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ferris-wheel-SmallEach year, people across the country attend festivals and state fairs, many of which are held at local amusement parks. Patrons enjoy live music, food, and rides like Ferris wheels and roller coasters, and organizers consistently look for new ways to top the previous year’s event in terms of attractions, promotions, and entertainment. While these events are advertised as safe and family-friendly, troubling numbers continue to arise. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USPC), nearly 31,000 people were injured by amusement park attractions (such as rides) in 2016 alone.

Injuries at fairs and festivals can be caused by a number of reasons. Ride malfunctions are a common source of injury. In August 2017, a ride malfunctioned at the Wilson County (TN) fair, leaving eight people stranded in mid-air. In July 2017, an 18-year old died at the Ohio State Fair due to the Fire Ball ride malfunctioning. In 2016, 14 people were reported to have suffered injuries at the Delta Fair & Music Festival in Memphis due to a problem with the Moonraker ride. While the ride was in use, the ride’s computer detected a problem and began its shutdown procedure. Meanwhile, the ride’s operator tried to stop the ride, releasing the safety restraint prematurely. The result was a halted ride with customers falling and dangling in mid-air. Eight people were taken to the hospital.

Fairs also bring the potential for chaos and fights. For example, parents may be inclined to drop off their kids for the day or night, leaving them unsupervised. In addition, patrons under the influence of alcohol could cause problems with other guests. As such, festivals must provide proper security measures to maintain peace and order. The festival or fair should also create a risk management plan and put the pieces in place to properly execute it.

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Post-Accident-Car-Large-SmallBeing involved in a car accident is never a pleasant experience. Whether you are sitting still at a red light and get rear-ended, riding on a bus that crashes into another car, or clipped by a car while riding a bicycle, the potential for immediate pain is always there. Many car accident victims in Tennessee require medical assistance at the scene of the crash before being transported to a nearby hospital by ambulance. Severely injured victims may be airlifted. Others will try to deal with the pain on their own before choosing to seek treatment within the next few days. This will likely leave you wondering what exactly you may be entitled to under the law.

An accident can place a victim in a bind. With the cost of medical treatment in the United States continuing to rise, many people simply cannot afford unplanned expenses like these. It becomes even more difficult if the wreck renders the victim unable to work due to constant physical pain. A sudden lack of transportation is another issue altogether. If you were injured in a car accident, you are not alone in wondering about your rights under Tennessee law. Below are elements of damages that may apply to your case:

  • Property damage – If your vehicle was involved in the accident, your vehicle will either be deemed repairable or a total loss. If total loss, the law states you are entitled to fair market value (FMV) at the time of the accident. Other out of pocket expenses can be recovered, such as rental car fees, towing, storage, and damaged personal items.
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TalcumPowder2-SmallOn August 21, 2017, Johnson & Johnson was hit with the largest talcum powder jury verdict to date – $417 million. The case was tried in the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County, and the verdict is comprised of $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages. Plaintiff Eva Echeverria sued Johnson & Johnson, alleging she developed ovarian cancer after using talc-based products, including Baby Powder, for hygiene. Her attorneys argued to the jury that Johnson & Johnson engaged in a practice of encouraging women to use its talc-based products even though they had known for years about studies linking ovarian cancer to use of talc products in the genital region.

In recent years, thousands of women across the country have filed suit against Johnson & Johnson based on scientific links between talcum powder and ovarian cancer. The lawsuits claim that the company knew of dangers but concealed them from innocent consumers. Of those lawsuits, at least five have proceeded to trial in Missouri, with Johnson & Johnson losing all but one. In those cases, the juries awarded over $300 million collectively in the four trials in which the plaintiff was successful. Johnson & Johnson has vigorously disputed liability and claims it will appeal the California verdict discussed above.

