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Firm Newsletter: April 2019

Click here to download a printable pdf of this newsletter.

Supreme Court Victory Leads to Arbitration Award

It certainly seemed like a long-time coming, but our firm was successful in taking our client’s case all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and finally securing a substantial award on her behalf.

In 2012, our client, Omar F., was employed by Metra Industries.  Metra Industries was hired by the Chester Water Authority (“CWA”) to perform rehabilitation work on its water system in the City of Chester.  On the date of the accident, a worker employed by CWA illegally parked his truck in front of a ditch where Omar was working.  A third party struck the illegally parked truck, pushing it into the ditch, and sticking Omar and literally cutting Omar in half and killing him.

Defendants filed Motions for Summary Judgment based upon Sovereign Immunity, asserting that the accident did not “arise from the operation of a motor vehicle” as required by Pennsylvania Sovereign Immunity Statue since CWA was a governmental agency.  The Trial Court originally granted Summary Judgment and the Commonwealth Court affirmed the Lower Court’s decision.

Shaffer & Gaier took this matter up to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and we were successful in overturning 40 years of confusing and conflicting law on the issue.  We changed the law in Pennsylvania because any person injured by a governmental vehicle may now bring a claim.  This is a major victory for all citizens across the Commonwealth.

After the matter was finally remanded back to Trial Court, the parties agreed to submit the matter to binding Arbitration.  We are happy to report that we are able to successfully achieve a confidential Arbitration Award on behalf of our client’s family.  Although it took almost 7 years – justice certainly did prevail not just for our clients but we changed the law for all injured people in Pennsylvania.

Michael Shaffer honored by the United States Supreme Court

IMG_0127Michael Shaffer, Immediate Past President of the Temple American Inn of Court, was honored at the United States Supreme Court Award of Excellence Dinner in Washington, DC.  The American Inn of Court is a national organization designed to improve the skills, professionalism and ethics of the Bench and Bar.  Shaffer was the President of the American Inn of Court last year and the Temple American Inn of Court was awarded Platinum Status.  Shaffer went to the United States Supreme Court for their annual Dinner where the Temple Inn was recognized for the its outstanding work.

Fall Off Rooftop Results in Settlement Pre-Suit

Shaffer & Gaier represented Jesse G. who was renting an art studio/apartment in Olde City Philadelphia.  Jesse rented the 4th and 5th floors of a rowhouse located in that area.  Jesse had access to the rooftop deck via a ladder that was located in the apartment that led right to the rooftop.  The roof was pitched and it had no railings or guards.  Jesse, an aspiring artist and college student, went to the top of the roof deck one night, lost his balance and fell off the roof, five stories to the street.  Miraculously, Jesse survived the fall from this extraordinary height.  However, Jesse sustained catastrophic injuries.  He shattered his hip, broke both ankles and fractured several vertebrae.

Shaffer & Gaier was able to establish that the premises were unsafe, due to lack of railings or guards because the tenants had access to the roof deck.  Shaffer & Gaier was able to prove before even filing suit that the roof deck should have either been inaccessible to tenants or should have had railings or guards that would prevent an individual from falling.  We were happy to have such a satisfactory result on behalf of our client.

One Time in Court… Did He Really Say That?

We represented a young man who had no health insurance and he went to the Emergency Room at a suburban hospital with a blinding headache and soaring blood pressure which developed into a stroke.  He was admitted for treatment and observation.  Unfortunately, his blood pressure remained exceedingly high and he continued to be at risk for a second stroke.  With these symptoms, the young attending doctor should have been ordering daily CT scans to see if another stroke was developing, but he did not, and our client suffered a second stroke that was fatal.

At his deposition, we asked the young doctor why he had not ordered the daily CT scans. The frustrated witness said he “was tired of getting yelled at by my bosses for ordering tests for people that don’t have insurance.”  Sometimes we lawyers have to listen more than we talk – this case settled soon after this deposition.

Diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injuries

Nearly 50,000 patients die annually from traumatic brain injuries. Now a new study led by the University of Pennsylvania reveals that tiny blood vessels in the brain can offer clues to better treatment, according to an article from UPI’s Health News.

