October 27, 2014

Check Your Car's Airbags After Recalls Linked to Four Deaths, Injuries

20141027_airbag.jpgLast week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued an advisory urging the public to act immediately on recall notices impacting 7.8 million cars with Takata airbags. The airbags are now linked to four deaths and more than 100 injuries.

If you have not already done so, please immediately check if your vehicle's airbags have been recalled. Visit Safercar.gov. Select your auto manufacturer and enter your vehicle identification number, or VIN.

While car manufacturers are required to notify owners of recalls, do not wait to receive a letter for the company. While many of the airbags were previously recalled, you may have missed an earlier letter or may not have appreciated how serious the recall actually is.

The recalls involve Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. More than 5 million of the cars are Honda models. Many are older vehicles from the 2000-2007 model years.

After you check the site and contact your dealer, be prepared to wait. Unfortunately, many dealers do not have the parts they need to meet demand.

Prior to last week's announcement, 2014 was already the worst year ever for auto recalls, with 50 million vehicles recalled. One in five cars in our country has a defect. General Motors (GM) paid a $35 million fine last spring and has recalled 26 million vehicles.

Why are the airbags defective?
These airbags have inflator mechanisms which can rupture and explode, sending metal and plastic shrapnel at drivers and passengers. They use excessive force. Police were investigating the death of a woman who had been in a car accident as a homicide because she appeared to have stab wounds on her neck. Then her relatives received a letter about the airbag recall to her from home from her car manufacturer. See The New York Times article, "It Looked Like a Stabbing, but Takata's AirBag Was the Killer."

How long will it take to get a replacement part?
It is hard to say. Some dealers already have the replacement parts ready, but others are on back order. Some car manufacturers are warning car owners not to carry front-seat passengers until the airbag defect is fixed. Toyota is telling dealers to shut the passenger seat airbags off in all vehicles that are brought in until new parts are available.

Can I get alternate transportation?
Probably not. It is unfortunate, but most of us will have to wait for the new parts to arrive. Your local dealer may also offer you a trade-in.

I did not buy my car from a dealer. I bought it from a private party.

Check your paper work from your car's sale for the name of the dealer who originally sold the vehicle. If you cannot find this, contact any local dealer of your vehicle and ask them to assist you.

Should I purchase a car under recall?
Unless the specified repair has been made, a dealer is not allowed to sell you a car under recall and you should never purchase one under recall from a private party either.

When you are looking to buy a car, write down the model and year, then search for it online at SaferCar.gov or the Consumer Reports Recall database.

I was planning to sell my car.
You should wait for any serious defect to be repaired before selling your car. This is the safest and most ethical option regardless of the law. But there are laws to consider, including the Massachusetts Used Vehicle Warranty Law, which states private party sellers have to disclose defects to buyers.

Continue reading "Check Your Car's Airbags After Recalls Linked to Four Deaths, Injuries" »

October 20, 2014

Breakstone, White & Gluck Honored by Super Lawyers for 11th Year

We are pleased to announce our attorneys have been selected as Super Lawyers for 2014. This is the 11th year they have been recognized as among the best in Massachusetts and New England.

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Our partners, Marc L. Breakstone, David W. White and Ronald E. Gluck, have been selected to various lists, including the Top 100 New England Super Lawyers, Top 100 Massachusetts Super Lawyers, New England Super Lawyers and Massachusetts Super Lawyers. Our associate, Samuel A. Segal, has been selected to Massachusetts Super Lawyers Rising Stars, for the second consecutive year.

Super Lawyers is a national rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. The top 5 percent of attorneys in each state are selected. The Super Lawyers list will be published in November's edition of Boston Magazine.


Attorney Marc Breakstone was selected for the following 2014 Super Lawyers honors:

  • Top 100 Massachusetts Super Lawyers

  • Massachusetts Super Lawyers, Plaintiff's Medical Malpractice

  • New England Super Lawyers, Plaintiff's Medical Malpractice

marcbreakstone_125.jpgBreakstone has also been named a Top 100 New England Super Lawyer four times, in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013. It is the eighth year he has been recognized to the Top 100 Massachusetts Super Lawyers and his 11th year as a Massachusetts and New England Super Lawyer in the category of plaintiff's medical malpractice.

Breakstone has established a reputation as one of the top medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers in Massachusetts and New England. For over 25 years, he has represented clients who have been seriously injured by negligence in cases involving wrongful death, construction accidents, gas explosions and transportation and truck accidents. He is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law.


