Articles Posted in Fatal Spinal Injury

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One Sunday, plaintiff, then twenty-seven years of age, was returning home from church services with her two children, a daughter then, 3 1/2 years of age and son, then 2 1/2 years of age, accompanied by her mother, then 62 years of age. The group proceeded along Buhrem Avenue in Bronx County and came abreast of defendants’ one-story taxpayer building. At this point, the infant daughter walked ahead, necessitating her mother’s ‘catching up’ to ensure that she did not go near the street. On the top of defendant’s building was a brick parapet approximately seven feet in height and one hundred feet long. This parapet had been observed to be leaning outward toward the sidewalk for a period of at least six months prior to the accident. The falling of this parapet wall occasioned the accident.

A doctor said that, plaintiff testified that she turned around to see how far her mother and son were behind, and heard her son asking for a cookie. Her mother stopped and reached into her bag to get him a cookie. Then plaintiff turned back to her daughter and heard a loud roar. When she turned around, she saw bricks were falling and hit the side of her body. She ran over and saw her mother and son under the bricks. A bystander rushed to aid plaintiff and the fallen victims and through his intervention plaintiff was able to remove her son, who was moaning, from the debris. He took plaintiff and her son to the hospital. Plaintiff, holding her injured son on her lap in the back seat of the vehicle, had for the first time a chance to look at his body. She testified that ‘his legs were hanging off at the sides. He had a little sun suit on, so it was very clear to me what I saw. I went to push his legs back on but I was afraid they would fall off. And as I did so I grabbed his shoes and saw that his ankles were the same way his thighs were’. Plaintiff’s son died on the evening of the same day from cardiac arrest following surgery necessitated by the previous personal injuries he sustained. The personal injuries sustained by plaintiff’s mother were severe, including comminuted compound fractures of the legs, pelvis, and ribs, a severe avulsion laceration of the scalp, and a spinal cord trans-section at about the middle of her back which paralyzed her from that point down. She was conscious with some intermittent periods of unconsciousness, and underwent two operations not under anesthesia. Plaintiff’s mother died as a consequence of her spinal injuries on May 19, 1970.

A Lawyer said that, after trial the jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff’s son’s father as administrator of the deceased infant in the amount of $150,000 for wrongful death and $25,000 for conscious pain and suffering. The trial court reduced the award for wrongful death to $40,000 and for conscious pain and suffering to $5,000. The jury verdict in favor of plaintiff’s father, the surviving spouse o plaintiff’s mother, in his capacity as administrator of her estate in the amount of $75,000 for wrongful death and $25,000 for conscious pain and suffering was not disturbed.

Plaintiff in the fourth cause of action set forth in the complaint asserts that her son at the time of the accident was accompanied by members of his family and that she therefore was a witness to the accident and ‘suffered severe emotional and mental trauma and anxiety and grief, with residual physical effects, resulting solely from the negligence of the defendant.’ A Lawyer said that, at the trial’s inception, the corporate defendant for the first time moved to dismiss this cause of action on the authority of the 1969 Supreme Court decision. This motion was granted by the trial court. A Lawyer said that, plaintiff thereupon took exception and moved to amend her complaint by asserting a cause of action, similar to the previously pleaded fourth cause of action, but limiting damages to the emotional trauma sustained as a result of her own involvement in the accident, as distinguished from damages she suffered only because she saw a building fall on her son and mother. The trial court originally granted this application, but subsequently, reversed itself, viewing the amended claim as a ‘new cause of action’ which is barred by the statute of limitations.

The issue in this case is whether plaintiff is entitled to damages for the death of her son and mother.

The Court said that, study of the rationale set forth in the 1969 case, impels the conclusion that plaintiff may not recover merely because she was an eyewitness to the occurrence resulting in the deaths of her infant son and mother. Similarly, it does not stand for the proposition that she cannot recover because she was an observer of the accident. Beyond peradventure plaintiff was not only an observer of, but a participant in the occurrence. In analyzing the considerations which give rise to the rule enunciated in the 1969 case, the then Chief Judge, initially observed that as to the scope of duty to one who is not directly the victim of an accident causing severe physical injury to a third person, the problem is ‘whether the concept of duty in tort should be extended to third persons, who do not sustain any physical impact in the accident or fear for their own safety’. Plaintiff did not under the facts as narrated by her sustain injury solely as the result of the personal injuries directly inflicted on her son and mother, but sustained harm as a consequence of being within the zone of danger and responding to her natural instinct to rescue her child and mother during the course of the occurrence. The bricks were still falling, according to plaintiff, as she advanced to her infant son and her mother and she was struck by some of them. The circumstances herein are unique and fall without the ambit of the rule enunciated in the 1969 case. Being directly involved in the accident, said plaintiff’s claim does not create the problem of unlimited liability which engaged the attention of the then 1969 case court.

