The Atlanta Injury News Blog

November 2010 Archives

Dexter Webb is seeking $2 million in a lawsuit against a former police officer and the city of Riverdale stemming from a June 2009 arrest he claims triggered post traumatic stress disorder, WSBTV News reported. He's claiming police brutality against the ex-cop and negligence against the city, stating his intention to file suit if a settlement isn't reached first.

The man told reporters he was minding his own business in front of an apartment complex when then-officer Daniel Vanhee allegedly approached him and asked for his ID. Dexter Webb asked the officer why he needed his ID but the officer allegedly wouldn't give him an answer.

The suspected dangers of secondhand cigarette smoke have been fortified by a new study published last Friday by in the medical journal Lancet, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. More than 600,000 non-smokers die worldwide from secondhand smoke each year, the study concluded.

Researchers from the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare and Bloomberg Philanthropies compiled data for 192 countries from 2004, finding that about 40 percent of children and more than 30 percent of non-smoking adults regularly breathe cigarette smoke.

Deaths related to secondhand smoke make up about 1 percent of all deaths worldwide. This includes 379,000 deaths from heart disease, 165,000 from lower respiratory disease, 36,900 from asthma and 21,400 from lung cancer each year.

Lynne Spears, mother of one-time pop star Britney Spears, lost her bid to have a defamation claim by her daughter's former manager thrown out, the Associated Press reported. She had asked the three-member California appeals court panel to rule that someone can't sue for defamation if their reputation is already badly damaged.

Plaintiff Sam Lutfi sued Lynn Spears for libel in February 2009 for allegedly accusing him of controlling Britney Spears and putting pills in her food, citing passages of Lynne Spears' book, "Through the Storm: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World."

Most people have a pretty close relationship with their car. They can tell if something's wrong and usually take it in if there's a recall. But what about rental cars? More to the point, how do we know for sure that the massive fleets of rentals actually get fixed when they're the subject of recalls?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, citing disturbing reports of injuries and deaths in rental cars, wants answers to those questions, The New York Times' "Wheels" blog reported.

A federal judge ordered the U.S. Postal Service to pay a Monroe family $11.6 million in connection to a serious a injury Mary Bilbrey and her (at the time) unborn son sustained four years ago, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

On Dec. 22, 2006, 23-year-old Mary Bilbrey (who was eight months pregnant) was returning home in a car driven by fiancé Jason Murray. He lost control of the car after swerving to avoid hitting a Postal Service truck that had cut in front of him as it pulled away from a mailbox.

Bullying is nothing new and probably has been around just as long as schools themselves. But lawsuits stemming from school bullying are a relatively new phenomenon, especially in the wake of the 1999 Columbine shootings.

The latest is a lawsuit filed by the parents of a 9-year-old boy who allegedly was the victim of pervasive bullying at his elementary school, NBC affiliate WRCB reported. The Murray County school system, not the bully or bullies, is named as the defendant.

James Smith, who was kidnapped in the parking lot of a Home Depot in southwest Atlanta, is suing the home improvement retailer for negligence and fraud, according to WSBTV. The 71-year-old retiree claims the store "tricked" him into signing a settlement agreement.

Home Depot representatives approached him just two days after the kidnapping, wife Sophie Smith told reporters:

"Because we were very vulnerable and I believe they took advantage of us."

The artichoke is a unique vegetable, consisting of both a tender "heart" and a forbidding, spiky exterior. In that sense, it might be compared to a spiny lobster or similarly packaged foods that require a steady hand and a cautious eye.

But family physician and Houston's restaurant patron Arturo Carvajal apparently didn't know much about the diabolical delicacy when he ordered the grilled artichoke special, as reported by the Miami New Times.

In fact, he claims in a lawsuit against the North Miami Beach restaurant, the artichoke is a vegetable he had "never seen nor heard of previously." The question is whether the server had a duty to explain how to eat one, specifically that "only the inside portion of the leaf was safely digestible."

Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals Inc. pulled its prescription pain medication Darvon of the market last Friday at the request of the Food and Drug Administration, the Washington Post reported. Federal regulators concluded that the drug posed a potentially deadly risk of heart rhythm abnormalities.

The recall also affects the generic version of the drug, called propoxyphene.

FDA official John Jenkins discussed the reason for the recall in a press statement:

“These new heart data significantly alter propoxyphene’s risk-benefit profile. The drug’s effectiveness in reducing pain is no longer enough to outweigh the drug’s serious potential heart risks.”

Those who have lived near a country club or public golf course know that broken windows and other hazards are, well, par for the course. But Dr. Anoop Kapoor’s horrid slice from the rough landed him in court after the errant ball struck his friend and fellow golfer, blinding him in one eye, the Savannah Morning News reported.

His friend, Dr. Azad Anand, sued him following the 2002 incident but lost in both lower courts. Now the two parties await a ruling from the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court (New York’s lower court is called Supreme Court, which anyone who watches “Law & Order” already knows).

The ill-fated voyage of Carnival’s Splendor cruise ship left a bad taste (quite literally) in the mouths of its passengers, who thought they were on vacation but ended up on what many dubbed the “cruise from hell,” as described in a CBS News article and other news sources. Just the Spam sandwiches alone sound awful enough.

A fire and subsequent loss of power to the large boat left it adrift 200 miles off the California coast near San Diego. All 4,500 passengers eventually were rescued without injury. And while many of them have pursued lawsuits, one prominent maritime attorney said without injury there is no personal injury case, USA today reported.

Attorneys in New Mexico are sparring over the circumstances surrounding a man’s lost penis, as reported by Fox News and elsewhere. Both parties acknowledge that nursing home resident James Tracy suffered from a case of priapism, which is a painful erection lasting more than four hours, unrelated to sexual stimulation.

If not treated properly, it can result in the loss of the appendage. But a countersuit by lawyers representing the defendant, THI of New Mexico at Valle Norte, said before-and-after photographs show that the penis in fact was not lost:

“[The lawyers pursued litigation] without any medical evidence to show that Mr. Tracy suffered an amputation … or that Valle Norte’s conduct had caused even a remote causal link to any penile injury.”

Recalls don’t work themselves out overnight and usually about 70 percent of recalled vehicles get fixed within the first 18 months of the announcement. But government officials are concerned that not enough of the estimated 575,000 recalled Ford Windstar minivans are being taken in to be refurbished, the Associated Press reported.

It’s a series recall that addresses a potentially deadly defect in the rear axle, which can potentially erode from environmental elements and break. Only about 75,000 of the 575,000 recalled vehicles have been fixed, roughly 13 percent.

An investigation by ProPublica found that kidney dialysis patients die or require hospitalizations each year because of catastrophic hemorrhages during the procedure, the nonprofit journalism organization reported. In fact, 1 in 5 dialysis patients die in the United States each year; that's nearly twice the mortality rate of other industrialized nations.

Seemingly simple mishaps such as dislodgements of the tubes that feed treated blood back into the body sometimes go unnoticed and result in death. But the larger problem, partially due to the fear of liability, may be the underreporting of such deaths or injuries.

The family of an electrician killed at a resort property owned by Walt Disney World filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts US Inc., the Orlando Sentinel reported. The 54-year-old man, Douglas Howell, died at a substation switch near a Disney resort two years ago.

His employer, Reedy Creek Energy Services, also was named as a defendant in the suit. Douglas Howell was part of a team upgrading the company's power distribution system, adjacent to Disney's Swan Hotel.

When doctors try to explain your medical condition and go through the various options available, many patients simply put their blind trust in the physician to do the right thing. But doctors still require what is called informed consent before commencing with a procedure, mostly to shield them from medical malpractice claims. As the name implied, the consent must come as a result of being informed of the nature and consequences of the procedure and based on a certain level of understanding. Easier said than done.

