February 3, 2016

Communication Errors in Medicine Can Have Deadly Effects

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Poor communication between doctors and hospital staff hurts patients and causes many deaths, a new study reports. Electronic medical records should improve communication, but doctors are not always reading results.

Communication failures played a role in 30 percent of the medical malpractice cases examined by CRISCO Strategies of Boston. The study was released Monday.

The study reports on roughly a third of all paid medical malpractice claims nationwide, nearly 24,000 cases from 2009 to 2013. Over 7,000 cases involved communication failures which injured patients, including 1,744 resulting in wrongful death.

"Good communication in the medical record or in verbal reports is the hallmark of good medical care. We have seen many preventable deaths and serious injury cases that were the result of communication breakdowns," Attorney Marc L. Breakstone said.

When Medical Mistakes May Happen

Electronic medical records may get doctors test results more promptly, but the study shows some are not reading them:

  • One woman's cancer diagnosis was delayed for a full year. Her primary care doctor never read the lab result in her electronic medical record.
  • A patient was rushed to the emergency room and died after his lungs filled with blood. Less than two weeks earlier, his primary care doctor had referred him to a lung doctor. The two doctors failed to communicate about the lab results on the patient's electronic medical record, which showed possible early congestive heart failure.

Many mistakes - 80 percent - happen as a result of miscommunication when doctors and medical staff transfer patient cases, according to the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare.

Across the country, 32 hospitals are trying to improve communication by adopting the I-PASS approach for how doctors and nurses communicate during shift changes, according to the medical publication STAT. One of these hospitals is Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

What Patients Can Take Away from This Study

Monitor Your Medical Records. If you have the option, monitor your medical records online. You will gain a better understanding of how your doctor and the medical practice approach your care. If you find a mistake, ask for a correction. On the other hand, if you do not have electronic access, remember you have the right to make a written request for medical records at any time.


When Shifts Change. Before the day of a surgery, ask when the surgeons and nurses change shifts. Ask what to expect if your procedure is delayed.


Patient Advocate. Bring someone you trust to your pre-operation appointment and to your procedure. Our article about the Massachusetts Patient's Bill of Rights may be a helpful resource.


Research Online. Research if your doctor or surgeon has been disciplined or has paid medical malpractice claims in the Massachusetts Board of Registration database. You can also search Medicare's Hospital Compare database for hospital information, ratings and practices.


Make Your Own Decision. Online databases and electronic medical records are important but make your own decision about your doctor's communication. Observe their practices firsthand, ask questions and choose another doctor if you are concerned.

Continue reading "Communication Errors in Medicine Can Have Deadly Effects" »

January 29, 2016

Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid: Lawyers, Advocates Seek $27 Million Budget for Low-Income Services

We joined hundreds of lawyers at the Massachusetts State House Thursday to lobby for increased funding for civil legal aid. We gathered as part of the 17th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Funding is in crisis in Massachusettswith nearly two-thirds of eligible low-income residents who seek help being turned away.

With an increase, more people will be able to stay in their homes, find shelter and avoid hardship. Please keep reading this blog on the $27 million budget appropriation sought and visit this page to contact your legislator.  

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Right to Left: Attorney David W. White, Massachusetts Bar Association President (2007-2008), Attorney Ronald E. Gluck, Attorney Marc L. Breakstone and Attorney Reza Breakstone at the Annual Walk for Civil Legal Aid on January 28, 2016.



The annual event, sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, draws lawyers from across the Commonwealth for a day of lobbying for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, which provides legal aid for the poor and underserved.

This year, lawyers asked for the state appropriation for civil legal aid services to be increased from $17 million to $27 million in Fiscal Year 2017. Governor Charlie Baker has proposed $17.17 million, a $170,000 increase.

Lawyers from more than 40 private firms attended this year, along with Attorney General Maura Healey and Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court, who addressed participants:

"In a few minutes you will meet with legislators and members of their staff to ask them to increase the state appropriation for civil legal services from $17 million to $27 million," Gants said. "Many will ask you: 'How can we afford an increase of that size during a challenging budget season?' And you will answer: 'How can we afford not to?'" Gants' comments were published by the Massachusetts Bar Association's Lawyers E-Journal.

Contact Your State Legislator
Search this website to find your legislator.

Find Out How to Contact Your State Legislator
Once you have the name of your legislator, look up their address on this website or you can do a general Google search.

