Recently in Wrongful Death Category

Medical Malpractice Verdict of $1Million After Women Dies From Dye Reaction

August 22, 2012

A cardiac catheterization is a common procedure used every day for diagnosing and treating coronary artery disease. Part of the procedure typically involves injecting dye to make the vessels easier to visualize on x-ray. Unfortunately, some patients can have an allergic reaction to dye. In some cases, the allergic reaction can be fatal. A medical malpractice trial recently conducted in Baltimore involved this very issue. There, a jury found doctors responsible for the death of a woman who suffered a fatal reaction to dye used during a cardiac catheterization procedure when the woman had demonstrated she was at increased risk of being allergic to dye.

According to the medical malpractice lawsuit, Sherry Pittman was 52 years old when she saw doctors at MidAtlantic complaining of chest pain. After testing, doctors found Pittman had a normal heart size and normal heart function with mild hardening of tissue and no significant narrowing of vessels. According to the family's medical malpractice lawyer, there was no evidence Ms. Pittman had coronary artery disease but doctors went ahead and still ordered a cardiac catheterization procedure. In addition, MidAtlantic physicians had been told by Pittman she had a previous severe reaction to a bee sting five years earlier which seemingly put the physicians on notice she may have a severe allergic to dyeing agents. According to the lawsuit, the severe bee sting reaction required doctors to determine the extent of her tolerance to dyeing agents before conducting the procedure with a full dosage of dye.

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Alaskan Cruise Ship Passenger Dies In Kayaking Accident

July 19, 2012

Every year, tens of thousands of people will take an Alaskan cruise and enjoy some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world. A top attraction on nearly every Alaskan cruise is the magnificent Mendenhall Glacier. Although many people view glacier by land, others can explore the glacier by kayak. Last weekend, four Royal Caribbean passengers decided to rent kayaks to paddle along Mendenhall Lake while the cruise ship was in dock. Unfortunately, one never made it back to his cruise ship after his kayak overturned in the lake.

On July 15, 2012, 62 year-old Michael Fullerton of Texas was one of four family members that decided to rent kayaks along the Mendenhall Lake. As passengers of Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas, the four planned on returning to the cruise ship later that day. While kayaking, Fullerton reportedly became fatigued and was unable to continue paddling. According to Tongass National Forrest Supervisor Forrest Cole, the "group tied their kayaks together." At some point, the kayaks overturned. Three of the four family members survived, suffering only mild hypothermic injuries. Fullerton, however, drowned to death in the lake. According to Cole, it is unclear how the kayaks overturned.

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Settlement Reached In Train Crossing Accident That Killed Chicago Dancer

March 30, 2012

This month, the Illinois Central Railroad Company settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the family of a Chicago Dancer killed in a train crossing crash. On April 16, 2010, twenty-six year Katie Ann Lunn was returning home from watching her dance students perform at a competition. When Lunn reached a University Park train crossing, her SUV was struck by an Amtrak train killing the beloved dance instructor. The wrongful death lawsuit claimed the railroad crossing signals were turned off earlier that day for maintenance work and were never reactivated. Witnesses told the Chicago Sun Times after the crash that when they drove over the railroad seconds before the fatal crash the signals were not working and the gate did not come down until the train had almost passed them.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration Office Of Safety Analysis, there were 10,951 train accidents in the United States last year, resulting in 248 fatalities. In Illinois, there were 950 train accidents last year. Although there were no fatalities in 2011, there have already been several in 2012 including two in the Chicagoland area.

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Broken Escalator Handrail Blamed For Death of Elderly Women

March 25, 2012

Last week, an eighty-eight year old female was killed while riding an escalator at a train station in Lindenhurst, New York. Initial reports indicate a broken escalator handrail prevented the elderly woman from grasping the handrail. The woman's clothes then got stuck in the escalator while she was on the ground, causing the woman to slowly choke to death. Just minutes before the woman's apparent wrongful death, an elderly man had a similar incident on the same escalator but seemed to escape serious personal injury.

In the United States, there are approximately 35,000 escalators providing about 105 billion passenger trips each year. Most escalators are located in commercial and public buildings like malls, hospitals, airports, and train stations. Although escalators speed up passenger travel from one point to another, escalators can cause serious injury or death if they are defective or improperly maintained.

