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Budding Journalist Awarded $43 Million after Fall

Wheelechair

Alexander Tirpack, a former intern for Rolling Stone magazine, won a $43 million verdict from a New York jury for injuries that will leave him wheelchair-bound for life.

According to witnesses, Tirpack was at a party on North 10th Street in Williamsburg on September 25, 2010, when he needed to urinate. He asked the host to use the bathroom, but was told he could not, because the host’s wife was asleep in the apartment. Instead, Tirpack was given an empty Gatorade bottle and directed to a remote section of the building’s roof. At the edge of the roof, he attempted to climb onto a parapet just a little over three feet from the ground. Because it was dark, he couldn’t see that there was a 2 1/2 foot gap between the building he was on and the one next to it. He fell 70 feet, severing his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed.

Tirpack’s attorney argued that the building developers had violated city ordinances which require a 10 foot high wire fence around any roof used for recreation. They argued that the building owners had not erected the mandatory fence because they wanted to sell sections of another part of the roof as private “cabanas,” and the fence would have ruined the view.

Defense attorneys contended that the intent of the ordinance was to protect individuals engaged in active recreation, such as basketball or other sports, as opposed to passive recreation. They also argued that Tirback, who had been drinking all night, was entirely at fault. Sources say it will likely be a long time before Tirpack sees any money, as the verdict will certainly be appealed.

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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.

Megabus Riders Beware

It seemed too good to be true. The Megabus, with free Wifi, comfy seats and really cheap fares, promised to be an affordable and luxurious way to connect Chicago and more than 100 cities across the country. Some advertised fares were as low as a dollar!

But the behemoths have been involved in an astonishing number of accidents—at least 22 known collisions involving Megabuses have been reported since 2013. Just last month, one of the vehicles went up in flames just outside of the windy city—fortunately, no one was hurt.

The carrier’s safety woes have been well-documented for the better part of the last decade. A Megabus in New York hit a bridge in 2010, with four people dead. Another swerved off the road on I-95 in New York City in 2011, killing 15. Law enforcement officials say that the company’s drivers have been cited numerous times for violations of the law, from speeding to drunk driving. It’s also been reported that the company allows drivers back on the road without taking the time off required by state and federal regulations.

In light of the continued safety problems—the fire on the bus outside of Chicago was not the first of its kind on a Megabus—many are shocked that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has consistently given the Megabus a “satisfactory” rating. Under the law, Megabus is what is known as a “common carrier.” Common carriers are generally held to higher standards than other drivers, generally doing “all that human care, vigilance and foresight reasonably can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to passengers.”

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State Pays $1.6 Million to Injured Cyclist

Riding A Bicycle

A retired Marine Corps officer has received $1.6 million from the state of New York to settle a personal injury claim arising out of a collision with a New York state trooper’s vehicle. According to court documents, Major Mary-Margaret Smith, a resident of Virginia, was on her bicycle at the intersection of Liberty and Collins Street in Whitney Point on the morning of July 5, 2010, when she was struck by the trooper. The impact of the collision threw her into the cruiser’s windshield, causing head and facial injuries.

Smith filed a lawsuit to recover for her injuries, but defense attorneys argued, based on a police report, that Smith had crossed into the intersection, entering into the path of the state trooper. However, evidence introduced at trial indicated that Smith never went into the intersection. The court concluded that the accident was caused solely by the negligence of the trooper, who has never been named. That evidence showed that the officer was making a left turn, but cut corner short, striking Smith, who was legally on the roadway.

The trial court found in Smith’s favor and that ruling was affirmed in 2014 by the state Appellate Division. Separate proceedings were scheduled for later this year to determine the amount of damages, but the state of New York opted to settle the claim.

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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.

Understanding New York’s Dog Bite Statute

Dog Ready to Bite

If you have been the victim of an attack by someone else’s dog in New York, the legal standard for obtaining compensation for your losses will depend on the type of damages you are seeking. If you are pursuing compensation for medical and veterinary expenses, there’s a strict liability statute that governs your claim. For all other types of damages, though, there is greater protection for the dog’s owner.

Essentially, strict liability means that you don’t have to show that the dog’s owner was negligent in any way. You need only show who owned the dog, that the attack was not provoked, and that you were either in a public place or legally on the dog owner’s property. Under such circumstances, you can recover any amounts you must pay for medical expenses or vet bills.

However, for other types of losses, including emotional distress, lost wages or income or loss of consortium, you must show that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had a propensity to be aggressive or to attack. In this respect, New York is what is commonly referred to as a “one bite state.” Unless you can show that the owner trained the dog to be aggressive toward humans or otherwise had reason to expect that the dog would bite you, the first bite does not impose any liability on the dog owner.

