Winter 2004 Edition

Vol.8 – No.3

Robert Friedman named “Prosecutor of the Year”

In recognition of over 18 years of service as Clarence Town Prosecutor and over 15 years as Akron Village Prosecutor, Robert Friedman was named “2003 Prosecutor of the Year” by the Prosecutors’ Association of Western New York. According to Association President James Vallone, Mr. Friedman was nominated for the award by his peers because “he has always performed his duties in an extremely competent and professional manner. He has exhibited a strong understanding of the law in his role as Town and Village Prosecutor. He is diligent, well-organized and interested in resolving cases in a manner that is fair to all parties involved”. Mr. Friedman prosecutes violations of the Penal, Vehicle and Traffic, Transportation, Environmental Conservation and Alcoholic Beverage Control Laws, as well as municipal building and zoning codes.

Elder Law Seminar

“Learn How Working Closely With Your Lawyer Can Preserve Your Assets and Peace of Mind” will be presented by Robert Friedman for the Alzheimer’s Association on Wednesday, April 21, 2004, from 7:00-8:30 p.m. at Hospice, 225 Como Park Boulevard, Cheektowaga, New York. The topics are: techniques to minimize the cost and delays of probate, how to qualify for Medicaid for nursing home care, financial management and medical decision-making in the event of disability, how to provide for your dependents and favorite charities and asset protection strategies. The legal tools for retirement, financial and estate planning to be discussed include: wills, trusts, life estate deeds, limited liability companies, guardianships, health care proxies, private annuities, IRAs, long term care insurance and life insurance. To register, call the Alzheimer’s Association at (716) 626-0600.

Landlord Seminar

“Landlord Legal Survival” will be presented by attorney/author Robert Friedman from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 5, 2004 and Monday, April 26, 2004 at Clarence High School, Room 121, 9625 Main Street, Clarence, New York. Mr. Friedman will discuss evictions, leases, Small Claims Court, discrimination laws, civil liability, insurance, security deposits, elderly tenants, drugs, debt collection and lead paint regulations. There is a registration and book fee. To register, call Clarence Community Education at (716) 407-9290.

Have You Been Hurt in an Accident?

Are you worried what this may mean to your family, your job, and your credit? Is the insurance company pressuring you? Are you beginning to feel a bit confused? We will help you to maximize your benefits, while protecting you and your family. If you have questions about your responsibilities, your legal remedies or just what the best thing is for you to do, call attorney Michael H. Ranzenhofer at 716-542-5444.

Personal Injury Verdicts

Tenant’s son awarded $5.8 million for burns from stove. A 9-year-old Los Angeles boy was badly burned when his nightshirt caught fire while warming his hands over a stove. The apartment’s heater was broken. He suffered second- and third-degree burns to his right hand, arm and shoulder. He was awarded $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $3.3 million in punitive damages against the landlord. The Los Angeles Superior Court jury found that the apartment owners were negligent in maintaining and inspecting the heater in the 28-unit complex.

Guest who broke his neck diving into hotel pool awarded $3.9 million. A hotel guest dove from a concrete block at the edge of the pool into a section of the pool that was only three to four feet deep, hitting his head on the bottom and injuring his spine from the vertebras C-4 to C-7. He slowly regained limited movement in this legs and arms so that he can now use special crutches to move very short distances. The hotel had one sign warning people not to dive on one end of the pool area, but not near where the guest dove. There was a 3 foot depth marker near where the guest dove in. A pool safety expert testified that the hotel had done little to make its facility safe. The safety guidelines call for much more, including several signs not only prohibiting diving but also warning of the dangers of diving in shallow waters, different color paint at the pool bottom to indicate shallow and deep ends, as well as frequent depth markers along the poolside. The hotel also did not do routine reviews of pool safety as recommended. Although the guest was drinking, the jury delivered a verdict of $4.7 million, but found him 30 percent at fault, reducing the amount to $3.3 million, concluding that the hotel did not adequately warn of the dangers of such a dive. The jury also awarded his wife $625,000. (Jasper County Circuit Court, Missouri)

