September 1996

Vol.1 – No.2

The American Bar Association (www.abanet.org/lawlink) has legal research study points including federal, state and local government and court sites, legal association home pages, and international Internet sites.

The Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute (www.law.cornell.edu) offers the full text of all U.S. Supreme Court decisions from 1990, the full text of selected historic cases from 1947, decision of the New York Court of Appeals since 1992, and the United States Code.

Emory University School of Law’s web site (www.law.emory.edu) has links enabling users to access opinions rendered by each of the federal circuit courts and also has the text of historic documents such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

What’s New in Consumer Law?

Personal injury plaintiffs lose Medicaid without a Supplemental Needs Trust. To prevent losing Medicaid benefits, personal injury plaintiffs should make sure that their attorneys arrange to have their settlement or award placed into a Supplemental Needs Trust. This trust permits totally disabled accident victims to use their recovery to supplement their Medicaid or other government benefits, rather than use it on basic needs in order to become eligible for benefits.

What’s New in Debtor/Creditor Law?

Lawyer must review every debtor collection letter. A lawyer who mailed collection letters without individually reviewing the files first, must pay over $104,000.00 in damages in a class action under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ruled the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit. The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from making “a false representation or implication that any individual is an attorney or that any communication is from an attorney”. The court ruled that the attorney’s noninvolvement violated the act because it was as though the letter had not come from an attorney at all.

What’s New in Divorce/Family Law?

Do divorce settlements include early retirement bonuses? As more and more companies downsize, early retirement bonuses, severance payments and enhanced benefits need to be included in divorce settlements. The courts are divided on this issue. A divorce settlement which awarded a share of the husband’s retirement to the wife does not include an $83,000.00 voluntary separation incentive the husband later received for electing early retirement ruled the California Court of Appeals. The court reasoned that the payment did not accrue during the marriage. However, the Texas Court of Appeals ruled that a wife who was awarded a share of her husband’s retirement pay at divorce was entitled to an $87,000.00 bonus he accepted three years later for early retirement from the Air Force. The court reasoned that the bonus should be considered “retirement pay” since the husband accepted it in lieu of working more years and accumulating additional retirement benefits. Courts in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana and Oklahoma have issued similar decisions.

What’s New in Landlord/Tenant Law?

Landlord can’t discriminate against unmarried couples. A landlord’s refusal to rent to an unmarried couple because the landlord was opposed to premarital sex, violated a state statute prohibiting housing discrimination based on “marital status”, according to the California Supreme Court. The landlord claimed that being forced to rent to an unmarried couple violated her freedom of religion under the First Amendment. The Alaska Supreme Court issued a similar ruling in 1994. (HTSLL: “Unlawful Restrictions on Occupancy” Page 59) request “The Rights of Owners and Tenants”)

What’s New in Small Business Law?

“S” Corporations to be more attractive. Effective January 1, 1997, “S” Corporations will be more attractive to small businesses because they will be able to borrow more easily from banks and other financial institutions, they will be allowed to have subsidiaries, the maximum number of shareholders will increase from 35 to 75 and it will be easier for trusts to hold stock in “S” Corporations.

LLCs are simplified. Vermont recently became the 49th state to enact a limited liability company (LLC) law. Hawaii, the only state not having a LLC law, has a bill pending. New IRS regulations, which will go into effect this fall, at the earliest, allow a small business that has not incorporated (sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies and limited liability partnerships) to choose whether it will be taxed as a corporation or partnership simply by checking a box on a form. The only companies that will not be able to check a box will be publicly traded companies. Companies that are formed under a state incorporation law and certain foreign-owned companies. The new regulations will also allow one-member LLCs.

Under the current tax code, a business must be classified as a corporation if it meets three of the following criteria: limited liability, centralized management, continuity of life and free transferability of membership interest. The new regulations will allow LLCs to drop burdensome provisions from their operating agreements which had been used to meet the tax code requirements. See Legal Survival FAQs: “Limited Liability Companies are In and Corporations and Partnerships are Out”.

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 Western New York Trial Lawyers Association, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association and the Erie County Bar Association Negligence Committee.

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