Articles Tagged with Massachusetts

Improper food preparation can lead to food poisoning.

Improper food preparation is one source of food poisoning.

Chicken & Rice Guys shutdown restaurants and food trucks in Boston and Medford earlier this month for more than a week, after 14 people became ill with E. coli. Ten people had to be hospitalized. Given the widespread food poisoning outbreak, it is likely that there will be liability claims against Chicken & Rice Guys for the poisonings.

According to The Boston Globe, the illness was caused by the Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli 0157:H7, the most common strain of E. coli in the United States. The Mayo Clinic reports a person can contract this type of E. coli through:

Attorney David W. White of Breakstone, White & Gluck in BostonThe Metro news website interviewed Attorney David W. White and other legal experts in the wake of Aaron Hernandez’ suicide at Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts this week. Hernandez, a former New England Patriot who once received a $40 million contract extension for five years, had been serving a life sentence in the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. As prosecutors prepared the Odin Lloyd case, they also charged Hernandez with a double murder in Boston in 2012. Hernandez was acquitted on the Boston murder charges just last week in Suffolk Superior Court. As he headed back to prison, his lawyer spoke about hopes for appealing the Odin Lloyd conviction and seeing Hernandez walk free someday.

But Hernandez apparently had no plans for appeal. Come Wednesday morning, he was found hanging from a bed sheet in his cell at the Shirley prison. The state medical examiner concluded the cause of death was suicide by asphyxia from hanging. The football player’s brain will be sent to Boston University researchers who are studying CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease of the brain which can only be diagnosed after death. It has been found in other football players.

The suicide changes everything for Odin Lloyd’s family, who was pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against Hernandez.

During a 2015 trial, Hernandez had been convicted of the first degree murder of Lloyd. Hernandez had an automatic right to appeal to the state’s highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court, but had not completed that appeal. Massachusetts follows a legal doctrine known as abatement ab inito. If someone dies after a conviction but before their appeal is complete, the person’s legal records and convictions are null and void.

“Now that the conviction will be vacated, the family of Odin Lloyd has lost their collateral estoppel claim and they will have to start from scratch to prove he is guilty,” White said in the Metro interview.

Hernandez appeared to have a bright future with the Patriots, then came June 26, 2013. Police arrested him at his North Attleborough home in connection with the murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who had been dating the sister of Hernandez’ fiancee. Less than two hours later, Hernandez was released by the New England Patriots, who had signed him to the $40 million five-year contract extension the previous summer. The contract included a $12.5 million signing bonus. On August 27, 2012, The Boston Globe predicted, “The Patriots are going to have the tight end of duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez at least through the 2018 season.”

Read the article in the Metro (April 19, 2017).

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Attorney Marc L. Breakstone’s message to fifth graders in Arlington yesterday? Ride safe.

Breakstone, White & Gluck kicked off our 2017 Project KidSafe campaign yesterday, donating 50 helmets to Peirce Elementary School in Arlington.  Attorney Breakstone participated in a bike safety training led by Richard Fries, executive director of MassBike. Helmets were distributed to children who needed one after the training.

Boston Attorney Marc BreakstoneAttorney Marc L. Breakstone was quoted as a legal expert in a Boston Herald article titled “In Driver’s Seat With Insurance” (March 31, 2017). NuTonomy, the self-driving car company now testing its hands-free technology in Boston, has taken out a $5 million insurance policy to guard against lawsuits. Earlier this month, a self-driving Uber vehicle was involved in a car accident in Tempe, Arizona. Police found the Uber vehicle was traveling at 38 mph, below the speed limit, when the collision occurred and was not at fault. While there were no serious injuries, the accident has raised concerns.

Attorney Breakstone was asked whether the City of Boston could be held liable if there is an accident involving NuTonomy. He said no, but read his full answer.

Attorney Reza Breakstone has written on the topic of self-driving cars and the legal questions they raise. In 2016, he co-wrote an article titled, “The Self Driving Car: Science Fiction Becomes Reality, Creating a Legal Quandary,” for The Litigator, the official publication of the Capital City Trial Lawyers Association in Sacramento, California.

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Motorcycle riding down open roadMotorcycle season is almost here. For riders, this means goodbye snow and cold; hello to the open road.

Good pre-season preparation is essential for motorcyclists. Take some time to inspect your motorcycle and helmet and review the Massachusetts driving manual. Review your auto insurance as well; most drivers and motorcyclists do not carry enough insurance.

