing and South Mill Street. Although emergency medical personnel reached her a short time later, it was too late and the woman was soon pronounced dead.

railway-tracks-1428076-m.jpgThe tragic accident is being investigated, and early reports suggested that the woman was walking with a man on the tracks. However so far, the Shepherdstown police, the West Virginia State Police, and other law enforcement agencies have been unable to find a second victim, or information on where a second person might have gone. It is believed that no foul play was committed.

The Shepherdstown police chief issued the following warning to residents of the area: do not walk on or near the train tracks. One reason is because the trains and their cars are wider than the tracks, so even those who are not on the tracks are still capable of being struck if they are too close to where the tracks lie. Furthermore, it may be possible to misjudge the speed at which the train is approaching, especially during times of darkness. All the individual may see is a light coming closer before the fatal collision.
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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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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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1285558_injection_needle_macro_2.jpgIn 2012, hundreds of people became ill and 46 people died as a result of tainted medication. The problem was traced back to a compounding facility in Massachusetts that has since closed. Steroid injections given to people with back pain had been contaminated and caused a meningitis outbreak that affected patients in 20 states. Shortly after the source of the outbreak was discovered, the Massachusetts Department of Health started doing surprise health inspections at the other compounding facilities across the state. Their findings, released in February 2013, were surprising and a little scary.

Inspectors visited 37 of these specialty pharmacies and discovered deficiencies at all but four of them. That means there were issues at 33 of the companies. Of this number, 11 had violations so serious that at least parts of their operations were temporarily shut down. One company voluntarily surrendered its license, and the other 21 had more minor violations and were allowed to stay open. Officials were quick to point out that this is not a one-state issue; Massachusetts just happens to be the one state that did these inspections. Some states don’t even require their compounding facilities to comply with the guidelines checked by the inspectors in Massachusetts.

While none of the problems discovered were as bad as those found at the facility that caused the outbreak, it is still good that the issues were found and will be corrected. The state has dedicated funds to pay for more routine inspections of compounding pharmacies, and hopefully other states will follow in its footsteps.

Many victims of the meningitis outbreak have filed product liability lawsuits against the now-defunct compounding pharmacy, and the families of some of the victims who died have filed wrongful death claims. But because the company is no longer in business, it is unclear how much anyone would be awarded. Some of the victims may have also filed medical malpractice claims against the medical personnel that administered the tainted injections, but it remains to be seen if any of them will be held accountable.
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