Articles Posted in Lawsuits Arising From Criminal Conduct

Government regulations get a bad rap. To be sure, if you look long enough, you can find some that will make you shake your head and wonder, but for the most part regulations do a good job of providing protection to the public.  And, they can also be a big boost in accident claims and injury lawsuits.

As proof that regulations are needed to protect the public, one need only look at the tragic hot air balloon crash in Texas that killed the pilot and 15 passengers earlier this year. Many believe this accident occurred because the Federal Aviation Administration does very little to exercise oversight of hot air balloon operators.  In fact, regulations on hot air balloon operators are almost non-existent despite the fact that they often carry more passengers than small commuter planes and helicopters.  Unlike conventional pilots, hot air balloon operators do not have to get regular medical exams and, while the form operators must complete asks about narcotic drug charges, it specifically excludes alcohol- related driving offenses.  In the deadly Texas crash, the operator was taking at least 10 different drugs for various medical problems.  Some of the drugs including oxycodone would have disqualified him from flying conventional aircraft because of their effect on decision-making and reaction times.  Moreover, the operator had been convicted of drunk-driving on at least four occasions.  Of course, regulations do not prevent every accident, but it is probably safe to say that if the Federal Aviation Administration had implemented tighter regulations over hot air balloon pilots that this particular pilot would not have been in the sky with passengers on that fateful day.

Regulations not only provide protection to the public but they also can help your accident claim or injury lawsuit. If you are injured in an accident and you want to recover money for your injuries, you must prove that someone else was negligent, that negligence caused your injuries and the extent of your injuries and damages.  Let’s focus on negligence.  In simplest terms, you should think of negligence as either doing something you should not have done or not doing something you should have done.  Lawyers will often refer to it as a violation of the standard of care.  Part of proving the other party was negligent involves proving the standard of care, but when there is a safety regulation the standard of care has already been established by the regulation itself.  So then, all you must do is prove the defendant violated the regulation.  In other words, the regulation can eliminate one step of what is normally a two-step process.  So regulations can play a critical role in injury litigation.

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I have been meaning to write about this for days but work and other matters have kept me too busy to do so. But in the days since I first heard about this, I can tell you my anger has not dissipated. Earlier this month, Newsweek ran the following headline on a story: “New Catholic Bishops Told They Don’t Have To Report Sexual Abuse to Police”.  French Monsignor Tony Anatrella told bishops they do not have a duty to report abuse to the police because that is the responsibility of the victims and their families. Oh really? Let’s discuss this for a moment. Continue reading

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Earlier this month, a Shelbyville woman was arrested for her 17th DUI. No, that is not a typo– seventeen DUIs.   According to reports, the habitual drunk driver was arrested yet again after she crossed the center-line and crashed head-on into another vehicle injuring the other driver.

Of course, given her driving record, this woman should not have been driving and, in fact, her license was suspended. But she was nonetheless out on the roadways again and almost certainly she was not insured. Tragically, this is not an isolated occurrence. Fifty to seventy-five percent of drunk drivers will continue to drive on a suspended license.  If the drunk driver does not have any insurance, where does it leave the innocent victim injured by this woman’s criminal conduct? Continue reading

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Ban the Box is a movement, which seeks to eliminate from job applications any questions about a job applicant’s criminal background.   The theory behind the movement is that by “banning the box” prospective employers will not automatically discriminate against and eliminate candidates in the hiring process.

Metro Nashville has adopted a ban-the-box policy that will take effect January 1st. As it has been reported, under the policy, job applicants will not be asked if they have ever been convicted of a crime unless they are applying for a position in an emergency department or a Metro school position. It also does not prohibit the applicant from being asked about their criminal history during an in-person interview or prevent a criminal background check. Continue reading

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I just read an article that suggested tech companies like Google and Apple should rethink entering the automotive market because it is a “different animal” due to the cost associated with building auto plants, building sales and service networks and the “daunting liabilities involved when human lives are at stake.” Retired Vice Chairman of General Motors actually sneers at the notion that “Silicon Valley techies” could do it smarter or better. While admittedly, I do not have much information or expertise on the cost of plants or the network issues, let me rant for a moment, if you will, on the liabilities issue.  Continue reading

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Yesterday, Stewart Parnell was sentenced to 28 years in prison for conspiracy, fraud and other federal charges that related to knowingly shipping out salmonella-tainted peanut butter that sickened and killed people. And all I can say is: it is about time. It is about time that corporate executives who make reckless or knowing decisions that ultimately kill people receive jail time.

“Just ship it.” That was Mr. Parnell’s response when notified of the problem by a plant manager.   To be clear, this was not a case in which a company was unaware of a problem with their product. To the contrary, Parnell and Peanut Corp. of America knew the peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella. In fact, they covered up positive lab tests and shipped it out anyway. The result: 9 people were killed and 714 were sickened. Perhaps, Parnell’s sentence will send a message to corporate executives across the country that public safety comes before profits. Continue reading

Our last post was about whether the John Jay High School football players who intentionally hit a referee during a game could be found liable for the torts of assault and battery. As promised, we will now take up the racial slur issue and the defense of provocation.

Provocation is a defense to battery, but it is not a complete defense. Instead, it can be used to minimize the damages and it stems from the idea that a person should not be entitled to benefit from their own wrongful conduct. Or, in schoolyard terms: you started it. Continue reading

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You have probably seen it: the video of the two defensive backs targeting and intentionally hitting a referee. While an investigation is underway and criminal charges may be brought, let’s look at the incident from a tort perspective under Tennessee law.  A tort is a legal claim for personal injury or wrongful death in which money damages are sought.

While many news outlets are indicating the local District Attorney is considering assault charges, the referee probably does NOT have a civil claim for assault, but he clearly does have a claim for battery. Let me explain why I say that. Under Tennessee law, a battery is an intentional act that causes an unpermitted, harmful or offensive bodily contact. In the video, the referee has his back to the two players and immediately after the play starts the players attack him. The hits are clearly a battery upon the referee. On the other hand, an assault is better explained as the threat and apprehension of a battery. In other words, a person is not guilty of assault unless the victim has a reasonable fear of imminent physical harm. Continue reading

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Each year, more than 1.4 million people will suffer a brain injury from a car accident, fall, assault or some other cause. The brain is incredibly complex and so is the treatment of brain injuries. Primarily, physicians have relied upon CAT scans and physical symptoms such as loss of consciousness, dizziness, nausea, slurred speech, confusion and the like to determine the severity of the brain injury.

But both of those methods have their limitations. For instance, CAT scans can only detect if there is cranial bleeding. They are unable to detect damaged brain cells that are not bleeding. As for the physical symptoms, they may not always be detected or reported. For instance, in a car accident, a person may lose consciousness for a short period of time and regain it before any emergency medical personnel reach the scene. Or with a young infant who has not yet learned to talk, it would be difficult to know if the child was slurring its speech or was dizzy, etc. Continue reading

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And stabs and kills his mother’s boyfriend. The parents of the murder victim sue the restaurant and win $40 million dollars.  Probably not the punchline you were expecting and you might be wondering how the restaurant is to blame. Well, let me give you a few more facts. Continue reading