The personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers at Michaels & Smolak have come across some strange injuries in their line of work.  But we recently met perhaps the strangest ever.  What I am about to tell you might seem like a total fabrication. But I am not making it up. This is not April 1. This law firm is involved in a case just like the ones described below.

The case involves the anti-depressant drug Abilify, which, like the Parkinson’s drug Mirapex, can have a very bizarre side effect:  Compulsive gambling. That’s right.  Big time, pathological gambling.  When it has this side-effect, the patient tends to gamble away his or her life savings.

Don’t believe me, right? But it’s true. The evidence now is clear.  So clear that warnings are required on the drugs in most countries – including Canada — but not yet the U.S.A , where the drug lobby is more powerful.  In the U.S.,  lawsuits are swarming around the creators of the drugs (Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals for Abilify, Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim for Mirapex).  The legal theory is “failure to warn”.


Only a few years ago the price of a drone was so far out of the average household’s reach that you probably didn’t know anyone who owned one. Look around you now. You probably know many drone owners. In five years perhaps most people will own one. That’s because they have become smaller, cheaper, and are getting cheaper still.

Drones are not just a hobby. They serve many useful business purposes: Inspecting cellphone towers, shooting pictures for multidimensional real estate portfolios, maybe eventually even delivering pizza. But they can also be put to nefarious or negligent use: Snooping on people, following or harassing them, interfering with other aircraft.

Want to see a cool video?  Watch this one of one drone capturing another:

29906170001_4711937433001_FLINT-STILLOne thing you godda love about lawsuits is “discovery”. It’s what goes on right after you sue and the party you sued answers. Then you get to ask them to turn over almost any document relevant to the claims or defenses. Almost any document that has any possible relevance at all is game.

And sometimes you turn up some real gems. It’s what I call “getting the goods”.

Think about the lawsuits in the 70’s against Big Tobacco. Imagine finding – hidden in the reams of papers turned over to you – internal reports admitting that Big Tobacco manipulated nicotine levels to “hook” smokers to their dangerous product. Or that they knew their product caused cancer even as they denied it publicly.  It’s a “gocha” moment! How much money is that kind of evidence worth at trial!?

Flying copter with their gear on the background of a beautiful sunset.
Today this Central New York personal injury lawyer was quoted in a prestigious world-wide newspaper, the Financial Times.  The newspaper has an average daily readership of 2.2 million worldwide and has 4.5 million registered users and over 285,000 digital subscribers.  Many investment professionals rely on the Times for discerning economic and investment trends.

The article was titled, “Drones Crash into Regulatory Thicket”. The quote, taken from a telephone interview with me, went like this:

Michael Bersani, a personal injury lawyer in Auburn, New York, said he was expecting an increase in drone-related injury cases, but had not seen any uptick in drone injuries this Christmas. “I think it’s a question of time, because you’ve got the inexperienced recipients of these gifts, and there is plenty of potential for people to be injured”.

Flying copter with their gear on the background of a beautiful sunset.
I have recently blogged about New York drone personal injuries and about getting drone insurance.  Today I have an important reminder for all new blog owners (specifically to those of you who have received one for Christmas) that you need to REGISTER the drone before you fly it outdoors.

Specifically, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on December 14, 2015 that small unmanned aircraft (UAS), otherwise known as drones, weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds, must be registered. Even a child flying a drone in the backyard has to register!  The three-year registration is only $5 registration, but the FAA is waiving the fee from December 21, 2015 to January 20, 2106 for new drone owners. You will also be required to have your FAA registration certificate in your possession when operating your drone.

If the owner of the drone is less than 13 years of age, then a person 13 or older is required to register the drone.

Flying copter with their gear on the background of a beautiful sunset.
Just the other day I blogged about a soon expected explosion in drone injury lawsuits. To summarize, this December, those drones look lovely all wrapped up under the Christmas tree, but soon they will take to our skies.  And fall from those skies.  Fall on things.  And on people.

If sales projections are accurate, tens of thousands of novice recipients of these gifts will try their hands at the controls of these small, unmanned aerial vehicles with spinning and unguarded rotors.

And guess what: Some folks are going to get injured!

As we approach the end of the year, it is time for the Michaels & Smolak personal injury law firm of Central New York to give out its “Worst Personal Injury Lawyer Advertisement of the Year Award”. This year we have a hands down winner. No need to even talk about a runner up. Not even close. Hold your applause until after you view the winning ad by “The Texas Law Hawk”:

Need I say more?

0cd70268171212b504a54dd2083c6b04Drowsy driving kills thousands of people in the United States each year. We’ve all been there:  You are driving down a boring interstate highway at night.  You start to nod off and, just when you about to enter la la land, you “snap out of it” and clutch the wheel, your heart racing.  Scary, huh? And you were one of the lucky ones.  Other drivers, succumbing to the sirens of sleep, crash and burn.

But a new device being developed may keep drivers like you awake and save your life. Here’s how it works:

A Bluetooth headset fits on one ear and points an infrared sensor toward the eye to detect blinking. (See photo). The driver’s blinking frequency indicates drowsiness. The data is transmitted by Bluetooth to a smartphone. If the sensor detects drowsiness, the headset vibrates, flashes and beeps to alert — and awaken — the sleepy driver.

Flying copter with their gear on the background of a beautiful sunset.
Drones! They’re everywhere! Officially known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAV’s, they come in all sizes and at all prices. Some are as small as a flying insect. Others are full-sized airplanes on bombing missions. They’re used in agriculture, construction, photography, engineering, real estate and many other industries, but now, most recently, they are used just for fun. Among other recreational uses, they’re the new “selfie stick” – fly it over and away from your guests and snap a picture of the whole crew!

700,000 drones have been sold this year in the USA. Every year the number of drones sold quadruples! It is predicted that 400,000 more will be sold this holiday season. You can get one on Amazon for just $50 – with a camera. They’re the hot-selling Christmas gift this year.

They might also be the most dangerous Christmas gifts we have yet seen. Yes, this Christmas we are way past the days of shooting your eye out with a Red Ryder BB gun. We’ve come from “every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings” to “every time a drone passes you might get dinged”. Example: Recently a New York restaurant launched “mistletoe drone” that flew from table to table to coax patrons into kissing on camera. It was a lot of fun and romance until the mobile mistletoe plummeted like a reindeer dropping and mauled a patron’s nose with its unguarded rotor. (I suppose she could have played the part of Rudolph after that).

I sometimes wax nostalgic about the “good old days” when my boys were toddlers: The petting zoos, the living-room wrestling matches, the cute things they would say. But one thing I definitely do NOT miss is struggling with car seats. What a pain! And I was never sure I had them in right.

Well, I was right to be unsure. Results from recent child car seat inspections throughout New York State revealed that out of 931 random car seats inspected only 112 seats were installed correctly. That’s only 12%!  Nevertheless, most parents — 96% to be exact — BELIEVED they had their kids correctly installed in the car seat.

What was wrong with the car seat installation? In some cases, the seats didn’t fit the child, in others they weren’t fitted in tight enough, in still others they were installed or positioned incorrectly.