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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.

  • Triathlete’s Widow Can Maintain Wrongful Death Action Against Organizer Despite Triathlete Executing Waiver and Release Form

    Following its prior decision in Pisano v. Extendicare Homes, Inc., 77 A.3d 651 (Pa. Super. 2013), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania found in Valentino v. Philadelphia Triathlon, LLC, 2015 WL 9630456, *10 (Pa. Super. Dec. 30, 2015), that a triathlete’s widow could maintain a wrongful death action despite the triathlete executing a waiver and release form.

    As with other races, such as marathons, 10Ks, 5Ks, etc., the triathlete was required to register for the event.  The registration required the triathlete to pay a fee and execute a waiver and release form.

    The triathlete started the swimming portion of the race, but he failed to complete it.  Sadly, his body was found the next day in the Schuylkill River.

    After the widow filed a wrongful death action, the organizer of the triathlon sought summary judgment on the wrongful death action claiming the waiver and release form barred the lawsuit.  The trial court agreed with the organizer.  Nevertheless, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed the trial court and concluded that based on Pisanso, the release did not bar the wrongful death action in Pennsylvania as it is an independent cause of action and “is not derivative of the decedent’s rights at [the] time of death.”  Id.

    Our law firm, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, brings lawsuits for wrongful death and survival in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  If you have questions about this court opinion, or your or your family’s legal rights regarding accidental or wrongful death or survival, 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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  • Nursing Home Arbitration Agreement Not Binding on Non-Signatory Wrongful Death Beneficiaries

    In Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc., 113 A.3d 317 (Pa. Super. 2015), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether an arbitration agreement with a nursing home facility signed by the decedent’s authorized representative was binding on the wrongful death beneficiaries when a wrongful death claim was filed on behalf of the beneficiaries arising from a negligence claim.  The Superior Court found that a wrongful death action is a separate action belonging to to the beneficiaries.  As such, “an arbitration agreement signed by the decedent or his or her authorized representative is not binding upon non-signatory wrongful death beneficiaries.”  Id. at 321.   Additionally, the Superior Court refused to separate the survival act claim from the wrongful death claim so that the survival act claim could proceed in arbitration.  In doing so, the court held: “the wrongful death beneficiaries’ constitutional right to a jury trial and the state’s interest in litigating wrongful death and survival claims together require that they all proceed in court rather than arbitration.”  Id. at 328.

    This is an important decision for anyone with a loved one in a nursing home.  Just because an arbitration agreement is signed by a decedent or authorized representative, which is intended to take away the right to a jury trial, this does not mean it is binding on wrongful death beneficiaries.

    Our law firm, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, brings lawsuits for wrongful death and survival in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  If you have questions about this court opinion, or your or your family’s legal rights regarding accidental or wrongful death or survival, 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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  • Basics on the Wrongful Death Action in West Virginia

    This post focuses on the very basics of a wrongful death action in West Virginia.  W.Va. Code § 55-7-5 et seq.

    What is a wrongful death action in West Virginia?  West Virginia permits the recovery of damages due to the death of a person from a wrongful act, neglect, or default.  W.Va. Code § 55-7-5.  If damages are recovered, they “shall be distributed to the surviving spouse and children, including adopted children and stepchildren, brothers, sisters, parents and any persons who where financially dependent upon the decedent at the time of his or her death or would otherwise be equitably entitled to share in such distribution ….”  W.Va. Code § 55-7-6(b).  However, “if there are no such survivors, then the damages shall be distributed in accordance with the decedent’s will or, if there is no will, in accordance with the laws of descent and distribution” as contained in the West Virginia Code.  W.Va. Code § 55-7-6(b).

    Who can bring a wrongful death action in West Virginia?  The wrongful death action “shall be brought by and in the name of the personal representative of such deceased person….”  W.Va. Code § 55-7-6(a).

    What are the recoverable damages in a wrongful death action in West Virginia?  A jury, or if there is no jury, the court, may award a broad array of damages.  The authority for this is in W.Va. Code § 55-7-6(b): “In every such action for wrongful death, the jury, or in a case tried without a jury, the court, may award damages as to it may seem fair and just, and, may direct in what proportions the damages shall be distributed ….”  Further, the wrongful death statute specifies that “[t]he verdict of the jury shall include, but may not be limited to, damages for the following: (A) Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent; (B) compensation for reasonably expected loss of (i) income of the decedent, and (ii) services, protection, care and assistance provided by the decedent; (C) expenses for the care, treatment and hospitalization of the decedent incident to the injury resulting in death; and (D) reasonable funeral expenses.”  W.Va. Code § 55-7-6(c)(1).

    What is the statute of limitations for a wrongful death action in West Virginia?  “Every such action shall be commenced within two years after the death of such deceased person, subject to the provisions of section eighteen, article two, chapter fifty-five.”  W.Va. Code § 55-7-6(d).

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  • Welcome

    Welcome to the 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. My name is Rich Ogrodowski. My law partner, Fred Goldsmith, and I are the co-founders of Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC (http://www.golawllc.com), a law firm based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is dedicated to representing individuals and workers, or their families, who have been seriously injured or killed due to an accident. The accidents sometimes arise from: a defective product, a car accident, a motorcycle accident, a workplace accident, or a dangerous condition on someone’s land. We also focus on admiralty and maritime law. Our practice is primarily in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio; however, I am licensed to only practice in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

    As a father and husband, I know the preciousness of life. As the son and grandson of former coal miners in Washington County, Pennsylvania, I know the danger encountered everyday when a loved one leaves the house. When I first started practicing law, I mainly defended companies in personal injury lawsuits. But, knowing my roots and that my heart was with helping people, my practice now focuses on representing individuals when they have been hurt or they have lost a loved one.

    When an unfortunate accident has occurred and the life of a loved one has been untimely taken away, family members and friends are often left searching for information. I created this blog to be informative and provide general information to those family members and friends. This blog will be different than nearly all of the other accidental / wrongful death blogs you will find on the web. The other accidental / wrongful death blogs are written by outside vendors the law firm hires, which is not the case here. Either my partner, Fred Goldsmith, a guest blogger of Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, or myself, will write the posts for this blog. The goal is to provide an informative accidental / wrongful death blog that has a personal touch while covering cases, statutes, and rules of civil procedure. The blog will also cover publicly available news that might be of interest to readers.

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