Connecticut’s Hammonasset State Park Privacy invasion

Very proud of my client Kim Smith who spoke publicly for the first time recently about a peeping incident three years ago at Hammonasset State Park. Kim and her two young daughters were showering undressed when she noticed someone watching her through a hole near the shower nozzle. Two state employees were later arrested for the crime. Kim felt compelled to open up about this occurrence after the latest privacy breach also at the park. Only July 5,2014 a hidden camera was found inside a bathhouse also at the campground where Kim and her daughters were violated. Kim is pushing for major policy changes to better protect people at state parks. She says what happened to her is not an isolated incident. She was very brave to share her story and warn everyone to pay attention while using State Park toilets and Shower facilities.

Here is one of the stories that aired on WFSB-TV, channel 3

 

 

Photo- Smith PResser

Kim Smith Statement:

I am Kim Smith. I am here today to tell my story, to break my silence, and tell the people of Connecticut what happened to me and my two young daughters while showering at Hammonasset State Park.

I am here now, three years after two park employees watched me shower with my two young daughters, because I can no longer be silent. My daughters and I were violated and victims of a crime. I was too embarrassed and humiliated to come forward and speak publicly about this at the time this happened. I did not want to expose myself or my children in the public eye because I wanted to protect them from this. But now, in light of recent developments at the park and the depositions I have read, I can no longer be quiet. The people of Connecticut need to know, when showering at a state park, proceed with caution.

On July 5, 2014, a camera was found inside the bathhouse at the campground at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison. A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Environmental protection called this an isolated incident. This is what outrages me!

I am here today to tell you that is not an isolated incident. Just a fews weeks before this latest privacy breach at Hammonasset, my attorneys were deposing park managers. One testified under oath that no policies are in place to address privacy issues, peeping incidents and voyeurism at the state parks. I believe park managers lacked accountability and responsibility for what happened to me and things are still happening on their watch!

The park supervisor at the time, William Mattioli, testified that to his “knowledge” there have not been any policy changes or overall employee training at state parks in Connecticut regarding peeping incidents, how to better protect people at parks from voyeurism, and other privacy issues. You can find this testimony on page 94. We are releasing the transcript in its entirety. Also, on page 36 of his deposition, Mr. Mattioli testified that he doesn’t “specifically go looking for cameras” but he if “happened to see one,” he would “address it.”

I was hoping that since my incident three years ago also at a campground bathhouse at Hammonasset, that there would have been major policy changes at state parks, like limiting who has access to bathroom facilities and installing a security system to more closely monitor employees with access to bathhouses and bathrooms. I was hoping this would be the case. I learned during my fact-finding mission, I was wrong, and with this latest privacy breach, I see it is still happening today!

Here is what happened to me.

July 23, 2011, as I mentioned, we were camping at Hammonasset State Park. It was a hot day and my daughters and I just returned from the beach. I took them to shower at the bathhouse near our campsite–building number 3.

I got the girls into the stall, undressed them and myself and we started to shower. While we were showering, I noticed something strange through a hole at the shower faucet. There were shadows and movement and I noticed a light on that I did not notice when we started. I moved closer to look through the hole and that’s when I saw the outline of his face, his eyes staring back at me and his facial hair.

My heart sank and my stomach dropped to my toes. I quickly wrapped the girls in towels and we got out of there. I was shaking, mad, scared, humiliated, and of course, worried about my two young daughters who were three and six years-old at the time. I was trying to get out of the shower area to get our clothes on and came face to face with the man with the facial hair as he was coming out of the storage area that it is connected to the women’s bathroom. He was not alone. He was with another coworker. I was scared. I tried to rush us all into the bathroom stall to put our clothes on and then noticed the big hole around the toilet in the stall, my heart sank again. People need to know that there is a pipe chase behind the bathrooms and showers. This is where the employees gained access, through their storage facilities, to watch us shower though the holes that were allowed to be present for over a decade. To this day, this pipe chase area is not blocked off.

