Category Archives: In The News

Judge to decide whether jurors in deadly 2013 explosion trial can be paid for their feedback

Published: Monday, October 3rd 2016, 5:20 pm CDT
Updated: Monday, October 3rd 2016, 6:56 pm CDT
By: Kiran Chawla, Reporter

A judge is being asked to step in and decide whether lawyers for a chemical plant in Geismar can dole out cash to former jurors looking for feedback on a recent trial.

On September 26, an Iberville Parish jury ruled in favor of four contractors who were suing the Williams-Olefins company for an explosion left two people dead and more than 70 others injured on Thursday, June 13, 2013.

The jury found that two management groups, the Williams Companies Inc. and the Williams Olefins LLC, knew that employees were at risk before the explosion occurred.

The four contractors who were working at the plant on the day of the explosion and were injured. The trial lasted nearly three weeks with the jury also ruling the plant had to pay out more than $13 million.

Not even a week after that ruling, letters went out to people who served on the jury, reading in part:

“We are inviting the 12 people who served on the recent Williams Olefins jury to a group feedback session to discuss your jury service and your thoughts about the case. Your feedback, and your time, is very valuable to us, so we would like to offer you $100 for your participation in this 2-hour meeting.”
“They’re not breaking the law. It’s just unchartered water,” said Tony Clayton, who is representing the injured victims in the case. “To mail the jurors a letter and say, ‘Hey we want to talk to you and we will pay you $100 to talk to you,’ I just want some guidance from the court. We want the judge to tell us whether or not they can do this or not.”

That is why Clayton’s team filed an emergency motion Monday asking a judge to deny the “paid interrogation of jurors,” saying “Defense counsel should not be permitted to entice the participation of former jurors by promising $100 in compensation without the approval and supervision of this court.”

“If you’re paying these folks, are you questioning these folks to try to find a new trial?” Clayton asked.

The motion reads, “Defense counsel’s tactics are nothing more than a veiled attempt to inquire as to any juror misconduct in deliberations, and elicit grounds for an appeal of the verdict. The enticement of jury members to provide “feedback” in anticipation of the November 2, 2016 second trial on this matter is inappropriate and improper.”

A different jury will hear the November case.

After the recent verdict, William Olefins said in a statement that they would appeal the jury’s ruling.

“Whatever reason [the jury] came to their decision, is their reason,” said Clayton. “So when you offer folks $100 to come into a private setting with you and your lawyers to grill them, then they may say anything that these jurors were influenced by this or this verdict is not. Well now, you have an advantage to go attack the verdict saying, ‘Oh I talked to them. This is what they told me.’ Now you just made that juror a witness in your motion for a new trial.”

The letter that went out to jurors is signed by Dan Jacks with EDGE Litigation Consulting LLC.

His bio on the company’s website says “Dr. Dan Jacks loves to help attorneys persuade skeptical jurors. He believes jurors can still be convinced to find in favor of large corporations, even in today’s distrustful climate, as long as attorneys (and witnesses) can speak directly and clearly to jurors’ concerns.”

On Monday, a judge set a hearing for Tuesday afternoon on the matter.

The trial that wrapped up on Monday. Sept. 26 is the first of five civil trials against William Olefins.

William Olefins’ two-hour meeting with jurors is scheduled for Tuesday night, but whether that meeting happens will depend on what comes out of the court hearing. A lawyer for William Olefins’ would not comment other than to say he trusts the judge will rule appropriately.

Original Article Source: http://www.ksla.com/story/33307185/judge-to-decide-whether-jurors-in-deadly-2013-explosion-trial-can-be-paid-for-their-feedback

Woman awarded $51 million in New Orleans East 18-wheeler accident

By Wilborn P. Nobles III, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

A jury returned a $51.5 million judgment Tuesday (April 12) in a lawsuit filed by the family of a woman who was severely injured by a tractor-trailer truck in New Orleans East. Connie Jones Marable received what is thought “to be the largest jury award ever made” to a single plaintiff in Judge Piper Griffin’s division ofOrleans Parish Civil District Court, said Erin Bruce Saucier, one of her attorneys.

Marable was injured in 2012 in a Lowe’s Home Improvement parking lot on Read Boulevard after her husband’s 2007 Freightliner truck moved despite having its emergency brake on, according to the suit. Freightliner Trucks is a division of Daimler Trucks North America LLC.