When finding for the plaintiff, juries are sending a strong message to Johnson & Johnson and other product manufacturers by awarding punitive damages. This is a special class of damages designed to punish a defendant and deter others from engaging in similar practices in the future. While each state will have its own standards as to when punitive damages may apply, they are commonly awarded when a defendant maliciously, fraudulently, intentionally, or knowingly causes harm to an innocent consumer.

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ThinkstockPhotos-599896574-SmallA large auto recall is currently underway with General Motors (GM). More than 800,000 trucks are affected across the United States and Canada, including certain 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 trucks. The issue with this recall concerns power steering. These models have been found to suddenly lose power steering with no warning whatsoever to the driver. This is highly dangerous because a sudden loss of power steering could cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle.

Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the loss of power steering can occur when the vehicle is using certain levels of electrical power. This can be triggered when a vehicle is making a turn at low speed, among other actions. When such power steering problems occur, the driver could lose control of the steering wheel. While the power steering could ultimately return within as little as one second, the short period of time without it could result in a car accident if the driver does lose control of the vehicle. This is what has federal auto regulators worried and prompted the recall.

Per NHTSA guidelines, GM is required to notify all vehicle owners affected by this recall. To see if your vehicle is included, you can visit the NHTSA’s website. Some owners of these vehicles are no stranger to recalls, as these trucks were subject to a 2016 recall involving 3.64 million cars with airbag software problems.

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Crime-Scene-SmallRecent news reports have been littered with tragic and heartbreaking stories about criminal activity at places of business and apartment complexes. Crime in Memphis is up 10% this year. Sometimes, the victims were intentionally targeted through acts such as burglary, robbery, homicide, or sexual assault, to name a few. Other times, however, innocent bystanders were the ones who suffered harm while the perpetrator was committing the criminal act.

If this happens to you or a loved one, clearly the perpetrator will bear responsibility for the harm you suffer. However, the analysis does not end there. It may be that the property owner or manager also bears responsibility for what happened. For example, was the property located in a high-crime area? Was management aware of threats made? Was criminal activity on the premises foreseeable?

NST attorney Glenn Vines recently went on WREG Channel 3 Memphis to answer these questions and more. The interview can be found here. Topics discussed included inadequate security and the duties that property owners owe to customers and tenants in Tennessee. Many inadequate or negligent security cases arise in apartment complexes, shopping malls, and convenient stores, and the results are normally catastrophic. Injuries suffered can range from broken bones to paralysis to wrongful death.

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A California man, 35 years old, was awarded $9.8 million by a jury following a product liability trial concerning claims of a defective wheelchair designed and manufactured by Sunrise Medical LLC and later sold and repaired by National Seating and Mobility, Inc. The product at issue was the Quickie Q7 manual wheelchair. In 2014, the victim suffered a puncture wound from an inward-facing bolt on the chair. One month later, he suffered further injury to that area when a screw came loose and he was ejected from the wheelchair. He suffered a nerve injury that doctors advised may never resolve.

The victim sued for defective design, manufacture, failure to warn, and defective repairs. At issue during the 15-day trial was a design change made to the wheelchair back in 2013. The wheelchair manufacturer had received complaints that certain bolts on the wheelchair were backing out. Thus, the product was redesigned in a way that placed those bolts facing inwards. The victim was injured through one of those inward-facing bolts. The trial included proof and testimony from expert witnesses who claimed the bolts were not strong enough to support the average user, making the product unsafe and dangerous. The jury deliberated for two days, and the $9.8 verdict was broken down as follows:

  • $4.8 million in economic damages for a life care plan for the victim
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Did you know that you could be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in Mississippi while injured on the job, even if you are found to be at fault for speeding during an automobile accident? In a June 2016 decision (affirmed in July 2017) from the Mississippi Court of Appeals, a police officer for the City of Jackson was injured while speeding and on his way to an emergency call. His employer, the City, alleged that he was acting with a “willful intent to injure” himself, and based on this intent, that he should not be permitted to make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The case is City of Jackson v. Kearney Brown, No. 2016-WC-01164-COA.