Attorney David W. White was selected for the following 2014 Super Lawyers honors:

  • Top 100 New England Super Lawyers
  • Top 100 Massachusetts Super Lawyers
  • Massachusetts Super Lawyers, Personal Injury General Plaintiff

david-150-2.jpgWhite, a past president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, has been named to the Top 100 New England Super Lawyers list three times and the Top 100 Massachusetts Super Lawyers list six times. He has been recognized on the Massachusetts Super Lawyers list in the personal injury category for 11 years.

White has practiced law in Boston for over 25 years and specializes in personal injury cases, representing clients seriously injured in bicycle accidents, car accidents, construction accidents and those injured in product liability and premises liability cases. He is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law.


Attorney Ronald E. Gluck has been selected for the following 2014 Super Lawyers honors:

  • Massachusetts Super Lawyers, Personal Injury General Plaintiff
  • New England Super Lawyers, Personal Injury General Plaintiff

gluck_150.jpgGluck, who represented victims of the 9-11 attacks, has been selected to the Massachusetts Super Lawyers list for 10 years and New England Super Lawyers for 8 years. He has represented seriously injured clients for over 30 years in cases involving wrongful death, car and truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, liquor liability, premises liability and product liability. He is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Law.



Attorney Samuel A. Segal has been selected for the following 2014 Super Lawyers honors:

  • Massachusetts Super Lawyers Rising Stars for 2014
  • Massachusetts Super Lawyers Rising Stars for 2013

sam-125.jpgSegal handles personal injury cases in all areas of the firm's practice, including medical malpractice, premises liability, car accidents and construction accident claims. He is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law. The Rising Stars list recognizes the top 2.5 percent of lawyers in the state who are either 40 years old or younger or who have been in practice for 10 years or less.

Continue reading "Breakstone, White & Gluck Honored by Super Lawyers for 11th Year" »

October 8, 2014

Distracted Driving Lessons in Massachusetts

20141006-texting.jpgThis month, students at four high schools in Massachusetts will sit down at computer simulators and learn what it feels like to text or use a cell phone while driving and then crash.

This is part of Arbella Insurance Foundation's Distractology 101 program, which will visit Braintree High School, Phillips Academy in Andover, Falmouth High School and Sacred Heart High School in Kingston. Although the young drivers will not actually suffer or cause injury, or feel the remorse of having caused the collision, they will be taught the lesson that distracted driving behaviors, such as cell phone use, using a GPS and even eating and drinking, can result in car accidents and serious injuries. These behaviors should be considered as or more dangerous than speeding or running a red light.

Consider these statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):


  • 10 percent of all fatal crashes in 2011 were reported as distraction-affected crashes (3,331 people killed).

  • Among those who were killed, 12 percent died in a car crash which involved cell phone use.

  • Some 17 percent of all injury crashes in 2011 were reported as distracted-affected crashes (or 387,000 people injured).

  • Among those who were injured, 5 percent were injured in a car accident which involved cell phone use.

Laws have been implemented to reduce the dangers caused by distracted driving. While no state bans all drivers from all cell phone use, hand-held cell phone use is not permitted in 15 states, including Vermont as of Oct. 1.

Laws related to texting while driving are much more prevalent. Texting while driving is now against the law in 44 states. Washington passed the first ban in 2007. Massachusetts implemented its law four years ago. The law, St. 2010, c. 155, bans texting by drivers, including reading, writing or sending messages. Drivers cannot text while driving or sitting at red lights, intersections or other public ways. This is a primary offense, meaning police can pull drivers over when they suspect the behavior, even without any other cause.

Despite these laws, drivers here and in other states still text and check their social media accounts. Younger drivers under 25 are two to three times more likely to text or e-mail while driving than others, according to the NHTSA. But these violations are not limited to young drivers, as the evidence is that older drivers are also engaging in this prohibited behavior.

Fortunately there is some evidence that these laws are starting to work. Recently The Journal of American Health reported that traffic fatalities had dropped 3 percent in states which have primary enforcement laws like Massachusetts. States that ban younger drivers from texting while driving saw an 11 percent drop. The journal studied national traffic data over 11 years.

States may continue to pass laws to reduce distracted driving, but drivers carry responsibility for putting down the phone and becoming aware of other distracting behaviors, such as eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading maps, using a GPS, watching a video or adjusting a radio or music player.

There are some good safety resources out there to help families understand the problem and the attitudes and behaviors that contribute to it. We encourage you to take a look and share them with your colleagues at work and with your family, friends, and children.

For More Information

Continue reading "Distracted Driving Lessons in Massachusetts " »

October 1, 2014

Breakstone, White & Gluck Donates 150 Bike Helmets for Children in Westwood

Westwood families received free bike helmets for their children and learned about cycling and pedestrian safety at Westwood Town Day on September 27th.

