Articles Posted in Personal injury

For decades, the attorneys at Heinlein Beeler Mingace & Heineman, P.C. [HBMH Law] have been representing victims of the operations of colleges and universities. These Institutions of Higher Education [IHEs] are in many cases massive corporations with operations extending well beyond what some view and their core educational mission. They own vast parcels of land on which they build large and complex structures to provide facilities to young adults. These include academic buildings, including science and engineering buildings, sports and recreation facilities and residence halls. With these operations, and the money generated from them, comes a commensurate responsibility to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances for the safety of their students.

There can be little dispute about the fact that many college and university students are under 25 years of age. While, as a society, U.S. jurisdictions typically set the age of adulthood at 18 years old, modern brain science has confirmed what the auto-rental industry has long known. Major brain development ends around age 25, well after the age of “adulthood.” Our IHEs concentrate these still-developing, young adults in environments that are fraught with risks that are in many ways unique to colleges and universities due to their mission of serving this concentrated population. These students “neurocircuitry remains structurally and functionally vulnerable to impulsive sex, food, and sleep habits” and are “highly vulnerable to driving under the influence of alcohol and social maladjustments due to an immature limbic system and prefrontal cortex.” As noted by the authors of Maturation of the adolescent brain “[a]dolescents may become involved with offensive crimes, irresponsible behavior, unprotected sex, juvenile courts, or even prison. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the major cause of death among the teenage population is due to injury and violence related to sex and substance abuse.”

The recent case of Doe v. Boston University, raises these issues in the context of the sexual assault of a young female student in her dorm room. As set forth in that case, during the Head of the Charles weekend in 2015, two unescorted MIT students entered 11 unlocked rooms in Boston University’s Student Village 2 dormitory, before they encountered Jane Doe, who was asleep in her bed. One the intruders sexually assaulted Doe. He reportedly pled guilty and was sentenced to five years of probation.

On August 28, 2019, after years of litigation, and following a trial that started with four days of motions in limine on July 1, 2019, a Massachusetts Superior Court jury returned a verdict for a combined $36.5 Million on behalf of three seriously-injured high school juniors who were injured in a head-on collision with a school bus owned and operated by First Student, Inc. Jeffrey Beeler, a Partner at Heinlein Beeler Mingace & Heineman, P.C. [HBMHLaw], represented one of the seriously injured young women and obtained a verdict on her behalf of $6 Million, with another $750,000 being awarded to the victim’s mother for loss of consortium. The combined jury verdict of $36.5 Million in the 3 consolidated personal injury cases was recently recognized by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as the largest jury verdict of 2019.

At the time of the collision, the three injured teens were passengers in a car operated by their teenaged friend. The collision occurred at a curve on a two-lane road less than 1/2 mile from their high school in Kingston, Massachusetts. Evidence from the trial suggested that the car was traveling at about 30 m.p.h. prior to the collision; the school bus, which was not carrying children at the time, was traveling at about 34 m.p.h.

Following the collision, both the bus and car ended up in the school bus’s southbound lane.  Due to their extensive injuries, none of the occupants of the car ever recovered their memories of the events leading up to the collision or the collision itself. At the scene of the collision, responding law enforcement officers had access to the bus driver who sustained minor injuries, and two eye witnesses, who also worked for the bus company. In fact, every “eye witness,” whose perspectives were a function of where they were on the curve and traffic in front of them, claimed that the car left its lane, entered the oncoming lane, and hit the bus. Criminal authorities quickly concluded that the car driver was at fault for the collision. The car driver, who never had a memory of events, was prosecuted and eventually accepted responsibility for her car being in the wrong lane.

On September 12, 2015, Luke Tang, a sophomore at Harvard College committed suicide in the basement of his dormitory, Lowell House. HBMHlaw has been retained by the Estate of Luke Tang to pursue a wrongful death action against the President and Fellows of Harvard College and individuals alleged to be responsible for Luke’s death.

Given the Supreme Judicial Court’s recent ruling in Nguyen v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 479 Mass. 436 (2018), (another case handled by HBMHlaw), the attorneys at HBMHlaw believe the evidence will show that Harvard and its employees failed to take reasonable and appropriate steps to prevent this tragedy.  In the Nguyen decision, the SJC held that where a university or its employees have actual knowledge of a student’s prior suicide attempt while enrolled at the college, the college and employees have a special relationship with the student and a corresponding duty to take reasonable measures to protect the student from self-harm. Luke Tang attempted suicide at Harvard during his freshman year and the lawsuit filed alleges that Harvard and its employees failed to obey the requirements set forth in the Nguyen decision.

For most people involved in lawsuits, the thought of litigation is daunting and viewed as the great unknown.  Lawsuits are complicated, time consuming and have many twists and turns.   It is the intention of HBMHlaw in the coming days to launch a new webpage designed to provide a real-world example of such litigation to educate those who might be considering bringing such a claim as to what to expect and what such a lawsuit involves.  People interested in learning about the process will have real-time access to all public filings and all discovery conducted in the case from interrogatories (written questions) and documents exchanged to deposition testimony.  Further, there are often times when the lawyers disagree about how the case should proceed or what they need to disclose to the other side.  These disputes typically result in one party filing a motion with the court to have the court order the other party to do, or stop them from doing something they want to occur.  HBMHlaw will provide access to all phases of the litigation process in an attempt to share with people what actually occurs during the time their case is in the court system.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration [EIA], Massachusetts consumes nearly half of the natural gas used in New England. The majority of the gas is used to generate electricity, but residential customers use more than one-fourth of the state’s natural gas consumption and more than half of the households in Massachusetts rely on natural gas as their primary source for home heating.

Natural gas is marketed as cleaner, more efficient and often less costly for the consumer than alternatives like oil.Natural gas is delivered to these homes and businesses through an infrastructure of pipelines, many of them aging, and leaks are not uncommon. It is the flammability of the gas that makes it a useful fuel source. That same flammability and explosiveness, however, is what can lead to explosions, fires, death, injury and property damage.

It appears that such an event happened in the Massachusetts communities of Andover, North Andover and Lawrence on September 13, 2018. Reportedly more than 80 homes and businesses were impacted and many were seriously damaged by the 60 resultant fires. More tragically, one person is reported dead after debris from a chimney hit the car he was in when a building exploded. At least 25 others were injured in the fires. While it will no doubt take some time to determine the cause and origin of the fires and explosions, reports indicate that federal safety experts will be investigating and that state officials have been looking into the gas supply system operated by Columbia Gas which may have pushed high-pressured natural gas into a low-pressure section of the network. Columbia Gas has been working to address its 8,600 customers in the area. As a result of the incident, 18,000 customers are without electricity and as of the morning of September 14, 2018 road access to the City of Lawrence had been cut off by officials. Many institutions, including schools and the state Courts have been closed.

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