The Mississippi Court of Appeals disagreed with the employer, stating that in the 10-0 decision mentioned above, that the police officer was entitled to benefits, regardless of his disputed fault. Workers’ compensation laws in the State of Mississippi cover injured workers who receive injuries by way of an accident arising out of the course and scope of their employment. However, workers’ compensation benefits will not be paid to an injured worker if they were injured by their willful intent. This test for willfulness is based on intent and whether the facts of the claim support a willful intent to injure oneself.

The attorneys for the employer above tried to argue that the police officer intentionally injured himself, which meant he should not be paid benefits owed to him pursuant to Mississippi law. The facts presented by the employee showed that he was injured by an accident, and therefore, he was entitled to his benefits.

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Driver fatigue is a widespread issue across the country. Research shows that drivers who are fatigued tend to exhibit many of the same side effects as drunk drivers – delayed reaction times, impaired judgment, and lapses in concentration, just to name a few. What has recently come to light is a troubling trend – Uber drivers working dangerously long shifts. According to USA Today, an Uber driver in Utah drove for 20 consecutive hours on at least one occasion last year to take advantage of a sudden spike in the hourly rate he could earn. Situations like this are occurring across the country. Uber drivers in the Seattle area are reported to work in excess of 16 consecutive hours.

As of this time, Uber does not cap the number of consecutive hours that its drivers can work. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits passenger-carrying vehicles to 10 hours of driving following 8 consecutive hours off duty, Uber vehicles do not fall under the definition of passenger-carrying vehicles. Thus, drivers would not be subject to federal hours-of-service guidelines. Lyft, on the other hand, has been reported to shut down its app after a driver has been logged on for 14 hours and will not let that user log back on until 6 hours after that.

According to Uber, only 7% of drivers work in excess of 50 hours per week. Further, Uber claims that it recognizes the dangers of drowsy driving, investigates instances of driver misconduct, and takes appropriate action when necessary.

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In the early hours of July 1, 2017, dozens of people were injured in a Little Rock, Arkansas, nightclub shooting. The shooting occurred in the middle of a concert at Power Ultra Lounge. In total, 28 people suffered injuries, with 25 of those people suffering injuries from gunshot wounds. One witness advised the shooting occurred during the middle of the performance, with more than 50 shots being fired. The Little Rock Police Department began investigating immediately following the shooting, and local police will receive assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well.

Government officials in Arkansas say this shooting is indicative of higher crime levels in Little Rock than in recent years. Between January and July 2017, for example, there have been 29 homicides in Little Rock. However, there were only 15 homicides during the same period of time in 2016. Violent crime in the area is also up more than 20% so far this year.

When a shooting, robbery, or other criminal act takes place at a private place of business, most immediately think of the criminal investigation that will take place and leave it at that. They think of yellow crime scene tape and officers flooding the scene to secure the premises and begin taking witness statements. The police will investigate and the perpetrator will then be charged and prosecuted in criminal court. However, in Arkansas, the analysis does not end there for victims of criminal attacks that were injured during the course and commission of a crime, including innocent bystanders.

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ThinkstockPhotos-525489094-MediumThe time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is often referred to as the “100 deadliest days of summer” around the Knoxville area. When the school year ends, more teenagers are out on the road during summer, either enjoying their time off or driving to and from summer jobs. In fact, AAA estimates that fatal teen accidents increase by 15% during the summer months. Leading causes of those wrecks are speeding, distracted driving, and not using seatbelts.

Teen driving is not just an issue in Knox County. Nationwide, motor vehicle wrecks are the leading cause of death for teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Data shows that on average, approximately 6 teens between the ages of 16-19 are killed each day as a result of a car accident.  Further, teens in that age range are nearly 3 times as likely to be involved in a fatal wreck than drivers who are 20 years old or older.

When discussing a link between teenage driving and car accidents, the CDC lists eight “danger zones.” They include the following: