Tough Mudder Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Last May, Avishek Sengupta, a 28 year old Maryland man, died the day after he jumped into 13 feet of muddy water as a participant in the Tough Mudder obstacle course race held in West Virginia.

Sengupta’s mother has filed a wrongful death suit in West Virginia against Tough Mudder, alleging that the race organizers did not have enough safety personnel in place and that those who where there failed to monitor the “walk the plank” obstacle where her son jumped in to muddy water, but failed to resurface.

Furthermore, the suit states that the “walk the plank” obstacle was overcrowded, and nothing was done by organizers to track racers to be sure they had safely made it out of the water.  Finally, the suit claims it took too long for a rescue diver to search for Sengupta, and for an ambulance to be called to the scene.

Read more about the incident in an article from the Baltimore Sun.

Who is Responsible for Sengupta’s Death?

When someone dies in a tragic accident such as this, it is natural to try to find a cause.  Can someone be found responsible for Sengupta’s death?  Here are some questions raised in this case:

  • Were there appropriate procedures in place to ensure participants’ safety AND were those procedures followed that day?  Was there adequate crowd control for such a risky event?
  • Why did it take several minutes for a rescue diver to search for Sengupta?
  • What responsibility did General Mills (which advertised the “walk the plank” obstacle) have for the death?
  • Did the race facility itself (Peacemaker National Training Center in West Virginia) bear responsibility?
  • Did racers willingly take on risk of death when they agreed to participate in an event advertised as “hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle course challenges designed to test your all-around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie”? (source: Tough Mudder website).

Facts to Consider

Here are some interesting facts, however, discussed in news accounts:

  • Tough Mudder conducted a review of safety procedures after Sengupta’s death and found them to be satisfactory.
  • No members of the rescue staff were disciplined.
  • The sheriff’s office investigated Sengupta’s death at the time, and no charges were filed.

But on the other hand:

  • Eyewitness accounts indicate that the “walk the plank” obstacle was overcrowded, with participants being told to jump in without regard for whether the coast was clear in the water below.
  • Some reports indicate that Sengupta had been jumped onto in the water, more evidence that crowd control was inadequate.
  • Why was only one diver present at a 13-foot deep, cold, muddy water pit, AND why was that one diver not wearing appropriate dive gear and ready to jump in on moment’s notice?

The lawyers for all involved parties in this case will have a lot of research to do and many things to prove.  We will be following this case with particular interest since helping injured athletes is one of our passions at Abrams Landau, Ltd.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a sporting or other event, and there are questions as to what laws apply, email or call Abrams Landau, Ltd. at once (703-796-9555).

 

 

Exciting Family Fun at George Mason University

Doug Landau and fellow soccer coach /parent

Doug Landau, along with a fellow soccer coach and parent, at a recent UVA-GMU soccer match held on a rainy night on the Fairfax campus of GMU.

Recently, in-state rivals George Mason University and University of Virginia battled in the rain at the GMU Fairfax campus.  Both schools have excellent soccer programs and are nationally ranked.

Although it had been several years since Herndon sports injury lawyer Doug Landau had been on the campus to see a match, this promised to be an exciting game. Scoreless through the first half, University of Virginia got a goal and pulled in front of the GMU team.  Thereafter, series of yellow cards lead to a red card to a UVA player, and the visitors playing “down a man.” Despite their disadvantage, the visiting team from Charlottesville managed to hang on to the win.  The Cavaliers won despite the home crowd, the weather and the GMU home-field advantage.

“At $6 a ticket (less if purchased in advance or for group sales), this local athletic match is a good value for families and teams. Plus, many of the players on both sides are products of our excellent club system and high schools. And, the parking is free of charge!” notes Landau.  Lawyer Landau enjoyed the game with a friend and fellow soccer parent/coach .

Just as when he goes to court, Landau tries to anticipate all contingencies.  For trials, the Herndon law firm prepares early and prefers to be over-prepared.  For the GMU vs. UVa game, Landau brought extra dry clothing, towels and his oversized golf umbrella, to the delight of everybody sitting around him.  For more information about George Mason University sports, click here.

Triathlon Knee

Stryker is a manufacturer of various medical devices, including knee replacement systems.  Athletes in need of a knee replacement may be drawn by the name alone toward Stryker’s “Triathlon” series of artificial knees.  The Triathlon knee is marketed by Stryker as an extremely durable device which closely mimics the natural motion of the knee.

