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PA & WV Accidental Death Lawyer Blog

This blog focuses on the law in Pennsylvania and West Virginia (and other practical issues that arise) when a family member or friend is unfortunately lost due to an accidental death.

  • Adult Children and Wrongful Death Proceeds

    In Pennsylvania, if you are an adult child and lose a parent due to an accidental or wrongful death, you need to show that you suffered a pecuniary loss in order to be a wrongful death beneficiary.

    There is no requirement that the adult child has to live at home with the parent in order to recover wrongful death proceeds.  But, as stated above, the adult child must prove a pecuniary loss.  Pecuniary loss can be established by proving gifts, financial benefits, support, and services to the adult child with such frequency that it is reasonably certain they would continue had the parent not died due to an accidental or wrongful death.

    As I have previously discussed in my blog postings, there is a difference between a wrongful death action and a survival action.  The survival action, under 42 Pa. C.S. Section 8302, is brought on behalf of the decedent’s estate to benefit the estate.  It involves claims the decedent could have brought during his or her lifetime.  The distribution of any damages recovered in a survival action go through the estate and are distributed pursuant to the decedent’s will, or if no will exists, then the damages are distributed pursuant to Pennsylvania’s intestacy statutes, 20 Pa. C.S. § 2101 et al.

    The wrongful death action is different.  Pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. Section 8301, only certain designated beneficiaries may recover for personal damages resulting from the decedent’s wrongful or accidental death.  Children of the deceased is one category of potential beneficiaries that is included in the wrongful death statute.  But, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has stated that for a wrongful death beneficiary to recover, they must suffer a pecuniary loss.  See Gaydos v. Domabyl, 152 A. 549, 551-552 (Pa. 1990).

    Recently, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania addressed the issue of adult children as wrongful death beneficiaries.  In Campbell v. A.O. Smith Corp., 2016 WL 1625766 (Pa. Super. Apr. 25, 2016), the court found that the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County did not err in finding that the adult children of a decedent were not wrongful death beneficiaries.  In Campbell, the decedent developed mesothelioma and sued over two dozen companies alleging exposure to asbestos.  The decedent died during the pending lawsuit and the complaint was amended to include a wrongful death action.  The decedent died with a will and left all of his estate to his second wife, despite having five adult children still living from his first marriage.  The second wife pursued the wrongful death and survival actions.

    Eventually, the second wife settled with the defendants.  She filed a petition to have the settlements approved and to allocate the settlement proceeds between the wrongful death and survival action.  The petition also sought to determine whether the adult children qualified as wrongful death beneficiaries or if the second wife was the only beneficiary.

    The trial found that none of the adult children proved a pecuniary loss and that the second wife was the only wrongful death beneficiary.  Specifically, the trial court found the decedent did not provide his adult children with “financial support, gifts, services, or any kind of pecuniary advantage with any kind of frequency.”  Campbell at *6.  Based on the evidence in the appellate record, the Superior Court concluded the trial court did not err.

    Thus, although you might lose a parent due to a wrongful or accidental death, you need to be aware that in order to recover as a wrongful death beneficiary you must show a pecuniary loss.

    Our law firm, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, brings lawsuits for wrongful death and survival in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  If you have questions about the above, or your or your family’s legal rights regarding an accidental or wrongful death or a survival action, contact us for a free consultation at 877-404-6529, 412-281-4340, or info@golawllc.com.  Our website is www.golawllc.com.

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  • Accidental Death of Towboat Engineer on Monongahela River

    The captains, pilots, engineers, deckhands, cooks etc. that work on the rivers are hardworking and dedicated to their jobs trying to earn a living for their families.  As such, it is sad when you hear that one of those hardworking mariners is accidentally killed on the river.

    Unfortunately, according to local media reports in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on May 11, 2016, two young men fishing on the Monongahela River near the Speers Bridge, which crosses the Monongahela River running between , Speers, Washington County, Pennsylvania, and North Belle Vernon, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, found the body of Jace Edward Sayre.

    Jace Edward Sayre, who was from Chester, Hancock County, West Virginia, worked as an engineer on a towboat for Murray American Transportation, Inc.  See Workboat.com article “Body of missing barge worker pulled from PA river”    Murray American Transportation, Inc. is a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corporation (a coal mining company), which is based in St. Clairsville, Ohio.

    Apparently, Sayre was reported missing earlier in the day by his coworkers on the towboat and could not be found after a search of the Monongahela River.

    Our law firm, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, is a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based admiralty and maritime, towboat and barge, and river accident law firm.  We help workers and their families who have been seriously injured or killed in accidents on rivers, lakes, and oceans, in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, and all over the inland waterways and rivers of the United States.  If you have questions about the above, or your or your family’s legal rights regarding an accidental or wrongful death or a survival action, contact us for a free consultation at 877-404-6529, 412-281-4340, or info@golawllc.com.  Our website is www.golawllc.com.

