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RIP Lavern Wilkinson

Nearly three years after Kings County Hospital sent Lavern Wilkinson, a Brooklyn mom, to an early grave because of medical negligence, New York State legislators have finally revised a cruel New York State law that robbed her of her right to seek legal redress for the deadly medical malpractice that killed her.

Lavern was not the only victim of this cruel law.  Thousands of victims of malpractice have been denied their right to compensation by this arcane New York State law.

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Remember those old cartoons with exploding cigars?  Pretty funny in a cartoon.  Not so funny in real life.

Today’s real-life exploding “smokes” are not the old-fashioned trick cigars, but rather the hip x-generation electronic cigarettes (a/k/a vaping devices).  They may be “cool”, but when they explode in your face they are a little too hot for comfort.

And that’s why e-cigarette manufacturers are facing dozens of personal injury lawsuits around the country from people who were injured by their exploding lithium-ion batteries.

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Since I am a New York personal injury lawyer, you might think I never met a personal injury case I didn’t like.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I reject more injury cases than I take.  One reason I reject so many is that injuries are often caused by no one but the injured.  They sometimes try to blame others when there is no one to blame but themselves.  When that happens, obviously, there is no one to sue.

One thing I have learned in this profession is that, if there is a way to get hurt, some people will find it.  Mostly guys.   Some guys just live kind of dangerously. And I am one of those guys.

I have gotten injured through my own male stupidity many times.  Here’s one more to add to my long, painful record.

img-002-249x300As Syracuse New York personal injury lawyers, we often represent construction workers who fall from ladders and roofs when no safety line or harness is provided.  In such cases, we sue the construction site owners and operators for failing to provide this essential equipment. This happens far more often than you would think.

However, as a recent New York Times article points out, deer hunters who use tree stands are also at great risk of serious injury when they don’t wear harnesses with safety lines attached to the tree.  But personal injury lawyers don’t end up representing those folks.  Why not?  Well, think about it.  Usually a hunter has no one to blame but himself for failing to tether himself up.  We lawyers are a pretty smart group, but so far we have not figured out a way for someone to sue himself and come out ahead.

Still, since safety matters to us, we want to get the word out that tree-stand hunters, like roofers, need to tie themselves up.  A recent New York Times brings this message home very clearly.   It points out that at least five people died this year (2017) in New York State by falling from tree stands.  And many more have been injured.

insurance-claim-form-300x200 New York State lawmakers and Governor Cuomo just delivered New Yorkers a Christmas present.  Today Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (SUM) bill, also known as the “Driver and Family Protection Act.” This important piece of legislation will protect New Yorkers statewide who are involved in auto accidents.

I know what you are thinking (if you have even read this far).  Supplemental what?  SUM what?  What the hell are you talking about?  Click.  I’m out of here . . .

But wait.  Don’t surf past this blog post just yet. I promise I will answer these questions:  What is SUM, why was it a problem, and how did New York State just fix it?  Read on, friend.

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Everyone knows you can get injured when you get into a motor vehicle, operate dangerous equipment, or climb up on a scaffold at a work site.  The risk of a serious physical trauma (impact) is inherent in all those activities.  I have represented countless victims of such accidents.

But sometimes big injuries can also result from small traumas.  For example, I once had a client who suffered a serious injury when one of those drive-thru bank teller windows closed on her hand as she was reaching in for her money.  The glass window closed on her hand fairly slowly, and only bruised her hand.  But the bank customer later developed a very serious injury known as RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy), also known as complex regional pain syndrome, a rare disorder of the sympathetic nervous system characterized by chronic, severe, permanent pain.

Who would have thought that such a minor trauma could cause such a serious condition? Even so, under principles of New York injury law, if we could prove that the bank teller negligently closed the window on my client’s hand, my client was entitled to full compensation for her RSD.

