April 2010 Archives

April 27, 2010

Asheville Bus Driver Had History Of Prior Crashes

Ralph Terry Dowdle had a history of minor traffic accidents in his bus prior to the serious crash he caused on Saturday, April 17, 2010 in downtown Asheville. The attached video shows the bus driver slumping over to his right just a few moments before the bus veers left and crashes into a parked car and the fronts of several buildings along College Street.

The accident seriously injured 55-year-old Susan Jane Zakanycz. Her leg was almost severed in the wreck. Unfortunately, the doctors at Memorial Mission could not save her leg, and she had to undergo an amputation.

The Buncombe County District Attorney's Office decided not the charge the bus driver criminally after it was discovered that he was suffering from an undiagnosed medical condition. Officials have said that the condition is what caused him to crash the bus. Strangely, no one has indicated what this undiagnosed medical condition is or how long he has had it. One condition that could cause similar symptoms is narcolepsy. This is the condition that causes one to suddenly fall asleep. We have encountered this condition in some of the tractor-trailer accident cases we have litigated. In the cases that we've handled involving narcolepsy, the at-fault driver was aware of the condition prior to the crash and had not sought medical treatment for fear of losing their job.

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April 26, 2010

Meeting The President Of The United States In My Backyard in Asheville, NC

President Obama.jpgOn Saturday morning, April 24, 2010, I met the President of the United States in my own backyard! When we got up that morning around 7:30am, we noticed some unusual activity on the Grove Park Inn golf course that backs up to our house. There were the black SUVs parked in various spots along the course, there were the casually dressed, muscular men with binoculars peering about, and then there were the guys in golf carts without any golf clubs. We called some of our neighbors to join us, and everyone met in our backyard to watch the happenings. My kids were still in their PJs.

Once we got into our backyard, more neighbors started showing up. Ryan and Anne Hammonds and their kids, Elllie and Will came over. Katie Campbell showed up with her two dogs. Several neighbors from down the street came up. James Johnson, his family and their dog dropped by. Soon, we had a small crowd.

Within about 15 minutes, two guys, one wearing a bulging nylon jacket, pulled up in a golf car and announced that they were with the Secret Service. I fully expected they would tell us to back up or maybe even get lost. One of the neighbors preemptively asked if we had to leave, and the Secret Service guy said we had every right to stay on our property and could do whatever we wanted. Then he added, "Almost." Then they asked if anyone had any weapons or metal objects in their pockets. They said a guy with a security wand would be coming by in a minute to search and scan us. We were still just thinking we might be lucky enough to get a waive or a nod from the President.

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April 20, 2010

Asheville Bus Driver Had Undiagnosed Medical Condition That Caused Loss of Consciousness

Asheville bus crash.jpgLast Saturday morning, an Asheville bus driver, Ralph Terry Dowdle, ran off of College Street, up onto the sidewalk, and struck a woman who was entering the Mediterranean Restaurant. After striking the woman, the bus continued to collide with the entrances of several businesses. The woman, whose identity has not been released, suffered a severe injury to her leg. Hospital officials have said that doctors had to amputate her leg. She is still listed at Memorial Mission Hospital as being in critical condition.

The Asheville Police Department (APD) has issued a report that says that the bus driver lost consciousness just before the accident. The loss of consciousness is allegedly due to an undiagnosed medical condition, though officials have not disclosed what that condition is. As a result, the District Attorneys office has decided not to file criminal charges against the bus driver.

Mr. Dowdle works for a subsidiary of First Transit, which operates the public transportation system in Asheville. One can only wonder how a bus driver could have a serious medical condition, that could cause him to lose consciousness, and not be aware of it. In this author's legal opinion, the bus driver, his employer First Transit and the City of Asheville are all liable for the woman's serious injuries. We can only hope that all of the responsible parties will do the right thing and help compensate the injured lady for all of her harms and losses. More often than not, in situations like this, we are told that there was no way that anyone could have known this might happen, and therefore we are not responsible for the injuries. In such cases, litigation is the only way to discover the truth.

Amputations are extremely serious injuries, and there are often severe complications associated with an amputation. Common complications from an amputation include infection, blood clots, pressure sores and phantom pain. Phantom pain is where one feels the sensation of still having the amputated limb, and it is painful.

