Illinois man says teen’s games of “ding-dong-ditch” caused emotional distress, weight loss, financial problems: lawsuit

This ding dong ditch was damn near deadly, a new lawsuit says.

An Illinois insurance agent has filed a $50,000 lawsuit against the family of a teen neighbor who allegedly rang his doorbell and ran away so many times the man suffered financial and health problems.

The suit from Shorewood resident John Wright accuses the 14-year-old ringer of obsessively targeting his doorbell for several weeks, according to Paste. The teen chose Wright, the suit says, because he works with the boy’s father.

The teen “repeatedly rang the doorbell at the Wright residence, then when (Wright) went to answer the door, no one would be at the door,” court papers say.

“(T)his is commonly known as ‘ding dong ditch.’”

The teen darkened the doorway so many times that Wright “suffered severe emotional distress, severe anxiety, sleeplessness, extreme and rapid weight loss, and required treatment medication in order to function in his daily living,” the suit says.

Wright also somehow lost $30,000 in income from the rampant ring, the suit says, though it does not specify how.

Wright eventually called the police over the doorbell games, and the teen confessed to cops that he rang Wright’s doorbell and ran off at least once.

The suit, filed in Wills County Circuit Court last week, names the teen as a defendant, as well as his parents, Rick and Sara Papp

Civil Case Arising out of Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting May Be Coming to Settlement

It’s been roughly two years since the terrible massacre and shooting of numerous children who were students attending Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, CT.  Two families of first-graders killed in the attack brought wrongful-death claims against the town and the school district arguing that security measures were not adequate at Sandy Hook Elementary School, allowing Adam Lanza to enter the school and carry out the attack.

The two families have now offered to settle the case for $5.5 million each.

The offer, filed Monday, gives the town and the school district 30 days to accept or reject the settlement. Lawyers on both sides of the case refused to speak about the offer on Tuesday. The two sides are scheduled to be in court for a pretrial conference on June 28.

The parents of slain first-graders Jessie Lewis and Noah Pozner filed their wrongful-death suit against the town and school district following the slayings of 26 first-graders and educators in 2012.

Among the allegations in the lawsuit:

That 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza was able to get past the locked front doors by shooting his way through a large plate-glass window.

That the school had practiced a lockdown and evacuation plan, but did not implement it during the shooting

That the school failed to train a substitute teacher about the lockdown procedure and did not give her a key to lock her room once she heard shots being fired. That teacher and all but one of her students were killed.

The parents of the slain students — Leonard Pozner and Scarlett Lewis — are involved in the higher-profile lawsuit against Remington, the maker of the AR-15-type rifle used by Lanza. That lawsuit has drawn national attention because it became a debate point in the Democratic presidential primary and because of its potential as a precedent-setting case.

A third lawsuit brought by 16 victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting against the estate of Lanza’s mother was settled in August. Those families received about $94,000 each.

Lanza shot his mother to death before driving to the Sandy Hook school, killing 20 students and six educators, and turning a handgun on himself.

The Lanza home was turned over to the town, which later had it demolished.

Doctors Who Get Sued Are Likely to Get Sued Again

A New England Journal of Medical study found that one percent (1%) of all doctors account for 32 percent of all paid malpractice claims, and the more often a doctor is sued, the more likely he or she will be sued again.  Researchers poured over ten years of paid malpractice claims using a federal government database, the National Practitioner Data Bank, which includes 66,426 claims against 54,099 doctors.

The study noted that the distribution of malpractice claims among physicians is not well understood.  However, the authors concluded that if physicians who are repeatedly sued account for a substantial share of all claims, then the ability to identify them at an early stage could assist in efforts to improve care.


The study found that among physicians with paid claims, 84% incurred only one during the study period (accounting for 68% of all paid claims), 16% had at least two paid claims (accounting for 32% of the claims), and 4% had at least three paid claims (accounting for 12% of the claims).  Risks of recurrence appeared to vary widely according to specialty.  For instance, the risk among neurosurgeons was four times as great as the risk among psychiatrists, a statistic that makes sense given the nature of the work at hand.


