Kathy Day, a nurse from Maine, said she has always striven to be an advocate for patients. But that drive became a passion after the death of her 83-year-old father. He died weeks after suffering a hospital-acquired infection while he was being treated for a broken leg.stethascope0

After breaking the small bone in his lower leg, he spent nearly two weeks in the hospital. Upon his return home, he seemed fine, other than the fact he needed to use a walker. But the next day, he awoke and was so sick, he could barely sit up in his own bed. He had a high fever. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors determined he had contracted MRSA pneumonia while he’d been recovering from the leg fracture. He ended up developing sepsis, which led to organ failure.

The family later learned two other patients had died of MRSA infections following surgery. Yet at no point were patients or family members informed of the risk or of steps to take or things to watch for in order to reduce the possibility of an infection.

His death devastated Day and her family, and propelled her to become a vocal activist for reducing hospital-acquired infections. One of her biggest targets is MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which is a type of staph infection that is typically resistant to antibiotics.

While 30 percent of us carry staph infections in our nose, we usually don’t get sick. Most of the MRSA infections that do occur happen either at a hospital or some other health facility.

Other common hospital-acquired infections include:

  • Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infections
  • Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections
  • Surgical Site Infections (abdominal hysterectomy, colon surgery)
  • C. difficile Infections

Hospital-acquired infections affect 1.7 million patients every year, and 99,000 of those die. Incidence of MRSA doubled between 1995 and 2005.

Our Bangor wrongful death attorneys know cases of injury or death resulting from post-operative infection acquired at a hospital can be difficult to pursue. That’s because despite an awful outcome, the infection may result while doctors and other health care providers were adhering to the accepted standard of care.

Most cases of hospital-acquired infection injury or death are filed on the basis the doctor or other health care provider failed to recognize and/or treat the infection in a timely manner.

Other possible grounds for litigation could be lack of informed consent. This theory would look at whether the hospital knew or should have known a patient was at high risk of developing and infection, and yet did not inform the patient and give him or her the opportunity to opt out of treatment.

Our attorneys may also look at whether hospital staff failed to properly handle or sterilize certain instruments, clothing, hands and surfaces.

And also, we will analyze whether the surgeon failed to follow acceptable care practices during the procedure by allowing debris or other contaminants to make contact with the wound.

While it is not a patient’s fault if a hospital-acquired infection occurs, there are some steps patients can make to reduce their chances of such incident. That involves:

  • Asking for clean hands of doctors, nurses, other caregivers and visitors. Keep hand sanitizer by the bed and sanitary wipes to frequently wipe down touched surfaces.
  • Speaking up if there is any doubt about whether someone has clean hands.
  • Know your medical history, the kind of medication your taking and clearly communicate that with your doctor/caregivers.

If you have questions about whether you may have grounds for a lawsuit following a hospital-acquired infection, contact our offices today.

Contact Maine Injury Lawyer Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

10 Important Tips for Preventing Deadly Medical Errors and Infections, June 25, 2015, By Diane Atwood, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

ATV Lawsuit in Maine Filed by Family of Teen, June 6, 2015, Bangor Injury Lawyer

A 55-year-old man was in critical condition following a Maine motorcycle accident in Oakland, about an hour southwest of Bangor.motorcycle8

So severe were his head injuries, authorities said, he had to be flown by helicopter to the Eastern Maine Medical Center.

Reportedly, the operator failed to stop at a stop sign at an intersection, and as a result, collided with a sport utility vehicle. The crash happened around 2:30 p.m. Driver of the SUV was uninjured, and there were no passengers in the vehicle. The motorcycle rider was ejected from bike and struck the pavement. He was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

Police investigators spent two hours reconstructing the scene before re-opening the road, reported the Bangor Daily News. At this time, there is reason to suspect alcohol was a factor in the crash, though they have not indicated which driver was allegedly drinking.

No charges were immediately filed in connection with the crash.

Motorcycles in Maine have become an increasingly popular mode of transportation and recreation. This is particularly true in the warmer months, which is why we expect to see a spike in motorcycle accidents throughout the summer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports there were nearly 5,000 motorcyclists killed in 2012 in motor vehicle crashes. That’s a 7 percent increase from what was reported a year earlier.

