November 2009 Archives

November 29, 2009

Rhode Island Officially Bans Texting While Driving

By now we have all seen the electronic traffic message signs telling us that there is a new law in Rhode Island banning texting while driving. It is true that Rhode Island has joined the growing number of States to make illegal this dangerous activity.

One might ask, how dangerous is texting while driving? It turns out, according to a Car & Driver report, that it may be more dangerous than drunk driving.

In a safe test environment they tested the reaction and stopping times of individuals who were texting, emailing, or legally drunk (over .08). The results were startling.

  • an unimpaired driver: .54 seconds to brake
  • legally drunk : an additional 4 feet
  • reading email: an additional 36 feet
  • sending a text: an additional 70 feet

So the results suggest that a person distracted by their cell phone is even more dangerous than a mildly drunk driver.

November 27, 2009

New Rhode Island Law Compels Blood Alcohol Testing

The State legislature has passed a new law that allows officers to force drivers suspected of being under the influence AND are involved in accidents that cause death or serious bodily injury, to submit to a blood alcohol test.

Rhode Island law holds that any driver on a public road gives consent to a breathalyzer test if suspected of DUI. Drivers, however, can refuse to take the test. Refusal to take the breathalyzer will result in a separate charge from the DUI and will result in a loss of license, but may help avoid a DUI conviction.

This new State law denies the driver's right to refusal when the suspected DUI has led to an accident involving serious bodily injury or death. The law will really aid the prosecution for the heightened charges of R.I.G.L. 31-27-2.2 "driving under the influence of liquor or drugs, resulting in death."

I will be curious to see where the fine line is drawn in regards to "serious bodily injury." What will it take for an injury to be deemed serious enough to give the officer power to force the suspected drunk driver to submit to the chemical test. I am willing to bet that this will be the subject of much litigation in the coming years.

Rhode Island legislators are happy to have this law passed in time for the Thanksgiving weekend when a higher percentage of drunk drivers are on the road. Everyone be careful out there this weekend.

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November 25, 2009

Settlement Details in Station Fire Released

As a long dark period of Rhode Island history comes to an end, additional settlement details concerning the Station Fire which killed 100 people and injured over 200 on February 20, 2003, have been released.

Plaintiff lawyers worked diligently and brought in dozens of defendants to try and ensure the best possible compensation for victims of this disaster. In total, approximately $175 million dollars will go into the pot. Children under 18 who lost a parent in the fire will receive an average award of over $200k. The settlement amounts for minors who lost a parent will range from $171,685.44 to $241,631.36. The youngest children will receive the highest awards because they have spent the largest part of their lives without their mother or father.

Of course, the awards to the actual victims, as opposed to dependents, will be resolved on an individual basis and dependent on the severity of injury.

I wish the best to all of the victims and family of victims affected by this awful disaster.

November 17, 2009

DJ AM to Test Limits of Proximate Cause

I found an interesting story on the website TMZ which I am embarrassed to comment on or admit that I read. Nonetheless, it turns out that the family of DJ AM (aka Adam Goldstein) has filed a wrongful death suit against several defendants involved in his airplane crash in 2008. You may remember that DJ AM died in August of this year from a drug overdose. The family alleges in the lawsuit that DJ AM became addicted to painkillers following the serious injuries sustained in the airplane crash and ultimately died from this addiction.

Proximate cause is an essential topic in personal injury litigation. It asks if an event is sufficiently related to an injury to be determined as the cause of that injury. For example, we can easily link a broken wrist to a slip and fall. In more complicated scenarios, the classic test is often referred to as "but for". In this scenario, DJ AM would not have died of an accidental drug overdose but for the negligence of the airline that caused his prior injuries.

I think that it is a stretch to link an accidental overdose of prescription drugs to an accident that occurred almost a year earlier, and the attorneys will have a tough case to present, but kudos to them for thinking outside of the box.

November 2, 2009

Vegas - Prostitution is All Yours!

Tuesday it will be official... indoor prostitution, for many years legal in the State of Rhode Island, is officially illegal.  The House overwhelmingly approved a bill to close the loophole in RI law that inadvertently allowed prostitution.  The previous law only made solicitation illegal, so that a prostitute could be arrested for "walking the streets."  The law, however, did not explicitly ban exchanging sex for money, so the Providence Phoenix and Craigslist, have been a haven for consenting adults to legally get together.  Not to mention the dozens of strip clubs and Asian massage parlors throughout the State.

Governor Carcieri is set to sign the law into effect on Tuesday.  A fight was made to prevent the passing of the law.  Opponents of the new law pointed out that making the activity illegal will not rid the State of prostitution but will force women to hide their activity where they are more likely to be harmed by dangerous "johns" or pimps.  In the end, I guess the legislature did not want to be known as the only prostitute friendly State outside of Nevada.

One could argue that the impetus to close this loophole began with the documentary film "Happy Endings" which illustrated the plight of woman trafficked from Asia for sex and living in squalor at one of Rhode Island's many infamous massage parlors.  The film thrust Rhode Island into the spotlight, particularly among those unfamiliar with the State's prostitution laws.

The legislation will make prostitution that occurs in brothels, strip clubs, homes or other indoor venues a criminal misdemeanor punishable for first offenders by up to six months in prison and fines of up to $1,000, or both.  Prostitutes convicted of multiple offenses would face up to a year in prison and fines of up $1,000, or both