Author Archives: vlm
Following Another inmate death linked to covid-19, victim’s family begins legal process to hold accountable THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR A “PREVANTABLE TRAGEDY”
Tiffany Mofield’s family, including her parents and children, are mourning her death on April 29th at New Jersey’s Edna Mahan Correctional Facility For Women and now taking legal action to find out why she was not hospitalized despite her prolonged and severe respiratory distress, and to help prevent other tragedies at the prison, according to Oliver T. Barry, the family’s attorney.
Attorney Barry, a partner with Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, P.C., yesterday filed a Petition (Estate of Tiffany Mofield et al. v. State of New Jersey Department of Corrections, University Correctional Healthcare et al., HNT-T-178-20) in New Jersey Superior Court on behalf of Ms. Mofield’s estate seeking the release of information related to the death of the 43-year-old Salem County resident. Mr. Barry explained that the Mofield family’s first priority is to find out exactly how and why Ms. Mofield died in custody, noting that it has received no such information from prison officials.
According to the pre-suit filing, for weeks prior to her death Ms. Mofield displayed numerous symptoms associated with COVID-19, including extreme fatigue and respiratory distress. Instead of being hospitalized, she was briefly quarantined in the prison infirmary where she was provided an over-the-counter inhaler and cold medicine. Then, despite continuing respiratory distress, she was returned to the general population. She is believed to have collapsed on April 29th, shortly before she died within the facility.
“When they contacted the prison, the Mofield family was led to believe Tiffany was getting medical care at a local hospital, not being treated as if she had a mild cold or headache,” explained Mr. Barry, “and they learned only after she died that Tiffany was never hospitalized. We have requested a hearing before the Court on June 5th and will do everything possible to learn why Tiffany Mofield died and help prevent future deaths at Edna Mahan.” He explained that Rutgers Correctional Healthcare is a named defendant in the filing because it provides prison health services at Edna Mahan.
Shatifia Cooke, Ms. Mofield’s daughter and a plaintiff in the filing, said, “We want to know what happened. I feel like my mother was crying out for help and instead of being taken to a hospital, she was just ignored.”
VICTIMS WELCOME FINDINGS BY FEDERAL INVESTIGATORS OF RAMPANT SEXUAL ABUSE AT NEW JERSEY WOMEN’S PRISON
Fight for justice continues for victims at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility
Numerous current and former inmate-victims at New Jersey’s Edna Mahan Correctional Facility For Women are for the first time speaking out through their attorneys in support of the just-released Federal investigation (DOJ Report) that forcefully and methodically criticized the prison for systematically failing “to protect women prisoners from harm due to sexual abuse by staff.”
A number of the victims who are plaintiffs in pending civil lawsuits against the Hunterdon County prison and state Department of Corrections, said they welcomed the “thorough investigation and report that demonstrates to the public and legislators the extent to which a longstanding and toxic atmosphere of sexual discrimination has existed at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility.”
Attorney Oliver T. Barry, of Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, PC, of Wildwood, New Jersey, which represents 14 of the abuse victims, said his clients, some of whom are still incarcerated and had cooperated in the Department of Justice probe despite fear of reprisal, “felt vindicated when they learned that the report had substantiated their claims that Edna Mahan ‘fails to protect women prisoners from sexual abuse by staff in violation of the [civil rights]; and exposes women prisoners to substantial risk of serious harm from sexual abuse in violation of [their civil rights].’”
Attorneys Stefanie Colella-Walsh, and Martin P. Schrama, of Stark & Stark’s Princeton office, have been leading the way in the attempt to achieve class status for the population at New Jersey’s only women’s prison. “We are now planning the next steps in light of the DOJ report,” said Ms. Colella-Walsh. “The DOJ is to be commended for shining a light on the pattern and practice of harassment and abuse that we, too, are committed to ending once and for all,” she added.
Former Edna Mahan inmate Marianne Brown, a plaintiff in the proposed class action (Brown vs State of NJ DOC, NJSC, MER L-BROWN VS STATE OF NEW JERSEY DOC, NJSC, MER L -000503 18), said after reading the report,
“You get so used to living in fear, including fear of the truth getting out, that I never thought this day would come. Our work isn’t over because the people in charge still haven’t accepted responsibility for years of inmate suffering, physically and psychologically.”
