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Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Smoking is a deadly habit, and thousands of people die from smoking-related illnesses each year. People in modern society generally understand cigarettes to be dangerous, but in prior times the risks associated with smoking were less clear. As such, in the late 1990s, the Attorney General filed a complaint against cigarette manufacturers and obtained substantial damages via a settlement agreement. The agreement did not preclude other parties from pursuing claims against cigarette manufacturers, though, as illustrated in a recent Massachusetts ruling issued in a wrongful death case. If you suffered harm due to a dangerous product, you might be owed compensation, and it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted Massachusetts personal injury lawyer to evaluate your potential claims.

The History of Proceedings

Allegedly, the plaintiff, the wife of a deceased smoker, brought wrongful death claims against the defendant, the cigarette manufacturer. The complaint alleged, among other things, that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s husband’s death by selling unreasonably dangerous and defective cigarettes. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury found in favor of the plaintiff. The court entered a judgment in the plaintiff’s favor, and the defendant appealed.

Claim Preclusion Under Massachusetts Law

On appeal, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s claims were precluded by a previous settlement agreement between the State Attorney General and the defendant. The appellate ultimately disagreed and affirmed the trial court ruling. Continue Reading ›

In a Cape Cod premises liability lawsuit, the duty of care that a landowner owes to an individual who comes upon his or her property can vary from case to case. One of the primary considerations is whether the individual had the landowner’s invitation or implied permission to be on the property or whether he or she was a trespasser.

Usually, trespassers are owed a lower duty of care than those who are on another’s property with permission. However, this is not always so.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unreported) appellate case, the plaintiffs were the administrators of the estate of a 17-year-old high school student who drowned in a swimming pool that belonged to the defendant city. According to the record on appeal, the student was a trespasser and gained access to the pool through the girls locker room (an area in which had no authority to enter). The depth of the water was not marked on the pool, and the student was not able to swim. In their wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiffs sought compensation based on a theory of negligence and premises liability. The defendant filed a motion seeking summary judgment as to the plaintiffs’ claims against it. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiffs appealed.

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In a Cape Cod medical malpractice case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving not only that the defendant healthcare professional breached the standard of care that applied to the situation at hand but also that this breach of care was the proximate cause of the damages about which the plaintiff complains. Sometimes, damages are readily apparent, and the real fight is about whether there was negligent care. However, this is not always so.

Sometimes, a mistake was obviously made, but the doctor insists that his or her error did not harm the patient in any meaningful way. This argument is especially prevalent in cases involving a missed diagnosis.

In such cases, the plaintiff believes that, had a proper diagnosis been made in a timely fashion, he or she would have had more treatment options and/or a better outcome of the illness that the doctor somehow missed. In turn, the physician is likely to claim that the illness – and the ultimate result thereof – was bound to happen anyway, such that his or her mistake should not result in monetary compensation to the patient or his or her family.

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A Cape Cod wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit cannot succeed unless the plaintiff is able to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the accident victim’s death or physical harm. This must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, via legally admissible evidence.

Of course, this assumes that the case ultimately makes its way into a courtroom and is tried in front of a judge and jury. It is important to note that there are a lot of steps that may occur before this happens.

First and foremost, the court in which the suit is filed must have jurisdiction over the case. This encompasses both the right to adjudicate the subject matter of the suit and also power over the particular defendants, a concept known as “personal jurisdiction.”

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There can be several different defendants in a Cape Cod wrongful death lawsuit. This can include individuals, businesses, and even governmental entities. While many of the same rules apply regardless of the identity of particular defendants, sometimes there must be a different approach to a certain defendant.

For instance, claims against the government proceed differently in many situations, as compared to cases involving only private citizens or businesses. Sometimes, the claims period is shorter, or notice must be given by a certain date. This can effectively mean that an injured person must act much more quickly when suing a governmental entity.

Also, the government may be immune from certain types of lawsuits. Even where a suit is allowed, there can be limitations on the amount of money damages that can be awarded to a claimant in some cases involving the government.

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The plaintiff in a Cape Cod medical malpractice case not only bears the burden of proof at trial, but he or she also has several obligations in the pre-litigation phase of the case. Generally, the first step is a careful review of the injured or deceased person’s medical records by an expert in the field of medicine at issue.

