March 2011 Archives

March 31, 2011

A Review of Safety is Needed Following Several Serious Bus and Truck Accidents

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is hosting a conference in DC this week aimed at reviewing the laws and regulations regarding the safety of commuter buses and commercial trucks. The conference follows a series of very serious accidents involving buses and trucks throughout the country, including a March accident in New York city that killed 15 people. Last summer, a high profile accident injuring several people occurred in Boston involving a "duck tour" bus.

Private bus companies, including national carriers and local tour companies, have been under growing scrutiny after many have been cited for violations ranging from mechanical defects to driver fatigue. Senator Chuck Schumer singled out discount tour companies requesting the NTSB to "examine the overall effectiveness of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's safety regime for the low-cost tour bus industry."

Bus and truck accidents can be particularly dangerous because of the increased size of the vehicles. Also, passengers in commercial buses lack the safety equipment, such as seatbelts and airbags, that comes standard in cars. The high number of people along with their bags, luggage, and other carry-ons also increases the danger of injury in a bus accident.

The safety conference will likely focus on increased regulation of buses and commercial trucks including more significant penalties for violations and more careful screening of employees and vehicle operators.

Continue reading "A Review of Safety is Needed Following Several Serious Bus and Truck Accidents" »

March 27, 2011

Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Zeppole from Johnston Bakery

Like a good percentage of Rhode Islanders, I celebrated St. Joseph's day with my family and zeppole. Unfortunately, the Providence Journal is reporting that the holiday tradition caused at least 23 Rhode Islanders to become ill with salmonella. Of those 23 at least 13 required hospitilization for the illness and several remain hospitalized.

The dangerous pastries were from DeFusco's Bakery in Johnston which has since been closed following a Rhode Island State health inspection showed that the cream was kept in unsafe or unsanitary conditions which may have led to the salmonella outbreak. DeFusco's products are also sold and distributed in several other bakeries including Crugnale, Calvitto's, and Sal's Bakeries.

Salmonella is a foodborne illness that can begin to show symptoms a few days after infection. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dehydration and diarrhea, among others. An infection, if untreated, can be extremely dangerous and anyone who feels they may have been infected should contact a doctor immediately and the Rhode Island Department of Health.

Anyone injured by this foodborne illness, or another, is entitled to personal injury benefits, including medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. If you or a family member has been sickened or hospitalized because of this outbreak of salmonella, contact Attorney Joseph Lamy right away to protect your rights.

Continue reading "Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Zeppole from Johnston Bakery" »

March 24, 2011

Drunk Driving Apps???

Officially, as of today, there is an "app" available on your smartphone for every possible topic. Everyday, there seems to be a new controversial app that incites the public to force Apple and Droid to remove the app, such as the "gay cure" app and the "babyshaker" app. Now pressure is mounting on Apple to remove an app called checkpoints, which along with similar apps, allows users to identify police DUI checkpoints so that they can be re-routed or avoided.

According to a letter from US Senators Lautenberg, Reid, Schumer and Udall, there are several apps with a registered 10 million users! The apps all commonly feature the ability for users to point out road blocks and and police checkpoints that are searching for drunk drivers. Other users who are leaving the bar inebriated can open the app to make sure they are not driving into a drunk driving patrol.

Obviously, our Senators above are looking to have any such app removed immediately because of the risk to public safety. After all, drunk driving related fatalities exceed 40,000 a year!

March 21, 2011

Rhode Island to Consider Tougher Seatbelt Laws

Although similar attempts have been made in the past, the Rhode Island legislature is once again considering a bill to toughen state seatbelt laws. It goes without saying that seatbelts can save lives and reduce the severity of injuries in serious auto accidents, yet thousands still fail to buckle up every time they get in their car.

Under the current laws, the police can issue a citation for failure to wear a seatbelt, but only if they stopped you for another moving violation. In other words, the police can not pull over an adult driver (the laws are different for drivers under 18) if the only law he or she is breaking is failure to wear a seatbelt.