Additionally in 2012, there were 93,000 motorcyclists who were injured. That represented a 15 percent spike from what was reported the previous year.

Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists were 26 times more likely than a passenger in a car to die in a traffic collision.

More than half of all motorcycle fatalities involve a collision with another type of motorcycle. Speed is a major factor cited in 34 percent of all motorcycle-related deaths. Alcohol too is often a commonly-cited cause.

Maine had 24 motorcycle riders killed in 2012, and 43 percent of those had a blood-alcohol content in excess of 0.08 percent.

Of course, that does not mean they necessarily caused the crash, but certainly, alcohol may hinder one’s ability to react quickly to a sudden danger.

Helmets are known to reduce head injuries for motorcycle riders by 37 percent and by 41 percent for passengers.

In Maine, the state’s helmet requirement for all riders was repealed in 1977. They are now required for all persons under 15 and all operators with a learning permit or within the first year of receiving a driver’s license.

The NHTSA reports more than 80 percent of all reported motorcycle crashes result in either injury or death to the motorcyclist or passenger, with most of those stemming from ejection.

Penobscot County has the third-highest rate of motorcycle accidents in Maine, with 308 reported from 2008 to 2012. Meanwhile, Cumberland County had 650 during that time and York County 534.

Many crashes occur when drivers do not pay attention to watch for motorcyclists and either turn in front of them or strike them from behind. This is why individuals riding motorcycles must operate defensively, obey the speed limits, protect themselves with a helmet and avoid consuming alcohol prior to getting on their bike.

In Maine, comparative negligence in a crash will not bar a personal injury lawsuit, so long as plaintiff was not 50 percent or more at fault. Still, per 14 M.R.S.A. 156, damages may be reduced by the percentage of plaintiff’s determined negligence.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Oakland man suffers head injuries in motorcycle crash, May 17, 2015, By Beth Brogan, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Report: Maine Cycling Safety Improvement Requires Attention, May 30, 2015, Bangor Motorcycle Injury Lawyer Blog

The family of a 16-year-old boy killed in a Maine ATV accident last summer has filed a civil lawsuit against the family of another 16-year-old who was driving the car with which he collided. ATVtracks

According to the crash report, the decedent was operating the ATV (all-terrain vehicle) behind the vehicle driven by h is 16-year-old friend. They were traveling the same direction when the ATV operator attempted to overtake the car. As he crossed back into the northbound lane, the ATV and car collided, causing the ATV to overturn and the rider to be ejected.

Decedent was not wearing a helmet and died of his injuries.

According to the wrongful death lawsuit, the 16-year-old driver of the car was negligent in operation, causing the decedent to crash.

The lawsuit is against the mother who owned the car the 16-year-old was driving. She is being represented by the insurance company that provided coverage for the vehicle.

Defense has denied all claims of negligence and has requested the case be dismissed. The court has not yet responded to that request. Additionally, defense argues plaintiff’s right to recover damages will be diminished by decedent’s own comparative fault.

In Maine, 14 M.R.S. 156 , the statute governing comparative negligence, allows that a person who suffers death or damage as a result of partial fault will still be able to collect damages from another party who is negligent, so long as plaintiff’s own negligence does not exceed 50 percent.

Whether this case will be defeated by comparative negligence remains to be seen. It will hinge largely on the details of the crash. Trial, if it reaches that stage, will most likely include expert witness testimony from accident reconstructionists on both sides of the aisle.

ATVs are popular in Maine, which boasts a number of riding trails intended specifically for these vehicles.

Maine statutes concerning ATVs require training for operators between the ages of 10 and 16 is required to undergo safety training before operating the vehicles, though no license is required. The minimum age to operate an ATV is 10-years-old, and it’s a crime to allow anyone under that age to operate one. Operators who are under the age of 16 are not allowed to cross public roadways while operating an ATV.

Statutes also say ATVs may not be operated on controlled access highways, though they may cross over them. Further, ATVs are generally not allowed to operate on any portion of public ways intended for use by conventional motor vehicles or on sidewalks. However, there are some exceptions. Those include:

  • When the public way has been closed for winter weather
  • When the public road is not maintained or used for conventional motor vehicles
  • During periods of emergency
  • During special events
  • When directed by law enforcement or other governmental unit

Although it does not appear any of these exceptions are applicable in this instance, it will certainly be a point of issue in this case. If the ATV operator was in violation of the law at the time of this tragic accident, it may be more difficult to show his comparative negligence did not exceed 50 percent.

