Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

Personal injury attorneys are well skilled at discussing cases people find reprehensible.  If I had a dime for ever time someone mentioned the McDonald’s Coffee Case to me, I could probably stop practicing law and retire.  That case, like many others, was far more interesting and complex than the headline of “Woman sues McDonalds over hot coffee”.  If you are interested in what I am saying, I suggest you watch the fantastic documentary Hot Coffee.

There are other cases that people like to bring up, including some that are just fictional creations of the tort reform lobby.  And my purpose for this post is not to launch an argument against tort reform… rather I want to talk about the “new Coffee case”.  Namely, the awful Connecticut woman who sued her 12 year old nephew for hugging her!!!  My Facebook feed has been littered with friends mocking and insulting this woman with real vitriol!  I can already hear you saying, “Joe, you’re not possibly going to defend this woman or her lawsuit?!?”  Yeah, I am.  And, I’ll explain the reasoning behind it.

Of course the headline of this case is reprehensible.  What kind of awful person could sue someone who loves them for an act of love??  The answer might be that she had no choice.  The simple reality is that the civil justice system is designed to shift costs.  We can not take away injuries once they occur.  We can not hit a rewind button seconds before serious injury is caused in an accident.  Nor, can we put a price on a broken bone to make it go away.  All that we can do is compensate the injured person financially to assist with the disability, the lost wages and medical bills.  In the end, that is all our personal injury system is designed to do.  The person who rear-ended you likely is not an awful person who meant you harm, rather he or she made a mistake.  Their mistake, however, cost you in medical bills and pain and suffering.  So while they did not mean to harm you, their insurance will compensate you financially because that is the best that we can do.  And in this case, the 12 year old boy is not an awful person who meant harm.  But nevertheless, he hurt his Aunt breaking her arm racking up a hefty medical bill.

Now I admit I do not know the full details of this case, but I have seen similar situations before.  I have represented a wife who was the passenger in an accident caused by her husband driving, and I have represented a child against their father.  These cases are not made for revenge and no one actually wants to bring a case against a family member, but that is what the civil justice system requires.  When you sue for a slip and fall, you do not sue Allstate Insurance, you sue the owner of the property that caused the fall.  In this case, the woman could not sue the homeowners insurance, instead she had to sue her nephew.

I imagine that this woman did not have health insurance or did not have adequate medical coverage and after the accident she was left with tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills.  If an insurance company might cover the claim and shift the costs then she can not be said to be an awful human being for trying.  She had no choice but to “sue” her nephew if the insurance company was ever going to cover her hefty medical bills.

Again, I don’t know everything… but neither do most people commenting on the case.  I hope you can understand the principals of law that I have written here and see why such an awful law suit might exist.  After all, the accident occurred because the 12 year old was running to hug her.  He must love her… so maybe she’s not so awful after all.


Bryant University in little Rhode Island made national news this week for some horrible and unfortunate reasonings.  The news reported that a new construction at Bryant intended for athletics collapsed and fell mid construction.  At least six workers, some of whom were from out of state, were injured in the collapse.  The severity of the injuries vary, though, fortunately no one was killed in this accident.  A few of the workers remain in the hospital at this time recovering.  The cause of the collapse was not immediately known and OSHA has indicated that a full report on the cause of the collapse could take months.

These workers, or others injured in a construction site accident, are entitled to workers compensation at a minimum.  This will cover medical bills and lost wages while they are unable to work.  Workers Compensation may also allow for a small settlement amount, but workers comp does not cover pain and suffering such as is available in a personal injury claim.  The law is clear that an employee can not sue his/her employer for injury.  The workers compensation system is intended to protect injured workers hurt while working on behalf of their employers.  On construction sites, however, there are potentially dozens of different companies (or subcontractors).  Depending on who is at fault or who contributed to a workplace accident, an injured construction worker may still be able to bring a personal injury claim against one of the OTHER employers or companies.  This will allow for much greater financial compensation including pain and suffering.

For instance, early reports have suggested that a crane operator for the steel company is at fault for this accident.  Any of these injured workers who do NOT work for the steel company (i.e. they are employed by the general contractor or a plumbing company, etc.) can bring a personal injury claim against the steel company.  (I am not familiar with the investigation into negligence and I am only citing what I have read on turnto10.com.)  The investigation into negligence on an incident like this could take quite some time (As OSHA has indicated) and an experienced construction accident attorney will need to dig deep and find out who caused the incident and for whom do they work.

