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Soccer Injury Lawsuit Could Have Huge Implications: Maryland Residents Could Finally Gain Rights to Sue for Damages

After a 20-year-old man suffered serious facial injuries while warming up for a league soccer game in Maryland in 2008, he was not able to recover damages for his injuries. That’s because he lived in Maryland, one of only four states and the District of Columbia, where a plaintiff cannot recover any monetary damages at all if a judge or jury finds that they have contributed to their accident by as little as 1 percent.

One percent, that’s all. With such a tiny sliver of blame on victims of accidents, Maryland juries and judges regularly have blocked victims from receiving deserved damages in cases from car accidents to slip and fall cases to medical malpractice cases and everything in between. It’s been this way for more than 165 years in Maryland because of a legal precedent known as “contributory negligence,” where a victim who is found to contribute to their injuries in any amount is then barred from receiving a damage award.

Across the United States, only Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina and the District of Columbia also have such contributory negligence laws on their books. It’s an outdated, unfair, costly burden on victims who can’t receive damages for injuries that they sustain, even when they are partly to blame.

A soccer injury case in Maryland could change how personal injury cases have been handled in the state for more than 165 years. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/mikkelwilliam

A soccer injury case in Maryland could change how personal injury cases have been handled in the state for more than 165 years. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/mikkelwilliam

But in Maryland, the law is being reviewed by the state Court of Appeals after the victim in the soccer injury case, Kyle Coleman, won his claim against the group that held the practice, the Soccer Association of Columbia, then failed to receive damages because the jury found that he contributed to his injuries, according to a story in The Baltimore Sun. Coleman now has three titanium plates in his head as a result of his injuries, which happened as he took a few warm-up shots into an empty goal at the practice, according to The Sun. “He grabbed the goal’s crossbar as he passed underneath to retrieve a ball, and it fell over,” crushing bones around one of his eyes.

A jury ruled in Coleman’s favor, determining that the soccer association had not properly secured the goal, but because he grabbed the top bar and pulled himself up, he had contributed to his own injuries, the paper reported. Under Maryland law, he was prevented from receiving damages in the case, despite the negligence of the soccer association in securing and maintaining its equipment.

If this accident had happened in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, California or any of the other states that permit damage awards even when the victim contributed to the event, Coleman would have received money for his injuries to help him cope with his recovery, pain and suffering and financial losses. Those states allow judges and juries to assess the cases to determine how much a victim contributed to his own injuries, then deduct that amount from a damage award. To still receive an award, a victim must be found to contribute less than 50 percent to the accident in those 46 states.

In most of the U.S., this ability to sue and recover damages even if you have contributed to the accident in some way is a pillar of our system of law, says Larry Greenberg, an attorney with Greenberg Law Offices in Baltimore.

“In Maryland, if a judge or jury finds any amount of fault against the plaintiff, that person has no right to be compensated for the damages they suffered in the occurrence,” says Greenberg. “If a judge or jury finds you partially responsible, you are done. In other states, juries give awards and then deduct a percentage for your own negligence, giving you balance in the legal system.”

The Coleman soccer case could finally change this system in Maryland, says Greenberg, which would be the right thing to do for residents.

“For years we’ve been trying, through the Maryland Association for Justice and other groups, to look for  cases where this issue could be brought before a jury” to be able to change this unfair rule, he says. “We tried through the state legislature to change it and they wanted nothing to do with it.”

A state Court of Appeals panel looked at the issue earlier and found that the existing law could be challenged through the courts, he says. Legal arguments were conducted before the Court of Appeals on Sept. 10 and now all sides are waiting for the court’s decision. No deadline has been announced for the ruling.

“The implications are that it could give plaintiffs more access to the courts in Maryland” if the appeals court rules in favor of changing the law, says Greenberg. “It would give them the rights that would address the harm caused to them for injuries that they were never able to get justice for in the past. Nobody’s perfect and other states have seen fit to recognize that concept,” that even victims can contribute to their own injuries.

“Contributory negligence is a concept of the past,” says Greenberg. “It means you get nothing. You’re perfect or you’re done and that’s not the way life is.”

The case in Maryland “has drawn national attention, as Maryland’s unusual legal standard meets its first judicial test in decades,” according to The Sun.

“The standard was adopted in Maryland in an 1847 case called Irwin v. Spriggs,” The Sun reported. “The plaintiff fell through an opening by a cellar window, but the defendant successfully argued that had the plaintiff been more careful, he would not have been hurt, according to a review of the case for the state legislature.”

It’s time for Maryland to change this unfair and outdated law so that victims can finally have their rights to actually receive damages for serious injuries caused in large part by others. In 46 other states around the nation, that’s the law of the land.

It’s about time that Maryland joins the modern era of legal fairness, for all of its citizens.

