Articles Posted in Personal Injury

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently granted partial summary judgment in a case against a Portland High School after a mother alleged her teenage son fell and struck his head while apparently tussling with an older boy at a school sporting event.Legal News Gavel

The court dismissed the claims against the older boy’s parents. The case against the defendant teen and the school district will proceed separately from this ruling.

The mother claimed the incident occurred at Cheverus High School in Portland, where a number of youths had been attending a sporting event. She filed an injury lawsuit against the school district, as well as the older boy and his parents, bringing counts for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The defendant parents requested summary judgment for both negligent infliction of emotional distress and causes of action under state negligence laws.

Rabid wildlife has attacked two Brunswick residents and two dogs in recent days. While references to Stephen King’s “Cujo” will no doubt abound, the fact remains summer is already the most dangerous time of year for Maine dog bite injuries; confirmed cases of rabies in the area will only serve to increase the risks. While Stephen King’s 1981 classic depicted the horror faced by a mother and son held captive in rural Maine by a rabid dog, the truth of the matter is that mandatory pet vaccines throughout the majority of the country have drastically reduced the risks.Legal News Gavel

However, Maine is among the states that still report the most cases each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports rabies is a preventable disease of mammals, transported most often through the bite of another rabid animal. The vast majority of reported cases each year occur in wild animals, including raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks. Untreated, the virus infects the central nervous system and leads to brain disease and death. Death occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.

In the Brunswick case this month, the Bangor Daily News reports a 72-year-old woman was bitten by a gray fox. A 27-year-old neighbor was also bitten while trying to detain the fox for authorities. In a separate incident, two dogs were bitten by a rabid skunk. As of June, Maine has had 18 confirmed cases of rabies reported statewide.

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A rash of fatal snowmobile accidents this month has authorities preaching caution through the remainder of the riding season.

The most recent incident claimed the lives of a father and son in Hermon. The Maine Warden Service says a 33-year-old man and his 10-year-old son were killed in a crash about 1 a.m. after their snowmobile collided with a tree at the edge of a field. Authorities also reported the death of a 53-year-old man in a separate incident. Speed is being cited as a contributing factor in both accidents.Legal News Gavel

As we recently reported, Title 14 Part 1 Chapter 7 159-A provides added protection for many landowners. The law limits liability for recreational activities by limiting a property owner’s duty of care for permissive uses. Essentially, what this means is if a farmer or other landowner permits recreational activity on owned land, the landowner does not owe visitors a higher duty of care as a customer or invited guest, which would otherwise be owed under Maine premises liability laws.

Recently, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) posted on her Facebook page that she had suffered a fractured ankle that required surgery after she suffered a slip-and-fall accident at her home. Although she didn’t realize any details about exactly how the fall occurred, she indicated the ankle was broken in two places, but the surgery was successful. Legal News Gavel

Slip-and-fall accidents like the one Collins suffered are an increasing occurrence in Maine during the winter months, when accumulations of ice and snow make walkways and entrances especially hazardous.

Of course, brutally cold, icy, and snowy conditions are just a part of life here in Maine, which makes almost any way of traveling potentially dangerous. The state has gone so far in the past as to issue travel bans during blizzards, but those apply to motor vehicle traffic. Still, property owners owe a common law duty of care to keep their sites reasonably free from potentially slippery conditions for workers, customers, and other types of guests.

When seven were injured and one killed on a state fair ride in Ohio, officials with the Bangor State Fair initiated additional safety checks on a ride similar to the one that malfunctioned, to ensure there were no future tragedies. In fact, the Freak Out ride in Bangor is manufactured by the same company that made the ride in Ohio. A specialist is slated to check the ride before the fair opens, the operator told The Bangor Daily News, and the Bangor fire marshal’s office inspectors were dispatched to check all mechanical rides. Legal News Gavel

Fair injuries are not unique to Ohio. Right here in Maine, four children were injured in two separate incidents two years ago at the Waterville State Fair. In one incident, the Dragon Wagon ride resulted in three child injuries. The very next day at the same fair, a rider in a mechanical swing wasn’t properly secured in the ride, and fell out of the chair during the ride. Two people were later charged criminally in those incidents.

Deaths on carnival rides are relatively rare, but the problem, as noted by experts quoted in USA Today, is there are not enough safety regulations and too few inspectors. From now through mid-September is considered peak fair season, with state fairs popular in Maine and many other states. But the inspections may not be adequate to catch all the potential problems. For example, Ohio reportedly has eight inspectors in charge of permitting some 3,700 rides annually. The question then becomes how many hours of inspection does each ride get? One expert opined a thorough ride inspection takes between one and three days because the inspector must examine x-rays of the joints and welds.  Continue reading

Auto insurance policies generally cover sudden or unexpected injuries that involve an automobile. This doesn’t always necessarily mean that the only incidents that would be covered would be those involving a vehicle-on-vehicle collision while at least one of the cars is in motion. However, neither can it mean, according to a recent Maine Supreme Judicial Court opinion, a Maine dog bite that did not specifically arise from the use of the automobile.Legal News Gavel

A similar case arose in 1987, with the same court deciding in Union Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Commercial Union Ins. that a gunshot wound incurred when a weapon in the back of a vehicle was accidentally discharged was not covered under the auto insurance policy.