If you have been involved in a construction site accident, contact our office for a free initial consultation.  Understand your rights, the differences between workers compensation and personal injury claims, and what you are truly entitled to in compensation.

I have seen an avalanche of new medical malpractice inquiries coming to my office regarding overdoses caused by prescription painkillers, most notably fentanyl.  Just during July I received three inquiries from families of people killed while using the fentanyl patch.  It may come as a surprise to most readers of this post to find that an FDA approved drug has caused so much disaster.  The fact is prescription painkillers killed over 16000 people in 2013.  Heroin?  Just 6200.  I will leave it for a different blog and more analytical political observers to ask why drugs that kill tens of thousands of people are approved by the FDA while marijuana (which killed zero, yes 0) people in 2013 remains illegal.  (check out drugwarfacts.org for more information and the total chart of which drugs kill people.)

Just because a drug is FDA approved does not mean that an overdose or death caused while using the drug is not a case of medical malpractice.  After all, if legally prescribed and used, where is the negligence?  Quite the opposite, there is a strong chance of malpractice.  I have handled these cases in the past and I am quite familiar with the power of this drug.  Fentanyl is shockingly strong and intended for use only for the most severe cases such as dying cancer patients in hospice.  Prescription of the patch outside of its recommended use or for the wrong patient can be grounds for a medical malpractice claim.  In other words, a person with a marginal history of back pain should not legally be prescribed such a powerful drug.  Fentanyl patch overdose can often be caused because it is prescribed to the wrong person or the person is not properly informed how to use the patch.

The patch itself can cause an overdose but it is particularly dangerous when paired with other drugs, particularly anti-anxiety drugs.  This interaction can be fatal and it is graded as a moderate drug interaction, meaning that it should be avoided and only used under close observation.

If a family member has died while using the fentanyl patch, please call our office for a free consultation.  Your family may have rights and be entitled to compensation for the needless and unnecessary death of a family member.


I’ve previously spoken on this blog about how Facebook and social media can affect your personal injury claim and/or lawsuit.  It is well established that insurance companies and defense attorneys will examine your Facebook profile if it is open to the public.  They will use anything to their advantage to discredit you or your case.  Examples of ways in which your social media can effect and harm your personal injury claim:

  • Pictures or descriptions of yourself going to the gym or for a jog while claiming disability (even if it is rehab and stretching exercises, it looks bad);
  • Pictures or descriptions of yourself doing work (even if unpaid) while making a claim for lost wages or loss of earning capacity (for instance, helping a friend move or doing remodeling work on your home);
  • Recently, I heard about a case where the witness was discredited because the defense counsel found out that the plaintiff and witness were Facebook friends.

It is also commonplace these days during discovery for defense attorneys to request to subpoena cell phone records.  This can be used to establish when and if 911 was called following an accident; what friends or colleagues were called immediately following an accident; if a driver was texting at or around the time of an accident and whether that may have played a role in the incident.

While this seems pretty clear, I have read of recent cases in which Fitbit has been subpoenaed as evidence.  This one is a little less obvious but still very interesting.  Fitbit has been used in cases to discredit that an injury occurred.  In this case, the woman was alleging that she slipped and fell causing injury.  During discovery, the subpoena of Fitbit revealed that at the time of the accident, the woman’s heart beat remained absolutely constant and there was no evidence of trauma.  It was also used in a criminal case as an alibi because the defense attorney was able to prove that his client was asleep (via Fitbit) at the time he was allegedly causing a crime.

It is very important, more now than ever, that you protect your personal information while involved in a lawsuit.  Of course, this evidence can help a case as easily as it can hurt a case, but you want to be sure that there are no surprises in evidence or that a seemingly harmless post is not taken the wrong way by an aggressive defense attorney.


News today reports that a RIPTA (Rhode Island Public Transit Authority) bus was involved in a pretty serious accident with a tractor trailer.  The accident which happened Tuesday at the corner of Church and Pine Streets disabled both vehicles and sent at least two bus passengers to the hospital with several others complaining of pain.  This follows accidents  in March involving a pedestrian very seriously injured when struck by a RIPTA bus and several other high profile accidents in the past few months.