The study concluded that over a ten year period of time, a comparatively small number of physicians with distinctive characteristics accounted for a disproportionately sizeable number of paid malpractice claims.

Amazingly, a doctor who had two paid claims was twice as likely to have another as a doctor who had one, and a doctor who had six or more paid claims was 12 times as likely to have another.

As noted above, the study found that specialties matter: Neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons were about twice as likely to have a paid claim as internists, while pediatricians were 30 percent less likely to have one.

Additionally, age and sex matter: After accounting for the number of years in practice, doctors under 35 years of age were one-third as likely to have a recurrence as older colleagues, and male physicians had a 38 percent higher risk of recurrence as female physicians.

Importantly, the lead author, David Studdert, found that, “Ninety-four percent of all doctors have no claims, but doctors who accumulate multiple claims are a problem, and a threat to the health care system. Identifying these high-risk doctors is a key first step toward doing something about the problem.”


  • The average physician spends nearly 11 percent of an assumed forty-year career with an unresolved, open malpractice claim.
  • The long time it takes for a case to be resolved is distressing for both doctor and patient.


  • Malpractice reforms also need to focus on the time required to resolve claims.
  • The think tank, Rand, found that the U.S. malpractice system is widely regarded as inefficient, in part because of the time required to resolve malpractice cases. Analyzing data from 40,916 physicians covered by a nationwide insurer, Rand found that the average physician spends 50.7 months, almost 11%, of an assumed forty-year career with an unresolved, open malpractice claim. Although damages are a factor in how doctors perceive medical malpractice, even more distressing for the doctor and the patient may be the amount of time these claims take to be adjudicated. Rand concluded that this fact makes it important to assess malpractice reforms by how well they are able to reduce the time of malpractice litigation without undermining the needs of the affected patient.


What Leads to Medical Malpractice?

Medical technology has evolved in amazing ways that effectively extend our lives.  However, with that technology sometimes comes risk, and there are over 225,000 patients who die while receiving medical treatment due to malpractice.  This renders medical malpractice as one of the top ten causes of death.  There are several types of medical malpractice, as explained below. shutterstock_1772386


Medical malpractice cases constitute a specific type of negligence claim. In such cases a plaintiff needs to prove: there was a duty for the medical practitioner to care for the patient; there was a breach of that duty; the actions or non-action of the medical practitioner caused some injury; and damages.  This is true of any normal negligence case, but what sets medical malpractice cases apart is that there are specific written standards of care set forth and required by professional medical boards and other governing bodies.  In medical malpractice cases, the central issue often becomes whether the medical professional adhered to or deviated from the standard of care.  If there is an unwarranted deviation from that standard of care, the breach of duty element will frequently be met.
These standards were created largely to ensure the same processes are followed to keep negligence to a minimum, which has the effect of minimizing the health care professional and the facility administration from litigation in most cases when followed meticulously. These standards give medical care professionals some leeway, because not every patient or case is the same, but many procedures that are performed are now routine and followed by all professionals in the medical field.  The regulations also ensure medical professionals not only do the job correctly, but it also follows that lawsuits may then be dismissed when there is evidence of standard treatment or actions taken during procedures. A successful plaintiff proves that a medical professional deviated from these standards, or made a mistake in diagnosis, treatment, dosage or some technique.  A plaintiff will typically employ a medical expert to explain what the standard of care was, and in what way the medical professional deviated from this standard.


It is natural to be nervous and apprehensive about undergoing any surgical procedure, and certainly we have all heard stories from friends and family of procedures gone awry.  No matter how routine, every surgery comes with certain risks. Some patients mistakenly believe that only inexperienced or new doctors make mistakes in surgery.  While it is accurate that experience lowers risks in terms of miscalculations, the truth is that any surgeon can make a mistake at some point during surgery. Again, a successful plaintiff will show a breach in the standard of care; that is, proof that the surgeon made a mistake during the procedure that was unjustified.

Elective Procedures

Some believe that elective surgery is harmless, but all surgery carries risks and potential dangers.  Severe injury can occur when undergoing elective procedures, such as breast augmentation or reduction, bypass surgery, lap band and even liposuction.


