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Probably no U.S. state except New York has seen nursing facilities for the aged hit harder by the Covid-19 crisis than New Jersey. To date, over 7,000  Garden State nursing home residents have succumbed to the virus.

Back in the spring of 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and the state legislature acted quickly to grant broad civil and criminal immunity to health care facilities treating Covid patients, including hospitals and nursing homes.

The rationale at the time was that health care providers acting in good faith and according to prevailing safety protocols should not face crushing financial liability for Covid deaths that may not be their fault. However, as this blog has reported before, many nursing homes around the country and in New Jersey already had a poor track record of protecting elderly patients. Understaffing and other corner-cutting measures by for-profit owners left patients at risk, and elder advocates say these subpar facilities should not be allowed to now escape responsibility for preventable deaths.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), nearly five million people are bitten by dogs in the U.S. every year, many of them children bitten by pets. Dog bites can cause severe puncture wounds and lacerations, and even serious tissue and nerve damage if the bite is deep enough, and transmit diseases including rabies.

In most personal injury cases, the onus is on the person who brings the lawsuit to prove that the defendant’s negligent acts caused them measurable harm. Dog bite cases are among the few exceptions. Dog owners in New Jersey are subject to strict liability for bite injuries caused by their dogs, which means that the bite victim doesn’t have to prove the owner neglected to use reasonable care to successfully sue for damages in most instances.

New Jersey Statutes section 4:19-16 imposes automatic liability on the dog’s owner 1) when the person bitten is in a public place or lawfully in a private place, 2) regardless of any prior aggression by the dog or its owner’s knowledge of it. The owner is liable even if he or she took reasonable steps to leash or restrain the dog and even if it has never bitten or hurt anyone before.

Sharing child custody with an ex-spouse can be difficult enough even when there are no major disagreements between you about medical or educational issues. It is rife with compromise even when there is no global pandemic going on. But the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent school closings have posed unprecedented challenges for parents, especially working parents, and with the new school year about to start, those challenges are coming to a head.

In New Jersey, divorced parents have both physical and legal custody arrangements. Physical custody determines which parent the child lives with the majority of the time. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, including matters of health care, education, and religious affiliation. If one parent has sole legal custody, it means that parent makes all the decisions pertaining to those matters. In the case of two fit parents, New Jersey family courts tend to favor arrangements where both parents share joint legal custody, meaning that both have equal input on these issues. It’s in the latter case where problems can arise when parents don’t see eye-to-eye.

Local public school districts in the state are in the process of deciding whether students will return to in-person classes this fall, attend class remotely via computer, or a hybrid of both. The issue has sparked controversy and debate across the state and country, with many families feeling strongly that their children should be in the classroom, and others feeling just as strongly that it’s unsafe to send their kids back to school while the disease is continuing to spread.

Declaring that the Covid-19 crisis exposed and exacerbated pre-existing, longstanding problems within New Jersey nursing homes, two Democratic state legislators have introduced a series of bills designed to ensure long-term care facilities are better prepared to weather future emergencies and deliver “the highest quality care possible.”

State Senator Joseph Vitale and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle on July 31 announced legislation that is intended to put into effect recommendations made in an independent organization’s report on New Jersey nursing homes and their response to Covid-19. The bills’ backers reportedly hope to get the legislation fast-tracked through the senate and assembly and to the governor’s desk.

The bills seek to impose better protections for staff and residents in the event of public health emergencies, as well as improve resident care and the working environment.

It is going on six months since the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and subsequent economic shutdowns changed life as we knew it for most New Jerseyans and Americans. Millions of earners have suffered a substantial loss in income, including those obligated to make regular spousal support payments. You might be wondering how if at all the pandemic crisis affects your New Jersey alimony requirements, but it’s critical that whatever your situation, you not cease making your obligated support payments before you speak to an experienced Bergen County family law attorney.

Uncharted Territory

Under state statute, as a payor you can request modifications to your payment obligations if you have a significant change in your financial circumstances, but it’s complicated. During normal times, “temporary” reductions in income have usually not been considered sufficient to qualify for alimony payment modification by New Jersey family courts. The million-dollar question in light of the current crisis is: what is considered temporary? With the unprecedented uncertainty surrounding the Covid crisis, legal practitioners and others are wondering how such matters as spousal and child support should be dealt with.

