Compensation for Disaster Cruise Holiday

The Italian subsidiary of Carnival Cruises responsible for the Costa Concordia has offered more than 3,000 passengers who were rescued from the stricken ship 11,000 Euros (14,460 dollars/9,180 pounds) in compensation for disaster cruise holiday.

The offer has been made to reflect the cost of personal effects lost in the tragedy and also any psychological trauma that passengers may have sustained during the sinking of the ship and rescue effort. The same level of compensation for disaster cruise holiday applies to children and, in addition to the offer, the cost of the disaster cruise holiday and any transportation costs to return home will also be refunded.

Those passengers that sustained a physical injury will be assessed individually, and passengers prepared to accept the offer of disaster cruise holiday compensation can expect to receive their settlement within a week. However, the Carnival Cruises payout has attracted condemnation from some consumer groups, who have criticised the proviso that passengers accepting the disaster cruise holiday compensation offer will have to forgo any future claims against the company.

The consumer group Codacons claims that passengers should be entitled to a minimum disaster cruise holiday compensation settlement of 125,000 Euros (164,300 dollars/104,300 pounds) for each passenger, and has recommended that passengers seek professional medical advice before accepting the company´s offer of compensation for disaster cruise holiday.


UK Wind Farm Accidents Rise to Alarming Rate

Over three hundred workplace injuries due to wind farm accidents were recorded in the UK in 2009/10 according to a recent report by the wind energy industry´s trade body RenewableUK.

The figures, which brought the total number of injuries and incidents due to wind farm accidents over the past five years to 1,500, were condemned by anti-wind farm campaigners who described the statistics as “alarming”.

Campaigners were quick to point out that in addition to the high number of workplace injuries, there were many wind farm accidents which did not result in injuries – such as in September this year when a blade sheared off from a wind turbine in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, and hit a staff member´s car at the nearby Lister Hospital.

In the same month the Health and Safety Executive forced the closure of hundreds of wind turbines in Scotland due to a faulty braking system, while residents of the Cambridgeshire town of Peterborough have complained about lumps of ice being propelled from the blades of a 410 foot high turbine near their homes.

Despite claims from Chris Streatfeild, RenewableUK’s director of health and safety, that no members of the public have ever been harmed in wind farm accidents, the Health and Safety Executive admitted that it was extremely difficult to draw an accurate picture of wind farm accidents, as wind turbines are classified as machines and there is no obligation on companies to report mechanical failures.


Fatal Accident Claims in Pit Tragedy to Exceed 60 Million Dollars

The families of 29 miners who died in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia last April, are to share 47 million dollars following the latest fine to be imposed on pit owners, Alpha Natural Resources; raising the total amount paid in fatal accident claims due to the tragedy to over 60 million dollars.

An investigation into the explosion found that there was an excess amount of methane and coal dust present in the underground environment and 369 breaches of workplace safety regulations – 12 of which led directly to the explosion taking place. The company were fined a further 35 million dollars for safety violations and told to put 128 million dollars aside for safety upgrades, research and training.

The eighteen families affected by the tragedy who have already settled their fatal accident claims with Alpha Natural Resources will be entitled to receive a proportion of the fine, but those surviving workers who are yet to have their cases resolved – including nine claims for emotional distress – will have to wait a little longer for their cases to reach court.

The total amount of fines and embargos placed upon Alpha Natural Resources in this latest order (210 million dollars) is the biggest settlement recorded for a coal mining tragedy of this magnitude.


Dual Train Error Results in 36 Million Dollars Compensation

The family of Zoila Tellez, who was killed in a tragic railway accident, have had a negotiated settlement in excess of 36 million dollars for wrongful death compensation approved by an Illinois County District Court judge.

Zoila (44) of Chicago, Illinois, was travelling in a car with her husband Jose and pregnant daughter Adriana in June 2009, when the family pulled up to red lights at a level crossing just outside of the city. The train that was due to pass was a Canadian National Railways goods vehicle, which consisted of 114 freight wagons – 76 of which were tankers filled with liquid ethanol.

