The Verdict - The Lombardi Law Firm Blog
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This blog is the sixth and final blog in a multipart series directed towards fire safety and prevention for the winter season. Within this blog, the dangers of the colorless, odorless, and toxic gas know as Carbon Monoxide. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), an estimated 2,100 people die annually due to accidental Carbon Monoxide exposure.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is produced when fossil fuels such as gasoline, wood, coal, propane, oil, or methane burn incompletely. Heating and cooking appliances within the home can produce CO if damaged or used inappropriately. Everyday highway vehicles such as cars, trucks, tractors, and other gas burning motors produce CO.
Carbon Monoxide affects the human body by suffocating it. CO replaces the oxygen within the blood, which causes the body to poison itself by cutting off the oxygen that is necessary for the everyday function of organs and cells. Low-level CO poisoning results in flu-like symptoms, where more serious exposure results in dizziness, disorientation, severe headaches, fainting, and death.
Carbon Monoxide detectors work by measuring the amount of CO gas that has accumulated within a given area. CO detectors sound an alarm when the concentration of CO in the air is equal to or above the lowest level of CO poisoning, or 10% carboxyhemoglobin level in the blood. This lowest level of sensitivity can cause the alarm to sound before symptoms actually appear; therefore, all alarms should be taken seriously.
Residential Carbon Monoxide detectors could greatly reduce the number of deaths resulting from unintentional CO exposure. When purchasing a CO detector, only units that have been tested by qualified testing laboratories should be considered. The manufacturers installation instructions should be followed, and the CO detector should be tested once a month to ensure proper operation.
Following these safety tips will help to prevent CO exposure within your home:
- Do not run motors indoors; even if the garage doors are open. Also, have your vehicles checked for exhaust leaks.
- Inspect and repair chimneys, fireplaces, wood stoves, and other home heating appliances that use fossil fuels. Also, double check to make sure you home heating appliances have adequate ventilation.
- Never use gas or charcoal barbecue grills indoors or within the garage, even if the garage doors are open.
Carbon Monoxide detectors only detect CO gas; they do not prevent the existence of CO gas. Use caution and follow safety guidelines to ensure that CO poisoning is adequately prevented within your home.
This blog is the fifth in a multipart series directed towards fire safety and prevention for the winter season. In this blog, smoke alarms will be briefly discussed and will be accompanied by a list of suggestions for the proper installation and maintenance of the smoke alarms within your home.
Recently, a mother was killed and her son was seriously burned in an apartment fire. Investigators concluded that some of the smoke alarms had been deactivate why others had their batteries removed. If the alarms had not been deactivated it is likely that the woman would still be alive today. True, smoke alarms can go off at random times, but that just means that they are working.
About two-thirds of residential fire deaths occur in homes with either no smoke alarms or deactivated smoke alarms. Ninety percent of people found in a fire appear to be sleeping, this is because one cannot smell smoke while asleep. Thus, smoke detectors are essential to home safety. Statistics show that the presence of properly maintained smoke alarms within a home increases its residents' chances of survival by fifty percent.
Following these suggestions for the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms could save the lives of you and the members of your family:
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and follow the manufacturers instructions when installing.
- If you sleep with the bedroom door closed, a smoke alarm should be installed inside your bedroom.
- Smoke alarms should be tested once per month, and any old batteries should be replaced.
- Remind everyone in your household to leave working batteries in smoke alarms. Resist the temptation to remove them or to borrow the batteries for other purposes.
Remember: Smoke alarms will not prevent a fire, but the do increase your chances of survival should a fire occur. Again, a smoke alarm more than doubles your chances of survival.
Also, when purchasing a smoke alarm, look for one with a loud alarm-the more annoying the better it will be for waking up you and your family in the event of a fire. The fire alarm should also have a hush feature, an Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) listing, a malfunction indicator, and a ten-year battery. There are also a number of models of smoke alarms available for the hearing impaired.