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The Westwood Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Committee hosted an informational table at the town celebration which was held at the Westwood High School. Breakstone, White & Gluck donated 150 bike helmets which were distributed to children age 16 and younger. The helmets went quickly at the annual event, which offers a fireworks display, music, food and road races for adults and children over the course of two days. Committee members fit children for the bike helmets and explained the importance of always wearing them. Attorney David White, a Westwood resident and committee member, helped fit the helmets.

In Massachusetts, children age 16 and younger are required by law to wear bike helmets. Cyclists of all ages should wear helmets to protect themselves and reduce the risk of head and brain injuries. Many cyclists neglect to do this. In fact, less than half of all cyclists actually wear helmets, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Breakstone, White & Gluck donated the helmets as part of Project KidSafe, our community service project to help prevent injuries among children. Our firm's specialty is handling personal injury cases for those who have been injured, so we know firsthand the importance of injury prevention. We are devoted to keeping children safe. This is the second year we have donated bicycle helmets to organizations around the state. So far, we have donated over 2,000 helmets.

Continue reading "Breakstone, White & Gluck Donates 150 Bike Helmets for Children in Westwood" »

September 24, 2014

Your Right to Ask Massachusetts Doctors and Hospitals "How Much Does That Cost"

Important Questions After New York Man Was Forced to Pay $117,000 for Last-Minute Surgeon He Never Met

20140924_medicalbilling.jpgIt is hard enough to be in pain and need surgery. But it gets much worse if you are unfairly billed huge sums from doctors you never met and never knew would be "helping."

The New York Times recently shared the story of a New York City man who received an unexpected $117,000 bill after a neck surgery. The story did not have a fair ending; the man had to pay the bill, though the reimbursement came from his health insurance company.

Peter Drier had done careful research on the costs before his surgery at a Manhattan hospital and thought he knew what to expect. But the bank technology manager was blindsided when he received a $117,000 bill for an assistant surgeon he had never met or knew was involved in his care. Before surgery, Drier's primary surgeon, Dr. Nathaniel L. Tindel, had agreed to accept a negotiated fee determined by his insurance company, about $6,200. Drier had to pay $3,000 toward this as part of his health insurance deductible. But Drier was never informed about the assistant surgeon, Dr. Harrison T. Mu, who was outside of his insurance company's network of covered providers, until after he was home and received the bill.

The primary surgeon's office said he did not share in the billing and the assistant surgeon never responded to The New York Times. Drier questioned the charge, and at the same time argued with his insurance company to make the payment. They resisted the "out of network" charge, but eventually paid it, even though by now the patient was protesting the entire unfairness of the situation.

"I thought I understood the risks," Mr. Drier told The New York Times. "But this was just so wrong -- I had no choice and no negotiating power."

The New York Times recently reported on the growing practice of consumers being charged for out of network doctors in many instances, even hospital emergency rooms, and later receiving unexpected bills. This is significant because an out of network physician can charge 20 to 40 times as much as an in network doctor and costs are not covered by health insurance. For example, an out of network doctor charges an average of $115,625 for a spinal fusion in the U.S., while an in network physician charges an average of $5,983, according to figures cited by the newspaper.

How Massachusetts Consumers Can Protect Themselves From Unexpected Charges
New York will implement a new law next March, which in part will require more advance disclosure of medical costs and seek to protect patients from unforeseen out of network fees. Hospitals and insurers will be directed to mediate and negotiate cases from there.

Massachusetts is also making changes. In 2012, the state passed a health care cost containment law, which called for patients to have access to medical costs before a procedure or care is delivered.

  • As of October 2013, health insurers have been required to provide information on cost estimates for office visits to physicians and specific tests and procedures. For the first year, insurers had two working days to provide the information. Starting October 1, 2014, they will be required to provide the information instantaneously. Consumers are expected to be able to search pricing online themselves.
  • As of January 1, 2014, hospitals and physicians also have to provide cost estimates.

What to request:

  • Under the law, your doctor or health care provider must disclose the "allowed amount" or charge of admission, procedure or service, including the amount of any "facility fees." The allowed amount is the contractually agreed amount paid by a carrier to your health care insurer. The most important thing is to make sure you understand what your insurance company must pay and what you must pay for a deductible. If that is not written down for you clearly, ask questions - and keep asking questions until you have something in writing you understand.
  • They should provide you with CPT codes, or the billing codes.
  • As for out of network costs, the law also compels providers who participate in networks to provide sufficient information about the proposed procedure or service to allow a patient to use the network's toll-free number and website to disclose the costs.

The key is that patients must request this information. Start by making sure you understand exactly what your medical treatment will include. Doctors may order panels of test for which expenses add up quickly; you may wish to control the extent of treatment being offered depending on its cost.

