Fall 2001

Vol.6 – No.2

What’s New at Legalsurvival.com?

Buffalo Law Journal, in an article entitled “Linked to Greatness”, cites Legalsurvival.com as “a respected source for free legal services.” Among these services are:

  • New state-of-the-art online bookstore
  • New Question and Answer Forum
  • New Helpful Links
  • Sample chapters of “How to Survive Legally as a Landlord”

Landlord’s Seminar

“How to Survive Legally as a Landlord” will be presented by attorney/author Robert Friedman from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 7, 2002 and Tuesday, April 16, 2002 at the Clarence Middle School, Room 103, 10150 Grenier Road, Clarence. Mr. Friedman will discuss evictions, leases, Small Claims Court, discrimination laws, civil liability, insurance, security deposits, elderly tenants, drugs, debt collection, and lead pain regulations. There is a registration and book fee. To register, call Clarence Community Education at (716) 759-8331.

What’s New in Consumer Law?

Name can legally be changed to “Santa Claus”. A Utah man, who used the name Santa Claus for years, and closely resembles him, sought to have his name legally changed. A Utah trial court denied his request, ruling that it could create confusion or deter people who might want to sue him. However, the Utah Supreme Court reversed the trial court, finding that the man had no fraudulent interest and holding that his “proposed name may be thought by some to be unwise… However (he) has a right to select a name by which he is known.”

What’s New in Divorce/Family Law?

Father cannot be denied custody solely because of age. A Vermont Family Court considered several issues in deciding which parent should receive custody of their five-year old son, but ruled that the father’s age was the deciding factor. The father was 59 and the mother was 47. However, the Vermont Supreme Court found that this was improper because the family court made no finding to support it’s assertion that the father probably could not maintain the physical or emotional stamina necessary to raise a child. No evidence was presented that the father’s age would affect his ability to meet the child’s future developmental needs.

What’s New in Estate Planning?

Surviving spouse can roll over IRA tax-free. An IRA passed through the husband’s estate because he never designated a beneficiary. His wife, as sole beneficiary and administrator of the estate, can roll over IRA benefits payable to his estate into her own account tax-free. Generally, when the assets in an IRA pass to a surviving spouse through a third party, such as an estate, the IRS treats the transaction as if the spouse had received the assets from a third party and taxes the “roll over”. However, the rule did not apply here because the wife had total control over the estate.

What’s New in Health Law?

Hospital and drug maker liable for “false positive” cancer test. A twenty-two year old woman underwent a hysterectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatment after being falsely diagnosed with cancer. When she suffered from unexplained bleeding, she thought she had a miscarriage and sought treatment at the hospital. She was given the Abbott pregnancy test which showed she had an elevated level of the hormone hCG. This indicated that she was either pregnant or in the early stages of a rare form of cancer that starts in the reproductive system. After determining that she was not pregnant, doctors treated her with intensive chemotherapy which failed to reduce her hormone level. She then had a hysterectomy, more chemotherapy and underwent surgery to remove a portion of her lung to see if it had been affected.

What’s New in Insurance Law?

“Illegal acts” exclusion is void. A homeowner’s insurance policy exclusion that did not cover injuries caused by “illegal acts” is unenforceable. A teenager, who was playing with a handgun, accidentally shot his friend. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in juvenile court. The friend’s family sued the teenager and his parents for wrongful death. The parents’ homeowner’s policy covered injuries resulting from “accidents” but excluded injuries arising out of “illegal acts”. The insurer argued that the exclusion covered any criminal act, including the teenager’s killing of his friend. Because thei nsurer chose not to have a criminal act exclusion, instead opting for an illegal act exclusion, the California Supreme Court ruled it could not read into the policy what had been omitted. Further, because the phrase “illegal act” was undefined and ambiguous, the court said that the exclusion was unenforceable.

What’s New in Landlord/Tenant Law?

Landlords can’t ban satellite dishes. Landlords and condominium associations cannot prevent tenants from installing satellite dishes. The U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit upheld a Federal Communications Commission rule that leases, zoning ordinances and condominium assocations cannot restrict a tenant’s right to install dishes, antennas and other telecommunications devices. The original rule, which applied only to viewers with an “ownership interest” in the property, was expanded in 1998 to include renters. The FCC has interpreted the rule to permit the imposition of “reasonable” limits.

What’s New in Municipal Law?

Police officers and social workers can be sued. A police officer, who failed to impound an unlicensed driver’s car despite a state statute requiring him to do so, can be sued for negligence if the driver later hit someone (Alabama Supreme Court). When a police officer pulled a speeding driver over into a highway’s center median, and both passengers were injured when a truck veered onto the median and hit the car, they can sue the state (California Supreme Court). A social worker who failed to monitor the drug regimen of a psychiatric patient who later killed someone can be sued for negligence (Minnesota Court of Appeals). The defendants in the Alabama and Minnesota cases were not entitled to governmental immunity because their actions were not “discretionary”.

What’s New in Real Estate Law?

Homeowners sue over “synthetic stucco”. Builders and manufacturers have been sued for property damage caused by synthetic stucco. Two verdicts for over $1 million have been awarded in Virginia. Homeowners noticed water damage to their ceilings, bulging or deteriorating materials, or other signs of problems such as termite infestation and toxic mold. Builders are being sued for not applying the product correctly, breach of contract, fraud, and violating state protection statutes. Synthetic stucco, also knows as “Exterior Insulation and Finish System” (EIFS), was first used in the early 1990’s as a substitute for traditional masonry such as stone, brick and stucco. EIFS typically consists of a layer of styrofoam nailed or glued to the exterior plywood of a home and a layer of fiberglass mesh covered with a base coat topped with a finish coat of faux stucco.

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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