I wondered who would do such a thing? Watch women and children shower while undressed.

As I mentioned, it wasn’t just one man watching us but two–Ken Sabo and Brandon Marchant. The men actually worked for the park, that’s right, state employees who later confessed to the crime–and cut a plea deal with prosecutors. They were fired from their jobs, which is a start, but I believe park managers should have and could have done more to prevent this. And now, with another privacy breach in the news, I know not enough is being done to protect those in their most vulnerable state.

Sabo and Marchant were originally charged with breach of peace, since a camera wasn’t used. For the past three years, I have tried to pass new legislation that would make it voyeurism if someone peeped at children even if a camera wasn’t used. I have been unsuccessful on that front so far. But I will continue this fight to change the laws until something is done to protect our children. To protect all of us.

I have been trying to fight this quietly, but I can no longer do that anymore.

My case is before the state’s claims commissioner. I am trying to get answers as to how something like this could have happened to me and my daughters by two state employees at a state park. I honestly believe I was not the first person violated at that park. Who knows how many other unsuspecting women and children were watched unknowingly while showering or going to the bathroom.

Prior to leaving the park that awful day, something told me to take a look around. I walked to the bathrooms in our area and was horrified and disgusted to find that our bathhouse was not the only one with so many holes. A photographer by trade, I quickly grabbed my camera to document what I saw. I found many holes, near toilets, in shower stalls, everywhere, too many to count really. This was not an isolated problem. State workers saw these holes for nearly a decade and did nothing to fix them. In fact, one of the men who watched me in the shower claimed that workers knew where to go to watch women shower.

Despite these deplorable conditions which left my daughters and me vulnerable to the peeping incident which happened to us, Mr. Mattioli testified that both the head plumber (and maintenance supervisor) at Hammonasset were not disciplined for leaving all these holes in the women’s facilities. In fact, Mr. Mattioli testified that he doesn’t think the state should be held accountable for the actions of two employees, despite the fact that it was on his watch (and the state facility he managed) that these deplorable conditions were allowed and considered to be status quo.

Thomas Smith, the head of maintenance at the park, also testified that he had no formal training in maintenance. On page 55 of his deposition, Mr. Smith testified he never had any certification, licenses or continuing education provided by the state of Connecticut on how to better manage maintenance issues at state parks, yet, he was the person put in charge.

Since my incident, the holes in the walls have been fixed but this is not enough. It was only because I called police and filed a report that something finally changed.
I want to see new security measures in place like a digital swiping card which would keep track of employees whereabouts and who had access to what building and when. I would also like a door be put on the pipe chase area so that regular workers do not have access there.

What most people don’t realize is community service workers, who have been arrested for various things, also work at the park. Many of them work to clean the bathrooms and have access to maintenance keys to all bathhouses. This does not sit well with me.

After reading those depositions, I decided to release them to the public for no other reason than wanting the public to know. DEEP will probably tell you that I am doing this to further my case. That is the farthest thing from the truth. I am doing this to shed some light on an ongoing problem at state parks and to give people access to what I have learned. I did not want to come forward and publicize what happened to me, I have remained quiet for three years while fighting this fight. But now, with a hidden camera being found at a bathhouse at the same campsite, I see that this is still happening.

It has got to stop!

After reading those depositions of state park workers, I was angry, upset and confused because not one of them was willing to take responsibility for their facilities or their employees. They feel like they have no wrong doing here and they all stand by their word. I find it hard to believe that in the 10 plus years these holes were present and continued to grow, that no camper ever filed a complaint or wrote a comment card about them or that no worker ever mentioned the holes all over the bathrooms (and showers) at Hammonasset.

I want real change and real accountability to protect others. What happened to me is done, but I will use what I know to protect others in the future. To this day, this incident, this violation disturbs me. The moment I am in a situation where I need to use a public restroom, a changing room at the mall, or shower after using a public pool or gym, I remember what happened to me and my children. I panic. I search.

This is always in my mind.