The sooner you are alerted to a fire, the more likely you are to get out in time and contact the fire department. Having a working fire alarm, along with a family exit drill plan, is necessary within every household. It is too late to establish a fire escape plan after a fire has already begun and the alarms have already sounded.
A fire alarm will not save your life if you have removed its battery.
This blog is the fourth in a multipart series directed towards fire safety and prevention for the winter season. Within the United States there are over 485 deaths and 2,205 injuries as a result of electrical fires. Many electrical fires are caused by electrical system failures as well as appliance defects, but even more are caused by the inappropriate use and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, overload of circuits and extension cords, and incorrectly installed wiring.
Twice as many fires are caused by home wiring as opposed to electrical appliances, and most electrical fires occur during the winter months. The primary cause of avoidable electrical fires can be traced back to the misuse of electrical cords by overloading circuits, poor maintenance, and running cords under rugs in high traffic areas.
In order to prevent an electrical fire, there are a number of precautions that should be taken:
- Routinely check both your electrical appliances and wiring for defects or wear. A frayed wire can result in a fire. All worn, old, or damaged wires should be replaced immediately.
- Practice using extension cords appropriately by not overloading them. An extension cord is overloaded when appliances plugged into the cord pull more wattage through the cord than the cord's rating allows. Additionally, when buying electrical appliances, buy products that meet the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) standards for safety and do not buy bargain brand extension cords. Remember: even high-quality extension cords cause electrical fires when misused.
- Keep electrical appliances from wet floors and counters and take extra caution when using appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
- Do not allow children to play with or around electrical appliances.
- If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three prong outlet.
Because more fires result from home wiring than electrical appliances, particular attention should be paid to extension cords. A Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) bulletin in February of 1999 stated that two million power strips, extension cords, and surge protectors had been involved in as many as twenty-five product recalls, ten of which were in 1999 alone. The CPSC believes that many of these devices are still in use, and most people of unaware of their dangers.
Besides electrical wiring and appliances, Christmas trees also pose a great hazard for causing a fire. Between years 2003 and 2006 there were an average of 240 residential fires that originated with the Christmas tree, causing an average of 16 deaths, 25 injuries, and about $13 million in property damage. To reduce the likelihood of a Christmas tree fire, make sure you select the appropriate tree. When selecting a fake tree, make sure to check to ensure that the tree is labeled as flame retardant. If using a natural tree, pick one that is green and fresh; if the needles fall off when touched the tree is not fresh. Also, check the labels on your Christmas tree's lights to make sure that they have been tested by an independent laboratory; some lights are only appropriate for either indoor or outdoor use.
It is always a good idea to practice fire safety, but with record lows this winter increasing the use of additional heating appliances for the home, more caution is necessary. Following this list of precautions will reduce the likelihood of experiencing a life-threatening fire or thousands of dollars in property loss.
This blog is the third in a multipart series directed towards fire prevention for the winter season and discusses a well-known technique referred to as "stop, drop, and roll" that is commonly taught to children. Within the United States, children set about 8,000 home fires each year and account for 15-20% of all fire deaths.
Stop, drop, and roll is the title of the new album by the band The Foxboro Hot Tubs, is also a fire safety technique that originated in the 1920s. While geared primarily towards children, and although most readers will already be familiar with the technique, the technique is also taught to emergency services personnel and industrial workers as part of their health and safety training. Because fire is not selective and adults, in addition to children, can also catch on fire, it is always a good idea to review it for a more thorough understanding.
The stop, drop, and roll technique is used to extinguish a fire on a person's clothes or hair with, or without, the use of conventional fire-fighting equipment. The technique consists of three components:
Stop - First, the victim must immediately stop and completely cease all movement. Movement may cause the flames to spread or may hinder the ability of others to render assistance in extinguishing the fire.
Drop - Then, victim must immediately drop to the ground, lying down if possible.
