Michael S. Mehrmann

signatureWhen a loved one has been hurt, or has died, while in the care of a nursing home, it is a stressful time, and you very likely have a lot on your mind. Worrying about whether or not that arbitration agreement document you or your sibling signed when your mom or dad was admitted to the nursing home is valid is probably not at the top of your list of immediate concerns. However, it can make all of the difference when it comes to getting compensation for the nursing home’s negligence. Whether it is overcoming an arbitration agreement or defeating some other challenge in your negligence or wrongful death action, contact an experienced Massachusetts nursing home negligence attorney about your options in your case.

Last summer, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in a case in which a daughter sought to sue her late mother’s nursing home for negligence. In that case, a daughter named Carol signed several papers on behalf of her mother when the mother was first admitted to the nursing home in 2013. Among those documents was an agreement stating that all disputes between the resident and the home would be resolved through arbitration instead of litigation. Carol did not have authority under any legal documents to sign on behalf of her mother. Her mother was not present when Carol signed, and the daughter did not discuss the document with the mother before the signature was made.

In early 2015, the mother died. A few months later, another daughter, Jeannette, who was also the administrator of the mother’s probate estate, sued the nursing home for negligence and wrongful death. The nursing home tried to invoke the arbitration agreement and get the judge to compel arbitration, but the court refused. The appeals court upheld that decision, concluding that there was no proof that Carol had any kind of authority to sign binding documents on behalf of her mother, and the absence of the mother’s signature, or the signature of someone legally empowered to act on her behalf, made the agreement unenforceable.

Cervical XrayWinning your Massachusetts workers’ compensation case involves many things. Included among these is presenting a compelling array of evidence that persuades the judge to make multiple findings in your favor. A knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney can provide essential knowledge and skill when it comes to accumulating that evidence and making that winning presentation.

A recent example of a winning case was the one pursued by Theresa, an employee of a non-profit organization in Randolph. Theresa was working for the non-profit when she was injured in an auto accident that caused her to suffer head and neck injuries. She later filed a claim for workers’ compensation, seeking payment for her neck and head medical treatments. After the hearing’s conclusion, the judge ruled in Theresa’s favor. In the written opinion on the case, the judge found that Theresa appeared to be physically uncomfortable during the hearing and frequently switched between sitting and standing.

The employer’s insurer argued that this finding clearly established that the ruling in Theresa’s favor should be reversed. The insurer’s argument was that there was no evidence in the hearing transcript about the worker standing up, sitting down, or looking uncomfortable. The judge also never commented about Theresa’s movements during the hearing. In the absence of these things, the judge was not allowed to make a finding about the woman’s apparent discomfort, according to the insurer.

front of SUVWhen you pursue an injury case, there are several hurdles to clear. There’s filing the lawsuit, collecting and organizing all of the evidence, preparing for trial, and obtaining a judgment or settlement. However, there are many more tasks beyond just these that go into a successful result in an injury case. A knowledgeable Massachusetts car accident attorney can help you make sure that “all of your bases are covered” when it comes to your case.

Sometimes, your injury case may be affected by a person or entity that wasn’t even involved in the accident. A recent example involved a case from Bristol County. Evelyn was an 85-year-old woman who was crossing a street when a vehicle driven by Annmarie crashed into her. Evelyn had dementia before the accident, but the crash made it worse. Eighteen months after the accident, Evelyn died. Her children sued Annmarie, and the two sides settled for $250,000. Annmarie’s auto insurance company paid the judgment, and the family dismissed the lawsuit in January 2014.

This might sound like the end to a successful outcome, and, in some situations, it might have been. For this family, however, there were additional complications. During her final years, Evelyn had received some $18,000 worth of care that was paid for by MassHealth. Massachusetts gives MassHealth the right to pursue repayment of these expenses from the estate of a deceased person in certain circumstances, while others may possibly be exempt from this estate recovery.

handshakeWhen you file a lawsuit as a result of your auto accident injuries, there are several steps in the process. One of these may be exploring the possibility of a mutually acceptable settlement. An important thing to note about settlement negotiations and settlement agreements is that they are much like any other form of contract negotiations and contractual agreements. They require one side to make an offer, and the other side must accept that offer. There must be a “meeting of the minds” about the terms of the agreement. Without those things, a settlement agreement isn’t valid. When it comes to deciding whether to settle or litigate your injury case, it pays to have the advice and representation of a knowledgeable Plymouth County car accident attorney.