Under the statute, the court may consider “any evidence of a dangerous propensity.” New York courts have construed this fairly liberally, finding liability where a dog has been known to growl, snap or bare its teeth, or where the owner chose to restrain the dog.

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What Happens If You Were Partially At Fault for Your Injury?

An Injured Person
When you’ve been hurt because of someone else’s wrongful or careless act, one of your first thoughts is to seek compensation for lost wages or income, medical expenses and other damages. But what if the accident was partially your fault? Can you still recover a financial award to pay for the losses you’ve suffered?

For hundreds of years, the law of personal injury applied a concept known as the “contributory negligence” doctrine. Under the legal theory of contributory negligence, if you were negligent in any way and to any degree, and that negligence contributed to your injury, you could not recover damages from someone else for your losses. Because the doctrine seemed extremely harsh, and because defense attorneys would, often successfully, argue that a miniscule amount of negligence on the part of the injured party should absolve an egregiously negligent party from any liability, a new standard—comparative negligence—has become the law of the land in all 50 states.

Not surprisingly, though, there is no consensus on how comparative negligence should be applied. In the majority of states, the principle applied is what is known as “modified comparative negligence.” In those states, an injured party can only recover damages if his or her degree of liability falls below a statutorily determined level. Most states hold that level to be 51% (21 states) and all others adopting modified comparative negligence (another 12 states) find the level to be 50%.

New York, though, is one of only 13 states that apply what is known as “pure comparative negligence.” Under that legal theory, an injured party may still recover something, even if he or she is 99% liable. For example, if the total losses were $100,000, but the injured party was 90% responsible, he or she will still be entitled to $10,000 in damages.

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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.

The So-Called “Trivial Defect” in Slip and Fall Cases in New York

Man slipping on a wet floor
Under New York law, the owner or manager of residential or commercial property has a duty to exercise reasonable care to minimize the risk of injury to persons legally on the property. It’s not uncommon, though, for defense attorneys to seek and obtain a dismissal of such a claim, based on the argument that the injury was caused by a trivial defect, even if the injury was substantial. Though the courts have long held that determining what constitutes “trivial” may be difficult, the matter was recently addressed again, in three separate cases.

In Hutchinson v. Sheridan Hill House Corporation, the Court of Appeals concluded that the defect was trivial, though the factors that made it trivial were not related to its size. Instead, the court found the defect trivial because it was in the middle of the sidewalk, in a location with adequate lighting, and there were no other factors, such as a crowd of people, that prevented the injured person from looking down as he walked.

In Adler v. QPI-VIII LLC, the injured party was hurt when she caught her foot on a “big clump” that had been painted over on interior stairs. The woman lived in the building, and acknowledged that there was adequate lighting and that there was no debris or dirt on the stairway. In this case, the court overturned an earlier ruling dismissing the case because of a purported “trivial defect,” saying that, because no measurements had been taken on the “clump,” it could not be determined if it was “trivial.”

In the third case, Zelichenko v. 301 Oriental Boulevard LLC, the plaintiff tripped on a chip in the front of a step that measured 1/2 inch by 3 1/2 inches. The defendants sought to have the claim dismissed, arguing that it was a trivial defect. The plaintiff objected, saying the trivial defect defense should only apply to municipal liability. The court disagreed, but held in favor of the plaintiff, saying what really mattered was whether persons using the stairway would naturally avoid the chip while coming down the stairs.

The upshot of the three decisions? It’s still pretty unsettled as to what will or will not constitute a trivial defect in a premises liability case.

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Questions Arise after Woman Dies at Coney Island Hospital

Stethoscope

A Brooklyn woman is dead and family member says it’s because of negligence and malpractice at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn.

Grisel Soto, 47, was taken to the hospital on January 31, 2016, after experiencing head pain. Family members say she was unable to speak. When she arrived at the hospital’s emergency room, the triage nurse, whose job it is to make an initial assessment of possible medical problems, suspected that she was having a reaction to synthetic marijuana. Because she was screaming and thrashing on the bed, her hands and legs were restrained and she was injected with a tranquilizer. According to hospital reports, she went into cardiac arrest multiple times during the next 12 hours and died the next morning.

Soto’s husband, Jorge, said that the mistreatment of his wife started when paramedics arrived at their apartment. He says that five EMTs held her down and strapped her to the gurney. When told by the triage nurse that a reaction to synthetic marijuana was suspected, he told them that she was on antibiotics after having flu-like symptoms the week before. Soto insisted that, in more than 20 years of marriage, he’d never seen his wife use illegal drugs.

Sources say that hospital officials acknowledge that Grisel may have had some form of meningitis. The chief medical examiner’s office is conducting an investigation and indicated that, while meningitis may still be a likely cause, they have ruled out any type of contagious meningitis.

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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.

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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To set up an appointment with an experienced New York motor vehicle accident injury lawyer,
contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400. Your first consultation is free of charge.