Connecticut Back Roads More Dangerous Than City Streets

A drive down a rural road can be twice as dangerous as one down a city street.  According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, fatality rates due to car accidents are much higher in states with multiple high-speed, two lane rural roads.

Though mortality rates in Connecticut are not terribly high, many argue that they could be lower.  Safety groups believe that increased safety measures, with an emphasis on rural roads and divided highways, could bring our states numbers even lower.   Effective safety measures include an emphasis on reducing distracted driving along with laws that deter drivers from distracting behaviors such as texting and driving.

As experienced Conn. attorneys we know that most accidents are caused by one bad choice, one moment in which a driver makes a mistake, takes their eyes off the road.  These mistakes are too often injurious, even deadly.  We urge you to stay focused when behind the wheel.  Distracted driving, be it a city street or stretch of country highway, can mean the difference between arriving safely home and waking up in the hospital with serious injuries.  Keep your eyes on the road, Connecticut.  Arrive alive!

Will Connecticut Teachers be Required to Cover Dog Bite Prevention?

They will be if Connecticut legislators are successful in adding dog bite and animal cruelty prevention to the states curriculum.  Animal control officers, such as Jimmy Gonzales, believe that preventing both dog attacks and animal cruelty are not being taught at home.  In fact, he too often hears children talk about how their parents or relatives punch, kick or otherwise abuse the family dog.

Because of this, and because of the danger of aggressive dogs and the number of dog attacks in the state, Gonzales and Rep. Brenda Kupchick hope to get the message of animal safety out to all of the states children.

Proponents believe that learning about the proper treatment of animals, along with the best ways to prevent a dog attack, will help keep the children and animals of Connecticut safe.  For example, Gonzales says that nearly every child he speaks in to the schools believes that the best thing to do when confronted by an aggressive dog is to run.  However, running is the worst thing a child can do.  Instead, dog safety experts recommend standing as still as possible with hands placed on the chest and chin tucked in, avoiding all eye contact with the dog.

What do you think?  Should the bill pass?  Should children learn animal safety along with reading, writing and arithmetic?

At the personal injury law firm of Glass, Lebovitz, Kasheta & Bren we have seen the devastating effects that a dog bite or attack can have on a child.  If you or your child have been attacked or bitten please seek medical attention and then do not hesitate to contact an experienced Conn. dog bite lawyer for your free consultation.

How Insurance Companies Value a Connecticut Personal Injury Claim

There is no one-size-fits-all formula for determining the value of your Connecticut personal injury claim. The amount of compensation you may be entitled to depends on your injuries, how the accident occurred, any time you missed from work and many other factors.

An insurance company will place a value on a claim by first assessing how much money you have spent or lost as a result of your injuries. These are considered monetary damages. Nonmonetary damages, such as physical and emotional pain, are difficult to value.

To put a value on nonmonetary damages, an insurance adjuster will usually add up your medical expenses, which are called special damages. The adjuster will use this figure to calculate your general damages, which are nonmonetary damages.

If your injuries are minor, the insurance adjuster might double your special damages. If your injuries are severe and the pain is excruciating, the insurance adjuster might multiply your special damages by as much as 10.

Damages for lost wages will be added and then the insurance company will have a figure around which to begin negotiations.

It would be in your best interest to have a Connecticut personal injury lawyer handle these complex negotiations. A lawyer can help you seek any and all compensation you may be entitled to recover. Additionally, if your insurance company refuses to present you with a fair settlement, your lawyer will be prepared to take action in court on your behalf.

To learn more about determining the value of a personal injury claim, visit our article library.

Contacting a Connecticut Personal Injury Lawyer

A Connecticut personal injury lawyer can help you maximize the value of your personal injury claim. A severe injury can change the course of your life and impact you and your family for years to come. The Connecticut personal injury lawyer team at Glass, Lebovitz, Kasheta & Bren LLC is focused on helping you build a claim that accounts for all the damages you have suffered after a serious accident. To learn if you have the grounds for a Connecticut personal injury case, contact us today at 860-257-1000.

