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Should AEG be held liable for Michael Jackson’s death?

Music legend Michael Jackson died on June 25th, 2009 from a heart attack attributed to a combination of drugs prescribed by his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray. Jackson at the time was in the rehearsal stage for an upcoming comeback tour sponsored by entertainment giant AEG.

Michael Jackson’s death?

Dr. Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 and sentenced to four years in prison. In a trial that began April 29th, 2013, Jackson’s mother and three children are suing AEG for more than a billion dollars in a wrongful death lawsuit claiming AEG negligently hired and negligently supervised Dr. Murray.

The Arguments for AEG Liability

The plaintiffs may argue that AEG pushed Jackson to conform to a schedule that he was not physically fit for and likewise pressured Dr. Murray to do whatever it took to get Jackson on stage, without due regard for his health and well-being. They will argue that AEG was guilty of negligent hiring in selecting Dr. Murray, who apparently was deeply in debt and therefore may have had ethical dilemmas regarding the care and treatment of his patient. The plaintiffs may also claim that AEG is liable for negligent supervision. Emails which have surfaced suggest that the show’s director was concerned about Jackson’s health and health care when Dr. Murray kept Jackson away from a rehearsal. The director made his concern known to an AEG executive, who responded by warning the director not to become an amateur physician. The executive said he had immense respect for Dr. Murray, and that he “is extremely successful (we checked everyone out) and does not need this gig, so he totally unbiased and ethical.”

Defense will say Murray was hired by Jackson, not AEG

The defense is likely to counter that Murray was not employed by AEG but instead was hired by Jackson himself as his personal physician. Although Dr. Murray’s $150,000 (per month!) salary was to be paid by AEG, the defense characterizes this arrangement as an advance payment to Jackson. Rather than focusing on Murray’s debt, the defense wants to shine the spotlight on Jackson’s own financial troubles, suggesting that Jackson was aggressively pursuing the comeback tour and pushing himself beyond his limits, in opposition to the plaintiff’s picture of AEG aggressively pursuing Jackson and pushing him to perform. At Fetterman & Associates, our attorneys recognize the importance of identifying all the parties who may be legally responsible for causing a personal injury or wrongful death. We understand the various legal theories which may be applicable in any particular situation and what it takes to prepare and present a persuasive case to judge or jury. In Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie, contact Fetterman & Associates for a free consultation with an experienced and successful personal injury lawyer.

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New Florida Law Rubs Massage Therapists the Wrong Way

The courts have entered another chapter into the continuing saga of the 2012 PIP Act, a Florida law enacted in May of 2012 that prohibits massage therapists, as well as acupuncturists, from billing their services to Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. This same law also seeks to cap chiropractic care at $2,500 and only allows chiropractic services when they are based on a referral from the patient’s primary care physician.

New Florida New Florida Law Rubs Massage Therapists the Wrong Way

A lawsuit was filed in November of last year to keep the State from enforcing the act. A hearing on a temporary injunction was scheduled for December but canceled by the judge. That hearing has finally been held, and a temporary injunction has been granted, prohibiting the State from implementing the law for the time being.

For now at least, people who seek massage therapy or acupuncture for relief from a motor vehicle accident should be able to access PIP benefits if they meet all the other requirements of the law. PIP benefits are part of the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law. Allegedly to prevent fraud, the government has placed many restrictions and procedures on people applying for PIP medical benefits, such as how soon after the accident the services must be provided (14 days) and by whom (licensed physicians or dentists).

The new law limits PIP medical benefits to $10,000 for an emergency medical condition and $2,500 when the individual’s condition does not meet the legal definition of an emergency medical condition. Massage and acupuncture are simply not reimbursable whatsoever, under the new law. If you have been injured in a Florida automobile accident, contact Fetterman and Associates to learn about the PIP benefits and other compensation that might be available to you.

