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Montgomery County Man Awarded $4 Million Verdict After Errant Cyst Surgery

In July of 2009, 29-year-old Jeffrey Hierholzer of Hatboro, Montgomery County, went in to his doctor’s office to have a cyst removed from his neck. Shortly after the surgery, however, he began feeling pain and weakness in his shoulder near the site of the cyst surgery.

In a decision handed down Aug. 22, a Montgomery County jury awarded Hierholzer $4 million in damages for his injuries after he sued the doctor for the errant procedure that left his shoulder permanently weakened, according to a Sept. 3 story in The Legal Intelligencer.

Hierholzer’s physician, Dr. Harris Cohen of Hatboro Medical Associates, had examined the patient and diagnosed the lump on his neck as a cyst, the report stated. Harris later performed an “incision and drainage” procedure to treat the cyst, “but did not perform a complete head and neck evaluation before rendering the diagnosis,” according to a statement by Hierholzer.

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/Oxford

When Hierholzer returned to Harris’ office in July 2009 for a follow-up visit after the surgery, the patient again complained of pain to Cohen, according to the story.  “Hierholzer claimed in his pretrial memorandum that for several months after the July 31 follow-up visit, he experienced ‘progressive weakness and loss of normal use of his left shoulder,’ with persistent pain and discomfort felt when performing certain physical activities and sleeping,” the story reported.

Almost a year later, the patient was examined by another doctor in Harris’ office after his left arm continued to suffer weakness and related problems, the story reported. The second doctor “thought there was a possibility that Hierholzer’s left trapezius muscles were atrophied” and sent him to an orthopedic surgeon for follow-up and testing.

A related story from The Bucks County Courier Times reported that “an orthopedic surgeon and later a neurosurgeon determined that the spinal accessory nerve, a major motor nerve coming off the cervical spinal cord, was severed during the cyst removal and couldn’t be repaired, according to court documents.”

A follow-up surgery that attempted to repair the patient’s nerve damage was unsuccessful, according to The Legal Intelligencer. The victim’s lawsuit “alleged that Cohen’s ‘failure to protect and preserve the spinal accessory nerve’ caused a permanent injury, impairing the use of Hierholzer’s left shoulder and significantly limiting his ability to perform his duties as an HVAC mechanic,” the story reported.

After hearing the testimony in the case, the jury awarded Hierholzer $1 million for past pain and suffering and $3 million for future pain and suffering, according to the report.

This tragic case is a somber reminder of the kinds of problems that can arise when patients seek medical treatment in doctor’s offices, hospitals and other medical facilities and become innocent victims of inadequate or incorrect procedures.

Patients and their families must be vigilant about the medical care they receive so they know what is being done for a patient’s care every step of the way. But at the same time, patients and families aren’t doctors and they can’t know every question to ask.

That’s where skilled, expert, compassionate and thorough legal representation is needed by patients and their families who have been harmed by medical errors or omissions during their treatment. These kinds of cases happen on a regular basis, but they can be fought by legal teams that are prepared to battle for their clients’ rights all along the way to a fair settlement or to a just verdict.

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 medical malpractice or related case 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.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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MyPhillyLawyer’s Court Radio Expands to 2 More Radio Stations

MyPhillyLawyer’s four-year-old “Court Radio” show, which is broadcast at 7 a.m. ET every Sunday on 100.3 FM in Philadelphia, is now expanding to two additional radio stations starting this Sunday, Sept. 8.

The call-in radio show, which features listeners asking questions about their legal concerns and problems involving a wide variety of scenarios, has been a Sunday morning staple in the Philadelphia area since January of 2009 on Old School 100.3 FM, which was formerly known as WRNB.

Starting Sept. 8, Court Radio will now also be carried live on Hot 107.9 and on Praise 103.9 in Philadelphia as the popular radio program brings its legal advice, comfort, folksy assistance and humor to more callers who have legal questions and want to get help from a lawyer. All three stations are part of the Radio One network.

Attorney Dean I. Weitzman, the host of "Court Radio."

This is an exciting moment for MyPhillyLawyer and Court Radio as we expand our help and expertise to more people across the Delaware Valley and the country.  I’ve been hosting the show since its start, along with my co-host and fellow attorney David M. Rapoport. Each week listeners can call in with their legal questions to 215-263-1003 in the Philadelphia area or they can also email their questions to us at AskDean@CourtRadio.com. Participants are asked to only ask or submit ONE question each time so that all callers have a chance to discuss the legal topics that are on their minds.