If you are the victim of a Portland accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Family of Maine teen killed in ATV crash sues, May 7, 2015, By Betty Adams, Kennebec Journal

More Blog Entries:

Mother and daughter killed on Bailey Road in Knox, December 15, 2010, Portland ATV accident attorney blog

The latest report from The League of American Bicyclists puts Maine at the top when it comes to bicycle friendliest in New England.bicycletire

The state ranked 15th nationally, behind the other New England states of Delaware, which ranked No. 3, and Massachusetts, which ranked No. 4. Meanwhile, New Hampshire ranked 27th, Connecticut 22nd and Vermont 17th.

The scoring criteria for “bicycle friendliness” was based on legislation and enforcement of bicycle safety laws, existing policies and programs, infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement and evaluation and planning.

Somewhat disappointingly, Maine fell two spots from the No. 13 position, which it held in 2014. Maine received a 4 out 5 when it came to legislation and enforcement and policies and programs, but it only received a 3 for education and encouragement. And for infrastructure, funding, evaluation and planning, the state received scores of just 2.

According to the Maine report card, what worked in the state’s favor was the fact it has enacted a “safe passing” law, requiring drivers to maintain a distance of at least three feet. Additionally, there is an active bicycle advocacy community in the state, as well as an ongoing “share the road” campaign and an emphasis on bicycle safety in the state’s strategic highway safety plan. Also, the state this year adopted a “Complete Streets” policy that encourages traffic engineers to design roadways with all road users – including cyclists – in mind.

But what worked against the state was a lack of dedicated state funding. There is also no state bicycle plan or vulnerable road user law. Less than 2 percent of federal transportation funds given to the state are dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian safety, and fewer than 1 percent of Maine residents commute to work by bicycle.

Overall, the state received a score of just 46 out of 100. That’s a slight drop from last year’s score of 50 out of 100. So the fact that it was 15th out of 50 in the nation seems to say less about our amazing bicycle safety initiatives and more about how abysmal the problem is nationally.

The release coincided with National Bike to Work Week in mid-May.

The director of communications at the Bicycle Coalition of Maine said the rankings provide advocates and lawmakers with good information.

For example, it was recommended the state pass a vulnerable road users act. And that’s exactly what is happening with the pending LD 1301, which would give legal status to anyone on the road who is not operating a motor vehicle, and it would also provide stiffer penalties for drivers who strike bicyclists or pedestrians with their vehicles.

There is also legislation pending that would ban use of a mobile phone while driving if it’s not connected to a hands-free device.

Ultimately, lawmakers and advocates hope to significantly reduce the number of bicycle accidents in Maine.

The Bike League further recommends expanding bicycle parking areas at parks and state buildings and taking into account the needs of cycling commuters in all transportation planning efforts.

Although there isn’t exact information on how many cyclists there are in Maine, it’s been estimated at least 2,500 households have at least one active cycling member. In figures recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it was revealed four cyclists were killed in 2013 in Maine traffic accidents, representing 2.8 percent of all traffic deaths. That’s slightly higher than the national average of 2 percent.

If you are the victim of a Portland bicycle accident, contact  Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Maine among most bicycle friendly states in New England, May 12, 2015, By Julia Bayly, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Maine Seat Belt Law Faces Repeal, Raising Safety Concerns, March 15, 2015, Portland Injury Lawyer Blog

In most areas of law, the legal system does not allow one person to be held responsible for a third-party action of another. beerinapub

But there are several exceptions, and a few of those relate to a situation unfolding in Rockland, little more than an hour north of Bangor. According to The Bangor Daily News, a pub owner has just had his renewal for an entertainment license rejected. In its decision, council cited repeated noise violations, numerous liquor violations of alcohol being sold to minors and pages and pages of police reports originating from that location.

Neighbors who own property near the pub have made numerous complaints. They say disturbances occur nightly, and they are constantly cleaning up cigarette butts and urine stains from the sides of buildings.

Such violations are annoying, to be sure. But the greater potential for injury is in the constant fights on the property and service of alcohol to minors.

