Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

My office has represented many victims of food poisoning, or foodborne illness, including victims of some high profile Rhode Island food poisoning cases. I have helped victims of the DeFusco’s Bakery salmonella outbreak as well as six (6) victims of the norovirus outbreak that led to the Rhode Island Department of Health temporarily closing Uncle Sushi restaurant. Outside of high profile cases like this, food poisoning occurs much more often than people may think and it can range in seriousness from a relatively minor 24 hour stomach bug all the way to death. The Center for Disease Control suggests there are as many as 76 million cases of food poisoning each year of which 300,000 people seek medical treatment and 5,000 people die. Some of the most common pathogens that result in food poisoning are bacterias such as : Salmonella, E. Coli, Clostridium Perfringens, Shigella, Listeria, and more.

There are several theories of liability available in a foodborne illness case. Essentially, food poisoning lawsuits are product liability cases. The argument is that the product released from the manufacturer was in a dangerous and defective condition when it left the hands of the producer and remained in that dangerous condition when it was received by the consumer. We then have to show that the consumer used the product in the manner it was anticipated (this obviously refers to eating the product in food poisoning cases) and that the product caused the food poisoning and associated injuries.

You can also proceed with a food poisoning case under the more common theory of negligence. As in any other case of negligence, with a food poisoning case, the plaintiff looks to prove that the defendant owed the consumer a duty of care and that through its negligent actions breached that duty of care resulting in ultimate harm to the consumer. For example, a restaurant buys eggs that are not tainted with bacteria and are safe to consume. They leave the eggs outside of a refrigerator, however, for several days and then use the eggs in the preparation of a dish. Because of their negligence in not properly handling the eggs, they have grown salmonella which was transferred to the consumer while eating the prepared dish. By ignoring all state law and well known food safety handling guidelines, the restaurant committed an act of negligence and would be liable.

There are a number of serious complications in winning a food poisoning case. The primary difficulty comes in determining what food led to the illness. Humans eat 3-4 times a day and foodborne illness can sometimes take 24 hours to show symptoms. Looking back on your day it may be difficult to identify what food was the direct cause of the poisoning. Furthermore, even if you know what food caused the illness, it remains the plaintiff’s burden to show that the specific food was contaminated and led to the illness.

In some cases, the Rhode Island Department of Health will receive several complaints about a particular food or food source and will begin an investigation which can aid in proving that the food was contaminated. In more difficult cases, your food poisoning attorney may order independent laboratory testing of the suspect food. Of course, this requires that you still possess an uneaten sample of the food. Finally, if there is no direct evidence to link the food with the sickness, your food poisoning attorney may file a lawsuit against the food producer or manufacturer to try and obtain its history of similar complaints. If the defendant has a poor record of food handling and safety, it will help build your case against the defendant.

Based on the above problems, you can see that it is imperative that you call a foodborne illness attorney right away if you sense that you were the victim of food poisoning. Time is absolutely critical in these types of cases. If you feel that you are the victim of food poisoning, try to retain or preserve some of the suspect food (if possible), keep any and all receipts showing that you purchased the suspect food and contact your doctor and/or the Rhode Island Department of Health right away.

A controversial bill has been proposed in Rhode Island that would require drivers involved in serious or fatal auto accidents to submit to a blood test. Should the driver be unwilling to comply, police would have the authority to restrain the person even if he or she is not under arrest. It is a controversial proposal and is being challenged by the Rhode Island ACLU because it is a potential invasion of privacy that forces persons to submit to a blood test even if not under arrest. It is also problematic because the Fifth Amendment ensures that a person need not incriminate himself, yet forcing the person to hand over potentially incriminating evidence against his will may be a violation of that Constitutional protection.

The broad scope of the bill raises additional concerns. Drivers who were not at fault for an accident may be required to submit to blood and alcohol tests against their wills. The concern is that police, who would otherwise lack probable cause, may arrest a person for drunk or impaired driving, although they were injured through no fault of their own. Even if the driver is not drunk or impaired, being forced to submit to a blood or alcohol test after a serious auto accident can be traumatic and upsetting itself.

The bill is pending, however, in light of another tragic and fatal auto accident that occurred in Rhode Island over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Corey Johnston has been arraigned in the drunk driving killing of Domenic Izzi after Corey was driving the wrong way on Route 95 causing a head-on collision. It is unclear from news reports if Corey Johnston submitted to a chemical test, but he is being charged with drunk driving, death resulting.