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 accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who are killed in serious accidents 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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UPDATE: Another recall for Toyota owners — be informed about recent ’sudden acceleration’ cases

Jan. 26, 2010 UPDATE:  Toyota announced that it will immediately suspend production and sales of eight vehicle models bound for the U.S. market to further investigate and repair the cause of sudden acceleration that has been plaguing some Toyota vehicles since last year, according to The New York Times.

For the second time in less than four months, Toyota is recalling millions of their cars and trucks in response to incidents of sudden acceleration being reported by some drivers, which have resulted in loss of vehicle control, accidents, injuries and several fatalities.

This time, the company said the recall affects about 2.3 million vehicles to correct what is being called “sticking accelerator pedals on specific Toyota Division models.”

Last fall, about 4.2 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles were recalled in connection with similar concerns about sudden acceleration, but at that time the company said the problems appeared to come from apparent pedal entrapment by incorrect or out of place accessory floor mats.

According to Toyota, about 1.7 million of those Toyota vehicles are subject to both overlapping recalls.

The latest recall is finally beginning to at least acknowledge what many affected Toyota vehicle owners have said all along — that the sudden acceleration problems were likely caused by more than just improperly positioned floor mats in the past.

A typical vehicle speedometer in a modern automobile is shown here in this photograph. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/fountain_of_useless_info

In several recent broadcasts, ABC News has interviewed owners of Toyota vehicles that have experienced sudden acceleration issues and they’ve directly described the problems as being unrelated, in their opinions, to floor mat issues. What they described instead were gas pedals that seemed to have lives of their own and accelerated the vehicles without being depressed manually, according to the reports.

“Safety expert Sean Kane tells ABC News that since last fall, when Toyota said it had solved the acceleration problem with proposed changes to gas pedals and a recall of 4.2 million cars with suspect floor mats, more than 60 new cases of runaway Toyotas have been reported,” ABC reported yesterday. “He believes this latest recall may still not be a complete fix of a problem that continues to be linked with serious accidents and deaths. In the most tragic incident, on the day after Christmas, four people died in Southlake, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, when a 2008 Toyota sped off the road, through a fence and landed upside down in a pond. The car’s floor mats were found in the trunk of the car, where owners had been advised to put them as part of the recall.”

It’s taken months for Toyota to accept the experiences of actual drivers who have experienced these problems in their vehicles, but it’s about time.

Now the company is finally looking at what many affected owners said all along — that the problem was caused by gas pedals that couldn’t be controlled.  “In recent months, Toyota has investigated isolated reports of sticking accelerator pedal mechanisms in certain vehicles without the presence of floor mats,”  Toyota Motor Sales  group vice president Irv Miller said in a statement. “Our investigation indicates that there is a possibility that certain accelerator pedal mechanisms may, in rare instances, mechanically stick in a partially depressed position or return slowly to the idle position.  Consistent with our commitment to the safety of our cars and our customers, we have initiated this voluntary recall action.”

Here is a list of vehicles affected by yesterday’s recall:

• 2009-2010 RAV4,

• 2009-2010 Corolla,

• 2009-2010 Matrix,

• 2005-2010 Avalon,

• 2007-2010 Camry,

• 2010 Highlander,

• 2007-2010 Tundra,

• 2008-2010 Sequoia

These recalls follow another alleged safety matter related to Toyota vehicles that occurred  last September.  In that case, the company  was sued by a former corporate attorney who alleged that Toyota illegally withheld critical information about hundreds of rollover crashes involving injuries and deaths. That case is still in its early stages.

If you own one of the affected vehicles in the recalls, be sure to contact your vehicle  dealer to schedule the required repairs as soon as possible.

And if your vehicle should be affected by a sudden acceleration episode, here’s what you need to know, based on an ABC News video report.  If your Toyota or any other vehicle should accelerate on its own, apply the brakes and shift the transmission into neutral. Then use the brakes and steering to stop and control the vehicle safely. The engine will be racing noisily, but you can shut it off safely with the ignition key once the vehicle is stopped.  Don’t shut the key off as you are still moving because that will cut off your power steering and power brakes, and will also lock your steering, which you don’t want to do.  After stopping the vehicle, have it towed to your vehicle dealer and have it repaired.

You also could have legal rights beyond the recalls and repairs for any injuries or damages that you suffer as a result of these vehicle issues.  Don’t sign anything or give up those legal rights until you have evaluated your situation and your options.

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Graco recalls 1.5 million baby strollers due to finger injuries – what you need to know to protect your children

Some 1.5 million Graco brand baby strollers are being recalled due to design defects that allow children’s fingers to be caught in the sunshade hinges. Five children have already suffered fingertip amputations and two others have suffered fingertip cuts due to the design, according to the voluntary product recall announced yesterday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

For parents and their children, this means that if you own a Graco stroller, you need to immediately check to determine if you are using one of the affected strollers. Owners are urged to stop using any affected stroller at once and to call special toll-free hotlines to find out how to get a free “cover kit” that can be installed over the injury-causing sunshade hinges.