We suggest you take time over the next few months and become comfortable with the system before you have a medical crisis. Start by contacting your health insurer and asking for an estimate for your next medical appointment. Contact your physician's office or hospital as well and compare the findings. Also, ask your health insurer what pricing information is available online too but do not rely on it until you learn about the system.

Be a wise consumer! Do not step into a doctor's office until you have reached agreement on the price, what your health insurer will pay, and how much you will pay for your deductible.

Related:
After Surgery, Surprise $117,000 Medical Bill from Doctor He Didn't Know, The New York Times.

Medical Price Transparency Law Rolls Out: Physicians Must Help Patients Estimate Costs, Massachusetts Medical Society Blog

Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation Infographic

Many unaware of new rules on health care costs, The Boston Globe.

Breakstone, White & Gluck consumer safety articles


Continue reading "Your Right to Ask Massachusetts Doctors and Hospitals "How Much Does That Cost"" »

September 22, 2014

Attorney Sam Segal Elected Treasurer of Massachusetts Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division Board of Directors

sam-linkedin.jpgCongratulations to our associate, Sam Segal, who has been elected treasurer of the Massachusetts Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division Board of Directors for the 2014-2015 year.

Segal graduated from Northeastern University School of Law in the spring of 2010. He joined Breakstone, White & Gluck as an associate after completing a co-operative internship with the firm as part of his studies. He earned a double-major undergraduate degree with honors from Arcadia University in Pennsylvania.

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, he specializes in personal injury cases, including those involving car accidents, bicycle accidents, medical malpractice and construction accidents. He was selected as a Massachusetts Super Lawyers Rising Star for 2013. Segal has participated in Young Lawyers Division events for several years and also volunteers as an attorney-coach for the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School Mock Trial Team.

Breakstone, White & Gluck has long been active with the Massachusetts Bar Association. Attorney David White served as president for the 2007-2008 term. White and attorney Marc Breakstone have led Continuing Legal Education seminars over the years, in topics such as personal injury and how to start a solo law practice. The firm is also a sponsor at the annual dinner each spring.

We congratulations all the Young Lawyers Division Board of Directors. Read the full announcement.

Continue reading "Attorney Sam Segal Elected Treasurer of Massachusetts Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division Board of Directors" »

September 19, 2014

National Child Passenger Safety Week: Check for Child Seat Recalls This Year

carseat-010314.jpgThis is National Child Passenger Safety Week, when parents can get answers to common questions about driving safely with their children.

National Child Passenger Safety Week began last weekend and is observed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and local communities. It ends this weekend with National Seat Check Saturday.

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death for children in the United States. Child safety seats reduce the risk for injury if they are used properly, by more than 70 percent when it comes to infants and more than 50 percent for children age 1 to 4. But parents have long struggled with how to use them. In one study, more than 70 percent of 3,500 observed car and booster seats were misused in a way that could harm children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Parents should also closely examine their child safety seat models this year. Several months ago, Graco recalled more than 6 million child safety seats, the largest car seat recall in U.S. history. Parents reported they were unable to unbuckle defective harnesses and had to cut their children out of the straps. The cause was food was getting dried up in the harnesses and causing them to stick.

Child passenger safety laws have changed over the past decade and every state now has a law for infants and children-fitting specific criteria. All but two (Florida and South Dakota) require booster seats for older children. The Massachusetts Child Passenger Safety Law requires children to ride in federally-approved child passenger safety seats that are properly secured until they are eight years old or over 57 inches tall.

Despite laws for older children, Safe Kids, a national non-profit organization, has released a new report, showing 7 in 10 parents did not know a child should be at least 57 inches or 4'9" tall before they ride in a car without a booster seat. The organization surveyed 1,000 adults.

A few resources on child safety seats:

Check Your Car Seat Label. Become informed about the specifics of car seats. Make sure yours fits your child's weight, size and age. For infants through age two, look for a rear-facing child safety seat. For children between ages 2 -4 or up to 40 pounds, choose a forward facing child safety seat. From age 4 to 8 or 57 inches, children should ride in belt positioning booster seats. Read more.

Car Safety Seat Checklist for Parents. Safe Kids has developed this checklist for parents.

Register Your Car Seat. Here is a resource from the NHTSA on registering your car seats with the manufacturer. This will allow the manufacturer to contact you if there is a defect.

Used Car Seat Safety Checklist. Here is a resource from the NHTSA on using used child safety seats.

Community Events. Some organizations offer free car seat safety inspections this weekend as part of National Seat Check Saturday and allow parents to make appointments with trained professionals throughout the year. Here is a directory of locations or you can contact your local police department to ask about resources in your community.

