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Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss in Slip and Fall Case

Elderly Tenant Falls after Temporary Move for Repairs

A property owner’s motion to dismiss has been rejected by a judge in Queens after an 82-year-old tenant slipped and fell at an apartment where she was temporarily housed while renovations were made to her flat.

Kathy Pantos, the elderly woman, had an apartment on 29th Street in Astoria that the owners were updating. They asked her to temporarily relocate to another building on Crescent Street, also in Astoria, until the repairs were completed. In her complaint, Pantos said that employees from the moving company she hired told her that, because of recent renovations to the Crescent Street apartment, the floors were too slippery and posed a significant risk of injury. She contacted her landlord, who promised to fix the floors in the Crescent Street apartment and reimburse her for the costs of the temporary move.

Pantos subsequently moved into the Crescent Street apartment, but the floors were never fixed. Shortly after she moved in, she fell, sustaining a concussion, as well as injuries to her knees, shoulder and back.

The landlords sought to have Pantos’ lawsuit dismissed, arguing that they did not own the property on Crescent Street and therefore had no liability. Queens Supreme Court Justice Rudolph Greco, Jr., disagreed. Because Pantos sought damages for “negligent repair,” he held, it did not matter who owned the property. He found that the landlord had made a promise to repair, and that Pantos’ decision to move into the apartment was reasonably based on that promise. Accordingly, the landlord could be found liable for failing to make repairs.

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Drones Facing Increased Scrutiny from Regulators

A flying drone
Trying to head off potential problems, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a number of light-hearted, but pointed public service announcements during the 2015 Christmas season, including one that reminded drone owners that “Rudolph can fly anywhere, but your drone can’t.” Consumer goods experts say nearly three quarters of a million drones were sold in the last two months of the year, an uptick of almost 100% from last year.

According to FAA rules, if your drone weighs more the one half of a pound, it must have a label with an FAA registration number. Owners are then required to register the device with the FAA before using it or face potential civil and criminal penalties.

Authorities say that, though motorized hobbyist flying has been around for quite some time, the new wave of drones changes the game completely. Before, when you wanted to fly a motorized hobby plane, you had to assemble it first, and you had to know enough about how it worked to get it running. As a part of that process, owners typically ran a number of test flights and learned how to safely operate the gizmo. However, the drones now on the market are operational out of the box, so there’s no learning curve necessary at all.

Many attorneys expect to see a wave of personal and property injury claims stemming from the use of drones. In early December, a drone in a TGI Friday’s restaurant in New York crashed into a patron’s face, cutting her nose. The drone was apparently carrying mistletoe, encouraging couples to kiss. It is unknown whether the woman has filed legal action against the restaurant.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we have more than 60 years of experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.

Protecting Yourself if You Get a Drone for Christmas

Protecting Yourself if You Get a Drone for Christmas

According to market sources, more than 200,000 people can expect to find a drone under the Christmas tree this year…or perhaps hovering nearby. The introduction into the market of “out of the box, ready to use” drones has turned what was once limited to hobbyists into the current craze. But safety officials have serious concerns. Though no one has died yet in an accident involving a drone, there have been numerous reports of serious injury and incidents where drones have crashed into buildings, hit cars or run into bystanders.

At present, federal regulations do not cover drones. There’s no license requirement and no training or safety programs that users must complete before flying the devices. Hobbyists say that newer products, such as the DJI Phantom, are ready to operate right out of the box, unlike traditional radio-controlled aircraft. They point out that, when hobbyists must assemble the aircraft, there is necessarily a learning curve, where users develop skills by operating the device at low altitudes and slower speeds.

The key question, then, if you find a drone under the tree, is how to protect yourself from liability should you cause damage or injury while learning to operate the device. In the past, most similar types of accidents—caused by hobbyists—would fall under the coverage provided in a homeowner’s policy. However, many insurance companies have taken measures over the last year to specifically exclude drone accidents from coverage under those policies. Accordingly, you’ll want to carefully review your homeowner’s policy before your initial flight. If drone accidents are excluded, you’ll want to obtain a separate policy to cover potential liability.

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Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year from Sackstein Sackstein & Lee

Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year from Sackstein Sackstein & Lee

Hoverboards Target of Safety Probe by U.S. CPSC

Hoverboards Target of Safety Probe

Officials at the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission say reports of injuries and fires associated with hoverboards have jumped 25% in the last week. What many thought would be the hottest product under the tree this year may be just that—there have been reports in at least 10 states of hoverboards catching fire. In addition, the CSPC reports 39 emergency room visits, 16 fractures, two head injuries, two concussions and multiple sprains, abrasions and contusions.