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Injuries at Daytona Speedway Raise Questions about Sporting Event Tickets and Liability Disclaimers

It’s a rare case where victims may be barred from obtaining compensation for injuries caused by someone else.

Sporting Event Tickets and Liability

More than 30 people were injured at Daytona International Speedway last month when a wreck involving two NASCAR racers caused debris to shoot into a crowd of spectators. Consequently, the prospect of a law suit has emerged, but it could be a difficult case for the victims to win.

On its face, the situation might otherwise appear to be a typical case of negligence in which one party—the Speedway—is potentially at fault and hence liable to compensate any injured spectators for their damages and losses. But the case is actually more complicated than a standard negligence case because the spectators’ purchase of a ticket to attend the race constitutes a contract.

The important thing about ticket contracts to races and other sporting events is that they generally contain provisions which disclaim event organizers from liability for accidents suffered at the event. So the first question in the case at hand would be to determine whether the liability disclaimer in NASCAR’s ticket contract protects the organization from a lawsuit.

Some Florida courts consistently honor liability disclaimer provisions, which in this case would mean that the injured victims would be unable to collect compensation for their damages. But it is also possible that a court could find that Daytona International Speedway’s level of fault rises to the level of gross negligence, in which case the disclaimer would be ineffective to bar the spectators’ claim.

The ticket disclaimer raises an issue in contract law, as opposed to personal injury tort law, which is based on a breach of duty of care that one person owe to another. The goal of Florida tort law is to make the victims of negligence as well off as they would be if the accident had not occurred, and accident victims can generally recover for all losses suffered, including the costs of medical bills and lost opportunities.

But really, the likeliest resolution of any cases brought by spectators is an out-of-court settlement rather than an expensive, fiercely fought legal battle. If you are the victim of a serious accident, the Florida personal injury attorneys at Fetterman and Associates may be able to help. Call us today for a free, confidential consultation.

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No Texting While Driving Gets the Green Light

Florida is one of only five states without any restriction on using a cell phone to text message while driving (the other four are Arizona, Montana, South Carolina and South Dakota), but after this week the state is one step closer joining the majority of states banning the activity.

House Bill 13, which would make text and drive a secondary offense subject to monetary fines and/or point penalties passed unanimously out of the Florida House Transportation subcommittee. This is after the bill’s counterpart in the senate (SB52, sponsored by Senator Nancy Deteret) passed unanimously from its second committee the week before. The progress is a victory for the bill sponsor and co-sponsor, Doug Holder and Ray Pilon, especially considering that they have been unsuccessful in getting any traction on the bill for five years.

Why You Should not Text and Drive Why the support now after years of defeat and denial for a texting while driving ban in Florida?

Forward momentum is credited largely in part to a new effort from insurance, education, legal, medical and automotive lobby.

The ban has been publicly supported by AARP, Florida Sherriff’s Association, Florida Police Chiefs Association, AAA, AT&T and the Florida PTA, automotive makers/dealers and trial attorneys. Some credit the family testimonials from victims of automobile accidents caused by cell phone usage for the unanimous subcommittee passage.

Representative Holder championed the bill as a necessary measurement to insure public safety and reduce automobile crashes caused by inattentive drivers distracted by text messaging.

The ban would be a secondary offense, meaning that a person could only be cited for the violation if they were pulled over for committing a primary traffic offense such as speeding or reckless/careless driving. The penalty would be a $30 fine for the first offense and a $60 fine for a second offense incurred within a five year period.

Additionally, point penalties could be incurred if texting within a school zone (2 points) or if the texting led to a crash (6 points). Texting would still be allowed at red lights, in traffic jams and if pulled off to the side of the road. The bill also exempts police officers and other emergency responders.

Texting while driving bans have grown in popularity over the past ten years, as more and more accidents involving electronic devices have occurred nationwide. In addition to state statutes and city ordinances, President Obama issued an executive order in 2009 banning federal employees from texting while driving while conducting official governmental business.

