Articles Posted in Intentional Injuries/Crime

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently issued an opinion in a plaintiff’s appeal from a summary judgment motion entered in favor of an insurance company. According to the court’s opinion, a man owned a truck that was insured by the defendant and he used it to transport an intoxicated and delusional friend. While transporting him, the man’s friend jumped out of the moving truck, broke into the plaintiff’s home, and damaged their windows and property. The plaintiffs suffered injuries while attempting to restrain the intoxicated man.

The insurance policy on the man’s truck provided coverage for “the ownership, maintenance, or use of” his vehicle. The contract allows coverage for bodily injury to others and property damage resulting from an accident involving the insured vehicle. In 2014, the plaintiffs served the truck owner with a negligence complaint. The basis of the negligence complaint was that the truck owner assisted his friend in becoming intoxicated, took him for a drive instead of calling authorities, and followed his friend’s direction, driving him directly to the plaintiffs’ home.

The owner did not respond to the complaint, and the court entered a default judgment against him. In 2015, his insurance company received the complaint and hired counsel to defend the claim. During a damages hearing, the court found that the owner and his friend were jointly and severally liable. The plaintiffs then sought to apply the truck owner’s insurance policy to their award. The insurance company successfully moved for summary judgment. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the court inappropriately concluded that the damages were not caused by an accident that involved the car owner’s vehicle.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Maine wrongful death case discussing whether a business owner can be held liable for the intentional, violent acts of a third party, and if so, under what circumstances. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case was properly dismissed by the lower court because the plaintiff failed to show that the assault was foreseeable.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a woman was shopping at the defendant supermarket when another female customer approached the woman and attacked her with a knife. The woman died as a result of the attack, and her husband subsequently filed a Maine wrongful death claim against the supermarket, claiming that it was negligent in protecting his wife from the assault.

Evidently, the woman who stabbed the plaintiff’s wife was known in the community, as well as by store management. In fact, there had been several reports that the woman was acting menacingly in front of the store; however, there had been no reports that she ever threatened a customer. And no store employee ever saw her with a weapon. However, customers would occasionally complain that the woman’s physical presence alone was intimidating (apparently, she wore very baggy clothes and had a shaved head). At one point, the woman was banned from the store.

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Bangor personal injury lawsuits don’t typically stem from high school dramas. However with an increased awareness of bullying and a number of school districts embracing “zero tolerance” policies, the question becomes to what extent is a school responsible for a student-on-student attack? What preventative action should be considered “reasonable”?

Two high school students in Maine didn’t like each other. They started exchanging texts that insulted one another. It ended in a physical confrontation into which the older brother of one teen inserted himself, resulting in a head injury to the other student. This led to more than 200 students of the school engaging in a walk-out and rally – in support of the teen whose older brother carried out the assault. Although the older brother faced criminal charges, the Bangor Daily News reported he’d been defending his brother from being bullied for his sexuality. But questions still remain about exactly who was bullying whom.

The parents of the student who suffered a head injury are suing the school district as well as the parents of the other teen and his older brother. In that lawsuit, plaintiffs allege their son, who had special protected status as a result of a disability  (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety) was not granted the occasionally necessary “quiet space” to help him ward off anxiety attacks. His parents had also requested other changes to his education plan in light of fear to address the “growing concerns for his physical safety.” Since middle school, he’d purportedly been the subject of taunts from the other student (who identified as homosexual) on the basis of his perceived non-conformance with certain gender stereotypes and norms. The two started exchanging text messages and other students joined in, with much of it being offensive.  Continue reading

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

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.

Reported in the Portland Press Herald on November 26, 2010

A 27-year-old Portland native was killed early Thursday morning in a two-car crash in Massachusetts in which one of the drivers has been charged with motor vehicle homicide while drunk, according to police.

Raina Jensen was a back-seat passenger in a 2002 Nissan Altima traveling in Wilbraham, Mass., when it was struck by a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by Joshua Lacroix, 24, of Ware, Mass.

In Maine, there is a potential intersection of the workers’ compensation and personal injury systems when the injury is caused by a third party.

Generally, if you are injured at work, regardless of the cause, you are compensated for that injury entirely through the workers’ compensation system. However, did you know that if a party other than your employer is responsible for the injury, you may also have a separate claim against that party?

For example, if you were driving a vehicle as part of your job and were injured in an accident caused by another driver, you have both a workers’ compensation claim and a claim against the other driver.

INSURANCE ADJUSTERS HAVE THE INTERNET TOO!

Most people at one time or another have heard the advice “Do not put anything in an email or online that you would not want on the front page of the newspaper”. This is never truer than when you are bringing a personal injury claim. The insurance company WILL search for your online profiles. More than once, we have received a call from an adjuster directing us to a client’s online profile.

“So what?” you might be thinking, “I have nothing to hide. Besides, nothing I put on my Facebook or MySpace account has anything to do with my accident.”sThis is almost never true. For example, if you are claiming an injury, and you are writing about all of the things you did over the weekend, that is relevant. If you are posting pictures of your participation in a charity walk, that is relevant. As your attorneys, we know the truth is accident victims have good days and bad days while recovering. It is our job to make that argument on your behalf. However, the insurance adjuster will use this to show that your injuries are not very serious.

What happens if someone else’s negligence behind the wheel causes you injury and they don’t have enough insurance?sIn Maine, every auto insurance policy is required to have several components. In a previous post, we discussed uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, or the coverage that exists when the other party is not insured. The partner component of UM coverage is underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Like with UM coverage, every auto insurance policy in Maine must have a minimum of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident of UIM coverage (See Maine Revised Statutes Annotated Chapter 29-A Section 1605 (1)(C)(2) & (3) and Maine Revised Statutes Annotated Chapter 24-A Section 2902). This means, if you have insurance, you automatically have this coverage as part of your policy.

UIM coverage is used when someone causes you injury and their insurance policy is not sufficient to cover your damages. For example, although Maine requires $50,000 minimum of insurance, Massachusetts only requires $20,000 minimum. With the rising costs of medical expenses, even a moderate injury can easily use up this amount. This must also cover any lost wages, pain and suffering, attorney’s fees, and all other damages you may have. (The only exception is your vehicle damage, which is usually covered separately.)

So, if you are injured by someone who has $20,000 of insurance and you have $50,000, then there is a total of $70,000 of coverage right?sUnfortunately, no. In Maine, your UIM carrier receives a credit for the amount paid by the insurance company for the at fault driver. Therefore, in this example there is only a total of $50,000 of coverage. $20,000 paid by the at fault driver and $30,000 paid by your UIM carrier. Therefore, if you only have the minimum required insurance coverage of $50,000 of UIM, and someone else with the minimum causes you an injury, there is no additional coverage for your injuries.

Police reported that Corrie Lazar, 21, was struck by a vehicle while walking along Route 41 in Mount Vernon. Ms. Lazar was a camp counselor and was with two other counselors at the time of the incident. She had come to Maine from Washington State to be a camp counselor. Ms. Lazar was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mia Jessup, one of the other counselors walking with Ms. Lazar, was also struck and was hospitalized. The third counselor, Lloyd Olsen, was reportedly not hurt.

Police reported that Joseph Rouleau, the driver, may have been under the influence of alcohol and that alcohol may have been a factor in the crash.

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