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Michigan Court of Appeals rules that gross negiligence lawsuit against Michigan public school teacher can proceed to a jury

Michigan Court of Appeals rules that gross negiligence lawsuit against Michigan public school teacher can proceed to a jury

Michigan Court of Appeals rules that gross negiligence lawsuit against Michigan public school teacher can proceed to a jury

Media contact: Barbara Fornasiero, EAFocus Communications, 248.260.8466; barbara@eafocus.com

Southfield, Mich. —June 2, 2017— A. Vince Colella, a civil rights and personal injury attorney and partner with Moss & Colella, P.C., announced that the firm will proceed with a lawsuit in the governmental gross negligence case, Bellinger v Kram, following a Michigan Court of Appeals decision.

Gross negligence refers to actions that show substantial disregard for safety precautions and singular disregard for the clear risks of harm. Bellinger v Kram centers around a Genesee County high school student who seriously and permanently injured her hand in October 2014 after following her shop teacher’s advice that the use of a blade guard was optional when using the classroom saw. The teacher said the blade guard was only necessary when an insurance inspector was present.

On May 25, 2017, the Michigan Court of Appeals said government immunity, the exception for public employees and their designees that may exempt them from gross negligence claims, doesn’t apply in this lawsuit and that a jury should decide whether the student’s injuries were the result of the teacher’s gross negligence.

The jury trial in Bellinger v Kram is expected to take place this fall.

About Moss & Colella

Established in 1997, Moss & Colella represents the victims of personal injury, civil rights violations, discrimination and wrongful death.   The firm is recognized as a leader in complex tort litigation, including excess and deadly force, jail death, sexual abuse and harassment, auto and truck accidents, and other serious injury and wrongful death claims.   To learn more about the firm and its diverse areas of practice, visit the Moss & Colella website.

 

Moss & Colella is Celebrating a Milestone Anniversary

Moss & Colella is Celebrating a Milestone Anniversary

Moss & Colella is celebrating a milestone anniversary. “With my senior partner and firm co-founder, David Moss, we have built a personal injury firm that has endured for 20 years. During our time in practice, our firm has secured over $100 million in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients and has grown to five attorneys – all litigators. A key to our firm’s success is attracting academically gifted law school grads who could have their pick of opportunities at national law firms; still, they are drawn to personal injury cases and fighting for the underdog. “The passion of our attorneys and support staff has translated into a high-energy, creative culture at the firm that benefits our clients,” stated Colella.

In law school, Colella clerked for a prominent personal injury attorney and had the opportunity to work closely with injured victims and their families. “With an undergraduate degree in psychology, I was able to bring my ability to analyze and read people to my field of practice. I also have benefitted from a diverse upbringing. As a child of divorce and growing up with a single working mother, I came to adopt the virtues of perseverance and fortitude. I have also been fortunate to have a unique employment background that has served me in my practice of law. Following law school, I spent three years in Los Angeles with one of the most prestigious talent agencies in the world before returning to Michigan and the personal injury field. In recent years, I’ve developed a growing practice in civil rights and police brutality/excessive force as a subset of personal injury.”

Currently, Colella is involved in a case that has brought national media attention. In August 2016, he filed a federal court wrongful death action against the City of Dearborn and one of its police officers. The lawsuit arose from the January 27, 2016 fatal shooting of Janet Wilson, 31, who was departing the parking lot of Fairlane Mall when she encountered a Dearborn police dispatch unit. According to reports, officers responded to the call and aggressively effectuated a traffic stop. One of the officers drew his weapon and pointed it at Wilson while the others were yelling at her. Wilson, who was unarmed, remained in her vehicle momentarily before being shot multiple times. This unfortunate incident was the second fatal shooting by a Dearborn police officer within 34 days.

“Despite a decision by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy not to bring charges against the officer, I’m committed to delivering civil justice to the Wilson family in establishing that Janet’s shooting was unjust and contrary to established law. While the criminal legal system had failed Janet’s family, I am confident we will be victorious in the civil case. We have also recently secured a settlement for the family of a man who was murdered in a Wayne County jail cell by another inmate. In that case (Horvath v Wayne County, et al.), the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision by the trial court to deny qualified immunity to jail employees and staff who ignore substantial risks of danger to inmates and failed to take reasonable measures to protect them – a precedential opinion that will shape other civil rights cases into the foreseeable future.

