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Muddling the language of campus sex offenses avoids real preventative effort

Instead of “no means no” when it comes to campus sex, California legislators are now moving towards laws that suggest “yes means yes.” 

Sexual assault is a serious and complex crime that cannot be condensed to “yes means yes” or any other phrase. The prevalence of college campus sexual attacks reflects an attitude that disregards the humanity and rights of the women who live there.

The increase of sexual assaults on campus is not going to be fixed by the suggestion that “yes means yes” should solve the issue of permission/consent. The complete picture of a sexual assault crime involves more than just the issue of consent. More often than not, the scenario also involves alcohol and/or other substances that affect an individual’s judgment along with a wide array of circumstances and specific factors.

Lawmakers seem hesitant to approach the actions and circumstances that lead up to an assault. They prefer to play with bills like SB 967, which requires colleges to have an “affirmative consent standard” instead, only addressing the assault itself.

SB 967 may be a step in the right direction, but it is best to remember that a solution to sexual assault cannot be established by setting a standard to separate assault from consensual sex. It cannot be sandwiched into three words. And frankly, yes may not mean yes. The circumstances of each case dictate the outcome as being a crime or not.

Legislation does not stop crime.

UC Berkeley, Princeton, Harvard, Occidental, USC and a full list of 55 colleges across the nation are under scrutiny for mishandling sexual assault cases. “Yes means yes” doesn’t even begin to deal with the roots of the problem. What lawmaker will actually address them?

Another GM ignition switch failure kills youth

Another wrongful death lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a 23-year-old man killed in December 2013. 

The young man was driving a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt that crossed the center line and collided head-on with a school bus. The crash investigation revealed that the cause was linked to GM’s defective ignition switch.

The defective switch allows the key to slip from the “run” to “off” position while the vehicle is in operation. Once this happens, the vehicle abruptly loses engine power, the airbag system is disabled and steering and braking power are lost. Many of these incidents have led to the death of the vehicle’s driver and others involved.

This death could have been prevented. GM covered up the known ignition switch defect and failed to report the issue to the government or the public. Had the company conducted itself ethically, many lives would have been saved.
So far, more than 17.1 million vehicles have been recalled for a defective ignition switch.

Failure to diagnose appendicitis is medically negligent

Medical negligence can happen in Sacramento or anywhere else. If a medical professional fails to determine the right diagnosis from symptoms of appendicitis, the organ may rupture before it is treated, causing serious complications.

In order to arrive at a correct diagnosis, the medical professional must collect all the pertinent information and perform several tests to confirm their suspicions. With proper diagnosis, the patient has a good chance of recovery. A failure to identify the problem in time may lead to serious injuries or death. 

Appendicitis is the third most-often-missed medical diagnosis. Close to 30 percent of people diagnosed with acute episodes of appendicitis were previously been seen by another doctor and were not accurately diagnosed. The failure to identify appendicitis is higher among children and infants.

One in fifteen people will end up with appendicitis during the course of life. It often happens to those ranging in age from 10 to 30 years old, but the inner lining of the organ could become inflamed and fill with pus at any point in time. An untreated, inflamed appendix is at high risk to rupture. Once that happens, infection spreads rapidly throughout the abdominal cavity.

The symptoms commonly associated with appendicitis include:

  • Pain in the upper or lower abdomen that increases in intensity in the lower right quadrant
  • Constipation or diarrhea and gas
  • Fever
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Painful urination
  • Deferred pain in the back, rectum or upper/lower abdomen

A medical professional could fail to diagnose appendicitis if he or she:

  • Does not order the right tests
  • Follows up inadequately with the patient
  • Does not ask the right questions to determine symptoms
  • Gives painkillers without identifying the cause of the pain or further pursuing symptoms
  • Diagnoses an unrelated illness
  • Misidentifies symptoms when they are other than the classic signals used to diagnose

If you have been in such a situation, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. You have the right to an intelligent, educated diagnosis. If you are misdiagnosed, someone needs to be held accountable for that medical negligence.

Concussion incident rates rise in California

A new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has suggested that increasing numbers of E.R. visits are related to concussions and head trauma. According to the report, E.R. visits for traumatic brain injuries leapt by 29.1 percent between 2006 and 2010.

Scientists from the Harvard Medical School and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine sampled data from more than 950 hospitals. They focused on patients seeking care for unspecified head injuries, lacerations, concussions, skull fractures and contusions.

Over the four-year period of study, researchers observed an 8 percent uptick in skull fracture treatments, a 22 percent leap in concussion treatments, and a 38 percent hike for unspecified head injuries seen in the E.R.  At the same time, the percentage of patients routinely discharged after E.R. care jumped from 75.2 percent in 2006 to 81.3 percent in 2010. Better, more accurate diagnosis? Medical negligence as patients are seen in shorter and shorter amounts of time?

It is possible that Americans are simply growing more conscious of head injury risks. Before, during and after prominent lawsuits, national media channels flood airwaves with information about football, soccer, volleyball and other sports-related head traumas. The number of actual head injuries may also have increased across the nation.

Not sure if your head injury was properly diagnosed and treated? Still struggling to cope on a daily basis? Seek experienced legal counsel and find out if you have a medical negligence case.

Nationwide, nursing home abuse startlingly common

In the latest of a tidal wave of senior abuse reports, federal authorities fined a Kansas nursing home more than $185,000 and imposed a $1,000 per day fine that will be charged until the home is brought back into compliance. 

The State Department for Aging and Disability Services alleged that four staff at the home verbally and physically abused at least two seniors. The individuals in question have been terminated.

The alleged abuse came to light after a state inspector talked to 27 residents. Those discussions revealed that at least two elderly residents suffered repeated abuse. One patient was the preferred target for all four nursing home aides. Another patient at the facility had repeatedly abused a fellow resident.

On release of the report, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid fined the home $8,200 a day from March 26 to April 13, and $1,000 a day for each day after April 13. The fines will cease once the home is compliant with all rules and regulations and has dealt with the issues cited in the report — including the failure to self-report and to look into intra-resident violence.

All facility staff is being retrained, and the home will be subject to random inspection at a later date.

We all need to take action if we suspect that something is wrong at a nursing home or that a relative is being abused. If you feel something is wrong at a nursing home, call a competent lawyer and get help.

Should large retail stores have portable defibrillator units on hand?

While portable defibrillator units do save lives, they can also backfire, causing unnecessary harm. For more than 20 years, the percentage of public locations, including airports and bus stations, with automated external defibrillator units has grown steadily.

But should retail stores carry them as well?

The California Supreme Court, in hearing arguments in a wrongful death lawsuit against Target, appears reluctant to mandate that large retail operations keep such a defibrillator unit in their stores. Lawmakers are concerned that store clerks, even if trained, may not be able to distinguish a heart attack from another condition. Misidentification of symptoms and/or incorrect use of the devices could exacerbate an already dangerous situation. 

And once medical intervention by store clerk is permitted, would stores be required to deal with other medical emergencies?

The lawsuit facing the Supreme Court involves the death of 49-year-old Mary Ann Verdugo at a local Target store. Verdugo’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, suggesting that she would still be alive had a defibrillator unit and trained worker been available. Verdugo was shopping in Target in 2008 when she suffered a cardiac arrest.

The family’s attorney has argued that the units are easily used by lay people, as they are capable of issuing voice commands and carry special sensors that only supply electricity when necessary.

The Court plans to issue its judgement within 90 days. Should the court rule in favor of the plaintiff family, retailers will need to support their customers in a drastically different way.

After helmet failure, 110 comatose days and counting

Traumatic brain injuries can happen to anyone, even Formula 1 racecar driver Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher has spent more than the last 110 days in a coma. He fell and hit his head on a rock while skiing. Even though he was wearing a helmet, which shattered into three pieces, he is still fighting for his life from the head injury. Doctors say if he had not been wearing the helmet, he would not be alive by any definition.

The accident has shaken the ski industry badly. Those who ski at any level are wearing helmets more than ever, according to a New York Times article. In fact, 70 percent of skiers are sporting helmets (about triple the number from 2003), but the gear has not reduced the number of fatalities or brain injuries.

A troubling 2012 study by the Western Michigan University School of Medicine revealed that head trauma incidents increased by 60 percent between 2004 and 2010 — the same time period when helmet use was on the rise. While helmets do reduce the likelihood of wounds like scalp lacerations, they do not avert concussions and traumatic brain injuries, the more fatal accidents.