Listeners who are outside the Philadelphia metropolitan area can listen to Court Radio over the Internet as well. The broadcasts can be heard on web sites for Old School 100.3, Hot 107.9 or  Praise 103.9. You can even listen to past shows and their featured guests by downloading or listening to stored podcasts.

Each week, I bring in a special guest to answer your legal questions and provide information on a dizzying array of legal topics, all with humor, good advice and at no charge to callers. Recent show topics have covered a myriad of legal topics, including car scams, landlord tenant issues, workplace discrimination, birth injuries, auto insurance, medical malpractice and much more.

This Sunday Sept. 8,our in-studio guest for our show will be Pennsylvania State Rep. Jordan Harris, who will discuss his recent legislation, House Bills 908 and 909, which would allow the expungement of some criminal records for some former offenders.

This issue is a very pertinent matter for many people. Our topic, Re-Examining Expungement –Should a Criminal Record Follow You For Life? – will raise intriguing questions about whether or not past mistakes should ever be removed from a person’s record within the legal system. One in five Philadelphians have criminal records.  Some persons have served their time and have stayed out of trouble with the law; but are still dogged by their record which bars them from employment and other opportunities. Some 122,000 city residents have been released from prison between 2009 and 2012, and the city’s poverty rate has increased from 24 percent to 28 percent over the same period, according to statistics. Harris will discuss why he feels it important for certain criminal records to be expunged and discuss why it is crucial for the bill to be passed.

In November 2011, MyPhillyLawyer celebrated the 10th anniversary of the creation of the MyPhillyLawyer brand in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. From the streets of Philadelphia’s incredible neighborhoods to the Jersey Shore, to Delaware, Maryland and north to Allentown, Easton and Bethlehem, the attorneys and staff of MyPhillyLawyer work hard every day to serve a diverse range of clients who are involved in a myriad of legal cases.

Court Radio is brought to you each week by the law offices of Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., which is known throughout the Philadelphia area as MyPhillyLawyer. The original firm, Silvers & Langsam, was started in 1976 by the late Arnold Silver and Saul Langsam, who remains with the firm today. Later, Dean Weitzman joined the firm, eventually inspiring another name change for the firm to Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman. Today, MyPhillyLawyer is the online and public face of the firm and its attorneys and staff.

I welcome you and personally invite you to listen in each week to Court Radio and to participate in our discussions. We’d love to hear from you and discuss your concerns and the legal issues that you might be facing.

Over the years, the MyPhillyLawyer Web site has grown to include a large number of useful resources for clients and prospective clients. There’s our own MyPhillyLawyer Blog page, where you can read about a wide range of legal issues and cases in the news and get advice, insights and great information. You can also find MyPhillyLawyer on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  Feel free to check in regularly on each site and subscribe to our Facebook posts, Twitter Tweets and YouTube videos so you can stay up to date on what we are up to here at MyPhillyLawyer. Don’t forget to send in your comments and questions, too.

The compassionate and skilled attorneys and staff 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 or is involved in a wide variety of other legal matters. 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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Recent Fatal Falls in Sports Stadiums Spur Design Attention; Lawsuits Likely

When 30-year-old Ronald Lee Homer Jr. accidentally fell to his death from an upper level of Turner Field in Atlanta earlier in August while he was attending a baseball game, the 42-inch-high railing he apparently fell over became a key topic.

He knew the stadium well as a longtime regular attendee, according to a story by The Associated Press.  The 6-foot-6-inch-tall baseball enthusiast was apparently waiting out a rain delay in a fourth-level smoking area near a 42-inch-tall railing when he somehow fell 85 feet to his death in a parking lot below, the story said.

“While it’s not clear exactly why he fell, police say the death around 8:30 appears to have been an accident and didn’t involve foul play,” the story reported. “At least four witnesses told police that no one else was standing near him when he fell.”

A man watches a sporting event in an indoor stadium. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/Jitalia17

There have been other fatal incidents like this one in recent years in stadiums. In Georgia alone, two other stadium falls occurred in the past year, causing one death, according to The AP story. “Isaac Grubb, 20, of Lenoir City, Tenn., died after falling over a railing at the Georgia Dome during a football game between Tennessee and North Carolina State on Aug. 31, 2012. Authorities said he landed on another man seated in the lower level, and that alcohol was involved.”

In a non-fatal incident in September 2012, a man fell about 25 feet over a staircase railing at a Georgia Tech-Miami football game in the Georgia Dome but was not seriously injured, according to the story. “In May 2008, a 25-year-old Cumming, Ga. man suffered head injuries when he fell down a stairwell at Turner Field during a game between the Braves and the New York Mets and later died. Police found that alcohol was involved.”