Roll - Finally, the victim must roll on the ground in order to extinguish the fire. Rolling deprives the fire of oxygen, which is required for a fire to continue burning. Utilizing nearby items such as a rug or a fire blanket, if available, would also help deprive the fire of oxygen.
The technique can be made more effective when combined with other fire extinguishing techniques or fire equipment. For example, if a student's clothes were to catch fire, the technique would be more effective if another student douses the victim with water, uses a fire extinguisher, or attempts to beat out the fire.It is also important to not that while the stop, drop, and roll technique is an effective way to extinguish a clothes or hair fire, it also serves as a useful psychological tool which provides those in a fire situations with a routine to focus on, in order to avoid panic.
When cars and bicyles collide there is always the question of whether the bicylist acted according to the rules-of-the-road. In this news report the question was raised about a stop sign. Was the bicycle rider required to stop?
In this case it would seem so. Young Mr. Chris Neve, 10 years of age, was struck and injured (not life threatening) when he attempted to ride his bicycle through an intersection without stopping at the stop sign. The driver of the car that struck him was not ticketed by the police officer. The officer noted extenuating circumstances which included the traffic stop sign.
The investigators noted that Neve's bicycle did not have proper lights required by city ordinance. The report also noted the boy wore dark clothing, rode a dark-colored bicycle, and should have yielded at the intersection, because there is a stop sign on Stutsman and he was riding in the street.
Attorney’s interviewing clients who have been involved in a collision should be asking about the color of clothing, wearing of reflective gear, lights and reflectors on the bicycle being ridden, behavior that shows respect for the rules-of-the-road and if after dark what lighting was in the area.
A search of Iowa cases turns up several cases. Here is a list, not exhaustive by any means so while this is a starting point, you should do your own research.
Fineran v. Pickett, 465 N.W.2d 662 (Iowa 1991) - The plaintiffs, who are the parents and sisters of Lori Fineran Hagerty, appeal from denial of their emotional distress claims against defendant, Eddie Glenn Pickett. Lori Fineran Hagerty was killed when the bicycle she was riding was struck by a car driven by defendant. Her parents and two sisters sought damages including emotional distress from having witnessed the immediate aftermath of the collision. The district court denied the plaintiffs' emotional distress claims on the ground that plaintiffs had not experienced a "sensory and contemporaneous observance of the accident."
Le Mars Mut. Ins. Co. of Iowa v. Bonnecroy, 304 N.W.2d 422 (Iowa 1981)
Dorcas v. Aikman, 126 N.W.2d 298, 300, 256 Iowa 308, (Iowa 1964) - The question in the case of Ryan v. Trenkle, supra, was whether plaintiff's ward riding on a bicycle and hit by an automobile knew the automobile was going to turn. The question in the case was whether or not if the boy on the bicycle had such knowledge, defendant was guilty of contributory negligence in not giving the statutory signals. Brief excerpts from the opinion of the court explain the situation and are analogous to the case at bar: 'There remains, therefore, to consider, plaintiff's allegation of negligence, in that the defendants failed to give any warning signal of their intention to make a turn in the street intersection, * * * It is evident that the boy on the bicycle could see the automobile as plainly as the driver of the car could see the boy. * * * It is elementary that negligence may not be predicated on the failure to give signals when such failure in no wise can be said to be the proximate cause of the injury. * * * Plaintiff's ward was not exposed to injury because of any lack of statutory signal, if one was not given, nor does any rule of common law bring the defendants within the duty claimed by plaintiff. It cannot be said that the alleged failure to give a signal had any causative and proximate relation to the collision and the resulting damages.'
