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Update: Lancaster Jury Delivers $8.5M Verdict to Disabled Boy

Our client was born premature at 26 weeks. The first 10 days of his life he developed a grade four periventricular bleed on the left and a grade 3 periventricular bleed on the right. It goes without saying that he suffered a lot of brain damage as a result of these bleeds which had him developmentally delayed. The first seven months of his life he spent in AI DuPont Children’s Hospital dealing with these issues. Once he was stabilized he was transferred to defendant’s pediatric nursing home as he had a trach and was vent dependent. It was our expert’s opinion that he would’ve been trach free in five years but probably closer to two. At that point in time he would’ve been able to go home. Our expert opined that as a result of his brain injury from his prematurity he would’ve suffered mild to moderate permanent neurologic damage. While in the pediatric nursing home he was also on a feeding tube. Once again it was our experts opinion that he would’ve been able to be weaned off of the feeding tube within a couple years.

At eight months of age (5 months corrected age) he was found in cardiac arrest as a result of the trach being dislodged and his pulse oximeter not being attached to him in addition to being turned off. Our theory of the case was that if the pulse oximeter had been attached per the physician’s orders as his oxygen saturation went down the alarms would’ve gone off the problem found, corrected and he would’ve suffered no further injury. This was born out as he had had prior desaturations from plugs and other complications with the trach. It was defendant’s position that while they were negligent there negligence did not cause any further injury. Accordingly they stipulated to negligence but went to trial on causation. At the end of the trial we moved for a directed verdict on causation as we got the defendant experts to agree that the anoxic event did cause further brain injury. They still held to the position that he would’ve needed the total care he gets today as opposed to being able to go home as our expert testified to. Our life care plan totaled $19 million.

The verdict was for $8,490,000.00

The jury ended up splitting the difference between our projected lifespan and the defendant’s highest projected lifespan.

Now the rest of the story, we have just prepared a delay damages petition requesting another 1.7 million in delay damages.

Pennsylvania Court Awards $4.2 Million in Fracking Case

Two families in northern Pennsylvania won a jury verdict against a local oil and gas company, after they alleged contamination of their groundwater as a result of fracking by the company. Scott and Monica Ely, and their neighbors, Ray and Victoria Hubert, were originally among 44 plaintiffs in legal action filed against Cabot Oil & Gas in 2009. The lawsuit contended that Cabot’s use of fracking to obtain oil and gas had rendered the groundwater in Dimock Township, northwest of Scranton, unfit for human consumption.

In fracking, a recently developed process in oil and gas exploration, oil companies drill deep into the earth and then inject a mixture of water, sand and chemical to force oil and gas to the surface. Though the procedure has only been in use for about a decade, lawsuits have been filed around the country, all claiming some loss. A Texas jury returned a $3 million verdict in 2014 under similar circumstances and the Oklahoma courts are currently considering claims that the controversial process has caused a substantial increase in earthquake activity in the state.

The jury in the Pennsylvania case awarded $2.75 million to the Elys and $1.45 million to the Huberts. Both families had refused to join a proposed settlement offer by Cabot. In pre-trial reports, it was learned that Cabot had been tagged with more than 130 violations at the Dimock drilling site, causing the contamination of approximately 20 drinking wells. The company is now legally prohibited from drilling in or around Dimock Township.

Contact the Law Offices of John E. Kusturiss, Jr.

At the Law Offices of John E. Kusturiss, Jr., we have more than 30 years of practice experience, including representing those with personal injury matters. Contact us online or call us at 610-565-0240 to set up an appointment. There is no charge for your initial consultation. We are available to meet with you evenings or weekends upon request. We take Visa, MasterCard and Discover, as well as debit cards.

New Law Gives Some a Second Chance

The state of Pennsylvania, according to Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack, believes in punishment for wrongdoing, but also believes in giving people a second chance. A new law, signed by Governor Tom Wolf, targets people who have made a mistake, but attempts to return them to being productive members of society.

