The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced in February 2016 that self-balancing scooters, otherwise known as “hoverboards,” that do not meet newly-released safety standards face recall, seizure or detention. This is the latest response from the federal government, who is cracking down on hoverboards and their potential safety hazards. Hoverboards have a tendency to burst into flames.
The devices have been implicated in as many as 52 fires resulting in over $2 million in property damage, including the destruction of two homes, the CPSC said. In Santa Rosa, California, a girl left a hoverboard plugged in her bedroom. According to USA Today, “from the burn patterns ‘investigators were able to pinpoint the location where the fire began,’ said Paul Lowenthal, Santa Rose assistant fire marshal.” The girl and her family went out for the evening when a fire occurred. Smoke killed the family’s two dogs; firefighters were unable to resuscitate them. The fire resulted in almost $250,000 in damage to the family’s home.
The dangerous element is the lithium-ion batteries. They are used to power the scooters. Director of the CPSC’s Office of Compliance and Field Operations, Robert Howell, says ion-battery-powered hoverboards “pose an unreasonable risk of fire to consumers.”
Underwriters Laboratories released the first safety standards for hoverboards on February 2, 2016. If these standards are not met by manufacturers, importers and retailers, Howell warned of detention and seizure of the products by the CPSC. If such products are found in the US, the CPSC may also issue a recall.
Over the Christmas 2015 season, hoverboards were popular gifts. Yet safety concerns have arisen—especially in the aftermath of the aforementioned hoverboard fire that killed two dogs. The girl had received the hoverboard as a holiday gift. In response to the dangers, major online retailer Amazon has offered full refunds on hoverboards.
Product liability cases occur all the time. Unsuspecting people and innocent victims—many times children—are seriously injured and killed by dangerous and faulty toys, furniture and other consumer products. If this does happen, it is best for the victim and her/his family to seek legal counsel, especially in regard to medical bills and other concerns. In many cases, a product is faulty and there is no recall or seizure of it, and sadly, it leads to serious injury or death.
Parker | Scheer LLP has highly experienced product liability lawyers within its firm. A product liability lawsuit often requires a very skilled and diligent legal team. We seek to find the cause of the accident and ensure that your family is well compensated. Please contact a Boston product liability attorney at Parker | Scheer LLP today for a free, confidential consultation.
In February 2016, a manhole cover killed Caitlin Clavette. A 250-pound manhole cover dislodged and hit Clavette’s windshield as she was driving on I-93 in Boston. Clavette was a 35-year-old art teacher from Arlington. Governor Charlie Baker called the experience “unbelievably random and incredibly unusual.” In response to the incident, state highway inspectors examined more than 900 manhole covers, drainage gates and electrical panels. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) inspectors spent 22 hours inspecting covers and grates along I-93’s travel lanes. The inspection spanned from Somerville to Boston. They also inspected inside the tunnels that comprise the city’s highway system.
Crews inspected 919 structures in a variety of ways. They looked at them, drove over them and struck them with tools. On 854 structures, no action was needed. At 65 sites, inspectors performed “cautionary maintenance” and welded manhole covers.
Baker and officials reported that they did not find anything to indicate a larger problem. “The inspections found nothing to indicate a threat to public safety, rose to the level of alarming or indicated that any of the structures inspected would be insecure,” MassDOT Highway Administrator Thomas Tinlin said.
MassDOT, state police and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office have continued their investigation of the cause of the accident. However, Massachusetts will not inspect manhole covers outside of the Boston area. Baker said that the state follows federal highway standards in inspecting all manhole covers. Covers must be inspected every two years; the cover that killed Clavette was last inspected in June 2014. Baker continued by saying, “The real issue is just the enormous randomness of the tragedy.”
Wrongful death cases occur all the time. Unsuspecting people and innocent victims are killed from falling debris, unsafe roadways and unforeseen incidents that can happen at any time. If this does happen, it is best for the victim’s family to seek legal counsel immediately to help in the process, especially with any follow-up in regard to what caused the death and who was at fault. In many cases, a corporation or government institution has not followed laws or protocol and this neglect leads to unnecessary and tragic death.
Parker | Scheer LLP has experienced wrongful death lawyers within its firm. A wrongful death lawsuit is often traumatic and complex, and requires a knowledgeable and respectful legal team. We seek to find the cause of the death and ensure that your family is compensated. Please contact a Boston wrongful death attorney at Parker | Scheer LLP today for a free, confidential consultation.
