Life Altering Injuries, a Connecticut legal Roadmap

Greetings! Attorneys Paul Levin and Kelly Kasheta have authored a new book, now available on Amazon and shortly Kindle as well.

You may want to  read this book because you have been hurt, or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident. You might have a life altering, catastrophic injury. You may have a Connecticut workers’ compensation claim, personal injury, or wrongful death case. Or, you may be reading this to educate and prepare yourself in the event you find yourself injured and needing guidance and assistance. More than anything, you want to heal and get back to your life. But, someone is at fault for the injuries and pain, and for your loss of life enjoyment. If you have been injured in the course of your employment, you may be wondering who is supposed to pay the bills. What if things do not get better? What will happen if I cannot return to the same kind of work? Your days were full and busy before the accident — where will you find the time it takes to deal with insurance companies? How can you get fair compensation for all you have to go through? Even more catastrophically, what if a loved one has lost their life in, or as a result of an accident. Our book provides the answers to many questions you may have to help you get started, as well as how to understand what factors impact case valuation, and questions to ask before hiring a lawyer to make sure that they do a good job for you.

To our Friends and former clients, please do not buy this book. We would like you to have it for free. Simply click the link below, fill in your email address and proceed to download a pdf version of this pocket guide for dealing with serious personal and work injuries that occur in Connecticut.

Book PDF

 

Wrongful Death Cases in CT

Wrongful Death Cases

The common law definition of a wrongful death claim is a civil action that arises where damages are claimed against a party for causing the death of another, due to a negligent or careless act, possibly a criminal or reckless act. The breach of an established standard of care and the resulting harm ultimately leads to the death of an individual, giving rise to the claim. A wrongful death claim gives recognition to the fact that there is value in life. If a life is lost due to a negligent act, or a failure to act, there are lives left behind: spouses, children, and parents. The estate of the deceased individual has the right to pursue compensation for the things that those left behind have lost—the balance of enjoyment in their life, the companionship of those they had been with, their ability to contribute to  the welfare and safety, both economically and non-economically, of their family members.

Wrongful death claims are a type of personal injury claim, and require experienced and sophisticated analysis. The demands of these cases, both from a case management standpoint and a client counseling standpoint, include making the families aware of the process and potential outcome. Experienced attorneys, proficient in handling wrongful death claims, will diligently keep the family apprised of the progression of the case, help manage expectations, and clearly explain the process as it unfolds.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The individual who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit is left up to the probate court. An application is filed with the probate court after the decedent’s death, seeking an appointment as the fiduciary of the estate of a deceased person. The fiduciary is either someone who is named in the will, if the individual did have a will, and if not, most often a family member who applies to be the fiduciary of the estate. The fiduciary of the estate then has the ability to hire a lawyer on behalf of the estate, and pursue a wrongful death claim.

Misconceptions About Wrongful Death Cases

  1. The person bringing the action is solely looking for monetary compensation. More often than not, the parties or family members that are bringing these claims are looking for answers. They are looking for accountability. They are looking to make changes in the way people conduct themselves, or facilities conduct themselves, or the way that individuals are being treated. Often, they have a sense that somebody did something wrong or that an event occurred as a result of someone’s negligence or failure to act.
  2. The generalization that when hiring a law firm to pursue a catastrophic loss or wrongful death claim, the outcome will likely be the same from firm to firm. It may be thought that a wrongful death claim has a certain value, and that going to one lawyer or another is an interchangeable experience. There are several considerations when hiring an attorney in a wrongful death claim and results may vary from firm to firm based upon the experience, talent, and persistence of the principal attorney pursuing the case on your behalf. There is much more at stake for most families than monetary compensation. Answers, explanations, and accountability most often remain of primary concern.

Can a Wrongful Death Claim be Handled Without an Attorney?

There is not a legal requirement that a claimant have an attorney. The question of whether a lawyer is necessary is secondary to the overriding question of whether a lawyer provides value. In our experience, a pro se party, which is a party representing themselves, is a risky and dangerous approach. The courts are not in a position to give legal guidance to an unrepresented party. Experienced legal guidance is of the utmost importance here.

Courts, and the tort system in general, are a rule-driven infrastructure. It is similar to driving on the highway. If you do not know the rules, you are going to cause an accident, you will get lost, and you are going to be confused. Oftentimes the probate court will advise parties to seek a legal representative. They cannot give them legal advice. They very often identify situations where they believe the fiduciary needs legal assistance and direction. Obtaining capable legal representation is the recommended method to handle these matters.