In July 2011, a well-publicized case involved the death of a baseball fan, firefighter Shannon Stone, who fell to his death at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, when he reached out from his upper level seat to try to catch a ball tossed his way by a player, according to related AP story. Stone’s 6-year-old son was with him when the accident happened. In that stadium, “the guardrails in front of the left-field seats were 34 inches, well above local and international building requirements,” the story reported. “After Stone’s fall, the Rangers raised all front-row railings that were above field level to at least 42 inches, with some being raised by more than a foot. The new raised railings in the $1.1 million project included beveled tops and leaned slightly inward, making it safer for fans in front-row seats throughout the stadium.

Under present laws, stadiums must meet strict safety guidelines to ensure the safety of attendees, according to the AP story. “The International Building Code is the industry standard, adopted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It calls for railings in front of seats to be a minimum of 26 inches. Protective railings in open-sided areas, such as concourses on the outer edges of stadiums, have a minimum height requirement of 42 inches.”

Certainly, not all incidents and accidents, including falls, can be stopped, but perhaps more must be done to ensure that people can attend events in stadiums without real possibilities of death or serious injury just because they showed up for an event.

Are stadiums across the United States safe enough today? This is a question we should all be asking after a string of unrelated fatal accidents over the last few years. Yes, the likelihood of such an accident appears to be remote compared to auto crashes, medical malpractice injuries and other tragedies, but asking the questions today is certainly warranted due to the recent death of Mr. Homer.

Surely, as stadiums look at their existing designs and safety precautions, they will likely make some corrections to resolve any shortcomings they might find. Those changes could set precedents for lawsuits that come out of these kinds of cases, because by making changes, the stadiums will be acknowledging that there were potential and perhaps contributory safety problems in the first place. It is likely that legal actions, including lawsuits, will follow these kinds of cases.

If you’ve ever read the back of an admission ticket for a sporting event, including a baseball, hockey, football or basketball game, you’ve certainly seen all the legal disclaimers that say that you accept the risks of attending and don’t hold the team or venue responsible in the event you are injured. Even though those disclaimers are presented, they don’t always preclude a victim from suing in the event of an injury on the premises. Generally speaking in Pennsylvania, these kinds of ticket disclaimers are adequate to prevent you from suing a sports team or venue if you are injured by a flying object during a game, such as a baseball, hockey puck or basketball. By accepting the terms of the ticket, you’re also not able to sue even if you are injured by a player who leaves the game field accidentally and falls on you as they participate in a game.

The ticket disclaimer is a legal agreement that says that you accept the risks of being there and hold the venue and team free of responsibility in the event of a game-related injury. By accepting the disclaimer, you agree to pay attention to the game and protect yourself and guests from any injuries by being aware and responsible. But what if you go to a game in a stadium and the seat you sit on buckles and you fall and are injured? What if a rowdy, drunk fan gets in your face and beats you up? What if you trip on a broken step and fall and are injured?

In those kinds of cases, that ticket disclaimer means nothing. In cases like these, even with a standard disclaimer, you can sue the venue and team for your injuries, medical bills and pain and suffering because they were not accepted risks of the event that you attended.

Of course, being observant of potential dangers and using care and common sense when attending events in public stadiums can go far toward protecting people from possible dangers or death. But sometimes, no matter how much care people observe their surroundings and the conditions around them, tragedies do occur.

If you or a loved one is ever injured in a stadium accident or incident, be sure that you get professional and competent legal advice from a lawyer who is qualified in personal injury law. The compassionate and skilled attorneys and staff at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in such an incident anywhere in the United States or is involved in a wide variety of other legal matters. 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 Million Verdict for Victim in Vaginal Mesh Implant Case in West Virginia

A West Virginia woman has been awarded $2 million in damages after she suffered severe pain, bleeding and bladder spasms following vaginal mesh implant surgery back in 2009.

And even more powerful, the woman’s devastating injuries and the tragic case are just the tip of the iceberg. There are some 8,000 similar lawsuits pending against the makers of the vaginal mesh devices involved in this case. Thousands of other lawsuits are also pending against the makers of similar, competing devices in the medical marketplace.

In the latest case in West Virginia, Donna Cisson, a public-health nurse from Toccoa, Georgia, sued vaginal mesh implant maker C.R. Bard after she received an Avaulta Plus implant in 2009 and began to suffer severe complications following the surgery, according to a story by Bloomberg News Service.