“In November 2016, the Court of Appeals overturned a decision by the Oakland County Circuit Court to dismiss my client’s claim of gross negligence against Lifetime Fitness. The case centers around the client’s 35-foot fall from a rock climbing wall allegedly after a Lifetime employee failed to properly secure his harness. The decision by the Court of Appeals marks a significant departure from the numerous decisions denying claims of gross negligence and immunizing corporations from liability based upon recreational waivers, which are rarely defeated. Colella is also involved in another government immunity case wherein a student suffered loss of her fingers as a result of a shop teacher removing a blade guard from a table saw and instructing the student to make the cut. A recent Court of Appeals panel found unanimously in favor of Colella’s client. While the school teacher has applied for leave to the Michigan Supreme Court, Colella says that he is confident that the Court of Appeals decision will not be disturbed. The case was recently named one of the most influential of 2017 thus far by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Colella has served as a member of the MAJ Executive Board and is a certified mediator who regularly hears cases for the Oakland County Circuit Court Mediation Program. “I’m an outdoor enthusiast and love rugby, golf and skiing.” While he enjoys his recreational hobbies, his true passion is for serving his clients.

source:
https://www.michiganjustice.org/index.cfm?pg=PaceSetter

Throwing a graduation party? Know your legal liability as a social host before serving alcohol

Throwing a graduation party? Know your legal liability as a social host before serving alcohol

As graduations, weddings, reunions and other milestones are celebrated this time of year, A. Vince Colella, a civil rights and personal injury attorney and partner with Moss & Colella, P.C., reminds adults who are planning to host parties that the State of Michigan has a Social Host Liability Law which holds them responsible if underage drinking occurs, regardless of who furnishes the alcohol.

“Many well-intentioned parents do not realize that they can be held criminally liable if minors are served alcohol. They could also face damages from a civil lawsuit if an underage guest is served alcohol and subsequently becomes injured or injures someone else,” Colella said. “Importantly, the setting of the party does not have to be at the host’s home; it can be offsite at a meeting hall or even a park.”

According to MCL436.1701:
1. Alcoholic liquor shall not be sold or furnished to a minor
2. A person who is not a retail licensee and charged with the violation will face a misdemeanor of up to a $1,000 fine and imprisonment of not more than 60 days for a first offense; subsequent offenses have penalties of up to $2,500 in fines and up to 90 days in prison, in addition to a possible order to perform community service and potential loss of a driver’s license.

“Michigan’s law is not intended to quash the fun, but instead designed to keep minors safe and ensure that all guests have the opportunity to enjoy the celebration unharmed,” Colella said. “It reminds hosts to be conscious of their responsibilities and aware of what is happening at their get-togethers.”

Colella offers some advice on how to help deter underage drinking at these social gatherings:

  • Hire a professional bartender who can control the flow of alcohol and monitor for underage drinkers.
  • Make it known that once minors leave the party, they are not allowed back to dissuade underage drinking at another location and returning potentially inebriated.
  • For those of legal drinking age, make sure certain guests have been named designated drivers ahead of time.
  • If no designated drivers are available, consider rideshare services.

For more information about this law, visit the Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) http://alcoholpolicy.niaaa.nih.gov/Home.html, which provides detailed state-by-state information on 35 alcohol-related policies and the recreational use of cannabis.

About Moss & Colella
Established in 1997, Moss & Colella represents the victims of personal injury, civil rights violations, discrimination and wrongful death. The firm is recognized as a leader in complex tort litigation, including excess and deadly force, jail death, sexual abuse and harassment, auto and truck accidents, and other serious injury and wrongful death claims. To learn more about the firm and its diverse areas of practice, visit the Moss & Colella website.

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is April 9 – 15; know your rights if you’ve been the victim of a dog attack in Michigan

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is April 9 – 15; know your rights if you’ve been the victim of a dog attack in Michigan

A recent article by the Associated Press notes that dog attacks on postal carriers are on the rise due in part to an increase in online shopping and corresponding package deliveries. A. Vince Colella, a civil rights and personal injury attorney and partner with Moss & Colella, P.C., says dog bite statistics nationwide are alarming.

“Nearly 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year and 50% of dog bite fatalities occur among children under 10 years old,” Colella said.