Want to learn more about wrongful death cases and other beneficial information related to personal injury cases in Connecticut? I encourage you to download our pocket guide for free via this link: https://mailchi.mp/c0a77d196567/book-download

Life Altering Injuries in CT

What is a Life Altering Injury?

A life altering injury is a permanent injury which substantially interferes with one’s daily life. Generally, catastrophic injuries are defined as injuries that result in long-term medical problems, permanent disability, shortened life expectancy, and anything that is life changing for the individual who has been injured. It often goes beyond what you might envision as a catastrophic injury, such as loss of limb, brain injury, or life. Analysis is expended in determining exactly how an injury does alter an individual client’s life, because it is different for everybody. The client’s ability to earn, conduct life activities and normal routines, and how they comfort themselves and live their lives can be greatly affected in varying degrees. These are important factors in every case.

Life Altering Injuries in the Context of CT Law

Life altering injuries are not specifically defined by Connecticut statute. However, the law that we rely on in instructing juries is somewhat helpful. Financial recovery is allowed for any complete or partial loss of any type of bodily function. You can think about the functions that the body parts serve, such as walking, bending, lifting, sitting, reaching, using your hands, or thinking. This can also include any of the five senses, whether it is hearing, seeing, or someone’s emotional state. All these things can be injured, and can be considered life altering in many ways.

There is the resulting loss of income in many cases—a loss of career or livelihood. As well as punitive losses, both past and present. Further, there is the non-economic aspect of the loss of enjoyment of one’s life. If one is limited or restricted, not just in what they earn but how they live their life or how they enjoy their life, these elements become items of damages that are considered to be compensable. Thus, the definition of life altering injury can be quite varied. Everyone’s definition is going to be different, as every situation and case has wide variations and distinctions.

Accidents That May be Considered Life Altering

As the term “personal injury” is very broad, it’s important to note that there can be many different situations and circumstances that may inflict a serious injury onto an innocent individual. The accidents can result from incidents that happen on the highway, in public places, and that often happen in the workplace.

Some common causes of physical injuries may include (but are not limited to):

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents
  • Defective products
  • Dog and animal bites
  • Lead poisoning and asbestos
  • Medical malpractice cases
  • Nursing home abuse
  • Premises liability
  • Slip and fall
  • Wrongful Death
  • Workplace Accidents

There really is no simple classification of what a life altering injury is. It does not matter whether it happens at work, at home, while you are engaged in some recreational activity, or at a social event. Generally, accidents occur as a result of someone’s negligence or carelessness. Construction accidents, things that occur as a result of medical negligence, or injuries that occur as a result of the manufacturing, production, or design of a defective product. Negligence can involve machinery and all types of equipment on the job. It can also involve motor vehicles, trucks, and tractor trailers. We encounter premises cases with defective premises for all sorts of reasons arising out of negligent maintenance or construction.

Want to learn more about life altering injuries and other beneficial information related to personal injury cases in Connecticut? I encourage you to download our pocket guide for free via this link: https://mailchi.mp/c0a77d196567/book-download

Family of Late Hartford Firefighter File Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Hartford fighter Kevin Bell didn't have to die.

Hartford fighter Kevin Bell didn’t have to die.

 

The Law Offices of Paul Levin

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

FAMILY OF LATE HARTFORD FIREFIGHTER KEVIN BELL FILE WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT AGAINST THE CITY OF HARTFORD ON BEHALF OF HIS ESTATE. FIRE CHIEF, DEPUTY CHIEF AND LIEUTENANT ARE NAMED IN THE CIVIL LAWSUIT.

Hartford, CT: Family members of late Hartford firefighter Kevin Bell filed a wrongful death lawsuit, on behalf of his estate, against the City of Hartford regarding Bell’s death while fighting a house fire last year on October 7, 2014.

“Eight minutes and three seconds,” said Shawn Bell, Kevin Bell’s brother and administrator of his estate. “That’s how long it took the scene commander to dispatch a rescue team into the burning building and locate my brother. Eight minutes and three seconds after that muffled mayday call was transmitted and yet, it took only twenty seconds to find him. My brother was left behind and by the time they went back to get him, it was too late. If they had gone in sooner, I am certain my brother would still be with us today. ”

Bell, a firefighter with Engine Company 16, was 48 years old when he was killed fighting a house fire at 598 Blue Hills Avenue. Bell died from asphyxia when his tank ran out of air, leading to cardiac arrest.