At this point, the CSPC has not issued a recall on the product, but is asking consumers to take specific steps to minimize the risk of injury:

  • The fires appear to be caused by overheating of the product’s batteries. Officials caution users not to charge the device overnight and not to put the device under the tree immediately after bringing it to a full charge. Consumers may also want to have existing batteries and chargers tested by a certified testing laboratory.
  • Users should not take hoverboards on public streets, and should always wear a bicycle or skateboard helmet and other protective gear

Because of the safety concerns, many top retailers have either suspended sales altogether or limited the versions they are making available. Overstock.com no longer sells any hoverboards and Amazon.com has discontinued some makes. And most major airlines have banned the devices on board a plane , whether as carry-on or in checked bags. Airline officials have expressed concern that the lithium-ion batteries in the devices are a potential problem.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we have more than 60 years of experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims. For a free initial consultation,
contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.

Jury Gives Victim of Birth Defect $38 Million

Jury Gives Victim $38 Million in Case Involving Birth Defect Tied to Seizure Disorder Drug

Pills spilling out of bottle
In June, 2015, a Missouri jury returned a verdict against Pharmaceutical giant Abbott Laboratories, finding that the company had failed to warn the plaintiff’s mother about possible birth defects that could result from use of the seizure disorder drug Depakote. The victim, now 12, was born with spina bifida, as well as a number of other defects. The jury awarded $15 million in compensatory damages, but also found that Abbott’s conduct warranted punitive damages (of $23 million).The lawsuit is one of approximately 800 such cases that have been filed thus far against Abbott.

Plaintiffs Not Part of Settlement

Abbott Laboratories marketed Depakote from 1998 through 2006. Though the drug had FDA approval, officials at the U.S. Department of Justice say that the company promoted the drug for uses not approved or authorized by the FDA. After complaints were filed, the Justice department began a criminal investigation. Abbott paid $1.5 billion in 2012 to settle both criminal and civil allegations by state and federal officials. The FDA has also labeled Depakote a “pregnancy category X” drug, saying that the potential risks tied to use outweigh the benefits.

Depakote was a highly profitable product for Abbott before the problems surfaced, generating $1.5 billion in revenue in 2077 alone. According to plaintiff’s lawyers, the drug, which was approved for epilepsy, bipolar mania and migraines, was illegally marketed for dementia as well. They say that Abbott intentionally designed the product so that patients and their doctors would not be aware of the risks.

Abbott has indicated that it will appeal the verdict, contending that Schmidt’s mother was well aware of the risks when she took the drug.

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Personal Injury Cases Involving Vaping Increase

Vaping Injury Claims Increase

Emergency Sign over a Hospital Emergency Room Entrance

Vaping’s been the rage for the past few years, with new outlets seeming to open up daily. Also known as e-cigarettes, vaping devices use a battery to engage a heating coil, which heats liquid nicotine and produces a vapor that users can inhale. It appears, though, that the detrimental effects of nicotine are not the only risk associated with electronic cigarettes.

Personal Injury Claims Rise

Personal injury attorneys have seen a dramatic increase in the number of claims involving injuries caused by e-cigarettes. The vast majority of those claims involve some type of burns, both minor and catastrophic. A Florida man sustained serious burns when an electronic cigarette exploded in his face this year. Medical professionals say he also ingested a piece of the e-cigarette, which caused internal as well as external burns. Doctors medically induced a coma to facilitate his recovery.

As early as 2014, manufacturers of vaping devices learned of the risk of fires tied to the product. A Phoenix resident had a fire in his bedroom when a vaping cartridge overheated while plugged into a charger. In late 2014, and again in early 2015, TSA officials had to extinguish fires caused by e-cigarettes in passenger luggage. The FAA now prohibits e-cigarettes in checked bags.

Safety officials say that lack of regulation is a principal reason for the increase in injury. They point out that most batteries used in e-cigarettes lack any type of over-current protection, a safety feature that prevents a battery from accepting further charge when it is at capacity. As a result, those batteries can overheat or blow up.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we have more than 60 years of experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.

Hazing at Asian-American Fraternities and Sororities Has Legal Consequences

Criminal Charges, Civil Suits Follow Hazing Activities at Asian-American Fraternities and Sororities

Man in handcuffs

Over the last decade, as more Asian-Americans have filled college classes nationwide, new fraternities and sororities have sprung up on universities from coast to coast. Not surprisingly, those organizations have experienced some serious legal difficulties, mostly tied to injury or death stemming from “initiation” rites. Here are some examples:

  • A freshman at Baruch College in New York died in 2013 after he was blindfolded and weighed down with a backpack filled with sand, then required to run across a frozen field. Five members of the fraternity he sought to join have been charged with third-degree murder, and others face assorted charges, including assault, hindering apprehension and hazing.
  • The family of a student at the University of Texas at Austin settled a wrongful death case for $4.2 million, after their son, a freshman, died from alcohol poisoning at a fraternity party.
  • The family of a student at Cal Poly Pomona obtained $1.7 million from a fraternity that engaged in the hazing death of their son, who died from injuries sustained in a tackle football game without equipment.
  • At least two members of an Asian-American fraternity at Syracuse University face misdemeanor criminal charges for forcing pledges to crawl through snow and ice without gloves. One of the pledges experienced severe frostbite and risked the loss of some of his fingers.

