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Ten Tips For BIicyclist to Keep Safe

With the summer officially underway and many people, adults and children, will be on the roads on bicycles.  Riding a bicycle is great exercise and help to the environment.  However, given the number of car on the road it is imperative to understand safe protocol while sharing the roads with cars.  Here are ten tips for bicyclists to keep safe on the roads.

1.     Always wear a helmet

2.     Always obey traffic lights and signs

3.     Always use hand signals before turning or stopping

4.     Ride in the road about 2 to 3 feet from the curb

5.     Ride in a straight line and do not weave

6.     Watch carefully for cars

7.     Maintain eye contact with other drivers before turning

8.     Ride in the same direction as the traffic flow

9.     Avoid road hazards such as potholes, wet areas, pooling of water, gravel, debris etc. 

10.   Avoid riding at night

Death of Kevin Ward, Jr. May Force NASCAR Safety Changes

NASCAR may issue an edict before tomorrow’s race at Michigan International Speedway that makes it mandatory for drivers to stay in their cars until safety personnel arrive. Tracks around the country have changed their rules after Kevin Ward Jr.'s death in a sprint car race.

Ward was sent into the wall when his car was bumped by Tony Stewart's in a dirt-track race on Saturday night in Canandaigua. Ward got out of the car and walked onto the track, where he was hit by Stewart.  Authorities are still investigating whether to file criminal charges against Stewart.

Brewerton Speedway and Fulton Speedway, New York dirt tracks under the same management, announced new rules that drivers would be required to stay in their cars during an accident.

"If a driver, for whatever reason, exits a car on the track during a caution period, the race will automatically be placed under a red flag and all cars will come to a complete stop," a news release on the tracks' website says. "A driver may exit a car if requested by a safety crew member or if safety warrants in cases such as a fire. Drivers that exit a car without permission, for whatever reason, are subject to fine and/or suspension at the discretion of track management."

CVS Potentially Liable for Tainted Eye Drops

Recently in New Jersey State Court, suit was filed alleging that CVS Pharmacy Redness Relief Drops were tainted or contaminated.  The plaintiff, Gregg Schweck put the drops in both eyes and immediately felt extreme pain, burning and detected a smell of bleach according to the Complaint which has been filed.   If in fact it is determined that these drops were tainted, CVS would be facing claims of liability under the theory of res ipsa loquitur which creates the presumption of negligence as a result of the nature of the injury i.e. the injury could not have occurred but for negligence.  

Although CVS has denied that the drops were tainted or contaminated, the suit proceeds on and to the extent there is no formal recall by CVS, customers beware should they experience any similar circumstances.  The CVS which is alleged to have been the seller of the contaminated eye drops is a store on River Road in Edgewater, NJ with the sale occurring in late March, 2014.  

Over the years, pharmacies such as CVS have been found to be liable for not only dispensing or selling contaminated products, but for dispensing wrong medication.    It is important to retain any remaining product should there be any experience of illness or injury from a product purchased from a pharmacy or pharmaceutical chain so that serial numbers, lot numbers and manufacturing dates can be utilized in the claims presentation process. If you or a loved one has been injured by a product, contact Stark & Stark today.           

Excess Work Hours Equals Greater Likelihood of Crash

The United States Department of Transportation through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the hours of services for drivers.  Specifically, the regulations states

(1) Driver may drive 11 hours after 10 hour off duty

(2) Driver may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming on duty, following 10 hours off duty;  and

(3) Driver may not drive after 60/70 hours on-duty in 7/8 consecutive days. 

Driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.   The reason for these strict regulations is the greater number of hours worked the more likely a accident.  The association between excessive work hours and greater likelihood of crash involvement has been well-documented in a series of academic studies in the trucking industry.  Jones, I.S. and Stein, H.S. “Effect of Driver Hours-of-Service on Tractor-Trailer Crash Involvement (1987), Arlington, VA, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Frith, W.J. “A Case Control Study of Heavy Vehicle Drivers’ Working Time and Safety,” (1994), Proceedings 17th ARRB Conference, Part 5: pp. 17-30, Queensland, Australia. Maineway Services summarized some of the important studies in a report submitted to the Transportation Research Board in May 2005.  Maineway Services, Literature Review on Health and Fatigue Issues Associated with Commercial Vehicle Driver Hours of Service, submitted to Transportation Research Board, Project Number CTBSSP MC No. 11, May 27, 2005. 

