January 11, 2014

STSW Exploring Claims on Behalf of Business and Residents Affected by West Virginia Oil Spill

More than 100,000 households and businesses have been left without potable water because of a large-scale chemical spill discovered Thursday on the Elk River near Charlestown, West Virginia. The spill occurred just north of one of the largest water treatment plants in America and as many as 480,000 residents may be affected.

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January 8, 2014

Tragedy Suggests Urgent Need for Better Police Training for Dealing with Mental Illness and Disability

A tragic national trend continued Sunday in the latest incident of police killing an unarmed individual suffering from mental illness or disability. After allegedly stating “I don’t have time for this,” a police officer shot unarmed North Carolina resident Keith Vidal, 18, in the chest, fatally wounding the 5’3”, 90-pound teen. Vidal, who suffered from schizophrenia, had been experiencing a psychotic episode and his family was unable to calm him down.

During the episode, Vidal’s stepfather, Mark Wilsey, called 911 for help and reported that Vidal had refused to take his medication and was attempting to fight his mother. Wilsey requested that police take Vidal somewhere he could receive help. According to the family, three officers from three different police departments then arrived on the scene.

The first two officers spoke with Vidal and apparently had some success in calming him down, when the third officer, from the Southport Police Department, arrived 14 minutes later. As stated in a police report obtained by a local news station, one of the officers informed the 911 dispatcher multiple times that that everything at the scene was okay. According to Wilsey, however, when the third officer arrived, he suggested that a Taser be used on Vidal, at which point Vidal attempted to run from the officers.

Although the accounts are somewhat unclear on the events that transpired next, Vidal was apparently “Tased” twice and restrained on the ground by one or both of the first two officers when the third officer stated “I don’t have time for this” and shot Vidal in the chest. The shooting occurred a mere 70 seconds after the third officer arrived on the scene. At this time, only Vidal’s family members have released statements concerning the shooting.

This incident marks the latest in a series of tragedies that underscore the urgent need for better training and policies and procedures to guide police officers interacting with individuals with mental illness or disability. The case is similar to the police-involved killing last year of 26-year-old Robert Ethan Saylor, who suffered from Down Syndrome and was, ironically, an avid supporter of local law enforcement. Saylor died of asphyxiation after being placed on the ground by three off-duty police officers who had forcibly removed him from a movie theater for attempting to sit through a second showing of a movie he had only paid once to see. Saylor was a gregarious and popular member of his community and his death has been met with widespread outrage.

In our experience, the best way to bring about change in law enforcement agencies is through civil litigation. While precise claims will vary depending on the facts of each case, law enforcement agencies may be liable for federal civil-rights violations or under state-law principles of negligent hiring, retention, or supervision. Such cases may also give rise to criminal investigations that can lead to criminal prosecution.

Unlike other law firms that focus only on the civil recovery, STSW’s Victim Rights Practice Group fights to protect the rights and interests of victims and their families throughout the criminal investigation and prosecution stages while vigorously pursuing civil claims against criminal offenders and responsible third parties. Led by Steve Kelly , a survivor of homicide with more than 25 years of experience as a crime victim advocate, STSW partners with groups such as the National Center for Victims of Crime, The Network for Victim Recovery DC, Parents of Murdered Children, and others to address the full array of crime victims’ legal goals in a manner that helps them heal and recover. This compassionate, creative, and holistic approach is particularly appropriate in tragic cases such as this one.

Email Steve Kelly at for a free, no-obligation consultation 24-hours a day, seven days a week, or call 1.800.385.2243.

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November 5, 2013

D.C. Dram Shop Liability Expands

Last month, a D.C. jury found that the District Lounge & Grille, a bar (now closed) formerly located in the Adams Morgan section of the District, was liable to the Estate of Julia Bachleitner under the D.C. Dram Shop Statute. The parties had previously agreed that, if the bar was found liable, the damages would be $1 million.

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November 4, 2013

Navy Yard Shooting Gives Rise to Potential Civil Claims

STSW is currently investigating potential criminal and civil claims arising out of the massacre of 13 Navy Yard employees on behalf of several of the victims’ families.

Aaron Alexis was employed by The Experts, a subcontractor of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services (HP), and was granted access to secure Navy Yard facilities in that capacity. Based on the widespread media reports of Alexis’ increasingly bizarre behavior, The Experts was potentially on notice of a dangerous mental illness. Alexis was living in a hotel with fellow employees who apparently witnessed his declining mental state, as did members of the hotel staff. Alexis was also involved in several encounters with police which either were or could have been discovered by The Experts. The Experts may be liable for, among other things, wrongful death, negligent hiring, negligent supervision and negligent retention. Depending on the precise relationship between The Experts and HP, HP faces potential liability.