Viewing the allegations of the fourth cause of action asserted by plaintiff in the context of the type of accident occurring, namely, the collapse of an entire parapet wall with consequent raining of hundreds of bricks into the street below, the defendants could not reasonably construe the averment that plaintiff ‘was a witness to the aforesaid occurrence’ in a narrow sense. It was clearly averred that the infant decedent was accompanied by members of his family at the time of the occurrence. On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action, the pleading must be liberally construed and every fair intendment given to the allegations contained therein. Thus viewed, the complaint served to put defendant on notice that plaintiff’s status as a witness may well have been imparted because of her status as a participant in the occurrence. Under these circumstances, plaintiff should not be penalized for failing to specifically assert a claim for recovery based upon physical contact with the falling bricks. Despite the information given in the bill of particulars relating to plaintiff’s physical ailments and confinement as consequence of the severe emotional and mental trauma suffered, defendant awaited the eve of trial with the apparent expectation that through a statute utilization of the 1969 case, it could effectively non-suit this plaintiff.

Confronted with the trial court’s rulings striking the fourth cause of action and refusing to allow amendment of said cause, plaintiff’s counsel made an offer of proof not in the jury’s presence to the effect that plaintiff, since the events of May 10, 1970, was on a prescription of tranquilizers, distraught, disoriented, constantly apprehensive of things falling upon her from the sky; that she walked on the curb line of sidewalks, and finally that she compelled her husband to reconstruct their own home although there was nothing wrong with the brickwork. Further, an offer of proof was made to the effect that the physician treating plaintiff for her emotional trauma would have testified that the accident of May 10, 1970 was the competent producing cause of her emotional and psychological traumas and fears. Parenthetically, it is noted that the plaintiff’s counsel in his brief asserts that defendant Buhre Avenue Co. Inc.’s counsel received the doctor’s report prior to filing of the note of issue but that said defendant opted not to conduct any examination before trial of plaintiff and decided to forgo a physical examination of her as well.

At this point it should be remembered that the 1969 case enunciated a policy determination with respect to substantive law, to wit, that ‘no cause of action lies for unintended harm sustained by one, Solely as a result of personal injuries inflicted directly upon another, regardless of the relationship and whether the one was an eyewitness to the incident which resulted in the direct injuries’. The zone of danger rule was regarded as ‘quite relevant’ to the problem of allowing recovery to an eyewitness. Peculiarly, although the 1969 case was decided on the pleading alone, which pleading alleged psychic injury from the fact that a mother witnessed an accident to her child, the Court of Appeals in Brooklyn was cognizant of the fact as developed in an examination before trial that the mother involved did not in fact witness the accident. Patently, the harm to plaintiff was direct. The corporate defendant cannot reasonably claim surprise or that, it was misled. Essential justice mandates affording this litigant her day in court.

Accordingly, the judgment of the Supreme Court, Bronx County, should be modified to the extent of reversing, on the law, the dismissal of the cause of action of plaintiff, said cause of action should be reinstated and a new trial granted thereon, without costs and without disbursements; further, the judgment should be modified, on the law and the facts, so as to grant a new trial to defendants-appellant as against plaintiff’s father, as administrator of the estate of plaintiff’s deceased mother, solely on the issue of damages with respect to the wrongful death claim of said administrator, unless he, within 20 days of service upon him by the defendants-appellants of a copy of the order entered herein, with notice of entry, serves and files in the Office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Bronx County, a written stipulation consenting to reduce the verdict in his favor on the wrongful death claims to $60,000 and to the entry of an amended judgment in accordance therewith.
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Many of us have seen them in the air, and hopefully none of us will ever have the need to ride in one, but the helicopter EMS (HEMS) is a service that a person is very grateful is in service. Since most of us have never had the chance to see one of these wings of mercy up close, we thought it would be an experience to take a look at one of the companies that makes sure these helicopters and their crews have the necessary equipment for these flying traumacenters.

One of the largest and most respectable HEMS companies is Air Methods, out of Boulder, CO. Since 1980, the company has supplied products to the aviation industry, and it is one of the largest HEMS operators with about 40 percent of the U.S. market. However, as the rep learned, this is not the only part of their business model. Another part of their business includes making the interiors for the military medevac helicopters, such as the HH-60 Black Hawk, and the General Dynamics Stryker medical evacuation vehicle (MEV). They also developed the SCITS (spinal cord injury transport system) for the U.S. Air Force.

Further, a reporter also discovered that the company not only manufacturers these products, they also have their own engineering staff who designs them. Some of these designs include avionics, mission systems, medical interiors, patient loading systems, and a rather unique floor design that the company says stores blood with minimal spillage. The company with offices in Queens and Staten Island is also a subcontractor to both Sikorsky and General Dynamics. It is also a FAA approved parts manufacturer.

