Summer 2005 Edition

Vol.10 – No.1

Ranzenhofer’s Verdicts and Settlements

Veteran trial attorney, Michael H. Ranzenhofer, won the following personal injury verdicts and settlements during the second quarter of 2005: In a premises liability case against Flying J Travel Plaza in Pembroke, New York, a 50-year-old North Carolina truck driver won $199,139.67 from the truck stop. As she was walking toward the truck stop restaurant, the sidewalk was blocked by a snow bank, forcing her to proceed along an icy and snow covered foot path, which lead her to an icy grate where she fell and fractured her knee. Her award was reduced by 40 percent after the court balanced the relative culpability of the parties (April, 2005)… A 52-year-old school administrator was awarded $200,000 against State Farm Insurance Company by a three-member arbitration panel for serious leg and elbow injuries he sustained. He was crossing Oak Street in Buffalo, as a pedestrian, when he was struck by a car driven by an 80-year-old Depew man. After the split panel (2 to 1) awarded $200,000, they found the school administrator 80 percent responsible for the accident, which reduced the award to $40,000 (May, 2005)… One Beacon Insurance Company was ordered to pay $25,500 to a 56-year-old Amherst woman for neck and back injuries she sustained in a two-car collision on Main Street in Williamsville… A 29-year-old Genesee County nursery school teacher received $25,000 from State Farm Insurance Company for a knee injury she sustained in a two-car accident (April, 2005)… A 66-year-old Cheektowaga man received $18,000 from Nationwide Insurance Company for a rib injury that he sustained in a two-car accident in Canada (April, 2005)… A 48-year-old factory worker received $29,500 from New York Central Mutual Insurance Company for knee injuries she sustained in a two-car accident on High Street in Buffalo, New York. The settlement was reached during jury selection in Supreme Court (June, 2005)… A 32-year-old Genesee County factory worker accepted $50,000 from Allstate Insurance Company for back injuries he sustained in a two-car accident when the other driver turned in front of him.

Attorney Michael H. Ranzenhofer of Friedman & Ranzenhofer, P.C. 716-542-5444 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, New York Trial Lawyers Association, New York State Trial Lawyers Association and Erie County Bar Association Negligence Committee.

Tenant May Have “Emotional Assistance” Pet

A woman who suffers from bipolar disorder won a $314,000 verdict against a Michigan housing complex when they refused to let her keep her emotional assistance service dog in her apartment. She signed a lease in May 2000 that included a no-pet clause. Six months later, after consultations with her doctors, she asked the landlord for a waiver because she felt she would benefit from having a small “emotional assistance service” animal. Included with her request were letters from both her psychologist and psychiatrist explaining that a dog would help ameliorate her severe bouts of depression. She left the complex in January 2001 and moved into another apartment so that she could have a dog. She filed a discrimination complaint against the complex with the U.S. Department of HUD complaining that it violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to make an accommodation for her for an emotional assistance dog. Although housing complexes routinely waive no-pet rules so that deaf or blind tenants can have assistance dogs, they have been slow to do the same for tenants suffering from mental illness (US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan). A condominium association that banned dogs discriminated against a severely depressed couple by refusing to allow them to have a companion dog as a reasonable accommodation (California Court of Appeal, 3rd District). For further information regarding animal law, send a stamped (.60) 4″ x 9½” self-addressed envelope to P.O. Box 31, Akron, New York 14001 with a request for “Special Animal Law Issue”.

