Man Files Suit Alleging Harry Potter Ride Resulted In Spinal Injuries
Amusement park rides provide spine-tingling thrills, but one park-goer says his experience resulted in spinal injuries. Tristram Buckley has filed a $1 million suit against NBC Universal, owner of Universal Studios Hollywood and Kuka Robotics, the designer behind Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey, a ride where Buckley alleges he sustained injuries to his spine.
Fox News reports the victim said the ride gave him “shaken adult syndrome” and that he later experienced pain, nausea and numbness. An MRI revealed he did indeed suffer a spinal injury and will likely need surgery to alleviate his ailments.
This isn’t the first time Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey has been less-than-magical for riders – in 2016, prior to its opening, there were reports of Universal employees suffering from vomiting after testing out the ride.
Does Buckley have a valid claim or, like a wave of a wand, will this suit end up going “poof”?
“In situations such as these, injured patients have three routes of legal action they can pursue,” said CEO Dennis VanDerGinst. “Those are simple negligence, premises liability and product liability.”
An injured guest can bring an action based on negligence when a park owner fails to act with the proper standard of care owed to visitors. For instance, if there has been improper assembly or maintenance of a ride or a shoddy inspection system to identify problems. Another common form of negligence in an amusement park is the failure to warn riders of risks associated with certain rides. According to the Universal Studios website where information about the ride is posted, they warn the ride is not suitable for those susceptible to motion sickness and dizziness, and they caution riders to ensure they are able to support their torsos, heads and necks “while absorbing sudden and dramatic movements throughout the experience.” The defense here, VanDerGinst contends, would be that the Plaintiff, with access to knowledge about these warnings, assumed the risk of injury by participating in the ride.
Premises liability is another ground for an injured party to sue an amusement park owner. That simply means that park owners must keep their grounds in good repair. There should not be any hidden or latent defects for patrons. “Without more knowledge regarding the Harry Potter ride it is not possible to exclude this argument,” says VanDerGinst.
Finally, and possibly most applicable to this case, is the product liability argument. A manufacturer must ensure when they make a product that is safe for its intended and foreseeable usage by patrons. If a ride was designed or manufactured with defects, the manufacturer may be held liable if a malfunction occurs. In fact, the manufacturer still may be held liable if the design of the product was such that it causes injury even when working the way it was intended. According to VanDerGinst, this argument seems to be the most applicable to the Harry Potter ride lawsuit, but what’s unknown in this case if whether the Plaintiff did anything to contribute to the risk of danger while riding the ride.
“Although it may sound kind of fishy on its face, the Plaintiff may actually have a viable cause of action despite reports that nobody else has complained of similar problems,” notes VanDerGinst. “Viability of an actionable case does not necessarily hinge on whether other patrons had registered complaints of injury.” VanDerGinst believes a judge will likely allow this case to move to the discovery phase to see if there is a cause of action which should be presented to a jury.
Prince’s heirs have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Trinity Medical Center and Walgreen’s
Just two years ago, the Quad Cities made national headlines when the late performing artist Prince was admitted to Unity Point Health – Trinity Medical Center in Moline on April 15, 2016 for treatment from an opioid overdose while flying home from a concert. Tragically, Prince died a week later on April 21st in Minneapolis as a result of an overdose of fentanyl. This week, the AP reported that Prince’s heirs have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Trinity Medical Center and Walgreen’s, alleging that a doctor and pharmacists failed to provide appropriate treatment, contributing to the death of the pop singer.
In order to win a wrongful death lawsuit, the attorney must prove that the defendants’ conduct, in this case, the actions of Trinity Medical Center doctors and pharmacists as well as the pharmacists at Walgreen’s, was the cause of Prince’s death and that his death would not have occurred without the actions of the defendant.
Interestingly enough, even though Prince died six days later, the time between the defendants’ actions and the death of the decedent is not a factor as long as it can be proven that the defendant’s actions ultimately contributed to his death.
The defendants’ counsel will likely argue that Prince himself and/or the dealer of the illicit drug is responsible for his death. However, the AP reports that authorities believe Prince may not have known he was actually taking the powerful drug fentanyl, but rather that he was given counterfeit pills he thought were Vicodin. Medical documents show a pill Prince had with him when he was admitted to the Moline hospital that was marked as Vicodin was sent off for testing and was thought to be Vicodin by the hospital pharmacist. The pill was returned to Prince. But the plaintiffs allege no chemical testing was done and this pill was likely fentanyl. As a result, the suit holds the emergency room physician and hospital pharmacist responsible for failing to properly diagnose and treat Prince’s overdose. Walgreen’s is being accused of dispensing oxycodone medication to Prince with prescriptions written not under his own name but that of his bodyguard.