Due to heavy rain, a nearby retention pond had overflowed, washing away some of the ballast beneath the track and, as the Illinois Court heard, leaving the rails “hanging in the air”. The approaching train, ignorant of the hazard ahead, derailed shortly before the level crossing at which the Tellez family had pulled up, causing several of the ethanol tankers to explode and setting the Tellez car alight.

Jose and Adriana Tellez managed to escape the accident with severe burns – Adriana miscarrying her baby soon after – while Zoila Tellez was unable to get out of the vehicle and burned to death.

In two separate lawsuits following the tragedy, it was revealed that the County Sheriff´s Office had previously alerted the Canadian National Railways communication centre in Montreal about the potential hazard, but the employee who received the warning had not been trained about how to respond to the alert, and the message was never transmitted to the train driver.

Lawyers for the family also discovered that a weather alert had been sent to the company´s Edmonton office two hours before the tragedy, but the employee there had not read the full message as so many alerts were being delivered that evening. Canadian National Railways admitted that had the messages been dealt with in a prompt and efficient manner, an engineer would have inspected the track before allowing the train to proceed and would have therefore prevented the accident.

Acknowledging that the death of Zoila Tellez and the injuries to her husband and daughter were due to neglect, insurers negotiated a settlement which sees Jose Tellez receive 22.5 million dollars, while Adriana had a separate settlement of 13.75 million dollars approved by the judge.


750,000 Dollars for Family of Inmate in Wrongful Death Case

The family of a prison inmate, who died from bronchopneumonia while serving a fifteen month term for tax evasion, has been awarded 750,000 dollars compensation for wrongful death by a judge in Scranton Pennsylvania.

The claim against the United States Government was made by the widow of 63 year old Louis Thomas Faison, Jr. – a retired teacher, who had pleaded guilty to a charge of tax evasion in September 2007 and was sentenced to serve fifteen months at the Federal Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

On 1st April 2008, Louis had been sent to the prison infirmary complaining of a bad cough and generalised pain. He was examined by a physician´s assistant who diagnosed an acute upper respiratory infection and sent Louis back to his cell with a treatment to ease the symptoms of his cough.

Twenty four hours later, Louis returned to the infirmary when his condition significantly worsened. He was diagnosed with acute bronchitis, prescribed an antibiotic and returned to his cell. Less than two hours later, Faison was found unresponsive in his bed by another inmate and transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

In their claim against the government, the family alleged that the prison healthcare provider breached their duty of care towards Louis by failing to conduct a careful and comprehensive examination and by failing to perform the appropriate testing which would have revealed his condition. Their argument was supported by a medical expert, who testified that “The failure to perform a comprehensive lung evaluation and to provide emergent care to Faison … directly led to his death.”

The complaint was upheld by the judge at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and he awarded the family a compensation settlement of 750,000 dollars for wrongful death.


20.6 Million Dollar Damages Awarded for Pool Slide Death

The family of a woman who sustained horrific injuries and subsequently died after an inflatable pool slide “bottomed out” has been awarded 20.6 million dollars by a judge in Salem, Massachusetts.

Robin Aleo (29) from Boston, Massachusetts, was enjoying a day by her relative´s pool in July 2006 when she attempted to go down the slide into the pool where her husband and daughter were playing. As she approached the bottom of the inflatable slide, it “bottomed out”, causing her to hit her head on the pool decking.

Robin was taken to hospital with a fractured neck and was put on life support in a quadriplegic condition. When she showed no signs of recovery, the life support system was turned off and Robin died a short time after of her injuries.

Alleging that the slide had been faulty and failed to comply with federal standards for inflatable toys, Robin´s husband took the retailer of the slide – “Toys R Us” – to court in a product liability compensation claim.

In the Salem Superior Court, the jury agreed with argument and found Toys R Us professionally negligent in importing the inflatable slide from China and selling it – both online and in their retail outlets. After a short deliberation, the judge awarded compensatory and punitive damages totalling 20.6 million dollars to the family, stating “Although nothing can bring Robin back, this award will help provide some security for the husband and daughter who lost her.”


