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Los Angeles Settles Cyclist’s Pothole Injury Lawsuit for $6.5M

Peter Godefroy was riding his bicycle on Valley Vista Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, California two years ago when struck a pothole, crashed his bike, and suffered "severe traumatic brain injury and numerous broken or fractured bones throughout his body." Godefroy sued the City of Los Angeles, claiming poor lighting and even worse maintenance led to a simple pothole becoming a "concealed trap for bicyclists." The L.A. City Council settled that lawsuit last week, voting 11-0 to approve granting Godefroy $6.5 million in damages. It's the second such settlement this year, after the council also awarded $4.5 million to the family of a man killed after he was thrown from his bike when he hit uneven pavement in the city. Bike Suits Bicycle accidents are sadly more common than you would hope. And if you don't have cycling insurance (yes, those policies do exist), you may be wondering about your legal options. In a crash scenario, hopefully the other party -- whether it be a driver in their car, a business-owned vehicle, another cyclist, or even a pedestrian -- will be insured and that will cover your injuries. If not, you may have to file a lawsuit in order to recoup medical bills and lost wages. Most cycling accidents can be treated just like car accidents: exchange insurance information with the other party or parties, document the accident and any injuries as thoroughly as possible, and consider contacting the police if there are serious injuries or property damage. And the work doesn't stop the day after an accident -- make sure to track initial ambulance or hospital bills, additional or ongoing medical expenses, and lost work or wages as well as future income. City Liability It may sound daunting, but you can sue city hall. You may have to file a claim of injury with the city before filing a civil lawsuit to give the city a chance to compensate you or respond to the claim, and you'll have to do so within specific statutes of limitation. If the city fails to respond or denies your claim, you can move on to a full-blown lawsuit. As a general rule, municipalities are responsible for maintaining roadways (including bike lanes and sidewalks) so that they're safe for cyclists, and can be held liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on public roadways. If a city or municipal entity fails to exercise reasonable care in keeping the roadways in good repair, they can be found liable for injuries that occur. However, in order to prove a city was negligent in repairing the road, you would also need to prove the city had or should have had notice of the dangerous condition and failed to fix it. If you're considering a bike injury lawsuit against a city, talk to an experienced attorney first. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Severely Injured Cyclist Settles Broken Sidewalk 'Launch Ramp' Case for $4.84M (FindLaw's Injured) San Diego Cyclist Injured by Pothole Gets $235K Settlement From City (FindLaw's Injured) NYPD Accused of 'Hit and Lie' on Cyclist (FindLaw's Injured)
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$417M Judgment Against Johnson & Johnson in Latest Talc-Cancer Verdict

At this point, there have been so many lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson over its talc and baby powder products, and judgments against the company based on cancer caused by those products, it's becoming hard to keep track of them all. Luckily, Bloomberg did the work for us: J&J is facing "5,500 claims in U.S. courts, [and] has lost four previous jury verdicts in St. Louis for a total of $300 million." And you can add another verdict to that list, this one coming in California. A Los Angeles jury awarded Eva Echeverria $417 million after finding J&J liable for not warning about the cancer risk in its baby powder products. Problem All Over the Country "J&J needs to see they not only have verdicts against them in St. Louis, they now also have them in Los Angeles," Echeverria's attorney Mark Robinson said. "There's a problem all over the country with women using talcum powder on daily basis for 10, 20, 30, 40 years." The 62-year-old woman began using the talcum powder products when she was 11 and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. Of the total award, the jury charged Johnson & Johnson with $347 million in punitive damages. While J&J has and continues to defend the safety of its Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc-based products, various lawsuits have cited studies linking talc to ovarian cancer and accused the company of failing to adequately warn customers of the risk. Denying the Obvious Most damning of the allegations against J&J revolve around what the company knew and when. According to one lawsuit, the Cancer Prevention Coalition notified Johnson & Johnson's CEO in 1994 that studies showed using talcum powder in the genital area posed "a serious risk of ovarian cancer." And the AP has reported on an internal memo in 1997 from a Johnson & Johnson medical consultant said "anybody who denies" the risk of using hygienic talc and ovarian cancer is "denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary." The latest judgment against J&J may be the latest and one of the largest, but it's far from the first and likely far from the last as well. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Talcum Powder Lawsuit: When to Sue J&J for Wrongful Death (FindLaw's Injured) Can Using Talcum and Baby Powder Really Cause Cancer? (FindLaw's Injured) Talcum Powder May Increase Ovarian Cancer Risk in African American Women (FindLaw's Injured)
