Court Addresses Questions of Personal Jurisdiction in Civil Suit for Sexual Assault

450px-Yale_Harkness_Tower_2A Connecticut appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a civil lawsuit, Gerena v. Korb, for damages arising from an alleged sexual assault. The court found that New York law applied to the defendant, but that the state’s long-arm jurisdiction statute did not apply. Prior proceedings in the case had also found that, because the underlying incident giving rise to the lawsuit occurred in Connecticut, New York lacked the authority to assert jurisdiction over the defendant.

In 2005, the plaintiff, Alexandra Gerena, and the defendant, Gregory Korb, were students at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Gerena claimed that, at the beginning of their sophomore year that August, she went with Korb to her dorm room, where he allegedly physically and sexually assaulted her. The alleged assault included physical restraint and biting, causing serious injury to Gerena. Gerena and her mother filed suit against Korb and Yale University in Bronx County, New York Supreme Court in April 2007, asserting causes of action for assault, battery, mutliple emotional distress claims, and loss of consortium.

Yale removed the case to federal court the following month, even though neither it nor Korb had received service of the state court summons and complaint. The plaintiffs served Yale with the state court papers in October 2007, one month after the 120-day period for service under federal rules expired. Yale filed a motion to dismiss for inadequate service, or alternatively for transfer to Connecticut. The plaintiffs served a federal summons on Yale in August 2008, and the district judge ordered the case transferred to Connecticut later that month.

Fungal Meningitis Outbreak Traced to Medicines from New England Pharmacy

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dpk-meningitis-exserohilum.jpgAn outbreak of fungal meningitis has sickened more than three hundred people nationwide, and it is believed to be responsible for at least twenty-four deaths. Connecticut has avoided any illnesses so far. Steroid injections for back pain from a Massachusetts pharmacy are believed to be the source of the infections. The pharmacy has reportedly ceased operations and issued a voluntary recall of thousands of steroid doses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified a fungus known to cause a form of meningitis in vials of methylprednisone acetate, an anti-inflammatory steroid medication used to treat back pain, compounded at New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham, Massachusetts. State and federal health officials identified the pharmacy as a possible source of the contamination in early October 2012. The FDA is warning healthcare providers to monitor any patient who received any injectable NECC medication on or after May 21, 2012. The outbreak has affected patients in at least seventeen states, with the highest number of cases in Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia, and Indiana.

The particular fungus identified by the CDC, Exserohilum rostratum, is present in at least fifty-four patients. Fungal meningitis is a rare infection, and it differs from the bacterial and viral forms of meningitis. Unlike some types of the disease, fungal meningitis is not contagious between people. It commonly results from the fungus entering the bloodstream and spreading to the spinal cord, sometimes from environmental exposure like contaminated soil, or from contaminated medication. People with weakened immune systems have the greatest risk of infection. Symptoms include headache, fever, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, and nausea. It can be fatal in some cases.

Jury Assesses $2M Verdict Against Company that Patented, but Did Not Manufacture, Asbestos-Containing Products: Saldibar, et al v. A.O. Smith Corp., et al

244234_7882.jpgIn a Connecticut lawsuit alleging products liability and wrongful death for alleged asbestos exposure, Saldibar, et al v. A.O. Smith Corp., et al, a court denied a motion for summary judgment brought by a defendant that held patents on asbestos-containing products, but never manufactured them. The defendant, a trade association, alleged that it was not a “seller” as defined by Connecticut products liability law. A jury later found for the plaintiffs, and the court entered a judgment awarding them more than $2.2 million. The decision regarding the trade association defendant could significantly alter Connecticut products liability law by expanding the range of potential defendants.

The decedent, Hannibal Saldibar, was allegedly exposed to asbestos from various products when he served in the U.S. Navy as a petty officer from 1943 to 1946, and during the time he worked as a tile setter from his Navy discharge until 1979. He filed suit with his wife, Eleanor Saldibar, in April 2009 against various defendants for alleged violations of the Connecticut Product Liability Act (CPLA), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-572m. After Saldibar died from mesothelioma in 2010, the executor of his estate, Gail Acquarulo, substituted as a plaintiff. The lawsuit also alleged that the defendants possessed knowledge of the hazards of asbestos as far back as 1929, and it therefore claimed gross, wanton, willful, and malicious negligence.

One of the defendants, Tile Council of North America, moved for summary judgment in January 2010, arguing that it was not a “product seller” under the CPLA because it was not a “manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, or retailer” of products. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-572m(a). It was, it claimed, a trade association that merely held a patent on mortar used in tile setting. The plaintiffs responded that the CPLA includes companies that hold themselves out as manufacturers. Tile Council replied that it never publicly presented itself as a manufacturer.

Judge Grants $33M Default Judgment Against Company Implicated in 2010 Salmonella Outbreak: Daniele International, Inc. v. Wholesome Spice and Seasonings, Inc.

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800px-Salami_aka.jpgAfter an outbreak of salmonella poisoning in late 2009 and early 2010 sickened hundreds of consumers, a Rhode Island meat company sued two of its suppliers for damages resulting from a massive recall of its products. The meat company faced costs from lost business, refunds, and lawsuits by consumers. A federal judge in Rhode Island granted a default judgment against one of the defendants for $33 million. Outbreaks of food poisoning can expose food companies, restaurants, and other businesses that handle food to liability for illness and other damages.

An apparent outbreak of salmonella poisoning began in late 2009. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), new cases peaked in November 2009, and reached a total of 272 people in forty-four states by April 2010. The outbreak had a relatively low impact on Connecticut, with only five reported cases. At least forty people nationwide required hospitalization due to the outbreak.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that Rhode Island-based Daniele International, Inc. was recalling 1.2 million pounds of salami and other “ready-to-eat” Italian sausage products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) also participated in the investigation. RIDOH allegedly identified the same salmonella strain in spice containers used by Daniele. The containers, consisting of red and black pepper, originated from two companies, New York-based Wholesome Spices and New Jersey-based Mincing Trading Corp. These two companies announced recalls of some of their products as well.