In the more recent case, the dog in question was co-owned by two unmarried individuals. While the female co-owner of the dog had an auto insurance policy that covered her and her vehicle, the male co-owner was operating one of his employer’s cars to meet the plaintiff, who had purchased an old pickup truck from the dog owner’s son. The dog owner brought his dog with him in the car. While transferring the pickup truck, someone (it is disputed who exactly it was, but the issue isn’t material) opened the door to the vehicle with the dog in it. The dog, without leaving the vehicle, bit the plaintiff in the face.

A segway is known widely as being the primary mode of transportation for the goofy “Mall Cop” character Paul Blart. Segways, those two-wheeled, one-person motorized transportation devices, are typically seen as innocuous and easy-to-use, if a bit silly-looking. However, as recently reported by The Washington Post, summer Segway tours are increasingly popular throughout the country, including in Maine. But they pose dangers that might not be immediately obvious. As the Post reports, many tourists have suffered injuries as a result of Segway falls.Legal News Gavel

The Post detailed a case recently in which a reporter looked on as a group of four tourists tried out some final practice moves before heading out for a tour in Washington, D.C. However, one in the group crashed. The New Zealand tourist hit a small bump in the pavement, struck a wall with the handlebars, and then fell over onto the concrete. She immediately grabbed her knee in pain. She was helped into the building and later taken by ambulance to a local hospital. The reporter later learned she had suffered a broken leg and would need surgery upon her arrival back to New Zealand, which was going to occur much sooner thanks to the trip being cut short. In an email, her husband called it “a silly accident.”

However, as our attorneys know, these incidents may actually be a bit more complicated than that, both from a causation and liability standpoint. In fact, these devices may be more complicated to operate than they might appear at first blush. Currently, there are cases pending – some of them multi-million dollar claims – that involve injuries from falls off Segways.

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When nursing home abuse and neglect is suspected in Maine facilities – including those that provide care for vulnerable and disabled adults – it is expected that reports made to the Office of Aging and Disability Services will trigger an independent investigation by the state’s office of Adult Protective Services. However, it appears in a number of cases, that is not happening.Legal News Gavel

The Bangor Daily News reports that five separate health care providers in a four-county area came forward and shared their referral numbers with the paper. Collectively, there were more than 550 allegations of suspected nursing home abuse, neglect, and exploitation over a four-year span ending in 2015. However, APS had final reports for just 40 of those.

It’s not clear whether the state is simply choosing not to investigate accidents or if the internal standards have changed. What health care providers are telling journalists, however, is that while they continue to file their referrals as suspected cases of abuse arise, they rarely anymore receive reports back from the state about the outcome or even existence of an investigation.

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A decision by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court held that a plaintiff should not be allowed to recover personal injury damages for the wrongful birth of a healthy baby. The child was reportedly conceived after the plaintiff had been implanted with a form of birth control that was inserted into the plaintiff’s arm. Legal News Gavel

The plaintiff gave birth to a boy, who was healthy, in the summer of 2014 when she was 21 years old. However, as she explained to the court, she had visited a health care center to weigh her options for birth control.

According to court records, the plaintiff’s doctor recommended the use of an implantable device manufactured by the defendant. It consisted of a single, four-centimeter-long rod that was to be inserted underneath the skin of the patient’s upper arm with an applicator that looked like a syringe. The drug was designed to prevent pregnancy for at least three years, unless the rod was removed sooner by a doctor. It works by blocking the ovulation process.

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A judge in Central Maine ordered two pit bull dogs euthanized after an August attack in Augusta resulted in the death of a much smaller dog and serious injuries to the deceased animal’s owner.Legal News Gavel

The owner of the two pit bulls, who also owns a dog grooming business, had advocated in the Capital Judicial Center to spare the dogs’ lives. During a two-day non-jury trial, the owner had been accused of two civil violations for keeping a dangerous dog. Title 7, Part 9, Chapter 727 of Maine Revised Statutes holds that a person who owns or keeps a dangerous dog commits a civil violation, for which the court must impose a fine of between $250 and $1,000 – none of which can be suspended. If someone is injured as a result of an attack by a dangerous dog, the court can order the identification and confinement of the dogs, as well as restitution paid by the dangerous dog’s owner. If a dog owner or keeper refuses or neglects to comply with a previous court order, and the dog wounds a person or domestic animal, the owner or keeper has to pay the injured person treble damages and costs that are recovered in a civil action.

Chapter 729 of the state’s revised statutes goes over injuries and damages caused by animals, holding in part that when an animal damages a person or property due to the negligence of the dog’s owner or keeper, the owner or keeper is liable in a civil action to the injured person for the amount of the damages caused, as long as the harm wasn’t occasioned by the fault of the injured person. The only time damages would not be owed to a person injured in a dog attack would be if the court finds the injured person’s fault exceeded that of the dog’s keeper or owner.

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