January 1997

Vol.1 – No.6

A comprehensive list of other free access sites can be found at Medline.

The Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) text and regulations promulgated by the Health Care Financing Administration are provided by the Marquette, Michigan law firm of Andrews, Fosmire, Solka & Stenton.

What’s New in Consumer Law?

Penalties for consumer frauds against the elderly. Recent studies indicate that the elderly are the most frequent targets of consumer fraud, such as credit discrimination, home improvement rip-offs and telemarketing high pressure tactics. The fact that senior citizens often suffer from one or more chronic health problems may make them more susceptible to consumer fraud. In addition, the impact of consumer fraud is magnified when aimed at senior citizens living on fixed incomes with tight budgets. New York courts may now impose a $10,000.00 supplemental civil penalty upon any defendant found to have perpetrated a consumer fraud on a person 65 years of age or older. These penalties will be deposited in an “elderly victim fund” which will be used by the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute consumer frauds against elderly persons. In determining the amount of the civil penalty, the court must consider appropriate factors such as: (1) Whether the fraud was knowingly directed at an elderly person; (2) Whether the fraud was in willful disregard of the rights of an elderly person; (3) Whether the fraud caused a loss or encumbrance of a primary residence, principal employment or source of income; (4) Substantial loss of property set aside for retirement or personal and family care and maintenance; (5) Substantial loss of payments received under a pension or retirement plan; (6) Loss of assets essential to the health or welfare of the elderly person; or (7) Whether the elderly person is more vulnerable to the defendant’s conduct because of one or more physical or mental conditions.

What’s New in Debtor/Creditor Law?

New fees for garnishing wages of soldiers and civilian defense workers. The Defense Department has instituted an administrative fee of $75.00 per garnishment order. Some states, such as Ohio, require creditors to file new garnishment orders every month in order to continue deducting from wages. Minnesota requires garnishment orders to be renewed every six months. The fee will have to be paid each time the garnishment is renewed. Although the creditor has a right to add this fee to the amount of the debt, the Defense Department will not increase the amount it deducts from the soldier’s pay to cover the fee. For further information on wage garnishments, see The Upstart Small Business Legal Guide.

What’s New in Divorce/Family Law?

Grandparents cannot obtain visitation. Grandparents are not entitled to “visitation” with grandchildren who are living in an intact family. The parents who are not divorced or separated, but had a family dispute with the grandparents, can refuse to let them see the children (Connecticut Supreme Court).

What’s New in Estate Planning Law?

Terminally ill may sell life insurance tax-free. Terminally ill patients can now sell their life insurance policies for an immediate tax-free cash payment. Under viatica settlements, patients with a serious illness may sell their life insurance policies to a private company for 60 to 80 percent of the value of the policy. The patient must either be expected to die within two years or have a chronic illness and spend the money from the settlement on medical care for the illness. The company must be licensed by a state insurance board or meet minimum standards set by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

What’s New in Health Law?

Doctor award $2.2 million against his malpractice insurance company for unauthorized settlement. A family practitioner was sued for failing to detect cancer in a woman which ultimately lead to her death. The doctor had wanted a jury trial to fight the malpractice claim. Although the insurance contract stipulated that the company would not settle a claim without his permission, it settled the claim for $140,000.00. The doctor sued the insurance carrier because the settlement damaged his reputation and income and shortened his career. A Kentucky jury awarded him $2.2 million.

What’s New in Landlord/Tenant Law?

Landlord must maintain “open and obvious” dangers. A tenant who slipped on a puddle of water in the lobby can sue the landlord for negligence even though the danger was “open and obvious”. The landlord had a duty to maintain the lobby in a safe condition, such as by placing mats on the floor. The court found that reasonable minds could conclude that a landlord should foresee that a tenant would slip on a tile floor that is covered with water from snow tracked in from the outdoors (Michigan Court of Appeals). For further information see “How to Survive Legally as a Landlord”: Civil Liability.

What’s New in Personal Injury Law?

Workers comp carrier cannot be sued for “bad faith” even though it exacerbated an employee’s injuries by delaying authorization of medical treatment. Workers comp excludes benefits for pain and suffering and for a loss of consortium (Georgia Supreme Court). A worker who had a heart attack during a lunchtime volleyball game is covered by workers comp. On-premises recreational activities conducted during the workday arise out of the employment (New Hampshire Supreme Court).

New York firefighters and police can sue for negligence. New York has partially abolished the Firefighters Rule (see Volume 1, Number 5) which completely bars firefighters and police officers from recovering damages for injuries caused by negligence in the very situations that create the occasion for their services. They can now recover such damages from persons other than their employers and co-employees. Previously, the could only recover damages for line-of-duty injuries and deaths which resulted from a violation of a statute or ordinance.

What’s New in Small Business Law?

SIMPLE – The IRS has issued a model form for the new type of pension plan known as Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE), as discussed in Volume 1, Number 3. These plans can be used by employers with fewer than 100 employees in order to avoid the complicated rules for 401(k)s. Form 5305-SIMPLE can be obtained from the IRS’ Internet home page (http://www.irs.ustreas.gov).

Insurance covers sexual harassment. Insurance companies are required to defend businesses for sexual harassment under a general liability policy (California Court of Appeals) and the employers liability portion of the workers’ compensation policy (New Jersey Appellate Division).

New health plan. A medical savings account allows employers with fewer that 50 employees or the self-employed to replace traditional health insurance with tax-free savings accounts which can be used to pay most medical expenses. The savings accounts are supplemented with catastrophic coverage insurance that pays any expenses over a few thousand dollars per year.

Injured Victims’ Rights

The Friedman & Ranzenhofer, P.C. Ten Point Pledge to Accident/Injury Clients is:

  • To communicate with you in plain language that is easy to understand.
  • To promptly return your telephone calls.
  • To quickly and thoroughly investigate and analyze your case. Friedman & Ranzenhofer, P.C. does not accept every accident case.
  • To have your case personally handled by an attorney.
  • To keep you informed of the progress of your case at all times.
  • To show you the personal care, concern and attention which has been the hallmark of our law firm since 1955.
  • To not handle your case in an “assembly line” fashion.
  • To accommodate the needs of you and your family during the handling of your case.
  • To vigorously protect your legal rights.
  • To never release your name to the media after your case has been completed, except with your written permission.

Attorney Michael H. Ranzenhofer limits his practice to automobile accident, slip and fall, dog bite and defective product cases. He is a member of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the New York Trial Lawyers Association, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association and the Erie County Bar Association Negligence Committee.

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