Summer 2000

Vol.5 – No.1

Friedman & Ranzenhofer, P.C. Marks 45th Anniversary

Friedman & Ranzenhofer, P.C., founded in Akron by Fred Friedman on July 14, 1955, has grown to four attorneys working in five offices throughout New York. Although the firm has embraced the latest technology, it still provides small town service. The firm guarantees cost effective services delivered in a timely manner. The firm’s web site, which was established in 1996, was one of the first law firm web sites on the Internet. Offices are located in Akron, Batavia, Buffalo, Clarence/Williamsville, and West Seneca. Attorneys Michael H. Ranzenhofer, Robert Friedman, Elizabeth DiPirro, and Fred Friedman handle a wide variety of legal matters. As family attorneys, they handle personal injury, estate planning/elder law, real estate, probate and estate administration, criminal/traffic, marital and family law, and bankruptcy. As business attorneys, they provide corporate and business advice, debt collection and representation regarding commercial and investment real estate.

Landlord 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 Tuesday, February 6, 2001 at Clarence Middle School, 10150 Greiner Road, Clarence, New York. Mr. Friedman will discuss evictions, leases, Small Claims Court, discrimination laws, civil liability, insurance, security deposits, elderly tenants, drug, debt collection and lead paint regulations. There is a registration and book fee. To register, call (716) 759-8331.

What’s New in Consumer Law?

Used car dealer must pay $342,385 for selling a rebuilt wreck. A used car dealer sold the Plaintiff a 1984 GMC Jimmy telling her that it was “in perfect condition, never wrecked and a one-owner trade-in”. Actually, the vehicle had been totaled and rebuilt, had several previous owners and had a lurking engine and other problems. Immediately after purchasing the truck, the Plaintiff began having problems starting it. Three days later, the fuel pump had to be replaced and a cylinder gasket blew one week later. The U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, upheld $210,000 in punitive damages, $125,000 in attorneys fees and $7,835 in compensatory damages.

What’s New in Real Estate Law?

Real estate agents do not have to disclose sex offenders. Home buyers sued their real estate agents for failing to inform them that a convicted child molester lived across the street from their new home. The agents claimed that they did not know a sex offender lived in the neighborhood at the time of the sale. The buyers argued that this information should have been disclosed because the presence of a sex offender influences the value of their property. However, the New York court ruled that even if the real estate agents did know, they were not obligated to disclose information regarding neighbors. State law requires brokers and homeowners to tell prospective buyers only about known physical defects.

What’s New in Tax Law?

Tax relief for “innocent spouses”. Innocent spouses can get “equitable relief” from the IRS where their spouse failed to pay taxes if: (1) a joint return was filed; (2) no other type of relief was available; (3) the tax is still unpaid at the time relief is requested; (4) he or she is not part of a fraudulent scheme to transfer assets; and (5) the request is made no later than two years after the first collection activity. Relief will be granted if the taxpayer did not know or have reason to know the tax had not been paid and paying the tax would cause “economic hardship”.

What’s New in Personal Injury Law?

Psychological injury is covered by auto insurance. A driver who was hit by a rental car claimed that the accident caused him “serious” injuries, including a lower back sprain, right ankle sprain and various psychological injuries. The rental company argued that psychological problems cannot be deemed “serious” because psychologists cannot make medical determinations. However, the New York court determined that “an emotional or psychological injury can be a basis for the finding of a ‘serious injury’ under the no-fault statute…A determination by a qualified psychologist, in an action resulting from an automobile accident, that an individual has been emotionally disabled for the statutory minimum time, should be admissible evidence of a ‘serious injury'”.

What’s New in Small Business Law?

U.S. Supreme Court holds that the ADA does not cover those with correctable impairments. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits brought by a Kansas truck mechanic who was fired for severe hypertension; an Oregon truck driver who was fired because he sees in only one eye and two female pilots who were rejected because they need glasses. In all three cases, the court ruled that the employees had no disability. Because the mechanic’s high blood pressure can be controlled by medication, he is not “substantially limited in any major life activity”. Although he could not function without medication, “Congress did not intend to bring under the statute’s protection all those whose uncorrected conditions amount to disabilities”. The truck driver was not qualified for his job and, therefore, not protected by the ADA—because he failed to meet the minimum Department of Transportation Vision Standards.