However, the inquiry does not end there. The expert must be prepared to give a formal opinion as to any deviations of care on the part of the patient’s treating physicians and how those deviations affected the patient. Ultimately, the expert may be called upon to defend those opinions in a court of law.

Because medical malpractice cases have several special requirements, it is important that the plaintiff be represented by experienced, highly qualified legal counsel. It is a given that the doctor, nurse, or hospital will have a team of legal professionals on his or her side of the case, and the plaintiff’s attorney must be prepared to wage a vigorous fight at trial, if necessary.

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While the coronavirus pandemic will likely mean that everyone’s holiday season is at least a little bit different this year as compared to years past, there are some things that remain the same. Gifts will be exchanged. Special meals will be planned. Accidents, injuries, and illnesses will happen, possibly triggering a Cape Cod product liability lawsuit.

While not every product mishap will result in an injury or illness significant enough to trigger litigation, some, unfortunately, will. Fortunately, the law provides some protection against unreasonably safe products, provided that the consumer does his or her part to assert a claim in a timely fashion.

As in other types of personal injury litigation, the burden of proof in product injury cases is on the injured individual, so it is important that any evidence concerning the bad product be saved and preserved as possible evidence. Contacting an experienced product liability attorney is also a critical step in the process of receiving fair compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by a defective product.

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There are many steps that must be completed in order to recover fair monetary compensation for injuries or wrongful death at the hands of a health care professional in Massachusetts. One of the first hurdles that must be crossed is making it past the decision of the medical malpractice tribunal that reviews such cases as part of the legal process.

In order for a Cape Cod medical malpractice case to proceed past the tribunal and onward toward trial, there must be enough evidence of negligence by the defendants for the tribunal to find that there is a legitimate question of liability. Not every case “makes the cut,” so to speak. Sometimes, even though the patient was hurt or may even have died, there just isn’t enough evidence of wrongdoing by the doctor or other medical professional for the case to make it past the tribunal.

Of course, opinions can vary as to whether the threshold has been met. Sometimes, a plaintiff appeals a decision that would have terminated his or her case and finds legal recourse in the appellate process.

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The first question that must be answered in any Cape Cod wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit is, “Did the defendant owe a duty of care to the plaintiff?” The answer to this inquiry can be impacted by state statutes, existing case law, local ordinances, the particular facts of the case, the relationship between the parties, and various other matters.

If the defendant did owe a duty of care to the plaintiff, the next step is to determine whether the duty was breached. If it was, then the issue turns to the question of causation and, then, damages. Only if the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, breached that duty, and thereby proximately caused legal damages to him or her may the case be resolved in the plaintiff’s favor.

If the answer to the duty question is “no,” the case ends there – unless the trial court’s judgment is appealed, of course. Then, a higher court may take a look at the case to determine whether a mistake was made in the lower tribunal. Only if the appealing party can convince the appellate court that a reversible error was made will there be a reversal of the lower court’s decision and a reinstatement of the plaintiff’s complaint.

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When someone is injured by another’s breach of the duty of due care, he or she has a right to file a negligence claim seeking compensation from the responsible party for his or her personal injuries. This includes payment for medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages.

A Massachusetts wrongful death action may lie when a person is killed by another’s negligence. These suits are typically brought by the personal representative of the victim’s estate, acting on behalf of the beneficiaries enumerated under the state’s wrongful death statute, and, if successful, may result in the awarding of different elements of damages than would have been available in a personal injury lawsuit filed by the victim. The state’s highest court recently clarified the relationship between these two types of claims.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was the personal representative of a man who died in a scuba diving accident in 2014. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendants, the manufacturer of the decedent’s dry suit, the person who supplied the decedent’s diving equipment, and the dive leader, seeking to assert a wrongful death claim under Massachusetts General Laws ch. 229, § 2. The plaintiff settled her case against all defendants except the dive leader. Thereafter, the dive leader filed a motion for summary judgment, relying upon a release and covenant not to sue that the decedent signed prior to his death. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court transferred the case from the intermediate appellate court on its own initiative.

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