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Fingering Pointing Escalates Over Deadly Indiana Stage Collapse

February 17, 2012

Less than two years since the Indiana State Fair stage collapse that killed seven and injured over forty-five others, fingering pointing among those involved has escalated dramatically. The Indiana Occupational Safety And Health Administration recently levied fines against Mid-America Sound Corp, the company charged with erecting the stage, the Indiana Fair Commission, the entity in charge of the venue, and the union that worked the site. Although Mid-America Sound received the largest fine, the company denies any responsibility. Instead, Mid-America Sound blames the Fair Commission, claiming they failed to heed warnings about the stages structural integrity during high winds. The Fair Commission blames the band Sugarland, who was scheduled to perform just before the storm, claiming the band refused to delay their concert despite being told of severe incoming storms. While there is much debate around all who should be blamed, the basic facts about what happened are well established.

On August 13, 2011 at 6:00 PM, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center issued a "severe thunderstorm watch" for central Indiana, which included the location of the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis. The Emergency Alert System bulletin cautioned the storm was capable of producing winds up to 70 MPH. At 8:39 PM, the Indiana State Police say they issued a warning to the crowd in the grandstand suggesting they should take cover because of incoming severe weather. About ten minutes later, strong winds thundered in causing the stage to collapse, resulting in 4 deaths. Over 45 others suffer various personal injuries. Wind gusts exceeded 70 MPH. The stage collapse occurred between live musical performances by Sara Bareilles and Sugarland. Earlier, pop singer Janet Jackson and country band Lady Antebellum cancelled their performances.

Since the stage collapse, lawyers for those injured or who lost loved ones filed a class action lawsuit against the State of Indiana for personal injury and wrongful death. Most of those claims have settled. Another lawsuit had been filed against Sugarland claiming the band negligently refused to delay starting their concert despite being told of impending severe weather.

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Gov't Aims To Reduce Hospital-Acquired Infections By 40%

February 6, 2012

Hospital-acquired infections are a serious problem in this country. Usually preventable, these infections routinely lead to unnecessary harm to patients, avoidable healthcare costs and needless medical malpractice lawsuits. Currently, 1 in 20 patients will develop a hospital-acquired infection while hospitalized in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention, hospital-acquired infections cause and/or contribute to 99,000 deaths a year. These infections cost the healthcare system billions of dollars a year. Medical experts have concluded that most hospital-acquired infections are preventable. Recently, the federal government, through the Department of Health And Human Services, has launched a bold initiative, seeking to reduce hospital-infections by 40% over the next two years.

A hospital-acquired infection is an infection that a patient develops in a hospital usually from poor hygiene or sanitization practices by hospital staff. These infections can come from a variety of sources. Central lines, urinary catheters, bedsores, blood stream, and surgical sites are just a few examples from which hospital-acquired infections can develop. These infections can lead to serious medical complications and, on occasion, wrongful death.

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Anesthesia Complications At Surgical Centers Can Be Fatal

January 4, 2012

Patients are increasingly turning to Ambulatory Surgical Centers (or ASCs) for surgical procedures performed outside of the traditional hospital setting. There are several benefits to ASCs. They are generally less expensive than hospital surgery's, permit patients to go home the same day of surgery, and are often more luxurious than hospital. Today, 65% of all surgeries are now outpatient making ASCs a popular alternative to hospital surgeries. However, ASCs do have some drawbacks. One significant shortcoming to ASC is their ability to manage serious anesthesia errors and complications which are generally more dangerous outside of a hospital.

With virtually all same-day surgery procedures, the most significant risk is from the anesthesia. Although there are many forms of anesthesia, general anesthesia poses the greatest risk of serious injury or wrongful death. Indeed, most medical malpractice lawsuits stemming from anesthesia error involve general anesthesia. Common general anesthesia complications are from aspiration, changes in vital signs, and adverse reactions to anesthetic.

Regarding adverse anesthetic reactions, the most significant and potentially fatal condition that can develop is called malignant hyperthermia (or MH). This occurs when a patient's body temperature rapidly increases and causes muscle rigidity. With proper management, many patients will experience a full recovery. Without proper management, patients can and do die from MH.

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Choking Hazards From Toys And Household Items A Serious Matter

January 3, 2012

Choking hazards are leading cause of unintended wrongful death and serious personal injury in small children. Every year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues recalls for toys that can pose a risk of injury to children, including choking hazards. Just recently, the CPSC and Health Canada announced the recall of the Colorful Hearts Teddy Bear By Build-A-Bear. The recall was announced because the teddy bear's eyes could loosen and fall out, creating a choking hazard for small children. For additional information on this recall and other recalled toys, visit the CPSC website at

Choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in children under 5. The size of a small child's trachea is about the diameter of drinking straw. Thus, any small item can pose a serious risk of choking. Common sources of choking hazards include toys, household products and foods. Toy manufacturers often label their products as choking hazards. However, just because product manufacturer does not provide such a warning is no guarantee the product poses no choking hazard, particularly if it breaks. Indeed, there have been many product liability lawsuits that involve a failure to warn by the manufacturer, including those involving choking hazards.

