Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

For two centuries, under New York’s wrongful death law, grieving families have been unable to sue for those damages arising out of the emotional injuries engendered by a loved one’s wrongful death. The powerful Retail Wholesale and Department Store Unions (RWDSU), which has around 100,000 members, recently joined a broad coalition of unions that have endorsed the Grieving Families Act and has asked New York Governor Hochul to sign it into law. The Grieving Families Act is a bill sponsored by a New York State Senate Judiciary Chair and New York State Assemblymember that would change the rule that families can’t recover for their emotional injuries when a loved one has died due to another’s neglect or intentional acts; currently families can only recover for pecuniary or economic losses, like loss of inheritance. In recent months there has been a groundswell of support for the Grieving Families Act from working people.

Governor Hochul has until the end of 2023 to sign the bill into law. Last year, she vetoed a broader related piece of legislation stating that the complex issues required her to look closer at the data. The bill is believed by some senators to be appropriate for a veto override in the coming year if that becomes necessary.

The letter also said that the existing wrongful death law suggests that rich workers whose families see significant pecuniary losses upon their deaths are more valuable than middle class or lower income workers. The latter are denied restitution. Construction workers are at particular risk of wrongful death. When workers are killed falling from heights, for example, Labor Law 240, the Scaffold Law, provides the possibility of recovering damages. Under this law, construction owners and contractors are expected to provide safety measures to protect workers from falls and falling objects; these safety measures could include ladders, slings, hoists, scaffolding, hangers, pulleys, stays, and ropes. The law provides absolute liability for owners and contractors when they have failed to protect workers. Even so, the families of these workers cannot recover damages for their emotional injuries as the result of their losses—which are tremendous regardless of the amount of money their loved one made and used to support them.

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Yonkers and its police department have been sued for a car crash that resulted in the deaths of four teenagers in 2020. The teens were 18-years-old and had graduated from high school the prior spring. The families of the teenagers blame the police for the crash, arguing that they mishandled the pursuit of a man who attempted to evade them on Riverdale Avenue when they tried to pull him over for erratic driving. The man also died in the crash.

The police department’s public information officer said that the officers chose to disengage and didn’t pursue precise to avoid a crash; they did not view the pursuit as a high speed chase. The police followed around 15 seconds behind the fleeing driver’s sedan; the police car was not in emergency mode.

The mother of one of the teens who died argued that the police should have used warning equipment like sirens, horns and lights and should have given proper instruction to its officers to properly follow the vehicle. One of the lawsuits that has been filed alleges that the police department owed a duty to direct officers and personnel in appropriate precautions for chasing, following, or apprehending a vehicle. Another lawsuit alleges that the actions of the police department in this situation increased risks to the public.

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Nursing homes provide care for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Our legal system therefore holds them to a very high standard. When a nursing home fails to provide adequate care to a resident, it could be held liable for resulting injuries. The common-law theory of negligence, when applied to a medical professional like a doctor or nurse, is often known as malpractice. Nursing home residents in Westchester County and throughout New York are also protected by a state law that allows them to sue a nursing home that causes injury by depriving them of a “right or benefit.”

In order to prevail in a negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove several elements. First, they must establish that the defendant owed a duty of care to them, or to the general public. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals owe a duty of care to their patients as a matter of law. A plaintiff must also prove that the defendant breached the duty of care owed to them, and that this breach caused their injuries. This is often the most challenging part of a claim for nursing home malpractice in New York. A plaintiff must demonstrate that, without the defendant’s breach, the injury most likely would not have occurred.

Medical errors, such as prescribing or administering the wrong medication, or the wrong dosage of medication, could constitute a breach of a medical professional’s duty of care. In the context of a nursing home, many breaches involve neglect of a resident’s basic needs, such as food, water, hygiene, or social connection.
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On March 23, 2018, a self driving Tesla SUV crashed while the vehicle was operating on autopilot in Mountain View, California. According to a spokesperson for Tesla, Walter Huang, 38, a software engineer for Apple, did not have his hands on the steering wheel for approximately six seconds before the fatal crash occurred.

Tesla maintains that its “autopilot” system can brake, accelerate, control speed, change lanes and self-park, but does require that the operator must keep his or her eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel so that they can control the vehicle to prevent accidents.

Tesla contends that in the March 23rd accident, Mr. Huang took no evasive measures to prevent the Model X SUV from colliding with a concrete divider. This despite allegedly receiving “several visual and one audible hands on warning earlier in the drive”. Photographic evidence shows that the front of the SUV was destroyed, the roof torn from the car and the front wheels were off the vehicle and on the roadway. Additionally, the vehicle went on fire, but Tesla alleges that Mr. Huang was not in the vehicle when this occurred. Further, the accident was worsened as a result of a missing or damaged safety shield at the end of the barrier, which is designed to reduce the impact into the divider. Continue reading ›

Efren Moreano, 20, the driver of the wrong way vehicle on the Sprain Brook Parkway who struck and killed an NYPD detective in the early morning hours of February 28, 2015, has been charged with second degree manslaughter, a class D felony. Mr. Moreano has been in a medically induced coma since the accident. His arraignment was done in the Westchester County Medical Center before Superior Court judge Robert Neary. If and when Mr. Moreano is well enough to participate in the legal proceedings against him, the case will initially be transferred to the Greenburgh Town Court, and if the charges are not reduced to a non-felony (which is very unlikely), the case will then be moved to the Westchester County Court, which has jurisdiction of felonies, unlike town and village Courts.

On February 28, 2015, at approximately 4:00 AM, Mr. Moreano was operating his 2013 Honda Civic northbound in the southbound lanes of the Sprain parkway. Paul Duncan, a 46 year old, seventeen year veteran detective employed by the NYPD and married father of a teenage daughter, was traveling southbound. Mr. Duncan was operating a 2011 Honda Pilot. Apparently, Mr. Moreano had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.11%. The legal limit for intoxication pursuant to the New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law is 0.08%. Mr. Duncan died at the scene.

The fatal wrong way crash is the latest in a long line of tragedies on Hudson Valley highways and parkways since 2009. Most notably, in July of 2009, a few miles north of the Duncan tragedy, Diane Schuler, a Cablevision executive who had a BAC of 0.18% (more than double the legal limit of 0.08% and chargeable as an “Aggravated DWI”), drove southbound in the northbound lanes for several miles with her infant daughter, five year old son, and three nieces ages ten and under in the car. Schuler struck a northbound vehicle occupied by three men. The only survivor of this horrific crash was Schuler’s five year old son.

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