Others may also be held accountable for the deaths and injuries suffered by the victims and their families. The federal government may have been negligent in permitting Alexis to bring a disassembled weapon onto its premises and the contractor who performed his employment background check could also be held accountable for failing to discover signs of obvious mental illness.

The victims of the Navy Yard shooting also have a strong interest in the various investigations concerning the Navy Yard shooting. Among others, congress, the Navy, and the Mayor of DC are conducting investigations. Criminal investigations are also ongoing. The Navy Yard victims have the legal right to participate in these investigations and any criminal and/or other proceedings that follow. Crime victim rights is a recent concept and few lawyers are equipped to assert those rights in any meaningful manner.

STSW has a track record of representing victims of dangerously mentally ill patients in claims against third parties with a duty to protect the victim. STSW is currently pursuing litigation against Morgan State University on behalf of a victim of the Maryland “cannibal.” More about that case is available here .

In addition, STSW is pursuing a case against a retail establishment which failed to protect a 21-year-old teacher from a mentally ill patron who slit the young woman’s throat while she was standing in line to pay for chips and a soda. These cases underline the importance that institutions and businesses take appropriate action to protect their employees, patrons and guests from obviously mentally ill individuals. In this case and many others like it, a few simple actions could have prevented the tragic deaths of 13 people and the lifetime of suffering that will be endured by their friends and families.

Unlike other law firms which focus only on the civil recovery, STSW’s Victim Rights Practice Group fights to protect the rights and interests of victims and their families in the criminal investigation and prosecution stage while vigorously pursuing civil claims against criminal offenders and responsible third parties. Led by Steve Kelly , a survivor of homicide with more than 25 years of experience as a crime victim advocate, STSW partners with groups such as the National Center for Victims of Crime, The Network for Victim Recovery DC, Parents of Murdered Children and others to address the full array of crime victims’ legal goals in a manner that helps them heal and recover. This compassionate, creative and holistic approach is particularly appropriate in cases such as the Navy Yard tragedy, where the perpetrator died as a result of his horrific actions.

Email Steve Kelly at skelly@mdattorney.com for a free, no obligation consultation 24-hours a day, seven days a week or call 1.800.385.2243.

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April 30, 2013

Understanding the Process of Evaluating and Negotiating Automobile Injury Claims

In an effort to help our clients understand the process of negotiating a personal injury claim, I have compiled the following information that I feel is important you understand once the medical bills, lost wage statements and any other "special" damages have been obtained and the negotiating process has begun.

There are basically two types of damages to be considered when evaluating your claim, special damages and general damages:

a. Special damages are those damages for which you can show a dollar amount that you incurred as a result of having to pay money or losing money as a result of the collision and your injuries. Examples of special damages are medical bills and lost wages.

b. General damages are the damages for which you do not have a bill or for which you cannot show any "tangible" loss. Examples of general damages are pain and suffering.

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April 30, 2013

What to Expect With Your Personal Injury Case

The law firm of Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White takes on a limited number of plaintiff's personal injury cases each month. We limit our intake so we can provide the highest quality representation to each of our clients. To better equip our clients with an understanding of the process, we have broken down the phases of what to expect of our attorney-client relationship.

THE INITIAL CONFERNCE:

General information regarding the incident will be obtained when you are first interviewed. Certain other material relating to things you should not do will be furnished to you. You will be asked to sign authorization forms which will allow us to obtain necessary information. We will schedule a follow-up appointment for you to meet with the attorney handling your case shortly after you retain Silverman Thompson Slutkin and White.

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April 22, 2013

Ellicott City Man Dies in Tough Mudder Race

An Ellicott City man was tragically killed this past weekend while participating in a “Tough Mudder” obstacle course. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/ellicott-city/bs-md-tough-mudder-death-20130422,0,3954904.story.

Based on what we know so far this case will almost certainly lead to a wrongful death claim against the operators of this race. Runners in these kinds of events certainly understand that they are subjecting themselves to certain risks by participating in them – twisted ankles, broken bones or even cardiac events come to mind – and probably even signed waivers to insulate the operators from liability from these known risks.