Post blog note: Our thanks to the Equal Justice Coalition, who later recognized us with the Nancy King Award for the highest percentage of attorneys participating at a firm - 4 out of 4, or 100 percent! The coalition also recognized: Wilmer Hale for having the most attorneys participate and Ropes & Gray and Foley Hoag with exceptional support awards. Sally & Fitch was honorably mentioned. Highest participation among law schools went to UMass Law, which had 56 students in attendance. Liberty Mutual was the leading corporate law department, with 24 participants.
January 27, 2016

Health Care Costs Rising, But Still No Website for Massachusetts Consumers to Compare Provider Costs

20160127-rising-health-care-costs-300.jpgState officials have not lived up to mandates to maintain a website for consumers to compare pricing for medical procedures and doctor's visits.

The Boston Globe detailed the problems with the website development this week. Meanwhile, the state's Health Policy Commission recently released its "2015 Cost Trends Report." The report noted less competition is driving rising health care costs, not higher quality care or other common measures of value.

Attorney David White, consumer advocate, said, "It is unfortunate that the Commonwealth is failing to get basic information to consumers. Health care costs vary so significantly from provider to provider. Consumers need every bit of help they can get to reduce the costs of care."

White also said, "A very serious issue is how steeply costs vary between facilities for the same procedures. The report demonstrates that the fancy, expensive hospitals do not, on average, deliver significantly better care."

The Website
The state's health care reform law of 2006 required a website be established to inform the public about health care cost and quality of care. The website was also included in 2012 legislation. While there have been websites launched, no website is currently available.

As a result, consumers have no central resource to research the costs of a medical procedure or a doctor's visit at different medical facilities. Pricing cannot be a factor in their decision-making process. The state's Center for Health Information and Analysis is still deciding what information to include in the website, The Globe reported.

What Consumers Can Do
Many consumers can access some pricing information through websites developed by their health care plans. Contact your health insurance company by telephone if you cannot find your plan's site. Insurers were required to launch websites by the state, but only members can access these databases, which may be limited. Even the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans supports a state-run website to validate the information.

Consumers should also be able to contact a hospital or doctor's office and request pricing in advance. This will take longer than simply searching a website, but it may be worth your time if you are scheduling a medical procedure or tests. Prices and the quality of care vary widely. For example, maternity care for low-risk pregnancies can cost $9,722 some hospitals compared to $18,500 at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

"You have the right to find out what your procedures will cost," Attorney White said. "Be an advocate for yourself: Ask to see the price list that the doctors and hospitals are required to provide."

Read more in the "2015 Cost Trends Report" and The Boston Globe.

Continue reading "Health Care Costs Rising, But Still No Website for Massachusetts Consumers to Compare Provider Costs" »

January 21, 2016

Recreational Use Statute No Bar to Recovery for Mother Injured at Go-Cart Business

reza-breakstone-web.jpgBy Reza Breakstone

In an important victory for an injured mother, the Appeals Court permitted a plaintiff's negligence claim to survive a motion for summary judgment, overturning a Superior Court judge's holding that the recreational use statute barred recovery.

Background
On January 14, 2016, the Appeals Court in Amaral v. Seekonk Grand Prix Corp., No. 13-P-1848, slip op. (Mass. App. Ct. Jan. 14, 2016) overturned the decision of a Superior Court judge which immunized a business from liability for personal injuries under the recreational use statute, M.G.L. c. 21, § 17C(a): "Public use of land for recreational, conservation, scientific educational and other purposes; landowner's liability limited; exception."

The question on appeal arose when summary judgment was granted to the defendant, Seekonk Grand Prix Corp., a go-cart, mini-golf, bumper car, and arcade business, which was sued by a mother who was injured on their premises.

The defendant argued to the Superior Court judge that the mother was watching her two sons drive go-carts, which constituted a recreational activity, when she was injured on the premises. Specifically, a little girl drove through a fence and struck the plaintiff causing a number of injuries including a pulmonary embolism that resulted from a blood clot in her leg. The defendant noted that the mother did not pay a fee to be on the premises to watch her children drive go-carts and was thus barred from recovery under the recreational use statute.

The Superior Court judge, citing case law indicating that the statute provided immunity from liability when a landowner did not impose a charge or fee for an injured plaintiff's recreational use of the land, agreed, and granted the defendant summary judgment. See Seich v. Canton, 462 Mass. 84, 85-86 (1997) (holding municipality's fee to defray expenses for participation in a basketball league did not constitute fee for public use of town land; thus, parent who was injured in a slip and fall while attending daughter's basketball game was barred from action against town); Whooley v. Commonwealth, 57 Mass. App. Ct. 909, 910 (1997) (barring plaintiff from recovery for slip and fall at hockey rink under recreational use statute because she had free use of the rink for the recreational purpose of spectating her grandson's hockey game and she failed to show evidence that grandson's hockey team in fact paid for its use of the rink).