The 5 W’s and H of a Connecticut Personal Injury Claim

What is a Connecticut personal injury claim? – It is a claim filed with an insurance company to recover damages (compensation) from an accident that is caused by another’s negligence in order to pay for the expenses caused by your accident injuries.

Where do I file my Connecticut personal injury claim? –
 You will typically file your claim with your own insurance company, but the best course of action is to take your case to a Connecticut personal injury lawyer to determine all liable parties.

When should I file a Connecticut personal injury claim? –
 As soon as possible! The longer you wait to file, the higher the risk that your evidence could be lost or destroyed. The Connecticut statute of limitations also only allows for up to 2 years after your accident for you to file a claim.

Who can file a Connecticut personal injury claim? –
 Anyone who has suffered injury due to the negligence of another party. You can file on your own, or have assistance from a Connecticut personal injury lawyer.

Why should I file a Connecticut personal injury claim? –
 If you were seriously or permanently injured in an accident due to another’s fault you should not have to pay for the resulting medical bills or deal with the financial losses from time off of work. A settlement from an injury claim can help you recover these damages.

How do I file a Connecticut personal injury claim? –
 For minor claims with a small amount of damages you can generally file a claim with your insurance company and settle it yourself. However, for more complicated cases or accidents with high amounts of damages or death you should consult with a Connecticut personal injury lawyer.

While these are basic answers to understanding a Connecticut personal injury claim, you should contact a Connecticut personal injury lawyer for help with your specific case.

Contacting a Connecticut Personal Injury Lawyer

The Connecticut personal injury claim process can be frustrating and tedious to deal with alone. A severe injury can change the course of your life and impact you and your family for years to come. The Connecticut personal injury attorney team at Glass, Lebovitz, Kasheta & Bren LLC is focused on helping you build a claim that accounts for all of the damages you have suffered after a serious accident. To learn if you have the grounds for a Connecticut personal injury case, contact us today at 860-257-1000.

Distracted Driving Causes Accidents in Connecticut- What Can Be Done?

The obvious answer is to make every driver keep his eyes on the road at all times.  Of course, this is neither practical nor feasible.  Laws that limit cell phone use have been passed in Connecticut, and though this is a good step to prevent this type of driver distraction, what about the other types?

One Conn. mother saw the potential for distraction in a common item kept in the car-  A tissue box.  Looking for ways to keep her eyes on the road, and not searching the floor for that elusive box, she invented a refillable tissue container that fits into the cars cup holder.  Will this product save millions of lives?  Perhaps not, but what it does show is that there are practical ways to help drivers keep their eyes and minds on the road.

What can you do to prevent a distracted driving accident?  We urge you to not only put down the cell phone but also plan ahead.  If you might need a drink of water, a napkin a snack for the kids, place these things in easy reach, where you will not need to take your mind and eyes from the road.

The personal injury attorneys at Glass, Lebovitz, Kasheta & Bren know that one moment of distraction can lead to a serious, even deadly car accident.  Please help us spread the word- Distracted driving starts with you.  Focus on the road and arrive alive.

Who is responsible for ice/snow removal in Seymour, CT?

As the dispute between the city of Seymour, Conn. and ConnDOT continues, city residents are left dealing with a slippery mess.  The dispute revolves around a strip of Route 115, Main Street in Seymour.

While ConnDOT maintains that they are only responsible for the driving lanes of the state highway, the city says that they do not have the money in their snow removal budget to remove the rest of the snow and ice.  This remaining snow and ice impact those who park along the street.  Residents and visitors can be seen carefully picking their way around their vehicles to reach the relative safety of the sidewalk.

What would happen in someone were to slip and fall?  Unfortunately, filing a successful personal injury/slip and fall lawsuit against either party would be difficult.  In Connecticut, the state agency cannot be sued and the city can only be sued under very specific conditions.