Continue reading "National Child Passenger Safety Week: Check for Child Seat Recalls This Year" »

September 12, 2014

Smoke Alarm Recall Affects More Than One Million

kiddesmokealarm-20140913.jpgThe Consumer Product Safety Commission is calling on the public to check their home smoke alarms, after more than a million units were recalled yesterday.

Kidde recalled 1.2 million smoke alarms in the United States and 112,000 in Canada. No injuries have been reported, but the models have a defect which may prevent them from working after a power outage. This is an important recall because each year, three to five deaths in property fires come in buildings without working smoke alarms, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

The smoke alarms are all residential models:

  • Kidde residential smoke alarm model i12010S with manufacture dates between December 18, 2013 and May 13, 2014
  • Kidde Combination smoke/CO alarm il2010SCO with manufacture dates between December 30, 2013 and May 13, 2014
  • Kidde Combination smoke/CO alarm model KN-COSM-IBA with manufacture date between October 22, 2013 and May 13, 2014

These smoke alarms are all hard-wired into a home's electric system. The i12010S and il2010SCO models come with 10-year batteries inside while the KN-COSM-IBA uses replaceable AA backup batteries.

These smoke alarms look like most: white, round and are about 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Closely inspect the fine print on the front of yours for the word "Kidde." On the backside, there is a label with the model number and manufacturing dates. "Always on" is also engraved on the front of alarms with sealed 10-year batteries.

These smoke alarms were sold at CED, City Electric Supply, HD Supply, Home Depot, Menards Inc. and other retailers. They were sold online at Amazon.com, HomeDepot.com and shopkidde.com from January 2014 through July 2014 for between $30 and $50.

Read the full recall notice.

Smoke Alarm Safety Tips

Daylight Saving Time. We will set our clocks back an hour for Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, November 2. The National Fire Protection Association and other safety officials recommend we also replace the batteries in our smoke alarms, test them to make sure they work and replace any models which are 10 years old.

Monthly Testing. Safety organizations also recommend we test smoke alarm batteries once a month.

Inform Others. Make sure everyone in your home knows what the smoke alarm sounds like and knows where they are located. Here is a resource for more safety and planning information.

Apartment Residents. If you rent an apartment, ask your building management company or property owner to show you the smoke alarms when you sign the lease. Contact them whenever you suspect a problem or have a question.

Continue reading "Smoke Alarm Recall Affects More Than One Million" »

September 10, 2014

Boston Mayor Proposes New Truck Safety Ordinance

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Mayor Marty Walsh is proposing a new safety ordinance for city-contracted trucks in Boston, a measure being widely watched after several cyclists have died in truck crashes. It is believed to be the first such ordinance in the nation.

Walsh, who took office in January, submitted an Ordinance to Protect Vulnerable Road Users to the Boston City Council earlier this week. The City Council was expected to take it up today in session.

If passed, the ordinance will require side guards, convex mirrors, cross-over mirrors, and blind-spot awareness decals on all vehicles over 10,000 pounds which are contracted with the city. The goal is to prevent truck accidents by giving drivers a better view around them. When trucks do not comply, fines start at $100 for the first offense and contracts can ultimately be terminated.

The Boston Cyclists Union called for these measures after a cyclist was killed in a Charlestown truck accident in April. It has released a fact sheet, "Safeguards Saves Lives." According to the fact sheet, 4 percent of vehicles in the U.S. are trucks though they cause 11 percent of all bicyclist fatalities and 7 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.

Since 2010, 11 cyclists in Boston have died as a result of motor vehicle crashes, according to figures cited by Boston Magazine. Seven cases involved trucks. Here is another concerning figure: From 2009 to 2012, there were 1,700 confirmed cyclist incidents documented by Boston EMS emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

The City of Boston has been working on truck safety. Last year, the city began a pilot program, the largest in the nation. The Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics and the city's Public Works Department tested three different types of guards on 16 active vehicles driving the streets.

In April, the National Traffic Safety Board made similar recommendations to prevent tractor-trailer accidents.

Continue reading "Boston Mayor Proposes New Truck Safety Ordinance" »

September 8, 2014

Surgical Malpractice Lawsuit Alleges Boston Neurosurgeon Used the Wrong Dye During Spine Procedure

medical-surgery-blog.jpgTwo brothers filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against a Boston hospital last month, alleging their mother was killed because a neurosurgeon used the wrong dye during a spine procedure.

This is one of two serious cases which prompted a Medicare inquiry in February, according to a Boston Globe report. The other came in January, when a patient suffered an embolism, heart attack and severe brain damage after a resident removed his intravenous tube without elevating his feet.