The existence (or lack thereof) of a valid settlement was a central dispute in one recent auto accident case. Frances was the driver of a vehicle that was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Edy. As is common in many civil cases, the opposing sides both worked toward trial and discussed the possibility of settling the case out of court. Eventually, Frances’ case went to trial, and the jury found in her favor, awarding her $52,000 in damages.

Edy appealed that judgment. The centerpiece of his appeal was that Frances was not entitled to the damages award handed down by the jury because the two sides had already settled the case, and Edy had been released from liability in exchange for agreeing to the settlement. Edy also argued that, if the court did not throw out the jury’s damages award, it should at least reduce it by the amount that Frances’ auto insurer had already paid out.

choicesWhen you’re hurt outside Massachusetts, your case potentially presents an extra layer of complexity. You may have the choice to sue where your injury occurred or to sue back home in Massachusetts. Even if you sue here, the law may dictate that the courts here apply the legal rules of the state where the accident occurred. For example, you could possibly sue in Massachusetts but be required to follow legal rules like the statute of limitations established by the laws of the state where your injury took place. Determining where the most advantageous place to bring your injury lawsuit is can be an extremely important choice and is just one example among many of situations in which it pays to have representation from skilled Massachusetts injury counsel.

One case that presented a choice between multiple states was that of Susan, a phlebotomist at the UMass hospital in Worcester. Susan decided to book a Labor Day weekend vacation at a romantic resort in the Poconos. While on a boat ride tour operated by the resort, an extremely bumpy ride resulted in Susan being thrown about. By the end of the ride, she had suffered fractures to her T-12 vertebrae, along with bruises to her back, buttocks, and thighs.

The injury took place in early September 2012. Almost exactly two years later, she sued the resort in state court in Pennsylvania. Some time later, she chose to voluntarily dismiss that lawsuit and refile a different lawsuit, alleging the same claims. She filed this second lawsuit in state court in Boston in June 2015.

Discount Retail StoreWhen you are injured in a trip-and-fall case, there are several hurdles you will necessarily have to clear. There are also some additional pitfalls that you may encounter depending on the specifics of your case. One of those potential pitfalls is the “open and obvious” rule, which says that, if a hazard is open and obvious, a property owner is not obligated to fix it or post warnings about it; the property owner or possessor has no legal obligation to do anything about an open and obvious hazard. Fortunately, there are many ways to counter a defense argument that a hazard was open and obvious. To make sure that you are prepared for everything that may come your way in your premises liability case, be sure to retain the services of a skilled Massachusetts premises liability attorney.

One case that showed how it is possible to overcome an “open and obvious” argument was an accident that occurred at a Watertown discount retail store. Jean was walking toward the entrance of the store when she tripped and fell, suffering significant injuries. It was not raining, and the area was not wet at that time.

The customer tripped along a curb area in front of the store, which she alleged was unsafe. Specifically, she presented a negligence lawsuit that argued that the curb was dangerous and defective and that the store either knew or should have known that the curb was dangerous and defective.

car accidentWhen you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may think that your case will be a relatively straightforward matter, decided largely upon each side’s presentation of the facts. Sometimes that is how a case plays out. Other times, your case may hinge upon more technical legal rules and concepts, like consolidation of cases, issue preclusion, and claim preclusion. What all of these things represent is the extent to which any type of legal matter can end up succeeding or failing based upon things that require an in-depth knowledge of the law. To make sure that you are prepared for whatever your case presents, make sure you have a knowledgeable Massachusetts car accident attorney representing you.

