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coronavirus-image-300x169At Michaels & Smolak, we were glad to reopen our office to the public on June 5th in compliance with the New York State Phase 2 guidelines. Although the office is now “open for business”, we will continue to offer virtual appointments for clients who prefer to stay home.  The health and safety of our clients and staff is our first priority, so we are actually encouraging “virtual” meetings rather than in person meetings for the time being.  But the choice is yours!  Please call 315-253-3293 or email us at reception@michaels-smolak.com  to schedule an appointment and specify whether you prefer to “meet” with your attorney by telephone or in person or by a virtual format such as skype or Facetime or Zoom.

You can view our in-office COVID 19 office policies below.  We hope to see you soon!

GUIDELINES FOR IN-PERSON APPOINTMENTS

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Introducing this year’s proud recipient, the second ever, of the Syracuse University College of Law’s prestigious Lee S. Michaels Advocate Award and Scholarship: Joseph Tantillo.

Congratulations Joe!

More about Joe in a minute.  But first something about the award itself.  Last year we announced that M&S’s senior lawyer, Lee S. Michaels, had established and endowed the Syracuse University College of Law Lee S. Michaels Advocate Award and Scholarship. Lee, a die-hard S.U. supporter, graduated from the Law College in 1967, was active in alumni activities and events for many years, and has been teaching trial practice since 1990 and deposition practice there since last Fall.

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Not trying to brag or boast or “holier-than-Thou” anyone, but I just need to say how proud I am to be part of a personal injury law firm that doesn’t see money as the be-all-and-end-all of the practice of law.  And yes, there are plenty of personal injury firms that do.  Not us.  Not Michaels & Smolak.  We are damn good at what we do, second to none, in the personal injury litigation field.  Our results are outstanding.  Look us up.  Ask around.  You’ll see. But besides being damn good at what we do, we also try to be just plain “good”.  And sometimes folks notice and we end up getting awards for it.  Like the one in these recent photos:

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Call us old-fashioned, but we still see the practice of law as a service, not just a money-making machine.  We treat each client as a human being, whether their case is large or small, whether we stand to make lots, or little, or no money at all representing them.  I mean this when I say it – it is NOT about the money.  It is about helping people.  I won’t lie – we make a good living at this.  But the money not only allows us to live comfortably and bring up our families in financial security, it also allows us to give more back to our communities.

Helping our injured clients is not enough.  There are many people of limited means who need legal help for reasons other than having suffered injuries.  That’s why a couple of times a month, at prearranged times, our lawyers sit at Auburn’s public library for two-hour stretches to give completely free legal advice to any stranger who shows up.  It’s called the “Volunteer Lawyers Project”.  The program is well publicized in Cayuga County, where our main office sits, so we get plenty of takers.  If we can’t help the folks who walk in to see us because their problem is not in our wheel house, we figure out how to get them to cheap or free legal help elsewhere.  If we can help them, we do.

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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