Helmets are not the security blankets they are made out to be. If they are not made to actually protect a wearer’s head, defective or negligent manufacturing might have come into play. If you’ve been in this situation, speak to an injury lawyer and find out what your legal rights are.

Nursing home abuse: a bizarre spin-off

When people are considering nursing home abuse, they tend to envision physical, mental, emotional, psychological, medical and sexual abuse. Few think about a nursing home worker possessing controlled substances, including prescription narcotics, with the intent to sell them. Even fewer worry about a nursing home worker trafficking heroin.

Orange County police arrested two individuals at a Greenwood Lake apartment building, where they found 11 wax paper envelopes of a substance police were certain was heroin. Officers also found two oxycodone pills, 6 alprazolam pills, needles and three hypodermic syringes. One of the two arrested was a licensed practical nurse (LPN) working for county-owned and run Valley View Nursing Home.

Police felt that the case clearly connected abusing street drugs with abusing prescription drugs. Allegedly, the LPN used her position of authority as a healthcare worker to access controlled substances and to use them in an illegal manner.

The district attorney has made it clear they are pursuing all available legal avenues to hold the woman accountable for her alleged abuse of authority and for her actions.

It’s infinitely depressing when cases like this one come to light. Seniors in care deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They need to feel safe with their caregivers.

If you have relatives in a nursing home and you suspect that something is wrong, contact a personal injury lawyer right away. Stop the abuse, no matter how unusual or odd the situation may seem.

Wrongful death lawsuit names Vacaville Police as defendants 

Last year, Vacaville police shot and killed a mentally ill Fairfield man. His family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the police department and the city, claiming that the police were aware that the 23-year-old man had a mental illness when they pursued him in a low-speed chase in July 2013. It further alleges that they used excessive force and questionable tactics that could be considered recklessly provocative, and that this force and those tactics led to the man’s death.

The victim was shot three times as he approached police officials. The officers involved in the shooting have indicated that he approached them in a threatening, aggressive manner and was carrying a knife and a framing hammer or crowbar. Other details provided by the police suggest that the man was acting in a bizarre manner and making threats. When speeding, he refused to pull over, and, as such, became involved in the low-speed chase.
The police used their vehicles stop the man with a ramming PIT maneuver. The young man was seen to lean over to the passenger’s side of the vehicle. He then allegedly got out carrying potential weapons. Some witnesses at the scene have stated that the man did not have anything in his hands at all. One officer fired five times, hitting the man in the arm, chest and hip.

The lawsuit alleges that the victim was shot a mere five seconds after exiting the vehicle, and that the police did not follow proper enforcement protocol and training on safe handling of an emotionally/mentally disturbed individual.

There are a number of unanswered questions and many allegations that do not appear to make sense. While the young man refused to pull over, the chase that ensued stayed at low speeds. There are distinct size and visual differences between a crowbar and framing hammer, and reports of the victim holding anything at all have been inconsistent. It is hard to predict what a court will decide, but in this wrongful death case, the man’s parents are hoping to send a message to the police department: they need to take responsibility for their actions and speak truthfully.

Twenty-three seconds may mean the difference between life and death

It is illegal to text and drive. It is dangerous and deadly—period. It’s not just California that recognizes the dangers of distracted driving, either. A recent survey conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that texting while driving doubles the risk of an almost accident or actual crash. It also revealed that texters have their eyes off the road for up to 23 seconds.

Anything can and does happen in those 23 seconds, which may mean the difference between serious, life-altering injuries and/or death.

There are three types of distractions while driving—cognitive, manual and visual—and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say texting is an extremely serious distraction because it involves all three types of distractions. Not many people seem to “get it” though, and in a phone survey conducted by the NHTSA of over 6,000 drivers 18 years of age and older, just about one-fifth of the participants said they sent texts or emails while driving.

A further 25 percent also said this did not affect their performance behind the wheel. If traffic accident statistics in all of the states across America are examined closely, this statement is hardly accurate.

Driving while distracted is negligence. Negligence can be the foundation for a wrongful death lawsuit that may financially break you. Is it worth the life of another and financial ruin to send texts while driving? For the lives of others and your own life, it can wait.