2010_Appellate_Division_NYS_Supreme_Court-300x286
Pretty proud of this win in the Appellate Division Third Department.

A very fine Central New York personal injury lawyer hired us to take an appeal from a Labor Law 240 (“scaffold law”) motion he had lost. The case is called Griffin v AVA Realty Ithaca, LLC.

The fact that a great Syracuse personal injury lawyer would choose to have us fight an appeal for him is in itself something we are proud of.  Winning the appeal was of course the icing on the cake.

index
Photo of Brendan Jackson doing the work he loved.

Here at Michaels & Smolak we were saddened to learn of the sudden and untimely death of Brendan Jackson, who passed away immediately after finishing the last running segment at the “Seneca7″ relay race around Seneca Lake on Sunday, April 30, 2017.

We at Michaels & Smolak are proud sponsors of the Seneca7.

pic-300x225
I tend to get a lot of immigrant and Spanish speaking clients.  Could be because I speak fluent Spanish and am married to a Guatemalan.  I hope it is also because word spreads in the immigrant community that I get good results.

Anyway, the guy standing with me in the photo above is from Nicaragua.  One day as he was riding his bicycle to work (on the shoulder of the road, just as he was supposed to) near Rochester, NY, a car swiped him from behind and never bothered stopping.  We call that a hit and run.  The next thing he remembers is waking up all bloodied in a ditch, with a piece of broken car mirror next to him.

My Nicaraguan friend had bad injuries but also has a tough, fighting spirit.  He got back to work only five months after his accident so he could put food on the table for his wife and two children. Hard working Nicaraguan immigrant! I admire him and all the other hard-working immigrants I have had the privilege of representing.

pic4-300x225pic1-300x225pic3-300x225
As a New York personal injury lawyer, my job is to fight my hardest on behalf of each and every one of my clients.  And so I do.  But I would be lying if I said I liked all my clients to the same degree.  Just like teachers have their “pets”, lawyers have their favorite clients.  You are looking at some of my favorite clients ever in the photos above.

The seven men shown in these photos all came into the USA illegally and worked here illegally, too.  Some of you who are reading this will now instantly dislike them.  Please don’t.  Please forgive them for breaking a few rules.  They are not criminals, rapists or murderers (as some politicians will have you believe).  They are simple peasants with only second or third grade educations who needed to support their families back home in Guatemala and Mexico.

Once here, they worked brutally long and hard hours in upstate New York’s vegetable fields from spring to summer, and then in Florida’s orange groves in winter.  They were sending almost every penny they earned back home to feed small hungry mouths.

take-control-300x200
I am writing this post mostly for my fellow attorneys, but non-attorneys might also find it interesting.

One of the differences between a seasoned litigator and a novice is the ability to take total control of the witness, both at deposition and at trial.  Inexperienced attorneys, including my former self, often let witnesses run from the question, or take them down irrelevant rabbit holes, or hide behind non-answers.  But as we mature as lawyers, we learn to reign the witness in, to “let them know who’s boss”.  We also learn not to take any crap from opposing counsel.

Here’s a recent example of “taking control” from a deposition I recently had.  I was deposing a corporate witness in a convenience store slip-and-fall case.  She was trying her hardest to weasel out of answering my questions.  Look at how she tries to evade my questions:

book

For years now I have made it my goal to clearly explain even the most complex concepts of the New York personal injury claim process to my clients.  And over the years I’ve gotten very good at it.  I love it when my clients call me bewildered and confused with a question about their claim, and five minutes later say, “now I get it, Mike, thanks“.  Some have even said, “hey Mike, you ought to write a book”!

But I didn’t really want to write a book.  I was too busy representing my many clients injured in New York accidents.  So instead I looked online and in book stores for a book that would explain what all my clients should know about their New York State personal injury claims process.

Guess what.  I didn’t find one.  (Well, there were some, but they were either inadequate or just plain wrong.)

dog-245x300Today I am blogging about a recent development in New York dog bite / attack injury law.  By way of background, New York is one of only a few states where, to win your case, you have to prove the dog had a prior bite or attack or otherwise displayed “vicious propensities” and that the owner knew about these propensities.  Otherwise, the owner of the dog is off the hook, even if the dog viciously attacks you.