According to the National Safety Council, there are over 100,000 crashes a year involving electronic device usage that distracts drivers. AAA reports that texting and driving makes a person six times more likely to be involved in a collision; the federal government believes it is even higher- stating it is twenty-three times more likely.

The problem is widespread: one in seven surveyed drivers admitted to texting and driving and half of sixteen and seventeen year old text while driving. Considering the national response to what some call the “electronic safety epidemic”, it seems strange that Florida, the fourth most populous state in the country, has been so reluctant and late coming in legislative action regarding texting while driving.

Especially because a recent study found that 70% of Florida voters favor a ban. Like other states, Florida has documented correlations in cell phone usage and car accidents. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 3700 automobile crashes last year involving electronic devices.

Of those 2,218 were from cell phone usage; 145 specifically from texting. Despite the popular response to the proposed ban, critics of the bill have legitimate arguments against its passage. According the several legislators, the bill has been seen as unnecessary legislation.

Under the legal analysis of private liberty versus public interest and safety, opponents believe that the ban is governmental intrusion into personal freedom. They believe that the solution is already available with the enforcement of current careless and reckless driving statutes, not the creation of additional redundant law.

Representatives and Senators who oppose the bill are also concerned that there are no recent data documenting a need for the ban. The most recent information from state safety agencies (cited above) are from the first ten months of 2011.

Bolstering the opposition’s argument is a 2010 Highway Loss Data Institute study showing that bans do not prevent crashes, they actually increase them.

According to the study, banning the activity does not make the drivers stop the activity; it only makes them hide what they are doing more so they are not seen texting.

By lowering the cell phone the driver is more distracted as they struggle to focus on the more distant device. Supporters of the bill challenge the strength of the opposition’s arguments, believing that public safety is the larger concern considering the large numbers of automobile accidents.

Also Read: A Local Twelve-Year-Old Takes On Texting While Driving

Applying the same legal analysis used by the opponents, supporters believe public safety outweighs personal liberty in this situation due to the large amount of injuries and fatalities reported. They also feel that data from 2011 is sufficiently representative of the situation in 2012; chances are that the number of traffic incidents only increased within that one year time period.

Despite this week’s success in the legislature, the bill still has hurdles to overcome before the bill becomes law. There are still a few committees and overall House approval is required. If the current trend is any indication, it appears that Florida drivers will soon have to reserve texting for times outside the vehicle, telling their contacts that they will TTYL. LOL.

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Will Florida Ban Motorist Cell Phone Use in 2013?

In an effort to make roads and highways safer for all drivers, many states across the country have enacted cell phone bans prohibiting the use of handheld devices for talking or texting while operating a motor vehicle. Policymakers pushed for these laws based on the generally accepted theory that cell phone use and text messaging result in inattentive driving and contribute to the high number of car accidents in the United States. Florida, however, has no restrictions on motorist cell phone use, despite dozens of bills presented to the state legislature since 2002. As reported by the Palm Beach Post, advocates for a ban are hopeful that this will finally change in 2013.

In 2012, attempts to have a texting ban heard were blocked by Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, but Cannon left the House in November due to term limits. Supporters of a ban say his departure “may help clear the way for Florida to become the nation’s 40th state to prohibit all drivers from texting.” Representative Irv Slosberg from Boca Raton told the Post that “the public has been screaming for it.”

Drivers Support Bans But Still Talk, Text & Drive

Will Florida Ban Motorist Cell Phone Use in 2013?According to a 2010 National Safety Council study, nearly 30% of traffic accidents occur because people talk on cell phones or send text messages while driving. And it seems that people are aware of the dangers associated with cell phone use and texting while driving—a survey conducted by AAA Auto Club South found that 87% of motorists support laws prohibiting texting while driving. At the same time, nearly 70% of Americans acknowledge talking on their cell phones while driving within the past 30 days, and 24% say they have sent texts or emails. This means that bans on cell phone use and texting may continue to be a tough sell in Florida, where many legislators are concerned that such restrictions are unwanted government intrusions on private behavior. If Florida follows the nationwide trend, however, concerns about public safety may win out over individual rights this year.