Problems with Triathlon Knees

But, recently there have been reported problems with Triathlon knee patients.  Complaints include chronic pain, limited mobility, joint instability, loosening or failure of the device.  Some patients have even required subsequent surgery to replace the implant.

ShapeMatch Cutting Guide

Interestingly, the problems have not necessarily been caused by the implants themselves.  Rather, difficulties seem to arise in cases in which a particular form of instrumentation called the ShapeMatch was used during the implant surgery.  According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the ShapeMatch, a cutting guide used to help the surgeon determine the proper place to cut existing bone and insert the artificial knee, was recalled in April of 2013.  The FDA also notes that surgeons were instructed to stop using the ShapeMatch in November of 2012.

Today, patients who were fitted with a Triathlon knee between May 2011 and November 2012 (the dates the ShapeMatch was in use) may wonder if problems they are having with their knee are due to the surgeon’s use of a defective ShapeMatch guide or due to some other cause.  Unfortunately, the medical records do not always clearly note the use of ShapeMatch since it is merely an instrument, and not an implanted component itself.

But if the problems are due to a defective product, legal recourse to recover any damages incurred may be an option.

Patients with the Triathlon knee who are experiencing symptoms should follow up with their surgeon right away.

Triathlon Season Ends “On A Roll” at Hermosa California “Day at the Beach”

Herndon Virginia injury lawyer Doug Landau finishes his 2014 Triathlon season on the podium once again at the Hermosa Beach California "Day at the Beach" sprint race

Herndon Virginia injury lawyer Doug Landau finishes his Triathlon season on the podium once again at the Hermosa Beach California “Day at the Beach” sprint race

Once again making the podium at the Hermosa Beach Sprint Triathlon , Herndon Virginia lawyer Doug Landau finished his 2014 triathlon season on the West Coast. Besting over 750 other athletes, lawyer Landau had a rough start. In short, the waves that the Southern California surfers enjoy got the best of the Triathlon Trial Lawyer. He noted that there were lifeguards on jet skis and surfboards fishing out swimmers and bringing them to shore, as they had signaled that they were out of the race. As he was in the 6th wave,

Landau watched seasoned SoCal triathletes jump over and through the waves on the way out to the first swim buoy, and then “body surf” back to the shore after the 400 yard swim, Landau thought he could do the same. Instead, he was stood up like a lineman stymied by a larger blocker, buffeted by the waves and lost valuable time getting out to smooth water. Once able to get into a rhythm, Landau picked off a few swimmers, and then turned to head to the beach. Remembering the pummeling he endured at Bethany Beach, Landau kept looking behind him for big waves to avoid a repeat performance ! Nonetheless, 50 yards from shore, Landau was rolled so hard, he lost his goggles and swim cap, was scraped against the Ocean floor, and wound up fighting for air and fighting a losing battle against the undertow !

A LA County Lifeguard on a jet ski came over to the struggling lawyer, who waived him off and survived several more waves that “rolled” him, and then hit the beach. Before the race Landau had determined to break an hour and to have the fastest transitions. So, despite the sand in his ears and salt water down his gullet, he took off on the long run to the bike racks. Passing faster swimmers, Landau had to contend with a very crowded transition area and then do 3 laps on narrow, packed roads to complete the 10 mile bike course. Passing athletes the entire time on a borrowed bike, the Herndon Reston area lawyer averaged about 25 miles per hour and had another fast transition.

Landau took off along the beach road with several hundred triathletes already on the 3 mile out-and-back course. Passing runners the entire time, he averaged 6:48/mile and finished comfortably in 3rd in the age group. He missed second by only 5 seconds and first by less than 30 seconds more. The top 5 in each division received awards, and Landau broke up an all SoCal locals sweep of the Age Group. In fact lawyerLandau was the best finisher from Virginia and his time of 56:17 would have won the age groups above and below ! Finishing in the top 20, he enjoyed the excellent race logistics, friendly volunteers and post-race festivities at the Day at the Beach Triathlon at Hermosa Beach. Click here for results

Landau expects to relax the rest of the week on the “Left Coast,” enjoy visiting family and plot a winning 2015 multiSport competition season.  Stay tuned !

