Screen Shot 2016-11-23 at 9.39.33 AMThe burden of proof is on the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases. A defendant can challenge evidence based on the police’s conduct at the time of the arrest. If a traffic stop or search violated a defendant’s constitutional rights, the court may suppress any evidence obtained as a result. In some cases, however, a civil rights violation by an officer might not directly affect the outcome of a DWI case. Instead, a defendant must seek recourse through a civil claim. This is very different from DWI defense, but it is important to understand in cases in which, for example, police intentionally or recklessly cause an injury to a defendant. A New Jersey court recently ruled in favor of a DWI defendant’s claim for this type of alleged injury in Landa v. Twp. of Plainsboro.

Drunk Driving Laws

Although this case took place in New Jersey, DUI is not technically considered a criminal offense there, or under Maryland law, but the procedures involved are very similar to those used in Maryland criminal courts. Prosecutors initiate a case by filing charges against a defendant. They have the burden of proving guilt. The defense’s job, in large part, is to identify defects in the state’s case. A defendant may move to suppress evidence, or even to dismiss a case, prior to trial. If the defendant does not enter a plea, the case goes to trial, where the prosecution must present its case.

A civil claim for injuries takes place in the civil court system. The plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant is liable for whatever harm or injury they are claiming. The burden of proof is a preponderance of evidence, which is significantly less stringent than the state’s burden in a DWI case. It essentially means that the plaintiff must prove at least a 51 percent probability that the defendant is responsible.

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Earlier this month, a Connecticut appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a student and his parents against the student’s high school. In the case, Strycharz v. Cady, the appellate court held that the lower court improperly found that governmental immunity protected the assistant principals, who had a non-discretionary, ministerial duty to assign an adult to monitor the entrance to the school’s parking lot. As a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiffs’ case will proceed toward trial against the assistant principals.

School BusesThe Facts of the Case

Strycharz was a student at Bacon Academy. After being bussed to school, Strycharz and another student briefly left the school grounds to go smoke a cigarette. However, on the way across the busy street, Strycharz was struck by a passing vehicle driven by another student.

Strycharz and his family filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the vehicle as well as several administrators at the school. He claimed that the administrators had a duty to assign a school employee to monitor the school’s entrance, since it was known to be very busy in the morning.

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Motorists are responsible to operate their vehicles in a safe and responsible manner. When an accident results from a driver’s poor decisions or aggressive driving, that driver may be held liable for any injuries caused as a result of their conduct through a Maryland or Washington, D.C. personal injury lawsuit.

Washington, D.C.Prior to obtaining compensation following a car accident, an accident victim must prove certain elements of a personal injury case. These elements are duty, breach, causation, and damages. All motorists owe a duty of care to others with whom they share the road, so establishing the duty element is normally quite simple. However, establishing breach and causation can be more difficult. A breach analysis looks at whether the defendant violated the duty of care they owed to the plaintiff. This is normally done through evidence showing that the defendant driver was negligent, aggressive, or otherwise at fault for the accident. This is often where the bulk of the litigation takes place in a car accident lawsuit.

One Killed, Five Injured in Washington, D.C. Car Accident

Earlier this month, one woman was killed and five others injured in a four-car accident in northeastern Washington, D.C. According to a local news report, the accident occurred at around 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon.

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Recent cases in the past year have resulted in several significant awards for plaintiffs who have developed ovarian cancer after using baby powder, increasing the question of risks surrounding the use of the product. Many baby powders are made with talcum powder, which is created from crushed talc, a mineral. Talcum powder absorbs moisture and is used in baby powder for that reason.

GavelGenerally, litigation has arisen from women who regularly used talcum powder in their genital area and developed ovarian cancer. Studies have shown different results, and there is no consensus on whether talc increases the risk of ovarian cancer. However, different studies over the years have raised serious concerns for consumers. One study found particles of talc embedded in ovarian and cervical tumors, leading to questions of a connection. One more recent study found a 44 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer among African-American women. The International Agency for Research on Cancer says that genital use of talc-based body powder is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Two lawsuits earlier this year resulted in high jury verdicts against the company. One woman was awarded $55 million, and the other was awarded $72 million. And in a recent case, another woman was awarded over $70 million.

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Earlier this month, one state’s appellate court issued a written opinion in a plaintiff’s case against the hospital where he was injured when he fell off a gurney while being transported. In the case, Nava v. Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, the court determined that the plaintiff’s injury was “related to” his medical care, and therefore he should have complied with the stricter one-year statute of limitations. Since the plaintiff filed his lawsuit after the one-year period, he will not be entitled to compensation for his injuries.

Hospital BedThe Facts

Nava was a patient at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center. One day in February 2012, when hospital staff was transporting Nava, the gurney he was being carried on tipped to one side, causing Nava to fall onto the floor. As a result of the fall, Nava suffered fractures to his clavicle and patella.