Should the proposed bill pass the Rhode Island legislation, police would be able to force a person such as Corey Johnston, to a blood test thereby confirming their physical state at the time of the accident. As tragic accidents like this appear on a regular basis in the paper, public sentiment may push this law or a similar law through the legislation.

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A recent study has highlighted the foreseeable fact that Americans are far less likely to dine in restaurants in which a known slip and fall accident has occurred. The study, conducted in an effort to show restaurant owners the heavy cost of slip and fall accidents, indicated that one in three Americans would be unlikely to dine at a restaurant where someone was injured in a slip and fall. Cintas corporation, the group behind the study, has long held that slip and fall accidents increase costs from litigation, damages and increased insurance premiums, but this study also highlights an additional loss from loss of revenue and business.

It seems an odd study because most people would be unaware that a slip and fall recently occurred at a restaurant unless the injuries were incredibly severe. Nevertheless, it does demonstrate the importance of properly caring for a property or appropriately warning visitors of dangers on the property. The study did reveal an astonishing fact, namely that more than one million patrons are injured in slip and fall accidents at American restaurants each year! Slip and fall accidents are often serious resulting in broken bones, head injuries and in some cases spinal injuries. This means a potentially large loss in damages and a huge increase in insurance premiums.

A property owner is responsible for injuries to visitors on their property caused by the owner’s negligence or failure to warn. In other words, if the property is not properly maintained (i.e. broken railings, loose steps, holes and craters in the pavement, etc) and leads to a person’s injury, then the owner will likely be responsible for the personal injury damages including but not limited to medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. A property owner may not be held responsible if he or she can show that they made reasonable efforts to warn visitors of the danger or if he or she was genuinely unaware that the danger existed.

Slip and fall accidents are complex cases and often require litigation and an experienced personal injury attorney. Litigation is the result of the defense arguing that the property was not defective or because the severity of the injuries results in a battle over appropriate settlement amounts. For whatever reason a case like this may end up in litigation, you need to hire an attorney who is experienced in trying complex slip and fall cases. My law office has this experience and is ready to fight for all of the money that you deserve.

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This weekend’s fatal accident in Coventry between Randy Moore and Stephen Volpe has brought to our attention a very scary possibility that occurs quite often in serious auto accidents. Rhode Island news outlets are reporting that Mr. Moore was not feeling well and was actually driving himself to the hospital at the time of the accident. He complained of chest pains to his sister and an eyewitness to the auto accident noticed that Mr. Moore had slumped over the steering wheel just prior to the accident. Once unconscious, his vehicle drifted over the center lane and caused a head-on collision with Mr. Volpe. Mr. Moore, unfortunately, did not survive the accident and prayers go out to his family.

It is not as uncommon as one may think that a driver passes out or falls asleep at the steering wheel while driving leading to a serious car accident. I recently settled a claim for a client under almost exactly the same circumstances. In my case, an elderly man suffered a heart attack on Phenix Avenue in Cranston, drifted over the center lane and struck my client, an elderly woman, head-on. She suffered very serious injuries as a result of the accident.

In these situations, the driver who blacks out or passes out at the wheel, is civilly responsible for the damages sustained in a car accident. Even though they were not actively negligent in causing the accident, and even though it occurred through no “fault” of their own, they will be responsible to the injured party. Every time that we get behind the wheel of a car we are responsible to everyone else on the road and we must ensure that we are physically healthy and alert enough to operate a vehicle. Even if the illness is unforeseeable, the burden remains on each driver to operate their vehicle in a safe and courteous manner at all times. It is not unlike the driver who, despite his or her best efforts, loses control of their car in the snow, or the driver whose brakes fail leading to an accident. In these circumstances, the at-fault driver was not “actively” negligent. Nevertheless, they have breached their duty to operate the vehicle safely and are, therefore, liable for any and all damages. Insurance companies will accept liability under these circumstances and pay the claims.

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If you have an experienced and aggressive Rhode Island personal injury attorney, your case may have ended up in litigation. There are two major reasons reasons why a personal injury case goes to litigation: 1) the offer of settlement is not high enough; or, 2) the insurance company is not accepting 100% liability. If you enter litigation there is a very strong chance that your attorney may attempt arbitration before the case goes all the way to trial.

Arbitration is compulsive under the Rhode Island Rules of Civil Procedure, however, the decision is not binding. What this means essentially is that either side (plaintiff or defendant) can force the two parties to at least try arbitration, but neither side is compelled to accept the award if they are dissatisfied. You can have your case removed from the arbitration process if the amount in contention is in excess of $100,000.00.