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Interview with Penny Cooper, “Champion of the Marginalized”

Penny Cooper has a real and enduring legacy, as is reflected in the documentary about her life and work entitled Penny: A Documentary Film. Penny practiced for 36 years in San Francisco after graduating from UC Berkeley School of Law in 1964 and is now retired.  She was a “lawyer’s lawyer” and was one of the first women criminal defense lawyers to try a major white-collar crime case, but she would tell you she preferred defending people charged with general criminal offenses.  She argued before the United States Supreme Court, which is rare for any lawyer, let alone a female.  She was known for her cross-examination skills and a long list of wins and high-profile acquittals; yet in-spite of this she has a keen understanding of the most important aspect of what it means to be a criminal defense attorney, that is that “[i]t’s not just the drama of going to court and objecting and winning or losing, it’s really managing people’s lives when they get into difficulty or trouble.” The documentary aptly described her as a “champion of the marginalized.” Penny was inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame by the California State Bar’s Litigation Section in 2010, with long-time law partner, Cris Arguedas.  It was such an honor to interview one of the true legends of the criminal defense bar. I feel so lucky to have had an opportunity to have met and listened to this true defender, who forged a path for many of us to follow. I hope you will be as inspired by Penny Cooper as I am.   How did you get interested in criminal defense and what kind of cases did you handle? I am a product of the 60’s. I graduated from law school in 1964 from Berkeley.  The fall of 1964 was the free speech movement. We were just getting the civil rights amendment passed.  It was an era where everybody felt strongly one way or another about civil rights and criminal defense.  It was the only thing I was really interested in. I practiced for 36 years and I handled every kind of case.  My greatest day of practice was when I was coming home after having handled a traffic case for some guy who owned a winery who had entered the freeway the wrong way and was ticketed. I was representing him and I got the case dismissed because the law had been repealed. That same day, as I was driving home, I learned that we had won our case in the United States Supreme Court – United States vs. Merchant, 480 U.S. 615 (1987). This is the best way to express the breadth of my practice. I did everything from handling a traffic case in a little municipal court to arguing and winning a case before the United States Supreme Court. Without question, you were a pioneer for women in the field. What was it like to be one of the few women in the field when you started and did you know at the time that you were opening doors for other women in criminal defense? I have a very close female friend whom I went to law school with, and we laugh about it all the time because we didn’t even know what feminism was and we didn’t realize we should have been treated differently. We were just treated the way we were and it was really bad, but we just kind of laughed at it and soldiered through.  The dean of the law school was William Prosser, who was one of my teachers and he didn’t believe that women should be in law school – period. In my section, there were 90 people and only 3 women – and he didn’t call on women because he just figured it was a waste of time. In that era that’s just what people believed. Nick Johnson, who was another professor and who later became Lyndon B. Johnson’s head of the Federal Trade Commission, believed that it was so ridiculous to have women in law school; he said he was going to treat women equally — so in our class he called on man – woman – man – woman. Then we had a professor who transferred from Harvard, named Raoul Berger, and he would say “now stand up like a man and recite.” And we just took it all.  And we kind of laughed about it and still laugh about it.  It was only years later that we realized we had a right to expect something else. In law school we even had a segregated conference room where we would take our breaks and the men were someplace else. I remember when JFK was assassinated, we had to get permission from the dean to be able to watch the television, which was located in the men’s conference room. Here we were at Berkeley, the bastion of liberalism, which wasn’t so liberal back then. So, when I entered the public defender’s office there was only one other woman at the time but she was on her way out. The guy who hired me, the public defender, told me he didn’t really think women belonged in that office because it was like sailing down a sewer in a glass bottom boat. ...
