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$4.75 Million Settlement in 2011 Philly Apartment Complex Fire

A group of more than 100 renters whose possessions were destroyed in a January 2011 apartment building fire in West Philadelphia have reached a $4.75 million settlement with the owners and property managers of the complex.

The settlement, which was announced in a Dec. 11 story in The Legal Intelligencer, came three days into a trial in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The massive five-alarm blaze, which occurred on Jan. 10, 2011 at the Windermere Court Apartments, destroyed the four-story building on 48th Street near Walnut Street.

The plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against the building’s owners, New Jersey-based brothers Sam, David and Aron Ginsberg, and their property management companies, alleging that “the Ginsbergs did not install a fire suppression sprinkler system in the apartment building, against the city’s fire code, nor did they identify vertical air shafts in the building that purportedly caused the fire to spread throughout the structure,” the story reported.

A firefighter battles a raging structure fire in this stock photo. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/chuckmoser

The lawsuit also alleged that the defendants failed to properly train an employee of the apartment building “who silenced the fire alarm by cutting power to it when it first sounded,” according to the report. “By deactivating the alarm, court papers said, the employee shut off the alarm’s zone feature that directs firefighters to the origin of the fire.”

Firefighters battled the blaze for more than five hours, and then the remains of the burned-out structure “remained untouched for weeks, without repairs or stabilization, court papers said,” while the defendants made no attempts to help the plaintiffs save any of their belongings that might have survived the fire, according to the story. Later, the remains of the burned-out building were demolished, again without regard to any tenant belongings that might have survived the blaze and the long-term exposure to the weather that followed.

Earlier in the legal proceedings, the defendants had offered to settle the case with the more than 100 plaintiffs for a total of $1.5 million, which was rejected, the report stated.

The defendants argued in court that he building’s fire alarm did sound and that all of the occupants who were home were evacuated safely, while the building complied with the existing fire code and did not require a sprinkler system, the story reported. The defendants also argued that the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections had declared the building “imminently dangerous,” making it illegal to enter, and had ordered the demolition of the property.

“The defendants are not aware of a single decision by this commonwealth, or the enactment of any legislation, imposing duty on an actor that would require him to ‘place life and limb in peril,’” defense papers said, according to the report.

Civil lawsuits like this one occur every day when innocent victims suffer property or personal losses or are hurt or killed in a wide variety of incidents through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in an incident or vehicle accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

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$2.5M Verdict to Wife of Man Killed By Drunk Driver in Dram Shop Case

A $2.5 million jury verdict has been received by the wife of a Perry County, Pa., man who was killed in a 2013 car crash with a drunken driver.

The drunken driver, Jason R. Madden, 32, had been served alcoholic beverages in a local bar for more than six hours before getting behind the wheel and causing the crash, according to a Nov. 18 story in The Legal Intelligencer.

The crash killed Keith Kerlin, 42, who was driving east in the eastbound lane of Route 22/322 in his Oldsmobile vehicle on March 12, 2013, at 1:08 a.m. in Greenwood Township in Perry County, according to the story.

Madden’s car struck Kerlin’s vehicle head-on, killing them both, according to a March 13, 2013 story in The (Carlisle) Sentinel. Madden was traveling the wrong way – driving westbound in the eastbound lanes – when his Lexus crashed straight into Kerlin’s vehicle, the paper reported.

Image credit © iStockphoto.com by creatingmore

Madden had been drinking alcoholic beverages including beer and hard liquor at a bar called the Creekside Inn, starting at roughly 6:10 p.m. that day and continuing for more than six hours, according to The Legal Intelligencer story. He was “extremely intoxicated” at the time of the impact, with a blood alcohol content of .268 percent, according to family’s lawsuit.

Other patrons offered to give Madden a ride home after he became intoxicated and when it was “obvious that he could not safely operate his own motor vehicle,” the lawsuit stated. A bartender had “flagged” Madden because he was intoxicated, but “Madden continued to order and was served alcohol,” the complaint alleged.

The bar denied any wrong-doing and “and contended that it did not fail to properly train its employees so as to prevent them from serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons, as the plaintiff had alleged,” the Intelligencer story reported.

The verdict was reached by a 12-member Perry County jury after two hours of deliberations, following a two-day trial, the story reported. The deceased driver who caused the crash, Madden, was found to be 80 percent negligent in the crash, while the bar that served him, the Creekside Inn, was found to be 20 percent negligent, the story reported.

The jury awarded $1 million for wrongful death and $1.5 million for a survival action to Kerlin’s widow, Terri, the story reported.

Under dram shop laws, bar owners and other people who make a profit selling alcohol are responsible for the consequences of continuing to serve alcohol to someone who is over the limit. Dram laws also apply if the person who is served alcohol is underage. By serving additional drinks to someone and then allowing them to leave the establishment in that condition, tavern owners can be held responsible for injuries to others. If a person is visibly intoxicated, the law says that a tavern owner should cease serving alcohol at that point.

