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Sokol Law settles food poisoning case against restaurant

Our client became violently ill after consuming mussels at a well-known chain restaurant.  She spent several days in the hospital, where she was diagnosed with dehydration and renal failure.  The insurance company for the restaurant disputed the claim on the basis that lab results did not show evidence of E. Coli, salmonella, or any other bacteria.  We argued that something in the food clearly made her sick, as she had eaten nothing else that day.  Also, she had complained to her waiter that the mussels didn’t taste right and had sent them back.  Fortunately, we were able to settle the matter without court intervention.

Sokol Law Firm settles unusual “slip and fall” case

Our client was an 81 year old resident of an apartment building that housed senior citizens.  She was seriously injured when she stepped into the building’s laundry room after the floor had been treated with glue or some other type of strong adhesive in preparation for replacing the floor.

When our client stepped into the laundry room, she became stuck to the floor and fell (first backwards and then upon getting herself up again, forwards). She struggled for approximately 45 minutes to get out of that laundry room without help.  She sustained a broken wrist, among other injuries.

We argued that our client had no warning of the dangerous condition of the floor in the laundry room before entering, as there were no signs or tape warning that the floors were being redone.  Moreover, the condition of the floor was not open and obvious because she got stuck upon her first step in. Both the carrier for the apartment building and for the contractor denied the claim.

We filed suit, and in depositions, elicited testimony that the contractor had been instructed to put caution tape all around the area, but had not done so. Based in large part upon this deposition testimony, we were able to settle the case for a confidential amount.



Dog Owners Beware

dogIf you own a dog, you will want to be aware of your potential liability should your dog bite or injure another person. In many dog bite cases, the owner will claim that the injured victim provoked or taunted the dog in some way and that the owner therefore cannot be held liable. However, most states, including Ohio, apply “strict liability” when it comes to dog bites. This means that the owner of a dog who bites or otherwise injures a person will be held liable for any injuries and damages caused by the dog regardless of fault on the part of the owner.  The mere fact that you own the dog and the dog injured someone is sufficient to subject you to liability. This is true even if you are not present when your dog injures someone.

There are a few exceptions to strict liability in Ohio.  If the victim of a dog bite was criminally trespassing or attempting to trespass, or was teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog, the dog’s owner will not be held liable.  However, a child trying to play with a dog will usually not be considered teasing or tormenting. Moreover, a child’s attempt to retrieve a stray ball will not be considered trespass.

In Ohio, a dog bite victim has six years from the date of the bite in which to file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner.  This time frame is longer for children.  A child who is bitten by a dog has six years beyond his or her eighteenth birthday in which to file a lawsuit. This is something to keep in mind if your dog injures someone.

The victim of a dog bite may recover compensation for a variety of injuries and damages. These include, but are not limited to:

Medical expenses, pain and mental suffering, permanent scarring, temporary or permanent disability, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, loss of quality of life, cosmetic services, psychological counseling, and damaged clothing.

The following list identifies the dog breeds that reportedly cause the majority of dog bites in the United States:

  • Pit Bull
  • Rottweiller
  • German Shepherd
  • Husky
  • Malamute
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Chow Chow
  • Great Dane
  • Saint Bernard

Typically, any money recovered from the owner’s dog is covered by the owner’s homeowners’ insurance.  Therefore, it is important that you make sure you have sufficient liability limits under your homeowners’ policy to protect yourself in the event that someone is injured by your dog.


Slippin’ and a slidin’ – not always fun

slip_n_slide1Many children of the 1960s and 70s have fond memories of the Slip ‘N Slide, manufactured by Wham-O®. The Slip ‘N Slide was first introduced in 1961 as a children’s toy. The toy is a long sheet of thin plastic, flanked lengthwise on one side by a heat-sealed tubular fold. The tube can be attached to any ordinary garden hose. Water runs through the tube and out small perforations, spraying onto the sliding surface. The Slip ‘N Slide then becomes very slippery, enabling users to dive onto the plastic head first and slide the length of the sheet. While the toy was intended for use by children only, many adults also took pleasure in sliding. Some of them suffered significant injuries.