Auto manufacturer is liable for lack of side airbags. A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that side airbags that include head protection can reduce deaths in 45 percent of side-impact crashes. Torso-only side airbags reduce deaths by 10 percent. In the first case to go to trial in the failure of a side airbag to deploy, a Florida jury awarded $2.5 million to a man whose arm was severed when his 1999 Mercedes S420 was struck on the side by an SUV. This award was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit. Accordingly to the Insurance Institute’s study, 40 percent of all passenger vehicle deaths resulted from side impact. Since 1955, when Volvo first introduced side airbags, a growing number of manufacturers have begun offering them either as a standard feature or as an option in new cars. Forty-seven percent of 2004 cars will have side airbag head protection available, 27 percent offering them as a standard feature and 20 percent as a option. In 1998, BMW introduced side airbags with head protection. One type is “tube”, which is mounted on the roof rails above the door and deploys in the shape of a tube near the window and is separate from the torso bag. Another type is a “head curtain”, which deploys from above the window and covers the side window. Some varieties are a single combined side airbag that extend upward to protect the head and torso. The Institute found that the torso-only side airbags were not as effective as head protection bags at reducing death, reducing the risk of death by 10 percent as opposed to 45 percent of airbags with head protection. Under current National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Rules, frontal airbags are required, but side airbags are not. Head curtains can protect against partial ejection, such as preventing a head or arm from going out the window. In rollover cases, head curtains can stay open for six seconds – long enough to protect the occupants for four rolls. Head curtains protect occupants from bouncing up and hitting the roof.

Driving While Drowsy

New Jersey has become the first state to pass a law specifically providing for the prosecution of individuals who drive while feeling fatigued or tired. Under Maggie’s Law, if there is evidence that a fatal accident was caused by a sleepy driver, that driver may be charged with vehicular homicide. This felony is punishable by up to ten years of incarceration and a fine of up to $100,000. While such a law is not yet in effect in New York State, a similar bill is pending, and New York State has previously prosecuted drivers whose lack of sleep led to a fatal accident. For example, in May of 2003, a tour bus driver was sentenced to ten years of incarceration following an accident that killed five people. The driver had admitted to skipping sleep to gamble the night before while the church groups he was driving visited Niagara Falls.

(From the DWILink Newsletter by Attorney Michael S. Taheri, author of DWI Reference Guide and DWI Defense Manual: Pleadings, Motions and Forms. To obtain a free subscription to DWILink, read past issues or order Mr. Taheri’s books, look elsewhere on this site.)

What’s New in Family Law?

Husband sued for recording wife’s phone calls. While a couple were in the midst of a divorce, the husband placed a recording device on a telephone in their home. He recorded calls between the wife and several third parties without obtaining her consent. When the wife discovered the device, she sued under the wiretapping provisions of Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Acts of 1968. The court held that the wife can sue her estranged husband for secretly recording the telephone calls because the federal wiretap act does not contain exceptions for spouses. It cited similar decisions from the 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th Circuits, U.S. District Courts in New York and Pennsylvania and state courts in Alabama, California, Rhode Island and West Virginia, noting contrary rulings from state courts in Mississippi and South Carolina. (U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit)

New law gives grandparents custody rights. There are 413,000 New Yorkers living in a household headed by a grandparent. A new law acknowledges the important role that grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives, particularly those grandparents who provide homes for grandchildren. The law which previously only allowed the court to give grandparents visitation rights to a grandchild whose parents are dead or in circumstances in which equity would see fit to intervene, now permits the court to award custody rights as well. The standard remains “best interests of the child”. A new section permits the court to grant custody rights to a grandparent who can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the court the existence of extraordinary circumstances, including an extended disruption of custody. Such an extended disruption includes a prolonged separation of a parent for at least 24 continuous months during which the parent voluntarily relinquished care and control of the child and the child resided in the household of the grandparent. However, the court may find that extraordinary circumstances exist if the prolonged separation lasted less than 24 months. When the child is removed from the home, Social Services is used to locate relatives of the child including grandparents. These relatives are to be informed of their opportunity to become foster parents or to seek custody and that the child may be adopted by the foster parents if attempts at reunification with the birth parent are not required or are unsuccessful. For answers to your family law questions, call Elizabeth M. DiPirro, Esq. at (716) 542-5444.

What Clients Like About Michael H. Ranzenhofer, Esq.

“On behalf of the friends and family of A.B. at his church, we thank you for your courteous and effective legal representation for him in criminal court. We are very pleased with the results and believe this has been a valuable learning experience for him. I am especially appreciative of your approach in this case as that of a teacher in addition to your duties as a lawyer. It was important not only for A.B. to have the case resolved favorably but to learn from the experience and better himself as a person. I believe your approach did much to help in that regard.”

Disclaimer

While a great deal of care has been taken to provide accurate and current information, the ideas, suggestions, general principles and conclusions presented in this newsletter are subject to local, state and federal laws and regulations, court cases and any revisions of same. The reader is thus urged to consult legal counsel regarding any points of law – this newsletter should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice. The purpose of this newsletter is to give the reader a general understanding of the law – not to provide specific advice. Every effort has been made to achieve accuracy. The law constantly changes and is subject to differing interpretations. Always consult with your attorney and act only on his or her advice. Legal Survival, LLC shall not be responsible for any damages resulting from any inaccuracy or omission. This newsletter is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. Certain portions of this newsletter may be applicable only to New York State law.

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