Vaginal mesh surgeries over the last few years are resulting in severe injuries and large lawsuits for thousands of victims due to improper materials, procedures and medical information. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/uchar

Cisson underwent the vaginal mesh surgery to repair internal organ collapse that she was experiencing in her pelvic area, according to the story. Following the initial installation of the device, she later had several additional surgeries to remove the materials after she began suffering pain, bleeding and bladder spasms, the story reported. Cisson blamed the Avaulta mesh for causing her injuries and pain and suffering. She was awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages by a jury for her injuries, along with an additional $1.75 million in punitive damages, according to the report. “Her lawyers argued during the two-week trial that Bard officials put profits ahead of safety by ignoring warnings about defects in the Avaulta implants,” the story reported.

Bard “pulled the Avaulta implants off the market last year after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered all makers of the devices to study rates of organ damage, infection and pain during sex linked to their products,” Bloomberg reported. “Jurors found that Bard officials defectively designed the Avaulta implants and failed to properly warn doctors and women about the mesh’s flaws. They also found that company officials’ mishandling of the devices amounted to ‘malice, fraud or wantonness’ that deserved punishment, according to the verdict form in the case,” reported Bloomberg.

In February 2013, another vaginal mesh surgery victim, Linda Gross, 47, of Watertown, S.D., was awarded $11.1 million in damages for her injuries, which were caused by multiple surgeries that left her with serious pain and ongoing health problems. That case was the first verdict in about 4,000 lawsuits filed by plaintiffs against Johnson & Johnson. In that case, the jury ruled that while the product used in Gross’ surgeries was not defectively designed, “the company did not give surgeons adequate warnings about risks of the product and that a misrepresentation was made to Gross,” according to a story at that time by The Associated Press.

Vaginal mesh implants, which were a popular alternative to traditional hysterectomies in patients in recent years, are used to treat pelvic organ prolapse (POP), which occurs in women when the cervix, uterus, bladder or other reproductive organs slip down into the vagina due to the weakening of pelvic muscles. To treat such patients, surgeons often have turned to surgical mesh products that allow the reconstruction of the pelvic walls. The surgical mesh is designed to keep the organs in place and resolve the painful and debilitating medical complications caused by POP. Instead, however, many women who undergo the surgery have been finding out that the supposed “cure” is as bad or worse than the condition they were suffering in the first place.  The use of the surgical mesh products have often caused higher rates of pain, bleeding and infection than surgery involving traditional stitches, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report.

In 2010, there were at least 100,000 POP repairs that used surgical mesh, according to statistics from the FDA. About 75,000 of these were transvaginal procedures, or surgeries that were performed through the vagina.

The Cisson and Gross cases are tragic examples of injuries that have been becoming all too common in the last few years, and it has led to an increasing number of lawsuits against the makers of other such devices, including Bard, of Murray Hill, N.J., and Endo Health Solutions Inc. of Chadds Ford, Pa.

In June of 2012, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would stop selling four types of surgical mesh implant products. The mesh products had been linked to injuries and triggered about 600 lawsuits against the company at that time. J&J said the products were safe and that its action wasn’t a recall of the products, but just an end to their sales.

In November 2012, a Texas woman sued another vaginal mesh manufacturer for causing serious injuries after her procedures.

Women have been injured through these kinds of surgeries because the vaginal mesh manufacturers released and sold products which continue to be problematic for thousands of patients. Instead of being led by concerns over clear patterns of serious medical problems from these products, the manufacturers continue to be motivated only by profit and sales, harming the patients who are being victimized by vaginal mesh implants.

Serious injuries due to defective vaginal mesh products are a real health problem for a growing number of women across the United States. Patients who suffer from the crippling injuries caused by these defective mesh devices need skilled, compassionate and dedicated legal teams to help them recover damages for their injuries, pain and suffering.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a case involving vaginal mesh devices and products anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims 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, 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.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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The Right Move: U.S. Aims to Finally Reform Overly Harsh Drug Sentences

In the United States, there is a higher percentage of people incarcerated behind prison bars than in any other nation in the world. Yes, many of them are murderers, rapists, muggers and other dangerous, hard-core criminals. At the same time, though, many are also non-violent, low-level drug dealers who have been imprisoned for long stretches of time due to mandatory minimum sentences that were adopted around the nation to show citizens that their local officials were tough on crime.