Arbitration can be a highly effective tool for resolving difficult cases without the huge amount of money and time that a full civil trial that would require. At an arbitration, both sides will agree on a neutral party to serve as “judge”. Each side submits an arbitration memorandum complete with their argument, exhibits, affidavits and any other evidence that they would like to present or have considered by the arbiter. Then there will be an actual hearing during which time each side will state their case while presenting evidence and witnesses. It is a very informal “trial” in that sense. Arbitrations can be either simple with one or two witnesses or they can be incredibly complex with several witnesses, including experts and dozens of exhibits.

Within 2 weeks the arbiter will make his decision in writing. The decision will include a dollar amount along with some thoughts and notes on the topic to explain why the arbiter came to the decision that he did. Arbitration is a relatively quick and painless process that might result in a speedy aid to ongoing litigation. If your case is going to arbitration or may be eligible for arbitration speak to your personal injury attorney to discuss the process.

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Anyone watching the news on NBC 10 may have seen an investigative report this afternoon uncovering nursing home abuses and violations across Rhode Island but in particular at the Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation Center in Warwick. The investigation began with news that the Rhode Island Department of Health was investigating an allegation that one of the residents may have been overdosed at Pawtuxet Village.

Once the investigation began, it was quickly discovered that there were dozens of complaints of patient violations at Pawtuxet Village, many of which were related to improper medication and dosing and improper transfer of patients. Some of the complaints also dealt with abuse and involuntary seclusion of patients.

For the meantime, the Rhode Island Department of Health has ordered Pawtuxet Village to stop admitting new clients. Inspectors said they found several quality-of-care issues at the facility, including problems with pain management, fall prevention, pressure ulcers, and range-of-motion issues.

These are very serious allegations. Unfortunately, all of these problems are classic examples of nursing home abuse and neglect. Overmedication, the primary complaint in NBC 10’s investigation, is a serious problem in nursing homes because it is means by which they keep the patients “quiet” and “under control.” A sedated and overmedicated patient is unlikely to complain or require much attention. Instead the become like “zombies” – the same term that the family who lodged the initial complaint against Pawtuxet Village used for the condition of their father.

Senior care centers and retirement homes have a major responsibility to care for the health and wellbeing of our elderly. Unfortunately, many of them ignore this responsibility because too many patients do not have actively involved families to speak out about these injustices and because too many patients are too sick of body or mind to be able to speak up for themselves.

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For an insurance company that has been named the worst insurance company in America almost every year for the past decade by the American Association for Justice, I find it amusing that their current advertising campaign is aimed at customer satisfaction. First they have introduced the Claims guarantee, and I will go out on a limb and say that if they do not change their current practices, this program will be gone within a year because the number of unsatisfied clients will cost the program hundreds of millions. Second, they have a funny little commercial in which an executive driving a luxury car is rear-ended by a scruffy looking college kid. The executive is “scared” that the kid might have “cut-rate” insurance but is miraculously relieved to find out that the kid has Allstate insurance.

The executive in the commercial should hang his head in despair that he has to try and obtain the money and damages he deserves from a company that has a claims process intent on frustrating, delaying and under-cutting claimants entitled to damages.

Why is Allstate the worst company to deal with if you have been in a car accident? Despite the insurance companies contractual obligation to protect their insureds by paying claims for which they are liable, Allstate endlessly delays the process and when forced to make an offer of settlement, often makes an offer far below the value of the claim. Even when a lawsuit has been filed, Allstate will drag out the litigation process often taking the case all the way to the end before making a reasonable offer. They reject the offers of arbitrators or mediators if the award is above their valuation of the claim. Why do they do this? Insurance companies make money by investing the premiums paid into it. The longer that an insurance company can hold onto that premium money, the better the return on their investment. They also employ these tactics because they know that they can wear out many plaintiffs who will accept less than fair value for their claim merely to “get it over with.”

When new clients come to my office following an auto accident with an Allstate insured, I tell them that there is a good chance of litigation if they do not want to settle for little money. You have to fight companies that employ these kinds of tactics and if you have been injured by an Allstate insured, you need to hire an attorney who is able and ready to fight these tough cases. Contact my office right away for a free consultation. I like Dennis Haybert as an actor myself, but don’t let him convince you that the “good hands” company is anything but the worst.