Wham-O® discontinued the product in the 1970s after three people broke their necks. But then in 1982, a new company purchased Wham-O® and its entire product line and reintroduced the Slip ‘N Slide. Sure enough, more people broke their necks, suffering quadriplegia and paraplegia.

Lawsuits brought the danger of the Slip ‘N Slide to public attention, and as a result the company stopped making the product, recalled products from retail shelves, and issued a safety alert. So, why do these Slip ‘N Slides keep re-appearing? We see them on the shelves at Target, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us®. Not only that, but Slip ‘N Slide has evolved from a simple single rider slide into double and triple rider slides with new water effects.  Millions of dollars are made from the sale of these products.

One can only surmise that these products went back on the market because the profits generated from the sale of these toys significantly outweigh the risk of a few lawsuits. In an attempt to protect themselves from liability, the manufacturer warns that only children use the toy due to the risk of back and neck injuries when teenagers and adults use it. Indeed, should you purchase a Slip N’ Slide, you will notice safety warnings are slathered all around the box in large, bold print. Do these warnings shield the manufacturer from liability? Not necessarily, but they do give the manufacturer the opportunity to argue that the injured party was negligent in his/her use of the product, thereby potentially lessening the amount of any award or settlement.

If you do own a Slip ‘N Slide, we would recommend that you make sure that no teenagers or adults use it and make sure that children are using it correctly. Also remember that should a person use a Slip ‘N Slide on your property and become injured, you could also be personally liable for their injuries.


How consumers get cheated by anti-stacking laws

134021_coinsMany consumers think of insurance companies as organizations that take our hard-earned money and then abandon or low-ball us when we need them. Fewer of us realize that in one area of automobile insurance, Underinsured Motorist Coverage, the current state of the law in many states, including Ohio, prohibits insurance consumers from getting the protection for which they have been charged and paid. The law makes it legal for the insurance carriers NOT to give their customers the protection they believed they purchased. In short: We don’t get what we paid for.

Unlike liability coverage mandated by the State, the purchase of Underinsured Motorist Coverage is voluntary. When a motorist buys this benefit, it is to secure financial protection if they are hit by a motorist carrying a very small insurance policy that fails to cover the extent of their injuries. Consumers of this insurance product seek to make sure their medical bills and lost earnings will be compensated and they will not incur their own out of pocket costs because of the fault of another.

The problem is that as the law stands now, insurers have the right to reduce the amount of payable loss. This is referred to as “anti-stacking.” Under the law, insurance companies do not have to provide the full measure of financial protection many consumers believed they were paying for under such policies, but instead they get an offset for the amount paid by the wrongdoer’s insurance.

Consider the following example: You are injured in a car wreck and your medical bills are $125,000. The driver who caused the wreck has only a $25,000 policy. You have purchased $100,000 in Underinsured Motorist Coverage. One would think you would be compensated with the $25,000 from the at-fault driver AND collect the $100,000 dollars from the policy you purchased. Wrong! In this case, the insurance company gets a $25,000 “credit” for the amount paid by the other driver. It only has to provide you with $75,000 for your bills. You come up $25,000 light.

The scenario can be even worse if your Underinsured Motorist Coverage limits match the at-fault driver’s liability limits. Consider this application of the law: as a result of an accident you have medical bills of $200,000. The person who caused the wreck has a $100,000 policy. Your policy provides for $100,000 in underinsured coverage. Because both parties to this accident have equal policy limits of $100,000, your insurer does not have to pay anything. The total payout by your carrier is zero and you owe $100,000 in medical bills. You get absolutely no benefit from a policy for which you paid good money.

How can consumers get around this law until it changes? We often advise clients that they should maintain ample Underinsured Motorist Coverage limits because of the number of at-fault drivers who do not carry enough insurance. As long as your limits EXCEED the wrong-doer’s limits, you could be entitled to the extra coverage. Remember that Underinsured Motorist Coverage is probably the most important insurance you can buy to protect yourself in the event you are seriously injured in an accident through no fault of your own.