The truck pinned her under its wheels and dragged her for some time, leaving her with “crushing physical injuries and a severe brain injury,” Saucier said. She has been in a “minimally conscious state under 24-7 nursing care” since then. Court filings indicate that her husband, Wayne, left the vehicle with the brake on. When it started moving forward anyway, she tried to help him stop it.

The suit was filed by her adult children, Bill and Engelique Jones against Daimler Trucks, her husband’s insurer and his employer, KLLM Transport Services LLC. In an email statement to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune on Wednesday, spokesman David Giroux said: “Daimler Trucks North America is confident in the safety of its products.” He said the company “is disappointed with the jury’s conclusion and is evaluating its next steps in response to the verdict.”

Connie Marable was represented by Saucier and Caleb Didriksen of Didriksen, Saucier, Woods & Pichon in New Orleans. She was also represented by the Port Allen-based Tony Clayton of Clayton, Fruge & Ward.

The attorneys said the jury found Daimler Trucks to be 90 percent at fault in the accident. Saucier said it was most likely due to the truck’s lack of safety features, which he said includes a deficient parking brake system.

Original article found at:

http://www.nola.com/traffic/index.ssf/2016/04/woman_new_orleans_east_truck_a.html

State makes online post of 16 unlicensed day care owners

By Charles Lussier of The Advocate
CLUSSIER@THEADVOCATE.COM
June 12, 2015

The names of 16 day care owners ordered to close their centers for good are now posted on the Louisiana Department of Education’s website following last week’s death of a toddler at an unlicensed day care in Baton Rouge.

More names will be added to the blacklist as the department combs through older records, John White, state superintendent of education, said at a news conference Thursday.

One name is Shelia Newman, whose day care, Shelia’s Learning Academy and Daycare, was closed by a court order issued Sept. 15. That order is linked to her name on the website, along with the affidavit where she pledged not to operate a similar day care again.

Newman closed her center on the outskirts of Baker, only to quietly reopen for business 7 miles south at 6345 Prescott Road, across the street from her home. Her unlicensed business was not discovered until June 5, when 22-month-old Angel Green died soon after being left unattended in a sweltering day care van.

Newman, 47, was released Wednesday from East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on $75,000 bail.

A cousin of Angel’s mother, Joy Green, told The Advocate on Tuesday that no one told Green the Prescott Road day care was operating illegally.

White said he talked to the mother Wednesday.

“It was an extremely sobering conversation about an awful event,” he said.

He said he came away persuaded his office could do more to help other families not make the same choice.

All 16 blacklisted names have in the past five years received court orders to close. The list does not at present include centers that received notices revoking their licenses but whose cases never reached court or whose cases remain on appeal, state officials acknowledged.

In addition to Newman, the blacklist names four other day care center owners in the Baton Rouge metro area: Stacia Barton, My Lil Sunshine Daycare; Yvette Imbraguglio, an unnamed day care; Martha Jackson, Martha’s Childcare; and Michelle Lavergne, Leaps & Bounds Sports Center.

White said his office has sent letters to sheriffs in the 10 parishes where the blacklisted day cares operated, asking them to check and make sure these individuals are not operating illegal day care centers. He also urged members of the public who see something amiss to call a hotline for the department’s day care licensing division, (877) 453-2721.

White said the new blacklist will be included in proposed new licensing regulations for early childhood centers to be considered Tuesday by a committee of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The state school superintendent defended past enforcement actions of state day care monitors against Newman.

“State regulators did their job appropriately in every instance,” he said. “That does not mean there aren’t things we can do to be more vigilant.”

The Department of Education in October took over the responsibility of overseeing the state’s day cares from another state agency, the Department of Children and Family Services. DCFS handled the enforcement actions against Newman.

White’s office on Thursday released an updated timeline of the enforcement actions DCFS took against Newman. That timeline makes clear that Newman had operated illegally before for several weeks last summer.

On June 27, 2014, an administrative law judge upheld the revocation of Newman’s license, a decision that should have prompted her to close her doors. Three weeks later, on July 15, inspectors visited her center and found it was illegally operating, with 18 children present.