Recreational Use Statute
The Massachusetts recreational use statute provides that those who make their land available to the public for "recreational . . . purposes without imposing a charge or fee therefor, . . . shall not be liable for personal injuries. . . sustained by such members of the public . . . in the absence of wilful, wanton, or reckless conduct by [the landowner]." M.G.L. c. 21, § 17C(a).

On the other hand, § 17C(b) states that "[t]he liability of any person who imposes a charge or fee for the use of his land by the public for the purposes described in subsection (a) shall not be limited by any provision of this section. For the purposes of this section, 'person' . . . shall include, without limitation, . . . [a] corporation, company or other business organization . . . ."

No Definitive Definition of Recreational Use
The Appeals Court in Amaral noted that the term "recreation" was not defined by statute, nor had it ever been defined by the Supreme Judicial Court. Dicta in Catanzarite v. Springfield, 32 Mass. App. Ct. 967, 967 (1992) construed the term "recreation" to include "passive pursuits, such as watching baseball," but the Supreme Judicial Court "prefaced this remark by stating that it had 'never defined the term.'" At least one other Appeals Court case cited the dicta in Catanzarite but "in a manner that leaves in some doubt its own views of the principle." Nantasket Beachfront Condos. LLC v. Hull Redev. Authy., 87 Mass. App. Ct. 455, 465 n.13 (2015).

Appeals Court Decision: Mother's Use Was Neither Recreational Nor Free
On appeal, the Appeals Court noted that the plaintiff's presence on the property was not for a recreational purpose: she was a parent who accompanied minor children, purchased tickets for their use of go-carts, and remained to supervise them. In essence, the plaintiff was using the facility for the recreation of her children, and she paid for that use by purchasing tickets.

The court reasoned that application of the recreational use statute's immunity provision would undermine the very purpose of the statute: "to encourage landowners to permit broad public free use of land for recreational purposes by limiting their obligations to lawful visitors under the common law." Furthermore, the court noted that the mother purchased the tickets for use of the go-carts, tickets which she could have conceivably used herself.

Because the plaintiff was charged a fee for her particular use of the land, her use was not free. Nor was her activity--monitoring her minor children while they drove go-carts--recreational in nature. Therefore, summary judgment was not appropriate. The judgment of the Superior Court was vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Appeals Court's decision.

Conclusion
Individuals should be mindful that their use of land designed for public recreational use, free of charge, comes with the caveat that the landowner may not be responsible for any personal injury absent wanton, willful, or reckless conduct. Always proceed with caution when engaging in pickup sports games, or recreational activities that could lead to personal injuries. If you or someone you know has been injured, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Breakstone, White & Gluck, PC of Boston for a free consultation.

About the Author

reza-breakstone-web.jpgReza Breakstone joined Breakstone, White & Gluck as an associate in 2015.  Reza has earned a reputation as a tough and tenacious litigator helping both individuals who have been personally injured and burgeoning companies who have had insurance and contract disputes.

After law school, Reza joined the Boston office of Mintz Levin, where his practice encompassed complex business litigation, federal antitrust defense, and securities litigation. While at Mintz Levin, Reza received a fellowship to serve as an Assistant District Attorney with the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, working out of the West Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court. In this year-long fellowship position, he prosecuted a wide range of criminal offenses and gained valuable in-court and trial experience having tried seventeen cases before a judge or jury, and securing convictions in a majority of his trials before a jury. Read his bio.

January 19, 2016

Message to Massachusetts Lawmakers: Time for Cell Phone Ban

20160119-cellphoneincar-300.jpgThe Massachusetts State Senate is expected to consider a ban on hand-held mobile electronic devices while driving. Many feel a ban is long overdue and we agree.

"Even New Hampshire has gone hands-free. It's time for Beacon Hill to act," wrote the Boston Herald editorial board.

The Senate is expected to consider the ban Thursday. Under the proposed legislation, Massachusetts drivers could still talk on the phone using hands-free technology.

Drivers would receive a $100 fine for the first violation, $250 for the second and $500 for all subsequent violations. Drivers cited three times would receive an auto insurance surcharge.

The bill would change the law in Massachusetts for all drivers over 18. Junior operators are already banned from cell phone use behind the wheel.

According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use is now estimated to be involved in 26 percent of all motor vehicle crashes. At any given moment of the day, 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA also reported one survey found almost half of all drivers will answer an incoming call while driving. One in four drivers is willing to place a call on all, most, or some trips.

Texting While Driving Bans
In 2010, then-Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill into law which banned texting while driving. The state is in good company; today, 46 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving. By contrast, only 14 states have banned hand-held cell phone use, including New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut. Maine and Rhode Island have banned texting while driving but hand-held cell phone bans have failed to gain enough support.