Under the new proposal, police would be allowed to make a traffic stop solely for seat belt use and issue a $75 citation if caught operating without a seatbelt. Thirty States already have similar laws, but previous attempts to pass such a law in Rhode Island have failed. This time around, however, there is $4 million dollars in federal money available if the State should pass such a law.

What I like about this newly proposed law is that it prevents the police from conducting a search of the vehicle unless a violation other than the seatbelt was also committed. In other words, police will not be able to use lack of a seat belt to conduct random unwarranted searches of vehicles and persons, unless additional probable cause exists.

March 15, 2011

Traumatically Induced Cataracts

I do not often hear inquiries about traumatically induced cataracts, but I recently had a conversation with a fellow attorney who was speaking of a case he settled with traumatically induced cataracts. I thought that it was an interesting topic to write about and an injury that many might be unfamiliar with.

Traumatic cataracts can occur when the eye lens is damaged by blunt trauma or penetrating eye injury. Such an injury can occur in a car accident from the impact of the airbag or windshield and is particularly a danger for those who wear glasses. The glasses, or contact lens, can pierce the eye lens capsule which may eventually result in cataracts. Because of the severity of impact required for this type of injury, it will generally occur in very serious car accidents with significant injuries such as head trauma or facial lacerations.

Cataracts are a very serious disability that severely limits vision and often require surgery. If you have suffered this unique injury following a serious car accident, contact our office to discuss your status and a potential claim for damages.

March 12, 2011

Have an Attorney Review Your Music Contracts

The cost of an attorney can be prohibitive for young musicians or bands starting out. I understand that in the early stages a band is so excited for an opportunity that they will sign whatever contract comes to them in hopes of making it big. I have also heard a lot of artists say that "the contract seems pretty straightforward." I ensure you that in the music industry nothing is "pretty straightforward". If it were not drafted in lengthy "lawyer speak" it would not take a 12 page contract to license one song from a band. Do not make the mistake of assuming that you understand every provision in the contract.

As an attorney who has reviewed hundred of recording, publishing, licensing, and management contracts, I must tell you that you absolutely must have an experienced entertainment lawyer review the contract. If you take your music and your band seriously, you can not afford to blindly enter into contracts that you do not understand. I have seen contracts that tie up the artist for several years without a chance to exit. I have seen contracts that grant the record company or manager power of attorney. I have also seen contracts that wrongfully take all the rights to music created and recorded by you. Furthermore, many of these contracts offer nothing in return. There is often no financial advance, no intellectual support, and no promise to promote the band or your music.

I can review most contracts and provide a detailed opinion letter as to its strengths and weaknesses for much less than you might expect. I will make it absolutely clear if it is a contract you need to avoid. In most cases, I will have the response to you within a week. It is an incredibly small price to pay for a service that may save your bands career and save you hundreds of thousands of dollars if the song becomes a hit.

Furthermore, I can review contracts for artists around the Country. While I am admitted to practice in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the language of music contracts is often universal and I can review a contract offered to an artist anywhere.

Continue reading "Have an Attorney Review Your Music Contracts" »

March 9, 2011

Did You Know That You Can Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?

If you are pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence, you may be aware that you are allowed to refuse to take a breathalyzer test. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, you will be charged with refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test and will be subject to additional penalties, including a six month license suspension. The benefit of a refusal to submit is that the police will not be able to introduce chemical evidence of your intoxication.

Many people, however, fail to realize that even the field sobriety test is voluntary. You are under no obligation to submit to a field sobriety test when asked by the police. If you refuse, the police will be forced to make a decision whether to arrest you based on what little evidence that they have observed (i.e. slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, etc.)