From a legal perspective, there are a lot of dots to connect. For starters, the law in Illinois requires that a malpractice case cannot be filed unless an affidavit accompanies the complaint that indicates a qualified medical expert has reviewed the case and determined a viable cause of action exists. This particular complaint requests a 90-day extension to produce the requisite affidavit, an exception the law allows if a qualified medical expert has not yet reviewed the case but the statute of limitations is approaching to file. Is the lack of an affidavit telling? It could mean absolutely nothing, or it could indicate the plaintiffs are having trouble locating an expert to give such an opinion. If they indeed are able to produce an affidavit within the extended time frame, the case will have met the initial burden of stating a cause of action and will then proceed through the discovery phase.
In discovery, both sides will have the opportunity to exchange written interrogatories and requests for production, as well as dispose crucial witnesses. Often, cases like these become a battle between the experts. One side could argue that because Prince refused testing on himself at the hospital, the emergency room physician did not have access to the full picture of his health in order to properly diagnose and treat him. Furthermore, the death itself took place as a result of a separate overdose incident other than the one he was treated for while in the care of Quad Cities doctors. The law tells us that if it can be shown that the decedent was partially responsible for his or her death, then he or she may be found to have comparative or contributory negligence and may be awarded only partial damages. Or if it can be argued that Prince failed to seek appropriate medical care by virtue of refusing testing, there may be no grounds at all for the claim.
Should the case reach the trial phase, plaintiffs often face a significant burden in overcoming jury bias in favor of treatment providers. Perhaps this explains why the plaintiffs chose to file in Cook County as opposed to Rock Island County, where the former’s guilty verdicts are significantly higher than the latter’s, and the risk of local bias toward resident defendants would be lessened.
If Prince’s wrongful death counsel can successfully place blame on Trinity Medical Center and Walgreen’s, the amount of damages awarded could be astounding, given the loss of future income Prince likely could have earned as a once active and well-loved superstar performer. But given that the suit was filed at the 11th hour, this is usually an indication that the plaintiffs might face an uphill battle proving medical malpractice and wrongful death. This will indeed be an interesting case to follow.
Disney Faces Potential Wrongful Death Lawsuit After Alligator Attack
Orlando, FL, was the site of another tragedy when a two year old boy was attacked by an alligator at Walt Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. The remains of two-year-old Lane Graves was discovered after the child was reportedly attacked and pulled into the water by an alligator. The incident was said to have happened while the toddler and his mother were attending an outdoor movie night at the resort. Witnesses of the incident said that they saw the mother with the toddler, who was wading on the edge on the lake, which seems to resemble a small beach.
At approximately 9:00 p.m., Lane Graves was attacked and pulled into the lake by an alligator reported to be four-to-seven feet in length. His father’s attempts to dive in after him and force the alligator’s mouth open to release the child were unsuccessful as the boy had already been pulled under the murky water.
Tragically, his remains were discovered, 12-15 yards from where the attack occurred, by an Orange County dive team after a grueling 16-hour search of the property. His body was found intact with a few puncture wounds and, while an autopsy has yet to be performed, it is likely that the cause of death was drowning.
Disney World commented on the incident by saying that in the 45 years since the canals have existed there has never been a report of an attack like this. The Seven Seas Lagoon, as the lake is called, is a man-made body of water that separates the resort from the Magic Kingdom park and stretches into a series of canals that wind through the entire Disney property.
While the hotel did in fact have signage posted around the Seven Seas lagoon that read “No Swimming Please,” the question of whether or not Disney is liable for this incident is open for discussion.
As a business, Disney has a responsibility to ensure reasonable upkeep of its premises, which would include appropriate warning signage. While it may not be Disney’s job to protect its guests and ensure their safety at all times, the question still remains, did Disney do enough to warn its guests of the possible danger of alligators in the Seven Seas Lagoon. Many legal experts agree that there is a huge difference between signs that read “No Swimming Please” and “Warning: Beware of Alligators.”
Disney routinely removes alligators from their property. That fact suggests they knew or should have known that that their waters were inhabited by alligators. It is Disney’s duty to warn the public of these known dangers. However, according to WESH 2 news, there was only one alligator warning sign found on the property by a small pond. A few miles up the road the Hyatt Grand Cypress Resort displays a similar “No Swimming” sign with a secondary warning showing a picture of an alligator and the words “Please be aware of alligators in the lake.” In this case Disney’s lack of proper signage shows negligence on their behalf in their duty of care to their guests.
Disney has the resources to have done a better job of warning their guest. They were aware of the presence, or potential presence, of alligators. Attracting guests from all over the country (and around the world), Disney should have realized that many people would be unaware of the potential presence of alligators.