Wrongful Death Case Settled for 1.75 Million Dollars

A San Francisco Superior Court judge has ordered three defendants in a civil action to pay a total of 1.75 million dollars to the parents of a 21-year-old man who was shot and killed outside a San Francisco nightclub.

Justin Mendoza of Daly City, California, had just left a hip-hop event at Club Cocomo in San Francisco on March 21st 2005, when he was hit by a bullet that had been fired in a fight between two groups of youths who had attended the nightclub. The young man died instantly in the arms of a friend and, following a police investigation, the assailant was charged and convicted of murder.

Justin´s parents, Eduardo and Denise Mendoza, brought a civil action against the club, the company the club hired to do security and the owner of the building, on the basis that the club and its security force failed to supervise the crowds or halt the violence that ensued.

They claimed in their action that Justin´s death could have been avoided with proper management of the situation, and they alleged that the three parties were responsible for the physical pain suffered by their son and the emotional trauma they have suffered, and will continue to experience, due to their son´s wrongful death.

Finding the three parties negligent in the wrongful death of Justin Mendoza, the judge awarded his parents 1.75 million dollars, with the contribution from each defendant divided at 58 per cent (the club), 28 per cent (the security firm) and 14 per cent (the owner of the premises).


Baltimore Cyclists Dies Weeks after Multi-Million Dollar Settlement

A twenty year old student, who was knocked from his bicycle by a negligent motorist in February this year, has died from his injuries just weeks after his family secured a multi-million dollar settlement to provide life-long care.

Nathan Krasnopoler from Baltimore, Maryland, was cycling in the University Parkway of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, which he attended as a sophomore student, when he was in collision with a car driven by 83 year old Jeannette Marie Walke of Baltimore.

In May, Mrs Walke pleaded guilty to negligent driving and was fined $220.00 while Nathan lay in a coma at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Although the family were reported as being happy with the criminal case outcome – they did not want to see Mrs Walke jailed for her crime – they proceeded to claim $10 million in damages from her in a civil action, as their insurance policy provided inadequate coverage for Nathan´s care.

Although the case never went to court, and the amount of the final settlement has never been disclosed, it is understood that an amount approaching that initially claimed has been paid from both Mrs Walke´s personal assets and her car insurance company (many Maryland insurance policies have an upper liability limit of $30,000). Mrs Walke has also had to relinquish her driver´s licence as part of the settlement.v


2 Million Dollar Award for Widower in Dustcart Fatality

A Maryland jury has awarded just over two million dollars to the surviving husband of a woman who was run over and killed by a dustcart as they walked along a closed traffic lane.

Xiufeng Wang and Yunshu Li of Germantown, Maryland, were walking alongside the construction site for the new Germantown and Kingsview Fire Station during the early afternoon of October 9, 2008, when the accident occurred. A dustcart which was backing out of the construction site failed to notice the two pedestrians and ran them down.

Yunshu (74) died at the scene of the accident, while her husband sustained a fractured wrist and backbone injuries. Xiufeng was released from hospital after four days and, after seeking legal advice, sued the general contractor and subcontractor for wrongful death and personal injury, arguing that the companies were negligent for failing to provide a safe pedestrian path.

Before Montgomery County Court, the jury heard that Milestone Construction Services of Sterling, Virginia, and Hakes Contracting of Germantown, Maryland, were negligent inasmuch as they had removed a portion of the sidewalk during construction and failed to carry out pedestrian traffic plans. The family also argued that the dustcart was also negligently operated.

The jury found the two defendants guilty on both charges, and awarded Xiufeng, his son and five daughters a total compensation package valued in excess of two million dollars.



Bar Found Negligent in Providing Alcohol to Drunk Driver

Owners of a bar at a Texas golf club have been ordered to pay almost one million dollars to the family of a driver who was killed in a road traffic accident, after they served alcohol to the customer responsible for causing the vehicle collision.

Lance Shelter (42) was tragically killed in a road traffic accident when the car he was driving was in collision with a vehicle driven by a golfer who had been served alcohol when already displaying signs of intoxication.