White House Conference on Concussions

Mindball Barin injury game

Always studying the effects of sport on the brain, Herndon Virginia lawyer Doug Landau is shown here playing “Mindball” after the annual Vasa Ride at the Swedish Embassy in Washington, DC. This game measure brain electrical activity

This past summer, President Obama hosted the first-ever summit on concussions at the White House.  The purpose of the conference was to increase awareness and education about the serious nature of concussions in youth, and more importantly, to kick start a culture shift in America when it comes to youths and sports.

Concussions in Youth Sports

According to an article in the Washington Post, Obama told the audience, “We want our kids participating in sports.  I’d be much more troubled if young people were shying away from sports.  As parents, though, we want to keep them safe, and that means we have to have better information.”

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is not something to be taken lightly.  The Abrams Landau law firm has been helping victims of TBI caused by bike, truck and auto accidents, workplace incidents, slip and fall accidents, etc. for many years.  TBI can change a person’s life irreparably.  That is why Doug Landau and his staff participate in bike safety education, distribute free bike helmets to local school children, support the efforts of Northern Virginia’s Brain Injury Services (BIS), and more.

Landau notes, “All four of my children participated in youth sports — soccer, wrestling, lacrosse, track, cross country, and pole vaulting — so sports injuries are certainly not uncommon in the Landau family.  I even coached my kids’ teams when they were young, and drawing on my training as a coach and my background in medicine, I sometimes knew it was time to pull a player or sub out a star who had taken a blow to the head.  The key is prudence, balance, and long view when it comes to children’s sports.  After all, the reason they “play” to begin with is because it’s fun!  And TBI is no fun!”

Concussion Lawsuit in Soccer

Concussion in soccer can happen at all levels of "The Beautiful Game" and need to be closely monitored

Concussions in soccer can happen at all levels of “The Beautiful Game” and need to be closely monitored. A change allowing for quick substitution in the face of potential TBI.

At the end of the summer, a group of soccer parents and players filed a class action lawsuit against Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) — the international governing body for the sport of soccer.  The suit, which also names American soccer organizations U.S. Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization, charges the groups with negligence in monitoring and treating head injuries.

The timing is likely not coincidental.  It comes on the heels not only of last summer’s World Cup which brought renewed worldwide publicity to the sport of soccer, but also at the same time concussion litigation is being faced by the National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), and National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA).

Soccer Players Vulnerable to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Soccer players are no exception to the list of athletes whose sport makes them particularly susceptible to head injury and TBI.

The plaintiffs in the soccer lawsuit do not seek financial damages.  Rather, they are asking for changes to the sport’s rules, starting with its youngest players and going all the way up.

For example, children under age 17 would have a limit as to how many times in a game they could “head” a ball.  Professional and other advanced leagues would be allowed to make temporary substitutions (in addition to the currently allowed three substitutions in a game) to allow a player to be examined for head injury.  Like in the suits in other sports, medical testing would be available for soccer players who are dealing with effects of concussion from as far back as 2002.

As we wait for FIFA and other defendants to to respond to the complaint, athletes lawyer Doug Landau recalls his years coaching youth soccer.

“Luckily none of my players had TBI while I was coaching.  But I have seen plenty of kids and teens sustain head injuries from the stands, especially in my daughters’ varsity high school matches,” notes Landau.  “TBI is not pretty and can be life-changing.  If we can prevent even one athlete from TBI by enacting stricter rules and guidelines for the sport of soccer, then it is worth it in my book!”

If you or someone you know has taken a blow to the head, sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and there are questions as to what laws apply, email or call Abrams Landau, Ltd. at once (703-796-9555).

Virginia Maryland Triathlon Super Series Results

Doug Landau on the podium once again, with his friend Bill Coquelin in 2nd place, all bundled up after a cold end of season race in Rock Hall, Maryland

Doug Landau on the podium once again, with his friend Bill Coquelin in 2nd place, all bundled up after a cold end of season race in Rock Hall, Maryland

While Doug Landau won his age group at this weekend’s Watermans Sprint Triathlon, the final event of the now combined Virginia and Maryland combined Triathlon Super Series, and was on the podium at every single MTS and VTS event he entered, he finished runner up in the age group, behind his friend Eric Mackem of Reston. Mackem beat Landau at the Jamestown Olympic race early in the season, and does half iron and Olympic distance events well, while landau’s forte is the sprint distance. More points are given for the longer endurance events, as well as for larger fields and better overall times relative to the winners.  Click here for full results from the last MTS race of 2014

Racing almost as frequently this season, and entering nearly as many Set Up Events as her competitive husband, Melissa Landau was in 3rd place in her division coming into the Watermans race. Despite her first ever triathlon time penalty, she turned in a fast race.  Melissa received the penalty for “Illegal Equipment” (she wore airplane headphones around her neck, not in her ears, so that she could have some music but still hear the volunteers’ instructions). However, the fleet-footed Melissa still managed to move up in the overall standings to finish as runner up in her category. Both Landaus will be getting special Age Group awards for finishing in 2nd place in their Virginia and Maryland Triathlon Super Series !  It also means that family bragging rights will have to be shared !