In just two days America will be reveling in “Black Monday” (like Black Friday but for online purchases).  In the old days of Christmases past, when parents and others actually went to something called a “store” to choose toys for their tots, a parent could often spot for herself a lurking danger.  For example, he or she could see if small parts might be removable and thus pose a choking hazard.  But now, with more and more people doing “Cyber shopping” , some of a toy’s more obvious safety flaws are less obvious.

Never fear!  Safe shopping can be done online, with a little help from our friend “WATCH“.  For more than 40 years this not-for-profit group (acronym for “World Against Toys Causing Harm”) has published an annual “top-WATCH-OUT list” of potentially dangerous toys.

Here’s an example (from this year’s list):  a toy called “Pull-Along Pony” marketed for children over one-year old but has a pull chord  19 inches long (strangulation hazard).  More examples:  A fidget spinner with small, removable parts (choking hazard).  A Spider-Man drone with rotating blades just the right size to enter an eye socket.

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Meet the new big bad guy in town:  The prescription drug industry. Let’s just call them “Big Pharma”.  They are stepping into the shoes of the previous big bad guy:  Big Tobacco. In fact, Big Pharma has used the Big Tobacco playbook to rake in billions of dollars in profits off the backs of addicted “customers” they hooked on their products through cunning advertising and lobbying schemes.

The product in question?  Opioids.  Opioids are the new Tobacco, only worse.  Opioids include prescription painkillers like oxycodone, synthetics like fentanyl, and opium derivatives like heroin.  Using Big Tobacco’s old tricks, plus some new ones of their own, opioid manufacturers have created a nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction.

But let’s go back a bit.  Once upon a time doctors were reluctant to treat chronic pain with opioids.  Opioid prescriptions were for last-stage cancer pain management and short-term pain control, for example, for patients suffering temporary post-operative pain. Prescribing such addictive medicine for chronic, long-term pain was just not done.  The risk of creating addicts was simply unacceptable.

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We blogged a few weeks ago about Lee Michaels, the firm’s founding member, getting tapped for a big award from his alma matter, Syracuse University College of Law.  Well, the ceremony took place on the evening of October 20 in the beautiful Dineen Hall.  Above are a few of our favorite pictures.  The top left shows Lee being bestowed with the award. Lee was one of only five award recipients. The top photo on the right shows three of the other recipients standing with Lee.  Starting from left to right in the photo above, are:  Laura H. Harshbarger, a labor and employment lawyer at the law firm of Bond Schoeneck & King; Frank W. Ryan, US Chair of DLA Piper’s Intellectual Property and Technology practice; the Honorable Jonathan M. Feldman (a United States Magistrate judge),  and our Lee Michaels.   The other recipient was the Honorable Theodore A. McKee, a judge sitting on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (who was not present for the ceremony and thus does not appear in the photo).

The final photo shows Lee lined up with some friends for a photo op at the party that followed. From left to right are: Anas Saleh, Justin St. Louis, Annie Millar, and  Tom DeBernardis, all former students Lee taught; Marnin Michaels (lee’s nephew and also an SU Law alum), Mike Bersani (CNY Injury Law blogger and Lee’s partner).

A good time was had by all!  The food (drink!) and company were great.  It was an amazing way to celebrate some high achieving SU Law grads.  Congrats once again to our own Lee Michaels!

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What 3 things do Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein all have in common?  Answer: They are (1) rich (2) powerful (3) sex offenders.  Some might want to add Donald Trump or Bill Clinton to the list, but let’s stay clear of politics.

The truth is that many powerful men are sexual predators.  But so too are many not-powerful men.  In fact, poor men may be even more prone to committing sexual assaults.  That’s because, in the words of Janice Joplin, “when you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose”.  The guys at the top of society’s pyramid have a lot to lose.  It’s a long fall to the bottom.  The guy who is already down low has nowhere to fall.

Then again, maybe sexual assaults have nothing to do with money.  When I went to college in the 70’s many feminists embraced this adage:  “All men are pigs”.  I think this a very unfair statement.   I mean unfair to pigs.  As far as I know, pigs don’t rape and harass their mates.

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