The media report comes as hospital safety and health costs are being closely watched here in Massachusetts:

A few reports from August:

  • The Department of Public Health's new tracking system reported a 70 percent increase in serious medical errors at acute-care hospitals in 2013. One of the biggest increases was in surgical malpractice cases where doctors operated on the wrong body part.
  • Health insurance rates will increase 3.1 percent in 2015, more than this year because of administrative costs associated with implementing the federal Affordable Care Act.

August also marked two years since Massachusetts adopted a health care cost containment law, forecast to save $200 billion over 15 years. Massachusetts passed the law in part to address health care costs associated passage of the mandatory health insurance law passed here in 2006, the first in the nation.

One measure of the 2012 law was a new 180-day cooling off period for patients and families who want to file medical malpractice lawsuits. Hospitals and physicians are given time to apologize without legal repercussions and to negotiate a settlement.

But the law did not prevent a lawsuit in the case of a 74-year-old Watertown woman who died last November, the day after her surgery at Tufts Medical Center. Her sons filed the lawsuit against the hospital, 12 pharmacists, nurses and surgeons.

The Boston Globe reported Tufts Medical Center had no comment on the surgical malpractice lawsuit, which is pending. But regulators who investigated the case reported a neurosurgeon treating the woman for back pain requested a special dye to test the location of tubing which had been placed into her spine.

When the pharmacy did not have the right dye, they replaced it with another type, MD-76. The surgeon checked the dye label, hospital officials say, and injected it twice, even though its label read, "not for intrathecal use." This means do inject it in the spine.

The Boston Globe quoted experts who called this a form of "cognitive bias," when a person sees what they expect to see rather than what is actually there.

Tufts Medical Center Implements Changes
According to the The Boston Globe, Tufts Medical Center now requires nurses to submit detailed written medication orders to pharmacists. It has also implemented a new rule requiring two staff members to remove intravenous tubes and use a checklist that includes proper positioning of the patient.

Related:
Surgical Error at Tufts Prompts Widespread Changes, The Boston Globe.

Insurance Rates Will Increase for Small Business, The Boston Globe.

Continue reading "Surgical Malpractice Lawsuit Alleges Boston Neurosurgeon Used the Wrong Dye During Spine Procedure " »

August 25, 2014

Defective Bean Bag Chairs Kill Two Children by Suffocation

More than two million bean bag chairs have been recalled after heartbreaking accidents in which children suffocated and died.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced last week that Ace Bayou Corp. of New Orleans, Louisiana has voluntary recalled 2.2 million bean bag chairs, including both traditional and L-shaped bean bag chairs.

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The bean bag chairs have zippers which can easily be opened, a violation of the CPSC's voluntary standard. Children can crawl inside, become entrapped and suffocate from lack of air or choke on the chair's foam beads.

Prompting the recall were the deaths of a 12-year-old boy from Texas and a 3-year-old girl from Kentucky. The children were found inside bean bag chairs after suffocating. The boy's mother told the media that the bean bag chair had been in her son's room for years and she never thought he would climb inside.

The CPSC instructs consumers to check for these bean bag chairs in their homes. For the full list of recalled models, see the end of this blog.

The chairs have two zippers. Consumers can contact Ace Bayou for a free repair kit to permanently disable the zippers. Consumers should take chairs which can be unzipped away from children.

The defective products were sold at Bon-Ton, Meijer, Pamida, School Speciality, Wayfair and Walmart and online at Amazon.com, Meijer.com and Walmart.com. They were sold prior to July 2013 for $30-$100.

Another option is to simply remove these products from your home altogether. Call Ace Bayou and ask them how to safely dispose the product. (Remember, you should never give someone a recalled product or resell it to anyone. Reselling a recalled product is against federal law.)

Bean bag chairs have a history of injuring children. In the 1990s, the CPSC received reports that 5 children died from suffocation inside bean bag chairs and 27 were injured but recovered. It then launched an industry investigation and recalled 12 million bean bag chairs. More than a dozen manufacturers were involved in that recall effort.

More Recall Information

CPSC Recall Notice

Ace Bayou Recall Page

Continue reading "Defective Bean Bag Chairs Kill Two Children by Suffocation" »

August 18, 2014

Massachusetts Hospitals See Surge in Medical Errors

doctor-patient-2014.jpgDespite years of patient safety initiatives, reports of serious medical errors at Massachusetts hospitals are rising rapidly.

In 2013, Massachusetts acute-care hospitals reported 753 serious medical errors and other patient injuries, according to The Boston Globe. This was an alarming 70 percent increase from the previous year. Other hospitals, including those providing psychiatric and rehabilitative care, saw a 60 percent increase from 2012.

Some say the reason may be broader reporting requirements from the state. Since 2008, hospitals have been required to notify the state Department of Public Health about serious reportable events. In addition, the Department of Public Health now has a computerized system for reporting, a change from when medical errors were reported by fax.