Landaus Race Watermans Rock Hall Maryland Sprint to End Mid-Atlantic Triathlon Season

Coach Rob Colburn, Lawyer Landau & Military Triathlete Jose Ramos compare notes after the Watermans Rock Hall, Maryland Sprint Triathlon

Coach Rob Colburn, Lawyer Landau & Military Triathlete Jose Ramos compare notes after the Watermans Rock Hall, Maryland Sprint Triathlon

The final event of the now combined Virginia and Maryland Triathlon Super Series was this weekend’s Watermans Rock Hall Sprint Triathlon.  Both Doug and Melissa Landau hoped to up their points in order to end the season as VTS/MTS age group prizewinners. Looking forward to competing in this laid back coastal town to the West of Annapolis, this Maryland Triathlon Series event featured a 750 Meter Swim, a flat 15 Mile Bike and then a 5K Run. Race morning greeted participants with cold, 40 degree blasts of wind and white caps on the swim course. The Kent County bike route was so windy that those cyclists with disc wheels were buffeted back and forth across the lanes. The sun came out and the temperature got a bit better better by the time the athletes hit the pancake flat, one loop run course.

Doug Landau managed to get out of the wavy  salt water swim in under 15 minutes and then blast through the first transition, for the 9th fastest T-1 of the day ! Breaking 40 minutes for the windy 15 mile bike ride, the Herndon injury lawyer went through the 2nd transition in under a minute despite having no feeling in his feet or fingers. Having difficulty getting his usual high running cadence going on frozen toes, lawyer Landau nevertheless managed to average 6:39/mile and finish in 1:17:06, to make the top 20.  This was good enough to win his age group for this race.  See tomorrow’s post to find out how the Landaus did in the combined Super Series.

Waterman’s Sprint Triathlon supports the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The Foundation fights to keep the water we swim in clean. In order to experience the local “natural habitat,” the Landau’s also took advantage of the Triathlete Discount for great camping at Bayshore Campground. Bayshore Campground is located less than 3 miles from Main Street (the race venue) in Rock Hall, Maryland. Bayshore generous offered triathletes and their families and friends tent camping rates at only $20 per person per night! This friendly Kent County campground reserved their prime sites right on the Chesapeake Bay just for MTS triathletes. While it was windy and cold, the full moon and proximity to the Chesapeake made for a dramatic sunrise. “Imagine, a million dollar sunrise for only $20 a person !” noted Doug Landau. After the race, the Landaus and friends chowed down at Watermans Crab House, less than one hundred yards from the finish line to enjoy some fresh, delicious Chesapeake Bay seafood. This is definitely a race and a venue to put on your “triathlon to-do list.”

Recumbent Bikes – Legal in Triathlon ?

not all bikers can ride upright bicycles

Some athletes have difficulty riding an upright tri bike in competition. For these multisport bikers, the “PC Open Division” may provide the opportunity to participate

Not every multisport athlete is able to swim, bike or run without some accommodation due to injury, congenital health condition or disease. But the balance between allowing everyone to participate in “the multisport lifestyle” and protecting the competition from unfair advantage means that USA Triathlon (“USAT”), the governing body of the sport, must balance safety and sportsmanship.

Recumbent bikes have generally been outlawed, but if the participant has an ADA disability, then a recumbent or 3 wheeled bike is permissible. The increasing inclusiveness in the sport is evidenced by the recumbent tricycle, which was the last thing added. However, as a recumbent’s lateral movement is limited compared to regular bike, it may be less safe. Recumbents are also longer and faster, presenting less wind resistance, which becomes a significant factor in cycling (especially at speeds above 30 km/hour).

tricked out cervelo

A fast tri bike and aero bar set up like this may not be feasible for every USAT member; allowing athletes to compete in the PC Open Division will hopefully allow those cyclists with physical limitations (or recovering from a traumatic car crash injury) to participate in the Multi-Sport Lifestyle

