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Massachusetts Injury Lawyer Blog
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If you were a party to a trial in Massachusetts, would you want your lawyer to be able to ask potential jurors about their past experiences that relate to your case?  How about questions regarding their preconceptions or biases?  If your answer to either of these questions is “YES!” you might be surprised to find out that, until recently, Massachusetts law did not entitle trial lawyers to ask ANY questions of prospective jurors.  While the vast majority of states have long allowed lawyers to ask such questions of prospective jurors, it was not until our Commonwealth recently enacted An Act Relative To Certain Judicial Procedures In The Superior Court that Massachusetts got its own rule dealing with parties’ right to have their lawyer ask these questions of potential jurors.

Here at KJC Law Firm, we make it a priority to stay abreast of such developments in the law.  To that end, our managing partner, Kathy Jo Cook, recently attended a training designed to provide insights into how best to ask questions of potential jurors through a process called voir dire.  In fact, all of the KJC Law Firm members have been closely studying the Superior Court Order that, starting February 2, 2015, will implement Massachusetts’s new law regarding lawyers asking questions of potential jurors.

Rest assured, when KJC Law Firm brings your case to trial, we will skillfully use every available tool to sit an unbiased, fair jury, who are prepared to award you everything that the law entitles you to.

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Two very recent legal developments that KJC Law Firm is closely following relate to our newly established criminal defense practice, headed by our associate, John Martin.  In Commonwealth v. Gomes, SJC-11537 (January 12, 2015), the Supreme Judicial Court, which is the highest court in Massachusetts, recognized that “eyewitness identification is the greatest source of wrongful convictions,” and set forth a full eighteen pages of new jury instructions designed to prevent wrongful convictions based on inaccurate identifications.

Even more recently, the Supreme Judicial Court also clarified the definition of the term “moral certainty,” which has been part of the Reasonable Doubt jury instruction that jurors in our Commonwealth have received for the past 150 years.  In Commonwealth v. Russeel, SJC-11602 (January 26, 2015), the Supreme Judicial Court wrote that the term “moral certainty” means “the highest degree of certainty possible in matters relating to human affairs — based solely on the evidence that has been put before you in this case.” Attorney Martin’s familiarity with these new instructions will provide our criminal defense clients with the best available means to contest any unreliable eye-witness evidence that the government offers against them, and to emphasize how strong the evidence against them must be in order for them to be convicted of having committed a crime.

Moreover, our newest associate, Luke Rosseel, will also be using these jury instructions to argue against inaccurate identifications and insufficient evidentiary showings in the criminal appeals practice that KJC Law Firm is now undertaking.  Attorney Rosseel was recently certified for appeals and other post-conviction assignments from the Committee for Public Counsel Services Post Conviction Appellate Assignment Unit.  Said more simply, Attorney Rosseel will be accepting appointments to represent people who cannot themselves afford attorneys, and whose criminal convictions involved errors that suggest they were misidentified, and may not have committed the crimes they were convicted of.

All in all, as the law continues to develop, we at KJC Law Firm continue to study it, to gain an ever-deeper understanding of it, and to provide our clients with representation that reflects both our decades of experience, and our constant desire to remain ahead of the curve.

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Employees in the Commonwealth will soon be legally entitled to up to 40 hours of earned sick time per year, thanks to Massachusetts voters. Starting next summer, employees will be able to earn and use sick time to: a) care for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition; b) care for a child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse with a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition; c) attend routine medical appointments of the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse; or d) address the effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee’s dependent child. The new law goes into effect on July 1, 2015.
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cranes.jpg Earlier this month, a tragic accident happened at a facility of a Massachusetts government building. Officials at the scene of a construction accident at the North King Street facility of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation reported that the incident resulted in one fatality and caused two others to be injured.

According to one official, a 911 call at came in at approximately 9:40 a.m., and indicated that there were three people pinned beneath two modular trailers that had been used as temporary office spaces. It was not immediately apparent why the workers were near the modular trailers, but one of the workers was able to get free and escape with injuries that were not life-threatening.

Emergency responders helped free the second worker with the assistance of a large crane and the worker was taken to the hospital with moderate injuries that were not life-threatening. The third worker sustained fatal injuries and was killed at the scene.

Emergency workers that arrived on the scene described the trailers as each being 50 feet in length and approximately 10 feet in width. The trailers had been set up next to one another in the back of the main building that was located on the property.