At state nursing homes, safety problems are on the rise, and in response, the Massachusetts government intends to execute a new plan that calls for strict regulations. They include: tougher licensing reviews for new nursing homes, stringent enforcement of fines and surprise inspections. This plan comes amidst thousands of complaints. For example, in 2015, the state received almost 11,000 complaints of nursing home neglect and abuse that involved its 400 nursing homes and 40,000 nursing home residents. The state is trying to address the complaint backlog from the previous year.
The new plan recommends the creation of SPOT or Supportive Planning and Operations Team. It would make surprise inspections to state facilities and execute a re-training program for staff and management at the most troubled nursing homes. Massachusetts intends to pay for SPOT, which is a one-year experiment, by enforcing and possibly increasing fines for those who do not comply with nursing home regulations. As of press time, the state is allowed to fine facilities that are in violation of up to $50 per day; however, it is a practice that is rarely enforced. In March 2016, the enforcement of fines will be stricter. The state budget for 2016 will enable two new hires for inspectors.
The state also proposes the creation of a new online system, where consumers can easily file complaints and research information on state nursing homes. Massachusetts would more closely review new nursing home licenses, as well as the sales and closures of existing facilities. It would carefully examine the criminal and financial backgrounds of potential new nursing home operators and management companies.
In regard to federal guidelines, federal sanctions can be upwards of $10,000 per day for nursing homes that are not in compliance. According to the US Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (DHHS-OIG), “about a quarter of all US nursing home residents experience adverse events and that about 11 percent are harmed by mistakes, most of which are preventable.” This brings to light the amending of nursing home practices in Massachusetts, especially in regard to illegal activities such as elder abuse and fraud.
Parker | Scheer LLP has experienced nursing home abuse lawyers within its firm. Elder abuse and fraud are serious crimes that can do physical and emotional damage to both the victim and her/his family. Therefore, we will seek compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering and loss of finances. Please contact a Boston nursing home abuse lawyer at Parker | Scheer LLP today for a free and confidential consultation.
The opening of a small museum in the sleepy town of Winstead Connecticut wouldn’t normally draw the attention of the New Yorker, NPR and Politico. But when this museum marks the reappearance of Ralph Nader, a man who has been a fierce consumer advocate for years, a well-known public figure, and even would-be Commander-in- chief, attention isn’t in short supply.
As Personal Injury Lawyers we might also venture to say it’s about time. Ralph Nader’s American Museum of Tort Law is designed as an educational tool that redeems Personal Injury Law as an exercise that holds the powers-that-be accountable. More remarkably, this humble monument to Tort Law that took Nader 18 years to fund from its conception in 1998 isn’t just any old pet project, it’s the first museum dedicated to Law in the United States in history. As Nader himself says ruefully, “There are thirty-five thousand museums in the United States and not one museum dedicated to law. There are timber and lumber museums.”
Using engaging pop-art illustrations, the Museum changes that by telling the story of Personal Injury Law. It’s clear from Nader’s own career – Unsafe at Any Speed, his popular 1965 book targeting GM’s poor safety record to change auto-safety for the better – that over time Tort Law has forced companies to protect consumers and the environment above their own profits. The recent Peanut Corporation of America ruling [link] shows that profits will always powerfully influence decision-makers to overrule safety concerns, to the point of recklessness and real-world harm.
The Museum takes on Personal Injury Law’s unpopular image of the 90s amongst other topics. An exhibit about the infamous Macdonald’s Coffee Case [link to Parker Scheer article] carefully unpicks the myths about that case and reveals the facts: that the coffee was super-heated to give Macdonald’s a commercial edge on Burger King, that Macdonald’s knew of its potential for injury, that it only took a few seconds for the coffee to inflict serious burns.
Growing up in Winstead Connecticut, one of the first Mill towns in Connecticut, where his father worked first at a mill, then as a baker, Ralph Nader was implanted with a consciousness of everyday working conditions through his father and others he knew. Nader’s museum is a reminder that his career isn’t just an example of his unique activism, but owes a lot to his profession. The Museum presents Tort Law as a way to hold powerful corporate interests to account, and to make the world a safer place for ordinary people.