Another former inmate, identified as A.F. in the lawsuit to protect her privacy, and who was assaulted by a corrections officer while at Edna Mahan, said,
“The report captured exactly what it was like at the prison. I hope no one else at Edna Mahan ever has to go through what we did.”
And a third former inmate, identified as C.C. in the lawsuit, added,
“I was so happy because I never thought I would see the day when the abuse at Edna Mahan would be out in the open.”
While these and other former inmates praised the DOJ report, they also remain deeply concerned – especially given outbreaks of COVID-19 in jails and prisons throughout America – for the health and safety of those currently incarcerated at Edna Mahan.
Mr. Barry, Mr. Schrama, and Ms. Colella-Walsh, who have been working together on these cases for several years, also commended the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office and Prosecutor Kelly Daniels, who has worked tirelessly to hold individual correctional officers at the facility accountable for their criminal conduct.
Coverage Note: Attorneys Barry, Schrama and Colella-Walsh will be available (see below contact information) for media interviews through the day on April 20th.
Lets look at the differences between a consevatorship and a Guardianship. A conservatorship is a type of protective arrangement which is often overlooked as an option for an elderly individual who needs assistance with managing their finances.
Like the more common guardianship, a conservatorship is a court-approved arrangement in which one individual (the “conservator”) is given the authority to manage the property of another (the “conservatee”). Whereas in a guardianship the court will make a determination that the person to be protected has become incapacitated, this is not the case with a conservatorship. A conservatorship is an entirely voluntary arrangement – the court cannot and will not appoint a conservator over the objections of the person whose property is to be managed.
Why would anyone want a conservatorship? Often these arrangements are seen where an individual, by reason of advanced aged or medical condition, must rely on the assistance of another to manage finances, pay bills, and generally look after assets. In New Jersey, a conservatorship may only be set up through application to the Superior Court. The conservator may have to be “bonded,” that is to say he or she may be required to obtain an insurance policy to insure the performance of obligations. A conservator also has an ongoing duty to report to the Court and is subject to their supervision.
So long as a conservatee retains mental capacity, he or she may terminate the conservatorship. Where an individual subject to a conservatorship becomes incapacitated, the court may convert a conservatorship into a guardianship.
Conservatorships are an underutilized and often overlooked option for individuals looking for assistance in managing their assets. To discuss whether a conservatorship may be beneficial in your circumstances, contact the attorneys of Barry, Corrado, Grassi, & Gillin-Schwartz, P.C. today.
What is a Guardianship?
A guardianship is a type of legal protective arrangement. Though many are familiar with the term of “guardian” being applicable to someone who has responsibility for a minor, guardianships are also a fact of life for those charged with caring for a loved one whose age or medical condition has affected decision-making capacity.
New Jersey law provides that the Superior Court may appoint a guardian, or surrogate decision-maker, for a person who has become unable to manage their property and affairs in an effective manner. There are two primary types of guardianships: guardianships of the person (where the guardian has the responsibility for seeing to the incapacitated person’s well being), and guardianships of the estate (where the guardian has the responsibility to see to the incapacitated persons’ assets and financial affairs). Often, these two guardianship roles are combined in one “general” or “plenary” guardianship.
How does one become appointed as a guardian? It takes an application to the Superior Court. One must come prepared with knowledge of the alleged incapacitated persons affairs, finances, medical care, and overall well-being. The applicant alleges to the court that the subject of the application has become incapacitated. The court will set a hearing date and provide for an investigation so that it may determine whether the alleged incapacitated person is able to make decisions for themselves, whether a guardianship is appropriate, and who would be the most suitable person (or persons) to serve as guardian.
Guardians, once appointed, are supervised by the Court. They must provide an accounting at least annually as well as report on the incapacitated person’s well-being. Once appointed, a guardianship will continue until the person regains capacity or passes away.
Applying for a guardianship and then complying with the reporting requirements once appointed can be a tricky field to navigate, particularly in the emotionally charged circumstances of caring for a loved one. To discuss whether or not a guardianship may be appropriate in your circumstances, contact the law offices of Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz today.