Colella said that more than half of the fatalities from dog bites and dog attacks were inflicted by Pit Bulls and Rottweiler breeds, with Rottweilers statistically being the most fatal. Other dog breeds in Michigan considered to be most statistically likely to bite are German Shepherds, wolf hybrids, Chow Chows, and Dobermans. Nearly 2% of the population are nipped or bitten by dogs in their lifetime, either vicious dogs or merely undisciplined.

The Michigan statute [MCL 287.321] defines “dangerous animal” as a dog or other animal that bites or attacks a person, or a dog that bites or attacks and causes serious injury or death to another dog while the other dog is on the property or under the control of its owner. However, a dangerous animal does not include any of the following: an animal that bites or attacks a person who is knowingly trespassing on the property of the animal’s owner; an animal that bites or attacks a person who provokes or torments the animal; or an animal that is responding in a manner that an ordinary and reasonable person would conclude was intended to protect a person if that person is engaged in a lawful activity or is the subject of an assault.

Under Michigan law, a dog owner is liable for a bite or attack, regardless of whether the dog displayed vicious tendencies. However, in some cases, an owner may argue “provocation,” according to Colella.

“Our lawyers have filed and won these cases, successfully defeating the “provocation” defense on countless occasions,” Colella said. “The key is for individuals who have been bitten or attacked to know their rights.”

Colella notes that fatal dog attacks usually occur at or near the family home.

“Parents must always put their children’s safety first when it comes to protecting them from dog bites or attacks,” Colella said. “The experience is traumatic and can lead to serious injury or death, as well as life-long anxiety and a crippling fear of dogs.”

About Moss & Colella
Established in 1997, Moss & Colella represents the victims of personal injury, civil rights violations, discrimination and wrongful death. The firm is recognized as a leader in complex tort litigation, including excess and deadly force, jail death, sexual abuse and harassment, auto and truck accidents, and other serious injury and wrongful death claims. To learn more about the firm and its diverse areas of practice, visit the Moss & Colella website.

New Michigan zipline regulations reflect the risk of recreational adventure activities, often supervised by inadequately trained young adults

New Michigan zipline regulations reflect the risk of recreational adventure activities, often supervised by inadequately trained young adults

A. Vince Colella, a civil rights and personal injury attorney and partner with Moss & Colella, P.C., says that new Michigan regulations that went into effect last month adding zip-lines to the regulation guidelines of the Michigan Carnival-Amusement Safety Act may not go far enough to protect people engaging in risky adventure activities.

“Zip-lining is a fun adventure activity, yet because of its inherent risks, it is now rightly regulated by an existing Michigan law,” Colella said. “However, I often deal with gross negligence cases in recreational waivers and have found that it isn’t always the risk of the activity itself that endangers participants, but operator error.”

A recreational waiver, a critical legal protection document to prevent lawsuits and used by organizations involved in offering activities that carry varying degrees of risk, such as skiing, snowboarding, zip-lining, sky diving, canoeing and rock climbing, is commonplace and most participants sign off without question.

“Individuals generally sign the document because they understand that, on the face of it, the activity is indeed risky. At the same time, the individual places trust in the company or organization offering the service, believing that every precaution within reason has been taken to keep participants as safe as possible,” Colella said.

Colella, who is currently involved in a lawsuit with a client who failed to have his rock-climbing harness properly secured by an employee of Lifetime Fitness, says participants need to go beyond consideration of the risky activity itself and pay close attention to the individuals actually operating the adventure activity – not just the legitimacy of the company or venue that is offering it.

“Legitimate businesses like ski resorts and theme parks often hire young adults to direct or assist with activities like zip-lines, chair lifts and other recreational adventures,” Colella said. “From the numerous gross negligence cases I’ve handled, I see a common thread of untrained or under-trained employees, frequently college students picking up hours during school breaks, in charge of potentially dangerous activities. That’s often where the greatest danger lurks.”

Colella offers the following advice to those engaging in an activity that requires a signed recreational waiver.

“Do not participate in risky adventure activities if you encounter clueless employees, shoddy equipment or poorly maintained grounds,” Colella said. “They can be indicators of additional unnecessary risks that can cause death or permanent harm.”

About Moss & Colella
Established in 1997, Moss & Colella represents the victims of personal injury, civil rights violations, discrimination and wrongful death. The firm is recognized as a leader in complex tort litigation, including excess and deadly force, jail death, sexual abuse and harassment, auto and truck accidents, and other serious injury and wrongful death claims. To learn more about the firm and its diverse areas of practice, visit the Moss & Colella website.