For those who may have read other stories from The Media and have wondered just what does a helicopter parts and medical interior manufacturer have to do with spinal injuries. For anyone who has ever been involved in a car or some other type of accident and has suffered from a severe spinal injury, these helicopter EMS units are one of the best sights that you have ever seen, for you know that you are in some of the best care the medical field has to offer. They truly can be called wings of mercy.
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One of the last requests former NFL player Dave Duerson made before taking his own life was that his brain by studied to help other players suffering from the same depression, memory loss and thoughts of suicide that plagued his life. Duerson took his own life after dealing with years of depression. Duerson wanted researchers to determine if he suffered from chronictraumatic encephalopathy. This disease, which may be caused by concussions, is considered a degenerative disease, which means that it only gets worse over time.

In a recent study, in Long Island and Manhattan, of over 1,000 NFL players, 60 to 70 percent have received at least one concussion during their career. Many former players complain of memory loss, depression and suicidal thoughts similar to Duerson. Some players have committed suicide while others live with painful neurological complications for the rest of their lives. In addition to the number of NFL players who have suffered painful injuries and long-term illnesses resulting from repeated concussions, it has been estimated that 50 high school football players have died or suffered permanent injuries over the past 10 years.

Dr. Daniel Amen, a respected neurologist and host of his own PBS show, says that football players will have to learn how to play the game without causing injuries to the heads of other players. This may mean learning new ways to tackle players. Dr. Amen states that better protective equipment may not fully protect players from concussions and other spinal injuries. He went on to say that while change is never easy, players will have to develop new ways of playing the game. Permanent change occurs when the brain creates new neural pathways. Once these new pathways are created, new habits may be learned.

Until the game changes, protecting the head from concussion is important to help prevent permanent injury to the brain. Removing players from the game and making sure they receive immediate medical attention are ways to help protect players and keep the game safe for everyone.
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Modern medicine has experienced many advancements over the past 100 years. Many of these advancements have come from technology and pharmacological discoveries, while others have come to pass by scientific research and clinical trials. However, as one doctor has learned, many of these discoveries are a result of wartime experiences.

Contrary to many beliefs, both ancient and modern, there is nothing glorious about warfare. The grim truth of the matter is that there are at least two absolute facts about war: #1 In war young men and women die, and #2 There is nothing that anyone can do to change number one except stop the war. For some reason our species seems to have an overwhelming desire to destroy itself. There is however, some good that has come from our experiences in the battlefield. Many new methods to treat fatal spinal cord injuries have been learned by our battlefield experiences and have been transferred over to the civilian world.

One such example of learning such techniques occurred during WWII when many pilots were severely burned. Many of these pilots volunteered to be test subjects for a doctor by the name of Archibald McIndoe who pioneered the use of plastic and reconstructive surgery techniques that are still in use today. A study claims that another such example is that with beginning with the Iraq war and continuing into Afghanistan, the use of improvised explosives devices (IED) are in widespread use and have caused almost countless numbers of head and spinal injuries. Many of the techniques that battlefield doctors and nurses have learned in order to save the lives and limbs of these soldiers are making their way into the civilian medical community.

While serious spinal injuries are less common in the civilian world than what occurs on the battlefield, what medical science has learned from these experiences is benefiting society overall. Improvements in triage, patient transport, prosthetic devices, and rehabilitation are but a few of the many techniques and procedures that are not only saving lives but are also reducing immediate injuries from becoming a lifetime of hardship. Doctors in The Bronx and Brooklyn are studying these techniques.
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A medic provided a 26-year-old Army veteran from Seattle with Vicodin, Dilaudid, and morphine just so he could endure the pain while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, officers have learned. He felt the worst pain in 2003 when he was patrolling the steep hills of eastern Afghanistan. Sometimes, he had to ascend the steep landscape in body armor, pack, and weapons that weighed more than 100 pounds, in total.

“My lower back would just start aching from running up the hills. It would just break me,” said the veteran to a doctor. He gave his statement anonymously.

The problem of drugs to subdue pain caused by heavy gear is all the worse when it comes to patients who also suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and other mental harm from combat. The pain and the drugs combined with the spinal injuries often deepen depression.

One veteran of eastern Afghanistan returned home suffering from severe PTSD. The opiates he took, obtained online, did little to relieve his muscle and back pain. In May 2009, at only 25 years of age, he committed suicide.

The soldier’s mother believes the pain her son suffered was one of the factors in the suicide.
“One of the things he was angry about was that he was always hurt. He never really got a break,” she told a friend.

Another soldier, who served in Iraq, also suffers from PTSD, and was discharged early from the Army. He also has neck injuries, for which he has to take an opiate.