Under the new law, sponsored by Republican Senator Stewart Greenleaf, but supported from both sides of the political aisle, people with certain misdemeanors may petition the court to have records of a conviction sealed, contingent upon meeting certain conditions:

  • The misdemeanors that can be sealed are generally 2nd and 3rd degree misdemeanors, and ungraded crimes carrying a sentence of two years or less
  • To qualify to have those records sealed, applicants must have been free of arrest and conviction for at least 10 years; must have never been convicted of a felony, first-degree misdemeanor or second-degree simple assault; and must have a total of fewer than four misdemeanors.
  • Applicants must have paid all fines and costs assessed for any conviction
  • Applicants must also pay a processing fee of $132, though the court has discretion to waive that fee

There is substantial benefit to having such records sealed. They would no longer be available to the public, including employers conducting background checks on a job applicant. The records, would, though, still be accessible by state licensing agencies and law enforcement officials.

Contact the Law Offices of John E. Kusturiss, Jr.

At the Law Offices of John E. Kusturiss, Jr., we have more than 30 years of practice experience. Contact us online or call us at 610-565-0240 to set up an appointment. There is no charge for your initial consultation. We are available to meet with you evenings or weekends upon request. We take Visa, MasterCard and Discover, as well as debit cards.

Three Retired Pennsylvania Priests Charged in Sex Abuse Cover-Up

Three retired Franciscan priests were charged in mid-March by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, related to what the state says was a cover-up of sexual abuse by a friar in the Catholic Church. The three—Giles Schinelli, Robert D’Aversa and Anthony Criscitelli, were the provincial ministers of the Franciscan religious order in western Pennsylvania during the friar’s tenure, from 1986 until 2010. Officials say that the friar, Stephen Baker, may have molested more than 100 children while under their administration. Baker committed suicide in 2013.

According to the Attorney General’s office, over 100 sexual abuse claims have been filed by individuals who attended Bishop McCort High School, in Johnstown, where Baker was employed between 1992 and 2000. Attorneys for some of the victims say, however, that it’s likely that the actual number of victims was substantially higher.

Alleging that the three retired priests were “more concerned about the protecting the image of the order…than in protecting the flock they served,” Kane charged all three with conspiracy and child endangerment. Kane said that all three knew that Baker had been accused of molestation by many students, but neglected to notify police, and continued to allow Baker access to children.

According to court documents, Baker served as a football coach and religion teacher, and apparently fondled or molested many students who came to him for treatment for sports-related injuries. He was removed from McCort by D’Aversa in 2000 based on what D’Aversa believed to be a credible allegation of sexual abuse, but was then reassigned to a position as vocations director for the order, where he was allowed to lead youth retreats in a number of states.

The charges come after a two-year investigation into alleged sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. During the course of the grand jury investigation, prosecutors say, they found evidence linking at least eight other Franciscan friars to acts of sexual abuse.

Contact Our Office

At the Law Offices of John E. Kusturiss, Jr., we have more than 30 years of practice experience. Contact us online or call us at 610-565-0240 to schedule a private meeting. There is no charge for your first consultation. We will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request. We take Visa, MasterCard and Discover, as well as debit cards.

Court to Hear Motion to Dismiss in Cosby Criminal Case

Comedian Bill Cosby’s criminal trial in a Pennsylvania court is currently on hold, as an appeals court hears arguments on whether the case against him should be dismissed before trial. Cosby faces criminal charges in Montgomery County tied to allegations that he drugged and molested a Temple University employee in his home in Philadelphia in 2004.

According to Cosby, he had entered into an agreement with a former district attorney, whereby he was promised that he would never be charged with any crime tied to or based on allegations by Temple employee Andrea Constand. Cosby claims that that agreement should be binding on current district attorney Kevin Steele. Cosby and prosecutors acknowledge that Constand filed a complaint in 2005, and that an investigation took place, but that no charges were filed.

Common Pleas Judge Steven O’Neill, who took testimony for two days on the issue, ruled that there was no credible evidence that Cosby had entered into a binding agreement. Bruce Castor, the former district attorney, actually testified on behalf of Cosby, but admitted that the parties did not memorialize the agreement in writing. Cosby’s attorneys say that, based on a 2005 news release from Castor, they allowed Cosby to be deposed in a civil lawsuit tied to the alleged assault. They contend that the “new evidence” cited by Steele comes from testimony given at that deposition.