Related:
Read the Boston Herald's recent editorial on a hand-held cell phone ban in Massachusetts.

Summary of the Safe Driving Law, Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles

Continue reading "Message to Massachusetts Lawmakers: Time for Cell Phone Ban" »

January 13, 2016

Many Pedestrian Accidents in Massachusetts Since New Year

20160113_crosswalk-300.jpgDuring the first two weeks of 2016, Massachusetts has already seen several serious pedestrian accidents.

Last weekend, a 56-year-old security guard leaving work was killed in a hit-and-run accident on West Boylston Street in Worcester. Police have charged a 21-year-old man with motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation and other violations.

Last week, a 68-year-old pedestrian was killed in South Hadley, as he crossed the street in front of his home. In that case, the driver remained on the scene and police opened an investigation.

In Palmer, a 59-year-old pedestrian was killed while using a crosswalk at the intersection of North Main and Rockview streets. The pedestrian accident occurred about 5 p.m. in the day and the driver fled the scene.

Then in Cape Cod, a 19-year-old man was also killed when hit while crossing Route 28 in Yarmouth.

A few concerns for pedestrians in the winter:

Plow trucks. Last winter, at least two pedestrians in the Boston area were killed in parking lots by snow plow trucks. A 60-year-old employee at the Whole Foods store in Medford was struck and killed while walking across the store's parking lot. A few days earlier, a Weymouth woman was hit and killed by a snow plow driver who was clearing the parking lot outside her condominium complex.

Parking lots. Pedestrians are just as vulnerable in parking lots as they are in streets. Last week, a pedestrian was hit in the South Street shopping plaza in Holyoke, in front of the Save-A-Lot supermarket.

Crosswalks. In Massachusetts, pedestrians who are crossing the street in a crosswalk or at an intersection with the "Walk" signal have the right of way. But drivers often fail to stop for pedestrians - and sometimes crossing guards. A crossing guard in Holyoke was struck by a car and injured at 8 a.m. one day last week.

About Our Experience gluck_150.jpgThe Boston personal injury attorneys at Breakstone, White & Gluck have over 100 years combined experience representing individuals who have been injured in pedestrian accidents. Attorney Ronald E. Gluck recently negotiated a $1.25 million settlement for the family of a woman who was hit and killed in a crosswalk. Read about the case here.
January 8, 2016

Chemical Explosion in North Andover Injures Four; Cause Under Investigation

Four people were injured Thursday in a chemical plant explosion at the Dow Chemical facility in North Andover. The four victims were suffering from burns involving the chemical Trimethylaluminum, a physician at Lawrence Memorial Hospital told WBZ. One of the victims was being treated there. Three others were taken to Boston trauma centers by Medflight helicopter.

In 2013, a worker was killed in an explosion at the same facility. Chemical explosions like the one in North Andover are tragic and life-changing for victims and families. Breakstone, White & Gluck recently represented the family of an electrician who was tragically killed in 2010 by a propane explosion. Read why the investigation into this case - and many explosion cases - are challenging:

About Breakstone, White & Gluck's Experience

Attorney Marc Breakstone represented the family of an electrician named William "Billy" Nichols, who was killed in a propane gas explosion while working in a Norfolk condominium in 2010. Nichols, 46, was buried under burning debris for 97 minutes before he was rescued by local firefighters. He had severe burns over 80 percent of his body and was transported by Medflight helicopter to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, where he later died of his injuries.

Mr. Nichols' death was the result of negligence on the part of EnergyUSA and Smolinsky Plumbing and Heating. EnergyUSA negligently under-filled a propane gas tank while Smolinsky Plumbing and Heating failed to tighten a furnace connection which led to the leak of the undetectable propane gas which caused the explosion.

Attorney Breakstone obtained a $7.5 million settlement from the companies following an investigation which revealed that EnergyUSA had also sold its assets to a publicly-traded company to avoid paying punitive damages to the victim's family in a likely jury trial. Attorney Breakstone was able to obtain a court-order to freeze the remaining assets.

Materials from the case:


Norfolk Propane Explosion Victim's Family Files Lawsuit Against Gas Company and Plumber.

Norfolk Propane Explosion Victim's Family Files Lawsuit Against Gas Company and Plumber.

National Safety Alert on Propane Handling Recommendations, published by the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

Continue reading "Chemical Explosion in North Andover Injures Four; Cause Under Investigation" »

January 4, 2016

Legislation Proposed to Protect Massachusetts Pedestrians and Cyclists

9041392_m-400.jpgState lawmakers will be asked to consider a truck side guard law to protect pedestrians and cyclists.

MassBike, the state's leading bicycle advocacy organization, recently offered an update on proposed safety legislation for 2016. The Joint Committee on Transportation will hold a public hearing on the proposed legislation, including the truck side guard law, on Wednesday at the State House.

