Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers have followed the tragic news stories about the deaths of Georgia children and accusations that the state government is not doing enough to prevent these deaths and protect vulnerable children.

Behind Bars.jpg

Twelve year old Eric Forbes died in October with signs of serious child abuse. His father, Shayaa Yusef Forbes, called the police, who came and found the boy bobbing in a bathtub unconscious in Paulding County. His father said he thought Eric was taking a bath and was only a “little bit underwater”, but the sixth grader from McClure Middle School had drowned. Georgia’s Department of Family and Child Services (DFCS) had investigated Eric’s case, but the claims of abuse were dismissed due to lack of evidence. Not long after and only 60 miles away, Emani Moss’s father called the police who found the 10 year old’s body burned in a trash can after she had already been dead several days. Officials determined she died of starvation and arrested her father, Eman Moss, and stepmother, Tiffany Moss. There were also allegations of abuse, but Emani was also allowed to remain at home. DFCS is investigating the cases. The agency issued a statement saying, “We are already moving forward with plans to tailor training for our case workers based on data that would predict trends in our practice, and we will soon implement internal ‘safety roundtables,’ which will serve to review cases at the state level before workers can screen them out or close an investigation.”

But Emani’s grandmother doesn’t think this is enough. In November, Robin Moss served Georgia DFCS with a 90 day notice of a wrongful death claim. She holds DFCS responsible for Emani’s death because they investigated the abusive situation but never took Emani away from it. This kind of lawsuit against DFCS is not only about money, which cannot replace Robin Moss’s granddaughter’s life, but is used as a way to try to force DFCS into action so that other children don’t suffer the way Emani, and also Eric, did. This lawsuit will allow Ms. Moss to investigate DFCS, including by subpoenaing files and interviewing employees under oath. It could shine a light on the inner workings of DFCS and see if there were more tragedies like Emani’s. Her attorney is seeking employees to come forward with information on whether DFCS falsified reports related to child abuse.

Our Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers have been following the legal case over the tragic death of 15 year old Shaquille Johnson in 2007 (see previous posts here and here). The Supreme Court of Georgia issued its judgment in the case last week and sided with the Johnson family, meaning they can finally have a jury trial and seek justice for their son’s death.

In December 2007, Shaquille had arthroscopic knee surgery for a football injury. Eight days later, his mother, Thelma Johnson, took him to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, complaining of pain on the left side of his chest. Dr. Price Paul Omondi examined him, diagnosed him with pleurisy, prescribed him Naprosyn as a painkiller and sent him home. About two weeks later, Shaquille again complained of pain in his chest and he had trouble breathing. He was taken by ambulance to Phoebe Putney, where he died of a bilateral pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in the lungs.

Doctor.jpg

The Johnson’s sued Dr. Omondi and Southwest Emergency Physicians, PC, for medical malpractice. The trial court granted summary judgment for Dr. Omondi and his employers, using Georgia’s emergency medical care statute, which says that in an emergency setting, a doctor or health care provider won’t be held liable unless they acted with “gross negligence”. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision.

Kendrick Johnson was a 17 year old high school student when he died earlier this year. On the night of January 10, Johnson’s parents reported him missing when he didn’t come home. The next day, Johnson was found stuck upside down in an upright rolled up gym mat propped up behind the bleachers at Lowndes High School, where he was a student. Our Atlanta wrongful death attorneys have followed the story and last week federal prosecutors have decided to review the facts and evidence from Johnson’s death and may open a criminal civil rights investigation, according to news reports.

Gym Mat.jpg

U.S. Attorney Michael Moore is leading the federal investigation and will review the original investigation by the sheriff’s office and two autopsies done on Johnson, as well as photos, videos and other evidence and information. The autopsy done by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation concluded that Johnson’s death was accidental, that he was trying to get a fallen shoe and fell, getting trapped and suffocating. However, Johnson’s parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, had his body exhumed and another autopsy performed, which concluded he died from blunt force trauma to the right side of his neck. His parents believe their son might have been murdered and have been trying to get his case reopened. They are alleging that local officials covered up evidence of a crime. And they allege that key evidence is now missing, such as the cloths Johnson was wearing when he died. The follow up autopsy showed that his fingernails had been cut and some organs removed, as well, which could provide more evidence. A video was recently released which shows Johnson on his last day from video cameras at the school. The videos don’t show his death, but his family hopes they may shed some light on what happened.