In this case, the RIPTA investigation (unsurprisingly) claims fault is with the truck driver who allegedly ran a red light.  Both drivers may argue fault in this matter and debate who had the right of way.  Fortunately, passengers on the bus are entitled to compensation no matter who is at fault.  Joint and several liability holds that anyone who carries no negligence (passengers clearly can’t be at fault since they were not in control of either vehicle) are entitled to obtain compensation from one at fault party, or the other, or both.  In short, either the truck driver or RIPTA will be paying the claims to these injured passengers.

RIPTA in general is notoriously difficult to work with and very rarely settles cases for fair value without a lawsuit.  RIPTA is also self-insured meaning that they settle all of their claims “in house” and attorneys do not deal with a traditional insurance company.  My office has handled a number of RIPTA cases, and honestly, we just file suit right away.  There is little point in trying to negotiate directly with RIPTA especially in a case like this where they are alleging the other party is at fault.  If you have been hurt in an accident with a RIPTA bus or while riding as a passenger on a RIPTA bus, be sure to talk to your attorney about his or her experience in dealing with RIPTA and hire an attorney who has a record of success against RIPTA and who is prepared to file the often necessary lawsuit.  If you have been injured in this accident or any other bus accident, contact our office right away for a free consultation.

Todays local news bring the tragic story of a young Coventry couple killed in a motorcycle accident following collision with another vehicle.  While details are still scant at this moment, it is a bitter reminder of how dangerous riding bicycles and motorcycles can be.  The warm weather has brought out cyclists of every kind and the accidents the come with them.  Already this year, I have seen many new cases come into my office including a motorcyclist who shattered his knee when forced to drop to the ground when cut off by a vehicle turning left.

Drivers must be aware that this weather brings out thousands of bicyclists and motorcycle riders.  They are not able to maneuver or stop in the same way in which a car can.  More importantly, minor contact with little physical damage can cause serious personal injury to the operator.  Bikers can be thrown from a bike causing head injuries, broken bones, road rash and other serious injuries.

Motorcyclists are by nature defensive drivers because they simply need to be, as drivers of motor vehicles sharing the road, we need to be defensive as well.

UPDATE 6/16 –  It turns out the Torti family had five children.  This is a tragedy for that family in every sense of the word.  The family has created a Gofundme page for funeral costs and the children’s benefit.  Here is a link if you feel so inclined to contribute.

I read this tragic story this morning out of Alabama.  A young boy was shopping with his mother at a Publix supermarket and asked for a cookie in the bakery section.  The boy suffers from a very serious allergy to tree nuts of all kinds.  As many as two percent of all children today suffer from this allergy which can range in severity from mere annoyance to fatal. Unfortunately, for this young man, he had a fatal allergy.  The family has brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the supermarket.

The cookies in the market were not marked as containing nuts of any kind.  Aware of the seriousness of her sons allergy, the victims mother specifically asked the girl at the counter if there were any nuts in the cookie.  She was told “no.”  The boys mother even tried the cookie herself first but did not notice any nuts in the ingredients.  Horribly, after just 2-3 bites the boy knew something was wrong because his mouth was on fire.  Despite the use of benadryl and an epi-pen, the boy still passed away on route to the hospital.

This story is all the more tragic because it was absolutely unnecessary.  With great credit to the boys parents they claim that this lawsuit is not about money but about awareness.  Even though the country is pretty aware of the existence of peanut allergies and many schools now forbid nuts of any kind, there remains far too much ignorance on the subject.  It is, as it was here, literally a matter of life and death.  Supplying an allergic boy with a cookie containing (even trace amounts of) nuts is the equivalent of handing any one else a cookie containing cyanide.  Hopefully this lawsuit can have their desired effect of informing the public just how important it is to be aware of the presence of nut allergens.

Based on the facts of this case as I am aware, it seems clear that Publix should be held responsible for the boys death.  Not only because there was a failure to warn of the presence of nuts but because their employee was specifically asked about the presence of nuts and wrongfully claimed there were none.

A California lawsuit alleges that nearly a hundred wines from a dozen or more producers contain enormous amounts of arsenic much higher than the legally permissible limits.  Its tough to avoid this story that seems to be everywhere and as a self appointed amateur wine connoisseur, I have to admit to finding the story fascinating.  The Plaintiffs allege that independent testing reveals arsenic levels as high as 500x what is considered safe (kind of scary that number is not 0).  Of course, the wine institute believes the lawsuit is nonsense and that all of the listed wines are safe to drink.  To be fair, the plaintiffs were not killed as a result of drinking this wine, they are simply appalled at the results of independent testing.