But drowning? It seems almost impossible to believe that the operators of this race would create an obstacle requiring people to traverse a plank over a body of muddy water deep enough to drown in apparently without warning the participants of the depth of the water. And if they were reckless enough to set up this kind of obstacle, it seems obvious that they should have stationed enough trained instructors in and around the obstacle to prevent such a forseeable occurrence. After all, everyone in the race is covered head to toe in mud as are the obstacles making them treacherously slippery. It is not only forseeable, it is all but certain that someone is going to slip or jump off of the obstacle into the water.

An experienced Maryland Accident attorney can help accident victims recover from all liable parties in an accident. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, contact the personal injury experts at 410-385-2225 or czissel@mdattorney.com

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January 24, 2013

Rising Liability Concerns of Energy Drinks

Recent developments and reports regarding the side effects of energy drinks are getting more and more attention in Maryland and national news. Reports are surfacing of several deaths and other serious medical conditions potentially resulting from the consumption of energy drinks or “dietary supplements” such as; Monster Energy, Red Bull, Amp, 5-Hour Energy, Rockstar, and Venom. Personal injury lawyers are taking notice.

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August 16, 2011

Liability for Dog Bites under Pennsylvania Law

Our law firm recently handled a serious dog attack on a young child in Pennsylvania. Each jurisdiction we encounter throughout the mid-atlantic region has different variances on the owner of a dog that causes personal injury. Pennsylvania law is slightly different than Maryland.

The Pennsylvania Code contains the regulations pertaining to dogs. Dog Laws are codified in Title 3, Chapter 8, of the Pennsylvania Code. The portion of the dog laws pertaining to dangerous dogs is codified in 3 P.S. § 459-501-A through § 459-507-A.
Under Pennsylvania Dog Law, the owner/keeper of any dog is required at all times to keep the dog either :
1. Confined within the premises of the owner
2. Firmly secured by means of a collar and chain or other device so that it cannot stray beyond the premises on which it is secured; or
3. Under the reasonable control of some person
Pennsylvania Dog Law is the standard for determining whether a person has complied with the duty to exercise ordinary care. Unexcused violations constitute negligence per se. However, a violation of the Dog Law does not establish the necessary causation for a finding of liability. Liability does not attach unless the violation is a substantial factor is bringing about the injuries sustained. Villaume v. Kaufman, 379 Pa. Super. 561, 550 A.2d 793 (1988), aff’g Miller v. Hurst, 302 Pa. Super. 235, 448 A.2d 614 (1982).

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May 13, 2011

One Person Killed in Randallstown Accident

An article in the Baltimore Sun is reporting that one person was killed and three other people injured in a collision on wednsday night. The accident which occurred at the intersection of Old Court Road and Scotts Level Road involved a Jeep Cherokee and a Nissan Maxima. According to the article, the Baltimore County Police Department believes that the Jeep ran a red light striking the Nissan Maxima killing its driver and injuring its passenger. Police are still investigating.

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April 13, 2011

Worker run over by truck at Dundalk Marine Terminal identified

WBAL is reporting in an online article that the worker killed Tuesday at the Dundalk Marine Terminal has been identified as 46 year old James Mills Gillus of Dundalk. Mr. Gillus was tragically killed when he was attempting to climb back into his vehicle after he noticed it was rolling backward and was struck by the vehicle. The vehicle he was operating is used to haul dumpsters around the marine terminal. State and Federal Workplace officials are investigating this accident. Mr. Gillus' family will be entitled to Workers' Compensation Death Benefits because he was killed during the course and scope of his employment. Additionally, under certain situations, they may be able to recover in a wrongful death action. An experienced Maryland Accident Attorney will be able to explain the family's rights to them.

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April 13, 2011

Montgomery County jury awards verdict in favor of the Plaintiff against a GEICO insured in a disputed case.

Baltimore personal injury attorney, Craig Zissel of the firm Silverman Thompson Slutkin & White won a contested auto accident case in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County last Tuesday. Mr. Zissel's client was injured when the vehicle he was riding in was struck from behind while stopped at a stop light. GEICO denied liability for the accident claiming there was no way our client could have been injured due to the minor nature of the accident. Additionally, they pointed out the many prior accidents our client had been involved in. After deliberating for an hour, the Montgomery County jury returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff for the full amount of his medicals plus an award for non-economic damages to compensate him for his pain and suffering. Prior to trial, GEICO had offered no money to settle the case. This verdict represents a great result for Montgomery County, which is historically a defense-oriented, conservative jurisdiction.
At trial, Mr. Zissel focused the jury's attention on the evidence supporting his client's claims including the testimony, property damage photos and medical bills.

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