New medical technologies, including an interactive computer program being used by several hospitals, are helping patients to make truly informed decisions before going under the knife, as reported by the Associated Press (via WXYZ).

David Weaving,the 48-year-old man who struck and killed 14-year-old Matthew Kenney with his car, is suing the boy’s parents for letting him ride his bike without a helmet, according to CBS News. He currently is serving a 10-year sentence after being convicted of manslaughter for the incident.

He was passing another car while traveling 83 mph in a 45-mph zone and struck Matthew Kenney on the outskirts of Hartford, Conn. on April 27, 2007. He was declared brain dead after sustaining severe head injuries.

Atlanta-based rapper T.I. (real name Clifford Harris), who’s already in prison on drug and weapons charges, is now the defendant in a lawsuit claiming members of his entourage beat up studio technician Norris Gresham, reported.

The technician claims he was held hostage at an Atlanta recording studio on September 8 for 12 hours and beaten by T.I.’s associates because they thought he stole a necklace. T.I., of course, was not present during the alleged assault.

The Associated Press reported on a pair of automotive recalls by General Motors and Chrysler that is expected to affect about 30,000 vehicles. The GM recall of about 14,000 sedans is related to a potential power steering problem, while Chrysler is recalling roughly 16,000 Jeep Liberty SUVs for faulty windshield wipers.

Both carmakers said they have not received reports of any crashes or injuries related to the recalls, although the GM defect arguably poses more of a potential safety risk.

Some 2010 and 2011 model year Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne sedans with V8 engines have defective alternator cables that can potentially wear through the power steering line. This could lead to a fluid leak, which GM officials said could cause a crash.

Marlon Dorsey, coach of the Murrah High School basketball team in Jackson, Mississippi, can be seen whipping a player with a leather weightlifting belt in a cell phone video posted to YouTube. Other players have also said they’ve been whipped as well, prompting a federal lawsuit against the coach and school administrators, ABC’s Jackson affiliate reported.

But not everyone in the southern city believes there’s anything wrong with a little corporal punishment every once in a while. Unlike some other Mississippi school districts, the district that includes Murrah High School does not allow it.

Parent Erskine Spiller told reporters she “wouldn’t have overreacted” but other parents and community residents were not so supportive of the coach’s actions after viewing the video clip.

Clarksville, Tennessee mother Sarah Sutton was awarded a $6 million settlement from Blanchfield Army Community Hospital (BACH) after her infant developed cerebral palsy, The Leaf Chronicle reported. She had filed a lawsuit alleging negligence by BACH and an Ob-Gyn doctor had caused the permanent injuries.

She filed suit in Sept. 2008, claiming the doctor failed to perform a Caesarean-section quickly enough to prevent her daughter's brain damage. Cerebral palsy is often the result of inadequate oxygen to the brain during birth.

Singer Chris Brown settled with photographer Robert Rosen, who claimed his bodyguards injured him in May 2009, the Associated Press (via MSNBC) reported. The lawsuit has been dropped in light of the settlement, so the details of the incident may never fully come to light.

Robert Rosen claims he was chased by Chris Brown’s bodyguards after he snapped photos of the R&B singer. They allegedly beat up the photographer but there weren’t any details about his alleged injuries.

A three-judge appeals court panel heard arguments in a medical malpractice case involving an East Texas teenager who died after contracting rabies from a transplanted kidney in 2004, the Dallas News reported. What makes this case so interesting is that the physicians and the hospital may have have no way of knowing the organ was infected.

So who deserves blame?

Michael Yanof, the attorney representing the two physicians named as defendants, argued that neither of them knew or could have known about the donor’s rabies.

A jury ordered mega-retailer Walmart to pay 41-year-old trucker Holly Averyt $15 million in damages for injuries she sustained after slipping at a Greeley, Colorado Walmart three years ago, the Greeley Tribune reported. Denver attorney Gregory Gold, representing the plaintiff, said it was one of the largest verdicts of its kind:

"It's the highest slip-and-fall verdict that I know of, maybe even in the country."