In February 2014, a few days before the two-year anniversary of his injury, Nava filed a personal injury lawsuit against the hospital. In his jurisdiction, the statute of limitations for ordinary negligence was two years, so Nava thought his lawsuit was timely. However, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits was one year. In response to the case filed against it, Saddleback argued that the case should be considered a medical malpractice lawsuit, and it was filed too late.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a product liability case against Kia Motor Corporation (Kia), based on the fact that the plaintiff presented no admissible expert testimony to meet the required elements. In the case, Sims v. Kia Motors of America, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision that the plaintiffs’ experts were unreliable, and thus their testimony was inadmissible. The court held that without the expert testimony, the plaintiffs were unable to prove their case, and it was properly dismissed.

Kia SUVThe Facts of the Case

Sims was a backseat passenger in a 2010 Kia Soul. The driver of the Soul was involved in an accident that caused the vehicle to spin, colliding with several objects. At some point, the Soul collided with the immovable base of a “yield” sign. As the vehicle came in contact with the base of the sign, it sliced through the front bumper and pierced the gas tank. The vehicle began to leak gas.

The driver and front passenger were able to escape the car through their respective doors. However, the backseat passengers were unable to exit the vehicle because the rear doors were jammed. Shortly after the collision, the car went up in flames. Sims perished in the fire.

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Earlier this month, an elderly woman recovered just over $1.3 million after a jury found in her favor in a premises liability case involving a large grocery store chain. According to one industry news source reporting on the case, the accident took place back in 2012, when another customer inadvertently struck the woman with an electric grocery cart.

Grocery StoreEvidently, the elderly plaintiff was shopping at a Giant Eagle grocery store when she was hit by another patron in an electric cart, after the patron had lost control of the cart. The collision tossed the woman nearly four feet into a nearby shelf. The force of the collision seriously injured the woman’s back and neck. She filed a premises liability lawsuit against the grocery store chain.

During the trial, the woman’s attorney submitted evidence to the jury of 119 other accidents occurring at Giant Eagle stores across the country. This enabled the attorney to argue not only that the grocery store was negligent in failing to provide adequate instructions to the customers using the carts but also that it had prior knowledge of the potential dangers involved in allowing uninformed customers to use the carts.

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Earlier this month, one state’s supreme court issued a written opinion discussing the availability of damages for a student-plaintiff who was not employed at the time of the accident but expected to obtain employment after graduation. In the case, Fecke v. Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University, the court ultimately determined that the plaintiff was eligible to receive damages based on a decrease in her future earnings, although she was not employed at the time of the accident.

Rock ClimberThe Facts of the Case

Fecke was a college student at Louisiana State University. As a part of one of her courses, Fecke was required to complete an indoor rock climbing assignment at the school’s gym. Fecke scaled the wall without a problem, but on the way down, she fell, fracturing her ankle. She blamed the fall on an employee of the facility. As a result of the fall, she required several surgeries, eventually requiring her ankle to be fused.

Fecke and her family filed a lawsuit against the school. After a jury trial, Fecke was found to be 25% at fault and the University 75% at fault. Fecke and her family were awarded just under $2 million, part of which was an award for loss of future earnings. On appeal, the University appealed several issues, one of which was whether an unemployed college student is eligible for damages based on loss of future earnings.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Kentucky issued an interesting opinion that is of interest to anyone dealing with a difficult insurance company after a Maryland car accident. In the case, Holloway v. Direct General Insurance Company, the court determined that the plaintiff’s bad-faith claim against the insurance company, based on the company’s failure to settle her claim, must fail because the insurance company had a legitimate reason to doubt its own liability.

Wrecked CarThe Facts of the Case

Holloway, the plaintiff, was involved in an auto accident with Sykes. The accident took place in a parking lot and involved low speeds. However, each party had a different account of how the accident occurred. Holloway claimed that she suffered property damage and injuries as a result of the collision, and she sought compensation from Sykes’ insurance company, the defendant.

Holloway made property damage claims as well as personal injury claims. The parties reached a settlement regarding the property damage claims, but settlement negotiations broke down regarding the personal injury claims. Since the insurance company would not settle her personal injury claims, Holloway filed a personal injury lawsuit against the insurance company. One of the claims she made was that the insurance company acted in bad faith when it refused to settle her personal injury claim. If successful, Holloway could potentially receive compensation above and beyond her actual damages through punitive damages.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Virginia issued a written opinion in a product liability case that ended up reversing a jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff. In the case, Holiday Motor Corp. v. Walters, the court set aside the jury’s verdict because the car manufacturer did not have a duty to customers to manufacture a soft-top convertible that could safely withstand a rollover crash.

ConvertibleThe Facts of the Case

Walters was the owner of a 1995 Mazda Miata soft-top convertible. Back in 2006, Walters was driving the Miata on a two-lane road with the soft-top in the closed position when she saw a large object fall off the back of a pick-up truck. To avoid colliding with the large object, she veered to the left across the opposite lane of traffic and up a grassy embankment on the side of the road. As the vehicle left the road, it rolled over and ended up leaning against a tree.

A passerby stopped to offer assistance. He testified at trial that the windshield was flat against the ground, but the rear end of the car was slightly elevated. Walters ended up suffering a serious cervical spine injury and sued Mazda based on a product liability theory. Specifically, Walter argued that Mazda violated the implied warranty of merchantability in that the design of the vehicle’s soft-top was unreasonably dangerous in failing to protect against rollover crashes.

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