Authorities are looking into the cause of the accident in further detail. Specifically, the District Attorney, along with the local police department, federal Occupational Safety and Health Administrations, and the State Department of Industrial Accidents are all working on an investigation.
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1375248_untitled sxchu username JosephHart.jpgLast week, a 38-year-old man was killed and a four-year-old girl was critically injured in a Whitman pedestrian accident. According to accident witnesses, a maroon Dodge Ram pick-up driven by 46-year-old Richard C. Brown of Attleboro struck Edward W. Cordwell, Jr. of Whitman and his girlfriend’s small child on Temple Street. The child, Kiera Crawford, was reportedly riding a bicycle equipped with training wheels across the street while Cordwell walked alongside her. According to Whitman Police Deputy Chief Tim Hanlon, Cordwell apparently attempted to shield the child from being hit the truck. Still, Kiera’s small bicycle was found wedged under the front of the pick-up.

Witnesses stated the force of the impact threw Cordwell more than 10 feet. Despite that rescue workers responded within minutes, Cordwell died as a result of his injuries. Kiera was reportedly knocked unconscious during the collision. Immediately following the accident, the child was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital with serious injuries.

Although the cause of the fatal accident is still under investigation by the Whitman Police Department, Hanlon stated the accident victims were not in a crosswalk at the time of the crash. Still, Brown’s driver’s license was suspended until the results of the investigation are available. His driving record reportedly contains a number of moving violations and surchargeable accidents. It is unclear whether Brown will face criminal charges in connection with the tragic incident.

Too often, drivers fail to notice bicyclists and pedestrians as they speed down Massachusetts roadways. When a pedestrian is struck by a motor vehicle, the resulting injuries are normally life-threatening or fatal. Pedestrians are placed at risk every day by inattentive or impaired drivers, hazardous road conditions, and even automobile defects. The victim of a pedestrian accident may be eligible to receive financial compensation for medical costs, pain, suffering, lost wages, loss of enjoyment of life, any resulting temporary or permanent disability, and other damages. If you were hurt in an accident caused by a negligent driver, you should contact a capable Massachusetts personal injury lawyer as soon as you are able.
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Last week, a 19-year-old Plymouth man was killed in an automobile accident while on leave from the U.S. Coast Guard. According to Kingston Police Chief Joseph Rebello, Chad Kierstead was riding in a Ford Explorer driven by 19-year-old Pat Donnelly when the sport utility vehicle (SUV) struck a utility pole while headed east on Route 80 in Kingston. The force of the crash reportedly snapped the pole into two pieces and sent the Explorer flying into a tree before the vehicle rolled and landed on its side. Chief Rebello stated the driver was walking around outside of the SUV when emergency responders arrived at the crash scene. Meanwhile, Kierstead, 19-year-old Tyler Barrows, and 19-year-old Chris Corbo remained inside of the vehicle. Two of the young men were transported to Boston area hospitals via emergency helicopter and the other two were taken to South Shore Medical Center by ambulance. A few hours after the crash, Kierstead was pronounced dead at Massachusetts General Hospital.

An accident witness reportedly told police the Explorer was speeding at the time of the crash. It is unclear whether Donnelly was racing another vehicle when he lost control of his SUV. According to Chief Rebello, police are currently investigating whether drugs or alcohol played a factor in the fatal crash. The cause of the accident is presently under investigation by the Massachusetts State Police Accident Reconstruction Unit.

Car accidents are one of the most common causes of personal injury and death in Massachusetts each year. Collisions like this one are often caused by reckless, careless, distracted, or impaired drivers. Unfortunately, motor vehicle crash victims frequently suffer devastating and costly injuries. If you were injured or a loved one was killed in an automobile collision, you may be eligible to receive damages for your medical costs, suffering and pain, permanent or temporary disability, lost wages and benefits, and funeral expenses. Contact a capable Massachusetts automobile accident lawyer to discuss your legal rights and options for recovery.
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1307593_mobile_phone_in_hand sxchu username sqback.jpgIn what is being heralded as a landmark case, an 18-year-old Haverhill man was recently ordered to serve a one-year sentence in the Essex County House of Corrections after a jury convicted him of causing a deadly crash while driving and texting behind the wheel of a car.

In February 2011, Aaron Deveau was driving when his car allegedly crossed the center line of a roadway and struck a vehicle headed in the opposite direction head-on. 55-year-old Daniel Bowley reportedly suffered extensive injuries in the crash and died in a Boston hospital 18 days later. Bowley’s girlfriend, Luz Roman, was also injured in the crash.

In 2010, Massachusetts passed legislation making it a crime to harm someone in an automobile accident while texting behind the wheel. In addition to charging Deveau with motor vehicle homicide, prosecutors also charged him with violating the recently enacted law. In a bench trial, Deveau testified he was not texting and driving at the time of the collision, and that he did not remember doing so at all that day. According to prosecutors, evidence that Deveau was in fact texting two minutes before the crash proved his negligence.