In cases involving serious injuries like amputations, we often use medical animation to graphically depict the medical procedure. Such animations are helpful to show the other side (defendants and their attorneys) what our client has been through. In contested liability cases (where the other side denies responsibility for causing the incident), we will also often use computer animation to show how and why a particular accident happened.

In a case involving a bus accident that killed a pedestrian at an airport, an accident reconstruction animation was used to show how the accident occurred. As part of the animation, it was demonstrated how a simple concrete barrier could have totally prevented the collision.

At Davis Law Group, we use cutting edge computer technology to help our clients recover the compensation they deserve for their losses and harms caused by the negligence of others. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured because of someone's negligence or recklessness, contact attorney Brian Davis to discuss your situation. Consultations are free, and there is no obligation.

April 15, 2010

Boy Scouts Of America Found Liable In Sex Abuse Case

Boy Scout Emblem.jpgAfter 3 weeks of trial and two days of deliberations, a Portland jury returned a $1.4 Million verdict finding the Boys Scouts of America liable for negligently allowing a confessed child abuser to continue having contact with other Boy Scouts, including the man who brought the lawsuit. The assistant Scout master had admitted to abusing 17 out of 30 young boys in his troop.

During the case, the victim's attorneys were able to introduce evidence from the Scout's own "Perversion Files" which contained information the Scouts had gathered about its leaders who had sexually abused young boys in the Scouts. The jury, during its deliberations, were able to review approximately 1000 of the Perversion Files. Not only did the jury find the local chapter liable for allowing the abuse to continue, but it also found the national Scout organization, based out of Texas, liable for punitive damages. The jury did not decide the amount of punitive damages owed. Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant and to deter it and others from committing similar wrongful acts in the future.

This $1.4 Million verdict is only the first phase of the trial, in that the case will resume on April 20, 2010 to begin the punitive damages portion of the trial. In many civil trials where punitive damages are alleged by the victim, the defense attorneys will ask the court to bifurcate the trial into two phases, a compensatory damages phase and a separate punitive damages phase. This tactic keeps the jury from hearing some of the most egregious evidence until after it has decided the amount owed for compensatory damages. Once a jury finds a defendant is liable for punitive damages, settlement negotiations often ensue as most defendants do not want to risk a huge punitive award.

The Boy Scouts have vowed an appeal, but, in my humble legal opinion, their chances of getting the verdict overturned are slim, unless the appellate court finds that the statute of limitations has already run.

At Davis Law Group, we have compassionately represented many individuals who have suffered abuse by those in whom their trust was misplaced. We have successfully argued that statutes of limitations have been tolled (suspended) due to the psychological nature of the injuries inflicted and the defendant's horrifically egregious conduct. If you or a loved one feel that you have a claim for sexual abuse, contact an experienced sexual abuse attorney to discuss your case and legal options.

April 12, 2010

North Carolina TV Station Is Focusing On Truck Accidents

Pate-Dawson Co.gifToday, a senior producer from a regional television station contacted me about Truck Safety in North Carolina. She started the conversation off by noting how many recent tractor-trailer accidents appear to be the result of either truck driver fatigue or unsafe truck equipment.

The producer told me that she was working on an upcoming program that will focus on truck safety and how some truck driver's and truck company's failure to be safe have seriously injured or killed North Carolina citizens. She wanted to know if I had any former clients whom I thought would be willing to be interviewed for her news article. One case immediately popped into my mind. The case was against a motor carrier called the Pate-Dawson Company.

One evening a few years ago on a dark rural highway outside of Goldsboro, NC, a tractor-trailer truck owned by restaurant food distributor Pate-Dawson Company ran over a young boy on a bicycle. At the time, the boy was riding his bicycle on the side of a two lane road outside of Goldsboro. The tractor-trailer came up from behind and ran him over.

After the wreck, the truck driver lied and told the police that the bike had darted-out from a side road into the highway, and that he had no time to react. The truck driver also lied and told the Trooper that he had only been on duty for 11 hours at the time of the wreck. The truck driver lied again telling the Trooper that his on-board electronic computer (black box) was not working and contained no electronic data about the crash. This information was confirmed to the Trooper by several company executives (including the owner) who rushed to the scene trying to perform damage control.