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Study: Payouts Are up in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Insurance companies might be seeing fewer medical malpractice claims, but they seem to be awarding more money to the injured patients that do make them. A new study found that paid medical malpractice claims declined almost 56 percent between 1992 and 2014, but the average payout for a successful malpractice claim jumped over 23 percent, reaching $353,000 for the 2009-2014 time period. So what accounts for the decline in claims and rise in payouts? And what does it mean for future medical malpractice plaintiffs? Fewer Claims = More Money The research comes from physicians at Brigham and Women's Hospital, who analyzed numbers from a centralized database of paid malpractice claims: Researchers report that the overall rate of claims paid on behalf of all physicians dropped by 55.7 percent. Pediatricians had the largest decline, at 75.8 percent, and cardiologists had the smallest, at 13.5 percent. After adjusting for inflation, researchers found that the amount of the payment increased by 23.3 percent and was also dependent on specialty. Neurosurgery had the highest mean payment, and dermatology had the lowest. The percentage of payments exceeding $1 million also increased during the same time period. Dr. Adam Schaffer, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study, speculated that recent tort reform, which places statutory limits on medical malpractice damages, could be responsible for the decline in paid claims. "Fewer attorneys could be interested in taking claims if there's going to be a smaller potential payout, given that most attorneys are paid on a contingency basis," he explained. Schaffer also pointed to claim screening panels and additional procedural hurdles to explain the decline in claims, but this could also account for the rise in payouts -- if only the most ironclad malpractice claims are being made and meeting the procedural requirements, the average payout per claim would be expected to rise. What Does It All Mean? The study could mean that lawyers are more skittish about taking on medical malpractice cases, but those that they do accept might be in for a bigger payday at the end. Medical malpractice claims are complicated, and even just dealing with a physician's insurance company can be difficult. If you've suffered an injury in a medical context, contact and experienced attorney near you. Related Resources: Think you have a medical malpractice claim? Get your claim reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) Fewer Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Succeed, but Payouts Are Up (CBS News) Getting Paid: Collecting on a Judgment or Jury Award (FindLaw's Injured) How Much Is Your Personal Injury Case Worth? (FindLaw's Injured)
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How Much Is a Dog Bite Injury Lawsuit Worth?

When it comes to evaluating the value of any injury case, most people understand that bigger injuries correlate to bigger settlements. When it comes to dog bites and animal attacks, the owners will usually be held liable, barring extraordinary circumstances. Not all animal bite cases will be severe injuries, or equate to large monetary damages. Typically, larger monetary awards occur if an animal attack leaves visible scarring, requires surgery extended medical care, or results in the need for mental health therapy, such as PTSD counseling. What’s a Dog Bite Case Worth? An injury settlement or award will generally reimburse an injury victim for their medical bills, out of pocket expenses, lost wages, and other consequential damages. However, if a person receives a settlement that includes reimbursement for medical bills, they may be required to pay back a health insurer, or even pay outstanding medical bills (if any). A person can also receive monetary compensation for pain and suffering. Usually awards for pain and suffering will depend on the severity of the injury and the extent to which the recovery and injury disrupted a person’s regular life. There is no standardization to the valuation of pain and suffering. When to Sue? After being bitten by a dog, you may be very upset, to the point where you may consider suing simply as a matter of principle. But all strong feelings aside, when should you actually take steps to bring legal action? Is it worth your time to sue? Here are a few points to consider:Frequently, a pet owner’s home-owner’s insurance will provide coverage for dog bites. But, if the pet owner responsible for your injuries is uninsured and has no assets, then there may be no way to actually collect a judgment.The decision not to sue for this reason, however, should be carefully evaluated with the help of an attorney. Also, if you decide not to sue, you may wish to re-evaluate that decision down the road. But be forewarned, most injury claims must be brought within one or two years, depending on your state law. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) How Much is My Pet’s Injury Worth? (FindLaw’s Injured) Housemates Could Be Liable for Dog Bites (FindLaw’s Injured) Dog Bite Injuries: Do You Have a Case? (FindLaw’s Injured)
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Cristina Arguedas Presented with 2017 White Collar Criminal Defense Award

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and Stetson University College of Law presented Cristina C. Arguedas with the 2017 White Collar Criminal Defense Award this last weekend.  It was an honor to be there and witness both the presentation and her acceptance of the award. Cris Arguedas was awarded this prestigious honor for her work in the FedEx case.  The successful defense of FedEx can only be described as a hero’s tale.  The irony that this defense was spearheaded by a woman and a small team isn’t lost on me. It’s amazing when you really consider the consequences of this win.  Not only is this one of the few times that a corporation has dared to take on the United States Government in a criminal prosecution.  But to consider that the herculean task of defending a corporate case of this size and magnitude was accomplished without an army of lawyers – which is typical in a corporate white collar case – not only speaks volumes about Arguedas but of the importance of mounting a defense at all.  More often than not the army of lawyers aren’t challenging the Government or forcing the Government to trial, but rather are working their way to a negotiated settlement.  It really doesn’t matter how many lawyers are representing a corporation if the evidence remains untested. As I have said before, it is easy to champion a winning theory in a conference room; it is a far different thing to champion it in the courtroom.  And that is exactly what Arguedas did in the FedEx case. The case completely imploded within days after the trial started. I am personally proud that this historical victory was led by one of our sisters in the field.  I have previously shared how much I admire Arguedas – and I am not alone.  She is without question one of the legends in the field.  Barry Pollack, President of NACDL, presented the award and gave a wonderful speech in which he imagined that legends in the field would have their own trading cards that we could collect, with trial victories and stats on the back. Since Arguedas was inducted into the Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame in 2010 with Penny Cooper – another legend – his analogy was more than appropriate. As would be expected from Cris Arguedas, she accepted the award with grace and humility.  She didn’t take the opportunity to bask in the limelight but rather spoke passionately about the dangerous landscape of corporate criminal prosecutions, which has amounted to nothing short of Government bullying of Corporate America.  She shared with us the amount of pressure that she shouldered to fight against the baseless charges that she confronted in the FedEx case and the amount of painstaking preparation that went into the defense.  Indeed, the trial judge took the unusual step of concluding, on the record at the time of dismissing the charges, that FedEx was “factually innocent.” Arguedas’ acceptance speech was emblematic of everything that makes her great.  She is a true defender in every fiber of her being.  She is a fierce advocate.  The takeaway is that it does not take an army to fight an injustice lobbed by the Government.  Rather, it takes the spirit of a lion and the courage to strike back in defense. It’s that simple. The post Cristina Arguedas Presented with 2017 White Collar Criminal Defense Award appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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How Does SSDI Impact an Injury Lawsuit?