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Medical Malpractice Suit Filed When Teen Died After Simple Tooth Extraction

December 20, 2011

On March 28, 2011, seventeen-year old Jennifer Olenick went in for a routine wisdom tooth extraction. During the procedure while under anesthesia, she began experiencing bradycardia in which her heart rate began to slow. Jennifer's oral surgeon and anesthesiologist allegedly failed to correct the problem and her condition worsened. Jennifer then went into cardiac arrest and later died from complications related to an apparent anesthesia error. Jennifer's family has now filed a civil medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against the anesthesiologist and oral surgeon involved in the wisdom tooth extraction.

The medical malpractice suite alleges doctors failed to properly monitor the teen while under anesthesia and failed to properly resuscitate her after her heart rate dropped to 40 beats per minute. The lawsuit further alleges that as a result of the doctors' medical negligence, Jennifer suffered irreversible brain damage. The irreversible brain damage ultimately led to Jennifer's death ten days later. According to the Chief Medical Examiner, the central cause of Jennifer's death was hypoxia (or oxygen deprivation) that occurred while under anesthesia.

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Another State Supreme Court Decides Caps On Damages

November 21, 2011

Over ten years ago, the Florida legislature passed a statute capping or limiting non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases to $500,000. Wrongful death cases are capped at $1 million. The Florida Supreme Court, like many other state supreme courts before it, is asked to decide whether its cap on damages is constitutional under its state constitution.

In personal injury and medical malpractice cases, a plaintiff may recover both economic damages and non-economic damages. When someone suffers a serious personal injury, they must usually undergo extensive medical treatment and miss considerable time from work. Economic damages are used to recover these financial losses. However, the most significant damages in a serious injury case are often non-economic damages such as when someone suffers a spinal cord injury, a brain injury, or birth injury. In those instances, a plaintiff may seek compensation for pain and suffering and disability or loss of a normal life. In wrongful death cases, a surviving spouse or child is entitled to compensation for the loss of companionship, support, and affection they lost because their parent and/or spouse is gone.

The cornerstone of the tort reform movement is to cap non-economic damages in personal injury, medical negligence, and wrongful death cases. There are various justifications given by tort reformers for caps. The primary justifications given is that caps on damages purportedly prevent frivolous lawsuits, prevent runaway jury verdicts, reduce healthcare costs, and/or prevent doctors from fleeing to states with caps on damages.

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Drunk Driving Around The Holidays: Don't Become A Statistic

November 18, 2011

The holidays are a wonderful way to spend time with friends and family. As the holiday season approaches, it is important to remember that we must all celebrate responsibly when it comes to drinking and driving. As a personal injury lawyer who has prosecuted drunk driving cases, I am all too familiar with the risks associated with drinking and driving.

Auto accidents are a leading cause of wrongful death and serious injury in the US. The addition of alcohol increases these risks exponentially. Almost one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the US involve at least one person impaired by alcohol. In fact, one person is injured in an alcohol-related accident every minute.

Many believe drunk driving will never impact their lives. However, one in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at one point in their life. For those lucky enough to avoid being a direct victim, nearly everyone will have a friend or family member who will be injured or killed in an alcohol-related accident.

Refusing to get behind the wheel while intoxicated dramatically reduces the risk of getting into an auto accident. However, even responsible people can, of course, still become a victim of drunk driving. There are many people who regularly drink and drive. In fact, a drunk driver will drive intoxicated about 80 times before their first arrest. Perhaps equally alarming, 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue driving on a suspended license.

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Illinois Officials Failed To Investigate Most Hospital Complaints

November 15, 2011

The Illinois Department of Public Health (or IDPH) was formed "to regulate medical practitioners." Medical practitioners include doctors and hospitals. The IDPH's is "responsible for protecting the state's 12.4 million residents...through prevention and control of disease and injury." Despite these obligations, the IDPH has failed to investigate 85% of hospital complaints it received last year including complaints of serious patient abuse and death.