When the investigating State Trooper looked inside the cab of the big rig, he found two separate driver's daily log books. In the truck business, this conclusively shows that a truck driver is trying to beat the system and driver more hours than the law allows. The Trooper charged the driver with falsifying his logs.The Trooper did not charge the driver with anything else at the time because all he had to go on was the trucker's and company executives' word. Little did the Trooper know that everything he had been told was a bald-faced lie.

We were extremely lucky in this case in that after the crash, a cousin of the young boy who had worked in the trucking business applied for and took a job as a dispatcher at the company that owned the tractor-trailer - Pate Dawson Company (PDC). His sole goal was to find out what happened to his younger cousin. As a dispatcher, the cousin secretly investigated the crash and discovered the hidden electronic evidence proving the truck driver had been on duty and driving for 23.5 hours at the time of the wreck. When the family showed the Trooper what the cousin had found, the Trooper re-opened the investigation and did a reconstruction of the crash - concluding that the truck driver could have seen the young as far back as 1200 feet from the point of impact - significantly more than enough distance to stop a tractor-trailer that's going 55 mph.

The parents of the boy hired us approximately 2 years after the truck accident. Our team of experts thoroughly investigated the case and conclusively proved that the boy did not dart-out from a side road, that the collision actually took place just outside of the truck's lane of travel - on the shoulder, that the truck driver was speeding (73 in a 55 mph zone) when he struck the bicycle, and that the trucker had been on duty for 23.5 hours when the fatal collision occurred. Most importantly, we were able to show that the truck driver's employer not only knew about his numerous safety violations, but it encouraged, endorsed and at times demanded it.

During litigation, we uncovered unbelievable information about how this motor carrier had thumbed its nose at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by not adhering to the hours of service regulations. We discovered internal company memos that showed this particular driver had been found to be "habitually driving more hours that the law allowed," and one manager at the company tried to persuade the President of PDC, Matt Sullivan, Jr., to put a stop to the illegal driving, but Matt Sullivan refused and knowingly kept putting this and other illegal drivers back on the road. A significant number of this company's tractor-trailer drivers were driving over the legal hours limit and had been for years. Unfortunately, this boy's death was the result of their refusal to operate safely and within the law.

Not surprisingly, the case settled as it neared the courtroom. At the time of the settlement conference, the owner of the company told the boy's father that his company had been doing some things it should have not been doing, and that they had changed their (evil) ways. It is just horrible that someone had to die and a family had to be torn apart for the truck company to understand why these safety laws are in place. Sadly, if the cousin had not gone undercover and discovered the damning evidence, the truck company would have completely gotten away with reckless homicide.

After confirming the television producer's credentials, I contacted the young boy's parents and they agreed to participate in the news report and tell their story. The senior TV producer says the parents' story is compelling and the news article will air in a few weeks. I will try to post an update as to the program's date and time. It should be interesting....

Brian Davis is recognized as one of the nation's top experts in serious truck accident injury cases. He serves as a national adviser for the Association of Plaintiffs Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America and is a member of the Interstate Truck Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. Attorney Davis' goal is to help reduce the number of preventable truck accident cases in North Carolina.

April 8, 2010

$48 Million FELA Jury Verdict Against Railraod Affirmed On Appeal

Union Pacific Railroad.jpgA recent appellate decision affirmed an enormous jury verdict in favor of a railroad worker who was paralyzed while on the job. The railroad worker, Eric Doi, sued Union Pacific Railroad under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) after a co-worker lost control of a company vehicle and crashed, causing Doi to become paralyzed. At the time of the wreck, Doi and the co-worker were going to Wal-Mart to buy food and drinks to be consumed while at work. The big question on appeal was whether Doi and the driver were acting within the course and scope of their employment with the railroad at the time of the wreck.

The FELA provides that a railroad is liable to a railroad employee that suffers injury as a result of the negligence of an employee of the railroad. After a thorough and well-reasoned analysis, the Court of Appeals found that Doi and the driver were acting within the course and scope of their employment in that the act of going to buy food and drink to be used at work constituted conduct that was "incident to" the work they were going to be performing later in the day.