This is a case the Disney would do well to settle. Liability exposure is high and the kind of tragedy would evoke a lot of sympathy from jurors.
Blind Man Sues McDonald’s for Refusing Drive-Thru Service
By: Mary Bowerman, USA Today
A blind Louisiana man is suing McDonald’s because he says the fast food chain’s late night
drive thru policy discriminates against people who are visually impaired. According to court documents, Scott Magee of Metairie, La., was laughed at and refused service when he tried to order food from the drive thru window during McDonald’s “late night” hours in August of 2015.
Magee said he felt “ashamed” following the incident, and noted that it was not the first time the chain denied him service. During the “late night” hours, many McDonald’s locations close the main dining rooms and only serve food through the drive thru windows. According to the suit, McDonald’s policy not to serve pedestrians through the drive thru window, denies service to those who are unable to drive. In the court documents, which were filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Magee notes that the drive thru windows “lack any meaningful accommodation for the blind.” “Because McDonald’s does not permit pedestrians to order from its drive thru
windows, the blind are totally precluded from accessing the defendant’s products during late night hours,” according to the court document.
The court documents allege that the restaurants are violating basic equal access requirements under federal law. The lawyer involved in the case, Roberto Luis Costales, told the Chicago Tribune, the issue could easily be resolved by McDonald’s allowing blind customers to call and order food, which would be brought out to them by staff.
McDonald’s told the Associated Press it will not comment on pending litigation.
Owner of loose bull in fatal crash charged with manslaughter
RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) — A man whose loose bull wandered onto a road and was hit by a car, killing the driver, is facing an involuntary manslaughter charge, prosecutor said, and farmers are worried about the harm aconviction could do to the state’s agriculture economy.
Farmers and friends packed a legal proceeding at a courthouse Monday in support of bull owner Craig Mosher, whose lawyer has called the car crash “a horrible accident.”
Some farmers fear Mosher’s prosecution could set a precedent that stands to hurt the state’s economy, whose staples include dairy farming, artisanal foods and forestry. They would like to see the charge, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison upon conviction, dropped.
“Animals don’t get out that often. When they do, there could have been 100 different reasons why that animal got out,” said Joseph Tisbert, president of the Vermont Farm Bureau.
Mosher, who owns an excavation company, was indicted by a grand jury in April and has pleaded not guilty.
According to court documents:
On July 31, 2015, a milk truck driver nearly hit the bull in Killington, recognized the bull was Mosher’s and went to Mosher’s house to tell him about it.
The driver said he banged on Mosher’s door and blew his truck’s air horn to alert Mosher. The driver said Mosher opened an upstairs window and he told Mosher he had almost hit the bull. The milk truck driver said he didn’t see Mosher come outside after a few minutes so he called police.
Mosher later told a trooper he went to look for the bull on his property but couldn’t find it, went home and fell asleep.
The crash, which happened about 15 minutes after the milk truck driver called police, killed 62yearold Jon Michael Bellis, of Woodbridge, Connecticut. His car hit the bull and then slammed into a tree. His wife was in the car but survived. The bull was killed.
Tom Brady Seeks rehearing on Deflategate Ruling
By Martha Neil, ABA Journal
When quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots recently added superstar appellate lawyer Ted Olson to his team, it appeared that he might be anticipating a U.S. Supreme Court appeal of his four-game suspension imposed over the so-called Deflategate incident last year.
But, at least initially, Brady and the National Football League Players Association are going to seek en banc review by a federal appeals court of the penalty imposed on Brady over claimed underinflation of footballs during the American Football Conference championship game in 2015. Although Brady, who has maintained his innocence, wasn’t directly accused in an investigatory report, the NFL said Brady probably knew about the underinflation.
Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general, told ABC News on Monday that he planned to make a filing seeking an en banc hearing by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later in the day.
And the players union told Fox News it intends to do the same.
“The facts here are so drastic and so apparent that the court should rehear it,” Olson said.
He said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should have imposed punishment according with a schedule of fines for equipment issues that is required by a collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union, according to ABC News, the Boston Globe (sub. req.) and the New York Times (reg. req.).
Olson also said that Goodell exceeded his authority as an arbitrator by changing the basis for discipline of Brady.
Supreme Court ruled for postal worker in dispute over time limit for constructive discharge claim
By Debra Weiss, ABA Journal
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday favored employees in a ruling on the time limit for contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about a constructive discharge claim under Title VII.
The time limit in such cases begins to run on the date an employee notifies his employer that he intends to quit his job, the Supreme Court ruled in a 7-1 decision (PDF).