Talk to an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a driver whom you believe was talking or texting on a cell phone, please contact Fetterman & Associates. During a free initial consultation, you can speak with a knowledgeable Florida injury attorney about your specific case. With offices in Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie, we serve clients throughout southeast Florida.

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Tragic Amtrak Train Crash in Central Florida

On November 29, an Amtrak train headed for Miami collided with a dump truck at an Orlando intersection, killing the truck driver and injuring over a dozen passengers (see the article in the Orlando Sentinel). At least 50 fire-rescue workers and 50 law enforcement officers were sent to the scene of the accident. Once there, they found the truck in two pieces on either side of the track, the driver, already dead, thrown about 150 feet from the impact zone, and over 100 panicked and shocked passengers. According to the Sentinel article, there is a stop sign and railroad crossing sign at the intersection where the accident occurred, but no arm bars or other signals to warn drivers when a train is near. However, at this very intersection, flashing lights and crossing arms are supposed to be installed in the spring of 2013 as part of a $1.2 billion commuter train upgrade. Sadly, these safety precautions are too late for the victims of Thursday’s accident.

Causes of Train Accidents

Tragic Amtrak Train Crash in Central FloridaWhile authorities from the Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida Department of Transportation are still investigating the factors that led to the Orlando accident, we do know that many tragic train accidents could have been avoided if people took proper care at train crossings and while operating commuter trains. Some common causes of train accidents include:
Failure to properly inspect equipment
Improper train or track maintenance or repair
Lines being switched improperly
Mechanical failures, including broken warning lights
Improperly loaded or disproportionate cargo on the train
Disregarding weather conditions
Excessive speed
Miscommunications regarding which track is non-operational and which is in use
Failure to obey signals
Insufficient training of staff
Failure to remedy a dangerous situation, such as a spill, broken seat, or belligerent passenger
The personal injury attorneys at Fetterman & Associates possess the resources and legal skill to handle complex cases arising from train accidents. Our goal is to identify all liable parties in a train accident to ensure maximum compensation for our clients.

Contact an Experienced Palm Beach Personal Injury Attorney in Florida

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a train accident, either as a train passenger or automobile driver, please contact Fetterman & Associates for a free consultation. We serve southeast Florida from offices in Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie.

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Don’t Let the Use of Dangerous Products Come Back to Haunt You this Halloween

Whether your costume has been planned for months or you’re running to the drug store to pull off a last minute transformation, dressing up for Halloween often means covering your face, body, hair or all of the above in some type of goop, paint or other substance. You may even consider some creepy contact lenses — slit pupils or spiraling orbs — to put the finishing touch on your costume. But beware of side-effects associated with these products, and watch out for dangerous products wearing their own disguise: harmless Halloween fun.

Dangerous Halloween Items Targeted by the FDA

Use of Dangerous Products Come Back to Haunt YouMost people don’t want to spend too much money on a Halloween costume, and manufacturers and retailers respond by producing and selling all kinds of cheap Halloween paraphernalia. When products are made quickly and cheaply the likelihood of potentially dangerous items finding their way to consumers increases. Over the years, masks, costume accessories, Halloween toys and candy have all been recalled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after they were found to be dangerous to the consuming public.
A nationwide brand of face paint, Fun Express, is one example of a Halloween product that was recalled after it was found to cause rashes, itchiness, burning sensations and swelling. In one case, a group of children were exposed to the contaminated face paint at an organized event.
The FDA also warns consumers of the dangers of using decorative contact lenses without proper professional involvement. Recent legislation has made it illegal to market decorative contact lenses as over-the-counter products, but they are still readily available from many retailers, especially near Halloween, including beauty salons, “head” shops, and flea markets, as well as the Internet. Using non-prescription decorative contacts can lead to many types of eye injuries, including:

Corneal ulcers
Corneal abrasion
Vision impairment
Blindness

If an individual suffers a serious eye injury from decorative contacts, there may be a claim against either the manufacturer or seller, depending on the circumstances of the purchase and use of the lenses.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer in Florida

When it comes to medical devices like contact lenses, or products intended for children, it is important to hold manufacturers and retailers accountable for producing and selling dangerous products. If you live in southeast Florida and have been harmed by a dangerous product, please contact the personal injury lawyers at Fetterman & Associates for a free initial consultation. We serve Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties.

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Reported Florida Amusement Park Injuries for the First Quarter of 2012

Florida is world-famous for its many large amusement parks and theme parks, which draw millions of visitors to the state every year with promises of adventure, excitement, and dreams come true. While most rides are reasonably safe, injuries do occur that can turn a fun-filled day into a horrifying event.

Florida Amusement Park InjuriesFlorida’s major theme park companies, including Disney World, Universal Orlando, Seaworld, Legoland, Wet ‘n Wild, and Busch Gardens Tampa, file “occurrence reports” with the Florida Bureau of Fair Ride Inspection on a quarterly basis (SunSentinel). According to the Orlando Sentinel, Florida’s big theme parks reported 16 guest injuries during the first quarter of 2012, including 10 at Walt Disney World, four at Universal Orlando, and two at Legoland Florida.

The injuries at Disney World included:

  • A 78-year-old man who had a heart attack after riding The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
  • A 56-year-old man who had a heart attack while riding Mission: Space.
  • A 36-year-old woman who had a seizure on Dinosaur.
  • A 65-year-old woman who broke her hip and leg boarding the Prince Charming Regal Carousel.
  • A 56-year-old woman who had chest pain on Soarin’ in Epcot.
  • A 49-year-old woman who broke her leg boarding Space Mountain.
  • A 75-year-old woman who had nausea and chest pain on Kilimanjaro Safaries.
  • A 40-year-old woman who broke her fibula getting on Jungle Cruise.
  • A 41-year-old man who had a seizure on Maelstrom.

At Universal Orlando, three of the four injuries reported involved motion sickness suffered aboard Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The other injury was suffered by a 62-year-old woman who sustained a head laceration on Carou-Seuss-el in Islands of Adventure. At Legoland, the two reported injuries included a 41-year old woman who tripped and lacerated her shin while exiting Fire Academy, and a 10-year-old boy whose foot was caught between the vehicle and unloading platform when he exited Lost Kingdom.

Seek Advice & Representation from an Experienced Florida Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one sustained an injury at a Florida amusement park, please contact Fetterman & Associates for a free initial consultation. You may be entitled to compensation for your damages, including medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages, from the theme park and its insurers. With offices in North Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie, we represent clients throughout southeast Florida in a wide variety of personal injury claims

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Avoid Back-to-School Injuries

Most Palm Beach County students went back to school on August 20, with teachers, parents, and children likely gearing up for the summer to fall transition for many weeks.

Returning to school not only means getting back in the classroom, but also the return to playgrounds, gymnasiums, school buses, and sports. While recess and extracurricular activities are the “fun” part of school for many children, they are also the setting for numerous accidents and injuries.

According to research conducted by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign (NSKC), an estimated 2.2 million children ages 14 and under sustain school related injuries each year.

While many of these injuries are unintentional (unlike injuries related to school violence or abuse), they are often caused by negligence, such as lack of adequate teacher supervision or poorly maintained facilities. In fact, lack of supervision is associated with 40 percent of playground injuries.

Common Causes of School Accidents & Injuries

Avoid Back-to-School InjuriesAmong elementary school students, playgrounds are associated with the majority of injuries, and for secondary school students, athletics — including both physical education classes and organized sports — account for most injuries.

School bus-related accidents, often involving child pedestrians, also account for many injuries.