“My husband didn’t have to die,” said his widow, Wayatte Statham-Bell. “Knowing what I know now, my husband should be living the life he loved so much. Every single day without him is really hard. Perhaps, the most heartbreaking, is the fact that he will never get the chance see his first grandchild being born. In January, our daughter is going to have a baby boy. How he would have loved to see this day.”

Hartford attorney Paul Levin of Hartford, co-counsel for the family representing Kevin Bell’s estate along with attorney Jeffrey Ment, said it was an unconscionable decision to order a firefighter into a burning building with faulty gear and then pairing him with a lieutenant, who didn’t have it drilled into his head, that you don’t leave the building without your partner. Levin also said the scene commander inexplicably failed to respond to a mayday call and apparently withheld the order for the special rescue team to immediately go in the building and rescue Bell.

“The fact remains that Kevin Bell should not have been sent in under these conditions but once inside the building, with his whereabouts unaccounted for after the building evacuation order had been issued, they should have sent in the rescue team right away,” Levin said. “The fact remains that Kevin Bell should have come home that day. The city’s fire department, and those responsible for the decisions made, need to be held accountable. They knew firefighters were being sent into harms way with defective and ill maintained equipment. They knew there was a severe lack of live fire conditions and tactics fighter training. They knew that the incident commander lacked command and control experience. They knew all of this, and yet, they ordered Kevin Bell into a burning building.”

The 14-count lawsuit includes four wrongful death counts against:

  1. The City of Hartford, for intentionally tolerating dangerous conditions substantially certain to cause injury. The suit cites defective, ill maintained Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA/air packs), including sub-standard functioning secondary low oxygen alarm and ill-fitting face masks, issues which had been long ignored and brought once again, directly to the attention of the chief days prior to the fatal fire.
  1. Hartford Fire Chief Carlos Huertas, for among other things, knowing there were equipment, training, command and crew integrity and related management problems and not addressing them.
  1. Deputy Chief James McLaughlin—the scene commander who had not received the required live fire training and tactics instructions which led to serious command errors, chaotic behavior and decision making at the scene. The suit also states McLaughlin made a conscious and deliberate decision to delay sending in the tactical team to save Bell from the fire though members of the team were pleading to be allowed into the building.
  1. Lieutenant John Moree—the firefighter who was sent into the burning building with Bell but then, left him behind. Lt. Moree made a muffled mayday call which either went ignored or unheard, but then failed to immediately alert nearby firefighters when he left the house fire that Bell was still missing inside. Kevin Bell had complained to family members and other firefighters not long before the October 7th fire, that Lt. Moree had abandoned him in another fire where they had been paired together on a fire hose line.

An investigation done by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found Bell’s air pack failed the Remaining Service Life Indicator Test—the secondary alarm bell failed to operate within parameters.

 An internal investigation, done by Hartford Fire Department’s Board Of Inquiry, also found a lack of training, poor radio communication, lack of crew integrity in regards to working in teams of at least two, failure to perform a proper search of the room for missing firefighters and not requesting additional resources to search the room in a timely manner.

The suit also includes defamation and related counts for statements made by Hartford fire department members which the chief, and others privy to the toxicology and medical examiner’s preliminary report, knew to be false, and harmful to Bell’s reputation.

“And this is why we are here today,” said Shawn Bell. “We want justice. We want every, single, last person who should be held accountable in Kevin’s death—to be held accountable.”

 

 

 

MY CLIENT GETS PERMISSION TO SUE THE STATE

My client, Kim Smith, has been given permission to sue the State of Connecticut over a very disturbing incident that happened at a state beach bathing house. Connecticut is one of only a handful of states in the nation where you must first ask permission to sue the state. It’s an old law that actually goes back to 13th century England with the notion that the king can do no wrong. In Connecticut, getting the green light to sue the state is not something easily done.

I will say through very hard work by myself and others on my staff, we are getting Kim Smith her day in court. Below the picture, you will see the Associated Press story about the case. This story was picked up all over the United States.