This report noted: “Using a case control approach to examine the relative risk associated with long hours of driving, Jones and Stein (1987) found that tractor-trailer drivers who drove in excess of eight hours, who violated logbook regulations, and who were aged 30 and under had an increased risk of crash involvement.  In particular, the relative risk of crash involvement for drivers who reported a driving time in excess of eight hours was almost twice that for drivers who had driven fewer hours.  The Firth (1994) report cited above shows crash involved drivers to be 2.6 times more likely than non-crash involved drivers to have driven 8 or more hours.” 

If you or a loved one has been injured, contact Stark & Stark today.

Private Mortgage Foreclosures

In Pennsylvania, mortgages on real estate aren’t always held by banks or mortgage companies. Individuals who sell real estate sometimes “take back paper” from their buyers to, in effect, finance the purchase price. The “paper taken back” from the buyer frequently includes a mortgage on the real estate which is satisfied when the buyer pays back the purchase price of the real estate to the seller.

Like “institutional” mortgages, privately-held mortgages can go into default if mortgage payments are not made. The preferred remedy would be the same as any bank or mortgage company would have—foreclosure of the mortgage and sheriff’s sale of the real estate. However, while banks and mortgage companies may have counsel with whom they deal on a regular basis for their foreclosure work, individuals holding mortgages may find themselves not knowing how to proceed when payments stop coming.

At Stark & Stark, we assist both lenders and private mortgage holders with foreclosures in all counties of Pennsylvania. If you are a private mortgage holder with a mortgage in default, contact us for expert guidance through the foreclosure process.

Pre-Trip Inspection of Tractor Trailers- Required by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations

A pre-trip inspection by a driver of tractor trailer is required by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.  A pre-trip inspection should be done to ensure the tractor trail is operating safely and there are no problems with the tractor trailer.  Prior to operating the vehicle, a Driver Vehicle Inspection Report should be filled out and signed by the driver.  If there are defects, those defects need to be immediately addressed by a mechanic and mechanic is required to sign and verify the Inspection Report.

According to several experts, a pre-trip inspection of a tractor trailer can take as long as 1 to 2 hours and requires the driver to visually and physically inspect the engine compartment, cab and the trailer.  Below is a list of the areas that a driver should inspect prior to driving starting with the front of the vehicle:

·       Windshield Wipers

·       Engine Compartment

·       Front Suspension

·       Front brake

·       Cab Area

·       Fuel Tank Area

·       Coupling System

·       Front of Trailer

·       Rear Tractor Wheels

·       Suspension

·       Tractor Brakes

·       Rear of Tractor

·       Side of Trailer

·       Trailer Wheels

·       Suspension

·       Trailer Brakes

·       Rear of Trailer

·       Signal, Brake and Clearance Lights

Can Informed Consent be a Defense in Medical Malpractice Cases?

Before a doctor performs any type of medical procedure, they must obtain the patient’s “informed consent” to do so.  In general, this means that the patient must be provided with all potential risks, side effects and alternatives to the procedure, so that they can make an educated decision about whether or not to go through with the procedure.  Pennsylvania courts have long recognized this requirement and have even held that a physician’s failure to obtain a patient’s informed consent before performing a surgery or procedure may amount not only to negligence, but to a battery. 

Recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to consider whether the fact that a physician obtained informed consent may be used by that physician as a defense to a medical malpractice claim.  In Brady v. Urbas, the plaintiff underwent surgery on a toe which, she alleged, failed to correct her problem and required her to undergo multiple subsequent surgeries.  As part of his defense, the doctor in essence sought to argue that the plaintiff was aware of the risks associated with the surgery, and the fact that the surgery did not provide the desired outcome did not mean the doctor was necessarily negligent.  The trial court allowed this evidence.  The court permitted the defendant to reference the plaintiff’s knowledge of the risks of the procedure at trial, and also allowed informed consent forms signed by the plaintiff to be examined by the jury.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant doctor.  On appeal, the Superior Court overturned that verdict, concluding that informed consent evidence is irrelevant in a medical malpractice case.  The Supreme Court has now agreed to review the case to determine whether evidence of a patient’s informed consent should be permitted in medical malpractice cases moving forward.