It began with an independent test in Denver.  They sought to review approximately 1300 bottles of the most common wines on the marketplace.  In fact, these 1300 bottles represented 75% of all wine drank in the US.  Of course, since we are talking about commonplace and high volume wines, many of those tested were cheap and inexpensive bottled (or boxed) wine.  Shockingly, 83 of the bottles tested revealed excessive arsenic levels.  Those 83 bottles are:

  • Acronym’s GR8RW Red Blend 2011
  • Almaden’s Heritage White Zinfandel
  • Almaden’s Heritage Moscato
  • Almaden’s Heritage White Zinfandel
  • Almaden’s Heritage Chardonnay
  • Almaden’s Mountain Burgundy
  • Almaden’s Mountain Rhine
  • Almaden’s Mountain Chablis
  • Arrow Creek’s Coastal Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  • Bandit’s Pinot Grigio
  • Bandit’s Chardonnay
  • Bandit’s Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bay Bridge’s Chardonnay
  • Beringer’s White Merlot 2011
  • Beringer’s White Zinfandel 2011
  • Beringer’s Red Moscato
  • Beringer’s Refreshingly Sweet Moscato
  • Charles Shaw White Zinfandel 2012
  • Colores del Sol’s Malbec 2010
  • Glen Ellen by Concannon’s Glen Ellen Reserve Pinot Grigio 2012
  • Concannon’s Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011
  • Glen Ellen by Concannon’s Glen Ellen Reserve Merlot 2010
  • Cook’s Spumante
  • Corbett Canyon’s Pinot Grigio
  • Corbett Canyon’s Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cupcake’s Malbec 2011
  • Fetzer’s Moscato 2010
  • Fetzer’s Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Fish Eye Pinot Grigio 2012
  • Flipflop’s Pinot Grigio 2012
  • Flipflop’s Moscato
  • Flipflop’s Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Foxhorn’s White Zinfandel
  • Franzia’s Vintner Select White Grenache
  • Franzia’s Vintner Select White Zinfandel
  • Franzia’s Vintner Select White Merlot
  • Franzia’s Vintner Select Burgundy
  • Hawkstone’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  • HRM Rex Goliath’s Moscato
  • Korbel’s Sweet Rose Sparkling Wine
  • Korbel’s Extra Dry Sparkling Wine
  • Menage a Trois’ Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Menage a Trois’ Moscato 2010
  • Menage a Trois’ White Blend 2011
  • Menage a Trois’ Chardonnay 2011
  • Menage a Trois’ Rose 2011
  • Menage a Trois’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
  • Menage a Trois’ California Red Wine 2011
  • Mogen David’s Concord
  • Mogen David’s Blackberry Wine
  • Oak Leaf’s White Zinfandel
  • Pomelo’s Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • R Collection by Raymond’s Chardonnay 2012
  • Richards Wild Irish Rose’s Red Wine
  • Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc 2012
  • Simply Naked’s Moscato 2011
  • Smoking Loon’s Viognier 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Sauvignon Blanc 2010
  • Sutter Home’s Gewurztraminer 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Pink Moscato
  • Sutter Home’s Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Moscato
  • Sutter Home’s Chenin Blanc 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Sweet Red 2010
  • Sutter Home’s Riesling 2011
  • Sutter Home’s White Merlot 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Merlot 2011
  • Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel 2011
  • Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel 2012
  • Sutter Home’s Zinfandel 2010
  • Trapiche’s Malbec 2012
  • Tribuno’s Sweet Vermouth
  • Vendange’s Merlot
  • Vendange’s White Zinfandel
  • Wine Cube’s Moscato
  • Wine Cube’s Pink Moscato 2011
  • Wine Cube’s Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Wine Cube’s Pinot Grigio
  • Wine Cube’s Chardonnay 2011
  • Wine Cube’s Chardonnay
  • Wine Cube’s Red Sangria
  • Wine Cube’s Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • Wine Cube’s Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2011

As unsettling as it might be to find out there is an “acceptable amount of arsenic” is that the government does not regulate or restrict the amount of arsenic that is allowable in wine.  Long term exposure to higher than normal levels of arsenic can result in a multitude of illnesses or physical ailments.  I believe this is an example, much like with pharmaceuticals or the food industry, where the civil justice community is doing the job we hope that the FDA is doing.  Since wine is unregulated, cheap wine producers cut costs that result in higher than safe arsenic levels.  It is only plaintiffs lawyers and the civil court system which fights back against such dangers.