The federal case led by Moore is a civil rights investigation, and Moore could only go forward if he finds evidence that a law enforcement official was involved in wrongdoing in Johnson’s case. A former federal prosecutor noted to reporters that it is very rare for federal officials to step in and look at an already closed local investigation and said, “There must have been something that didn’t pass the smell test.”

Our Atlanta tractor trailer accident lawyers saw a tragic news story about the death of a pedestrian after being hit by a tractor trailer on I-75 in Henry County. Pedestrian car crashes are a significant problem. Across the United States 4,280 pedestrians were killed in vehicle accidents in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The same year more than 70,000 pedestrians were injured. Pedestrians are actually 1.5 times more likely to be killed in a vehicle accident than people in the vehicle on each trip. These numbers mean that a pedestrian is injured in a vehicle crash once every eight minutes and a pedestrian is fatally injured once every two hours.

This was the case for a Georgia man this week. Alan Bryan Fletcher pulled over to the shoulder at mile marker 211 on the southbound side near Locust Grove Road, although police are not sure if it was due to a mechanical issue with his car or if he just stopped. He walked around to the front of his car and went into the road. Mr. Fletcher, a 52 year old from Locust Grove, was then hit by a passing tractor trailer and was pronounced dead on the scene just before noon on October 7, according to Henry County Police Lt. Philip Bratton. The tractor trailer driver stopped after the accident, but his name was not released. The accident stopped traffic on the southbound lanes for an hour while on-site investigations were conducted as to what exactly happened to Mr. Fletcher. The investigation into the accident is on-going.

Tractor.jpg

This has been a bad week for vehicle vs. pedestrian accidents in the Atlanta area. Mr. Fletcher was the second pedestrian just on that Monday, October 7, who was hit by a vehicle in the Atlanta area. An unidentified woman was standing on I-75/85 near Fulton Street when she was hit by a Kia Optima. This occurred around 10:30 am. She was standing in the second lane to the right on the Downtown Connector and several cars swerved to miss her before she was hit by the Kia. Investigators were not sure why she was in the road, but she was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital while still unconscious to treat her injuries.

When it comes to saving lives, modern technology is extremely helpful. Portable defibrillators, called AEDs or “automated external defibrillators”, can shock a heart back into a normal rhythm and could possible save tens of thousands of lives if available in emergencies and willing bystanders can use them, according to a recent news article. Around the US, states have many different laws and regulations about this potentially lifesaving technology, and our Georgia premises liability lawyers know that in Georgia, our Good Samaritan laws protect concerned citizens who use these devices to help people in need.

Lightning Bolt Heart.jpg

The lack of uniformity around the United States on this issue is worrisome and can cause significant confusion. States differ on whether a company providing them in various locations is protected from liability for their use or even if a company may be required to have them to save someone on their premises. The question of the requirement is being litigated in an interesting case against Target in California. That case is over a customer’s death in a store in Los Angeles which did not have an AED available. The family sued Target claiming a common law obligation in California to have AEDs available. Regardless of that case, a nurse from American Airlines who worked to promote AEDs in the 1990s, Linda Campbell, said, “In many companies, the insurers and risk-management guys still seem to think they’re better off not having AEDS than having them.” Since the 1990s these portable devices have become more sophisticated but also easier to use, and have become more available for use by the general public and not only people with special training.