Some big changes are coming to New Jersey DWI Sentencing DWI penalties effective December 1, 2019. One of the biggest changes is the expansion of the use of ignition interlock devices, often called “IIDs.” The IID is a device that is installed into a vehicle and will not allow the vehicle to be operated if it detects alcohol on the driver’s breath. The state legislature has found that “because a majority of drunk drivers, including first time offenders, often continue to drive with suspended licenses, ignition interlock devices are more effective in deterring drunk driving than license suspension.” This the new laws going into effect will expand on the use of these devices.
All first-time offenders will have to have an IID installed for a period of at least three months, more depending on their blood alcohol content at the time of the offense. Just as in the past, penalties increase significantly for second- and third-time offenders. To regain driving privileges, the defendant will have to have the IID installed on one vehicle they own, lease, or of which he or she is the principal operator. During the period in which a defendant must have an IID installed, he or she may not operate any vehicle that is not equipped with an IID. A defendant with an IID must periodically bring the IID in for monitoring and maintenance.
Another significant change to New Jersey DWI Sentencing is for first-time offenders with lower blood alcohol levels is that the period of license suspension is indefinite – driving privileges may be reinstated as soon as an IID is installed. Thus, a first-time offender may be able to mitigate his or her loss of driving privileges through prompt compliance with the IID requirements.
These upcoming changes to New Jersey DWI Sentencing, and DWI defense as a whole, make for a complex field to navigate. If you or someone you know is facing a charge of driving while under the influence, contact the firm of Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, P.C. today for a consultation.
Lost among the attention garnered by the recent change in the NJ statute of limitations regarding sexual abuse is a potentially game-changing new law eliminating immunity for government entities and employees in those cases.
A disproportionately large number of cases involving sexual abuse, particularly against minors, involve public entities and public employees. This subjects those claims to the strict notice requirements labyrinthian maze of immunities under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, N.J.S.A. 59:1-1, et seq.
No longer. Effective December 1, 2019, N.J.S.A. 59:2-1.3 eliminates immunity for public entities and employees in any civil action as a result of sexual assault, any other crime of a sexual nature, a prohibited sexual act upon a threshold showing of either gross negligence, for an adult victim, or negligence, for a minor victim. More specifically, for minor victims, the standard is set forth as the negligent hiring, supervision, or retention of any public employee. Upon establishing the applicable standard “immunity from civil liability granted by [the Tort Claims Act] to a public entity or public employee shall not apply.”
Beyond immunities based on the conduct of the applicable public employees or entities, this new law arguably eliminates immunity for failure to comply with the notice provision of the act or, more importantly for sexual abuse cases, the damages threshold contained in N.J.S.A. 59:9-2. Under the new law, never again should any case be dismissed because a defense attorney convinces the court that the abuse did not result in a ‘permanent injury’ as defined by the Tort Claims Act.
Going forward, a well pled complaint stating claims for negligence and gross negligence should always survive a motion to dismiss on the pleadings based on the Tort Claims Act. After all, based on N.J.S.A. 59:2-1.3, if a victim is able to establish the claim pled, defendant entity and employees are not entitled to immunity under the act.
This act does not provide any unfair advantages. It merely levels the playing field in cases for sexual abuse where the wrongdoers happened to be government actors. And that change has long been overdue.
Our firms have been retained to represent one of the victims of Nurse Michael Bragg, who secretly recorded hundreds of patients while working at UPMC Carlisle Hospital in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. If you have been victimized by Michael Bragg, there are some important legal concepts that you need to know.
In Pennsylvania there is a deadline to file suit referred to as a statute of limitations. A chart below contains the various deadlines for different kinds of cases in this state. For cases like this, there would be a two year deadline. However, Pennsylvania also applies what is called the discovery rule. Under certain circumstances, this rule tolls the deadline to file suit until the claimant learns or had reason to learn of the injury or harm at issue. However, this rule applies on a case by case basis and it is important that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible to make sure that your legal interests are safeguarded.