Congress recently granted the FDA authority with regard to medical products. Prior to this, the jurisdiction of regulating medical devices was left in ambiguous hands. Because of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act of 2012, the FDA no longer requires economic reviews of the changes their decisions have. This process of review slowed down the classification of devices; now the FDA can classify older devices and determine their proper regulation with greater speed. In addition to this faster classification, the FDA is now using its new power granted by Congress for the first time to propose stricter regulations for metal hip replacements.
The proposal stems from many instances of failure in hip replacements made entirely of metal as opposed to their plastic-metal hybrid cousins. Malfunction of these products has forced many patients to undergo expensive, agonizing removal operations for the faulty metal hips. Some of these devices have also left shards of metal debris in patients, causing damage to the tissue and bone. In some case this can lead to severe disability. The most-sued of these devices is DePuy’s Articular Surface Replacement (DePuy is a division of Johnson & Johnson.), which you can read more about here.
Under this proposal, companies producing such questionable hip replacements would have to redesign their product or submit clinical studies to prove their safety. The current method of regulation does not require such clinical proof; producers of metal hips must only demonstrate that their product is similar to products already on the market.
Ambiguities in the Medical Device Amendments of 1976 caused this loose regulation which the FDA aims to fix. These laws established regulation standards that vary for different products. The FDA requires that companies provide clinical proof of safety for devices which pose a high risk to the patient (“risk” based on the importance of the product to the patient’s life and health and the chance of failure). Metal hips were not held to this higher standard; in fact, the FDA failed to officially classify them, hence the current loose regulation and the failure of products such as the Articular Surface Replacement. The FDA now wishes to correct this problem and hold metal hips to the same standard to which they already hold many alternative methods of replacement, such as resurfacing.
The proposal would allow companies 90 days to submit clinical evidence of safety. Failure to comply with the proposal or failure to meet FDA standards would result in a halt on the sale of the product. Metal hip manufacturers will most likely lobby against the proposal, as they previously lobbied for the FDA to regulate hips as moderate-risk products.
The FDA is taking other precautions against injury from faulty metal hips as well. In 2011 it ordered post-marketing studies to find out, among other things, the levels of debris that metal replacements left. It has also recommended that patients with symptoms of device failure after such hip replacements undergo regular testing to monitor metal levels in the blood over time.
If a defective medical product has injured you or a family member, please click here or call 1-866-414-0400 to speak with one of our experienced Personal Injury Lawyers today.
This past week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began investigating the recent death of an employee at Boston Bridge & Steel, Inc. The employee was killed when a massive steel beam fell on him at the company’s East Boston facility. The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office has also been investigating the death, while spokesmen from the employer have stated that the victim died as a result of an accident rather than of foul play. While workplace safety is always of preeminent concern to employers, victims of falling objects and machinery accidents are often seriously injured.
The 12,000 pound steel beam collapsed on the worker requiring nearly 5 hours to recover the victim’s body. OSHA has been reviewing the safety precautions in effect at the victim’s workplace prior to the incident. While the number of employee injuries has decreased since 2010, the statistics do not demonstrate that work-sites are any safer. Rather, the statistics indicate that precautionary measures have proven effective and that many employers have adopted a more intense focus on worker safety.
During last year, 2012, there were 4,383 fatal work injuries in the United States. This represents a significant reduction from the 4,693 such deaths sustained in 2011, which, in turn, were fewer than had occurred in 2010. The number of workers who died on the job last year was the second lowest annual number of such deaths since the government started recording this statistic in 1992.
As worksite fatalities have been declining, and employers have become more educated regarding necessary safety precautions, construction and factory jobs remain tremendously dangerous. The falling steel beam accident comes in the wake of an incident that occurred at a work site in Downtown Crossing just two weeks ago, where a construction worker was injured by a scissor lift. The worker died of his injuries at the hospital. OSHA is investigating the incident and hopes to discover whether the employer was not maintaining a safe worksite or if the injuries were sustained as a result of a terrible accident.
OSHA publishes regulations which outline specific requirements by which employers must abide. The regulations include an employer’s duty of compliance with the safety standards set forth by the administration and require employers to take reasonable steps in protecting every worker on the jobsite. If you or a loved one has been a victim of an employer’s delinquency of OSHA’s safety standards or has been hurt in an accident at the work place, it is essential to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can offer the essential and helpful counsel needed to recover payment of wages, medical expenses and other measures of damages.