Still operating illegally, DCFS finally went to state district court in Baton Rouge to get the court to close Newman’s day care. Judge Tim Kelley did just that in his Sept. 15 order.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.
Originally posted on The Advocate

Common Offshore Injuries

Working offshore can be a difficult job, and it is not without significant dangers. According to the Health and Safety Executives (HSE), over a one year period between the years of 2010 to 2011, there were over 40 major injuries that were incurred from an offshore accident. This led to a rate of fatal and major injuries to 151 workers injured out of every 100,000 workers.

Over the years, due to stricter safety regulations, there has been a reduction in the amount of injuries that are sustained by Jones Act seamen, but this does not mean that there are absolutely no accidents that occur anymore. The elements of working outdoors on the open sea are extreme and can lead to dangers from wind, sea and sun; should extreme weather hit (such as rain or snow), this can be aggravated and can lead to slippery decks and the like. Beyond this, offshore workers are often required to work with heavy machinery. This in and of itself can be dangerous, especially should malfunctioning equipment come into play, but can be made even worse in the extreme weather conditions.

The HSE states that of dangerous occurrences while offshore, those that did not result in major injuries, the most common causes were the release of hydrocarbon, objects being dropped, having extreme weather conditions and lifting-operations gone poorly. These can be a serious incident for any offshore worker and unfortunately, these dangerous circumstances do not always result in a lack of injuries.

According to the HSE, there are some accidents that are more common than others. For example, in the 2010/2011 work year, the most common injury-causing accident was that of a slip and fall, which lead to over 17 serious injuries. Following this, the next most common cause of injury was being hit by a moving object, which was then followed by injuries that were incurred from heavy lifting or other handling of heavy and difficult to manage cargo. Other common hazards on offshore rigs include the risk for fire, defective equipment, falls from heights or accidents with machinery, such as jack-up rigs or cranes.

This has led to all matters of injuries. Again, according to the HSE, the most common injuries that are sustained by seamen are injuries to the upper limb, fingers and wrists, accounting for 19 of the major injuries sustained between 2010 and 2011. Shortly behind that, the second most common injuries target the lower limb (such as the ankle, foot and toes). It is also important to note that of all injuries that were sustained, over 60% involved bone fractures of some kind.

Should a Jones Act seaman suffer a serious injury while working offshore, it is important that they remember that they are covered by maritime law. The United States has made it clear through pieces of legislation like the Jones Act, that seamen have the right to file a claim should they have suffered injury or illness while on the job. While different from workers’ compensation, it allows for them to take legal action in an effort to recover damages; these claims can be made on account of a vessel that was unseaworthy or can even be made on account of the negligence of a third party. Regardless, however, of the cause of the incident, should a seaman or the surviving family be considering such a claim, it is in their best interests to get the involvement of an experienced maritime attorney. They will be able to help file a claim that will protect their best interests and help seek the compensation that they deserve.

Elder Abuse: The Size of The Problem

Elder mistreatment (i.e. abuse and neglect) is defined as intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether or not harm is intended) to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder. This includes failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder’s basic needs or to protect the elder from harm.

Unfortunately, we simply do not know for certain how many people are suffering from elder abuse and neglect. It appears that female elders are abused at a higher rate than males and that the older one is, the more likely one is to be abused.

Signs of elder abuse may be missed by professionals working with older Americans because of lack of training on detecting abuse. The elderly may be reluctant to report abuse themselves because of fear of retaliation, lack of physical and/or cognitive ability to report, or because they don’t want to get the abuser (90% of whom are family members) in trouble.

Below is a sampling of findings that show what is known about the incidence and prevalence of elder abuse and neglect:

The most recent major studies on incidence reported that 7.6%–10% of study participants experienced abuse in the prior year.
The study that found an incidence of 1 in 10 adults experiencing abuse did not include financial abuse.

Available data from state Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies show an increasing trend in the reporting of elder abuse.

Despite the accessibility of APS in all 50 states (whose programs are quite different), as well as mandatory reporting laws for elder abuse in most states, an overwhelming number of cases of abuse, neglect, and exploitation go undetected and untreated each year.

One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever comes to the attention of authorities.9 The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study found that for every case known to programs and agencies, 24 were unknown.

Major financial exploitation was self-reported at a rate of 41 per 1,000 surveyed, which was higher than self-reported rates of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect.