In the study, researchers examined the brains of 27 patients with traumatic brain injury and 14 healthy people using specialized imaging. They assessed the change in blood flow in response to an injury, and the strength and function of the small blood vessels. They also performed seven neuropsychological tests, and interviewed the participants about cognitive and emotional symptoms, including headaches and depression.

The research showed that “changes in the blood vessels may be linked to a range of cognitive symptoms after a traumatic brain injury,” reported the article. Researchers noted that understanding these changes could be the key to more effective treatment patients with TBI, even those who have been suffering for years from symptoms.

When someone you love has suffered a traumatic brain injury because of an accident, being able to recover damages from the negligent party who caused the accident can help with future medical needs. To set up an appointment to discuss your legal options,contact us online or call 215-751-0100.

Why Do ‘Slip and Fall’ Accidents Happen?

From misjudging steps to sliding on oily or wet surfaces, there are many causes of “slip and fall” accidents. But there’s one cause that’s highly preventable, according to a study by insurance provider CNA—and that is the type of flooring. The article in Claims Journal reported that half of the floors tested in a study failed to produce enough friction. That means businesses leave themselves open to potential accidents because of a poor floor purchasing decision.

The report indicated that retail and real estate businesses are most at risk for slip and fall accidents. According to the study:

  • 40 percent of such accidents occurred on entry flooring
  • 33 percent happened on parking lot surfaces, and
  • 27 percent happened on sidewalks leading to business entrances

Less than one percent occurred on interior floors.

The study also uncovered that, over time, slip and fall claims occur more frequently. The report advised business to take steps to minimize the potential for accidents, including choosing flooring that is slip resistant, testing it under wet conditions, and using cleaning agents recommended for that floor type.

Did you or someone you love suffer injuries from a slip and fall? Contact us to discuss your legal options: send us a message online or call 215-751-0100.

What is the Effect of Opioids in Utero?

A recent Philadelphia Inquirer article reported on how America’s opiate epidemic is affecting children, citing a recent study. But what the study didn’t cover, according to the article, is how newborns are affected from exposure in utero.

It may be surprising to think that pregnant mothers consume opioids, but the number is growing, according to the article. The author estimated that there are five times the number of pregnant mothers consuming opioids as compared to 20 years ago.

The effect on a newborn can be devastating. Some newborns experience withdrawal symptoms, known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. If left untreated, it can cause seizures, neurological damage or, in rare cases, death, reported the article. Street drugs consumed by pregnant mothers can worsen the effects.

Not every infant experiences withdrawal, however, according to the article. Some newborns may have no symptoms at all.

Pennsylvania now requires hospitals to report the birth of babies affected by opioid exposure in utero. The rules for reporting are unclear, however, noted the article. Some hospitals only report infants that experience withdrawal, while others will be reporting all newborns exposed to opioids in utero. Still others will report babies exposed to any street drug (including opioids).

Do you have a legal question on a birth injury that you believe is the result of negligence? Contact us online or call 215-751-0100.

Workplace Injuries are on the Rise.

A recent report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics showed that there’s a long way to go when it comes to workplace safety. From 2015 to 2016, there was a seven percent increase in fatal injuries and, for the first time in nearly a decade, workplace fatalities surpassed 5,000. As reported by the Insurance Journal, this is the third consecutive annual increase in workplace fatalities and the largest increase since 2008.

Here’s how the statistics panned out. Of the 5,190 deaths reported in 2016, transportation incidents were the leading cause of death, followed by workplace violence. There were increases in fatalities from exposure to harmful substances or environments (22 percent) and in deaths related to overdoses (at least 25 percent). There was also an increase in the number of overdoses.

Fatal injuries were up in various industries, too, including leisure and hospitality which, with an increase of 32 percent, reached an all-time high. The logging industry also recorded an industry high at 135.9 deaths per 100,000 workers. Protective service occupations, such as law enforcement, experienced a 32 percent increase in fatalities.

“America’s workers deserve better,” noted Loren Sweatt, deputy assistant secretary for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). She noted that the government will use a combination of enforcement, compliance assistance, education, and training and outreach to help combat these increases.

