Articles Posted in Spinal Cord Injuries

A prank involving a portable toilet led to tragic consequences when the victim of the prank suffered permanent paralysis. His lawsuit named the two pranksters as defendants, as well as the company that provided the portable toilet and its manufacturer. While the claims against the pranksters, who are the plaintiff’s cousins-in-law, are most likely based on general negligence theories, the claims against the portable toilet companies are based on products liability. The plaintiff claimed that the companies failed to provide equipment to secure the unit to the ground, and installed it in an unsafe location. These made it more likely for the toilet to tip over. The defendants recently agreed to settle the claim for $5 million.

The plaintiff was on a fishing and camping trip with his two relatives in the area of Sullivan County, Pennsylvania. While the plaintiff was using a portable toilet, his relatives backed their truck up to its door, intending to lock him in as a prank. However, they accidentally knocked the toilet over by bumping into it with the truck. The toilet tipped over, causing the plaintiff to fall on his head and fracture his cervical spine in several places. He underwent surgery at a hospital in Philadelphia and spent several weeks at a rehabilitation hospital, but is now paralyzed from the shoulders down.

The plaintiff and his wife sued the two cousins-in-law, the company that provided the portable toilet, and the portable toilet manufacturer. They claimed that the two companies were liable for several acts of negligence. The toilet was installed on a slope with only some pieces of wood to keep it upright, making it more prone to tipping over and unsafe for use. They claimed the manufacturer failed to provide metal spikes used to anchor the toilet in the ground, even though that model of toilet had holes in the base specifically for that purpose. The parties reached a settlement in early February 2014, in which the plaintiff will receive $5 million. It is not clear how that amount will be apportioned between the defendants.

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Recreational trampolines, particularly the kind found in backyards, pose a serious risk of injury to children, according to a paper published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) this month. The AAP has long advocated against the recreational use of trampolines, citing the high risk of fractures, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. Other medical associations and the federal government have also noted the hazards of trampolines.

Trampoline use in the home environment remains a popular activity for children and teenagers, despite repeated warnings from the AAP and other groups. The Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, part of the AAP, reported on the risks of trampoline use in the October issue of the AAP’s official journal, Pediatrics. It estimates that around 100,000 trampoline-related injuries occur every year, and that in every year since 2005, they have been responsible for three to four thousand hospitalizations and deaths. This actually represents a decrease in the annual injury rate, which reportedly peaked at the same time as trampoline sales in 2004. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has also noted a direct correlation between the popularity of recreational trampolines and injury rates.

The original purpose of the modern trampoline was athletic training, not recreation, according to the patent obtained in 1945 by competitive gymnast George Nissen. His patent was for a “tumbling device” he intended to use to train gymnasts and acrobats. It later found a use in military aviation training. Recreational trampolines appeared once manufacturers were able to create frames that consumers could assemble at home. The AAP, the AAOS, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) all warn of the dangers inherent in trampoline use. Manufacturers have added safety features in recent years, including padding for trampoline frames and nets to prevent users from falling off the sides, but the AAP reports that these measures have not shown any significant impact on the injury rate.

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A former Pennsylvania road worker who was paralyzed by a drunk driver as he directed traffic has reached a workers’ compensation settlement agreement for $3 million. This is believed to be one of the largest settlements in the U.S. In getting to this point, he has also gone through a Dram Shop Act lawsuit and a bad faith insurance claim.

Joseph Tuski was directing traffic on January 17, 2001 in Warminster, Pennsylvania. At about 10:30 a.m., a car driven by Michael Petaccio struck him. Petaccio reportedly sped around a line of cars Tuski had stopped, hitting Tuski and throwing him about sixty feet. The accident rendered Tuski a quadriplegic, and he must spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair with 24-hour care. Petaccio had reportedly just left the Ivyland Cafe, a bar in Warminster owned by Petaccio’s family where Petaccio was the manager. Petaccio pleaded no contest to driving under the influence and aggravated assault later that year, and he was sentenced to three years in prison but received work release.

