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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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A week or so ago, at Yankee Stadium, a foul ball flew off Todd Frazier’s bat at 110 miles per hour and clocked a toddler in the face.  She was seated in the stands behind the third-base dugout with her grandpa.  It hit her face so hard that players and fans alike grasped.  The game stopped.  It was a horrible scene. This video shows only the reaction of the players, not the impact itself:

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When I saw this video, my first thought, like everyone else’s, was, “oh my god, I hope she’ll be all right, that poor girl!”.  My second thought was less emotional and more lawyerly: “can the Stadium be held liable”?  But then, before I had even finished that second thought, my third thought overtook it: “No, it can’t be held liable”.

th1-300x200I recently blogged about Dan Hanegby, a young investment banker, father of small children, who was killed the other day in a collision with a bus while he was riding a Citi Bike in Manhattan. That post was about how relatively “safe” Citi Bikes seem to be; this was the only fatality in four years of the City-operated bike-sharing program’s existence.

After I posted that blog, the New York Times and the Gothamist published articles with additional information about the accident.  This most recent development in the case illustrates a grave and common problem with how the police investigate and report motor vehicle accidents.

The Times had originally reported that the cyclist was killed after he “swerved toward the bus, fell and was caught beneath one of the rear wheels”.  This is the version of events that the NYPD gave the widow.

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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.

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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.

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:

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You might think that if you or someone you love gets hit by a commercial truck in New York you should seek out a New York car accident lawyer.  You would be wrong.  Suing a commercial trucking company for personal injuries is NOT the same as suing for a run-of-the-mill car accident.  You need a lawyer who is experienced and knowledgeable in the hyper-specialized field of truck accident litigation.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are many important similarities between truck accident and car accident litigation.  For starters, both trucks and cars are subject to the New York Vehicle & Traffic law, a set of “rules of the road” that applies to all vehicles on New York State roads (even bicycles!).  Thus, for example, all vehicles must stop at stop signs and red lights, yield at yield signs, and signal turns, etc.

But in addition to being subject to the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law, commercial trucks are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR)(adopted and codified in New York under Title 17, Section 820).  This is an additional set of safety rules that applies only to commercial trucks.  A lawyer with a working knowledge of these rules is better armed to take on the trucking insurance company.  He or she can find additional ways to lock in liability against the negligent truck operator, his employer, and the owner of the tractor and trailer.

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Medical professionals are getting away with murder!  How?  By a New York law that says victims of medical malpractice have only two and a half years to sue the doctor/hospital or other medical professional who negligently injured them, and only two years to sue for wrongful death (CPLR 214-a), REGARDLESS OF WHEN THE VICTIM FOUND OUT THAT THERE WAS A MEDICAL ERROR OR THAT THEY WERE INJURED BY IT.

Here’s an example of the cruel workings of this rule:  Patient gets a lung or breast ex-ray or mammogram.  Radiologist says it looks good.  Three years later patient is diagnosed with stage-four lung or breast cancer.  The new doctors look back at that ex-ray taken three years earlier, which clearly shows the cancer.  The radiologist three years ago clearly overlooked it.  If the cancer had been timely diagnosed, full recovery was likely.  Now it is too late – the patient is dying.

Can this unfortunate patient or her family sue the careless radiologist?  NO!  Not in New York.  That’s because the two-and-a-half year statute of limitations runs from the date of the malpractice, not from the date when the patient discovers the malpractice.

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