Truck Side Guard Bill H. 3019/S. 1810
Nearly half of all bicyclists and more than one-quarter of pedestrians killed in large truck crashes first impact the side of a truck, according to the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. When a truck has high clearance, a cyclist or pedestrian can fall in the space between the front and rear wheels.

The center says sideguards are an effective way to prevent that impact and reduce fatalities and injuries. The United Kingdom has seen results: After implementing its law, cyclist fatalities dropped 61 percent while pedestrian fatalities fell 20 percent. The European Union, Japan, China and Brazil also have truck side guard laws.

In 2014, the City of Boston became the first city in the United States to adopt a truck side guard ordinance, requiring side guards, convex mirrors, cross-over mirrors and blind-spot awareness decals on all city-contracted vehicles over 10,000 pounds. Tractor-trailers have different weight requirements.

The cities of Somerville, Cambridge and Newton were discussing truck ordinances when Boston adopted its measure (and Cambridge did later enter into a partnership to install truck side guards on city-owned vehicles).

But a statewide law would eliminate the need for action by individual cities.

Bike Lane Bill H. 3072/S. 1808
This bill would make parking a vehicle or standing in a bike lane, or other on-road bike facility, a ticketable offense. The fine would be $100.

Vulnerable Users Bill H. 3073/S. 1807
Proposed by MassBike, this bill would require motorists to provide any "vulnerable user" three feet of clearance, even if it means crossing over the center line. Vulnerable road users would include cyclists, pedestrians and others who travel alongside cars. State lawmakers have considered this legislation in the past. According to the League of American Bicyclists, nine other states have vulnerable road user laws and 17 have laws which in some way address vulnerable road users.

Continue reading "Legislation Proposed to Protect Massachusetts Pedestrians and Cyclists" »

December 28, 2015

Hoverboards and Drones Bring Safety Risks

hoverboard.jpgDespite fires and hard falls, the hoverboard was one of the year's most popular gifts.
Reports of hoverboard fires began before the holidays. Amazon even told consumers to return some models in mid-December and notified sellers that they must provide documentation showing hoverboards are compliant with safety standards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) opened an investigation on Dec. 16th, after reports of 10 hoverboard-related fires in Washington, California, New York and other states. The fires often happen during charging.

The CPSC has also received dozens of reports of hoverboard-related falls from hospital ERs, including concussions, fractures and internal organ injuries. Christmas Day brought more injuries, revealed as photos and videos were posted to social media.

Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Florida fell when he tried out his daughter's hoverboard. He tweeted a photo of himself wearing a sling:

"Confirmed - #hoverboard is for kids. My daughter got it. I ended up in @BaptistHealthSF #ER. #hoverboardChristmas."

We do not think this product is safe for any age. But we agree with his colleague, Congresswoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who tweeted back: "Ouch. At least it didn't catch on fire!"


News Headlines
One headline from the Washington Post: "Thanks for ruining Christmas, hoverboards." Below is a video from the report.

Our Thoughts

This is a dangerous product and safety concerns need to be addressed. If you received one, consider returning it. If you keep it, follow instructions for charging it. Do not charge it overnight or while you are outside the home. Also, remember most airlines have banned hoverboards due to the fire risk.

If you do ride, always wear a proper helmet and padding while using this product. Ask what the local traffic laws are before use.


Drones
Many people also received drones as holiday gifts. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicted more than 1 million drones would be gifts on Christmas Day.

drone-186.jpgOn Christmas Day, photos and videos of drones crashing on the ground, into the neighbor's roof and even into other family members filled social media. Read this Washington Post report, "Wear a Helmet: All those Christmas Drones are Falling Out of the Sky."

The FAA has set up a website to register drones. Anyone with an aircraft weighing from a half-pound to 55 pounds must register with the FAA. Drone owners who are 13 and older must register on the FAA website. Parents with younger children are expected to register on their behalf.

Drone Owners Must Take Care
There are serious concerns about drones interfering with airplane traffic, but there are also very real concerns about general transportation safety. Drone owners must take care to be sure that they do not interfere with traffic, bicyclists or pedestrians. Be considerate and be aware of local laws and ordinances related to drone use.

Continue reading "Hoverboards and Drones Bring Safety Risks" »

December 21, 2015

Guidelines Being Considered for "Double-Booked" Surgeries

medicalerrors.jpgThe American College of Surgeons will consider new guidelines for the practice of concurrent or "double-booked" surgeries after a Boston Globe Spotlight Team report this fall.