Tuski first filed suit against Petaccio and the Ivyland Cafe, claiming negligence and Dram Shop Act liability. Dram Shop Acts hold businesses who serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated individuals liable for damages subsequently caused due to that person’s intoxication. Tuski presented evidence that, at the time, he had $1.6 million in medical bills and future medical expenses of at least 12 million. A Philadelphia jury awarded Tuski an enormous but largely symbolic verdict in 2004 totalling $75.6 million in damages. This included $50.6 million in compensatory and $25 million in punitive damages, but neither defendant had the ability to pay such an amount. Petaccio only had $100,000 in liability insurance coverage, while The Ivyland Cafe had coverage of $1 million.

After the verdict, the bar lost its appeal, although a judge cut the jury’s award in half. The bar’s insurer then reportedly refused to pay the policy limits of the award. Tuski sued the insurance company for bad faith refusal to pay a claim. Although a plaintiff in an injury case has no direct relationship with a defendant’s insurer, since the insurance company’s obligation to pay is based on a contractual relationship with the defendant, many states allow a plaintiff to pursue an insurer for payment of a specific award. In this case, the bar assigned its rights under its insurance contract to Tuski. In June 2007, Tuski reached a settlement with the insurance company for $20 million.

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According to the University of Utah Department of Neurosurgery, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of severe head and spinal trauma cases involving all-terrain vehicle. Its researchers’ findings, published in Neurosurgery, emphasis the need for better ATV stability, better rider training, and helmet use.

The research, which is to be published in the journal Neurosurgery, states that:

• ATV injuries resulted in 495 deaths and 1,117,000 emergency room visits in 2001—159% and 211% more, respectively than 1993.

According to a new survey, released by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, 5.6 million Americans have some sort of paralysis. That’s 1 in 50 Americans.

The survey was put together with input from over 30 experts in statistics and paralysis and conducted at over 33,000 households in the country. According to the report, One Degree of Separation: Paralysis and Spinal Cord Injury in the United States, findings included:

• 1.9% of the population in the US has been affected by paralysis.

In Baltimore County Circuit Court, Judge Susan Souder awarded Sandra Lee Meade $250,000 for personal injuries she sustained in a pedestrian accident in an Arbutus traffic construction zone more than 5 years ago. The amount is part of a high-low agreement made between Meade and general contractor Dick Corp, with a “low” of $250,000 and a “high” of $2 million.

Meade sustained traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries after she was hit by a car while crossing Westland Boulevard, which was undergoing construction, on December 3, 2003. She now lives in a Maryland nursing home.

While police placed the fault for the pedestrian accident with Meade for crossing the street illegally—she tried crossing the street diagonally to catch the bus to work—Meade’s Maryland car accident lawyer accused Dick Corp. of failing to put in place a maintenance of traffic plan. He noted the “willy-nilly” placement of barricades and lines that were incorrectly painted on the road.

Dr. Michael Fehlings, a neurosurgeon from Toronto Western Hospital is studying Cethrin, a new drug, for treating spinal cord injuries (SCI) soon after they occur. Cethrin is applied to an SCI during surgery. The drug is a recombinant protein made with artificial DNA technology. The protein acts as an inhibitor to Rho, which is a major pathway that increases damages after an SCI and stimulates the death of cells.

The Spinal Cord Injury Information Center says that about 11,000 people in the United States sustain SCIs every year. There are about 253,000 people in the U.S. living with an SCI.

Common Causes of SCIs:

• Motor vehicle crashes: Car and motorcycle collisions are the number one cause of SCIs and make up about 50% of new SCIs that occur annually.
• Falls: The number two cause of SCIs. Seniors older than 65 are at high risk of sustaining an SCI from a fall.
• Violent acts: Gunshot and stab wounds can lead to SCIs.
• Sports and recreational injuries: SCI’s have been known to occur during sporting and other recreational activities, including football, gymnastics, diving, soccer, snowboarding, surfing, and cheerleading.