In the past, hospitals had to report incidents which left a patient with a "serious disability."
In 2012, the term became "serious injury" and it has new categories, including if a patient dies or suffers serious injury if a medical professional fails to communicate test results.

State officials say the new requirements have been fully implemented. That means the conversation should move on to safety and preventing medical malpractice.

There were very serious injuries reported in 2013 and these are the areas which saw the largest increases:


  • Patients who underwent a procedure on the wrong body part

  • Patients who were burned in an operative room fire or by a heating pack

  • Patients who were exposed to contaminated drugs or improperly sterilized equipment


Massachusetts is working to reform medical malpractice along with many other states and the federal government. In 2012, the state passed a health care cost containment bill. The goal of the bill was to save the state $200 billion in health care costs over the next 15 years. Measures included $135 million in grants to help community hospitals adopt electronic medical records and a 182-day cooling off period for injured patients to negotiate out-of-court with hospitals and physicians.

A few months earlier, some Massachusetts hospitals had also joined a plan which would allow doctors to apologize to patients for medical errors and work to settle malpractice claims out of court. It was based on a model developed by the University of Michigan Health System which was credited with reducing the number of lawsuits.

Our Resources for Patients
Our lawyers have over 100 years combined experience handling medical malpractice and personal injury claims. Please view our patient safety resources.

Continue reading "Massachusetts Hospitals See Surge in Medical Errors" »

August 5, 2014

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Features Breakstone, White & Gluck's Bike Helmet Donations

Breakstone, White & Gluck was recently mentioned in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly for our bike helmet donations to children and for attorney David White's "Volunteer of the Year" award from Boston Bikes, a program of the City of Boston.

david-white-award-500.jpgPhoto credit: LivableStreets/www.livablestreets.info. Attorney David W. White of Breakstone, White & Gluck and Nicole Freedman, Director of Boston Bikes, during the 6th Annual Boston Bike Update at Faneuil Hall.

Breakstone, White & Gluck began donating bike helmets to children in 2013, giving away 1,000 bike helmets through organizations such as Boston Bikes, CYCLE Kids and Bikes Not Bombs. We also participated in events, by helping children choose the right helmets and talking to families about bike safety. We are back at it in 2014 and now approaching 2,000 helmet donations.

Attorney David White has worked closely with Boston Bikes, which fixes up used bikes for city residents who need one, including children. White has helped fit the children's helmets at bike giveaway events and Boston Bikes has called him "our helmet station guru."

Our other partners in 2014:

Boston Bikes' Roll It Forward
iCan Shine Camp Arlington
Framingham Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee and Framingham Earth Day
Westborough Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee
Lexington Bicycle Advisory Committee
Worcester Earn-a-Bike
Thompson School, East Arlington and East Arlington Livable Streets
The Kiwanis of Somerville
Ashland Farmer's Market
CYCLE Kids
Watertown Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee and Watertown Farmer's Market
Dedham Bike Rodeo
Boston Cyclists Union
Bikes Not Bombs

Continue reading "Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Features Breakstone, White & Gluck's Bike Helmet Donations" »

July 21, 2014

Pool Safety Starts with Your Pool Fence

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As a pool owner, you have a responsibility to secure your pool with a strong, adequate fence. Many property owners do so because it is the law and to prevent neighborhood children or trespassers from breaking in. But they may have a false security when it comes to friends, families and young children they invite over.

Many pool accidents and drownings actually involve invited guests, people we may know well and have over regularly. Let them enjoy your home, but block unrestricted and unsupervised access to your pool.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted a survey of swimming pool accidents in Arizona, California and Florida. Data showed drowning was the leading cause of accidental death in and around the home for children under age 5. Most of these children - 75 percent - were between 1 and 3 years old.

Fewer than two percent of pool accidents resulted from children trespassing on the property. More often, children knew the pool owner, with 65 percent of accidents occurring in pools owned by an immediate family member. Another 33 percent happened in pools owned by relatives and friends.

More telling is what happened before these accidents:

  • Most of the children were being supervised by at least one parent when they drowned
  • Nearly half of the children were last seen in the house before the pool accident occurred
  • Another 23 percent were last seen on the porch or patio, or in the yard
  • Some 77 percent of children had been missing for 5 minutes or less when they were found

Adding an extra layer of fencing may make a difference in preventing these accidents.

Pool Fence Recommendations

Self-Closing. A pool fence should be self-closing and self-latching. It should open from the pool side and should be maintained so it can easily latch.

Fence Height. A pool fence should be at least four feet tall and four feet above the grade of the ground outside the fence.