Georgia passed a law requiring AEDs to be in all public high schools in 2008. A Good Samaritan law also protects anyone using an AED from civil liability, unless they use it with “willful or wanton misconduct.” This civil liability protection also does not apply to anyone who is a licensed professional and acts with “gross negligence.” The liability protection extends to anyone who in good faith tries to help someone without compensation by using the AED and the treated person does not object; the owner or operator of a premise that installs an AED; any medical personnel that helps or directs the installation of an AED in a non-medical facility; and anyone providing training on the use of the AED. It does not protect against product liability lawsuits for the manufacturers of AEDs or for failure to warn lawsuits, or lawsuits against maintenance and service providers for the AEDs.

A federal lawsuit has been filed in the Middle District of Georgia by the family of a mentally ill man who was shot and killed by a Georgia SWAT team. Our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers will be interested to see how this case turns out, especially after two other instances of police in this area shooting mentally ill men in recent years.

In September 2011, police were called because someone threw a brick through the window of a store, causing about $500 in damages. Someone thought that person was 51 year old Wayne Walter Peterson, so an officer from the Moultrie Police Department went to his house. Mr. Peterson lunged at the officer with a butcher knife and the locked the door to his house. He was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, of which a nephew of Mr. Peterson informed the police. Additional negotiators and a SWAT team arrived on the scene to try to deal with Mr. Peterson. The nephew offered to go to Mr. Peterson’s porch and talk him out peacefully, but the police refused. When officers entered Mr. Peterson’s house, he again charged at them with a butcher knife. Moultrie Police Cpl. Eric Fries shot five times, hitting Mr. Peterson twice and killing him.

Man With Gun.jpg

On July 31, 2013, Mr. Peterson’s sister, Carolyn Hall, filed the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Peterson’s family against the Moultrie Police Department, Police Chief Frank Lang, Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Al Whittington, three police officers and an investigator. The lawsuit alleges that the officer’s knew about Mr. Peterson’s mental illness, that they created a stressful situation that confused Mr. Peterson, and that the officers’ forced entry into the house was unnecessary and lead to Mr. Peterson’s death. The family also alleges that the police were not trained in dealing with a schizophrenic suspect and that their refusal to allow the nephew or other family member to assist contributed to the fatal situation. The police also refused to allow a medically trained professional deal with Mr. Peterson to calm him and explain that he would not be harmed. The lawsuit also states that in 1996 and in 2006 the Moultrie police shot and killed two other mentally ill men, but still never instituted any training programs or better procedures to stop another incident like this from happening. The lawsuit does not state the amount of monetary compensation Mr. Peterson’s family is asking for.

The family of Lauren Giddings wants answers about her death. As Atlanta wrongful death attorneys, we deal with cases that have had a criminal trial as well, and Lauren’s family has decided to file a wrongful death lawsuit even while the trial of Lauren’s suspected murderer is still pending in criminal court.

Graveyard.jpg

The story of Lauren’s death is shockingly gruesome and brutal. Lauren was 27 years old and had just earned her law degree from Mercer University and was studying for the bar exam to become a lawyer. But on June 30, 2011, Lauren’s dismembered torso was found in a trash can outside her Macon apartment building on Georgia Avenue. The man suspected of this horrendous crime is Stephen McDaniel, a classmate of Lauren’s who also graduated from Mercer law school in 2011 and lived in the same apartment building. McDaniel was arrested and charged with felony murder among other things and is set to start his criminal trial in Bibb County Superior Court in January 2014. He is being held with bail set at $850,000.

But the Giddings family also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against McDaniel, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress and interference with the right of burial as well. The lawsuit alleges that McDaniel had master keys to the apartments in the building, stole some items from Lauren’s apartment, and used an empty apartment in the building to store her torso. It also alleges that McDaniel talked about a “perfect murder” to a roommate in 2007, which included dismembering the body and scattering body parts through a wooded area. The Giddings family also alleges McDaniel bought ingredients to make chloroform and a hack saw, that he visited his grandfather’s farm to look for places to scatter the body parts, and that he tampered with evidence by painting over bloodstains on the walls in Lauren’s apartment. McDaniel has denied all of these allegations and says he had nothing to do with Lauren’s murder. He has demanded a jury trial in this wrongful death lawsuit.

apartment pool 2.jpgOur Atlanta wrongful death lawyers know that losing a loved one is one of the toughest things to go through, but that difficulty seems even crueler when the loss is of a child. But that is what Jacob and Patti Peters have had to deal with for the past two years, since the death of their nine year old son Jakob. And now, according to news reports, the grieving parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit, trying to get some belated justice for their son.