Of the hospital complaints received by the IDPH, one included a bacterial infection that spread through Harrisburg Medical Center and killed at least one patient. During this time, nurses and doctors in that hospital reportedly failed to wear protective gloves and gowns--basic precautions used to reduce the spread of serious infection. In response, the IDPH declined to investigate. At Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital, the IDPH received a complaint a nurse misused an IV machine, resulting in a near fatal medication error. In response, the IDPH declined to investigate. In addition, the IDPH received complaints that patients at Greater Peoria Specialty Hospital were being left in their own feces and, as a result, developed dangerous infections. Once again, the IDPH declined to investigate.

Federal law requires that complaints of serious personal harm or death in hospitals be investigated within 48 hours. This law applies to all states, including Illinois. Despite these federal requirements, the IDPH usually never conducted any investigation into complaints of serious personal injury or wrongful death at anytime--let alone within 48 hours.

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Chicago Product Liability Suit Filed: Infant Suffocates In Baby Sling

November 14, 2011

On November 19, 2009, an infant under four months allegedly died from suffocation in a baby sling. The Illinois family hired a Chicago personal injury lawyer who filed suit against the manufacturer, Eddie Bauer, and others. According to the suit, the baby sling was defective because it failed to provide a safety mechanism to prevent infant suffocation and failed to adequately warn about these dangers. The suit alleges the baby sling forced the baby's chin to her chest causing "positional asphyxia" or oxygen deprivation from breathing difficulty.

The lawsuit filed by the Illinois family is a type of product liability, wrongful death case. A product liability lawsuit is a type of personal injury case. In a product liability lawsuits, there are several theories from which a party may recover, including strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty of merchantability. However, the primary argument for any product liability case is that the product is unreasonably dangerous. On occasion, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (or CPSC) investigates reports that a product has caused serious injury or death.

A baby sling is a popular product that allows parents or caregivers to literally wear their infants as they go about their busy lives. In March 2010, the CPSC issued a warning regarding the dangers of baby slings. The warning was issued after at least three babies died in baby slings in 2009 alone.

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Cosmetic Surgery On Patients By Non-Doctors - Yes It Happens

November 11, 2011

Last September, I wrote about the medical dangers of cheap cosmetic surgery by unqualified doctors. The article discussed the benefits of choosing a board certified cosmetic surgeon compared to often lesser-trained doctors. The article focused on differences among doctors--the key word being doctors. Unfortunately, there are some individuals performing cosmetic surgery on patients who are not even doctors. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, I cannot stress enough the surgical error risks associated with individuals performing surgery who are not licensed to practice medicine. A cheap cosmetic procedure is no bargain if you do not survive.

In order to become a licensed physician in the United States, extensive medical education and training is required. Following a four-year undergraduate degree, students wishing to become medical doctors must complete fours of education at medical school. After medical school, students earn their doctor of medicine. However, before practicing medicine on their own, these doctors must complete additional training in a three to seven year residency program under the supervision of a senior physician educator. Doctors completing their residency program may then practice medicine on their own although they have the option to receive additional training in a fellowship program. Fellowship trained physicians receive one to three years of additional training in a subspecialty.

Despite the fact becoming a doctor in the US requires extensive medical training, there are some who fraudulently hold themselves out as doctors even though they are not. Some of these people even perform medical procedures like plastic surgery--not only in third world countries--but right here in the United States. Consider the just one city, Las Vegas, Nevada. In the last two years, three people have been charged with performing cosmetic surgeries on patients in Las Vegas without a medical license.

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How Is Big Tobacco Doing Decade After Major Settlement?

November 7, 2011

Over a decade ago, the major four tobacco companies in the US entered into a major settlement agreement with 46 states. The settlement required Phillip Morris, RJ Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, and Lorriad to pay $206 billion dollars to these states over a 25-year period. As a Chicago personal injury lawyer, I was always curious to see how Big Tobacco would be doing a decade later. As it turns out, they are doing just fine.

According to the Centers Disease Control ("CDC"), adverse health effects from cigarette smoking cause an estimated 443,000 deaths in the US or nearly one in five deaths in the US. More deaths are caused by tobacco use than by all deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle accidents, suicides, and murders combined. Ninety percent of all chronic lung diseases are caused by smoking. Ninety percent of lung cancer deaths in men and eighty percent of lung cancer deaths in women are also caused by smoking.

In 1998, the largest US tobacco companies entered into a Master Settlement Agreement ("MSA") with all US states except four (who previously settled with US tobacco companies). The 46 states that signed the MSA sought recovery for massive healthcare expenses incurred by states from tobacco use. In exchange for $206 billion and limitations on marketing practices, the tobacco companies received blanket protection from private personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits for harm caused by tobacco use. Many experts believe shielding these companies from individual lawsuits saved the tobacco industry far more than what they agreed to pay out to the states under the MSA.

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