While the jury's verdict was huge, Doi's damages were unbelievably horrible. Some people see or hear about a large verdict and immediately conclude that the jury made a mistake, but in my experience juries make the correct decision in the vast majority of cases.

Just a few of the issues Doi must now deal with after becoming a quadriplegic include having no feeling below his nipples and no control over his bladder and bowels. His penis has to be catherized several times a day, and the stool in his bowel must be physically removed from his body each day. He can no longer have sex. He suffers from frequent pressure sores. As a result, he has to be turned every 15 minutes, and this happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He experiences swelling in his feet and legs, severe headaches, bladder infections, and abnormal bone growth in his hip that will require surgery. He must have nursing care 24 hours a day. He now suffers from clinical depression and has been diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) His life expectancy is 29 percent less than it was before the wreck. At the time of the crash, Doi enjoyed numerous outdoor sporting activities and was about to marry and start a family. Instead of thinking about marriage, his thoughts now focus on committing suicide, and he has trouble envisioning anything meaningful in his future. Nursing and medical care alone will likely exceed $25 Million over his lifetime. With harms and losses like these, the verdict seems just.

At Davis Law Group, we help injured railroad workers recover the compensation they deserve. We have handled serious injury cases involving quadriplegia, brain injury and amputations. If you have suffered a serious injury while employed by a railroad and would like to consult with an experienced FELA attorney, give Brian Davis at Davis Law Group a call. The consultation is free.

April 5, 2010

Boy Scout's President Blames Parents

boy scouts.1.jpgIn the highly publicized lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America, a local Scout executive has testified that he believes the parents of the abused scouts are to blame. The AP wire service reported that Eugene Grant, President of the Portland metro area Scout's Council, testified he thinks that the parents of the boys who were abused were negligent and even criminally responsible for the abuse by allowing their sons to attend sleepovers at a former scout master's home. Grant told the jury that the parents should have known better than to allow their sons to spend the night in a single man's apartment. He also testified that the Scouts did not have a policy prohibiting unauthorized sleepovers in the 1980s. Grant told the jury that he does not think the Cascade Pacific Council is responsible for any of the abuse.

It amazes me that a leader of this organization can cast stones at the victims' parents and at the same time deny that the Boy Scouts are in any way responsible for what happened to these children. If Grant thinks that the parents were negligent for allowing their young boys to spend the night at the defendant's apartment, how can he deny that the Boy Scout Council was negligent when the council was aware of allegations of abuse by this scout master and yet continued to send these same boys into the woods with this pedophile for overnight camping and hiking? Who was in a better position to suspect abuse? Parents who had no knowledge of any abuse allegations or the Scout Council who had received complaints of abuse?

As I mentioned in my earlier post on this case, the court has ruled that the victim's lawyers can use the Boy Scout's secret files, known as "the Perversion Files," to try and prove a pattern by Scout officials of ignoring suspected abuse or allowing pedophiles to return to their leadership roles. Such evidence would be compelling and might well lead to a substantial punitive damages verdict against the Scout organization. Most other lawsuits filed against the Scouts for sexual abuse have settled out of court.

So far, since the jury trial began on March 17, the victim's lawyer has opened up six large boxes filled with over 20,000 pages of files the Boy Scouts of America maintained on over 1,000 national volunteers who sexually abused boys between 1965 and 1984. The victim's lawyers have not shown the jury a file connected to the defendant in this case, but I would not be surprised if that file is the last one introduced into evidence. That would be a strong way to end the case.

At Davis Law Group, we believe that all organizations that take on the responsibility of caring for and supervising children have a duty to protect those children from abusers. This seems like a very common sense concept, yet there are still dozens of youth organizations that have not adopted any policies about how to make sure abuse does not happen within their organization. Failing to adopt such anti-abuse policies can lead to abuse. If you are a parent whose child or children belong to youth organizations, whether in church, school or athletics, you should ask the leaders of those organizations about their policies for preventing sexual abuse. If they have no policies, then you should decline to have your child involved in that organization. To learn more about child sexual abuse prevention, visit Darkness to Light.