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Appellate court ruling allows cruise ship doctors to be sued for medical malpractice

When patients are injured by medical malpractice, they should always have the right to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation. But for decades, it has been nearly impossible for cruise ship passengers to sue when they receive negligent medical care from on-board doctors and nurses working for the cruise line. A longstanding rule of maritime law has provided cruise lines with immunity.

Now, a federal appellate court has allowed a medical malpractice and wrongful death case to proceed against a cruise line.

The case involves an elderly passenger who suffered a fall while a Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines ship was docked in Bermuda. The man, Pasquale Vaglio, returned to the ship and sought treatment in the ship’s hospital. The man fell into a coma and died a week later, allegedly as a result of negligent care. The patient’s daughter filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the cruise line in federal court in Miami, alleging that health care providers on the ship failed to properly diagnose the patient’s cranial trauma.

The trial judge dismissed the suit, applying immunity under maritime law. However, the appellate court, in a 63-page decision, found that the cruise line could be held vicariously liable for the medical malpractice of on-board doctors and nurses, even under maritime law.

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Across the country, medical malpractice payments are dropping

A new study has found that the number of payments for medical malpractice claims has dropped sharply since 2002.

The study also found that many doctors are seeing declining liability insurance costs and payment amounts. The study was published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers analyzed data from Illinois, California, New York, Colorado and Tennessee for the period from 2002 to 2013. They found that the overall rate of paid malpractice claims per 1,000 physicians dropped from 18.6 to 9.9 during that time. The average annual decrease was estimated to be 6.3 percent for doctors of medicine (MDs) and 5.3 percent for doctors of osteopathic medicine (Dos).

Trends in liability premiums paid by doctors were mixed. In Illinois, premiums charged to internists and obstetrician-gynecologists (OB/GYNs) by the state’s largest issuer of medical malpractice insurance policies dropped by 36 percent from 2004 to 2013. The premiums paid by general surgeons decreased by 30 percent. California and Tennessee experienced similar declines. Colorado saw a drop in premiums for internists but a rise for OB/GYNs and general surgeons, while New York saw an increase in premiums charged by the state’s largest insurer for all three types of doctors.

Family files wrongful death lawsuit against Kmart after woman dies from infected cut

The family of a woman who died from an infection after suffering a cut to her leg from a shelf in an Illinois Kmart has filed a wrongful death claim against the retail corporation.

The lawsuit alleges that Dolores Thompson was using a motorized scooter provided by the store in November 2012 when she tried to avoid boxes stacked in a Kmart aisle and cut her leg on a metal shelf unit. David Thompson, the woman’s son and administrator of her estate, has filed the lawsuit.

The incident is alleged to have occurred at a now-closed Kmart in Streator, southwest of Joliet. Approximately two weeks after the woman was injured, doctors found methicillin resistant staph aureus, also known as MRSA, in her leg wound. According to the lawsuit, Thompson died of MRSA sepsis on April 15, 2014 in Cook County.

The lawsuit also lists Sears Holdings Corp., Kmart’s parent company, as a defendant. Sears Holdings is headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Illinois and is the tenth largest retailer in the United States by annual revenue. The company operates 4,000 retail stores under the names of Sears, Kmart and subsidiaries.

The four-count wrongful death lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $200,000, plus court costs.

Personal Injury Claim Cites FitBit Data

Wearable devices that track the movements of users to help them with personal fitness goals can also produce evidence that can be used in personal injury lawsuits. The first known case to use data from the popular FitBit device is now underway.

The plaintiff in the personal injury claim was injured four years ago, before FitBits were on the market. However, because she worked as a personal trainer, her attorneys argue that she had an active lifestyle, and they plan to use her current FitBit data to show that her activity levels are below what they should be for someone of her age and profession.

The plaintiff’s attorneys will use an analytics company, Vivametrica, to compare the woman’s raw FitBit data to the general population.

While the data in this case is being used to support an injured person’s claim, similar data could easily be used against the wearer in court as well.

Anyone who chooses to wear such a device may find that the data can be subpoenaed. Insurers could use the information to deny a disability claim, and prosecutors could seek incriminating evidence. In that context, defense attorneys may argue that the evidence constitutes self-incrimination, against which the Constitution protects.

The variability of the data from different tracking devices is another thorny issue. Each brand of wearable fitness device has its own method of measuring a user’s movements, and Vivametrica and its competitors each have their own way of analyzing the raw data – all of which could lead to different legal outcomes when such information is used as evidence in court.

Families of Newtown school shooting victims file wrongful death claim notices

Ten families affected by the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Bushmaster, the company that made the Bushmaster AR-15 that Adam Lanza used to kill six adults and 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.

The lawsuit accuses Bushmaster of negligence and wrongful death for manufacturing and distributing the weapon. Nine of the families are parents and spouses of people who died in the shooting, and the tenth is a teacher who survived after being shot multiple times.