The affected strollers are Graco Passages, Alano and Spree models, according to the company. Here is a list of the affected model numbers:

Model Numbers
6303MYC, 6303MYC3 7240DNB, 7240DNB2
7240MKL2, 7240MKL3
7F02GLM3
6320IVY, 6320LAU 7241DDH2, 7241DHO3 7F04TAY3
6330CAP, 6330THR,
6330THR3
7255CLP, 7255CLP2,
7255CRA2, 7255CRA3,
7255CSA3, 7255GPK3,
7255GRN, 7255GRN2,
7255JJB3, 7255ORC2,
7255WLO2, 7255WLO3
7F07EMA3
6F00QIN3, 6F00RRY3 7256CLO2, 7256SPM2,
7256SPM3
7F08DSW3, 7F08LAN3
6F03GLN3 7260BAN, 7260BAN2,
7260BAN3, 7260MRA2,
7260MRA3, 7260PKR,
7260PKR2
7G00DLS3, 7G00DLS4
6G10CSE3 7270BIA, 7270BIA2 7G01CRL3
7235GGA, 7235GGA2 7E01JON2, 7E01JON3 7G04KRA3
7236CDR2 7F00LPE3, 7F00RSH3 7G05GPR3, 7G06WSR3
7237HOL2, 7237HOL3 7F01FOR3 7G07ABB3, 7G07BAT3

(Graphic courtesy of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission)

According to the recall, two different types of hinge mechanisms were used by Graco in these strollers. The recalled models use a “plastic, jointed hinge mechanism that has indented canopy positioning notches,” according to the recall. The affected strollers were  manufactured between October 2004 and February 2008. The model numbers and dates of manufacture can be found on a label on the lower inside portion of the rear frame, just above the rear wheels. More details and a video that shows the suspect hinge mechanisms can be found in a story in The Christian Science Monitor.

The affected strollers were sold at the following stores: AAFES, Burlington Coat Factory, Babies “R” Us, Toys “R” Us, Kmart, Fred Meyer, Meijers, Navy Exchange, Sears, Target, Walmart and other retailers nationwide from October 2004 through December 2009.

The good news is that Graco and the government are recalling the defective strollers and helping parents to repair them so they won’t injure any more children.

The bad news is that these incidents didn’t have to occur in the first place had the product been designed and built with safety in mind from the beginning.

Baby strollers have been manufactured and used for more than two centuries, dating back to 1733 when garden architect William Kent created what is considered to be the first baby carriage for use by the third Duke of Devonshire in England. Originally, such strollers were designed for the amusement of children and were to be pulled by ponies or dogs. They have come very far in their development, with elaborate folding mechanisms, built-in cup holders, thick padding and insulation and wheels that turn in all directions for handling ease.

So you’d think that  by now, some 277 years later, stroller makers would have been able to come up with stroller designs that don’t cause injuries to the babies and toddlers who ride in them.

The injuries we’ve heard of so far are just the injuries that have been reported to the government and to Graco.

If your child is injured in one of the affected Graco stroller models, be sure to contact the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission as well as getting medical attention for your child.

Product liability cases due to poor product designs that cause injuries to people are some of the most common legal actions filed in our nation. If you or someone in your family are a victim of poor product designs and are injured, then you should contact a lawyer to protect your legal rights.

Important phone numbers for parents checking on the recall:

Graco Recall Hotline: (800) 345-4109  between 8 AM to 5 PM ET weekdays.
CPSC Recall Hotline: (800) 638-2772

Graco Web site: www.gracobaby.com

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GM Bankruptcy Amended to Address Some Concerns

Since the announcement of Chrysler’s bankruptcy plan nearly a month ago, opponents have gathered to express outrage at the injustice of this plan. As we discussed previously, the Chrysler bankruptcy plan leaves people who are injured as the result of defective Chrysler vehicles without legal claims against the “new” emerging company.

This outrage did little to alter the fate of Chrysler; the bankruptcy was approved with minimal interruptions. Chrysler has emerged from bankruptcy without liability for product defect clams. However, this outrage has made a difference.

Originally GM was expected to follow the path forged by Chrysler, eliminating all responsibility for product liability claims as part of the bankruptcy settlement. In the initial bankruptcy filing, the company proposed precisely this course of action.

Under pressure from state attorneys general, consumer groups, and injured victims though, GM has reconsidered. According to recently filed court documents, “new GM” will honor product liability claims arising after the company emerges from bankruptcy.

This is certainly a step in the right direction. When a company’s negligence results in injuries, the injured people should not be left alone to face the consequences. However, this is only a partial solution. The amendments do nothing to change the effects of the proposed bankruptcy on people with existing product liability claims. Even with this amended plan, several hundred individuals with catastrophic injuries caused by the negligence of GM will have nowhere to turn.

With this amendment it seems quite likely that GM will be able to emerge quickly from bankruptcy. The amendments have placated many of the most vocal critics, who are willing to compromise as a matter of practicality. Unfortunately,  this will leave already-injured victims among those shouldering the burden of the bankruptcy.

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