Most people will submit to a field sobriety test because a) they think that they have to; or b) they feel that they can pass the test. As to part "A", I have already informed you that you do not have to submit to the test. As for part "B" - DO NOT ASSUME THAT YOU CAN PASS THE TEST!! Even someone who is completely sober or had a single drink can fail a field sobriety test because it is difficult. I know that if I were asked, even without drinking, that I would have a terribly tough time standing on one leg for thirty seconds without wobbling. In addition, the police officer will be making you nervous and this will make it more likely for you to make a mistake.

Furthermore, the field sobriety test is entirely subjective. There is no scientific basis for this test. Instead, police officers are given a number of signals to look for to identify a drunk individual. However, there is no magic number to the amount of mistakes that you can make and still pass the test. If you still do not believe me, ask a police officer friend of yours how many people suspected of drunk driving actually pass the field sobriety test.

Based on the way you were driving your vehicle, or based on your speech patterns and conduct, the police officer may still decide to arrest you if he feels that he has probable cause. However, by giving the police little additional evidence to support the arrest, you will put yourself, and your criminal defense attorney in a better position to win at trial.

Continue reading "Did You Know That You Can Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?" »

March 9, 2011

Did You Know That You Can Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?

If you are pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence, you may be aware that you are allowed to refuse to take a breathalyzer test. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, you will be charged with refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test and will be subject to additional penalties, including a six month license suspension. The benefit of a refusal to submit is that the police will not be able to introduce chemical evidence of your intoxication.

Many people, however, fail to realize that even the field sobriety test is voluntary. You are under no obligation to submit to a field sobriety test when asked by the police. If you refuse, the police will be forced to make a decision whether to arrest you based on what little evidence that they have observed (i.e. slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, etc.)

Most people will submit to a field sobriety test because a) they think that they have to; or b) they feel that they can pass the test. As to part "A", I have already informed you that you do not have to submit to the test. As for part "B" - DO NOT ASSUME THAT YOU CAN PASS THE TEST!! Even someone who is completely sober or had a single drink can fail a field sobriety test because it is difficult. I know that if I were asked, even without drinking, that I would have a terribly tough time standing on one leg for thirty seconds without wobbling. In addition, the police officer will be making you nervous and this will make it more likely for you to make a mistake.

Furthermore, the field sobriety test is entirely subjective. There is no scientific basis for this test. Instead, police officers are given a number of signals to look for to identify a drunk individual. However, there is no magic number to the amount of mistakes that you can make and still pass the test. If you still do not believe me, ask a police officer friend of yours how many people suspected of drunk driving actually pass the field sobriety test.

Based on the way you were driving your vehicle, or based on your speech patterns and conduct, the police officer may still decide to arrest you if he feels that he has probable cause. However, by giving the police little additional evidence to support the arrest, you will put yourself, and your criminal defense attorney in a better position to win at trial.

Continue reading "Did You Know That You Can Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?" »

March 7, 2011

The Majority of Dog Bite Victims are Children

Dog bites are very common in the United States. On average, over four million people are bitten by dogs each year. Nearly a million of those people suffered injury severe enough to require medical attention. Most concerning, however, is that roughy 80% of dog bite victims are children under 10. In fact, dog bites are one of the most common causes for visits to the emergency room by children.

There are a number of reasons why a child is more prone to attack from a dog. Children are at the animals eye level and are seen by the dog as less of a threat than an adult. Also, children, unaware of the danger, are more likely to taunt or tease animals which results in an attack.

A dog bite can have serious and permanent consequences. As dogs are prone to attack the face, it is quite common for a child to suffer facial scarring and/or injury to the eyes. In fact, one study indicated that when very young children (under 4) are attacked by dogs, injury to the eyes occurs in about 15% of cases.

It is imperative to exercise caution when your child is around dogs. It does not matter if it is a strange or familiar dog as statistics suggest that children are most often attacked by the family pet. The laws in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are strongly in favor of the dog attack victim and the owner of the pet may be responsible if your child is attacked. Like other personal injury claims, the victim of a dog attack is entitled to:

  • Past and future medical expenses;
  • Lost wages or loss of earning capactity;
  • Money for scarring or permanent disfigurement;
  • Pain and suffering.