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A school bus company in Cincinnati settled a wrongful death lawsuit for Five Million Dollars, after a teenager was struck and killed in a tragic accident. The accident and settlement highlights the fact that despite ample measures taken to prevent accidents in and around school buses, serious or potentially fatal accidents can occur. In this Ohio case, the family for the deceased alleged that the driver failed to adequately defrost and clean his windshield making it impossible to see the young man whom he struck and killed.

The statistics for school bus related accidents are quite alarming. When accidents occur, they are often very serious or fatal because of the extreme weight and size of a school bus. Also, the number of people injured in a single accident is much higher due to the capacity of a school bus. Each year thousands of people are injured in school bus accidents.

School bus companies and drivers have a very large responsibility because they are carrying small (and often impulsive children). Stop signs and bus monitors have become commonplace over the last 10-20 years to prevent accidents involving children and school buses, but they still occur. Some of the causes for school bus related car accidents include:

  • Poor driver training
  • Insufficient care and maintenance of the bus
  • Overcrowding of the bus
  • Driving in dangerous or inclement weather (much like in the above mentioned Ohio case)
  • Driver distraction from children inside the bus
  • Aggressive driving or speeding

School buses are one of the largest large vehicle carriers in the United States. Every day tens of millions of students are transported to and from school on buses. Accidents, sometimes serious, can and will occur. If your child was injured in an accident involving a school bus, contact my office right away.

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As a Rhode Island and Massachusetts personal injury attorney I have handled many, many whiplash injuries caused by car accidents. The term “whiplash” refers to the rapid and forceful movement of the neck backwards and/or forwards following a car crash. This sudden and forceful movement can cause strains and/or sprains to the muscles around the neck and back resulting in significant pain.

Despite my vast experience representing injured clients with soft tissue injuries, I still come across articles or information that give me a greater understanding of the injuries and how they are caused. I recently came across an article by Dr. Jay Lipoff, a New York Chiropractor, which opened my eyes to a few things that I feel are worth sharing.

Like Dr. Lipoff, I often see clients and potential clients down-playing the severity of their whiplash injury following a car accident. Clients often say “it’s not too bad” or the injury is “nothing major”. I believe this comes in part because we tend to ignore our own health or believe that the pain will go away quickly when in reality serious, sometimes, permanent injury has occurred. Sometimes, potential clients believe that any injury short of a broken bone is not worth pursuing against the insurance company. Remember, you have a valid and important injury claim if you suffered whiplash.

As Dr. Lipoff points out, it is next to impossible for the soft tissue of a human body to be OK after an auto accident when steel and metal is nearly destroyed. If a 2500 pound car is seriously damaged, it is safe to assume that the 180 pound person inside the vehicle, whether seat-belted or not, is going to be hurt. From the article:

“The impact to the driver is 2.5 times greater than the force to the vehicle itself. So whatever damage you see to the vehicle, realize the force to your body was 2.5 times greater. Changes of speed of only 2.5 miles an hour during crash tests caused occupants symptoms of soft tissue injuries; whereas damage to a vehicle may not be seen until 8.7 mph.”

We are not so invincible as we sometimes believe, and the soft tissue and muscles of our body are particularly prone to injury in an auto accident. It is important to remember, that although common, soft tissue or whiplash injuries, are serious injuries that require the help of an experienced car accident attorney. If you have suffered a whiplash injury following an auto accident, seek the proper medical treatment for your injuries and call our office for a free consultation.

Pfizer today announced that it is recalling two kinds of oral contraception because some of the packages had the pills in the wrong order. Obviously, while attempting to avoid unwanted pregnancy it is absolutely imperative that the person take the proper dose at the right time. Because the packages were filled with the wrong dose at the incorrect time, the drug may prove ineffective in preventing unwanted pregnancy. It is possible that some women have unwillingly become pregnant.

The effected medicines are Lo/Ovral-28 or generic norgestrel/ethinyl estradiol pills. Any woman currently taken these medications should contact their ob/gyn immediately and contact the pharmacy that filled the prescription so that the recalled drugs may be replaced. If you became pregnant while taking these recalled drugs, it is imperative that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney right away. If it can be established that the unwanted pregnancy was caused by the negligence of Pfizer you may be entitled to significant compensation.

It has been a tough couple of months for birth control drugs. Yaz, in particular, has been hit with hundreds of lawsuits claiming that it causes dangerous bloodclots and also results in other unwanted and dangerous side effects. In addition, the FDA has indicated that its dosage may be too low to adequately prevent unwanted pregnancy.

Drug makers profit heavily by pushing drugs on our society and they must be held to a very high standard of quality control and safety, else we are putting ourselves at serious risk of harm.