 

Kim Smith with Attorney Paul Levin

Kim Smith with Attorney Paul Levin

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An East Hartford family that was spied on while showering at Hammonasset Beach State Park in 2011 by two former park employees has been granted permission to sue the state of Connecticut for negligence in superior court.

State Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr. determined the state may have caused damage to Kim Smith by failing to fix holes that existed for years in the shower stall, where she and her younger daughters were showering. Vance said there was also evidence staff members were aware of holes near the toilets in park bathrooms.

“The evidence supported a claim for negligence against the state of Connecticut for failure to supervise and remediate the condition that allowed for holes in the shower facilities,” read Vance’s April 20 decision, obtained Thursday by The Associated Press. The state generally is immune from lawsuits unless allowed by the commissioner.

Paul Levin, Smith’s attorney, said he plans to file a lawsuit next week. He said his client was “ecstatic,” after pursuing the matter for 3 1/2 years.

“I always thought that if we had a commissioner that served his function, sort of as the conscience of the state, then they’d look at this and say, ‘This is wrong and let it proceed to court.’ And that’s what happened,” Levin said.

Levin said if such an incident occurred at a private facility, such as a hotel, management would “make a bee line” to apologize and resolve the matter amicably. He said it shouldn’t be a different with a public park.

“When you have people that are coming to your park, enjoying family time and they’re your guests, you just can’t not take care of their privacy interests and allow your buildings and facilities to fall into a state of disrepair and rendering them at risk,” Levin said.

The Department Energy and Environmental Protection, which oversees state parks, declined to comment on the commissioner’s decision. DEEP has said previously its staff “works hard every day to protect the safety, well-being and privacy of visitors to our parks.” It called Smith’s experience an “unfortunate incident” and all bathrooms were later inspected and repaired.

Vance also determined there’s enough evidence to support a claim of “bystander distress” by Smith’s husband Craig, who arrived to learn his wife and daughters, ages 6 and 3 at the time, had been watched through a peep hole by two men employed by the park. However, Vance said the state cannot be held liable for the intentional and criminal acts of former employees. The two seasonal park workers were fired and prosecuted.

Last April, Smith came forward publicly and told her story after learning about a small camera found hidden inside a bathhouse at Hammonasset. She urged people to “proceed with caution” when showering at a state park.

Smith said her family was camping for the first time at the Madison park on July 23, 2011, when she took her two daughters to shower in a bathhouse near their campsite. While they were showering in the stall, Smith said she noticed shadows and movement through a hole at the shower faucet. When she looked closer, Smith said she saw the outline of a man’s face. His eyes were staring back at her.

“I was shaking, mad, scared, humiliated, and of course, worried about my two young daughters,” she said.

Smith later took photos of a space that runs behind the showers, where staff can access pipes, and found holes. Some were the size of a nickel or quarter. She also took pictures of holes she found near toilets, shower stalls and elsewhere throughout the park. She said there were too many to count.

My client Kim Smith’s statement to the press about Hammonasset peeping incident.

Attorney Paul Levin with client Kim Smith

Taking questions from the press about the peeping incident at Hammonasset State Park

Taking questions from the press about the peeping incident at Hammonasset State Park

Kim Smith Statement:

I am Kim Smith. I am here today to tell my story, to break my silence, and tell the people of Connecticut what happened to me and my two young daughters while showering at Hammonasset State Park.

I am here now, three years after two park employees watched me shower with my two young daughters, because I can no longer be silent. My daughters and I were violated and victims of a crime. I was too embarrassed and humiliated to come forward and speak publicly about this at the time this happened. I did not want to expose myself or my children in the public eye because I wanted to protect them from this. But now, in light of recent developments at the park and the depositions I have read, I can no longer be quiet. The people of Connecticut need to know, when showering at a state park, proceed with caution.

On July 5, 2014, a camera was found inside the bathhouse at the campground at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison. A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Environmental protection called this an isolated incident. This is what outrages me!

I am here today to tell you that is not an isolated incident. Just a fews weeks before this latest privacy breach at Hammonasset, my attorneys were deposing park managers. One testified under oath that no policies are in place to address privacy issues, peeping incidents and voyeurism at the state parks. I believe park managers lacked accountability and responsibility for what happened to me and things are still happening on their watch!