If you have been victimized by Michael Bragg, please reach out to our law firms to speak with one of our attorneys about your legal rights.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations
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No one likes talking about car insurance so I will keep this brief. Here is what you need to know to not get screwed over by your car insurance company in New Jersey.
FULL COVERAGE MEANS BASICALLY BUPKES
Full coverage is something that you should purchase. It generally refers to collision coverage, which means that your car insurance will fix property damage from an accident regardless of fault. This lets you get back on the road quickly and inexpensively. Its important to have this. BUT UNDERSTAND THAT FULL COVERAGE MEANS NOTHING ELSE. It does not mean you are covered for medical benefits, liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, or anything else!
DO NOT ELECT TO REDUCE YOUR “PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION” No Fault Benefits to Less than the standard $250,000
It does not matter who is at fault for a car accident, your car insurance pays for the medical care related to any accident. Reducing your coverage for this, known as “PIP” or “No Fault” coverage, does not significantly lower your premiums. But it will screw you over if you are in an accident and require even a modest amount of follow up care. Even if you have health insurance, not all doctors accept all health insurance and your health insurance may have a right to recover any amounts paid
GET AS MUCH UNINSURED/UNDERINSURED (UM/UIM) COVERAGE AS YOU CAN AFFORD
No one likes to pay their car insurance, but the whole point of having it is to protect you in case that something awful happens. If the person who causes that something awful is uninsured or has minimal car insurance, you are straight up out of luck.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage provides a safety net. At a minimum, you should make sure that you have $100,000 in this type of coverage to protect yourself and your family. This way, even if the driver who causes an accident has no insurance, no liability coverage, or minimal liability coverage, your uninsured/underinsured coverage will act as their coverage so that there is a source for you to recover lost wages, other economic losses, and pain and suffering compensation from.
It will come as no shock to anyone reading this that the legal profession does not have a stellar reputation in most people’s eyes. This goes double for trial attorneys. And triple for personal injury attorneys. I often think about why that is?
There is much that could be said about the impact of the bad apples; Michael Avenatti did us no favors by his very public and egregious misconduct. Our depiction on television isn’t always stellar. And then there is the decades long “tort reform” spin campaign by big business and insurance industry designed to poison public opinion.
But putting those things aside, I think that the way attorneys advertise their services is a big part of why people despise them. This is particularly true for attorneys who, like myself, practice personal injury.
For starters, in New Jersey, there are actually pretty strict limitations on advertising. We are not allowed to call compare ourselves to other attorneys, make specific statements about our skill or experience, or even provide testimonials or past achievements without disclaimers. That is why there is not that much substantive information provided in attorney spots on television or the radio.
That doesn’t stop some lawyers from making some advertisements that are in really poor taste. Based on the restrictions against naming names, I wont point fingers. But we’ve all seen the kind of cringeworthy television advertisement I’m talking about.
But I think there is a problem that goes deeper than that. Whether its someone being hurt in a car accident, losing a limb on a fishing vessel, being paralyzed on a construction site, or being sexually assaulted no one needs a personal injury attorneys’ help until things have already gone bad.
My experience is that no one thinks that bad things can happen to them until they do. There’s nothing wrong with that. Its how we walk around everyday without being paralyzed by fear. So no one wants to think about ever needing a lawyer who does what I do.
How do you advertise for that without it appearing that you want bad things to happen, or at a best you are happy when they do. I am not sure that you can.
The best I have come up with is to keep trying and hope that I get through to people two things. One, I bad things never happen to you or anyone you care about. Two, I’ve got the skills to have your back if they ever do.
And if that ends up guiding one more person to me for my help even one person down the line, its worth a little bit of cringe along the way?
Let’s examine commercial fishing accidents and your rights under the Jones Act. When things go wrong on a commercial fishing vessel, they often go wrong hard and fast. Luckily, the laws that protect all seamen, including commercial fisherman, provide a lot of protection so long as you are familiar with how to take advantage of them.
The most important law that protects seaman and commercial fisherman is called the Jones Act. Here is a little bit of information about what protections it affords.
First, a commercial fisherman injured in the course of work is entitled to something called “maintenance and cure.” This is regardless of what happened or whose fault it was.