If you or a loved one was injured in a work accident in Pennsylvania, or if a loved one was killed, there are actions you can take. Even though workers injured on the job often turn to workers’ compensation, if that injury resulted from a defective product or someone’s negligence, you may also be able to recover lost wages or medical expenses through a personal injury lawsuit.

Contact us to learn more: send us a message online or call 215-751-0100.

Overmedication in Nursing Homes?

Nursing home residents in the U.S. are overmedicated with powerful antipsychotic drugs that may not even be approved for their conditions, the Reading Eagle recently reported. While the use of antipsychotic drugs is down significantly in recent years, advocacy groups have still been calling for tougher measures against improper use, and those appeals were reinforced last month by a report released by the international human rights nonprofit Human Rights Watch detailing the problem.

Antipsychotic drugs are approved to treat serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to the article. In nursing homes, these powerful prescriptions often are used to sedate residents with dementia, even though the drugs are not approved for that use. The article reports that elderly dementia patients treated with these drugs face a higher risk of death and suffer other consequences.

“Antipsychotic drugs alter consciousness and can adversely affect an individual’s ability to interact with others, reported the article. “They can also make it easier for understaffed facilities, with direct care workers inadequately trained in dementia care, to manage the people who live there.” The article relayed the story of a California woman with an 88-year-old mother who suffers from dementia. In the article, the woman claimed that “her mother, during stays at three different nursing homes in recent years, was sometimes left neglected for hours at a time in her wheelchair after being given antipsychotics.”

Do you have a loved one who you believe may have been the subject of nursing home neglect, or who suffered ill effects from overmedication? To discuss your legal options, contact us online or call us at  215-751-0100.

Overworked Drivers Lead to Trucking Accidents

U.S. truckers, who work to exhaustion for little to no pay, may be today’s indentured servants, according to USA Today. The news outlet conducted a four-part investigative report which  showed the incredible hardships encountered some truck drivers in the nation, many of whom are poor immigrants and who speak little English.

The first part of the series revealed that truckers are often forced to work long hours against their will. Some companies even put up gates to keep drivers at work, or refuse to pay them until they finish shifts, taking care to falsify records to fall within safe driving hours. The second part of the series alleged that the retail giants that use trucking companies don’t hire the workers directly and therefore claim they are not attributable for these labor abuses. The third part examined how drivers are cheated out of fair wages by having to pay for truck expenses. Sometimes at the end of the week, they owed money to their employer rather than the other way around.

The fourth and final part of the series explored how truckers, worked to the point of exhaustion and well past federal fatigue limits, are effectively impaired on the road. “They dispatch truckers for shifts that last up to 20 hours a day, six days a week, sometimes with tragic results,” reported the article.

If you were involved in a trucking accident, and need advice as to whether you have a case, contact us online or call us at  215-751-0100.

Train Derailments Prompt Federal Call for Sleep Apnea Testing

Pennsylvania has seen its fair share of train derailments in recent years, including the fatal Amtrak crashes in and around Philadelphia in 2015 and 2017. Causes range from human error to safety lapses, mechanical failure, and obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea was the probable cause of two recent New York-area derailments, prompting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to call for “the federal government to regulate the testing of the disorder as it relates to commuter railroads,” as reported by Newsday recently. According to the article, Schumer criticized the Department of Transportation for failing to require sleep apnea testing, noting that the cost of the crashes far outweighs the cost of testing. One person died and more than 200 people were injured in the New York area derailments.

If you have been a victim of a train or vehicle accident and would like to speak to an attorney, we offer a free initial consultation. Contact us online or call 215-751-0100 to arrange an appointment.

Firm Newsletter: February 2018

Click here to download a printable pdf of this newsletter.


Jilted Bride

We represented the family of a bride whose husband-to-be called off the ceremony the night before the wedding. When the groom was a no-show at the rehearsal dinner, his friends and family
hunted him down, and he admitted that he didn’t want to go through with the wedding, which was then cancelled. The bride’s family had spent over $85,000 up to that point (gown, country club banquet room, food, flowers, photographer, etc.) and were able to only recover a portion of that amount. We filed suit alleging that the bride’s family paid for the wedding in exchange for the event to take place as planned. The lawsuit alleged that the groom’s refusal amounted to his breaching that agreement and gave rise to his responsibility to pay for all of their losses. A claim for punitive damages was included in the suit. Initially, the groom asserted that the bride’s family paid for the wedding simply because they wanted their daughter to be married, and there was no responsibility to pay the family back. The matter was confidentially settled 3 days after the lawsuit was filed.