The Spotlight Team found many surgeons in Boston and across the country are performing in two operations that overlap in part or their entirety, without the patient's knowledge or consent. In some cases, doctors have even traveled back and forth to surgeries at different hospitals, leaving patients to wait under anesthesia.

"Patient safety is paramount," said attorney Marc Breakstone, who has represented clients injured by medical malpractice for 30 years. "It is fundamental that patients have a right to be informed who is performing their surgery. If surgeons are overlapping their schedules, patients must be informed, without exception."

The Boston Globe Spotlight Team surveyed 47 hospitals nationwide, reporting that 15 percent of surgeries at Massachusetts General Hospital are concurrent (of 37,000 surgeries per year). Of these, 1,000 surgeries involve at least one patient with an open incision. At UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, 5 to 10 percent of surgeries are concurrent. The report also included double-booked procedures at other hospitals.

Patients and family members told the Spotlight Team they had no warning that their surgeon may leave during the procedure.

Among them was former Red Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks, who had spinal decompression surgery at MGH in December 2011. Jenks was critical of his care, and in February 2012, told the media his MGH surgical team made an error. As a result, he said he had to undergo another surgery 18 days later in Arizona.

When interviewed this year, Jenks said he had recently learned his surgeon was double-booked during his entire three-hour procedure. In response, MGH told the Spotlight Team the surgeon had been in the operating room during the entire operation and performed properly.

Other Boston Cases
The Spotlight Team reported on cases of concurrent surgeries at hospitals across the country. Two local cases involved Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

In 2005, a hand surgeon left Beth Israel during a break from an operation and went to Children's Hospital, where he was on staff. His lawyer said the doctor experienced difficulties with a medical device involved in his procedure and went to Children's Hospital to obtain a replacement. While there, he removed a cast for a young patient who wanted to take a trip with his family, the lawyer said.

The Brigham and Women's Hospital case involves a thoracic surgeon who allowed other surgeons to perform a lung surgery, which led to the patient suffering complications. During testimony, the doctor acknowledged that the surgery overlapped with that of another patient. Though the jury sided with the doctor, the federal appeals court ordered a new trial, saying the judge erred by excluding testimony from expert witnesses.

From Our Experience
The Spotlight report reminds us of surgery that was performed on one of our clients at the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge in 2002. The surgeon, Dr. David Arndt, left the operating room during complex back surgery. His mission was solely a private one--he needed to cash a check. As a result, he immediately lost his medical privileges and his medical license was revoked. For more details about the $1.25 million recovery we obtained for our client, click here.

Read the Boston Globe Spotlight Team coverage.

Continue reading "Guidelines Being Considered for "Double-Booked" Surgeries" »

December 14, 2015

City of Boston to Lower Speed Limits to Reduce Traffic Fatalities

17612066_s.jpgGood news for pedestrians and cyclists: the City of Boston plans to lower speed limits to 20 MPH in some neighborhoods. Officials will also advocate to lower Boston's default speed limit to 25 MPH.

Mayor Marty Walsh released the city's Vision Zero Action Plan last week, including the Neighborhood Slow Streets Program, which will be launched in 2016. A pilot program will introduce traffic calming measures and a 20 MPH speed limit to the Talbot-Norfolk Triangle in Dorchester and the Stonybrook neighborhood in Jamaica Plain. The full program will be launched later in the year and residents across the city can apply.

The default speed limit on local roads in Massachusetts is 30 MPH. The Massachusetts State Legislature must approve any change and it has not acted on past bills. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a proponent of the change, has said lowering the speed limit would prevent 2,200 car crashes, 18 fatalities and 1,200 injuries across the state each year. Some $210 million would be saved in medical payments and lost work.

In 2014, Boston Emergency Medical Services treated two to three people each day due to pedestrian and bicycle accidents.

Earlier this year, Mayor Walsh announced Boston would adopt Vision Zero to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries by 2030. The far-reaching plan includes many infrastructure and technology changes, from the implementation of smart parking meters to building protected bike lanes in crash-ridden areas and better data collection among city departments.

Boston joins other cities around the world in adopting Vision Zero initiatives. The first was adopted in Switzerland nearly 20 years ago. In recent years, New York City, San Francisco and Chicago have adopted plans.

New York lowered its default speed limit from 30 MPH to 25 MPH last year and San Francisco city supervisors began discussing a 20 MPH speed limit last winter.

Continue reading "City of Boston to Lower Speed Limits to Reduce Traffic Fatalities" »

December 10, 2015

What to Know About Food Poisoning After the Chipotle Restaurant Norovirus Outbreak

Chipotle_Restaurant.jpgThe Chipotle Mexican Grill in Cleveland Circle in Brighton remains closed after a norovirus outbreak, which has reportedly sickened more than 120 Boston College students.