Pennsylvania’s Dram shop liability law is named for a “dram shop,” which is a 1700’s term for a tavern that sold alcoholic drinks by the then-popular dram, which is a small unit of measure. The dram laws are there to help victims and their families when they are hugely impacted through the deaths of loved ones at the hands of drunk drivers whose drinking binges are not halted by the keen observations of restaurant and bar staff members in a moment’s notice. Dram shop rules exist to protect society as a whole and to punish bars and restaurants that continue to serve alcohol to customers who are already intoxicated.

Tavern owners must know that continuing to serve patrons once they are intoxicated is not acceptable, and that they will be held accountable. In this case the dram shop laws were upheld.

With the holidays here, this case is a stark reminder of the dangers of drinking and driving as well.

These kinds of legal cases occur every day when innocent victims are severely hurt or killed in vehicle crashes through no fault of their own due to the actions, inattentiveness or indifference of others. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle incident or accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

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Woman Cleared in Crash Death Due to Defective G.M. Ignition Switch

Ten years ago, on Nov. 15, 2004, Gene Mikale Erickson, then 25, was killed in a car crash when his fiancé lost control of the 2004 Saturn Ion car they were traveling in and crashed into a tree near Tyler, Texas.

The fiancé, Candice Anderson, who was 21 at the time of the crash, pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide, underwent five years of probation, paid more than $10,000 in fines and restitution and has since been wracked with guilt and sadness about the crash.

Anderson’s anguish has been lessened recently, now that a Texas judge has cleared her of wrongdoing in Erickson’s death due to an admission by General Motors, the makers of the Saturn automobile she was driving, that the crash was caused by a defective ignition switch that removed control of the vehicle from Anderson as she drove it that fateful day.

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/creatingmore

The astonishing turn of events was reported Nov. 24 in a story by The New York Times, which described how G.M. “for the first time publicly linked Mr. Erickson’s death to an ignition switch defect in millions of its small cars.” It was, however, a long delayed admission.

Anderson “received the bittersweet news [Nov. 24] in a Texas courtroom, fighting back tears, and [with] her arm around the mother of the boyfriend she had felt responsible for killing” in the crash, the paper reported.

On the day of the car crash, she had “inexplicably lost control” and struck a tree, the Times reported. Erickson died at the scene.

“Ms. Anderson’s Saturn Ion was among the cars equipped by G.M. with the defective switch, which can cause a loss of power, disabling power brakes, power steering and airbags,” the story reported. “At least 35 deaths have been linked to the defect, which went unreported by G.M. for more than a decade.”

Tragically, in May 2007, five months before Ms. Anderson entered her guilty plea, “G.M. had conducted an internal review of the crash and quietly ruled its car was to blame, but never let Ms. Anderson or local law enforcement officials know,” the story continued.

She suffered serious injuries in the accident, including a lacerated liver, “but the guilt surrounding her own survival and her boyfriend’s death caused her more enduring pain,” she told the paper. “This will change so many things,” Anderson told the paper in the telephone interview following the judge’s ruling.

“The automaker’s public acknowledgment linking Ms. Anderson’s crash to the defective ignition switch came in a letter from G.M.’s lawyers that was submitted by her lawyers to the district judge in Van Zandt County, Tex.,” the paper reported.

The information about the ignition switch problems could have had a huge difference in her case had it been available at the time of the crash, the Times reported. “The district attorney who prosecuted Ms. Anderson, Leslie Poynter Dixon, and the police trooper who investigated the accident had both said that if the ignition-switch defect had been publicly known at the time of the crash, certain details of the accident — like the lack of skid marks or evasive action — would have been seen differently.”

Dixon, the district attorney, wrote a letter in support of Anderson to the Texas court in July, according to the Times. “Had I known at the time that G.M. knew of these issues and has since admitted to such, I do not believe the grand jury would have indicted her for intoxication manslaughter,” Dixon wrote.

In May, the Times reported that “General Motors considered Mr. Erickson a victim of its faulty ignition switch.”

Anderson learned of her accident’s inclusion in G.M.’s records only after Erickson’s mother demanded confirmation from federal regulators, the paper reported.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has called Anderson’s original indictment “a perversion of the justice process” and pushed for a pardon in her case, the Times reported.

Blumenthal praised the ruling that has freed Anderson, according to the paper. “Her plight demonstrates just how far the consequences of General Motors’ concealment go, hurting not just direct victims of defective cars but also those who were blamed for the accidents even when G.M. knew full well what the cause had been,” he said.

The court ruling that acquitted Anderson in this tragic case was a decade too late, but was absolutely the right thing to do. There could be more victims of similar miscarriages of justice in connection with G.M.’s defective ignition switch fiasco, so this scenario could yet be repeated elsewhere in the United States.

The most important thing here is that justice was finally served and that an innocent woman has been cleared in a horrific, tragic crash that was not her fault and that caused the death of her fiancé 10 years ago.

These kinds of legal cases occur every day when innocent victims are severely hurt or killed in vehicle crashes through no fault of their own due to the actions, inattentiveness or indifference of others. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle incident or accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

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N.Y. Ferry Crash Survivor Gets $5M Settlement for Severe Injuries

A 43-year-old New Jersey man recently received a $5 million settlement in connection with a 2013 ferry crash in lower Manhattan in New York City that left him severely injured.

John Urbanowicz suffered a skull fracture and brain injuries and underwent multiple surgeries to treat his devastating injuries after the ferry crash, according to a Nov. 20 story by The Associated Press.

“More than 80 people were injured on Jan. 9, 2013 when the Wall Street-bound Seastreak crashed into a dock near the South Street Seaport, sending people tumbling down stairs and into walls,” the story reported.

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/twilightproductions

Several other settlements were also made for other ferry passengers affected by the crash, including a $560,000 settlement for Samantha Bremekamp, who suffered back and brain injuries and had spine fusion surgery, and Richard Diver, who will receive $325,000 for a concussion and back injuries that required spine fusion surgery, the story reported.

The settlements were reached with Seastreak LLC, which owns the ferry. About a dozen plaintiffs still have claims pending against Seastreak, while many other claims involving less serious injuries were settled for amounts less than $100,000, the story continued.

“A report released by the National Transportation Safety Board in April faulted ferry captain Jason Reimer for leaving the vessel running on a rarely used backup system that left him unable to control it as it approached the pier,” according to the AP. “The report also faulted Seastreak for ‘ineffective oversight’ and said Reimer was hampered by a lack of training and familiarity with the backup system.”

The captain had “switched to the system after sensing a vibration in a propeller just north of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, about halfway in the commuter ferry’s midmorning run from Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, to lower Manhattan, investigators concluded,” the story reported. “In backup mode, the propellers remain angled forward, causing the ferry to increase speed instead of slowing down,” which was a factor that contributed to the severity of the crash.

Personal injury cases like this one occur every day when innocent victims are seriously injured or killed in a wide variety of incidents through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in an incident or vehicle accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

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$400,000 Settlement to Woman Who Fell From Backyard Deck

As she relaxed on the backyard deck of her rental home on in Rossville, N.Y., on July 21, 2011, Lorraine Gallo leaned on the deck’s railing and was severely injured when the railing broke and she fell to the ground below.

Gallo, now 55, suffered neck, back and knee injuries from the fall, which occurred at home she rented on Barry Street in Rossville, according to an Oct. 28 story in the Staten Island Advance newspaper.

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/courtneyk

Gallo’s lawsuit against her landlords, Z & F Realty Estate LLC and David Fogel, alleged that the property owners were liable for her injuries because they allowed an unsafe condition to exist, the story reported.

Prior to Gallo’s fall from the deck that summer, the property owners “had the railing installed and later repaired at some point before the episode,” the paper reported.

Gallo’s serious neck injuries from the deck fall required fusion surgery, according to court papers reviewed by the newspaper.

Personal injury cases like this one occur every day when innocent victims are hurt or killed in a wide variety of incidents through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in an incident or vehicle accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

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$9.9 Million Verdict Against Mazda in Fiery, Deadly Car Crash

Mazda Motor Corp. has been ordered by an Alabama jury to pay a total of $9.9 million to a young woman who survived a fiery November 2010 car crash and to the family of her 15-year-old passenger who was killed after being trapped in the burning wreckage.

Following a three-week trial, the jury awarded $6 million to Sydney McLemore, who survived the crash but suffered serious burns over 15 percent of her body, and $3.9 million to the parents of Natalie Hurst, who died due to the resulting fire, according to an Oct. 20 report in The Birmingham News. The crash occurred on the Ross Bridge Parkway in Birmingham, Ala., when the 2008 Mazda 3 automobile that McLemore was driving struck a power pole at 3:24 a.m. McLemore was 16 years old at the time of the crash, according to newspaper reports.

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/Svenler

The lawsuit alleged the vehicle was defectively designed with the fuel tank placed next to a hard metal muffler with a sharp edge and no protective shielding, which caused the fuel tank to rupture when it was struck by the muffler during the crash, the story reported. The impact allowed fuel to be ignited by the hot muffler and exhaust system.  The complaint alleged Mazda should have been aware the design would lead to the likelihood of such a fire and that it “posed an unreasonable risk to vehicle occupants,” the story continued.

Mazda denied the allegations and said that its vehicle “met and exceeded all government standards” for safety, the story reported. “This accident represents the only claim, lawsuit or consumer complaint that has been made regarding a 2004 – 2009 Mazda3 alleging that a post-collision fuel fed fire resulted from any defect with that vehicle.  Mazda is currently considering all possible grounds for appeal,” the company said in a statement to the newspaper.

The lawsuit was tried under the state’s product liability law, called the Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine, The Birmingham News reported. The plaintiffs argued that the car was built to specifications, but that the design was defective, the paper reported.

“Originally Mazda claimed that there had never been a post collision fire involving a Mazda 3, but attorneys were able to show through government databases that there were nine post collision fuel fire fatalities,” an attorney in the case told the paper.

These kinds of injury cases occur every day when innocent victims are severely hurt or killed in vehicle crashes through no fault of their own due to the actions, inattentiveness or indifference of others. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle incident or accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

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