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.
A dock worker, who sustained a brain injury when hit by a defective mooring cable, has won his injuries at work compensation claim against his employer in the Texas Supreme Court.
Cody Karl of League City, Texas, was working at the Magellan Terminal located on the Houston Ship Channel when, on 1st June 2008, he formed part of a team assigned to dock a 600 foot tanker. Cody was aboard a docking skiff when one of the cables used to moor the ship parted and hit him on the head.
Despite wearing a hard hat, Cody was diagnosed with brain injuries which lead to cognitive dysfunction and a loss of physical strength along the left side of his body. After seeking legal advice, Cody made an injuries at work claim against the Magellan Terminal, claiming that the mooring cable was in an unsafe condition for the tension it had to withstand.
Cody´s employers disputed the claim, stating that Cody himself should have seen that the cable had deteriorated and was not safe to use, but at the 125th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas, Judge Christine Butts found in favour of the claimant and awarded him 15.12 million dollars.
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.
A former face of DePuy has launched a claim for faulty hip replacement compensation after her own DePuy ASR hip replacement system failed.
Penny Brown (51) of Bath, Wiltshire, is a former gymnast who, between 2004 and 2008, allowed her image to be used in DePuy´s marketing material following her own hip implant operation. In addition to Penny´s face appearing on posters and in literature promoting DePuy ASR hip replacement systems, Penny also supported patients about to have hip implant surgery and gave media interviews about the benefits of the ASR hip replacement systems.
However, in 2009, Penny noticed an aching pain in her groin and her hip replacement made a “clunking noise” whenever she walked. After seeing her doctor, Penny found out that the pain she was experiencing was attributable to her DePuy ASR hip replacement wearing out and releasing metal debris into her bloodstream which was causing an inflammation.
She was advised by her doctor that she would need revision surgery to replace the faulty hip replacement – an operation which she underwent six months ago, but has been bed-bound ever since because of complications caused by the faulty device. Penny told reporters, “I not only feel let down personally but also feel guilty that I might have encouraged others to have the ASR implanted.”
As she has been unable to work since her operation, Penny sought legal advice and made her own claim for faulty hip replacement compensation. Although Penny admitted that she had been initially delighted with how the hip device had removed the constant pain of osteoarthritis, she says her life has been devastated since the failure of her DePuy ASR hip replacement system.
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.”
An Australian secretary, who suffered a prolapsed disc injury when moving a delivery of photocopier paper which had been left on her desk, has had her personal injury compensation award of 239,613 Australian Dollars upheld by a judge in Queensland.
Kathryn Jane Dank (54) had been employed as a senior secretary by Tabcorp Holdings for many years, and was a respected member of staff when the injury occurred in October 2004. In the process of removing a 12.7 Kg box of photocopy paper which had been left on her desk by delivery men, Kathryn sustained a prolapsed disc injury.
Despite the pain and discomfort, Kathryn continued to work at Tabcorp Holdings limited until February 2005 when the pain became too much for her to bear. After seeking legal advice, Kathryn made an Occupational Health Compensation Claim, stating that she should not have been lifting heavy boxes in the role for which she was employed.
In last year´s hearing at the District Court at Southport, Queensland, Judge Clive Wall QC awarded Kathryn 239,613 Australian Dollars in compensation after finding Tabcorp Holdings Limited guilty of negligence on three counts:-
That they failed to instruct Kathryn not to lift heavy boxes
That they failed to prevent storemen from placing heavy boxes on her desk
That they failed to ensure that heavy boxes were stored at the correct height
Tabcorp Holdings Limited appealed the decision but, at the Court of Appeal, Justice Hugh Fraser stated that Tabcorp Holdings Limited had not established a ground for setting aside the judge’s original decision that the injury was caused by its negligence.
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).
A man who was born with cerebral palsy is to receive a 5 million Australian dollars compensation package after sustaining catastrophic injuries when diving into the shallow end of a public swimming pool.
Reece Hodder (28) from Scarborough, Western Australia, was deaf, blind and mute from birth and had a perception of danger equivalent to that of a twelve-year-old. In January 2006, he was visiting the South Hedland Aquatic centre in Perth, Western Australia when he dived from a block positioned at the shallow end of the swimming pool into 1.1 metres of water. The impact with the floor of the pool left Reece completely paralysed, and whereas before the accident he was living an independent life, his quadriplegic condition now means that he requires full-time care.
Reece´s mother, Elaine, sued the Town of Port Hedland – the owners of the pool – and the YMCA who managed it, claiming that both parties were negligent in contributing to Reece´s injury. In March this year, the Port Hedland District Court heard that the Town of Port Headland council had been warned three times prior to the accident about the dangers of having permanent diving blocks at the shallow end of the pool and had been criticised for displaying inadequate warning signs.
Finding the council 90% negligent, Judge Patrick O´Neal stated that “On the evidence at trial, there were organisations, public and private, offering funds for improvements to the South Hedland Aquatic Centre. Despite all of this, for reasons that were never explained, (the council) repeatedly procrastinated about making the changes until it was literally too late.”
The judge dismissed the action against the YMCA – although there had been no lifeguards on duty at the time of the accident – and announced last week that compensation for the serious personal injury claim had been agreed by the two parties at 5 million Australian dollars. The settlement is subject to the approval of the District Court as Reece is disabled.
A Pennsylvania woman, who had to have the lower part of both legs removed after a bacterial infection entered her body via a catheter feeding tube, has been awarded 23.1 million dollars in medical malpractice compensation by a jury in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
The 55-year-old woman, who has not been named, was a home patient of St. Luke’s Miners Memorial Home Care in Lehighton and was being treated for complications from Crohn’s disease. In October 2008, a home care nurse noticed the woman was having trouble breathing and had numbing in her lower extremities.
The woman was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital where her symptoms worsened within hours. She was eventually diagnosed with gangrene and a finger on her left hand was amputated, as well as both legs above the knees.
It was claimed in the subsequent action against St. Luke´s that the nurse had failed to notice and report the symptoms of a bacterial infection in a timely manner, and that the delay led to the infection developing in the woman´s bloodstream.
After a protracted court case, the jury at Lehigh County Court found the nurse and St. Luke’s Miners Memorial Home Care liable and awarded medical malpractice compensation of 23.1 million dollars to account for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost earnings.
A woman who was knocked down by a bus on a pedestrian crossing is to receive 10.5 million dollars in compensation after representatives of the bus company agreed to an out-of-court settlement just as the jury were being seated at the Alameda County Superior Court.
On November 3 2008, Abby Nichols (23) of Oakland, California, had just finished for the day at the San Francisco bagel shop in which she worked as an assistant, and started crossing the road at the junction of Telegraph Avenue and 51st Street.
Although the green light was in her favour, a bus turned into the road, knocking Abby over, and trapping her beneath the chassis of the vehicle. She remained trapped for a further 15 minutes, as the bus driver did not know how to operate the hydraulic lever, and Abby sustained a crushed hip that needed to be replaced, a broken pelvis and femur.
The bus company, AC Transit, found in their own investigation that the bus driver was guilty of negligence but failed to arrange a quick settlement for Abby. It was only when legal action was pursued that Abby – who stills undergoes physical therapy and walks with the aid of a cane – managed to obtain the bus injury compensation to which she was entitled.
A Californian jury has found the giant truck corporation YRC Incorporated liable in a case in which a truck wheel became unattached from its axle and struck a following vehicle – causing its driver to sustain severe brain injuries.
The unnamed man, from Vista, California, was driving along InterState 15 in San Diego County, California, when the accident occurred in January 2008. Two wheels separated from the rear axle of the YRC tractor-trailer travelling in front of him, and one of them crashed into his Chevrolet Metro, causing to crash his head against the roof of the car.
Although seat-belted, the victim sustained brain damage and spinal injuries which required a series of surgeries. He still suffers from chronic neck and back pain and was forced to retire from his job as an airline mechanic – a job he had held for twenty years.
The San Diego Superior Court, Vista Division, heard that although YRC Incorporated did not dispute that they were liable for the accident, they argued that the injuries had been exaggerated and that the plaintiff had a pre-existing neck condition.
However, after an eleven day trial, the jury found in favour of the plaintiff and awarded him a total of 12.2 million dollars in respect of past and future medical expenses, rehabilitation therapy, cognitive therapies, and medical needs as the man ages. The verdict also compensates the plaintiff for future loss of earnings.
A 78-year-old woman, who suffered severe injuries to her head, neck and lower limbs when involved in a collision with a two ton truck, has secured a negotiated settlement with the driver´s insurance company of 950,000 dollars.
The woman, who has only been identified by her surname “Archuleta”, was previously an active and healthy woman and was in the process of moving from her home in Yuma, Arizona, to live near her daughter in Pasadena, California, in May 2010 when the accident occurred.
As Ms Archuleta was driving through the town of Brawley, California, a maintenance truck for the Coachella Valley Water District failed to stop at a “Give Way” sign and pulled directly into the path of her Chevrolet Cobalt. Despite her airbags deploying immediately, Ms Archuleta suffered such severe injuries that she had to be air-lifted to a trauma unit in San Diego.
On arrival at the hospital it was discovered that Ms Archuleta had sustained injuries to her head, neck, spine, chest and legs and consequently she now has to rely of others to assist her with her daily functions. The subsequent personal injury action also claimed that Ms Archuleta now suffers from depression and anorexia – a condition which has seen her lose 32 pounds in weight since the trauma.
Before the case could be brought to court, lawyers for the injured party and those representing the Coachella Valley Water District negotiated a settlement of 950,000 dollars – which although will never compensate for the loss of Ms Archuleta´s happy retirement, will be able to provide her with the full-time care she now requires.
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
A Connecticut railway worker, who was injured in the course of his employment and then denied a promotion because of his injury, has been awarded more than 140,000 in damages by the Connecticut Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Bill Ordner from New Haven, Connecticut, worked as an ironmonger for the Metro-North Railroad when, in 2008, he injured his knee in a work-related accident. His employers claimed that the injury was not work-related, disqualifying Bill from claiming Worker´s Compensation while he was unable to work and unable to claim against a medical bill in excess of $2,000.
On returning to work, Bill applied for the position of locomotive engineer – one he was adequately qualified for – but was turned down by Metro-North Railroad on the grounds of his knee injury. Bill took legal advice on the matter and sued Metro-North railroad for personal injury and loss arising from their misclassification of his knee injury.
In the subsequent hearing at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration offices in Boston, the administration judged that Metro-North’s policies and actions “may deter employees from reporting on-the-job injuries for fear of financial or career consequences”, and ordered them to pay Bill $125,000 in punitive damages, $5,000 in compensatory damages and $11,651 in legal and medical expenses.
Metro-North Railroad also was ordered to pay Bill the difference between his current rate of pay and that of the new position plus interest.
A man who suffered severe neck and back injuries after being rear-ended by a County of Los Angeles van has been awarded 950,000 dollars days before his case was due to be heard at the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Felipe Medina (53) of Los Angeles County, California, was driving his Saturn Vue west-bound on the 105 freeway in Lynwood, California, in December 2007, when he slowed to a stop due to a traffic jam ahead of him.
The van behind, driven by County of Los Angeles employee Wille Duckworth, drove into the back of Felipe´s car, causing Felipe to sustain severe neck, back and shoulder injuries. Police investigating the post-accident scene established that Duckworth had been travelling at excessive speed and was unable to stop in time to avoid the collision.
Felipe underwent several operations to his back and left shoulder to relieve the pain caused by his injuries. He was also given epidural injections, painkilling tablets and wore a back brace in an attempt to restore his health to its pre-accident condition, but his doctors fear that his pain will prevent him from ever continuing his job as a maintenance supervisor.
Under Californian law, employers are held responsible for their negligent acts and, after seeking legal advice, Felipe sued the County of Los Angeles for personal injury compensation and loss of earnings – both present and future. However, days before the opening arguments were due to be heard, a settlement was reached between Felipe´s legal representatives and those of the County of Los Angeles for 950,000 dollars.
A pet store worker, who suffered permanently disabling brain injuries when falling through the roof of the shop in which he worked, is to receive more than one million dollars in personal injury compensation.
Omid Mehdavi (30) of Hayward, California, was helping police investigate a series of burglaries from the store in which he worked when the accident happened in November 2008. While on the roof of the store, showing a Fremont police officer where thieves may have entered the building, Omid stepped back to retrieve a ladder and fell fifteen feet through a skylight to the pavement below.
As a result of his fall, Omid suffered a skull fracture, brain trauma and broken clavicle, and now has permanent brain damage which requires that he take anti-seizure medication for the rest of his life.
After recovering from his initial injuries, Omid filed a claim against the city of Fremont, the police department and the owners of the shopping centre in which the pet store was located.
However, the day before the case was to be heard at the Alameda County Superior Court, a settlement was agreed totalling 1,075,000 dollars, with the city contributing 700,000 dollars and the owners of the shopping centre 375,000 – both parties denying liability for Omid´s injuries.
Japan´s parliament has approved a plan to help the victims of the Tsunami which struck the north-east coast of the country in March, destabilising the Fukushima Daiichi power station and forcing 80,000 people from their homes.
The plan will create a fund to pay damages to the victims without compromising the future of the electricity producing company responsible for the Fukushima nuclear reactor – Tepco.
Tepco reported losses of $15 billion earlier this year, and faces a weight of compensation claims that would force the company into bankruptcy – effectively leaving the country´s capital without power.
The Japanese government have budgeted for a 2 trillion yen ($26 billion) initial contribution to the fund, with further payments being made by other nuclear power operators and by the restructuring of Tepco.
Once all the claims have been assessed, the total amount of compensation is anticipated to exceed $100 billion on top of the huge amount of money already allocated to rebuild areas devastated by the tsunami and the earthquake that caused it.
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.
The Swiss banking giant, UBS, has been ordered to pay more than 480.000 dollars in personal injury compensation to a Connecticut man who severely injured his leg on a decorative globe placed outside of their Stamford offices.
Al Barbarotta (60) from Trumbull, Connecticut, was walking from the Government Centre in Stamford to the local train station in June 2006 when, in a crowd of people, he caught his leg against the metal lettering which encircled the UBS globe. The metal letters sliced into his right leg and Al fell heavily onto his left knee.
The accident caused injuries to Al´s legs which required 37 stitches and several surgeries – including one to insert a prosthetic knee replacement.
After seeking legal advice, Al sued UBS for his injuries, claiming that the globes were public nuisances. As evidence, Al produced a video in which he demonstrated the sharpness of the lettering by scoring through a set of work gloves on the edges of the metal.
UBS denied the claims but, after a week´s trial at the State Superior Court in Stamford, a jury found in Al´s favour and awarded him $78,777 for his medical expenses and $401,500 for non-economic damages – a total of $480,277.
A Carnival Cruise assistant maitre d´, who sustained a lumbar injury in the course of his duties and was then denied medical treatment, has been awarded almost 800,000 dollars through the International Centre for Dispute Resolution.
Polish born Martin Sokolowski was working aboard the Carnival Cruise ship “Imagination” in June 2008, when he felt a “pop” in his back while lifting food bins weighing up to 100 pounds on and off of the ship. He immediately reported to the ship´s doctor who prescribed pain medication and then administered a pain relief injection several days later when the pain had not abated.
Martin was transferred to another ship later in the month, where his symptoms worsened to include numbness in his right buttock which extended down his leg to his foot. Again Martin was only given pain relief medication, and it was only when the ship docked in Mexico that was Martin able to consult an independent doctor.
The Mexican doctor determined that Martin should have an MRI scan, and this revealed that Martin had sustained a herniated disc. However, although the doctor recommended that Martin be admitted to the local Cabo San Lucus Hospital for emergency lumbar surgery, administrators at Carnival Cruises refused to allow Martin to have the surgery and told that he would have to remain on board the ship which was due to depart for San Diego.
The cruise liner did not arrive in San Diego until August, and Martin went immediately to the UCSD Medical Centre Neurosurgical Department. After an examination, a doctor ordered that he be immediately admitted to the hospital and an emergency lumbar discectomy performed. Unfortunately, the delay in treatment caused Martin to suffer permanent nerve damage to his right leg.
In November 2008, Martin´s neurosurgeon declared that he was permanently disabled and Martin returned to Poland, where the Gydnia County Disability Commission confirmed the doctor´s diagnosis.
No longer able to work in the cruise ship industry, Martin took legal advice and sued Carnival Cruises for failing to allow him receive the emergency surgery he needed. Represented in the US and through the International Centre for Dispute Resolution, Martin had to wait almost three years for his claim to be resolved, but is now to receive the substantial payment due to Carnival Cruises negligence.