As noted above, a plaintiff will typically use a medical expert to help establish a deviation from standard procedure and negligence.  These medical experts can help strengthen medical malpractice claims by determining where errors occurred, such as incorrect dosages, techniques used during surgery, or understaffed hospitals that led to delayed diagnosis or other problems.

Contact an Attorney

When any type of malpractice is suspected, it is best to contact a lawyer immediately. Due to the statute of limitations, injured parties have a specific period of time in which to file a claim or the claim can be barred from bringing brought to court. Contact the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick today to discuss your claim.

Distractions, emotions and fatigue play a role in many auto-accidents

You can quantify auto accident-related information any way you want to, and even include data showing that fatal roadway outcomes are trending downward in recent years.

But there’s still a flatly troubling baseline reality that any person with a glass-half-full perspective on roadway safety must deal with when it comes to traffic on America’s streets and highways.

And that is this, as noted in a recent media article discussing distracted driving and deadly automobile crashes:  “[F]atal accidents, although declining, are the leading cause of death among Americans 5-24 and the second leading cause for everyone older.”

It is simply the case that American motorists’ long-term love affair with automobiles has been coupled with tragedy on a vast scale from the moment that passenger cars and trucks were first introduced. Reportedly, 32,675 people across the country died in vehicle-related crashes in 2014. On an “average” day of the year, that extrapolates to nearly 90 deaths.

Although that is of course 90 too many, a study entailing what is described as the “most recent, in-depth research” on accident causes suggests that materially reducing that number might be more akin to a utopian vision than a plausible reality.

And here’s why, essentially: Humans are, well, human. The aforementioned research shows that drivers are unsurprisingly prone to making mistakes, continuing to drive while tired, staying behind the wheel when emotional and often unduly entranced by distractions.

In fact, the recent research findings point to the presence of one or more such factors in about 90 percent of all crashes.

What is going to — what can ever — change that? Robotic cars will of course make a difference, but there’s clearly work remaining to be done on that front. Evolving safety-enhancing technologies like avoidance-collision systems and automatic braking are making a difference, even now.

The bottom line is that motorists will always bring some frailties to the driver’s seat. Smarter technologies, better roadway engineering, meaningful enforcement measures and consistent/ongoing educational efforts will have to be collectively employed to materially improve accident outcomes and curb the aforementioned dire crash-related numbers.

Dangerous Driver Causes Fatality

A $7.5M wrongful death lawsuit has been filed over the death of a 19 year old cyclist in Ohio. The boy was riding his bike in June when he was struck and killed by a 64-year-old driver.  The lawsuit contends that the driver was a “dangerous driver who knowingly endangered the community.” According to news sources, the driver has a history of medical problems which impaired his ability to drive. Specifically, eight weeks prior to the fatal collision, the driver’s eye doctor informed him that his poor vision made it unsafe for him to drive.

The Toledo Blade reported that the driver “told the police he was going 45 miles an hour.”  However, “the black box recording demonstrates he was going 55 miles an hour both before, after, and while he hit [the cyclist.] He never slowed down a bit.”  The Blade reported an eyewitness saw the cyclist get struck, and said the driver never made an attempt to slow down or swerve. The Blade also noted that the driver has received multiple violation citations, including speeding tickets. He was also involved in a crash where he rear-ended a family dropping off children at a day-care facility on the same road where the cyclist was killed.

While alcohol was not a factor in the foregoing fatal collision, it is often a component in accidents.  In fact, the majority of traffic-related deaths are caused by drunk drivers. Besides staying off the road when you are under the influence of alcohol and other prescription and non-prescription medications, and any other time a medical professional advises you to, here are a few other dangerous practices to avoid while driving.  Driving, after all, is a dangerous business at times.