Wear a Helmet. Under Massachusetts law, motorcyclists must wear helmets which have been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Helmets save lives so make sure yours is in good condition. If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident or fall, replace your helmet.

hoverboardWe saw the worst that can happen last week in Harrisburg, PA when a hoverboard caught on fire in a family’s home, claiming the life of a three-year-old child.

The hoverboard reportedly ignited while charging, destroying the home. The three-year-old girl died at a local hospital and two other girls were left in critical condition. The girl’s father and a teenage boy were treated for smoke inhalation.

This tragedy was compounded by another death; a local firefighter was reportedly killed in a motor vehicle accident while driving to the fire, the victim of an alleged drunk driver who now faces charges.

Britax stroller which was recalled in February 2017As the weather turns warm, parents will be reaching for the outdoor toys and children’s equipment again. Baby strollers are one of the first products to come out.

Before you use a stroller, check if there are any loose or worn parts. Then check if the stroller has been subject to a product recall and caused anyone injury. You can check online now on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

Baby Stroller Recalls. We started with baby strollers because there have been several baby strollers recalled in the past year, including Britax, Aria Child and Phil & Teds strollers. Britax has actually issued two sets of recalls over the past 15 months, one for 60,000 strollers in January 2016 and another for more than 700,000 strollers in February 2017.

Driving talking on a cell phone in car

As attorneys, we have represented hundreds of victims of motor vehicle crashes over the past three decades. In recent years, we have seen texting while driving and cell phone use by drivers multiply at an alarming rate, causing a stunning number of injuries and deaths. These injuries are preventable, but each year, drivers continue to reach for their phones and the toll rises.

According to the US Department of Transportation, cell phones are now involved in 1.6 million auto crashes each year, injuring 500,000 people and causing 6,000 deaths. While many states have already passed legislation to reduce distracted driving accidents, some are now considering additional measures, including Massachusetts.

Massachusetts lawmakers passed the Safe Driving Law in 2010, which banned texting while driving. There was no further action until January 2016, when the Massachusetts state Senate passed a bill banning handheld cell phone use. The ban would have allowed drivers to use hands free technology to dial and talk. According to the State House News Service, the Massachusetts House of Representatives gave initial approval to a similar bill but the legislation stalled.

With Governor’s Comments, Handheld Cell Phone Debate Returns to the News

Massachusetts State HouseThere was no update for several months. Then Governor Charlie Baker spoke in February, indicating he may not support a handheld ban.

“I don’t want to get out of the business of making it possible for people to talk to other people when they’re driving. Because I think the texting thing is a big problem. I’m not sure I believe that the talking thing is,” Baker said during his “Ask the Governor” segment on WGBH Thursday. His comments were published by the State House News Service.

When the show’s co-host noted that drivers could use hands-free Bluetooth devices, Baker said:

“So now we’re just going to let people who can afford to put a Bluetooth in their new car to have the ability to talk when they’re in a car?” Baker responded. “But we’re not going to let anybody else? Hmm. Let me think about that one a little.”

Following the interview, The Boston Herald called on state lawmakers to resume their work to ban handheld cell phones: “Drivers in Massachusetts have proven that when it comes to using their phones behind the wheel they’re incapable of regulating themselves.”

When texting while driving was banned in 2010, texting was the major concern for distracted driving, the Herald wrote. Today, more people have smartphones which offer quick access to social media and other apps.

How Widespread is Texting While Driving in Massachusetts?
Critics say enforcement for Massachusetts’ texting while driving ban is challenging when drivers can hold their phones to talk, but not for other purposes. Police have worked through some of these issues. According to a Boston Globe analysis, Massachusetts police officers wrote 6,131 tickets in 2015, compared to 1,153 in 2011, the first year of the ban. Overall, between late 2010 and mid-April of 2016 when the analysis was published, 18,383 tickets were issued for texting while driving in Massachusetts.

Drivers under 40 years old received the most tickets and many drivers got caught during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, when many local police departments receive safety grants for enforcement.

Where Proposed Legislation Now Stands in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is one of 46 states which have texting while driving laws. Just 14 states also ban handheld cell phone use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut are among the early adopters.

Expect to hear more debate about a handheld cell phone ban in Massachusetts at some point in the future. While Governor Baker has voiced reservations, when the 2017-2018 legislative session began in January, the Massachusetts House of Representatives referred legislation for hands-free cell phone devices to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation.