Stay safe everyone and I hope your favorite wine did not appear on this list.  Nevertheless, this should be an interesting case to watch unfold.



I came across this interesting article on CNN.com regarding a massive class action lawsuit involving hundreds of auto bodys from nearly every State in the Country against the insurance industry and major insurance companies.  The complaint at the heart of the lawsuit concerns the use of old and/or junk parts in the repair of vehicles and steering by the insurance company to “preferred” body shops.  The body shops along with Attorney Generals representing several States have initiated this action to end both of these practices by the insurance company which they feel are unsafe and deceptive.


The term LKQ stands for Like Kind and Quality.  It means a replacement part that came off of a previously totaled or salvaged vehicle.  Massive salvage yards are in every corner of the country with thousands of vehicles that were deemed total losses following an auto accident.  These salvage yards remove every piece of a vehicle and post them for sale.  When a body shop or insurance company calls the salvage yard looking for a 2004 Camry headlight, they will very likely have one in stock.  Then that used headlight goes into your repaired 2004 Camry.  The insurance companies claim that they do not owe for a brand new Toyota headlight because the car being fixed is not new.  In other words, the insurance companies justify this practice by saying “we replaced a ten year old Camry headlight with another ten year old Camry headlight.”  There may be some fair rationale to that argument.  This lawsuit alleges, however, that used parts in a salvage yard are not always safe or in the best condition.  For that reason, forcing body shops to use such parts can potentially create a hazardous situation.  And lets be honest, if a tree falls on your house and you make a homeowners claim, would you expect your contractor to use 30 year old wood while re-constructing your house or brand new materials?  Junk parts are just that – junk.


If you report a car accident to an insurance company one of the first things that you may hear is – “we’ll be happy to refer you to a body shop for your repairs which will be guaranteed for life.”  Sounds great!  One of the most difficult insurance companies in the State, Progressive, even advertises their repair centers on TV.  The idea is just drop off your car and we’ll give it back to you with a lifetime warranty.  You’ll have no idea who fixed your car or what parts they used, but they hope you won’t mind this trickery since they offer a lifetime warranty.  The insurance companies want you to use their preferred shops because they have a mutually beneficial agreement with them.  We guarantee that we will send you business each month and in return we expect that you will write affordable estimates and use the parts the insurance companies want them to use.  This means, for example, using junk parts or repairing a door in 1 hour instead of 3 hours.  The fear is that this creates unsafe or sloppy repairs.  This is a very important practice for the insurance companies and adjusters are watched for how many cars they are able to steer to these preferred shops.

I do not write this under the assumption that preferred shops are bad or dangerous in any way.  In fact, many terrific body shops are on preferred lists with insurance companies.  It is important, however, that the vehicle owner understand who is repairing the car and how is the vehicle going to be repaired.

Also, Rhode Island, does offer vehicle owners some protections.  Depending on the age and mileage of your car (under 3 years, 36,000) miles, insurance companies can not use certain alternative replacement parts.  They will have to use genuine Toyota or Ford parts.  That said, if your car has over 36k miles the insurance companies are free to use junk parts or aftermarket parts (generic parts made by companies other than the vehicle manufacturer).  I am curious how this lawsuit will play out and if it will effect the insurance industry practice in the future.

My office handles hundreds of car accidents each year and we always help our clients with the property damage claim as well as the personal injury claim.  If you have questions or concerns about the damage to your vehicle following an auto accident and the repairs that it will receive, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Considering that most New Englanders now feel they are living in Alaska, it is not surprising that snow and ice are causing a lot of car accidents in the past weeks.  This has led to a common recurring question – why am I at fault for an accident caused by snow or ice?  It is a reasonable question.  If your car slides on ice and you are unable to come to a stop despite your absolute best efforts, then why should you be responsible if you rear end someone.  You couldn’t help the slide, after all.

As reasonable an argument as that may be, the reality is that anyone who operates a vehicle in snow and ice willingly takes on the risk that comes with those conditions.  We all know that it is dangerous to drive in the snow and therefore we take responsibility if we lose control of our car.  Any injuries or property damage that are caused will be the responsibility of the person who lost control in the snow.

Aside from this, auto accidents caused by snow and ice are subject to the same rules of the road as any other car accident.  If you hit a patch of ice and slide through a stop sign striking another vehicle, you will be responsible for the damages caused.  Rhode Island does not become a no-fault state because of snow and ice.  If you have been hurt in a car accident caused during the recent snow storms, contact our office for a free consultation.