  1. Avoid driving tired. Drowsy driving is every bit as dangerous as drunk driving.
  2. Avoid speeding. Speeding is the second leading cause of traffic fatalities after drunk driving. According to a 2005 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “The relationship between vehicle speed and crash severity is unequivocal and based on the laws of physics.”
  3. Avoid distracted driving. NHTSA estimates that there are 660,000 distracted drivers on the road most of the time. Put on your make up, eat your bagel, and text your girlfriend before or after your ride.
  4. Driving too fast for weather conditions. When the weather gets bad, slowing down is the best way to avoid an accident.
  5. Avoid following tractor trailers too closely. Following closer than 150 feet behind a truck is really dangerous. Even that distance gives a driver less than two seconds to react if the trucker suddenly slams on the brakes.
  6. Avoid reckless driving. This includes various activities such as swerving, weaving, passing on the right, accelerating and braking suddenly, and driving slowly in the left lane on the freeway. Many states consider driving 20 mph or more over the speed limit reckless driving.
  7. Do wear your seat belt. NHTSA reported that seat belts saved more than 75,000 lives between 2004 and 2008.
  8. Make sure you yield the right of way. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that failure to yield the right of way is the top cause of accidents among drivers aged 70 and older, particularly on freeway merge ramps.

Take care out there on the roads!  Not all accidents can be avoided, but doing all you can to stay safe helps.  In the unfortunate circumstance that you or a loved one is involved in a motor vehicle accident, please contact the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick today for a free consultation.
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Slip and Fall Liability

slip and fall

Filing a legal claim on the basis of premises liability, for example, when you slip and fall in a store, is worthwhile only when the value of the case is high enough.  In other words, if after the winning the case and paying your attorney, will you be compensated enough to justify the time consuming and oftentimes difficult litigation process?  We consider the following principles.

First, any business that opens its doors to the public is legally obligated to keep its patrons and visitors reasonably safe.  Whether you visit a giant powerhouse like Walmart, Target or Costco, a supermarket chain such as Safeway, or even a smaller business that invites the public in, there is a legal duty to keep customers safe.  If you are hurt in a slip and fall on a store’s premise, you may have a valid legal claim against that business.

Sometimes, these accidents are simply accidents, and no one is to blame. Often, however, it’s poor maintenance, failure to clean up, faulty railings, or some other dereliction in care that results in slip and fall injuries. Several factors can be considered in most slip and fall cases.  For example, snow or ice in the entry way, failure to place a floor mat in the entry on a rainy day, display items that are poorly placed, inadequate lighting, or a spilled substance or broken item which has been there for a significant length of time can all cause slip and fall accidents. Below are some noteworthy examples of slip and fall settlements:

Home Depot Fall Injury Case Verdict: $950,000

A woman’s knee was injured after her cart hit a manhole cover which was hidden by water, tipping over the cart. Although Home Depot claimed the dangers were obvious, the jury found Home Depot to be 95% at fault, and ordered them to pay $950,000 for the woman’s knee injuries.

Walmart Injury Case Verdict: $600,000

At a New York Walmart, a 34-year-old medical secretary slipped on ice and fell while walking around the store’s premise. After she fell, she was also hit by a falling sheet of ice which had slid off the metal roof above her. She sustained a severe injury to her left arm that required surgery and prevented her from using her hand. Walmart claimed that an employee told the woman to stay inside, but she failed to heed the warning. Walmart also claimed that, that contrary to her claim, the roof was properly designed.  The jury awarded the 34-year-old medical secretary $600,000 for her slip and fall injury.

Sam’s Club Injury Case Verdict: $3,960,000

In a Michigan case, a 54-year old heart surgeon tripped over the tongue of a trailer hitch in a Sam’s Club parking lot while carrying a large bulk package of paper towels. The surgeon suffered a spinal injury, which caused his hands to shake continually. The fall injury ended his career. The surgeon alleged the trailer hitch should have been cordoned off or marked with a cone. He received $3.96 million for loss of future income.

Other examples of slip and fall settlements found from various new outlets include:

  • $2 Million Awarded to family for hospital fall of elderly patient
  • $70,000 to girl for foot injuries received during gym class
  • $18 Million to medical student for open manhole injury
  • $300k for fall at PetSmart store

Liability for a Slip and Fall in a Store

Slip and fall cases are extremely common, but not all result in such huge settlements as those noted above. Moreover, not all cases are won by the plaintiff.  Broadly, the business owner may be liable if the condition was known, but no steps were taken to remedy the situation.