In June 2011, Jakob was swimming in a man-made pond when he stepped on a channel, fell underwater, and drowned. The pond was on land owned by Barney Parnacott, who is a Dawson City Manager. And now Jacob and Patti Peters are suing Mr. Parnacott for the wrongful death of their son, saying he did not take proper precautions on his property. The lawsuit claims that Mr. Parnacott knew kids nearby had access to the pond and that, even if they were trespassing on his land, he should have used safety measures like a fence, or should have gotten rid of the pond.

In this, the family is using the “attractive nuisance” doctrine, which exists in law for situations just like this. Under the “attractive nuisance” doctrine, a landowner is liable for injuries to a trespassing child if the injuries were caused by a dangerous man-made thing that naturally attracts children. The doctrine is meant to make landowners think ahead and anticipate children coming onto the property by taking precautions like barriers or fences. Georgia has been quite strict in applying this doctrine in the past, and conditions must be met in order for it to be applicable. The owner must know children are likely to trespass, he/she must know that the thing in question poses an unreasonable risk to any such trespassing children, the children don’t realize the risk, the burden to the landowner of eliminating the risk is slight compared to the potential harm to children, and the landowner fails to take reasonable care to eliminate the danger. All of these conditions must be met in order for the “attractive nuisance” doctrine to be applicable to an accident like Jakob’s. We will have to see what the court decides on this issue in the Peters’ case.

It is incredibly sad and frustrating when there are deaths and injuries that are completely unnecessary.For example, our Atlanta car accident attorneys (https://www.sclawpc.com/) recently read a tragic story involving entirely preventable death that occured last week, about a foolish street race that killed a young man and an infant boy.

Last Friday morning, 22 year old Kyrie Alassen Anderson was driving her Honda Accord on I-20 westbound near Conyers, about 25 miles outside Atlanta. She and boyfriend, 19 year old Edi Rodriguez, were taking her seven month old son Hunter to visit friends, having left her older son, three year old Blake, with a babysitter.

According to the police reports, Anderson started racing with another vehicle on the road. At some point, Anderson lost control of her car, hit a guardrail, and went back across two westbound lanes, where the Accord was hit by Chevy Silverado pickup truck.

A recent study, as reported in the Washington Post, showed that errors in diagnosing patients is the main source of medical malpractice claims. This study, lead by Dr. David Newman-Toker, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Ali Saber Tehrani, looked into 25 years of malpractice payments to discover this fact. The researchers looked into 350,000 medical malpractice claims in which payment was made from 1986 until 2010.

What they mean by diagnostic errors are things like diagnosing appendicitis when the patient has an ectopic pregnancy or diagnosing simple dizziness when the patient is having a brainstem stroke. Often the correct diagnosis is eventually arrived at, but not until the condition is more complicated to treat and has possibly disabled the patient. The study did not delve into why diagnostic errors were so common, but Dr. Newman-Toker said that diagnosis is a difficult and imprecise process and there is often a time lapse between the mistake and when it is discovered, making it also harder to correct in enough time to make a difference. There are also no public reporting requirements for these types of mistakes.

Dr. Newman-Toker said, “Diagnostic errors are the most common, the most costly and the most deadly of all medical errors.” They accounted for 29 percent of successful malpractice claims and 35 percent of the total money paid out. Incorrect, missed, or delayed diagnosis also caused 39 percent of malpractice deaths. Other categories of medical mistakes listed were treatment errors and surgical mishaps, the other two largest categories of malpractice claims, and obstetric problems, medication errors, and anesthesia errors.