Those Who Abuse

In the only national study that attempted to define the scope of elder abuse, the vast majority of abusers were family members (approximately 90%), most often adult children, spouses, partners, and others.11

Family members who abuse drugs or alcohol, who have a mental/emotional illness, and who feel burdened by their caregiving responsibilities abuse at higher rates than those who do not.12

Abuse of Those with Disabilities

Approximately 14 million U.S. adults aged 65 and over and 19 million U.S adults aged 18 to 64 have a disability.13 Unfortunately, some of these vulnerable adults are abused by family members, service providers, care assistants and others. This abuse places the victim’s health, safety, emotional wellbeing, and ability to engage in daily life activities at risk.

Below is a sampling of research findings relating to abuse of adults with disabilities:

Institutionalized adult women with disabilities reported a 33% prevalence of having ever experienced interpersonal violence (IPV) versus 21% for institutionalized adult women without disabilities.14
When considering lifetime abuse by any perpetrator, a sample of 200 adult women with disabilities indicated that 67% had experienced physical abuse and 53% had experienced sexual abuse.15
In a study of 342 adult men, 55% of men experienced physical abuse by any person after becoming disabled. Nearly 12% of these men stated they experienced physical abuse by a personal assistance service provider over their lifetime.
In a comprehensive review of literature published from 2000–2010, lifetime prevalence of any type of IPV against adult women with disabilities was found to be 26–90%. Lifetime prevalence of IPV against adult men with disabilities was found to be 28.7–86.7%. It was concluded that, over the course of their lives, IPV occurs at disproportionate and elevated rates among men and women with disabilities.

New laws for 2015 crack down on drunk driving

NEW ORLEANS – In Louisiana about two dozen new laws went into effect on January 1, 2015. Set to begin in 2015, an update to the Louisiana DWI laws that includes more time behind bars for offenders. For example, up until now the first conviction of a DWI got the offender up to a $250 fine. The new law adds a minimum of ten days in jail, with 32 hours of community service. A second offense for a DWI and that minimum increases to 30 days in jail.

Personal Injury: 18 Wheeler

“18-wheelers are an essential component of the American economy.” The Truck Accident Resource Center states. Year after year, tons of cargo are shipped across our nation in these massive commercial trucks. Unfortunately, the presence of these means of transportation on the road also pose as detrimental threats to the health and safety of other motorists in its passageway, small passenger vehicles particularly. In fact, according to The Truck Accident Resource Center, as many as “5,000 fatalities occur each year in the United States as the result of truck accidents, with nearly 130,000 individuals suffering injury in these accidents.”

The grief and strife that loved ones may experience as a result of being involved in an 18-wheeler accident is immeasurable. With this, it is important to be aware of the common causes of 18-wheeler accidents in order to have the best chance at avoiding these dangerous situations.

Common Causes of 18-Wheeler Accidents:
• Distracted Driving
• Drunk Driving
Continue reading

Parents arrested in death of malnourished infant

VENTRESS — Authorities are calling the death of 3-month-old Joseph Lutz, who died in January of severe malnutrition and dehydration, one of the worst child neglect cases they’ve ever seen.

“That baby was in horrible condition. Its three months must have been hell on Earth,” Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton said during a news conference Monday to announce the arrests of Joseph’s parents. Continue reading

Teens Most Vulnerable to Concussion, Study Finds

People of all ages can suffer lasting consequences after concussions, but a recent study found that teenagers are more likely than other age groups to experience cognitive problems after head injuries.

In a study that tested the thinking ability of 96 people an average of six months after sustaining a concussion, researchers at the University of Montreal found that teenagers suffered more cognitive impairment after concussions than both children and adults, who displayed similar deficits. The results were surprising in light of widely held beliefs that children are more resilient after brain injuries than other age groups. Continue reading

Louisiana Lawmakers Consider Cellphone Ban

In Louisiana, 52 people were killed in traffic accidents directly caused by cellphone use between 2005 and 2009, NBC News reported recently – and with cellphone use continuing to rise in Louisiana and around the country, the number of distracted driving accidents is only likely to increase.

One Louisiana legislator, Representative Regina Barrow of Baton Rouge, hopes to reverse the growing trend of cellphone-related traffic accidents in Louisiana by enacting a state-wide ban on hand-held cellphone use while driving. According to news reports, Barrow was spurred into action after she and her children were involved in an accident with a driver who admitted that she had been distracted by her cellphone. Continue reading