Common causes of these accidents and injuries include:

  • Failure to regularly maintain school equipment and facilities
  • Failure to properly train school staff to supervise children and administer emergency first aid and CPR when necessary
  • Asphalt, concrete, grass, and soil surfaces under playground equipment, as opposed to loose-fill materials such as shredded rubber, mulch, and fine sand
  • Failure to ensure children play on age-appropriate playground equipment
  • Failure to use appropriate safety equipment for sports activities
  • Failure to group children according to skill level, size, and physical maturity, especially for contact sports
  • A school bus driver’s failure to see children attempting to enter or exit the bus
    Other drivers’ failure to obey school bus stop signs

Too often, parents and teachers blame children’s injuries on children’s behavior rather than their surroundings. However, budget cuts and overcrowding in Florida schools may not only diminish the quality of education received by students, but also may affect the safety and integrity of the environment in which they learn and interact.

By holding schools accountable for student accidents, concerned parents can help ensure schools take proper measures to protect children from injuries in the future.

Contact a Knowledgeable South Florida Injury Lawyer

If your child has sustained an injury at school, and you believe negligence on the part of a teacher or the school system could be at least partially to blame, please contact the personal injury lawyers at Fetterman & Associates for a free initial consultation.

We serve southeast Florida, including the communities of Palm Beach, North Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Port St. Lucie, and Fort Pierce.

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Intentionally Mislabeled Seafood Could Harm Florida Consumers

A recent study conducted by the ocean conservation group, Oceana, found that many varieties of seafood sold in restaurants and grocery stores in Palm Beach County may be intentionally mislabeled. As reported by The Palm Beach Post on July 27, DNA testing confirmed that almost one-third of nearly 100 seafood samples collected from 60 area retail outlets were not the type of fish indicated on the menu or label. In most cases, a less desirable, less expensive fish was substituted for a rarer, pricier fish.

Intentionally Mislabeled Seafood

According to the article, the Oceana researchers collected 40 samples from 29 grocery stores and 56 samples from 31 restaurants, including 15 sushi venues, throughout south Florida. After DNA testing was completed, the researchers concluded:

Fraud was detected in half of the 14 different types of fish collected
The highest fraud rates were found in sushi restaurants, where nearly 60% of the samples were mislabeled

Grocery stores had the lowest fraud rates at 8%

In six of the seven samples tested, red snapper was misrepresented, with tilapia or another less expensive variety of snapper, such as dog snapper, used as substitutes

100% of white tuna was mislabeled

Crab meat advertised as “real” crab meat was found to be fake crab meat 64 % of the time

16% of grouper was mislabeled, with king mackerel or Asian catfish often used as substitutes

According to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, 1,317 restaurants in Florida have been cited for seafood fraud since 2006. In Palm Beach County, inspectors have found 115 restaurants serving mislabeled seafood.

Mislabeled Seafood May Hurt More than Just Your Wallet

Beyond financial deception, mislabeled seafood can pose severe health risks to consumers. For example, the study found that white tuna was mislabeled 100% of the time in south Florida restaurants. In most cases, the fish was actually escolar, which is banned in Japan and Italy and assigned warnings by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because of toxins that cause gastric effects. Also dangerous, king mackerel (a common grouper substitute) carries a “Do Not Eat” warning for young children and pregnant and nursing women. And for people with allergies, eating the wrong fish can always cause serious health problems.

Businesses and individuals that knowingly introduce dangerous products to the consuming public may be liable for resulting injuries. Consumers harmed because of mislabeled seafood may have personal injury claims against retailers, restaurants, grocery stores, distributors, processing and packaging plants, and others along the seafood supply chain.

Seek Advice & Representation from an Experienced South Florida Injury Lawyer

If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of consumer fraud, please contact the personal injury lawyers at Fetterman & Associates for a free initial consultation. We serve Palm Beach, Martin, and St. Lucie counties in southeast Florida.

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