Contact the Law Offices of John E. Kusturiss, Jr.

At the Law Offices of John E. Kusturiss, Jr., we have more than 30 years of practice experience. We handle the defense of all types of criminal charges. Contact us online or call us at 610-565-0240 to arrange an appointment.

There is no charge for your initial consultation. We are available to meet with you evenings or weekends upon request. We take Visa, MasterCard and Discover, as well as debit cards.

Negligence Law and Hotels in Light of Erin Andrews Verdict

The jury in the negligence lawsuit filed by ESPN sports reporter Erin Andrews against Marriott Hotels has found that the hotel giant was partially responsible for injuries suffered by Andrews after another guest videotaped her through the hotel room’s peep hole and posted the video online. The jury awarded Andrews $55 million in damages, and found the hotel chain 49% liable for the injuries caused.

Andrews was staying at the Nashville Marriott in 2008 when Michael Barrett, another guest at the hotel, booked the room next to her, unscrewed the peep hole in the door between the rooms, and filmed her after she came out of the shower. He posted the video online and it went viral, with more than 16 million views to date. Barrett was criminally prosecuted and spent time in jail after being convicted. Andrews also filed a civil action against Barrett and the Nashville Marriott, alleging that the hotel had failed to take reasonable steps to protect her safety and privacy. In her complaint, she stated that the hotel had negligently disclosed to Barrett that Andrews was staying at the hotel, allowed him to have the room next to hers without notifying her first, and failed to maintain the peep holes to prevent tampering.

Under Tennessee law (the same as in Pennsylvania), a hotel has a duty to take reasonable measures to protect guests from harm and from invasion of privacy. As part of this obligation, a hotel must notify guests of any perceived harm or threats to their safety or privacy. Andrews’ attorneys argued that, once Barrett inquired about Andrews and asked for a room next to hers, hotel employees should have notified her, as it was an unusual request.

Contact Our Office

At the Law Offices of John E. Kusturiss, Jr., we have more than 30 years of practice experience. Contact us online or call us at 610-565-0240 to schedule a private meeting. There is no charge for your first consultation. We will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request. We take Visa, MasterCard and Discover, as well as debit cards.

Pennsylvania May Take Lead in “Clean Slate” Legislation

According to an ex-offender, most people who are convicted of a crime are also sentenced to “a lifetime of poverty.” Wayne Jacobs, now 66, spent much of his younger life in and out of correctional facilities, even serving time for involuntary manslaughter. He now runs a non-profit organization that seeks to help ex-cons get a fairer shot at a second chance. His group, X-Offenders for Community Development, has lobbied Philadelphia politicians to limit the use of criminal records in hiring. The lobbying has paid off, as the city recently enacted and implemented such a law.

Now Jacobs has set his sights higher. He expects that, within the next couple months, the Pennsylvania legislature will consider what he calls a “clean slate” law, a bill that will allow certain persons convicted or pleading guilty to specific low level, nonviolent crimes to have all records of those crimes sealed upon completion of court-ordered rehabilitation and sanctions.

One of the key components of the proposed law—it will make the sealing automatic upon completion of court-specified terms of rehabilitation. Accordingly, persons with such criminal records won’t have to file petitions one at a time.

Jacobs stresses that it’s not just convictions that keep people from getting good jobs. A record of arrest without conviction may also be available to a prospective employer, and can be used as a factor in determining whether to hire that person.

Contact the Law Offices of John E. Kusturiss, Jr.

At the Law Offices of John E. Kusturiss, Jr., we have more than 30 years of criminal defense experience. Contact us online or call us at 610-565-0240 to set up an appointment. There is no charge for your initial consultation. We are available to meet with you evenings or weekends upon request. We take Visa, MasterCard and Discover, as well as debit cards.

Seasons Greetings & Happy New Year from John E. Kusturiss, Jr.

Seasons Greetings & Happy New Year from John E. Kusturiss, Jr.

Moving Past the Stigma of a Criminal Record

Maryland Legislature Looks at Bills to Give Offenders Second Chance

The Maryland legislature is currently considering a variety of statutes that would allow rehabilitated criminal offenders to have prior charges erased from their records. With the ease of access to criminal records, facilitated in significant part by their availability online, many who made mistakes when they were much younger still find it difficult to move past their earlier indiscretions.