Regardless of how the court comes down on this question, the fact remains that a doctor is required to obtain a patient’s informed consent before performing any medical or surgical procedure.  When a doctor fails to do so, and the patient suffers an adverse outcome as a result, the patient may be able to bring claims against that doctor.  It is important to know that, simply because you may have signed an informed consent form prior to undergoing a procedure, does not automatically mean you provided informed consent under the law.  If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered a bad outcome from a medical procedure for which they did not provide informed consent, contact the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Stark & Stark today for a free consultation.

PA Supreme Court Approves Rule Banning Discovery of Attorney-Expert Communications

In a previous post, I wrote about the Barrick v. Holy Spirit decision and its impact upon discovery of communications between attorneys and experts. To summarize, the superior court reached an 8-1 en banc decision holding that communications between a lawyer and an expert witness were not discoverable. After an appeal, the Supreme Court reached a 3-3 split decision on this issue, meaning that the superior court decision was still the law in Pennsylvania.

Now, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has officially approved an amendment to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 4003.5 serving to prohibit discovery of all attorney-expert communications and draft reports. The amended language reads as follows:

(4) A party may not discover the communications between another party’s attorney and any expert who is to be identified pursuant to subdivision (a)(1)(A) or from whom discovery is permitted under subdivision (a)(3) regardless of the form of the communications, except in circumstances that would warrant the disclosure of privileged communications under Pennsylvania law. This provision protects from discovery draft expert reports and any communications between another party’s attorney and experts relating to such drafts.

It is interesting to note that the Court took the added step of specifically protecting draft expert reports from discovery in addition to communications. This amendment should serve to eliminate any remaining ambiguity in this area of the law and will ensure that attorneys can freely communicate with their experts regarding their trial strategy and the contents of expert reports without concern that these communications will be turned over to opposing counsel. 

Graco Recall 2014

If you have infants car seats, please be aware. Graco has recently recalled 1.9 infant car seats because buckles get clogged with food and drinks making it difficult to remove children.  Some parents reported having to cut the harness to get their children out.  The recall comes after a  5 month dispute between Graco and the National Highway Commission. In that dispute, Graco argued that in an emergency the seat could be removed rather than using the buckle  Graco was reluctant to recall the recent the infant seats because earlier this year it recalled 4. 2 toddler seats that also had harness buckle problems. Obviously Graco was unsuccessful as the recall was the largest in U.S. History.

As parents, it is important to check your seats, and check them often. Please be aware and keep your children safe. If you or a loved one are injured by any product, please contact Stark & Stark today.

Union Membership Declining

As an attorney who has been born and raised in a union family, I always have concerns over what is going on with unions. While I represent any and all people who have been injured or killed in car accident, industrial accident, medical malpractice, motorcycle accidents, work accidents or by defective products, I take a special interest when it comes to union families.

Recently I came across a study of unions in America. Union membership has been declining for decades.  In the last year however the percentage of American Workers in unions basically remained unchanged.  Some of the states that remain union strong however are:

 Top 5 states with  the strongest unions are:

1.         New York is the strongest with  24. 3 percent of worker  being union

2          Alaska 23.1 percent of workers are union

3.         Hawii- 22.1 percent of workers are union

4.         Washington- 18.9 percent of workers are union

5.         Rhode Island- 16.9 percent of workers are union

The 5 states with the weakest unions are:

1.  North Carolina is the weakest with 3.0 percent of workers being union

2. Arkansas- 3.5 percent of workers are union

3. Mississippi- 3.6 percent of workers are union

4.  South Carolina- 3.7 percent of workers are union

5.  Utah-  3.9 percent of workers are union

If you or a loved one has been injured, contact Stark & Stark today.