Legal Advice Columns
The following articles are reprints of Van O'Steen legal advice columns which appeared in The Arizona Republic and other newspapers across Arizona.
Accident and Injury Law
Most things in life are neither black nor white; they are some shade of gray. The question of who was at fault in an accident is no exception. Very often, each of the drivers in a two-car collision shoulders some of the responsibility for the mishap, particularly intersection collisions. One of them may have been more careless than the other, but both contributed.
"Slip and fall" is a term lawyers use to describe a particular class of accident injury. When injuries are received after a fall of any type, the result is often a slip and fall claim against the owner of the property or business or against his insurance company.
The holiday season poses special problems for parents whose children sometimes act inappropriately. Too many parties and too much celebrating occasionally can lead to some destructive behavior.
What happens if you are eating with family or friends in a restaurant and you suddenly crack a tooth on a pebble in the beans? Is the restaurant potentially liable for your injury, including dental bills and pain and suffering?
Sports activities are fraught with risks—mostly for participants. Occasionally, however, spectators are injured.
Golf courses, baseball parks, hockey arenas and auto race tracks appear to present the greatest risk of personally injury to spectators. Spectator injuries in these sports often are very serious.
Unless reforms occur, the high cost of healthcare will continue to be a financial burden on us all. Adequate reforms require an understanding of the cause of the problem. However, the cause of the health-care crisis is elusive at best. The hard data often get lost or ignored as the debates heat up.
Recently in this column, I wrote about an Arizona statute that makes parents or guardians liable for intentional acts of their children that cause injury to others or damages to their property. Parents can be held automatically liable for up to $10,000 in damage. Although not automatic under some circumstances, this legal responsibility may extend to the full value of the victim's damages, including personal injury.
For decades, some product manufacturers have lobbied Congress to enact federal laws that would greatly limit their liability for injuries caused by harmful and defective products. They say consumer remedies built into the common law (court-made law) are expensive and burdensome.
Some time ago, a Chicago jury awarded $450,000 in damages to a woman who lost an eye when she was struck by a ball at a golf tournament.
That case is noteworthy because it is one of the few in which seriously injured spectators have successfully sued the sponsor of a sporting event.
Many people incorrectly believe that a person who is injured by a fall on someone else's property automatically is entitled to be compensated for the personal injury. This is not what the law says.
December sets the record each year for the highest consumption of alcoholic beverages. Holiday entertaining is largely responsible for this. Although not inevitable, alcohol often means intoxication.
Only boiled turnips may be more unappetizing than food containing foreign substances. We all have had the occasional experience of finding a hair in our food. Most of us can tolerate that. It is unlikely to injure us or make us ill.
Some years ago, George Becker slipped in the shower of his Encino, California apartment and fell against the glass shower door. The door, made of untempered glass, shattered, and Becker suffered serious injuries from the broken glass.
There is a widely held, incorrect belief that if you are injured on someone else’s property, you are automatically entitled to compensation for your injuries from the owner of the property or his insurance company.
It seems as if malpractice is nearly always preceded by the word “medical.” Even without specific reference, most people think only of medical malpractice when they hear the word malpractice.
All the jokes about malpractice insurance involve doctors. News stories dealing with the so-called malpractice insurance crisis are limited to the medical profession.
It is no secret that doctors are well-paid for their work. Because so much of the cost of medical treatment is not paid directly by the person who receives the service, there is no strong incentive for economy.
Arizona damages laws are serious in cases involving dogs that bite and injure people. In most situations when a dog bites someone, it is no defense to liability that the dog was restrained or that it was on the owner's property. Under certain circumstances, the owner's responsibility for the financial consequences of a dog's behavior is nearly absolute.
Most people who are unlucky enough to contract a venereal disease want nothing more than to keep the problem a secret. It surely is one of the most private matters.
I often have been asked if parents can be held liable under Arizona law for injuries or damages caused by their children. In most cases, they can.