The problem with that policy is due to mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug dealers, most of them are locked up for far longer terms than much more dangerous criminals who have carried out far more vile crimes, including murder, rape and robbery.

Now, finally, that could begin to change.

A drug trafficking suspect is arrested by a drug enforcemenrt officer in this stock photo.  Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/walik

A drug trafficking suspect is arrested by a drug enforcemenrt officer in this stock photo. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/walik

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced earlier this week that he is directing federal prosecutors around the nation to “charge defendants in certain low-level drug cases in such a way that they would not be eligible for mandatory sentences now on the books,” according to an Aug. 12 story by Reuters. The idea, according to the Obama administration, is that such steps would “fix what it considers the longstanding unjust treatment of many nonviolent drug offenders” while also “reducing America’s huge prison population and saving billions of dollars.”

In a nation where many school systems are struggling to hold their budgets together to teach their students, many critics have been vocal for some time over the huge amounts of money our government puts into prisons while cutting back educational programs for our children.

“Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason,” Holder said in a speech in San Francisco at a conference of the American Bar Association, where he unveiled the proposals, according to Reuters. To make this happen, prosecutors would no longer designate the amount of drugs involved in a case so that “nonviolent defendants without significant criminal history would not get long sentences.”

At least one other proposal by Holder, giving federal judges the discretion to not use mandatory minimum sentence guidelines for some drug crimes, would require congressional approval, the story reported.

Holder’s policy changes affect cases involving low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels, he said in his speech, reported Reuters. Under his new directives, those criminals “will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences,” he said. “As the so-called war on drugs enters its fifth decade, we need to ask whether it, and the approaches that comprise it, have been truly effective.”

Prison population rates vary around the world from country to country, but the rates are led by the United States, which has imprisoned 716 of every 100,000 citizens, according to statistics maintained by the International Centre for Prison Studies, which assists governments and other agencies to develop appropriate policies on prisons and the use of imprisonment. In Cuba, where dissidents are imprisoned by the dictatorial rule of its government, the rate is only 510 for each 100,000 residents, according to the Centre. The number of prisoners in other nations range from 284 in Iran, to 149 in England and Wales to 121 in China and 98 in Austria. The lowest rate is 6 in San Marino, according to the Centre’s statistics.

These statistics show the outrageousness of our policies here in the United States. The long-ago decision to fight a “war on crime” across the nation has not solved our societal problems of gun violence, murder, and other major crimes. Instead, it has been filling our expensive to run prisons with larger numbers of drug dealers who are being sentenced to artificially inflated sentences that make law-makers feel good while not truly serving the interests of our citizenry.

Local governments today, from Philadelphia to Montgomery County to Bucks County in Pennsylvania to New Jersey, Delaware and everywhere in between, cannot afford to house all of the petty criminals that the “lock them up and throw away the keys” officials want to see incarcerated. Unfortunately our country is run by too many politicians who are only concerned with re-election and with voicing messages that will get them more votes, such as “I’m tough on criminals.”

It is about time that our national government takes the lead on this important issue so that we can begin to shrink the size of our prison populations that are eating up scarce government dollars that could be better spent on education, technology, the economic recovery, roads and highways, social services for the elderly and poor and many other vastly more important needs.

A documentary film I watched earlier this year, “The House I Live In,” which was produced by a talented director named Eugene Jarecki, laid bare the notion that the “War on Drugs” was never really even about drugs at all, but about a “war on people.”  This alleged war should be more accurately entitled the war of the powerful on the powerless.

Those federal sentencing guidelines enacted by Congress decades ago originally sentenced drug defendants who were caught with crack cocaine to sentences that are 100 times longer than sentences meted out to drug defendants who are caught with the exact same amount of powder cocaine. That means the people caught for using small amounts of drugs were sentenced to exponentially longer prison sentences than the bad guys who are distributing and selling large amounts of drugs.  Only recently, that particular sentencing guideline has been reduced to give crack cocaine defendants sentences that are “only” 18 times longer than those for powder cocaine defendants. As a result, with only 5 percent of the world’s population, America now houses 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer applaud the changes begun by Attorney General Holder and we look forward to the intelligent, reasonable and ground-breaking changes and discussions that it will put into motion. It’s time to stop the outdated, wrong and unfair drug sentencing guidelines created by national leaders of the past from destroying the very fabric of America. We may be an imperfect people but should the solution to imperfection be the incarceration of generation after generation?