The lawsuit claims that because the rifle is a military-style assault weapon, Bushmaster should not have entrusted it to the general public. According to the lawsuit, the rifle is unsuited for civilian use because individuals who are mentally unfit to operate the weapon can gain access to it.

According to the lawsuit, Bushmaster knew or should have known that the rifle posed a high risk for involvement in multiple deaths and serious injuries.

The lawsuit notes that Bushmaster is the largest supplier of combat rifles to the public. Bushmaster’s parent company is Remington Outdoor Company.

Previously, at least 12 families of victims opened estates in their children’s names while providing notice that they intended to file wrongful death claims.

Is drowsy driving more dangerous than drunk driving? – Podcast

Driver fatigue usually does not receive as much attention as drunk driving. In this Chicago Injury Alert episode we talk about how it can be just as dangerous.

Jury awards $8.45 million to boy with cerebral palsy in birth injury lawsuit

A jury in a birth injury case awarded $8.45 million to a boy who suffered severe injuries after an eight-minute delay in inserting a breathing tube.

The jury found that medical personnel at Northeast Georgia Medical Center did not follow the proper standards of care when the boy was born in 2008.

Jakob Medley, now age five, went without a needed breathing tube for eight minutes because the neonatal resuscitation team at the hospital was occupied and medical personnel failed to call for a backup team. According to court documents, a physician was never called, despite the fact that fetal monitoring showed a lack of oxygen and a possible need for an early delivery by cesarean section.

Jakob suffers from developmental delays, cerebral palsy, seizures and disfigurement. He cannot talk or walk, and he must be fed through a tube in his stomach. The family’s attorneys said that the verdict will ensure that the care the boy will need throughout his life will be paid by the hospital and its insurance company, not by taxpayers.

The family’s attorneys said that in a large hospital, there was no excuse for failing to have a backup team available and to follow standards of medical care.

Outdated safety standards may actually prevent safety advancements

New advancements have been made in auto headlight technology, but some systems are unavailable in the United States because 45-year-old lighting safety standards do not allow for them.

Nighttime driving can be dangerous simply because it is more difficult for drivers to see other cars, pedestrians and road obstacles. Headlights make night driving possible, but the glare from other drivers’ headlights is a problem of its own. Adaptive LED lighting is being developed to address these problems.

BMW’s Dynamic Light Spot system uses LEDs in place of fog lights. The system illuminates what it senses are a person’s feet, following a pedestrian crossing in front of the vehicle, and it can illuminate objects in the vehicle’s path before normal headlights would reach them. However, the system is outlawed in the United States. The LEDs bring the total lumens above the limit set by the 1968 Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Audi’s Matrix LED system uses camera sensors to determine where light is needed on the road. It can prevent glare by sensing other vehicles and then directing headlight beams away from the other driver’s windshield. But not in the U.S., where old safety standards dictate that cars must have high and low beams, and nothing in between.

NHTSA nominee wants to make better use of data

In a Senate committee hearing, Mark Rosekind, President Obama’s choice to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), said that the agency needs greater resources to keep up with consumer complaints and better tools to analyze data.

Rosekind said that the number of complaints made to the agency has recently increased from 45,000 to 75,000 per year. Meanwhile, he said, there are only 16 field investigators and nine people to analyze complaints.

Rosekind also said that advanced technology is needed to find innovative ways to interpret sometimes vast data sets in order to spot problems.

Rosekind’s nomination comes in a time of turmoil for the agency, which has been without a permanent head for more than a year. Safety advocates and members of Congress have criticized the agency for not taking a hard enough line with auto manufacturers over safety defects.

Study finds limitations to auto safety technology

With the recent wave of technological innovations in auto safety, and the promise of even greater developments to come, a vision is taking shape of a future where human error has been removed from the safety equation. However, that time has not yet arrived, and an over-reliance on these new tools in their present form can actually be dangerous.

Land departure warnings, blind spot detection and lane-keep assistance have tremendous potential for driver safety. However, there have been few tests to study how these tools work in the real world, and the studies that have been done frequently reveal flaws in the new systems.

In one study, researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found troubling situational inconsistencies in lane departure warning and blind spot detection systems. The systems often had trouble detecting motorcycles and fast-moving vehicles, and warnings were often provided too late for evasive action.

The lesson: drivers can use these new safety features as a backup warning system, but they should continue to rely primarily on their own safe driving skills.

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The Chicago Illinois personal injury law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg represents injured people throughout Illinois, including Chicago, the Chicagoland area, Joliet, Waukegan, Cicero, Evanston, Arlington Heights, Wheaton, Bolingbrook, and Naperville, as well as other cities within Cook County, Will County, DuPage County, Lake County and McHenry County.
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