Ryan v. Trenkle, 203 Iowa 443, 212 N.W. 888 (Iowa 1927) - The evidence is not in conflict that the auto was in the intersection and already turning into Ninth street, while the boy on the bicycle was about to round the curb west into Ninth street. The car made the turn at a slow rate of speed. Plaintiff's ward testified that he saw the auto coming up Main street from the south; saw it making the turn around the policeman; and when he saw the car turning he swung up Ninth street "and gave to the southwest to get out of the way of the car, and when he saw the auto turn he swung up Ninth street." The affirmative testimony is all to the effect that the boy was some distance away when the auto started to make the turn, and consequently the matter of "sufficient space" to make the turn in safety has no proximate relation to the cause of the accident.
 There was no legal obligation, under the circumstances, on the part of the driver of the auto to stop. The driver of the auto had no reason to apprehend the danger of collision. See Barnes v. Barnett, 184 Iowa, 936, 169 N. W. 365. When the auto made the turn the boy was in a zone of apparent safety and the driver was not bound to anticipate that the rider of the bicycle would suddenly put himself in a dangerous situation. Borland v. Lenz, 196 Iowa, 1148, 194 N. W. 215.
 The plaintiff alleged specific acts of negligence and the trial court was warranted in submitting only those grounds of negligence which found support in the evidence. There was no general allegation of negligence and the purpose of the amendment herein was either to serve as an amplification of a ground of negligence alleged in the original petition, or it was intended to be a distinct allegation and in no way germane to the issues previously tendered. Under either theory the amendment is unavailing to the plaintiff.
No negligence having been established by the evidence, there is no occasion to discuss the contributory negligence of plaintiff's ward. The defendants' motion to direct a verdict was properly sustained and the ruling of the trial court is affirmed.
Riedesel v. Koch, 45 N.W.2d 225 (Iowa 1950) – Car-bicycle collision resulting in death of the bicycle operator and the case discusses the no-eyewitness rule. The no-eyewitness rule is that in the absence of eyewitnesses, or of any obtainable direct evidence as to what the deceased did or failed to do by way of precaution, at or immediately before the injury, there arises a presumption or inference that he, [241 Iowa 1317] prompted by natural instinct, was in the exercise of due care for his own safety. Edwards v. Perley, 223 Iowa 1119, 274 N.W. 910; Spooner v. Wisecup, 227 Iowa 768, 288 N.W. 894; Golinvaux v. Burlington, C. R. & N. R. Co., 125 Iowa 652, 101 N.W. 465; Carpenter v. Loetsscher-Jaeger Mfg. Co., 178 Iowa 320, 157 N.W. 938; Sohl v. Chicago, R. I. & P. Ry. Co., 183 Iowa 616, 167 N.W. 159; Platter v. Minneapolis & St. Louis R. Co., 162 Iowa 142, 143 N.W. 992; Wilson v. Chicago, M. & St. P. Ry. Co., 161 Iowa 191, 142 N.W. 54; Dalton v. Chicago, R. I. & P. Ry. Co., 104 Iowa 26, 73 N.W. 349; Gray v. Chicago, R. I. & P. R. Co., 143 Iowa 268, 121 N.W. 1097; Lorimer v. Hutchinson Ice Cream Co., 216 Iowa 384, 249 N.W. 220; Azeltine v. Lutterman, 218 Iowa 675, 254 N.W. 854; Ellis v. Republic Oil Co., 133 Iowa 11, 110 N.W. 20; Low v. Ford Hopkins Co., 231 Iowa 251, 1 N.W.2d 95.
Coble v. McChane, 8 N.W.2d 755 (Iowa 1943) – This case involves question of whether the failure to follow the rules of the road amounts to negligence per se. City ordinance required a light; the bicycle rider had in hand and turned on, a flashlight.
Luse v. Nickoley, 3 N.W.2d 503 (Iowa 1941) - Addresses an excessive rate of speed of the vehicle and proximate cause evaluation.
Luse v. Nickoley, 1 N.W.2d 205 (Iowa 1941) - See above.
When case law is involved as always lay persons need to obtain proper legal advice. Lawyers not familiar with this area of the law should do the same and refer earlier, rather than later.