The compassionate and skilled attorneys and staff 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 or is involved in a wide variety of other legal matters. 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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Drunk Driver and Two Philadelphia Bars Being Sued Over Death of Pedestrian

The family of a 22-year-old woman who was killed in March 2012 when she was struck by a vehicle being driven by a drunk driver in South Philadelphia is suing the driver and two bars for damages under laws that exist to hold bars responsible for the conduct of their patrons who have been drinking in the establishments.

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.

Dram shop actions make bar owners and other people who make a profit selling alcohol responsible for the consequences of continuing to serve alcohol to someone who is over the limit. Drams 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, the tavern owner can be held responsible for injuries to others. If you’re visibly intoxicated, the law says that a tavern owner should cease serving you alcohol at that point. The law is trying to remove the incentives for them to continue to sell additional alcohol to an intoxicated person. Because they’re making a profit by selling alcohol, they want to sell as much alcohol as possible because that’s how they make money.

In the Philadelphia case, ballet student Polina Kadiyska, had the right of way and was crossing South Broad Street near Ellsworth Street about 4 a.m. on March 18, 2012 when she was struck by an Audi being driven by DeAndre Barnes, who had been celebrating his 19th birthday that night by drinking in two local bars with several friends, according to a story in The Philadelphia Daily News. Barnes pleaded guilty Feb. 8 to a charge of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, according to the paper and is now serving five to 10 years in state prison.

A group of teenagers illegally consuming alcoholic beverages are pictured in this stock photo. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/sjlocke

Kadiyska’s estate has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the two South Philadelphia bars that served Barnes before the fatal crash, alleging that the establishments should have not served him because he is underage and because he was intoxicated, The Daily News reported. The defendants are identified in the lawsuit as Kelbar Inc., the parent company of T-Barr’s Bar, at 8th and Jackson streets, and Frantic Nightclub, which is owned by the American Legion Post 153, on 24th Street and Passyunk Avenue, according to the paper. Also named in the lawsuit is national headquarters of The American Legion.

The victim was thrown through the air nearly 115 feet by the impact of Barnes’ car, the story reported. The driver then fled the scene but was arrested later, according to the story, and his blood-alcohol level was .156, which is nearly twice the legal limit in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, a driver is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol and intoxicated if his blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 percent or higher, according to state law.

In August of 2012, another well-publicized dram shop liability case was filed in the death of Philadelphia Police Officer Brian Lorenzo, who was riding home from work on his police motorcycle early in the morning in July 2012 on northbound I-95 near Cottman Avenue when he was hit head-on by a car being driven the wrong way on the highway. Lorenzo’s widow sued the car driver, who police charged with drunk driving, and the bar where the driver allegedly consumed at least 6 alcoholic beverages, including three 22-ounce Coors Lights, two vodka drinks, and another 14-ounce beer at the T.G.I. Fridays restaurant on Street Road, according to a news account in The Philadelphia Inquirer at the time.

In cases like these, bars that allegedly served alcohol to visibly intoxicated and or underage persons should be held responsible if the intoxicated persons are involved in vehicle crashes after they leave those establishments. That’s why we have dram liability laws on the books. 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.

While these cases of serving too much alcohol to customers may in fact be difficult to prove, these laws are on our books and must be enforced and prosecuted whenever they arise. Tavern owners must know that continuing to serve patrons once they are intoxicated is not acceptable, and that they will be held accountable.

These kinds of incidents and injuries happen every day when innocent victims are hurt in vehicle accidents through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others. That’s where having a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award is key.

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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Motor Vehicle Accident Lawsuits

$6,750,000.00 - Brain injury from fall off of ATV while on vacation in Dominican Republic.

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$28,000,000.00 - Structured Settlement - Brain Damage injury with permanent cognitive dysfunction due to fall into unsecured swimming pool.

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$3,500,000.00 - Failure to provide appropriate medical care in an emergency department leading to the death of 48 year old patient.

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Other Accident Injury Lawsuits

$500,000.00 - Death of a 79 year old woman due to abuse by home health care aide.

Testimonials

“You agreed to represent me for my automobile accident when other attorneys turned the case down. I was thrilled with the settlement you negotiated. I will tell all my family and friends about you.”

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Representing Clients in and throughout Philadelphia

Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers at Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., represent clients in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the surrounding Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County, and cities such as Media, Doylestown, and Norristown. We are also proud to serve South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, in Camden County, New Jersey.

Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C. | Two Penn Center Plaza, | 1500 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 1410 | Philadelphia, PA 19102

Ph: 215-789-9346 | Toll Free: 866-920-0352 | Fax: 215-563-6617 | Philadelphia Law Office

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