If you are on SSDI and are considering filing a lawsuit or pursuing an injury claim, you may be concerned about how a settlement or court award could impact your receipt of benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance is a federal program designed to assist disabled individuals that are unable to work by providing those individuals with an income source. While SSDI will want to know if you have received wages, the general rule is that an injury settlement or court award for an injury case are not wages, UNLESS a portion of that award is meant to compensate you specifically for lost wages. Also, it should be noted that if you receive punitive or exemplary damages, or any interest on the award, these may also be concerned as unearned income. Can SSDI Affect Your Settlement? While your SSDI is generally safe from loss as a result of an injury settlement or court award, your settlement or award may be less than you might expect because of your SSDI. Often, injury plaintiffs are disappointed when they find out that their cases are not as highly valued as they expected. Many times, a case’s high value lies in the plaintiff’s status as a high-wage earner. If someone who makes $1,000,000 per year misses one day of work because of the injury, that one day of lost wages could be worth at least $2,700 or more. If that person misses ten days, that can add $27,000 to their case. If you are on SSDI, there will be no wage loss to recover because SSDI covers your wages, and therefore, any settlement may feel a little bit lower than you might have expected. Don’t Confuse SSI With SSDI It is important to not confuse SSI with SSDI. Supplmental Security Income (SSI) is a need-based federal program that provides disabled and elderly individuals with income to supplemental SSDI or regular social security benefits. Any income or monies a person receives can have an impact on a recipient of SSI benefits. It is highly advisable for a recipient of SSI to seek the advice of an attorney regarding how to handle settlement or court award money as SSI benefits can be easily lost if a person receives a lump sum. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) If You Can’t Get Workers’ Comp, Can You Get SSDI? (FindLaw’s Injured) 5 Things a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can’t) (FindLaw’s Injured) Personal Injury Lawyer Dropped Your Case? Now What? (FindLaw’s Injured) When to Sue a Pediatrician for Malpractice (FindLaw’s Injured)
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Driver Liability for Cell Phone Related Car Accident

How an accident happens will largely determine who is ultimately held liable. If the at fault driver was found to have caused the accident while talking or texting, they will likely have more difficulty defending their case, and they may potentially face additional penalties. Nearly every state has laws on distracted driving, and most include some limitations on the use of cell phones by drivers. Regardless of whether you have an ear piece, integrated Bluetooth, or speakerphone system, if you are talking or texting on a cell phone while driving, an officer or other party can claim that you were driving while distracted. According to the most recent report by the NHTSA, one in ten on the road fatalities involved distraction. Accidents While Phoning or Texting If a driver is found to be at fault for an accident, then they can also be found liable for the injuries and property damage they caused. While a majority of auto accident cases settle out of court, the facts concerning how the crash happened are relevant to establishing the injured party's case for damages. When a jury is asked to decide an auto accident injury case, they will usually be tasked with deciding two primary issues:Whether the defendant caused the injuries and damages.How much money should be awarded to the plaintiff for suffering the injuries and damages. In most jurisdictions, if both parties are considered to be partly at fault, or fault is uncertain, the party that is found to be more than 50% at fault, generally is the party held responsible for the damages. If a party was on the phone when the accident occurred, they may be found some percentage (comparatively) at fault. In states like California, if a driver is found to be 25% at fault, any award they receive will be reduced by their percentage of fault. Rear-Ended While Talking on the Phone There are some auto-accident cases where it won't matter if the victim was on the phone or texting. If you are stopped at a red light, and you get rear-ended while texting or talking on the phone, it is highly unlikely that your texting or talking had anything to do with causing the accident. In this sort of a situation, your phone use, while still potentially against the law, generally cannot be used to attack liability. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What's More Dangerous Than Texting and Driving? (FindLaw's Injured) 1 in 4 Car Crashes Involves Cell Phone Use: Report (FindLaw's Injured) Is Apple Liable for Distracted Driving Accidents? (FindLaw's Injured)
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Suing Over Flawed Metal Hips Used in Replacements