District Court Judge Stephen Abany reportedly imposed the maximum sentence on Deveau in an effort to deter other would-be texting while driving offenders. A portion of Deveau’s 2-year and 2 ½-year concurrent sentences were suspended, however, because he was only 17 at the time of the accident and had no prior criminal history. Deveau’s driver’s license was also suspended for 15 years.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police, David Procopio, said that the criminal case was important and the maximum sentence sought by prosecutors was appropriate. He also said it was vital for drivers to remember that distracted driving is both dangerous and deadly. According to Judge Abany, although a criminal sentence normally takes into account punishment, rehabilitation, public safety, and deterrence, his primary concern when he handed down Deveau’s sentence was deterrence. Judge Abany said that his goal was to send a message that all drivers need to “keep their eyes on the road.”

Automobile accidents are one of the leading causes of personal injury and wrongful death in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Crashes are frequently caused by distracted, careless, inattentive, or impaired drivers. Unfortunately, car accident victims often suffer devastating and costly injuries. If you were hurt or a family member was killed in a motor vehicle collision, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your medical expenses, pain, suffering, disability, lost wages, and funeral expenses. A qualified Massachusetts auto and motorcycle accident attorney can help.
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1214675_cigarette.jpgAccording to a Boston.com report, a Boston jury awarded a woman’s estate $50 million and her son $21 million in damages yesterday in a products liability lawsuit against the makers of Newport cigarettes. The plaintiff showed that back in the 1950s and 1960s, The tobacco company had given free cigarettes to children as young as nine years old in a Boston housing project. Most of the children were African-American, and studies show that 75% of African-American smokers today prefer menthol brands like Newport. the plaintiffs argued that the company engaged in a free givaway marketing strategy to get African-American children hooked on smoking Newports.

Marie Evans died of lung cancer at the age of 54 in 2002. She recalled, in testimony that was videotaped before she died and played to the jury during the trial, how she was given free Newports from a white truck that looked like an ice cream truck when she was nine years old. She traded the cigarettes at first, but started smoking them when she was 13. She said she tried to quit several times, but could not, and smoked until she died.

The $71 million award was for compensatory damages alone, and the jury now will take up whether to award punitive damages. The plaintiffs also have a claim under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, which the judge will decide, and which could lead to the doubling or trebling of the damage award.

The tobacco company will ask the trial judge to set aside the verdict, and will file an appeal, and big awards against tobacco companies are often overturned on technicalities. But there is no doubt that cigarette manufacturers have been forced to change their ways because products liability lawyers have gone after them. Lawsuits caused Congress and the Surgeon General to act, and lawsuits have made life safer for the children growing up today.

At KJC Law Firm, we are proud to be part of that movement to use the law to make the world more safe.
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1227906_the_sultans_wife.jpgRichard Silvia was driving down Route 28 in Falmouth, Massachusetts, last week when he choked on some raisins he was eating. He passed out. His truck crossed the road, hitting two cars, and nosed into an embankment. The impact stopped the truck and his airbag deployed. The force of the airbag expelled the raisins, and Silvia regained consciousness with only a scraped wrist. The other drivers also suffered only minor injuries. The incident made national news.

Silvia was ticketed for impaired driving. I guess he should have pulled over as soon as he choked and died safely by the side of the road.
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602535_seatbelt.jpgOn I-495 near the US Route 1 interchange in Plainville, a 1996 Toyota Avalon went off the road and crashed into a tree last Saturday, according to the Attleboro Sun Chronicle. The 18 year old driver was not wearing a seatbelt. She was airlifted to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where she died. The 21 year old passenger was wearing a seatbelt. She was treated for minor injuries at Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro. Seatbelts save lives — but only when they are worn.

Massachusetts has a law requiring that all drivers and passengers over 11 years of age must wear a seatbelt when riding in a car. But not everyone obeys this law. A recent Massachusetts study found that on average more than one out of four front seat drivers and passengers were not wearing their seat belt. There were some interesting but predictable variations on the rate of seatbelt use among different groups.

The rate of seatbelt usage among women was 79%; among men it was 68%. The rate for people over 65 was 82%; for other adults it was 73%; for teens it was 67%. People driving commercial vehicles buckled up only 50% of the time, and pickup truck drivers only 61%. Those figures are depressing and somewhat scary. We have worked hard to make manufacturers put out safer cars by forcing them to pay for the injuries they could have prevented by providing airbags and seatbelts. But we have to do our part and use these safety features, too.
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