The park supervisor at the time, William Mattioli, testified that to his “knowledge” there have not been any policy changes or overall employee training at state parks in Connecticut regarding peeping incidents, how to better protect people at parks from voyeurism, and other privacy issues. You can find this testimony on page 94. We are releasing the transcript in its entirety. Also, on page 36 of his deposition, Mr. Mattioli testified that he doesn’t “specifically go looking for cameras” but he if “happened to see one,” he would “address it.”

I was hoping that since my incident three years ago also at a campground bathhouse at Hammonasset, that there would have been major policy changes at state parks, like limiting who has access to bathroom facilities and installing a security system to more closely monitor employees with access to bathhouses and bathrooms. I was hoping this would be the case. I learned during my fact-finding mission, I was wrong, and with this latest privacy breach, I see it is still happening today!

Here is what happened to me.

July 23, 2011, as I mentioned, we were camping at Hammonasset State Park. It was a hot day and my daughters and I just returned from the beach. I took them to shower at the bathhouse near our campsite–building number 3.

I got the girls into the stall, undressed them and myself and we started to shower. While we were showering, I noticed something strange through a hole at the shower faucet. There were shadows and movement and I noticed a light on that I did not notice when we started. I moved closer to look through the hole and that’s when I saw the outline of his face, his eyes staring back at me and his facial hair.

My heart sank and my stomach dropped to my toes. I quickly wrapped the girls in towels and we got out of there. I was shaking, mad, scared, humiliated, and of course, worried about my two young daughters who were three and six years-old at the time. I was trying to get out of the shower area to get our clothes on and came face to face with the man with the facial hair as he was coming out of the storage area that it is connected to the women’s bathroom. He was not alone. He was with another coworker. I was scared. I tried to rush us all into the bathroom stall to put our clothes on and then noticed the big hole around the toilet in the stall, my heart sank again. People need to know that there is a pipe chase behind the bathrooms and showers. This is where the employees gained access, through their storage facilities, to watch us shower though the holes that were allowed to be present for over a decade. To this day, this pipe chase area is not blocked off.

I wondered who would do such a thing? Watch women and children shower while undressed.

As I mentioned, it wasn’t just one man watching us but two–Ken Sabo and Brandon Marchant. The men actually worked for the park, that’s right, state employees who later confessed to the crime–and cut a plea deal with prosecutors. They were fired from their jobs, which is a start, but I believe park managers should have and could have done more to prevent this. And now, with another privacy breach in the news, I know not enough is being done to protect those in their most vulnerable state.

Sabo and Marchant were originally charged with breach of peace, since a camera wasn’t used. For the past three years, I have tried to pass new legislation that would make it voyeurism if someone peeped at children even if a camera wasn’t used. I have been unsuccessful on that front so far. But I will continue this fight to change the laws until something is done to protect our children. To protect all of us.

I have been trying to fight this quietly, but I can no longer do that anymore.

My case is before the state’s claims commissioner. I am trying to get answers as to how something like this could have happened to me and my daughters by two state employees at a state park. I honestly believe I was not the first person violated at that park. Who knows how many other unsuspecting women and children were watched unknowingly while showering or going to the bathroom.

Prior to leaving the park that awful day, something told me to take a look around. I walked to the bathrooms in our area and was horrified and disgusted to find that our bathhouse was not the only one with so many holes. A photographer by trade, I quickly grabbed my camera to document what I saw. I found many holes, near toilets, in shower stalls, everywhere, too many to count really. This was not an isolated problem. State workers saw these holes for nearly a decade and did nothing to fix them. In fact, one of the men who watched me in the shower claimed that workers knew where to go to watch women shower.

Despite these deplorable conditions which left my daughters and me vulnerable to the peeping incident which happened to us, Mr. Mattioli testified that both the head plumber (and maintenance supervisor) at Hammonasset were not disciplined for leaving all these holes in the women’s facilities. In fact, Mr. Mattioli testified that he doesn’t think the state should be held accountable for the actions of two employees, despite the fact that it was on his watch (and the state facility he managed) that these deplorable conditions were allowed and considered to be status quo.

Thomas Smith, the head of maintenance at the park, also testified that he had no formal training in maintenance. On page 55 of his deposition, Mr. Smith testified he never had any certification, licenses or continuing education provided by the state of Connecticut on how to better manage maintenance issues at state parks, yet, he was the person put in charge.