After a trial in Texas this year, Johnson and Johnson was ordered to pay $502 million to five plaintiffs injured by the company’s flawed artificial hips. The hips, sold under the name Pinnacle, leached metals into patients’ bodies and failed prematurely, forcing the plaintiffs to undergo additional surgeries and endure more pain. A federal jury was definitely feeling the plaintiffs’ pain, considering that it awarded them $360 million in punitive damages based on Johnson and Johnson hiding flaws in the product and marketing the hips aggressively anyway. Let’s look at the claims, as reported by Bloomberg News, and what this means to you. Second Try This was not the first case complaining of Johnson and Johnson’s metal hip product — there are about 8,000 such cases filed reportedly, now consolidated in Texas federal court for pretrial procedures. But this was the first to succeed, as Johnson and Johnson won a prior trial by arguing that a surgeon had failed to properly place the hip in the patient’s body. In the more recent matter, all five patients had to have their Pinnacle replacement hips replaced surgically after they broke down prematurely due to the materials used and design flaws. The plaintiffs were awarded $142 million in compensable damages, apart from the $360 million in punitive damages, making for a total award of $502 million. But immediately after the jury decided to punish Johnson and Johnson, company attorney John Beisner told Bloomberg News that the company will appeal. He expects the damages award to be reduced substantially. “The grounds for appeal are strong and the punitive damages will be reduced to around $10 million subject to the Texas statutory cap,” he said. What This Means There are thousands of outstanding cases filed against Johnson and Johnson over the Pinnacle metal hip. Interestingly, the company stopped manufacturing the product in 2013 after US Food and Drug Administration regulations were tightened. It’s also notable that Johnson and Johnson already entered into a $2.5 billion settlement in 2010 over claims surrounding another of its artificial hips. Although it is unfortunate that people have suffered due to the company’s flawed devices, Johnson and Johnson’s track record with replacement hips and the outcome of the recent trial indicate that if you have been injured due to a flawed replacement hip, your chances of recovery are very good. Of course, no one can say much about a case in the abstract, so you will have to speak to a lawyer about the specifics. An attorney can assess your claim and advise you on next steps. Talk to a Lawyer If you’ve been injured due to a faulty hip replacement, or for any other reason, talk to a lawyer. Many attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your case. Related Resources: Injured by a metal hip replacement? Get your claim reviewed free. (Consumer Injury) Metal Hip Replacement Lawsuit (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law) DePuy Hip Implants (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law) DePuy Hip Replacements: FDA Takes Closer Look (FindLaw’s Injured)
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Can I Sue for Snowball Injuries or Property Damage?

You’re dreaming of a white Christmas and everything that entails, like sledding, skating, and snowballs. But what if someone breaks a window, or worse, a skull, in a snowball fight? Rest assured, you can sue if you are injured due to someone’s negligence. Also, you can be sued for any damage you cause to a person or property with a snowball or otherwise. The elements of negligence are always the same, regardless of how injury occurs. So before the eggnog flows and you traipse out into the snow, let’s look at negligence in a nutshell. Negligence Explained To succeed in a negligence suit, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused a harm for which there are compensable damages. In the context of a snowball fight, you assume some risk of injury, so it may be challenging to prove a suit. Still, you can do it. A friend can be negligent. Say, your friend packs a rock in a snowball and hits you in the head, causing brain damage. You thought you’d be tossing soft puffs that disintegrate in a shower of flakes, not lobbing deadly projectiles. In that case, you can certainly make a negligence claim and expect to be awarded compensation for expenses associated with your injuries. Similarly, if you hit a person or property, you can be liable for injury. A plaintiff who can show duty, breach, causation, and harm will succeed in a negligence claim, whether or not they have agreed to join the fun. A Snowball’s Chance in Hell Snowball lawsuits have been filed before but make sure you can back a claim if you do sue. In 2010, a snowball fight after a Seattle Seahawks game became the subject of a suit. The plaintiff claimed emotional distress about the flakey fracas. But there was footage showing everyone having a good time. Speak to a Lawyer If you are injured in the snow this winter, see a doctor and speak to a lawyer. You may have a negligence claim. Let a lawyer assess your case; many attorneys do not charge for an initial consultation. Related Resources: Have an injury claim? Get your claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury) Negligence Background (FindLaw) Defenses to Negligence Claims (FindLaw)
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