Release Mechanism. You want to prevent children from reaching the latch. When the release mechanism is less than 54 inches above the grade, the release mechanism for the gate should be at least 3 inches below the top of the gate and installed on the side facing the pool. Also, make sure there is no opening greater than ½ inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism.

Bottom of the Fence. If your fence stands on a concrete surface, the clearance between the bottom of the fence and the ground should not exceed four inches. For fences on softer surfaces, such as grass, the maximum clearance is two inches.

Fence Spacing. The space between the vertical fence slats should not exceed four inches.

Chain Link Fences. For chain-link fences, the diamond-shaped openings should be no larger than 1 ¾ inches.

Decorative Fences. Fencing with decorative openings should follow the same standard as chain link fences and not exceed 1 ¾ inch.

Backyard Doors. Massachusetts requires pool alarms when doors from a home open into a pool enclosure area. For instance, if there are three sides of fencing around the pool and the home serves as the fourth side.

Pool Alarms. Purchase a pool alarm even if you are not required to by law. Pool drownings happen quickly and often silently. A pool alarm interrupts that process and provides you warning if someone is entering the gate.

Above Ground Pools. For above ground pools, build a fence on top of the structure as a barrier. Remove or lock the pool ladder when not in use. For another layer of protection, you can also add a fencing structure around the ladder and lock that when not in use.

Pool Covers. Consider a power pool safety cover to add another layer of protection. Purchase one which conforms to the specifications in ASTMF 1346-91.

Related:
Safety Barrier Guidelines for Home Pools, Consumer Product Safety Commission

Continue reading " Pool Safety Starts with Your Pool Fence" »

July 2, 2014

Talk to Your Loved Ones About Supervising Children by the Pool. This is the Most Important Job of Summer.

The long and lazy days of summer are finally here and many of us are spending them by the pool. We hope you enjoy these times with your friends and family. And please remember to think about safety.

Each year in the U.S., nearly 5,000 children under age 15 are treated for pool- or spa-related injuries at hospital emergency rooms, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Nearly 400 children under age 15 are killed in swimming pool and spa drownings. More than 75 percent of these children are under the age of 5 and the majority of these deaths occur at private residences. But injuries can happen at any pool where someone stops paying attention or is negligent, including hotel swimming pools, community centers and other places.

Prevent injuries this summer by talking about the rules of safety with your family and friends.

Pool Owners. You have a responsibility to keep your pool area safe for family and invited guests and to secure it from others. You must keep your pool behind a fence which is at least four feet tall and secures with a self-latching and self-closing gate. But we encourage you to go a step further. Try walking around your fenced-in pool area. Are there areas where a young child could easily get in on their own? If so, make adjustments.

If you have questions, a good resource is your town's local building department.

Drain Covers. Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings which could cause entrapment.

Home Spa Safety. If you have a home spa, install and use a child-proof locked safety cover to keep children out.

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Watch Children Closely. Before the swimming season, learn CPR. Then when you head to the pool, set aside all distractions and watch the children. Avoid distractions such as reading, cell phone calls, and texting--supervision should be treated like a job.

When supervising young children, swim with them and practice "touch supervision." For older children, watch them and be involved with them even if you are not swimming. Talk to them and let them know if they are doing something they should not be. If you are part of a group of adults watching children swim, designate someone the "pool watcher" so that the children are supervised at all times. But still supervise your own children at all times.

Likewise, at hotel and community pools, do not rely on lifeguards to watch your children.

Dress Children Appropriately. Make sure children are not wearing swimming suits or hair accessories that can get caught in pool drains or other openings.

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Poolside Toys. Many pool accidents involve diving board, sports equipment, rafts and pool slides. Always look before you use. If something looks unsteady, do not use it.

Many pools no longer have diving boards because homeowner's insurance companies have stopped providing coverage for them. But if you are going to dive, make sure the water is at least 10 feet deep.

Avoid portable pool slides, inflatable toys and using backyard trampolines with the pool. These products may not be designed for use with a pool or may be defective. In one Massachusetts case, a Colorado woman visiting the state died in 2006 after she slid down a Banzai brand inflatable slide at a backyard pool. It partially deflated, causing her to strike her head on concrete by the pool. The Consumer Product Safety Commission later recalled 21,000 of the Banzai brand inflatable slides and continues to recall unsafe pool toys and equipment each year.

Broken Glass. Do not bring beer bottles and glass out to the pool. Serious accidents can happen if the glass breaks in or near the pool and someone steps in it. If there is broken glass in the pool, it will be invisible and therefore impossible to find safely. Beyond injury, you will have a lot of clean-up. First you will have to drain the pool and then you will have to sweep it thoroughly.

Continue reading "Talk to Your Loved Ones About Supervising Children by the Pool. This is the Most Important Job of Summer." »