Most of us eat at restaurants and trust they are safe. But there are hidden risks for food-borne illnesses and food poisoning, such as unsafe handling of food, not keeping the premises clean, and allowing sick employees to work. While some illnesses pass in a day or two, others are more serious and results in visits to the ER, hospitalization and even death.

If you suspect food poisoning, it is important to visit a doctor and depending on the length and severity of your symptoms, consult an attorney about your legal rights.

The Chipotle Boston Case

Chipotle restaurants in the northwest and Maryland have recently been linked to 52 cases of E. Coli food poisoning. But the City of Boston's initial testing showed the presence of norovirus at the Chipotle in Brighton.

The Brighton restaurant closed Monday after Boston College reported 30 students, including members of the men's basketball team, became sick after eating there. A college spokesman has since raised the number to more than 120 students. City inspectors have cited Chipotle with three violations, including allowing a sick employee to work a few days prior to the outbreak and cooking chicken and steak below the required temperature of 140 degrees.

Norovirus causes acute gastroenteritis, the inflammation of the stomach or intestines or both. Symptoms include stomach pain and cramping, diarrhea, vomiting and headaches. E. Coli can have similar symptoms, but norovirus is a viral infection and cannot be treated with antibiotics. Doctors often encourage those who are infected to drink plenty of fluids as they recover to prevent dehydration. Norovirus is not typically fatal.

Boston College has tested its students for both E. Coli and norovirus, but test results have not been released publicly.

What to Know About Food Poisoning, Medical Care and Your Legal Rights

Food poisoning is more common than many realize. Each year, 48 million (or 1 in 6) Americans suffer some form of food poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While some cases make the news, many do not, even though 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year from foodborne illness.

How Common is Norovirus?
Each year, 19 to 21 million people in the U.S. suffer norovirus, according to the CDC. Doctors treat nearly 2 million people as outpatients and another 400,000 people have to seek care from hospital emergency rooms.

How Long Will Norovirus Symptoms Last?
Symptoms often appear after one or two days and individuals may be sick for two to four days.

Where is Norovirus a Risk?
You can contract norovirus by contact with an infected person, touching infected surfaces or when an infected person handles food. It is airborne and can stick to surfaces. Because of this, norovirus can spread quickly in places where large numbers of people gather and pass through, such as restaurants, schools and daycare centers.

Last spring, more than 200 people contracted norovirus on two Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

Can I Sue for Food Poisoning and Norovirus?
As with any injury caused by someone else's negligence, you may be able to file a lawsuit if you suffered food poisoning. But you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney to advise you on the law and your specific circumstances.

Continue reading "What to Know About Food Poisoning After the Chipotle Restaurant Norovirus Outbreak" »

December 6, 2015

Breakstone, White & Gluck Welcomes Attorney Reza Breakstone

From the stage to the courtroom, Attorney Reza Breakstone brings a unique blend of skills and experience to the firm.  We are pleased to welcome Reza, who will focus on representing personal injury clients at Breakstone, White & Gluck. He will also counsel small businesses in strategic development, litigation and contract matters.

Reza graduated from the University of Michigan in 2002, where he received several leadership awards.  After college, Reza worked for two years as a legislative aide for the junior Senator from Michigan in Washington D.C. He returned to Boston to attend Northeastern University School of Law.  After graduation from law school in 2008, Reza worked for four years at a prestigious Boston firm, concentrating in complex business litigation, federal antitrust defense and security litigation.  During that period, he received a special assignment as an Assistant District Attorney in Suffolk County District Attorney's office where he prosecuted criminal cases.  Working in the West Roxbury Division of Boston Municipal Court,  he tried numerous bench and jury trials to verdicts..

"What I learned in the DA's office is your value as a lawyer is embedded in your judgment, interpersonal skills and treatment of others," Reza says. "Having good relationships is essential. When you are at a large firm, having good relationships is important, but productivity is a much more important measure."

In addition to his legal pursuits, Reza has a passion for acting and improvisational theater.  He has performed in numerous independent films and improvisational theater troupes in New England and Los Angeles. 

Reza looks forward to working on behalf of the firm's injured clients while continuing to assist small businesses and start-ups with development strategies.  In both pursuits, he looks forward to furthering his commitment to "the business of helping people."

"When you are put in a position to represent someone, it really comes down to confidence and trust," he said. "I have a lot of people who respect me and trust me. I think the latter is as important as anything. That really helps when people are bringing their lives to you and saying help me out. It's because they trust you to get the job done.

To learn more about Reza, please visit his attorney bio page.
December 2, 2015

The 10 Worst Toys of 2015

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Each year, the 10 Worst Toys list is released to help holiday shoppers steer clear of unsafe toys. This year, the authors warn shoppers about everything from trampolines, popular movie toys and playsets which have small choking hazards.