To learn more about Workers’ Compensation and what to do if you or a loved one has suffered a workplace fatality then contact the Workers’ Compensation attorneys at Parker | Scheer LLP.
In recent years, there has been an increased focus on the risks of distracted driving, partially due to the added distraction of cell phones and texting. It has been the cause of many car accidents, as well as some in which buses and trains were involved. Because of this, there has been an increased focus on bus and train drivers, and transit agencies are working to increase passenger safety and reduce the risks associated with distracted driving.
There have been incidents involving distracted bus and train drivers around the world over the past few months. In one incident, a bus driver who was talking on a cell phone jumped a curb and knocked over a light post. The incident killed an eight-month-old baby and injured seven other people. A Spanish train also crashed while the driver was using a cell phone. That crash killed 69 people. In a third incident, a driver reaching down to get something hit an 86-year-old woman, breaking multiple bones as the vehicle dragged her for half of a block. These incidents represent a fraction of those caused each year by distracted drivers, and put increased pressure on those in power to take action.
Back in 2009, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) put standards in place for transit systems. According to these standards all drivers should have their cell phones off and out-of-reach while operating a vehicle. The Association also promotes the reduction of various other interruptions that can distract the driver, such as fare boxes and dispatchers. Although these standards are voluntary, they are nearly universally adopted within the industry.
On the other hand, federal regulations are not voluntary. The United States Department of Transportation put a ban on using handheld phone for truck drivers and interstate buses two years ago. States have started to continue this into their own laws by adding the federal rules to their regulations or going through an independent rule-making process. Trains are currently regulated on a federal level to an even greater extent than buses.
In order to decrease the problem, transit agencies must play their roll as well. For instance, many will test bus drivers on a regular basis to determine if they can perform key business tasks well.
This increased focus on all fronts of the risks that come with distracted driving should help to decrease the risk of accidents and keep passengers safe.
As of February 28, 2014, the Department of Public Health (DPH) implemented new amended regulations involving the requirements for the care of residents with dementia. The new regulations, which are summarized in DPH Circular Letter: DHCQ – 14-5-615, are applicable to any licensed facility or unit that uses any word, term, phrase, or suggests otherwise that it is capable of providing specialized care for residents with dementia.
The newly amended regulations, found in 105 CMR 150.022 through 150.029, require that any and all relevant staff members must be trained and act in accordance with DPH guidelines. Relevant staff members would include direct care workers, supervisors of such workers, and therapeutic activity directors. The trainings conducted must include a basic introduction to Alzheimer’s and other related dementias, trainings on centered care, understanding various needs of the family and ways to work with families of these patients, and working with caregiver’s needs.
In addition to staff trainings, each facility must meet physical plant requirements as well. Facilities that are unable to meet the required deadlines may apply for a waiver documenting extenuated circumstances. All physical requirements must be met no later than February 28, 2015.
Previously, nursing homes and other facilities were technically permitted to advertise their services as specializing in dementia care, even though their staffs were not appropriately trained, particularly in the areas of dementia patient safety and quality of life. The new regulations represent an important step toward improving the lives and care of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia issues.
According to a recent press release, a local contractor faces fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) arising from OSHA’s discovery of electrocution hazards that pose serious safety risks to workers at the company’s Cambridge worksite. Employees had been working in close proximity to energized power lines, using a trench rod and a fiberglass pole with a metal end to lift overhead power lines in order to move excavating equipment under the lines and onto their worksites – an activity that poses a serious risk of electrocution to the workers, and that violates OSHA worker safety standards.
OSHA proposed over $70,000 in fines for the contractor’s violations. In 2011, the contractor had been cited for similar violations at a Framingham worksite. Accordingly, the contractor had already been made aware of the safety hazards associated with working near and around energized power lines, justifying OSHA’s categorization of the Cambridge site violation as a willful violation. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
The risk of worker electrocution in construction jobs is especially prominent. OSHA has providedsafety tips for workers in the construction industry when working with overhead power lines, which emphasize the continuous exercise of “good judgment or common sense,” and which aim to reduce the risk of work-related injuries and death from electrical hazards.