Continue reading "The Majority of Dog Bite Victims are Children" »

March 3, 2011

Deval Patrick to Suggest Medical Malpractice Reform in Massachusetts

Despite ample evidence (here, here and here) that medical malpractice lawsuits are not the cause for soaring health care costs and poor patient care, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is proposing a bill intended to reduce medical malpractice lawsuits. The Governor, taking a page from steps taken in other States, is proposing a bill to amend medical malpractice law in Massachusetts. Under the proposal:

...doctors in Massachusetts would be able to apologize to patients -- without the risk that their apology could be used against them later, in court. The state would also implement a six-month "cooling off period," so that hospitals and patients could try to resolve problems without lawsuits.

President Obama, as part of his healthcare reform and recently discussed at the State of the Union Address, is also suggesting potential reforms. One such suggestion is the creation of a Health Court which will remove the jury from the process (despite the Constitution guaranteeing the right to a trial by jury) in favor of a single Judge. The intent is to streamline medical malpractice awards because juries often have a wide range in the amount of money that they award.

It has been said on numerous occasions... malpractice reform will only result in lesser quality care for patients, reduced ability to exercise Constitutional rights in open Court and WILL NOT reduce health insurance costs. A number of independents studies continue to show that eliminating medical malpractice lawsuits all together would save approximately 1% of the total cost of healthcare. One Percent!!

March 1, 2011

What is the United States Supreme Court Doing to the Confrontation Clause?

A criminal defendant has the Constitutional Right to confront his accusers in open court. This is referred to as the Confrontation Clause in the United States Constitution. The purpose of the clause, for one, is to prevent false accusations by requiring that the complaining witness appear in Court and testify against the accused. It also allows the defense an opportunity to show or demonstrate that the complaining witness is lying (if he is lying), or not credible.

The United States Supreme Court ruled today on Michigan v. Bryant, and may have complicated the Confrontation Clause. In this case a shot and dying man told police at the scene that he was shot by Richard Bryant. The victim died from his wounds before trial. The police testified as to what they were told, namely that the victim identified Richard Bryant as the shooter. Bryant was convicted at the trial, but the Michigan Supreme Court overturned the conviction stating that the judgment ran afoul of the Confrontation Clause. Today, the Supreme Court, in a 6-2 ruling, held that the conviction was valid and hearsay evidence (the testimony of the police) can be used when a victim of violent crime is unable to testify. The admission of the testimony has to do with the purpose of the statement. Justice Sotomayor, writing for the majority, said:

...the state court had made a mistake in considering Mr. Covington's statements to be "testimonial" and hence subject to the Confrontation Clause. Testimonial statements, she explained, are ones solemnly made to establish facts about past events.

The primary purpose of Mr. Covington's statement was something else, Justice Sotomayor wrote. It was to aid the police in addressing an "ongoing emergency," given that the person who shot Mr. Covington had a gun and was on the loose.

The testimony may have been allowed based on the "dying declaration" hearsay exception. A dying declaration will allow testimony that is otherwise hearsay, if:


  1. The declarant is unavailable;

  2. The declarant's statement is being offered in a criminal prosecution for murder, or in a civil action;

  3. The declarant's statement was made while under the belief that his death was imminent; and

  4. The declarant's statement must relate to the cause or circumstances of what he believed to be his impending death.

However, the prosecution never raised this issue, nor did the supreme Court in today's decision. So now the interplay between a dying declaration and the Confrontation Clause, are completely in turmoil.

Justice Scalia wrote a scathing dissent of the decision, and while I never believed that I would agree with Justice Scalia on anything, I believe he is correct here. There already exists an exception for such evidence to come into evidence. If the testimony is not properly entered, we should not be creating further exceptions and loopholes for the admission of tainted evidence. In the end, a conviction based on no more than the words of a police officer allegedly recanting the words of a dying man, who may or may not have been delirious from pain or loss of blood, is troubling.