Since my incident, the holes in the walls have been fixed but this is not enough. It was only because I called police and filed a report that something finally changed.
I want to see new security measures in place like a digital swiping card which would keep track of employees whereabouts and who had access to what building and when. I would also like a door be put on the pipe chase area so that regular workers do not have access there.

What most people don’t realize is community service workers, who have been arrested for various things, also work at the park. Many of them work to clean the bathrooms and have access to maintenance keys to all bathhouses. This does not sit well with me.

After reading those depositions, I decided to release them to the public for no other reason than wanting the public to know. DEEP will probably tell you that I am doing this to further my case. That is the farthest thing from the truth. I am doing this to shed some light on an ongoing problem at state parks and to give people access to what I have learned. I did not want to come forward and publicize what happened to me, I have remained quiet for three years while fighting this fight. But now, with a hidden camera being found at a bathhouse at the same campsite, I see that this is still happening.

It has got to stop!

After reading those depositions of state park workers, I was angry, upset and confused because not one of them was willing to take responsibility for their facilities or their employees. They feel like they have no wrong doing here and they all stand by their word. I find it hard to believe that in the 10 plus years these holes were present and continued to grow, that no camper ever filed a complaint or wrote a comment card about them or that no worker ever mentioned the holes all over the bathrooms (and showers) at Hammonasset.

I want real change and real accountability to protect others. What happened to me is done, but I will use what I know to protect others in the future. To this day, this incident, this violation disturbs me. The moment I am in a situation where I need to use a public restroom, a changing room at the mall, or shower after using a public pool or gym, I remember what happened to me and my children. I panic. I search.

This is always in my mind.

 

 

Hammonasset Peeping Victim Shares Her Story

 

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Attorney Andrew Garza, Kim Smith, Attorney Paul Levin, Attorney Kelly Kasheta with PLKK

Very proud of my client Kim Smith who spoke publicly for the first time today about a peeping incident three years ago at Hammonasset State Park. Kim and her two young daughters were showering undressed when she noticed someone watching her through a hole near the shower nozzle. Two state employees were later arrested for the crime. Kim told me she had to tell her story to the press and the public after the latest privacy breach also at the park. Only July 5, a hidden camera was found inside a bathhouse also at the campground where Kim and her daughters were violated. Kim is pushing for major policy changes to better protect people at state parks. She says what happened to her is not an isolated incident. She was very brave to share her story.

Here is one of the stories that aired on WFSB-TV, channel 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONNECTICUT CONSTRUCTION SITE WORKER INJURIES- LEGAL RECOURSE

CONSTRUCTION SITE SAFETY – THE GENERAL CONTRACTOR’S INFLUENCE OVER AND LIABILITY FOR RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION SAFETY ,

     Following the Connecticut Supreme Court’s reversal of a multi million dollar verdict against a general contractor in favor of a severely injured worker employed by a sub- contractor in the case of Pelletier v Sordoni/ Skanska Construction Co., 286 Conn. 563(2008), many in the construction industry no doubt breathed a sigh of relief. The duties owed by general contractors and construction managers on a construction site to the employees of sub-contractors were brought into sharp focus and the message drawn from the outcome of that case may very well have exceeded the actual holding and discouraged members of Bar from pursuing Tort claims in its wake. That is not a desirable outcome from a public policy perspective nor has the final chapter been written on the viability of pursuing such claims in Connecticut. While pursuing individual client interests for the purpose of obtaining financial compensation, leaving politics aside, it seems fairly obvious that much good has been done by lawyers toiling in the field of products liability and medical negligence litigation in terms of promoting the public’s interest for safer products and the safer delivery of medical care. Case law has not always been favorably disposed to those pursuing such cases and there continue to be minefields and unresolved issues at the Trial Court level complicating the effort. However, overall, one can say that by enabling financial accountability and subjecting product design and medical decision making to the rigors of the marketplace, sub-standard products and practices do tend to be identified, modified or eliminated over time.