Rule 5:11 of the USAT Rules cover “Bicycle Specifications”   While many participants have heard race directors and pre-race announcers state, “All handlebar ends must be solidly plugged to lessen the possibility of injury,” which is from 5:11(i), under subsection (j), “There must be one working brake on each of the two wheels.” Track bikes, bikes with a missing brake, if they cannot be fixed to be in compliance, must be removed from the Transition Area. To leave it in the transition zone would be giving it tacit approval and increasing the risk of unnecessary injury. The Rules specify, “All bicycles and bicycle equipment used in USA Triathlon sanctioned events must conform to the specifications set forth in this Section. Any participant using a nonconforming bicycle or otherwise violating this Section shall be disqualified.” Of particular note is section 5:12 “Non-Traditional or Unusual Bicycle Equipment.”

Any unusual bicycle construction or equipment to which the specifications in Section 5.11 cannot easily be applied shall be illegal unless prior approval is received from the Head Referee before the equipment is used in the event. Any violation of this Section shall result in disqualification.

So what if an athlete has a disability that does not fit into the existing categorization for competitors ? USA Triathlon has revised its official rulebook to include a groundbreaking new Physically Challenged (PC) Open Division, meant to provide accommodations for those athletes who wish to participate in sanctioned events and do not meet classification or equipment criteria.

Following approval from the USA Triathlon Board of Directors, the PC Open Division rules will apply to participants at 2014 USA Triathlon-sanctioned events. The rules modifications will allow competition opportunities to athletes with Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) -defined disabilities who may not fit into a paratriathlon medical classification, or who are unable to follow the strict equipment usage rules of paratriathlon. Participation in the PC Open Division is available to athletes with a medically verified physical, visual or neurological impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Click here for the official rulebook.

Adaptive equipment used in the PC Open Division must conform to the equipment specifications listed in the Paratriathlon Rule Modifications or in Article 5.11 of the Competitive Rules with the following exceptions:

Participants with any disability that may affect balance may choose to use stabilizer wheels on the bicycle. The BIKE USA, Inc. Stabilizer Wheel Kit is an adult training wheel kit and it has been approved for use. For information and pictures of the product, click here. Recumbent style tricycles are allowed…Any request to use adaptive equipment not defined in the Paratriathlon Rules or in the exceptions above must be submitted to USA Triathlon at least 14 days in advance of the event.

Evidence tends to suggest that Physically Challenged athletes who want to participate and ride a recumbent 3-wheel bike will be permitted to do so upon advance notice to the race director and compliance with the other rules of the sport. Herndon Triathlete and injury lawyer Doug Landau notes, “the main concern is the safety of the participants so as to avoid needless injury (or worsening of the Physically Challenged athlete’s underlying condition).”   For complete PC Open Rules, click here.

Police Unity Tour Bike Ride

Community Bike Ride and Fundraiser

Sunday, October 5, 2014 at 8:30 am

Ride on the W&OD Trail from historic downtown Herndon to either Leesburg or Purcellville and back.

The ride helps raise funds for the Police Unity Tour, a non-profit organization that raises awareness for officers killed in the line of duty and raises funds for the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Fund and Museum in Washington, DC.

The ride starts at the Old Town Hall – 730 Elden Street, Herndon, VA  20170

Bike mechanic support will be provided courtesy of Green Lizard Cycling in Herndon and Trails End Cycling in Purcellville.  There will also be several support stops throughout the ride to offer hydration and snacks, along with lunch at the end of the ride.

To register:  www.PoliceUnityTourChapter4.com

Douglas K.W. Landau is admitted to practice in DC, VA, CT, FL, and NJ. Abrams Landau services clients in Washington DC, Pennsylvania, PA, Maryland, MD, Virginia, VA (including Northern Virginia, Fairfax county, Loudoun county, Herndon, Reston, and more), Connecticut, CT, Georgia, GA, Florida, FL, New Hampshire, NH, New York, NY, New Jersey, NJ, Maine, Massachusetts, MA, Rhode Island, RI, North Carolina, NC, and South Carolina, SC.

Information disseminated on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create an attorney-client or similar relationship. Please do not send us confidential information. Past successes cannot be an assurance of future success. Whether you need legal services and which lawyer you select are important decisions that should not be based solely upon this website. Please contact: Abrams Landau Ltd. at (703) 796-9555.