“The neck hurts so bad, sometimes you can’t concentrate on anything other than that,” he told a doctor.
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A ten-month old little boy was released from the hospital with a broken neck after the doctors failed to carry out a proper examination. The ten-month old baby was brought to MidCentral Health Palmerston North Hospital after a car accident he and his mother were involved in near their home in Glen Oroua. The paramedic who tended to the baby noted that the baby had a suspected neck injury on his report. When the baby and his mother arrived at the hospital, a junior doctor attended to the baby. The doctor checked the movement of his limbs, and noted severe bruising around his collarbone. He then monitored the boy for 2 hours, and then released him to a caregiver, reports a New York Spinal Injury Lawyer. Theoretically, this situation, in the worst case, could have resulted in a fatal spinal injury.

The boy’s mother sustained injuries that required an extended hospital stay. His father, who had to been away on business, returned home the day after the accident to find his son unable to move his head or cry out. The boys head was lolled over on one side, resting on his collarbone. The father rushed his son to the emergency room, and demanded an X-ray. When the results were sent to Starship Hospital, the doctors ordered a neck brace we put on immediately, and then airlifted the boy to their facility to undergo a MRI procedure.

A New York Spinal Injury Lawyer reported that since that time the ten-month old has underwent three CAT scans, 100 X-rays, two MRI scans and surgery. He had to wear halo traction for three months and a half body cast, and was the youngest child to be placed in halo. Hospitals in The Bronx and Brooklyn watch for these situations and take care to treat them with care.

An investigation into the incident found no errors were made in the boys care. It failed to mention the paramedics report clearly stating a suspected neck injury. An investigation by the Health and Disability Commissioner does state that a departure from the normal procedure occurred, and that the baby was not monitored for long enough, and should have received a spine and neck examination. The excuse given is that doctors did not want to expose the ten-month old to unnecessary radiation, and did not have the ability at their hospital to perform an MRI.
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It has been estimated that at least 300,000 concussions occur each year among adults and children who play football. A concussion is considered a mild trauma to the brain that can cause permanent damage. While most people who receive a concussion are not rendered unconscious afterwards, they may complain about headaches, dizziness and nausea days later, reports a New York City Spinal Injury Lawyer. About 15% of those who suffer a concussion will blackout. But even if a person does not blackout, it does not mean that damage to the brain has not occurred. As doctors in Nassau and Suffolk County have discovered these injuries can lead to fatal spinal injuries.
According to Dr. Daniel Amen, a leading neurologist and researcher of brain trauma, has stated that every person who has played football, whether as a child or as an adult, may have some permanent brain damage. Others in the field are beginning to agree with Amen and have started seminars and training sessions for parents so they can better protect their children, states a NY Spinal Injury Lawyer.
Deceased NFL player Dave Duerson was so concerned about the impact of concussions on his fellow players that he had stated he wanted to donate his brain to science after he died so the affects of playing football on the brain may be studied. Many football players in the NFL have received at least one concussion during their high school, college or professional careers. In some cases, players may have received as many as 15 concussions. While the impact of these injuries will require further research, protecting the brain while playing football is a big concern. Wearing the proper equipment, restricting players from participating if they are suffering from a concussion and being able to diagnose a concussion quickly may help reduce the affects of a concussion, or in some cases, save lives.
While most people can function normally after receiving a concussion, some people have died. This is why monitoring a concussion is so important. Those who received fatal injuries to the head frequently complained of headaches or dizziness beforehand. Seeking medical attention is best if you have a concussion so you can be monitored by those who can help in the event of a sudden seizure or other medical emergency.
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Europe’s second-largest oil company, BP Plc., settled one of the five cases set to go to trial last September on the day the trial was to start. The case concerns an explosion that occurred at its Texas Refinery in 2005.
The two sons of a 26-year-old man who killed himself about six weeks after the explosion, settled with the corporation the night before trial was to start. The settlement was for an undisclosed amount, both sides said. That leaves four claims for the first trial.
The March 2005 blast killed 15 and injured hundreds.
Based in London, BP had managed to avoid earlier trials by settling about 1,350 of the more than 3,000 claims from a $1.6 billion fund that was created just for that purpose. The company admits the explosion was its fault and yet at the same time denied responsibility for all the injuries.
Apparently, a New York Spinal Injury Attorney said BP raised its settlement offer the night before trial, and the family wanted to agree to those increased terms. “We would have liked to have taken it to verdict, but we chose security for the boys,” the family’s attorney said in an interview. “The amount will secure them financially for their future, although it will not replace their father.”

Suffolk and Westchester Counties take note of these types of cases for future reference.
A spokesman for BP confirmed that the company settled with the family. “That’s what we have been working towards since the event,” he said in another interview. “We hope to take care of all the people affected by this tragic event.”
The boys’ father, who worked for a contractor, lost his job when the refinery shut down after the explosion. Depression caused the man to shoot himself in the head six weeks later. The explosion, and subsequent layoff, is said to have caused the depression. His two sons are 11-years-old and 6-years-old.
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