Verdicts for Sports and Recreation Accidents

  • $2,600,000 – A teen who was left in a vegetative state after being struck by lightning during a baseball game sued the school board and umpires for failing to call the game at the gathering storm (Essex County, New Jersey, Superior Court).
  • $1,400,000 – Estate of a mother and daughter who drowned after the current toppled their canoe blamed the rental company, which argued that the river was safe for a woman and a small child (Berks County, Pennsylvania, Ct. C.P.).
  • $1,185,000 – A golfer sued a public course after a wayward ball went over a 12-foot-high safety fence and hit him in the left eye, causing permanent vision loss (San Diego County, California, Supreme Court).
  • $700,000 -The estate of a young woman who fell to her death while rock climbing blamed the portable wall company for using an old, rusty cable to harness people in (Boone County, Missouri, Circuit Court).
  • $675,000 – A man who was hit in the eye during a paintball game sued the church for hosting the event and providing inadequate safety goggles (Cook County, Illinois, Circuit Court).
  • $400,000 – Daycare workers were sued after a preschooler sustained a brain injury when her neck became entangled in a jump rope while going down a slide (Contra Costa County, California, Superior Court).
  • $185,000 – A football fan whose retina detached after a cheerleader hit him in the eye with a plastic football blamed the school for allowing the unsafe practice (Putnam County, Florida, Circuit Court).

Military Servicemember’s Rights

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) replaced the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA). The purpose of the law is to provide for the temporary suspension of judicial and administrative proceedings and transactions that may adversely affect the civil rights of service members during their military service which include the following protections:

  1. PROTECTIONS AGAINST DEFAULT
    In a civil action or proceeding and in Surrogate Court proceedings, in which the defendant or beneficiary has not made an appearance, and he or she is in the military, the court may not enter a judgment until after the court appoints a guardian ad litem to represent him or her. The court may grant a stay for at least 90 days. If the period of the stay has elapsed, the service member can request an additional stay. If the court refuses to grant a stay, it must appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the service member.
  2. THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
    is tolled in actions or proceeding in any federal or state court or agency.
  3. INTEREST CAP
    For any ‘pre-service” loan made prior to mobilization for active duty and the service member’s military pay has affected his or her ability to pay the loan, any interest in excess of 6% is forgiven.
  4. EVICTIONS
    Without a court order, a service member or dependents cannot be evicted when the monthly rent is less than $2,465. The court is granted latitude to grant a stay of 90 days, unless in the court’s opinion justice and equity require a longer or shorter period of time. The automatic stay provisions set forth in number one (1) generally do not apply to evictions.
  5. INSTALLMENT CONTRACTS
    If a service member enters into an installment contract for real or personal property prior to active military service, the contract cannot be terminated nor can the property be repossessed for breach of contract without a court order.
  6. MORTGAGE FORECLOSURES
    A bank cannot foreclose on a mortgage originated before active military service without a court order. The court has the power to stay the proceedings for a period of time as justice and equity require or adjust the obligation to preserve interests of all parties.
  7. TERMINATION OF REAL ESTATE LEASES
    The SCRA covers leases for the service member or his or her dependents for residential, professional, business, agricultural or similar purposes. If the lease was contracted pre-service, it can be terminated. If the lease was entered into during military service, a member can also terminate it if he or she receives orders for a permanent change of station or is deployed for a period of ninety (90) days or more. For residential leases, the service member may give written notice (by personal delivery, private carrier or mail with return receipt) and a copy of military orders to the landlord. The service member will then owe the next thirty (30) days payment and the lease is deemed cancelled.

There are also provisions for termination of automobile leases and reemployment.

What Clients Like About Friedman & Ranzenhofer, P.C.

“I miss many things about New York and your style of professionalism is one of them.” (June 9, 2005)… “Easy to converse with” (May 6, 2005)… “We were very appreciative of your office’s quick response to our needs to provide our son with a will and power of attorney at a cost and within a time-frame that was manageable for him.” (May 9, 2005)… “Very courteous staff and easy to contact” (June 7, 2005)… “I felt comfortable at our initial meeting. Your firm cares and is not out for a buck.” (June 8, 2005)… “We have always had bad service from attorneys until we came to your office. Elizabeth DiPirro was great and very professional. Thank you very much.” (June 9, 2005)… “Mrs. DiPirro was extremely helpful” (May 20, 2005).

We are often asked if we have time to serve additional clients. We appreciate your business, and we would also appreciate your referrals. We are a growing firm, so new clients are welcome. Referrals from clients are an invaluable source of new business. Please mention our name to your friends, relatives and business associates for estate planning, real estate, personal injury, probate, criminal, traffic, marital, family, bankruptcy, business, municipal, corporate, debt collection, landlord/tenant and elder law matters.

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