For example, if a customer breaks a bottle of apple juice in a grocery store, and another customer immediately slips and falls, there will likely be no premises liability, as the store did not have adequate notice or time to remedy the situation.  On the other hand, if some time went by and the store was advised of the spill or should have discovered it and did nothing, and another customer slipped and fell, then there is a good possibility of liability.   At the same time, the plaintiff must also prove that the condition at issue was not so obvious that he or she could have avoided or mitigated the incident.

If you were injured in a slip and fall accident in or near a store, contact the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick to discuss your claim.


The Trouble With Ridesharing…

Ridesharing is a way by which coworkers can reduce the expense of commuting by travelling to work together.  Traditional carpooling is one example of ridesharing, as are walking, using public transportation, vanpooling, and even riding your bike. The big advantage of ridesharing is the environmental and financial savings due to reduced gasoline usage.  Some companies encourage their employees to rideshare, by offering incentives or discounts.  Additionally, there are ridesharing websites, such as, that help those interested in ridesharing find others in their situation or location.  It all sounds great, until we consider how insurance plays a role.


If you’ve filled out an insurance application lately, you might recall that you need to answer in terms of the exact type of driving that you are doing.  The insurance companies seek information not just in terms of your mileage, and whether you drive in the city or in a town, but also how you use your vehicle.  In fact, some insurance companies even include a question addressing whether you intend to use your car for ridesharing.  That’s all fine if you know how you’re going to use your car right off the bat; but what happens when you rather suddenly decide that ridesharing makes sense for you?  For example, you decide to work as a contractor for a ridesharing company, or a company such as Uber?

If you are driving and get into an accident, you might find, unfortunately, that any passengers looing to your insurance on the vehicle are not covered.  For instance, if the insurance company discovers that you and your passengers were involved in a ridesharing carpool, it might deny your claim, and the claims of your passengers.  Avoid this situation, by reviewing your insurance policy.  Has your insurance company defined ridesharing and notified you that if you choose to engage in ridesharing, you must provide them with notice?  Additionally, your premium might be adjusted to cover the additional risk.

If you chose to rideshare, there are many obvious benefits, but you should take care to notify your insurance agency in writing and see if there are any additional steps you need to take, to ensure you are adequately covered.   Moreover, if you the passenger in a ridesharing group, you probably want to make sure that your driver has adequate coverage and has notified his or her insurance company.  Also, as a passenger, you can check to see that you yourself have adequate uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage on your own vehicle.  Such coverage can protect you in an accident even when you are not the driver.

At the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick, we want Maryland and Virginia drivers to take care and understand the automobile insurance they purchase to protect themselves, family members, friends, and coworkers. Don’t make the mistake of ridesharing and assuming that all will be well.  Do your homework, ask the right questions, and properly notify your insurance company of any changes in your driving status.  If you have been injured in an automobile collision and you have questions about your next steps, please call and speak with Attorney Plotnick today.

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EEOC Files First Sexual Orientation Lawsuits

The Associated press reported that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued on behalf of employees challenging sexual orientation discrimination for the first time.  The agency alleges that two companies’ employees were harassed because of their sexual orientation.

The Lawsuits

The EEOC Philadelphia office filed a lawsuit against Scott Medical Health Center after a gay employee quit when his supervisor used anti-homosexual slurs in the workplace.  The EEOC also filed a second separate lawsuit in Baltimore following the termination of a lesbian employee of Pallet Companies (a subsidiary of IFCO Systems NA).  The employee complained her manager made comments about both her sexual orientation and her appearance. The employee, Yolanda Boone, whose sexual orientation was known to her co-workers, said her supervisor made numerous comments regarding her orientation and appearance, including “I want to turn you back into a woman” and “You would look good in a dress,” according to the lawsuit.  The lawsuit also states that Ms. Boone’s supervisor blew a kiss at her and stuck out his tongue in a suggestive manner, the EEOC alleges in the lawsuit.