This rule “bites”.  The problem with this rule is that it doesn’t allow victims to sue the owner of the dog for the owner’s negligence.  The owner might have a perfectly good dog with no viscous propensities, but the owner might nevertheless – through plain stupidity or negligence — cause even the Mother-Theresa-of-dogs to hurt people.

For example, in Doerr v. Goldsmith, a dog owner signaled for his nice, obedient doggy to come to him.  Bad idea.  The dog was on the opposite side of a very busy street.  The tail-wagging, happy-go-lucky pooch then bolted across the busy street to his loving owner, causing an innocent bicyclist to be thrown from his bike.

water-slide1-300x184waterslide2This past week in Geneva, New York, where I live, the temperatures rose to 71 degrees.  And we are only in late February!  As the ski season ends (earlier than usual), I can’t help but think the amusement parks will be opening earlier than usual.

Generally, amusement parks are reasonably safe.  But accidents – tragic ones – do happen.  For one thing, the industry has become very competitive in trying to get the “highest”, “fastest”, or craziest rides.  That kind of competition can lead to dangerous results.

Case in point:  Last year a 10-year old boy was killed on the “tallest” water slide in the world located in Kansas City (see photos above).  The slide had opened to much fanfare in 2014 as it surpassed the then-tallest water slide in the world located in Brazil.  The slide – christened the “Veruckt” (German for “insane”) — consisted of a 168-foot, 17-story drop followed by a bump and then a final descent into the pool below.  Go on the ride by video here:

thOne thing I love about being a personal injury lawyer (besides all the great jokes that go with it) is that there is always room for improvement.  Yes, that’s right.  Even after twenty-five years of representing injured people against big companies and insurance carriers, I can still learn to do my job better.  Since I can always strive to get better, I never get bored with this job.

Case in point:  Recently a very accomplished fellow New York personal injury lawyer recommended a book to me, “Advanced Depositions”, by Phillip Miller and Paul Scoptur.  The book is designed to teach experienced personal injury lawyers like me additional skills for taking depositions, especially of experts and “tough” witnesses who might be evasive or tricky.

I admit I picked up the book somewhat skeptically, figuring I would already know everything in the book and that it would be a mere “refresher” course for me.  But I was wrong.  I learned some knew techniques for “boxing in” witnesses, for “exhausting” their knowledge on a topic, and for ensuring that the deposition transcript reads well so the jury can easily understand the “points” I scored.  I also learned better ways to make corporate witnesses concede that certain safety rules apply to the conduct of their employees, and even perhaps to get them to admit the rules were broken.

geneva-foundry-300x169foundry-300x225
I am a resident of Geneva, NY, and a personal injury lawyer with experience in “toxic torts”.  I have been following closely the developments regarding the high lead and arsenic levels in the area surrounding the old foundry in Geneva. It is a sad, unfortunate mess.  I feel deeply for the foundry neighbors, especially those who have had children grow up in the area.  If nothing else, the anxiety and fear must be overwhelming.  Many blame — and have filed notices of claim against — our government officials (DEC, Department of Health, etc.) for having failed to notify them of high toxin levels years ago when they first found out about it.  Longtime residents’ worry, fear, and anger are visceral.

As a lawyer, I wish I could bring them good news, some hope that our justice system will eventually bring fair and equitable compensation to those affected.  Unfortunately, I can’t. I have been approached by several Genevans to represent them against the City, the State, DEC and other governmental entities, but have declined.  One of the reasons I have declined is that the plaintiffs (the residents and property owners in the contaminated zone) are unlikely to prevail with their claims against the City, State, DEC, etc.  I am not saying the cases are hopeless, or that winning is impossible, but I can say without a doubt that the cards are stacked against the claimants.  Let me explain.

What Is A “Toxic Tort” and Who Can Be Sued?

badges
Contact Information