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  • Another Large Verdict in a Talcum Powder/Ovarian Cancer Case

    Two weeks ago, I reported on a  $72 million jury verdict in which the jury found that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder caused a woman’s ovarian cancer, which she unfortunately passed away from prior to trial.  This time after a three-week trial, again in Missouri, another jury has found Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products used for feminine hygiene caused a South Dakota woman’s ovarian cancer.  See  Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $55 mln in talc-powder trial

    Plaintiff, Gloria Ristesund, whose cancer is in remission, argued at trial that she used the products, containing talcum, on her genitals for decades and it caused her ovarian cancer and the related need for a hysterectomy and other surgeries.  The jury agreed with Ristesund and awarded her $55 million in damages, which included $5 million for compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.  Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant to deter them from engaging in the same conduct in the future.

    According to an article from Reuters by Jessica Dye, Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the verdict.  See  Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $55 mln in talc-powder trial

    As I mentioned in the prior post, there are numerous lawsuits that have been filed across the United States claiming a link between cancer and talcum powder.  Based on the recent verdicts, it appears the number of lawsuits alleging a link between cancer and talcum powder will continue to grow.

    Our law firm, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, brings lawsuits for wrongful death and survival in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  If you have questions about the above, or your or your family’s legal rights regarding an accidental or wrongful death or a survival action, contact us for a free consultation at 877-404-6529, 412-281-4340, or info@golawllc.com.  Our website is www.golawllc.com.

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  • Explosion at Gas Pipeline in Salem Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania

    According to reports from news outlets in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, there was an explosion at a gas pipeline in Salem Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, around 8:30 a.m. this morning.  The explosion occurred near Route 22 and Route 819 in Salem Township.

    Photographs from folks close to the site show flames shooting above the treetops.  Witnesses are also reporting that there was a shock wave from the explosion.  One person is reported as having been badly burned.  (Let’s hope that the burn victim is okay.).  Although the gas has allegedly been shut off, the flames will apparently continue as the remaining gas is allowed to burn off.  Here is a link to a news story:  Report from WTAE News regarding the Gas Pipeline Explosion in Westmoreland County

    I grew up in North Bethlehem Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania, before the Marcellus Shale boom hit the area.  Back then, I did not see a single oil and gas drilling rig.  In only a decade, that all changed.  Now, seeing the oil and gas companies dotting the landscape of Washington County with drilling rigs is commonplace–just as it is in a lot of other counties in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.  In fact, there is a well site  not far from the house where I was raised.  Over the past several years, the oil and gas companies have started to tap into the gas found in the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale. The Marcellus Shale is found in states such as Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. (Along with the oil and gas companies came the workers.  It’s now very common to see  roughnecks, roustabouts, drillers, toolpushers, rig managers, company men, mud loggers, rig hands, oilfield service company employees, etc. in the area.).

    Our law firm, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, brings lawsuits for personal injuries and wrongful death and survival in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  This includes lawsuits involving oil and gas injuries and deaths; construction injuries and deaths; injuries and deaths from a failure of fall protection equipment; injuries and deaths on towboats and the rivers, such as the Allegheny River, Ohio River, Monongahela River, and Kanawha River; Jones Act and maritime injuries and deaths; FELA injuries and deaths; and other transportation injuries and deaths on the roadways from tractor-trailers and dump trucks.  If you have questions about the above, or your or your family’s legal rights regarding an accidental or wrongful death or a survival action, contact us for a free consultation at 877-404-6529, 412-281-4340, or info@golawllc.com.  Our website is www.golawllc.com.

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  • Talcum Powder Verdict in Ovarian Cancer Death

    I grew up in a house with my maternal grandparents and regularly recall my grandmother using a lot of talcum powder (baby powder).  When I would walk into the bathroom, the powder would be on the sink and on the floor.  I never thought that powder that most people regularly use could be harmful.  In a recent trial in St. Louis, Missouri, a jury found that same talcum powder caused ovarian cancer in a woman.  See J&J Must Pay $72 Million Over Talc Tied to Woman’s Cancer

    The jury concluded that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder played a role in causing the ovarian cancer of Jackie Fox, who regularly used talcum powder for years and who died before her case against Johnson & Johnson went to trial. Since Fox passed away before trial, her family pursued the wrongful death case.

    The jury awarded the family of Fox $10 million in compensatory damages and $62 million in punitive damages.  In most jurisdictions, compensatory damages can cover such things as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.  Juries can also award punitive damages in certain cases.  Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages and are meant to punish or deter the defendant from engaging in similar conduct that led to the award of punitive damages.

    Johnson & Johnson will have the ability to appeal the verdict.

    In addition to Fox’s case, there are numerous lawsuits that have been filed across the United States making similar allegations that talcum powder use increases the risk of ovarian cancer in women when using the powder as a feminine hygiene product.

    Our law firm, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, brings lawsuits for wrongful death and survival in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  If you have questions about the above, or your or your family’s legal rights regarding an accidental or wrongful death or a survival action, contact us for a free consultation at 877-404-6529, 412-281-4340, or info@golawllc.com.  Our website is www.golawllc.com.

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