Property owners in general can be held liable for personal injuries that result when they fail to provide adequate security to guests. This is primarily applicable to landlords of larger properties and business owners. When a property owner is aware that guests may be in danger – as evidenced by a long list of police reports regarding fights and other issues – he or she would have a duty to do something about it. That could mean hiring security guards. It could mean limiting occupancy or hiring off-duty police officers to maintain crowd control. It could mean screening for weapons at the door or ensuring adequate lighting in the parking lot and common areas.

There is no one thing that constitutes “adequate security,” but the general requirement is that property owners make property reasonably safe safe from foreseeable harm. Of course, many defendants in cases like this will argue they could not have foreseen a third-party criminal act. But in this kind of situation, the long list of police reports will refute that assertion. A long list of violence at a particular site will serve to show the action was foreseeable.

Another way an establishment might find itself at the center of a civil injury or wrongful death lawsuit would be through Maine’s dram shop law.

Maine Revised Statutes Title 28-A, Chapter 100, is also known as the “Maine Liquor Liability Act,” and it establishes the circumstances under which an establishment can be held liable for injuries caused by a drunk driver. The law essentially says a state-licensed vendor of alcohol can be liable for negligently or recklessly providing alcohol to someone who is either under the age of 21 or who is intoxicated.

Negligent service of alcohol occurs when a server knows or should know the person served is under 21 or visibly intoxicated. Reckless service of alcohol is knowingly serving a minor or someone intoxicated and consciously disregards an obvious and substantial risk of substantial harm. A dram shop case may be especially strong if plaintiff can show there is a history of such disregard at a given establishment.

Contact Bangor injury attorney  Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Rockland pulls pub’s entertainment permit because of ‘egregious’ violations, May 12, 2015, By Stephen Betts, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Bangor Health Safety Officials Say 6,000 Apartments Need Routine Inspection, March 20, 2015, Bangor Injury Attorney Blog

Following the death of a teen girl on a hayride last fall, Maine lawmakers are searching for way to tighten amusement park regulations and restrictions, to ensure similar tragedies never happen again. hayride

Recently, the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee weighed testimony from one lawmaker sponsoring a bill named after the teen that would enhance protections for those who pay money to go on amusement park rides in this state.

The measure, “Cassidy’s Law,” is formally titled LD 1057, An Act to Increase the Safety of Amusement Park Rides. It bears the name of the high school junior who was killed in Mechanic Falls when a 197os-model Jeep hauling a trailer with 20 people on it careened off the trail and into a cluster of trees at a “haunted” hayride offering at a local farm festival.

Exempt from regulations proposed in the bill would be those who give rides free of charge on farm equipment. As an example, Rep. Bob Nutting, R-Oakland, the sponsor of the measure, told legislators it wouldn’t apply to a pumpkin farmer who offered rides to customers who came to view the patch and choose a pumpkin or two or visitors to an apple orchard who came to pick some fruit. Instead, the new law would be solely applicable to those who charge money to customers for rides.

In these situations, the representative said, people who give money to take a ride should be able to reasonably expect someone with a degree of expertise has weighed the circumstances, inspected the vehicles and trailers and considered all relevant factors in determining that it’s safe. He said that when that tragic accident occurred last year, it was later revealed no one had inspected the vehicle for safety. No one determined how many people could safely ride on that trailer or what was the maximum speed it should be traveling or what qualifications the driver should have.

As it pertains to almost all vehicles driven on public roads in this state, the law requires a yearly inspection for safety and vehicle owners must prominently affix a sticker indicating the vehicle has been checked. However, farm vehicles are most often exempt, and these include trailers and tractors.

The new proposal would require hayride operations to undergo careful inspection and permitting, similar to other types of amusement park rides. For example, when it comes to rides at fairs or carnivals, it is the state fire marshal that inspects and permits all of those rides.

LD1057 doesn’t specify the permitting agency, and the  Maine fire marshal has indicated it likely doesn’t have the resources to initiate permitting for hayrides along with everything else. Doing so would likely cost the agency an additional $20,000 annually – and that’s before the start-up costs of training inspectors. Still, that agency has assisted local and state police in the investigation, which is still ongoing.

Another possible regulatory agency that might take charge of such inspections would be the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement arm of the state police.