Though expungement has long been available, it is mostly limited to charges that did not result in conviction. At present, there are only nine types of convictions that can be expunged in Maryland, and they are typically designated as “nuisance” crimes, such as failing to pay for a public transit ride or panhandling. Many other states allow for expungement of a larger number of criminal acts, including some felonies.

Among the bills being considered in Maryland is one that would make the state’s infamous “subsequent conviction” rule a thing of the past. Under that rule, charges that did not previously lead to a conviction (and therefore eligible for expungement) cannot be expunged if there is a subsequent conviction of any kind. Proponents say throwing out the subsequent conviction rule will allow many former offenders a real second chance.

In addition, the legislature is looking at the Maryland Second Chance Act, which would allow persons convicted of 13 minor misdemeanors to shield them from public view. Currently, these charges stay on a person’s record for the rest of their lives. They include disorderly conduct, trespass, driving without a license, some forms of shoplifting or petty theft, and possession of a controlled substance. A shield conviction remains available to law enforcement officers, courts and employers, but is not viewable by the general public.

Contact Our Media, Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

At the Law Offices of John E. Kusturiss, Jr., we have more than 30 years of practice experience. Contact us online or call us at 610-565-0240 to schedule a private meeting. There is no charge for your first consultation. We will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request. We take Visa, MasterCard and Discover, as well as debit cards.

How the Criminal Process Differs from the Civil Process

Contrasting the Criminal Process with the Civil Process

In the American legal system, a legal matter can be addressed in the criminal justice system or through a civil action. Because these processes are distinctly different, you need to be certain that the attorney who represents you is experienced with and knowledgeable of the unique aspects of each system.

Who Initiates Legal Action?

In a civil lawsuit, any citizen may bring legal action against another, against a business entity, or against a governmental body, provided he or she has “standing,” essentially a sufficient connection to and resulting harm from any wrong alleged. The person bringing a civil action is called a plaintiff, and is seeking redress for his or her losses.

In the criminal justice system, legal action is always brought by a governmental body—local, state or federal—on behalf of the citizenry. Prosecutors or district attorneys represent the people and take action on behalf of the public. A private individual cannot file a criminal action, but may ask police or prosecutors to consider bringing charges.

What is the Legal Basis for Determining Wrong?

Crimes are identified by statutes, written laws enacted by legislatures. To be charged with a crime, you must be shown to have violated the provisions of a criminal statute or ordinance.

Though state and federal legislative bodies have enacted some statutes that call for civil liability for certain wrongs, most torts and other civil actions are based on what is referred to as “the common law.” The common law, written down in judicial opinions, has been refined over hundreds of years, with many of our civil actions having their origin in English common law.

What are the Potential Sanctions or Punishments?

In a civil action, there are typically only two types of redress: monetary damages and specific performance. In most civil actions, the party found liable ultimately must pay some form of compensation to the injured party—that is referred to as monetary damages. In a limited number of instances, usually involving breach of contract, a party may ask the court to compel the other party to perform as promised—that is specific performance.

In the criminal justice system, defendants who are found guilty customarily face incarceration, fines, mandatory restitution, and other sanctions, including probation, rehabilitation and community service. Any fines paid in a criminal action are paid to the state, whereas all money paid in a civil action goes to the other party (or that party’s attorney).

What is the Burden of Proof?

Because a criminal conviction may include the loss of freedom—jail or prison time—the burden of proof is higher in a criminal matter than in a civil action. To obtain a criminal conviction, a prosecutor must show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Note that a criminal conviction does not require absolute certainty, only that any doubt not be reasonable.

In a civil matter, on the other hand, the burden of proof is typically “a mere preponderance of the evidence.” Essentially, this means that it must be more likely than unlikely.

Contact Our Office

At the Law Offices of John E. Kusturiss, Jr., we have more than 30 years of practice experience. Contact us online or call us at (610) 565-0240 to schedule a private meeting. There is no charge for your first consultation. We will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request. We take Visa, MasterCard and Discover, as well as debit cards.

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