It would seem that the city or the state would want to quickly remedy the slippery situation, as the cost of a possible lawsuit would far outweigh the cost of removing snow between the driving lanes and curb.  Perhaps they are hoping that nobody will get hurt during a slip and fall, or that the injured party will not take the time to find a good attorney and sue.

Whatever the reason for the delay the Connecticut personal injury attorneys at Glass, Lebovitz, Kasheta & Bren hope that the issue is resolved before an injury occurs.

Minor Injuries Sustained During a Car Crash Can Cause Serious Pain

Minor injuries.  In nearly every article about a car or truck or motorcycle accident in Connecticut you will read about injury victims sustaining minor injuries.  But what does this mean?  Though you may assume it refers to bruising, maybe a small cut and some sore muscles, minor injuries can mean serious pain and a long recovery.

For example, broken bones, deep cuts and neck and back injuries are commonly referred to as minor injuries.  Really, a minor injury is one that does not immediately threaten the accident victims life.  However, this does not mean that the injury will not require a hospital stay, rehabilitation and ongoing medical care.

The problem with minor injuries is that insurance companies will use this distinction to minimize your claim, your pain and suffering.  They will assume that the report of “minor injuries” means you deserve less compensation.  However, there are other factors to consider.  What if your job involves heavy and frequent use of your arms and back?  Then a shoulder injury can leave you out of work for some time, maybe even permanently.  But the insurance company will want to ignore this, and possibly your need for ongoing physical therapy.  They will offer you a sum that may not cover your current bills, nonetheless the cost of ongoing medical care.

If you have been injured in a car accident, even if you only sustained minor injuries, ensure that the insurance company is offering you proper compensation for your injuries.  Contact an experienced accident lawyer at Glass, Lebovitz, Kasheta & Bren today for your free consultation.  Make sure your rights, and your future are protected.  Call today. 1.860.257.1000

Connecticut: Injured Worker Wins Employer Retaliation Case

For the second time in less than three years a Connecticut railroad company has been reprimanded by OSHA for retaliating against injured workers.  In the newest case, Metro-North was fined and made to take corrective actions after an employee from Meriden, Conn. was disciplined after suffering from an on the job injury.  After reporting the company for a 10-day suspension following the injury the man was given another 30 day suspension.

OSHA agreed that the second suspension was unwarranted and awarded the injured employee $75,000 plus legal fees.

The other case against Metro-North was settled in 2009 when it was found that four employees were retaliated against after being hurt at work.  Two of the employees were injured while working in Connecticut.

As experienced workers compensation attorneys we have seen too many injured employees suffer in silence instead of defending their rights.  They do so because of the fear of retaliation, as seen in the above cases.  If you have been hurt at work you have the right to file for workers compensation without the fear of being reprimanded or fired.  Contact a workers’ comp lawyer today for your free consultation.  You have rights.  Let’s fight for them.

Connecticut’s Workers Compensation System- Is It Broken?

Skyrocketing workers compensation insurance costs.  Injured workers going without compensation for months, even years, after their on the job accident.  Employers who bribe injured employees not to file for workers comp.

These reasons, and many like them, are why so many Connecticut workers rights advocates believe that the states workers compensation system is in need of a serious overhaul.

The newest workers compensation news is not good.  On January, 1 2011, many employers will see their workers compensation insurance rates increase dramatically.  Average increases will be 5.8 percent.  However, some will see their rates increase by 31 percent.

As workers compensation attorneys and advocates of injured workers we have to wonder what this means for workers in Connecticut.  For some, it may mean the loss of hours, certain benefits, or their job.  For others it may mean strong pressure not to report on the job injuries.  Employers have been known to bribe or intimidate injured workers into not reporting a workplace accident and injury.  This is dangerous to employee rights and can have serious financial and physical consequences for the employee.

Though advocates have vowed to fix the Conn. workers compensation system, injured workers cannot wait.  If you have been injured at work do not let your employer take advantage of your situation.  Contact your experienced, aggressive workers comp attorneys at Glass, Lebovitz, Kasheta & Bren for your free consultation.      

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