Television talk-show host Nancy Grace, known for her confrontational interview style, settled a lawsuit brought the estate of a young mother who shot herself the day her interview was scheduled to air, the Associated Press (via Macon Telegraph) reported.

Melinda Duckett's estate agreed to dismiss the lawsuit in exchange for Nancy Grace's establishment of a $200,000 trust dedicated to finding the deceased woman's son, Trenton Duckett, who was 2 years old when he went missing. The mother would later become the prime suspect in the boy's disappearance. 

US District Judge John F. Walter declined to hear a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Joe Jackson against the physician who treated his son, pop star Michael Jackson, according to ABC News.

Joe Jackson's lawsuit alleges his son's rights were violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act but the judge said federal court was not the proper venue for such a suit:

"I am firmly convinced that you can't seek damages on this [disabilities act] cause of action. This is a creature of state law, this wrongful death claim."

The Georgia Department of Agriculture issued an alert that it is recalling 23 products distributed by Orval Kent Food Company Inc. for fear of salmonella contamination, the WSB Radio reported. The company sells food products that are marketed by other companies, including California Pizza Kitchen and Trader Joe's.

While a variety of retail-level food products are affected by the recall, most headlines focus on Trader Joe's, which maintains stores in and around Atlanta. The recall is being blamed on a batch of possibly contaminated cilantro but there have not been any reports of illnesses so far, according to CNN.

Sacha Baron Cohen, creator and star of the wildly successful "Borat" and the not-as-successful "Bruno," is no stranger to legal tussles as a result of his renegade film style. The latest is a $25,000 lawsuit from a cameraman who claims he was assaulted and battered by the actor's Bruno alter ego, CBS News reported. 

Mike Skiff said the actor and his crew showed up at a Proposition 8 demonstration where both supporters and opponents of gay marriage were in attendance, hoping to start a riot. The footage was being shot for the film "Bruno" in 2008.

The Washington Post summarized a gaggle of recalled consumer goods in a recent article, including tuna from Beaver Street Fisheries Inc., infant car seats from Britax and male enhancement pills from Intelli Health Products of Miami.

Incidents of minor injuries have been reported in connection to the recalled car seats and tuna products, but it's not clear whether the male enhancement pills have caused injuries. Manufacturers often recall products preemptively if they believe there are risks.

Was this election cycle more litigious than ever or was it just more heavily reported? After all, it was one of the most contentious election seasons in recent history. But even after the polls were closed and the votes were tallied, a few defamation lawsuits alleging the dissemination of political misinformation remain.

It seems as if Georgia was able to complete its elections without a candidate suing his or her rival, at least for defamation. And while there were dozens of such suits filed in the waning days of the election nationwide, some legal actions stand out because they were not dismissed after Nov. 2.

A federal lawsuit filed in Victoria, Texas claims Savannah-based Great Dane Trailers is responsible for the 2003 deaths of 19 illegal immigrants who perished in a trailer after their driver abandoned them, the Victoria Advocate reported. New York residents Emilia Salgado and Yanely Altagracia filed the lawsuits on behalf of their deceased children.

Obviously Great Dane was not part of a conspiracy to smuggle undocumented aliens across the border. However, the suit claims the company is to blame for the deaths because the sealed trailer lacked an emergency escape hatch.

The Bradenton Herald in Florida reported that retailer Lowe's Home Centers Inc. agreed to increase its settlement to customers who bought defective drywall from its stores. But while it may mean more for attorneys, it could actually reduce payments to some of the class-action plaintiffs.

Lowe's had faced criticism that its initial settlement, capped at $4,500 in cash and Lowe's gift cards, was too low. That latest deal will pay eligible homeowners as much as $100,000 in cash for personal injury and/or property damage resulting from the defective product.

Bishop Eddie Long filed his legal response to the lawsuits against him by four men claiming sexual coercion, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The embattled spiritual leader is pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church near Atlanta and an outspoken opponent of gay rights.

Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande all claim Eddie Long coerced them into having sex with him in exchange for lavish gifts and exotic trips.

While he acknowledged that it has been a practice of his to share a hotel room with members of his congregation from time to time, he vehemently denied claims of sexual misconduct.

Marietta-based nurse anesthetist Paul Serdula is the target of a lawsuit by four women and one girl who claim he sexually assaulted and videotaped them while they were unconscious, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

All five plaintiffs underwent surgery between 2008 and 2009 at Cobb Hospital; the four women were preparing to give birth by Cesarean section at the time of the alleged assault. WellStar Health System, which operates the hospital, was named as a defendant for failing to properly monitor the operating room.

Paul Serdula was arrested last year on charges -- including sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, child molestation and eavesdropping -- related to assaults on 15 patients.

A rash of brain injuries sustained in professional, collegiate, high school and even pee-wee football games and practices has put the spotlight on the sport's risks. The National Football League instituted automatic suspensions for head shots and now collegiate football's Southeastern Conference (SEC) seems to be following suit, according to the Alabama Press-Register.

The SEC handed a one-game suspension to Mississippi State linebacker Chris Hughes for a hit to the head of University of Alabama at Birmingham receiver Frantrell Forrest. Just a week or so earlier, South Carolina linebacker Rodney Paulk was suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit to University of Kentucky's Randall Cobb.

CBS News cited reports that adult film actor Christina Walsh, who goes by the name "Capri Anderson" on screen, is planning to sue actor Charlie Sheen in the wake of his alleged alcohol-fueled tantrum in New York's Plaza Hotel. The "Two and a Half Men" star blames his erratic behavior on an allergic reaction to a medication.

Christina Walsh, infamously known as Capri Anderson, was identified as the "mystery woman" who locked herself in the bathroom while Charlie Sheen allegedly threw furniture and destroyed the room.

She called hotel security, who called police, claiming she feared for her life. The hotel claims the troubled actor caused roughly $7,000 of damage to the hotel suite, according to the New York Post.  

An Associated Press article that recently appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains how a loophole in the law makes it relatively easy for car rental companies to dodge recalls. In fact, lawmakers are asking the Federal Trade Commission why that is.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, the Center for Auto Safety and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety petitioned the FTC about what they say is a disastrous flaw. Charles Schumer has threatened legislation to close the loophole but hopes the FTC will step in to force companies to fix or remove recalled vehicles from their fleets:

"If a car is not safe enough to be bought and driven off the lot, then it is not safe enough to rent. [If the FTC] can't or won't act, Congress will."

Toddlers Can Now Be Sued In New York

Anyone with toddlers might wish they could sue for infliction of emotional distress, which just comes with the territory. But all jokes aside, a New York judge ruled last week that two 4-year-olds may in fact be sued for negligence, Time reported. Two youngsters accidentally ran their bicycles into an 87-year-old woman named Claire Menagh, breaking her hip. She died three months later from an unrelated cause.

The case stems from an April 2009 bicycle race between 4-year-olds Juliet Breitman and Jacob Kohn, under their parents' supervision. The two children's bikes were equipped with training wheels.


Don't fret if you're not exactly thrilled with your Atlanta injury attorney; you have every right to fire your lawyer and get a new one. Even if the lawyer you're trying to get rid of tells you otherwise.

Michael Helfand, an attorney who writes Chicago Now's Real Law Blog, said attorneys tell their clients this lie quite often, saying "it happens all the time in workers' compensation and personal injury claims and often in criminal cases too."

All the time? 

Motorist Roman Gasparyan is suing actor Eva Longoria, star of the ABC show "Desperate Housewives," and professional basketball-playing husband Tony Parker in connection with an automobile crash on Hollywood Boulevard, TMZ reported. He claims Eva Longoria negligently caused the wreck and is suing for unspecified damages.

Tony Parker was not involved in the accident, which occurred in October, but is named as a defendant in the suit because his wife's 2010 BMW X5 SUV is registered in his name.