The annual list is compiled by W.A.T.C.H. This year's list includes:

Skipit's Wheely Cute Pull Along
Every child loves a cute puppy, but this toy has hub caps which come off the wheels and pose choking hazards for young children. This product is marketed to children six months and older and is made by Bunnies By The Bay. Certain lots of this product were actually recalled on June 16, 2015. However, W.A.T.C.H. reported a similar toy was purchased online after the recall, so this risk may still be on the market.

Foam Dart Gun
This gun is manufactured by G.D. Jiefeng Toys and is marketed to children ages 3 and up. It is sold on Amazon.com and Ebay. W.A.T.C.H. says, "In today's world, there is no excuse for outfitting children with realistic toy weapons designed to produce potentially dangerous and unnecessary thrills. Existing regulations addressing the hazards associated with such 'toys' are inadequate."

Stats 38" Quick Folding Trampoline
Toys R Us manufactures and sells this trampoline, which is marketed to age 6 and older. Trampolines are associated with spinal cord injuries and this one even has a warning stating, "Landing on the head or neck can cause serious injury, paralysis, or death, even when landing in the middle of the bed."

Splat X Smack Shot
This $10 toy looks fun, but it actually poses the potential for serious eye injuries to the child using the toy and others around him. The toy, which is made by Imperial Toy LLC, comes with ammunition with can fire up to 100 feet away. It is sold at Walmart, Amazon.com and Kmart.

Poo-Dough
This $4.99 toy was included in W.A.T.C.H.'s list because it only has an allergy notice on part of the packaging.

Kick Flipper
This is basically a plastic board marketed as a "skateboard without wheels." The packaging shows pictures of children using the Kick Flipper as they would a skateboard, but they are not wearing helmets or safety gear.

Leonardo's Electronic Stealth Sword
This toy can cause facial and other impact injuries. It is manufactured by Playmates international Company Ltd and marketed to children ages 4 and up. It is sold by Toys R Us, Amazon and Ebay.

Kid Connection Doctor Play Set
This $5 play set is sold at Wal-Mart, Amazon.com and Ebay. It is recommended for children ages 2 and up, but includes a small "tongue depressor," which is 4 ¾ inches in length and could cause a choking hazard.

Pull Along Zebra
This toy poses a strangulation risk. It has a 21-inch cord and is marketed for children 12 to 36 months old. The toy is made by Early Learning Centre and sold at Amazon.com, Kmart, Brookstone and Village Toy Shop. It carries this warning: "Remember babies and young children have no idea what is dangerous or potential harmful, so supervision is important..."

Jurassic Word Velociraptor Claws
This $19.99 toy is marketed to 4-year-olds who want to "claw like a raptor!" The packaging warns there is a choking hazard and small parts will be generated. There are no warnings about potential facial or eye injuries. The claws were manufactured by Hasbro and are sold by Target, Amazon.com, Toys R Us, Walmart and Kohl's.

Read more on the 10 Worst Toys of 2015 List.

Continue reading "The 10 Worst Toys of 2015" »

November 18, 2015

Law Firm of Breakstone, White & Gluck Donates Bike Lights for Boston Bikes' #BeBrilliant Campaign

Breakstone, White & Gluck recently donated bike lights for the Boston Bikes' #BeBrilliant campaign. Boston Bikes surprised cyclists during their evening commutes and gave them free bike lights, at various giveaways over several days.

A total of 250 light sets were distributed in giveaways in Allston, Dorchester, East Boston, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Roslindale and South Boston. Community-based bike shops also distributed lights.

In Massachusetts, cyclists are required to equip their bikes with a white front light and a red rear reflector so they are visible to drivers in the dark.

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This is the second year Breakstone, White & Gluck has donated bike lights for the campaign as part of our bike safety outreach. The campaign started after Daylight Savings Time.

Boston Bikes, an office of the City of Boston, worked with a number of city cycling clubs, stores and organizations to distribute the lights, including:

  • Bicyclecentro
  • Bikes Not Bombs
  • Bowdoin Bike
  • Commonwheels
  • Bicycle Co-Op
  • Dot Bike
  • JP Bikes
  • Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition Vigorous Youth
  • Southie Bikes

More photos of the cyclists: http://tinyurl.com/pd4y89t

About Breakstone, White & Gluck
The Boston law firm of Breakstone, White & Gluck promotes bike safety through our Project KidSafe campaign. Since 2013, we have donated nearly 8,000 bike helmets in Massachusetts. To learn more about our firm and attorneys, visit this page: http://www.bwglaw.com/our-attorneys.html.