The Baltimore lawsuit indicates Ms. Boone was hired in September 2013 as a forklift operator.  She was apparently harassed for weeks while working the night shift, according to the lawsuit.  The lawsuit further contends that Ms. Boone’s supervisor harassed her because he “objected generally to females having romantic and sexual associations with other females, and objected specifically to Boone’s close, loving association with her female partner,” the lawsuit said.

The company, through its regional general counsel, Jay Frye, responded, “We strongly disagree with the allegations made in the lawsuit…While we cannot comment publicly on this matter, we will vigorously defend against this litigation.”  He further stated “Pallet Companies is committed to providing a work environment in which everyone is treated fairly and with respect, regardless of sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender, race, nationality, age, disability, religion, marital status or political opinion.”

David Lopez, the EEOC General Counsel, stated the Agency is “committed to ensuring people aren’t discriminated against in workplaces because of their sexual orientations.”  According to the EEOC, the agency filed both lawsuits after failing to reach settlements with the employers.

The Law

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion, but does not speak to sexual orientation. In these two novel lawsuits, the EEOC contends that discrimination based on sexual orientation is covered by the prohibition against discrimination based on sex.

Nancy Modesitt, an associate law professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, reported that courts have recognized discrimination in cases based on gender stereotyping, but the EEOC is attempting to take that farther.

Over 30 states, including Maryland, prohibit employers from discriminating against at least some members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the workplace, but the legislation is uneven.  Additionally, hundreds of companies have voluntarily adopted internal policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Again, no federal statute currently speaks to such protections.

The EEOC’s national strategic plan makes it a priority to address problems that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees face in the workplace.

The Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick specialize in employment law.  For a free consultation, please contact 301.251.1286 today.



Johnson & Johnson pays $72M in talcum powder lawsuit

J&J talcPharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $72 million in damages ($10M in actual damages and $62M in punitive damages) to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer in 2015.  This Alabama woman had reportedly used baby powder and other talcum power products for over 35 years.  In its natural form, talc can sometimes contain asbestos, which is known to cause cancers in and around the lungs when inhaled. However, since the 1970s, no talcum products sold in the U.S. have contained asbestos.  The evidence around asbestos-free talcum products and cancer risk is more unclear.

The American Cancer Society reports that the outcome of research into the potential link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer is mixed, as some studies found a slightly increased risk in women who reported using talcum powder in the genital area, while other studies reported no increased risk at all.  Experts note that those studies finding an increased risk might not be highly accurate, because they relied on the subjects’ memory of talc use many years prior to the actual study.

Baby Powder made from cosmetic talc is one of Johnson & Johnson’s oldest products and a longtime part of baby care rituals.  Their baby powder continues to be popular with adults as well, and in many parts of the world, it remains an essential part of makeup and skin care routines.  Talc is also used in toothpaste, chewing gum, aspirin, and other consumer products.  The company says, “With over 100 years of use, few ingredients have the same demonstrated performance, mildness and safety profile as cosmetic talc.  Our confidence in using talc reflects more than 30 years of research by independent scientists, review boards and global authorities, which have concluded that talc can be used safely in personal care products.  Various government agencies and other bodies also have examined talc to determine the potential for any safety risks, and none have concluded that there are safety risks.  In fact, no regulatory agency has ever required a change in labeling to reflect any safety risk from talc powder products. “

During the Johnson & Johnson trial, the woman’s lawyers alleged Johnson & Johnson was knowledgeable of the potential risk of using products containing talc for feminine hygienic use.  The AP reported on a 1997 internal memo from a company medical consultant that said “anybody who denies” the risk of using hygienic talc and ovarian cancer is “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”

Carol Goodrich, a Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman, said the company stands by the talc used in all “global products” and they are “evaluating” their legal options.  The company is expected to appeal the verdict.

“The recent U.S. verdict goes against decades of sound science proving the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products, and while we sympathize with the family of the plaintiff, we strongly disagree with the outcome,” Goodrich said in a statement.

Nora Freeman Engstrom, a Stanford University law professor, told AP the decision “doesn’t bode well” for the company, which is facing 1,200 still-pending lawsuits.