The court ruled on behalf of former U.S. Postal Service worker Marvin Green, who contacted the EEOC 41 days after submitting his resignation. The time limit for contacting the EEOC for federal employees is 45 days. The Postal Service had claimed the 45-day period began to run on the date of its last, allegedly discriminatory act rather than the resignation date. On that basis, Green waited 96 days to contact the EEOC, the Postal Service said.
The majority opinion by Justice Sonia Sotomayor said an employee can’t bring a constructive discharge claim until resigning. “So at that point—and not before—the limitations period begins to run,” she wrote. An employee resigns, she said, at the point he gives his employer notice that he intends to leave.
The court remanded the case for a determination of whether Green resigned on the date he signed a settlement agreement or the date he submitted his retirement paperwork.
Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.
The case is Green v. Brennan.
Transgender bathrooms in the news
The United States and North Carolina fought over transgender rights this past week, with the Justice Department filing a civil rights lawsuit over the state’s so-called “bathroom bill and state officials filing suits against the federal directive to stop the implementation of the controversial legislation. The act bans people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex. Since its passage in March, North Carolina has become a national battleground on the issue of transgender rights.
The North Carolina University system defied the governor and legislature and told the Justice Department it intends to act “in compliance with federal law” as it relates to this law.
The Justice Department is seeking declaratory relief and threatens to curtail federal funding to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina if there is a continuation of enforcement of the law within the state systems. UNC System President Margaret Spellings said longstanding policy prohibits university personnel from discriminating on the basis of, among other things, gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch, stated “It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had other signs above restrooms, water fountains, and on public accommodations, keeping people out based on a distinction without a difference. We’ve moved beyond those dark days.”
The Justice Department said last week that “access to sex-segregated restrooms and other workplace facilities consistent with gender identity is a term, condition or privilege of employment. Denying such access to transgender individuals, whose gender identity is different from their gender assigned at birth, while affording it to similarly situated non-transgender employees, violates Title VII,” a section of the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination against workers on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.
The federal government demanded the state “remedy” the act or risk being in violation of federal law. North Carolina officials retaliated by filing a lawsuit calling the Justice Department’s position a “radical reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
“This action is about a great deal more than bathrooms,” Lynch said. “This is about the dignity and the respect that we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we as a people and as a country have enacted to protect them.”
Governor McCrory’s communications director Josh Ellis said after Lynch’s remarks that the governor is “appropriately seeking legal certainty to a complex issue impacting employers and students throughout the country” but “in contrast, the attorney general is using divisive rhetoric to advance the Obama administration’s strategy of making laws that bypass the constitutional authority of Congress and our courts.” McCrory believes state of North Carolina hasn’t been given enough time to respond and that the federal government is overstepping its authority.
Prince Died Without A Will?
Following Prince’s death last Thursday, his sister filed documents stating that the music icon did not have a will. Prince, it appears, died “intestate.” Prince’s estate is likely worth several hundred million dollars. It will continue to gain value on a daily basis as the demand for more of Prince’s music and artistry increases in the wake of his death.
The fact that Prince died without official instructions on how to handle his estate is very unusual for someone with the vast assts he apparently had. Without a will, a battle over his assets may ensue and take years to untangle. Dying “Intestate” means that a formula, dictated by state law, will need to be followed in order to distribute the assets. But, given that he left several half siblings behind, and the amount of the estate, there could be quite a battle brewing.
To learn more about why you should have a will listen in this past Week’s AM Quad Cities as Dennis VanDerGinst discusses this issue with Dan & Dan on WOC 1420. [Click here to view]
Sandy Hook Lawsuit Moves Forward
Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara N. Bellis rejected a request from gun manufacturers and sellers to dismiss a lawsuit filed by relatives of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012. That means the lawsuit will proceed.
In her written finding Bellis stated that she could not grant the request to dismiss the suit based on a federal shield law that protects gun makers and sellers, a decision praised by advocates for stronger gun laws as a victory.
Bellis said she was responding to the relatively narrow question of whether the court had jurisdiction to consider the claim and ultimately concluded “that any immunity [the shield law] may provide does not implicate this court’s subject matter jurisdiction.”
She added that she was confining her analysis to the jurisdiction issue, focusing on that topic rather than potential challenges to “the legal sufficiency” of the lawsuit, and said such arguments would need to be made in a different motion.
The lawsuit comes from the estates of nine of the 26 people killed in the shooting and a survivor of the attack. Their attorneys argue that gun manufacturers and sellers should be held accountable for selling weapons used by the military and law enforcement to civilians “unfit to operate these weapons,” which, in turn, “enables an individual in possession of the weapon to inflict unparalleled civilian carnage.”
Manufacturers and sellers argued that the lawsuit isn’t allowed under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
“We are thrilled that the gun companies’ motion to dismiss was denied,” Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the families, said in a statement. “The families look forward to continuing their fight in court.”