Spring 2001

Vol.5 – No.4

What’s New at Legalsurvival.com?

Legalsurvival.com marks its 5th Anniversary as one of the most popular legal websites. Legalsurvival.com, founded in April of 1996, has received high rankings from such top search engines as MSN, DirectHit, Google, About, Yahoo, HotBot, Lycos, iWON, AOL, Infoseek, and Excite. Site traffic grew to 3 million hits during the month of April, 2001. The Internet took only 5 years to reach 50 million customers, radio 38 years, TV 13 years, and cable TV 10 years.

Verdicts and Settlements At A Glance

Experienced trial attorney, Michael H. Ranzenhofer, obtained over one million dollars in successful personal injury awards and settlements over the past twelve months. Mr. Ranzenhofer recently settled a case in Rochester for $467,500 for a 38-year-old woman who was rear-ended by a pick-up truck; $59,000 for a Batavia electrical worker who broke his jaw in a work-related accident; $40,000 for a Buffalo man who was rear-ended at an intersection; $18,000 for a 14-year-old Niagara Falls student who was punched in the nose; $15,000 for an East Aurora man who was rear-ended while driving to work; $30,000 for a Pembroke man who was a passenger and sustained psychological injuries when a U-Haul truck caught fire; $15,000 for an Akron man who was singed in the same U-Haul truck engine fire; $15,000 for an Amherst boy who broke his arm in the sliding door of a van; $30,000 for an Indiana woman who was hit by a car while crossing Elmwood Avenue; $17,500 for a Tonawanda boy who slipped on ice at a Cheektowaga skating rink; $55,000 for a Williamsville woman bitten by a dog; $50,000 for a Batavia boy bitten by a dog; $30,000 for a Buffalo man bitten by a dog; $100,000 for an Amherst man who sustained a back injury in a car accident; $40,000 for a Sanborn woman involved in a car accident; $35,000 for an Amherst woman who bruised her leg in a car accident; and $25,000 for a Gowanda man injured in an automobile accident.

What’s New in Divorce/Family Law?

Mother may relocate if father has Internet “visits”. The mother, a freelance web designer, planned to move from New Jersey to California to accept a permanent job position. She had custody and proposed a visitation schedule giving the father the same total number of days with their daughter that he currently had clustered around school vacations. She also proposed setting up a website and video camera so that the child could visit daily with her father over the Internet. The father argued that the move would hurt his relationship with his daughter and therefore was not in her best interest.

What’s New in DWI/Traffic Law?

“Attempted drunk driving” is not a crime. A drunk man who sat in a truck with the keys in the ignition but was not able to start it, cannot be charged with “attempted drunk driving”. The defendant was found sitting in someone else’s truck. He claimed that he planned to use the truck to pull his own car out of the ditch but could not get it started. The New York Court of Appeals ruled that “by charging the defendant with attempted drunk driving, the (state is) asking the courts to create an offense not contemplated by the detailed statutory scheme… The… law certainly does not provide for … (punishment)… Surely, if the legislature had contemplated a separate crime of attempted drunk driving, it would have provided penalties for (this) offense as well.” (New York Court of Appeals)

What’s New in E-Commerce Law?

Web site enjoined from falsely charging credit cards. The Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General sued pornography web sites that offered “free tours” of parts of their web sites. The plaintiff contended that the defendants violated Federal and State law by falsely representing that the credit cards would not be billed, failing to disclose material information and then charging credit cards and debit cards without authorization. The court granted plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction. (U.S. District Court, Southern District New York)

What’s New in Health Law?

Medicare fraud tipster awarded $25 million. A former health-care executive who gave the government information about unlawful billing and fraud will receive almost $24.96 million from the U.S. Government. The money comes out of $745 million in civil penalties and damages that a hospital chain agreed to pay in settlement of claims that it committed Medicare fraud in its diagnostic coding and home health-care practices. The former executive vice president is a whistleblower or “relator” under the federal False Claims Act. Relators can be paid 15% to 25% of the government’s recovery. The whistleblower’s employer was under contract to the hospital chain to manage its home care business. He claimed his employer was involved with the hospital in a massive scheme to defraud Medicare. The hospital bought home care agencies by structuring deals to buy them in such a way as to write-off large portions of the purchase price as management fees, which are reimbursable under Medicare.

What’s New in Insurance Law?

Fire insurance policy exclusion is unenforceable. A fire insurance policy which applied an exclusion for intentional fires set by “an insured” to an innocent family member is unenforceable. The plaintiff’s teenage son intentionally set fire to their home. The insurer denied coverage noting that the policy excluded coverage for intentional acts caused by “an insured”, which was defined as “you and, if residents of your household, your relatives”. Under state law, insurers need not cover losses caused by “any means within the control or knowledge of the insured.” The New York Court of Appeals ruled that the “an insured” language violated the statue’s requirement that all fire policies offer a certain level of coverage. “(T)o the extent that the… exclusion (here) creates joint liability and bars coverage to the plaintiff, an innocent insured not implicated in her son’s incendiary act, the exclusion provision is unenforceable.”

What’s New in Labor/Employment Law?

Dating a co-worker is not a “recreational activity”. An employee sued his employer for passing him over for a promotion and then firing him because he was romantically involved with a co-worker. The employee alleged that the employer did not have an anti-fraternization policy. The employer filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that romantically dating a co-worker is not a protected “legal recreational activity” under the Labor Law. The New York District Court granted the motion to dismiss which was affirmed by the New York Appellate Division, Third Department.

What’s New in Landlord/Tenant Law?

Eviction petition sufficiently alleges drug sales. Tenants were served with a notice of termination for using or permitting the apartment to be used for immoral or illegal purposes and for illegal trade or business, to wit: “the sale, storage, packaging or manufacturing of a controlled substance”. The notice contained a seven-point list of facts surrounding the arrest of the tenants inside the premises where they were found to be in possession of marijuana. The tenants claimed that the eviction proceeding must be dismissed because the notice failed to lay-out the underpinnings of the illegal conduct complained of, rendering the notice vague, conclusory and defective.

What’s New in Personal Injury Law?

Independent contractor sued for slip and fall. A man who slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk outside of a bank can sue the independent contractor that the bank hired to keep the sidewalks clear. The court found that if a person contracts to provide services that “he should recognize a necessity for the protection of a third person”, he can be sued for failing to exercise reasonable care. The defendant “contracted to perform ice and snow removal services for the bank, which had a nondelegable duty to keep its premises safe. Ice and snow removal is a type of service that is undertaken in contemplation of protecting third persons, and injuries resulting from a slip and fall are foreseeable…” (Connecticut Supreme Court)

What’s New in Real Estate Law?

Adverse possession requires a “claim of right”. Plaintiffs purchased a bungalow and commenced an ejectment action against the defendants. The defendants counterclaimed, claiming ownership by adverse possession. Although the defendants knew the property was owned by another person, they lived there for nearly twenty years, made improvements and installed an artist’s studio. They did not pay the real estate taxes or gas bills, but rather gave them to friends to deliver to the actual owner. The New York Appellate Division, First Department held that the defendants did not have adverse possession but were mere squatters because they were neither sufficiently adverse nor occupied the premises under the requisite “claim of right”.

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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