     In the same way, the Construction industry, and particularly the residential construction segment, appears ripe for an enhanced degree of legal scrutiny. Residential general contractors who do not insist on employing individuals and sub contractors that adhere to fair labor and wage practices, that do not inquire into their subcontractors work methodologies nor assess whether there is a manifest intent to comply with Federal OSHA work site regulations and other applicable industry customs and standards risk not only tort claims premised upon negligence but also punitive damage awards under theories of recovery including common law recklessness and statutory Unfair Trade Practices. Connecticut’s residential construction industry , though depressed given recent cyclical trends, still supports tens of thousands of skilled and semi- skilled workers who rely on it for their livelihood. Many such workers are persistently being exposed to an unnecessary risk of physical harm due to a lack of appropriate construction work site safety conditions, procedures and safety equipment with predictable consequences. Despite a veritable panoply of mandated precautions and hazard recognition procedures set forth in applicable Federal OSHA regulations and generally accepted construction industry standards for competent Builders utilizing their own employee labor, these are serially ignored in many instances. Connecticut Statute establishes the duty to provide a safe work site and the adoption of attendant work site safety procedures. ( See CGS 31-49 and CGS 31-370) but violations and short cuts effecting non employee laborers populating the trades may be overlooked or even encouraged in the interest of expediency and squeezing out profit margins. Many laborers are also not being compensated for their extended work hours in terms of State mandated overtime for non managerial employees. Some are being paid cash by low cost sub- contractors who couldn’t otherwise perform the work for less money than it would cost the general contractors to do by hiring their own employees. Others are themselves misclassified as “independent contractors” in an effort to avoid Federal and State Tax witholding and Social Security and Medicare contributions as well for similar reasons. This vulnerable class of workers in need of money will readily work for cash, accept sub-standard conditions or sub-standard wages, particularly when there is less work to be found. It is hard to believe that most general contractors who hire those sub-contractors that treat their employees in this manner are not aware of the economic bargain being struck. It is Connecticut’s public policy to look to those entities that have the right to control workplace conditions to exercise that control in a way that protects the workforce, not only to one’s own direct employees. Brennan v. Occupational Safety Health Review Commission 513 F 2d 1032 (2d Cir 1975); The Brennan case involved a multi-employer worksite where the Court found that the general contractor necessarily had over arching responsibilities as to all workers on site. Likewise, the Pelletier Court indeed recognized the continuing validity of the proposition that even when the general contractor is not in direct physical control of the site at the time that the sub-contractor is performing its work , either exertion or its retention of the right to control are sufficient grounds to establish the existence of a duty running in favor of the injured worker.. Pelletier et al v. Sordoni/Skanski Construction Co.,Supra. The word “control” has no legal or technical meaning and refers to the power or authority to manage, superintend, direct or oversee. Panori v Johnson 158 Conn 92 ( 1969). Notably, control need not be exclusive, it is enough if it is shared with another.Van Nesse v. Tomaszewsk,i 265 Conn 627 (2003). In a recent case involving a worker who fell from a significant height from a scaffold without any fall arrest system in place, my client was being paid piecemeal wages based upon the amount of roofing work he and his crew performed . His direct employer was a sub-contractor performing the roofing work for a general contractor who was aware of the pay arrangement. Needless to say, they were being incentivized to increase the pace of the work as it meant more money . Given such circumstances, many experienced tradesman ,such as my client, may not have been inclined to utilize fall protection even if it had been provided unless mandated to do so by the entity in control or with the authority to control the construction site ( the general contractor) because of its tendency to slow the pace of the work . In other situations, the deviation from recognized standards of care may stem from a lack of appreciation by the individual worker (or his employer) of the magnitude of the hazard involved or a lack of knowledge about how best to abate the danger posed by adhering to best industry practices, thus greatly enhancing the risk of injury.