A preliminary count revealed there are approximately 100 or so hayride operations running across the state at various times.

Start-up costs for such a program may seem daunting, but legislators say they intend to press forward, suggesting perhaps that these costs might be offset to some degree with permitting fees paid by the operators.

Even if the law is not passed, these companies, property owners, vehicle owners and vehicle drivers may still be held legally liable for any injuries or deaths caused by their negligence. What is not clear is the kind of insurance each entity had, and how that might be applied to these situations.

That’s why only an experienced personal injury lawyer should weigh in any amusement ride child injury case.

If you are dealing with an injury accident, contact  Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

‘Cassidy’s Law’ aims to tighten Maine’s amusement ride safety laws, April 27, 2015, By Scott Thistle, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Alert for Skiers in Maine: Chairlifts May be Unsafe, April 17, 2015, Bangor Injury Lawyer Blog

Most auto accidents – even serious ones – fade from the headlines days or sometimes just hours after they occur, after the wreckage has been cleared and traffic is moving once again.

But even for those who survive these frightening ordeals, the pain, injuries and scars are something with which they will struggle for a lifetime. carcrash5

One Waterville man knows that struggle all too well. He was involved in a horrific crash three years ago. His was one of three vehicles involved. Doctors weren’t sure if he would survive. He was in a coma for a month, and since he awoke, the list of his acute and chronic medical problems has been daunting, something he must overcome daily. Tacked onto the struggle was the fact he lost most of his hearing.

Recently, he was back in the headlines when, for the first time since that fateful day, he heard the sound of his wife’s voice. It was loud and clear. He didn’t need to try to read her lips. It wasn’t muffled. He didn’t have to lean in closer. She was asking him if the new hearing aides that had been placed in his ears were comfortable.

Those few simple words were met with a flood of emotion by everyone in the room. It was a major milestone in what has turned out to be an extensive journey of recovery.

As the Kennebec Journal chronicled, the man had been driving on U.S. 201 in Fairfield in his pickup truck when a car, struck by another vehicle, spun out of control and struck his. In all, four people were injured in the crash, including the man’s son. However, his were by far the most serious.

He had to be flown by helicopter to the local hospital, where he remained in a coma for a month. He underwent nine surgeries in the first 14 days. Doctors told family members to prepare for the fact that they very well might lose him.

When he finally did awaken, he would try to pass the long hours in his hospital bed by watching television. But he needed the volume at full blast – and even then, he could barely make out the sounds. When he was finally well enough to attend family gatherings, he never wanted to stay more than a half hour or so. He wasn’t enjoying himself because he couldn’t understand what anyone was saying.

As time wore on, he learned to read lips. But even then, it was difficult and he could only do it in one-on-one situations with someone who spoke slowly.

He was forced to give up his job installing satellite dishes. It wasn’t just the hearing. It was the ongoing back pain. He had a severely limited range of motion. His sons and other relatives tried to help with certain tasks when needed, but it was tough for him to accept it. He’d always been so independent.

Life, he said, became extremely bleak. He would later say he felt as if he was being punished for something, even though he had done nothing wrong.

The hearing aid technology had been available, but with a price tag of $7,000, he couldn’t afford them. He was grappling instead with $100,000 in medical bills. Plus, he was out of work.

Finally, he applied for a grant program to receive the hearing aids free. And he recently learned he was accepted.

Our auto accident attorneys aren’t privy to all the details behind this man’s accident or whether he settled with the other insurance companies or his own. Hopefully he sought sound legal guidance.  Sometimes, the impact of a car accident can be far greater than those involved can initially even imagine.

This case seems remarkable. Indeed, it made headlines. But the fact is, thousands of people in Maine right now are recovering from a horrific traffic accident, some with medical ailments even greater than these. It is for them that we fully dedicate our time, our experience and our skill.

If you are the victim of a Bangor auto accident, contact  Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Clinton man can hear again three years after accident, April 2, 2015, By Kaitlin Schroeder, CentralMaine.com

More Blog Entries:

Sayed v. Wal-Mart: Man Sues Store After Being Hit With Cart, April 15, 2015, Portland Car Accident Lawyer Blog

Two recent reports – one from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and another from analysis company GasBudy – predicted the lowest gas prices in a decade this summer for Maine and the rest of the country. gasoline

Both indicated average gas prices would be less than $2.50 per gallon for regular unleaded gas during the summer driving season, which stretches from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The cost for a gallon of gas hasn’t been that low since 2005, prior to the economic downturn.