Families trust nursing homes to provide their aging loved ones professional round-the-clock care when they are no longer able to care for them. While there are many high-quality nursing homes in the United States, the unfortunate reality is that many facilities put profits before patients and are chronically understaffed and poorly equipped to provide their elder residents an adequate level of care. New Jersey is no exception: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which rates nursing homes throughout the country for compliance with federal regulations and publishes its findings on Medicare.gov’s Nursing Home Compare website, ranks more than two dozen state homes as “much below average,” its lowest rating.

Families rely on the Nursing Home Compare tool to help them make informed decisions about where to place their senior loved ones. CMS assesses nursing facilities periodically and scores them on such factors as safety, cleanliness, and staffing levels. Of the 363 nursing homes in the Garden State evaluated by CMS, 28 earned one-star ratings out of a possible five and another earned zero stars.

As is typically the case with nursing homes judged deficient in one or more safety categories, these facilities experienced issues with food sanitation, failure to prevent medication errors, inadequate infection prevention measures, and poor cleanliness among others, according to CMS. The full list of homes is below.

The estate of Dina Wyckoff of Franklin Lakes, NJ was recently awarded $1.28M. The suit alleges that doctors did not treat Wyckoff properly, ultimately leading to her death by cancer in August 2016.  

The lawsuit asserts that doctors, including staff from St. Clare Hospital in Denville, NJ neglected to take a proper biopsy from Wyckoff in 2013. The results of the biopsy indicated that Wyckoff was cancer-free. As a consequence of this negligence, her then-treatable cancer progressed to a terminal state. According to the attorney representing her estate, if the cancer was found in 2013, Wyckoff would have a 50-68% chance of living at least five years. 

Medical malpractice is a leading cause of wrongful death cases. Unfortunately, while we typically expect hospitals and doctors to treat us with optimal care, this is not always the case. There are a plethora of errors that medical professionals and institutions make regularly, including issues with surgical techniques, anesthesia, birth injuries, and bedsores. In fact, it is estimated that there have been over 300,000 premature deaths attributed to medical malpractice in the United States each year. 

Since the new year and month of January often mark a spike in divorce rates, it is important to remain cognizant of financial strategies to consider after a divorce has proceeded. Following these tips will help to create peace of mind after the stresses of a divorce. 

Cancel Joint Bank Accounts

After a divorce, it is important to fully separate joint checking accounts as well as shared credit cards. Experts suggest requesting an account suspension if a credit card balance cannot be paid off. It is important to replace these accounts with new ones. Especially considering the financial strain of a divorce, it can be wise to responsibly use a credit card of bridge loan to help with expenses in the short term. It can help to make a list of shared accounts while married and replace this with individual accounts. 

On December 28, a 55-year-old pedestrian was struck by a driver while traveling in Carlstadt in attempts to catch a NJ Transit bus. According to authorities, the man was crossing the highway after leaving his shift at a nearby gas station. The accident occurred at a busy four-way intersection. The driver who hit him was traveling north, and had the right of way. It appears that the victim did not obey the walk signal. 

It is dangerous crossing the street due to overly aggressive drivers in New Jersey. Unfortunately, innocent pedestrians sustain serious and permanent injuries or even death caused by negligent drivers. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 130,000 hospitalizations for crash incidents inflicted on pedestrians. Pedestrian accidents can often bring harmful physical consequences with them including fractures, brain injuries, as well as paralysis and injury to internal organs. 

The speed of the driver at the time of the collision has a strong effect on victim fatality. For example, while the chance of victim fatality during a 20 mph collision is only 5%, this figure increases to 85% when the speed of the collision is 40 mph. If a pedestrian is struck while walking in a designated crosswalk, liability on the part of the driver is clear. Drivers have a duty to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk. 

In the recent Middlesex County NJ case Gaguancela v. BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc, Norma Gaguancela was awarded a net verdict of $850,000 after falling and slipping at a BJ’s store location in East Rutherford, NJ. The floor at this particular location became slippery after a broken pipe led to water accumulation. According to reports, Gaguancela slipped and fell in the frozen food section on June 27, 2016. Gaguancela’s knee injuries include damage to both the meniscus and cartilage, and tears in her hip and shoulder. Medical expenses such as knee and ankle surgery were accrued in order to help Gaguancela recover. 

According to court records, Gaguancela, who is 64, stopped working as a bus driver due to impediments sustained from these injures. As such, the total suit claims $230,000 in medical bills and $122,000 in wage loss.  

In response, BJ’s claimed that Gaguancela’s pre-existing medical conditions are also causative factors that lead to her injuries. Accordingly, the Court allocated 15% of the blame to Gaguancela, reducing the total sum awarded from $1,000,000 to $850,000. 

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