An example of such a scenario played out recently in the Massachusetts courts. The underlying incident was a straightforward intersection accident in Weymouth. John was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Kelly. At the intersection, Kelly’s vehicle and a vehicle driven by Noah crashed. The key factual issue in the case was which driver ran a red light to cause the collision. John sued Noah, and, sometime shortly after that, Kelly sued Noah.

Both lawsuits were filed in Brockton. Both John and Kelly had the same attorney. The judge who oversaw the cases decided to consolidate both lawsuits and determined that Kelly’s case versus Noah should be tried first. At the close of the evidence in that case, the jury entered a verdict in favor of Noah. Since the jury found Noah not negligent in that case, the judge reasoned that John could not win his case and entered judgment for Noah on that part too.

nurseWhen you entrust a loved one to a nursing home, you are entrusting them with one of the most important parts of your life. Sometimes, accidents are inevitable, even when proper care is provided. Other times, though, injuries happen (or are made worse) because nursing home staff don’t provide proper care, including sometimes not even following the facility’s own protocols. When that happens, you may be entitled to sue and obtain an award of compensation. Proof of things like a past history of similar problems or citations and fines following federal agencies’ investigations may help to strengthen your case further. Talk to an experienced Massachusetts nursing home negligence attorney about your situation and your options.

One recent case involved an accident with a tragic end. Walter was a highly accomplished accountant with many achievements, including helping to found a nursing home in Worcester. In 2016, after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, Walter moved into the nursing home that he helped to get started, according to a McKnights.com report.

In early August 2016, Walter got up in the night to go to the bathroom, but he fell and hit his head on a nightstand. A certified nursing assistant and a licensed practical nurse found Walter on the floor of his room. The pair helped Walter up, helped him to the bathroom, and then helped him back into bed.

nurseIn Massachusetts, the law gives you only a limited period of time to pursue a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. This fact serves as a reminder that, if you’ve been hurt on the job, it is important to reach out to an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney promptly. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you assess your case and the period of time that you have in which to act.

The recent case of a nurse from Lynn was an example of how the statute of limitations can potentially matter in a workers’ compensation claim. Tammy was a registered nurse at a hospital when she first hurt her neck at work in January 2007. Two months later, she had a discectomy and fusion surgery because her pain was getting worse. She returned to work that summer. In 2012, her neck problem flared again, and she couldn’t turn her neck. She missed three months but then went back to work. Her neck problem flared again in April 2014, and she never returned to work. In July 2015, she underwent another discectomy and fusion surgery.

Three months after the second surgery, she filed a claim for temporary total disability workers’ compensation benefits. In her claim, she listed the date of her injury as April 15, 2014, her last day of work.

gavelIn Massachusetts, a property owner has a legal duty to those on their property to maintain it in a reasonably safe condition. While many people may associate this obligation with maintaining the property in a hazard-free condition to avoid trip-and-fall and slip-and-fall accidents, the duty actually goes beyond just that. One of the other obligations property owners have is to keep visitors to the property free from harm by certain third-party assaults. When a property owner fails to do so, and you suffer injuries as a result, you may have a claim against that property owner. An experienced Massachusetts premises liability attorney can help you assess your situation and the merits of your case.

An example of this type of scenario was a federal case that recently went before the First Circuit Court of Appeals, whose rulings affect federal cases in Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Puerto Rico. In the case, the plaintiff, Henry, lived in a condominium complex that was attached to a luxury hotel in downtown Providence. This residence came with access to the hotel’s services and amenities. One night, while waiting outside for his girlfriend, Henry noticed a large group of boisterous young people who were going in and out of the hotel’s entry area. At one point, the group appeared to chase and potentially attack an African-American passer-by.

Henry told a valet to get help, but the valet told Henry, “That’s not my problem” and went to go park a car. Henry retreated to the hotel lobby. He informed the hotel concierge of the problem, but before she could act, the mob attacked Henry. They punched, shoved, and kicked him. They held him down while one threw a table at him. In the end, Henry suffered a broken arm in the attack.