     A general contractor that hires a sub-contractor who does not maintain standard insurances, comply with wage and Labor regulations, or who does not demonstrate the use of safety equipment applicable to the scope of the work delegated to them and monitor the site for safety practice compliance purposes should be hard pressed to rely on the general rule of non liability for the torts of its independent contractors as the basis for its defense. A general contractor with knowledge of a defect in the work or in the negligence of his sub contractor may be held directly liable. Swearsky v. Stanley Dry Goods Co., 122 Conn.7, (1936). Aside from actual knowledge, the liability for negligent selection of an independent contractor is one of the established exceptions to the general rule of non-liabiltiy of general contractors set forth in Pelletier v. Sordoni/Skanska Construction Co., supra, 264 Conn. 509 (2003), ( if the contractee negligently employ an incompetent or untrustworthy servants, the contractee will be responsible for the resultant injury) An independent contractor must be competent and skilled to relieve his employer of liability for his torts. Lawrence v Shipman, 39 Conn 586( 1873 ). The liability for negligently selecting a sub-contractor may be based upon not only what the Contractee knew or should have known at the time of hire but also what they learned while they continued to retain said contractor Shore v Stonington , 187 Conn 147 (1982). Federal law and Connecticut jurisprudence both support the finding of a duty to act where the issue has been considered and in effect voted upon by governmental agencies and technical groups with relevant knowledge and experience to the issues at hand. Wendland v. Ridgefield Construction Services, Inc. 184 Conn 173 (1981). (OSHA safety regulations are admissible as evidence of negligence and proper for a jury to consider). On construction sites, for example, workers have repeatedly died from scaffold falls and trench excavation collapses because basic mandated safety precautions were ignored . Many General Contractors naturally possess an understanding of the important role which accepted work site safety standards and sub-contractor hiring procedures have in assuring worker safety. Given sufficient experience background or knowledge, an earnest inquiry can readily demonstrate whether or not the sub contractor demonstrates adequate capabilities to perform work utilizing properly trained, equipped and supervised workers. It similarly takes very little time to inquire of the sub-contractor whether or not they hire undocumented workers, pay cash wages, overtime pay, make employer FICA and Medicare contributions, and carry workers compensation insurance in the event of accidental injury. Beyond the ken of a negligence claim on suitable facts allegations of recklessness and Unfair Trade Practices have a role to play. Sadly, some general contractors would rather not inquire into or pretend not to know about their sub-contractor’s deficient safety, wage and labor practices as they benefit financially from this less expensive source of non employee labor. It is part of their own method of doing business. To reputable general contractors, this is an unfair method of competition and an unfair business practice as well from the injured worker’s standpoint. The conduct at issue is decidedly unfair, deceptive, immoral and unscrupulous and may well violate the dictates of Connecticut General Statutes Section 42-110b, referred to as Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA).

     Johnson_&_Johnson_HQ_-_IMG_2615Given the high frequency of serious injuries in the construction field as compared to many other industries according to OSHA’s statistics, the gravity of the departure from ordinary care in carelessly hiring such a contractor smacks of recklessness. The applicability of a recklessness claim against a general contractor would further seem appropriately premised upon an awareness of the danger posed and the deliberate disregard of same, whether the motive is profit or sheer indifference.

Connecticut Hospital Ordered to Pay Medical Malpractice Victim $12 Million

Surgical ErrorDanbury Hospital has been ordered to pay $12 million to the victim of a botched surgery which occurred in 2008, according to recent reports. The patient, 65-year old Vivian Gagliano, was undergoing a routine hernia operation when the surgeon performing the procedure punctured her colon, causing her to go into a coma and eventually requiring the removal of most of her large intestine.

In 2010, Gagliano filed suit against the hospital and two of its doctors, alleging that they failed to recognize the damage they’d done until after closing the surgical area, causing Gagliano to suffer infection and septic shock which endangered her life and led to the drastic step of organ removal. The jurors took only 3 ½ hours to deliberate before finding in favor of the plaintiff.

At the Law Offices of Paul Levin, we know how difficult it can be to recover from the effects of medical malpractice. Therefore, we make it our mission to help malpractice victims fight for justice. Contact our offices at 860-560-5302 to learn more about how we can help you if you have been the victim of a medical professional’s mistake.

14 Injured in Connecticut School Bus Accident

Bus AccidentA school bus crash on May 28th in Greenwich has left 14 people injured, including the driver of the bus. The bus, which was carrying students from The Stanwich School, was operated by a 74-year-old driver who, while driving on Stanwich Road, swerved for reasons which have yet to be identified, causing the bus to hit a large tree on the side of the road.

The bus driver’s compartment saw the brunt of the impact, and the driver was taken to a nearby hospital in order to treat serious but non-life threatening injuries. Some students on the bus also suffered injuries, including broken bones in a few cases, and thirteen had to be taken to hospitals nearby in order to receive treatment for their injuries.

Bus accidents can have serious consequences for injury victims, and at the Law Offices of Paul Levin, we understand how important it may be for accident victims to get compensation for their resulting losses. If you have been injured in a bus or other automotive accident in Connecticut, contact us today at 860-322-5302 to learn more about how we can help.