Though most fraternities insist that participating in hazing/initiation rites is entirely voluntary, attorneys for victims say that, as a practical matter, pledges will nearly always participate, even if they know the risks, because they fear they will be rejected or ostracized if they fail to do so.

A study by Dr. Minh Tran, of the UCLA School of Dentistry, found a pattern where some Asian-American fraternity members used hazing as an outlet for what he called ” a hyper-masculinity.” He found that, within certain organizations, hazing continued to escalate from year to year, as new members sought to “outdo” the initiation rites of the past. He noted that it typically led to a decreased reputation, lower quality recruits, and a greater propensity to even more egregious behavior. He recommended greater oversight by both national fraternity offices and local universities.

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How You Can Help Your Attorney (and Yourself) When You Have Been Hurt

Simple Steps to Help Your Legal Cause When You Have Suffered an Injury

Accident Scene
In the aftermath of a personal injury, it’s all about finding and hiring the best lawyer, isn’t it? Then you just get out of the way and let them do what they do best, right? Not entirely, say experienced personal injury attorneys. There are simple steps you can take that can make it far easier for your lawyer to get full and fair compensation for all your losses. Here’s what we recommend:

Step One: Seek Immediate Medical Attention

This is critical, not just because it offers you the best opportunity for a full medical recovery. It’s also important because it can eliminate potential defenses from the party at-fault. If you don’t seek timely medical treatment, you open the door for a number of challenges to your claim, including:

  • It wasn’t really caused in the accident, but by some subsequent event
  • It wasn’t a serious injury, or you would have sought medical care sooner

Step Two: Get Information from the At-Fault Party or Parties, as Well as Witnesses

You want to obtain information that will allow your attorney to contact anyone who was either involved in the accident or who saw what happened. If you gather that information right away, it offers your lawyer the opportunity to question witnesses while memories are still fresh. Additionally, the sooner you can provide information to your attorney, the sooner legal action can be initiated and the sooner you can get compensation. Typically, you (or someone you love, if your injury is too serious) can gather this information at the scene and time of the accident.

Step Three: Hire an Attorney

There are a number of reasons to hire an attorney as soon as possible. First, you will likely turn to your own insurer to recover for some of your losses. But don’t be surprised if your insurance company engages in delaying tactics or denies your claim. Your insurer has a vested interest in paying as little as possible to settle your claim. Let your attorney be your advocate with your insurance company.

In addition, there are time restraints on the filing of a personal injury lawsuit. Though you typically have at least two years to file your complaint, the sooner you do, the less risk you have that critical witnesses will die or disappear.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we have more than 60 years of experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims. For a free initial consultation,
contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.

General Motors Legal Woes Far from Over

GM Could Face Billions in Liability Over Defective Ignition Switch

Auto industry giant General Motors is scheduled to be in court in New York next January to defend six personal injury claims involving a flawed ignition switch. Legal experts say the outcome will be critical—a finding that GM was liable could open floodgates and cost the automaker billions of dollars.

General Motors has admitted that it built thousands of cars between 2005 and 2010 that had faulty ignition switches, which would cut off power to the vehicle’s engine without warning. An expert hired by GM says that at least 124 deaths have been tied to the defect, with another 275 injuries reported. GM initially claimed that only 13 people had died because of the faulty switches.

Thus far, GM has paid nearly $1.5 billion in fines and settlements tied to the product defect. The company settled a shareholder lawsuit earlier this month for $575 million and paid a $900 million fine to resolve a criminal investigation by the federal government. Legal experts estimate that, should the New York juries find in favor of the plaintiffs, GM could pay up to $10 billion in judgments or settlements.

Evidence That GM Knew of Defect, But Continued to Manufacture and Sell Product

According to the federal criminal investigation, GM engineers knew as early as 2002 (when the switch first went into production) that it had the potential to slip out of the “run” position. The fix would have cost GM about a dollar per vehicle, but the company opted not to address the problem. The company also discovered, in 2012, that the defective switch could cause a failure of airbag deployment, but did not notify federal safety officials for nearly two years.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we have more than 60 years of experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims. For a free initial consultation,
contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.