Doctor’s Negligence Leads to Impotence

We represented a married Philadelphia couple (Mike and Mary) in their late 40’s in a lawsuit against their family physician. Mike was a machinist in relatively good health and Mary worked at home taking care of their 3 children. At Mike’s routine physical when he was 45, the doctor did a PSA blood test to test for prostate cancer (a standard test for men of his age). The doctor told Mike that “if anything comes back positive, we’ll let you know.” The results did, in fact, come back positive, but the doctor misplaced the paperwork and never notified Mike or Mary. Five years later, the mistake was discovered. By that time, the cancer had progressed so that the tumor was interfering with the nerves around the prostate; this required the surgical removal of the nerves necessary for an erection, along with the removal of the prostate. The effect of this 5 year delay was twofold: 1) the cancer metastasized and could spread to other organs, and 2) the removal of the nerves caused impotence that was only remedied through expensive procedures that Mike’s insurance would not pay for. We filed a medical malpractice action and our oncologist and urologist experts stated that the nerve bundles would not have been removed had the cancer been detected five years earlier. The case settled during jury selection for a confidential amount that enabled Mike and Mary to afford the procedures and renew their intimacy.

Arbitrator Awards 50% of Verdict to Spouse

Our client was 60 when he visited an outpatient surgery center for a procedure to correct snoring. Due to the doctors’ failure to properly monitor the patient during and after surgery, he suffered brain damage from a lack of oxygen, something that was corroborated by the many experts we brought in on the case. Our client was an first generation Italian immigrant who ran his own
barber shop. After the surgery, he was unable to feed himself, bathe or even go to the bathroom. His wife, also an Italian immigrant, took it upon herself to provide round-the-clock care for her husband. The arbitrator recognized the devastating toll the injury had on her and awarded her 50% of the verdict.

Loss of Consortium
Under Pennsylvania law, Loss of Consortium is an actionable injury for the loss of love, sexual relations, and services of a spouse due to injury for which money damages may be awarded. These types of claims arise out of  personal injury cases such as medical malpractice, negligence, and wrongful death. This is a legal claim that is made by the spouse who did not suffer the actual physical injury or death.

The Return of Love!

Did you know that the world-famous “Love” statue was on the move this week? It’s returning to its home in – where else? – Love Park, Philadelphia. It will be a welcome sight downtown.

Did you also know… we LOVE working with referrals? Call us and let’s make a date… to talk about that injury case we can handle for you.

Federal Government Penalizes 32 PA Hospitals for Allowing Injuries

The state of Pennsylvania reduced Medicare payments for 32 hospitals to penalize them for high rates of infections and injuries, according to a recent news report. The article cited that hospitals were fined for infections related to catheter and intravenous lines, certain surgeries, MRSA and c-diff infections, and injuries such as bed sores and hip fractures from hospital falls.

While such penalties are intended to encourage hospitals to prioritize reduction of the incidents, the story went on to note that seventeen of the hospitals fined had also been penalized the prior year.

An analysis by Kaiser Health News shared that hospitals that treat lower income patients are more likely to be fined, calling the penalties “controversial” because “hospitals that treat sicker patients and those that do a better job of identifying infections” are punished. Patient advocates argue that while the system is not perfect, it helps hold hospitals accountable.

If you have been a victim of what you believe to be injury from medical malpractice, contact us online or call 215-751-0100 to discuss your legal options.

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Our Latest News Posts

Firm Newsletter: April 2019

Click here to download a printable pdf of this newsletter. Supreme Court Victory Leads to Arbitration Award It certainly seemed like a long-time coming, but our firm was successful in taking our client’s case all the way to the Pennsylvania … [Read More...]

Diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injuries

Nearly 50,000 patients die annually from traumatic brain injuries. Now a new study led by the University of Pennsylvania reveals that tiny blood vessels in the brain can offer clues to better treatment, according to an article from UPI’s Health … [Read More...]