Last year, the average cost for a gallon of gas at this time was nearly $3.65 for regular unleaded. Now, it’s about $2.40 a gallon. It’s slated to dip even lower this summer.

While this is great news for the tourism industry, it’s being met with some caution by traffic safety advocates, who fear an increased risk of Maine auto collisions.

Studies have shown repeatedly that low gas prices increase the number of traffic fatalities.

For example, sociological researchers at South Dakota State University have been conducting ongoing analysis on the relationship between U.S. roadway fatalities and gas prices. In one case, they found a 20-cent dip in gas prices in Minnesota was associated with a 15-person increase in traffic deaths.

Researchers were then asked what it might mean nationally if gas prices were to fall by $2 across the board. The answer? Nine thousand additional traffic fatalities. That is an increase of about 30 percent.

Why?

A number of reasons, but mostly, it has to do with the fact that when gas prices are low, people drive more. When they are high, people drive less.

In the latter instance, people may combine everyday trips – going to the grocery store, picking up children, commuting to work, stopping at the bank – rather than making separate trips for each chore, in an effort to save gas money. But when prices are lower, it’s not as much of a concern.

Additionally, when gas prices are higher, people end up doing things to conserve gas money that actually make them safer behind the wheel. For example, people tend to accelerate more slowly and maintain a more steady, constant speed. That’s because doing so will conserve gasoline, as opposed to fast acceleration and hard braking. These behaviors behind the wheel also help to reduce the number of accidents.

One group researchers found in which price fluctuations appeared to drastically impact safety was teenagers. People in their late teens and early 20s drove significantly fewer miles when gas prices shot up. Because this is considered to be the highest-risk group of motor vehicle operators, that tends to mean significantly fewer crashes.

Of course, those with deeper pockets are likely to drive regardless, but with lower gas prices this summer, there is ample reason to believe people will be driving with greater frequency over the next several months.

With the downward trajectory expected to continue in Maine through the upcoming summer travel season, we expect to see a rise in traffic accidents.

The best way motorists can protect themselves and their passengers is to ensure all occupants are buckled up and drivers remain sober, alert and focused on the road.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact  Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Maine summer gasoline prices expected to be the lowest in a decade, April 9, 2015, By J. Craig Anderson, Portland Press Herald

More Blog Entries:

Maine Drunk Drivers Wreak Havoc, April Alcohol Responsibility Month, April 5, 2015, Bangor Traffic Accident Lawyer Blog

A manufacturer of chairlifts used in ski resorts in Maine has issued a warning to resorts across the country to check the devices for defects. skiing

Company engineers have conceded there is an inherent design flaw that likely contributed to the recent Portland ski injuries suffered by seven people in a single accident after they fell some 30 feet to the ground.

The accident speaks to the aging infrastructure of the ski resort industry in New England, and the dangers visitors may face.

The Associated Press reports the New York-based firm Partek Ski Lifts is advising any lodges that currently use its lifts, or those made by Borvig, to conduct thorough safety checks, and also to carefully watch for issues related to an electrical switch. It’s believed a malfunction with that component may have been to blame for the accident that resulted in injuries on Sugarloaf Mountain.

There are an estimated 3,500 ski lifts in operation throughout the U.S. Of those, it’s believed about 170 could be effected by this design flaw.

Injuries stemming from this defect could result in litigation focusing on defective design or premises liability. All businesses have a duty to ensure their site is reasonably safe for customers. Although skiing is generally considered an inherently risky activity, skiers don’t generally assume the risk of a faulty chairlift, especially if the ski resort knew about the problem or should have known about it and failed to take steps to correct the problem or warn guests.

That the manufacturer has come out in front of the issue and warned of safety concerns is a positive, though it will not necessarily release the firm from liability in the event injuries result from this issue. As of right now, there hasn’t been a formal recall issued and no chairlifts were removed from service.

Engineers for the manufacturer suggest the firm used the wrong kind of electrical switch on the device, and this caused the system not to lock the chair in place – as it should have – when the device started moving backward in the air with several people on board. The chair itself is 27 years-old.