Maintenance means that the employer is responsible to pay a reasonable amount for living expenses until the injured worker is able to work again. Cure refers to the responsibility of the employer to pay for any necessary medical treatment. There is no pre-approval process and the injured person can choose his own doctors.
The issue that often arises here is on the part of the medical providers. Our healthcare system has become so convoluted that most offices either have their own billing specialists or outsource billing completely. Maintenance and cure does not fit neatly into any of the categories that they are used to like Private Health Insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, workers’ compensation, or Automobile No Fault Benefits. So having an attorney who understands maintenance and cure and can communicate this process to your doctors is important.
Second, under the Jones Act and Admiralty Law, an injured fisherman can bring a negligence claim against his employer and/or a seaworthiness claim against the vessel itself for damages. The injured party has the option of whether to bring these claims in state court or federal court and the option of whether to request a trial by jury or trial by judge.
Again, having an attorney who understands this area of law is important to determine whether the facts of a particular case are better off in federal court or state court.
Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, PC has represented individuals injured in commercial fishing and boating accidents for twenty five years. If you or someone you know has been injured on a commercial fishing vessel or boating accident, please contact us for a free consultation.
Let’s examine estate planning and estate administration. There is very little certainty in life apart from the unfortunate eventualities of both death and taxation. In its simplest form, estate planning allows an individual to leave an official set of instructions for what is to happen with their property when they pass away, as well as to nominate a trusted person to act as representative and carry out those instructions.
“Our new constitution is established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can said to be certain except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy, 1789
Building from that foundation, the attorneys of Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, P.C., can help you create and implement a plan for your estate and give you peace of mind when it comes to what happens after you pass away.
The key to a good plan is thorough consideration of the complexities of a person’s estate. Our firm is here to help you navigate these matters, including:
- Providing instructions to your loved ones for what you would like to happen to your property and assets;
- Appointing a trusted person to administer your estate;
- Naming guardian to care for any minor children;
- Minimizing estate taxes and costs of administration;
- Providing for the transfer of a family business;
- Creating trusts to help care for children or loved ones with special needs;
- Preparing your formal Last Will and Testament;
- Preparing a Power of Attorney, which will allow another to act on your behalf;
- Creating an Advance Directive (sometimes called a “Living Will”) to give instructions on how you feel about your medical care.
Every person has an estate though few people plan for how their estate is to be managed, leaving it to loved ones to figure everything out. Our firm is here to help you plan for the inevitable and give you, and your loved ones, the peace of mind of a well laid out plan.
The loss of a loved one is possibly the most trying time someone can endure. If you have been named as the executor of an estate, an estate administration professional can help you to find your way through the process of probate, satisfying tax requirements, the payment of debts, and the distribution of assets. Acting as an executor or administrator of an estate can be a difficult job with many responsibilities, and Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, P.C. is here to assist you.
The administration of an estate can be a daunting task if you have not gone through it before. What is probate? What is the difference between an “executor” and an “administrator?” What is the Surrogate Court and what do they do? How do I get all of this done? If you are faced with any of these questions, we can help.
When a person passes away, all of his or her possessions become part of an “estate,” whether it be bank accounts, real estate, antiques, cars – anything that person owns. Someone must gather all of the information about a decedent’s assets, pay their remaining debts , pay applicable taxes, and distribute the remaining assets to the heirs. Where the decedent left a will, the person responsible for all of this is called an “executor.” When a person passes away without a will all of these jobs still need to be done, only in this case the person responsible would be called an “administrator.”
A few aspects of estate administration with which our firm can assist you include:
- Opening probate with the county’s Surrogate Court;
- Getting the executor or administrator of an estate qualified with the Surrogate Court;
- Marshalling the assets of an estate;
- Seeing that just debts and taxes are paid;
- Coordinating distributions to heirs;
- Providing an accounting of an estate, whether formal or informal; and
- Protecting an estate’s representatives from disputes.
Whether you are planning for your estate, are administering an estate, or are an heir of an estate with questions, contact our office today to discuss how the attorneys of Barry, Corrado, Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, P.C. can assist you.