Trampolines Present Serious Risk of Injury to Children, According to Pediatricians

1399294_22632860.jpgTrampolines, when used for recreational activity, present a serious risk of injury for children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). A new study published in the AAP’s journal, Pediatrics, warns of head and spinal injuries that may result from trampoline use, particularly when multiple people use a trampoline at once. Recent injuries and resulting lawsuits demonstrate the dangers trampolines can pose.

In an article published in the online edition of Pediatrics on September 24, 2012, the AAP’s Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness renewed its calls for discouragement of trampoline use in the home. The AAP identified 3,041 reported injuries for 2009, with an estimated 97,908 total injuries and 3,164 hospitalizations or fatalities. Cervical spine injuries often result from falls from trampolines, collisions with other users, or attempts to perform flips and somersaults. Safety measures added by manufacturers, such as nets surrounding the perimeter of trampolines, have not shown any significant mitigation of the risk of injury, according to the AAP.

The trampoline in its modern form began with a patented design by competitive gymnast George Nissen in 1945, according to the AAP’s report. Nissen did not intend his trampoline for recreational use, but rather to train gymnasts and acrobats. His design later found use as a training tool for military aviators. Recreational use of trampolines, particularly trampolines available for home use, came once they became affordable for mass production. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) notes a positive correlation between the number of trampoline-related injuries and the availability of trampolines for recreational home use.

Allstate Insurance Gives Connecticut Cities Low Rankings in Its Annual “Best Drivers” List

800px-ConnecticutStack.jpgTwo Connecticut cities, Bridgeport and New Haven, ranked among the worst in the nation in Allstate Insurance Company’s annual “America’s Best Drivers” report. This is the eighth time Allstate has compiled this report, which compares cities based on calculations of the frequency of accidents for an average driver and the likelihood of an accident compared to the national average. Car accidents claim the lives of about 32,000 people a year nationwide, according to Allstate, but that total is the lowest the country has seen since 1949. The survey has found that drivers in smaller cities with lower traffic densities to be “better,” based on the survey’s indicators. Drivers in Connecticut should be aware of the factors that cause Allstate to call them “worse” drivers.

The report’s two indicators, frequency of accidents and the difference between the likelihood of accidents in a given city and the national average, come from actuarial data on collision claims received by Allstate. The company states that its policies account for roughly ten percent of the nation’s auto policies. While the report’s available data may not provide a statistically significant sample, it can still assist drivers in identifying areas of concern.

The distinction between smaller and larger metropolitan areas is striking. Cities with large, dense populations present different challenges for drivers than smaller towns. In big cities, particularly cities on the East Coast, dense urban areas bring heavy traffic, higher levels of noise, and distractions like construction or pedestrian activity. Suburban areas in large, sprawling cities present a challenge, in the sense that drivers may spend considerably more time in their cars than if they lived in a smaller city or a city center. More time behind the wheel means more risk of a collision.

Strict Liability of Dog Owners in Connecticut for Injuries Caused by Their Dog

1372759_92182017.jpgA Groton man has agreed to surrender his dog to the city’s animal control department after the dog was allegedly involved in an attack on a man and his smaller dog. The smaller dog reportedly died as a result of the attack, and the man suffered injuries described as “serious.” Connecticut law imposes strict liability on individuals whose dogs are involved in attacks that cause injury to other people or their property, except in limited circumstances. Courts in Connecticut have also taken a broad view of insurance coverage for dog bite injuries, finding that many premises liability policies should cover them.

The Groton Patch reports that the attack occurred during the morning of Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at Groton’s Calvin Burrows Field. A 74 year-old man was walking his three year-old Silky Terrier when they were allegedly attacked by another dog. Few details of the incident are available, including how the other dog came to be in the field or whether its owner was nearby. The man was reportedly taken to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, and his dog went to Companion Animal Hospital, where she later died from her injuries.

The Patch describes the attacking dog as a “Boxer-Pit Bull mix,” although it is not clear how this determination was made. “Pit bull” is often a catch-all category for a wide range of dog breeds with similar physical characteristics. Any breed of dog can be involved in an attack, and state and local laws apply equally to all breeds. Ultimately, owners bear the responsibility for damages caused by their dogs, but the dogs themselves face consequences ranging from impoundment to euthanasia.

Legal Claims for Failure to Supervise in Connecticut When a Child Suffers Injury

952347_48888469.jpgThe case of a Connecticut child, who suffered severe head injuries when he fell from a second-story roof, raises questions about civil liability when a person fails to supervise a child under their care. Connecticut courts have allowed for possible recovery on such a claim, in addition to any criminal penalties that may accrue. This sort of liability is of particular concern for children at daycare centers and other places where adults have responsibility over supervising children’s safety.

A two year-old boy in Hartford suffered serious head injuries the afternoon of Monday, September 3, 2012, when he fell three stories. The child evidently opened a window and crawled onto a roof about twenty-five feet above the ground. A passerby reportedly found the child in the driveway of the apartment building “crying and stumbling,” according to the Hartford Courant.

Police knocked on the apartment door for several minutes before the child’s mother’s roommate, who was reportedly supposed to be taking care of the child, answered. The roommate allegedly told police that she had been up all night partying with friends, and had fallen asleep when the child crawled through the open window and fell. Police arrested the roommate and charged her with two counts of risking injury to a minor. The child was found to have suffered a skull fracture and cranial bleeding, but was in stable condition.