Sugarloaf is Maine’s tallest ski mountain, and this was the second accident to occur there in the last five years. The other ski accident, which happened in 2010, involved a 25-year-old chairlift.

Here, it appears there was a broken drive shaft in a gear box that resulted in the malfunction of the lift’s main brake system, which should have been automatically activated. The quad moved some 400 feet in reverse before the emergency brake was deployed and finally brought the lift to a halt.

The accidents is still being investigated by manufacturers, the resort, state inspectors and other industry officials. The resort chose to pull that particular lift offline, and it’s replaced the component in question on all its other lifts.

Although this chairlift was made by another firm, Borvig, that company has been out of business for years and Partek took on parts and support for its existing lifts back in the 1990s. The agreement also likely means Partek assumed liability for those lifts as well.

While there has not been a death associated with mechanical malfunction of a ski chairlift since 1993, there have been numerous incidents resulting in injury. This latest Maine ski accident resulted in injuries ranging from mild to severe.

If you are the victim of a ski accident, contact  Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Ski lift firm issues safety warning after Sugarloaf accident, March 27, 2015, By David Sharp, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:

Bangor Skiing Accident Leads to Death, Jan. 17, 2012, Portland Injury Lawyer Blog

Anytime a patron of a store lawfully enters that commercial property, he or she has a right to expect the business – and its agents – will act with reasonable care to ensure the site will be kept in reasonably safe condition. That includes making sure shelves are safely stacked, aisles are clear of debris and substances, lighting is adequate, and entrances stairways, walkways and parking lots are in good condition.shoppingcarts

It also means employees must act with reasonable care when carrying out their jobs.

When this does not happen, it’s a form of premises liability. That’s what is alleged in the recent Portland case of Sayed v. Wal-Mart, in which a man says he was strapping his infant son into the front of a shopping cart when an employee of the store negligently rammed a line of shopping carts into his back.

The lawsuits does not allege the child was injured. However, plaintiff asserts he suffered injuries to his back that required hospitalization and ongoing medical treatment. He seeks damages against defendant for those costs, as well as pain and suffering and mental anguish, loss of earnings, loss of earnings capacity and loss of life enjoyment.

There is no indication the employee intended to hurt the patron. Rather, it seems to be simply an accident. But that doesn’t change the fact plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of worker’s conduct and through no apparent fault of his own. (Even if he did share some of the blame, comparative negligence is not a bar to injury claims in Maine.)

This is one example of how a company/employer can be held responsible for actions of workers. The legal theory on which this is founded is called respondeat superior. This is Latin for “let the superior answer.” However, the rule is only applicable if the worker was acting within the course and scope of employment.

That means generally, if a worker was doing his or her job, carrying out the company’s business or otherwise acting on the employer’s behalf at the time injury took place, the employer can likely be held liable.

An exception comes into play when it’s determined employees acted either out of entirely personal motives or independently. So for example, if this worker had intentionally rammed the shopper, the store might not be liable.

The purpose of the rule is to hold companies responsible for the cost of doing business, and that includes worker misconduct or carelessness. Intentional injuries or those resulting from a worker doing something that is not related to his or her job are not likely to result in employer liability.

Often in these cases, it’s not necessary to show employer knew employee might cause harm or even that the company clearly did anything wrong. What must be shown is the injury resulted from employee’s actions and that employee was acting in the course and scope of employment.

Alternatively, a person injured by an employee could allege the company was negligent in hiring or retention of that employee, which is to say the company did act wrongly. This pertains to the idea that companies hire or keep a worker even after learning he or she poses a possible danger.

An example might be a nursing home that hired a person previously convicted of a violent criminal act. If that person goes on to harm one of the vulnerable residents, the victim or his representatives could pursue action against the facility on the theory of negligent hiring or retention.

If you injured while patronizing business or commercial property, contact our experienced Portland injury lawyers to learn more about your options to pursue compensation.

Contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Maine man sues Wal-Mart after employee allegedly rammed him with carts, April 1, 2015, By Darren Fishell, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Maine Ice and Snow Slip-and-Fall Injuries Common, Feb. 4, 2015, Portland Premises Liability Lawyer Blog