District Court Judge Dana Womack heard at Fort Worth District Court, Texas, that the Southern Oaks Golf Club in Burleson, Texas had sold 12 cans of beer to Mark Charles Pierce prior to him starting his round of golf.

Southern Oaks employees sold Pierce a further six cans of beer after he had played nine holes, and then a mixed alcoholic drink at the conclusion of his round, despite Pierce showed signs of intoxication. Pierce then drove from the golf club, and was responsible for the accident that killed Lance Shetler, a father of three and inventor of medical devices that benefited children.

Claiming that Lance would still be alive had the Southern Oaks Golf Club adhered to their own policy against over-serving patrons, his family sued the bar owners and won their case – being awarded almost one million dollars in wrongful death compensation by Judge Womack.


Wrongful Death Compensation for Family of Murdered Prisoner

A jury in the Comanche County Court, Oklahoma, have found in favour of a family claiming wrongful death compensation against the Oklahoma Penal System after a family member was murdered in a brutal cell attack.

The family of Ronald Sites (48) – who died when his cellmate, Robert Cooper, strangled him in January 2005 – claimed that the Geo Group Inc and The Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, operators of the Lawton Correctional Facility had a duty of care towards Ronald to maintain him in a safe and secure manner.

Sites had been a former law enforcement officer who had an existing brain injury condition  which left him unable to control his constant talking. Prison officers failed to educate the inmates about Sites’ medical condition and, as a result, Sites was the subject of extreme harassment to which the prison staff and officials turned a blind eye.

Under standard protocol, prison staff at the Lawton Correctional Facility were under a duty to keep Sites in protective custody and in an individual cell. However, prison officials ignored the restriction and placed him in a shared cell with Cooper.

Cooper was a convicted murderer who had already stabbed another inmate and did time in isolation because he admitted to a counsellor that he fought off the urge to kill a prior cellmate. Standard protocol dictated that Cooper also be given a single cell to protect other inmates from his aberrant behaviour.

Cooper strangled Sites on January 29, 2005 and prison staff were unaware that Sites was dead until the following morning.

In their action against the Geo Group Inc and The Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, the family alleged that the private corporations had been negligent and recklessly disregarded Sites´ civil rights. They further claimed that the duty of care they provided for Sites fell below that of industry standards.

After a ten day hearing, the civil jury at the Comanche County Court took three hours to find in favour of the Sites family, and awarded them $6 million in actual damages and $500,000 in punitive damages against the defendants.


Samsung Ordered to Pay Compensation to Cancer Victims

A court in South Korea has ordered the giant electronics company to pay compensation to the families of two of its employees after they died from acute myeloid leukaemia.

In an action brought by the father of 22 year old Yu-mi Hwang, it was claimed that the working conditions at the company´s semiconductor plant in Gyeonggi Province exposed Yu-mi and an ex-colleague to toxic chemicals and ionising radiation which caused their illnesses.

Mr Hwang had originally been told that Yu-mi had died from a natural abnormality, but when a second employee also died of the disease, he became suspicious and started an investigation. As he dug deeper, he discovered that there had been many more deaths and illnesses suffered by Samsung employees engaged in cleaning the silicon crystals used in the manufacture of integrated electronic circuits.

Samsung denied the claim, stating that there was insufficient scientific evidence to determine accountability, but the South Korean court found in Mr Hwang´s favour, stating “It is fit to say there is a link between their leukaemia and their careers”.

The ruling could have a significant impact in the UK, where it has been claimed since the 1990s that a health risk exists at the National Semiconductors UK factory in Greenock, Scotland. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that women who worked at the plant developed a higher rate of lung, stomach and breast cancer, and men recorded a higher rate of brain cancer.

However, the HSE chose to take no further action – choosing instead to monitor the situation in the semiconductor industry as a whole.


Jury Awards Boy 297,500 Dollars for Death of Mother

An eight year old boy has been awarded almost 300,000 dollars in wrongful death compensation after his mother was killed in a road traffic accident due to the driver of the car in which she was a passenger being under the influence (DUI).