Where to Find Distracted Driving Safety Campaigns and Information 

No Cell Phone in Car Pledge

Safety campaigns are critical to preventing distracted driving accidents. There are many out there, offering programs for schools and information online.  One effort is from the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys (MATA), which brings its “End Distracted Driving” program to high schools. We support this campaign. Two of our partners, Marc L. Breakstone and Ronald E. Gluck, serve on the MATA Board of Governors. Partner David W. White is a long-time member.

Another effort comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which offers this pledge which family members can sign to promise each other they will not use a cell phone while driving.

 

Distracted Driving Prevention and Safety Campaigns:

Distraction.gov: Official U.S. website for distracted driving.

It Can Wait!: AT&T’s documentary to stop distracted driving.

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Driving on U.S. roads became more dangerous in 2016. Preliminary data from the National Safety Council shows more than 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes last year, a 6 percent increase from 2015.

  • This was the first year more than 40,000 people have died in traffic accidents since 2007.
  • According to The New York Times, 2015 and 2016 saw a 14 percent increase in traffic deaths, the largest two-year increase in more than half a century.

Elderly couple on crosswalkThe Boston Herald has renewed concerns about pedestrian safety with a report that nine pedestrians were hit in Boston on the same day.

On Tuesday, January 17th, the city saw its worst day for pedestrian accidents since at least June 2015, according to a Herald analysis. The first pedestrian accident occurred at a McDonald’s restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue in the South End. This accident occurred shortly after 9:30 a.m. The other eight accidents occurred between 4:30 p.m. and about 9 p.m., in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Brighton and Hyde Park.

Pedestrian Accidents: The Numbers
Pedestrian accidents are a concern for everyone on the roads. In Massachusetts, we do a lot of walking. According to WalkBoston, more than 10 percent of all trips in Massachusetts are taken on foot (this is more than 40 percent greater than the national average).

When it comes to work, 12 percent of Massachusetts residents commute by walking. The number is higher in some communities. In Cambridge, 24 percent of residents walk to work.

According to the Boston Herald, pedestrian injuries are on the rise in Boston. In 2016, 904 pedestrians were injured in crashes, a 15 percent increase over 2015. Twelve pedestrians died in 2016, up from nine in 2015.

Mayor Marty Walsh has formed a Vision Zero task force with a goal of eliminating fatal and serious traffic fatalities in Boston by 2030. As part of the Vision Zero work, the city lowered its default speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph in early January. The change does not impact state-owned roads. If you live or work in Boston, learn more about Boston’s speed limit change.

Pedestrian Safety Tips

Use Sidewalks. The sidewalk is the safest place for pedestrians. If no sidewalks are available, walk on the left side, against traffic so that drivers have a chance to make eye contact with you.

At Night. Carry a flashlight and wear a reflective safety vest if you walk at night or in the early morning.

Use Crosswalks and Traffic Signals. Use crosswalks and press the Walk button when available. Drivers are required to stop for you under Massachusetts law. Other cars are not allowed to pass the stopped vehicle.

Pay Attention to Safety Alerts. Winter is a harsh time for pedestrians. Pay attention to safety alerts and travel warnings from the State of Massachusetts, the MBTA, public schools, communities and your employers.

Beware of Snowbanks and Snowplows. Tall snowbanks obstruct the view between drivers and pedestrians. Wear a neon safety vest if you must walk in travel in these areas and pay attention to traffic. After a storm, expect to see snowplows on streets and working in parking lots. Take it slow.

Beware of Construction Areas. Areas such as North Station in Boston are now much harder for pedestrians to travel due to construction. Pay attention to notices about construction schedules and avoid building activity and construction workers whenever possible.

Watch for Cars Backing Up. Pedestrian accidents can happen when drivers neglect to check for pedestrians as they pull out of a parking space or a driveway. Watch out for these drivers and stop to let them back out.

From Breakstone, White & Gluck’s Experience
20170130-youtube-busaccidentOur attorneys have over 100 years combined experience representing pedestrians who have been injured by the negligence of drivers and defective roadway conditions. Our law firm represented one pedestrian who was struck by a MBTA bus in a crosswalk in 2005. The pedestrian suffered serious injuries and required amputation of her right leg. The case went to trial and was appealed by the MBTA. The final award was $7.1 million for our client. See the re-enactment video we prepared for trial. It shows one way pedestrians can be put at serious risk.

 

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