Diseases. Arthritis, cancer, spinal cord inflammation, and arthritis, can lead to SCIs.

If you or someone you love has sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident, truck accident, pedestrian accident, bus accident, slip and fall accident, or any other kind of personal injury accident in Maryland or Washington D.C. that was caused because another party was negligent, you should contact a personal injury lawyer right away.

Although Cethrin is still undergoing tests, results based on a one-year study shows that 23% of the 37 spinal cord injury patients who were treated with Cethrin within 53 hours after their SCI injury occurred had improved by at least one grade level (or more) within six months. All 37 patients that participated in the test had been categorized as “A” grade injury patients, meaning that their SCIs were the most serious kind. Although usually there is some recovery following surgery for SCI, recovery rates without Cethrin tend to be a lot lower.

Dr. Fehlings cautioned that Cethrin does not cure SCIs, but that the drug could dramatically help patients, who could regain more physical abilities and motor skills than they would otherwise.

A number of medical institutions in the U.S. and Canada are continuing to study Cethrin’s effect on spinal cord injuries:

• St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center, Phoenix, Arizona
• University of Cincinnati Mayfield Clinic and Spine Institute, Cincinnati, Ohio
• Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
• University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia
• University of Washington Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, Washington
• Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, Ontario
• Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario
• Hopital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal, Montreal, Quebec
Breakthrough For Spine Injuries, WFTU, September 21, 2007
Spinal cord injury, Mayo Clinic

Related Web Resources:

Spinal Cord Injury, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

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A new study reveals that conducting surgeries earlier when treating spinal cord injuries could lead to better results and less damage to injury victims.

Currently, surgeries for spinal cord injuries are usually performed five days or more after the injury occurred. The surgery is intended to hopefully fix the spine and alleviate pressure. Most injury patients are able to get at least some function back in their limbs, hands, toes, and fingers after a surgery.

The new research, however, shows that more recovery is possible if the surgeries were conducted within 24 hours of the spinal cord injuries occurring. The earlier surgeries could prevent any long-term damages from the injury from becoming more serious and allow some people—who would be paralyzed otherwise—to walk again.

Over 300,000 Americans with spinal cord injuries are in wheelchairs.

Dr. Michael Fehlings, a neurosurgeon, says that the initial impact that causes the spinal cord injury isn’t responsible for all the damages that result. Secondary injuries can result from spinal compression and inhalation, and nerve cells that could have been saved end up dying.

A spinal cord injury is frequently caused by a traumatic blow to the spine. The nerves in the spine become fractured or dislocated. A spinal cord injury is often serious if not permanent. There are approximately 10,000 spinal cord injuries that happen every year.

The medical costs to treat a spinal cord injury can be astronomical. If you or someone you love has sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident, construction accident, motorcycle accident, fall accident, or any other kind of injury accident that was caused because another party was negligent, you should speak with a personal injury lawyer immediately.

The University of Alabama National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center offers a number of statistics regarding the costs of spinal cord injuries in 2002:

• Length of initial hospitalization following injury in acute care units: 15 days
• Average stay in rehabilitation unit: 44 days
• Initial hospitalization costs following injury: $140,000
• Average first year expenses for a SCI injury (all groups): $198,000
• First year expenses for paraplegics: $152,000
• First year expenses for quadriplegics: $417,000
• Average lifetime costs for paraplegics, age of injury 25: $428,000
• Average lifetime costs for quadriplegics, age of injury 25: $1.35 million
• Percentage of SCI individuals who are covered by private health insurance at time of injury: 52%

• Percentage of SCI individuals that are unemployed eight years after injury: 63%. (Note: unemployment rate when this article was written was 4.7%)

You shouldn’t have to pay for your medical expenses out of your own pocket. A spinal cord injury attorney can help you obtain financial recovery from the liable party.

Spine surgery: Timing matters!,, August 30, 2007

Spinal Cord Injury Facts & Statistics

Related Web Resources:

Spinal Cord Injuries, Medline Plus
Spinal Cord Injury, Mayo Clinic

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