What’s New in DWI/Traffic Law?

Police may take drunk driver’s blood despite fear of needles. A police officer gave a drunk driver a blood test, even though he objected because of his fear of needles and contracting HIV. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that the test results cannot be suppressed because his objection was “unreasonable”. A police officer is not required to consider a lawfully arrested suspect’s request for an alternative test. Absent a reasonable objection, the officer has the authority to use a reasonable procedure in drawing blood. The court ruled that “As a practicable matter, the driver provides no objective basis for fearing that he could contract HIV while having his blood drawn…He does not dispute that his blood was drawn in a hospital under medically accepted standards.

What’s New in Debtor/Creditor Law?

Debtor must pay reasonable legal fees of 15 percent. Plaintiff sued Defendants for goods sold and delivered and counsel fees based on a personal guarantee. The Plaintiff’s attorney was successful in obtaining the full amount owed. The court conducted a hearing on attorney’s fees. The Plaintiff contended that the Defendants owed reasonable fees of $34,487, which was 15 percent of the amount owed to the Plaintiff. The Defendants claimed that this amount was unreasonable in light of the limited legal work performed, which consisted of correspondence, a complaint and a motion. The New York Supreme Court, Suffolk County, ruled for the Plaintiff, noting the success of it’s attorney and that the agreement was freely entered into between businessmen.

What’s New in Health Law?

Father not liable for daughter’s abortion. A hospital sought to recover medical fees for an abortion performed on a 20-year-old woman by naming her father as co-Defendant. The woman alone had requested the medical services and guaranteed to pay for them. The Bronx New York Civil Court ruled that only the daughter was liable for the fees because the Family Court Act does not impose an absolute duty on a parent to provide for medical expenses of a child under the age of 21. In order for the parent to be liable, the services must have been medically necessary, not optional or elective in nature.

What’s New in Divorce/Family Law?

Wife entitled to interim attorney’s fees. A party to a divorce who has finite assets and a small income is not required to spend down a substantial portion of those assets in order to qualify for an award of interim attorney’s fees where her spouse appears to have much more extensive assets and income, with an ability to conduct legal battles over any contested issue. This holds especially true if, in addition, there are indications that the spouse with the financial clout, may intend to assert his will over such issues as the children’s care and custody, prepared to take unilateral action and to conduct a legal battle if his wife disagrees. Given the large discrepancy in the parties’ respective incomes and assets at their disposal, as well as the nature of the issues in dispute, concerning child support and custody, the New York Appellate Division, First Department, concluded that it was an improvident exercise of discretion to deny the wife’s application for an award of interim counsel fees on the ground that she is financially able to meet the cost herself.

What’s New in Landlord/Tenant Law?

College may deny housing to gay couples. A college of medicine may deny gay couples housing that is provided for married students without violating New York State’s anti-discrimination laws. Two students sought university apartments, which rent at below market levels, for themselves and their partners. Both couples had registered with the City Clerk as domestic partners. The medical school, however, denied both couples apartments because they were unmarried. The New York Appellate Division, First Department, determined that the New York statute that confers rights to roommates did not apply to students because it only protects a “primary residence”. The court also found no violation of the prohibition on sexual orientation discrimination in the New York City Human Rights Law because there was no showing of a disparate impact on homosexuals.

What’s New in Estate Planning/Elder Law?

Trust funds must be used to repay Social Services. The Commissioner of Social Services sued to recover Medicaid funds expended for home care and institutional care for the wife of the Defendant over a six-year period. The Defendant transferred assets to an irrevocable trust three years prior to the application for Medicaid benefits. The trust agreement provided that the trustees were empowered to make distributions to the grantor, from income and principal, as the trustees deemed necessary to support the grantor’s standard of living. The New York Supreme Court, Tompkins County, concluded that the entire corpus of the trust was available to the Defendant for the benefit of his wife and that the Defendant was bound by the statutory implied contract of Social Services Law to provide necessary care and assistance to his spouse.

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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