The unnamed boy from Douglas, Colorado, was just aged seven years when, in August 2009, his mother Grace was returning from an evening out with friends. The car in which she was travelling was being driven at excessive speed by Dominick Wilmer who, the Colorado Superior Court heard, was drunk and high on pot.

Wilmer was arrested after the accident and convicted of vehicular homicide for Grace’s death and that of another passenger in the car. No other vehicle was involved in the accident. Wilmer is now serving a 13-year prison sentence.


Family in Medical Malpractice Suit Awarded 1.7 Million Dollars

A widow has been awarded 1.7 million dollars in a medical malpractice action against her departed husband’s physician after he incorrectly diagnosed a heart valve problem as a torn muscle.

Gerard Heidt (42) of Billings, Montana, was a father of four who was known to have a minor heart condition. Apart from that, he was in general good health when visiting his physician in 2004 -, Dr. Faranak Argani of the Billings Clinic – complaining of a pain in his chest.

Dr. Argani misdiagnosed the pain as a torn muscle, when in fact Gerard was suffering from a leaky valve. Had Gerard been correctly diagnosed, he would have received a replacement heart valve. Instead Gerard was dead within a year, and the family claimed in their court action that he should have been referred to a heart specialist.

A jury at Yellowstone County Court found both Dr. Argani and the Billings Clinic guilty of negligence, determining that the death was entirely avoidable. They awarded Gerard’s widow, Amy, and her four children – one of whom suffers from learning difficulties – 1.6 million dollars for lost wages and a further 120,000 towards the children’s education.


Contrasts Between Bhopal and Deepwater Horizon Highlight Differences in Corporate Ethics

The rapid response by BP in setting up a $20 billion compensation fund for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has resulted in headlines in Indian newspapers alleging double standards.  The reality is a bit more complicated.

The 1983 Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant disaster is bar far the worst industrial catastrophe in history, causing 2,259 deaths immediately and about 15,000 eventually.  The official estimates from the Indian government are 558,125 injuries, of which 38,478 were partial disablement and about 3,900 were severely and permanently disabled. There are also allegations that 390 tons of toxic chemicals have been abandoned at the plant that continue to leak and pollute the groundwater.

The disaster is also often cited as one of the worst examples of lack of corporate responsibility, employing tactics that reduce or delay financial liabilities.

Delay Court Cases
Some 26 years after the disaster, there are civil and criminal cases still pending in the United States District Court of Manhattan and the District Court of Bhopal.  In some cases, potential defendants are deceased and in many cases, the witnesses can not be expected to remember all the relevant details.

Divert Blame to Elsewhere

The current corporate owners, Dow Chemical Company, has an entire Web site dedicated to denying various allegations against it. The company position is that the disaster was the result of industrial sabotage.

Limit Liability
The company somehow managed to persuade the Indian government  in 1989 of freeing it of any liabilities by making a once-off payment that in no way covered the costs involved.

All of these actions are in stark contrast to the way in which BP is handling the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: rapid admission of guilt, unlimited resources to resolve the problem, and a massive prepayment of compensation.

The allegations of double standards are almost certainly not the result of different treatment for American victims versus Indian victims. They are primarily due to different companies having different corporate ethical standards.


Radio Station Compensation Results in $16 Million Wrongful Death Settlement

A Sacramento, California jury has awarded $16.57 million against Entercom Broadcasting in the case of a Jennifer Strange, who died in January 2007 from drinking too much water to win a Nintendo WII game contest.  The competition was to find the person who could consume the most water without having to go to the bathroom.  However, the problem with the competition is that water poisoning (hyponatremia) can occur when some people drink too much water.

The plaintiffs in the case were the family of the deceased woman.  It was claimed that the radio station was warned about the dangers of water poisoning prior to the contest but went ahead anyway, which was in fact a breach of their own internal rules that prohibit dangerous games.

The radio station was found to be 100% responsible for the death because the deceased woman had no warning about the dangers of drinking too much water.

The deceased had in fact signed a legal waiver of claims for personal injury and courts in California have been generally upholding the validity of such releases.