Is Your Surgeon Operating On A Second Patient At The Same Time?

surgery photo

Here is a new practice that Twin Tiers residents should remember when they, their family or their friends are facing medical procedures in a local hospital: concurrent surgery.

Last fall the Boston Globe newspaper reported Massachusetts General Hospital has surgeons who are performing surgery in two operating rooms at the same time. It’s called double-booking.

mass-generalDouble booking is a very controversial and risky procedure that is apparently an open secret in hospitals. But patients are rarely told. The surgeon responsible for the patient relies on a general surgeon or surgeon-in-training as he or she goes from room to room, performing multiple operations at the same time.

There is a lot of disagreement in the medical community over both the ethics and safety of double-booking. Let’s face it – it’s clearly done to make money and get as many patients through operating rooms in the shortest amount of time possible.

As the Boston Globe reports: Hospitals that permit double-booking consider it an efficient way to deploy the talents of their most in-demand specialists while reducing wasted operating room time. For patients, however, it can come as an unsettling surprise — especially when things go wrong.

At the very least, patients have the right to informed consent. In other words, patients must be informed their surgery has been double-booked so that they can make an informed decision as to whether they want to allow it.

It should be very interesting to see what transpires.

Thank you for reading!

Christina Sonsire
[email protected]



Doctors Struggle To Curb Patients Who Pose Serious Danger To Other Drivers On The Road, Says NY and PA Medical Malpractice Lawyer


Doctors face a daunting challenge when they are treating a patient who is impaired or has a disability that makes that patient an unsafe driver.

the-information-age-has-enabled-doctors-to-view-patient-data-on-laptops-_1508_608708_0_14091474_500Many doctors will want to get the patients’ keys away from them quickly and without incident, but they have to take great care not to breach that patient’s confidentiality.

Doctors shouldn’t notify the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles without talking with the patient, and with the patient’s permission, notify their family and the DMV, unless the patient has already done so.

Those are some of the key conclusions discussed in a story in the Spring 2016 Dateline newsletter published by the Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Co.

According to Donnaline Richmond, counsel to the company, doctors need to document every step they take to protect themselves and their employer.

Doctors know patients will rarely do what’s required and report a disabling condition to the DMV, Richmond said. So doctors need to inform and warn patients of the risk of their medical condition – and fully document those warnings.

According to Richmond, among the steps doctors should document:

  • How medication or a medical condition make it unsafe for the patient to drive.
  • All attempts to communicate doctors’ concerns to the patients and their families, and their attempts to gain consent from patients.
  • All DMV paperwork completed for the patient, once the doctor has the patient’s written authorization.
  • All phone records from calls to patients and their family members regarding the patients’ inability to drive.
  • Patients’ written authorization to release medical information.
  • Reports to the Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, if it applies.

Thanks for reading.

Christina Sonsire
[email protected]













$9.15 Million: ‘Big City Results’ For Ziff Law Lawyers


The lawyers at the Ziff Law Firm live for our motto – “Local Lawyers, Big City Results!” – and recently delivered life-changing results for two Twin Tiers families.

Jim Reed.

Jim Reed.

In May, Jim Reed and Christina Sonsire earned settlements topping a total of $9 million in one week. We celebrate those awards at the Ziff Law Firm because justice was served for two families who have waited for justice for years.

“I think there is a perception that in cases where there are substantial damages, either serious injuries or wrongful death, people have to hire lawyers in bigger cities to get the best legal representation,” said Christina, a partner in Ziff Law and a medical malpractice attorney for eight years. “These cases show that we can bring about the best results possible here in Elmira. It feels good to know that Jim, Adam (Gee), and I can perform at the same level or better than attorneys in the region

Christina Sonsire.

Christina Sonsire.

or across the state.”

Jim and Christina can’t talk about the details of their settlements because they are bound by confidentiality agreements, but what’s important now is their clients can start to get on with their lives.

“The public needs to understand that these settlements are not just about big payouts – these are payments for something that has been taken away from our clients: a death that takes away a father, an injury that permanently disables someone so they can never work again,” said Jim, the law firm’s managing partner, who has been a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney for almost 30 years.

Christina’s case was settled for $6.9 million during a one-day, nine-hour mediation hearing with a former judge as mediator, following months of pretrial litigation, depositions and discovery.

Christina had hired a team of top medical experts to assist if the case went to trial, something she believes helped her achieve such a good result. “I was able to retain four of the best experts in the United States – perhaps even the world – in their respective fields, and had discussed the case with a fifth, whom I likely would have called if the matter went to trial.”

According to Christina, the quality of the expert witnesses can make a big difference in getting cases resolved. “When the other side knows you are prepared and ready to present a strong case, the likelihood of settling a case for good value goes way, way up.”

At the mediation, Christina and the defense attorney set up in separate rooms and the mediator guided them to the settlement. “The mediator’s job is to go from room to room with information and try to resolve our differences,” she said. “We were successful in our negotiations.”

Sometimes, such as in this case, defendants require confidentiality as terms of the settlement, she said. “The nature of the damages necessitated that we settle the case for the most money we could achieve because of the seriousness of the damages. We did not want confidentiality to become a sticking point that prevented a successful negotiation. Therefore, agreeing to it was the right decision.”

Jim’s $2.25 million settlement in a fatal car accident case was reached after protracted settlement negotiations, he said. The settlements are a reminder of what is lost on a personal level in personal injury and medical malpractice cases.

“This is not about ‘winning the lottery’ because nobody wins when people have been killed or disabled,” he said. “Every one of my clients would gladly trade their settlement money for the ability to go back to a time before they were injured or a loved one was hurt or killed. Our clients have suffered profound losses and these settlements are an imperfect way to try to make the best of very bad situations.”

Jim takes pride in learning while preparing every case because it makes him a better lawyer. “I worked with a nationally recognized trauma surgeon in this case, and under New York state’s archaic wrongful death law, the information I learned assisted in greatly enhancing the value of my client’s case.”

The hard work by the Ziff Law team resulted in settlements that will help people in great need, Christina said.

“We were able to bring the cases to successful outcomes and that’s what this is really all about,” she said. “We did everything we could to right some really bad wrongs.”

Jim said the settlements show that Ziff Law lawyers are among the best in the state. “Two settlements totaling over $9 million in one week is something I thought I would never see from a small Elmira firm,” he said. “Frankly, that would be a phenomenal result for a huge firm in a big city, so it confirms for me that we have achieved my goal of becoming David and Goliath – a small firm capable of big results! Insurance carriers know the lawyers who are capable of the biggest results, so this achievement will be a powerful benefit to our current and future clients.”

Thank you for reading,


Adam M. Gee, Esq.
NY and PA Injury and Malpractice Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY  14901
Phone: (607)733-8866
Fax: (607)732-6062
Email: [email protected]




Icy Roads Kill…..Especially When Large Trucks Fail to Slow Down for Conditions…..

The driver of a UPS tandem tractor-trailer similar to this one triggered an accident Tuesday morning that killed an dessa man.

The driver of a UPS tandem tractor-trailer similar to this one triggered an accident Tuesday morning that killed an dessa man.

There is a fundamental rule every new driver is taught:  You are REQUIRED to reduce speed when conditions require.

Unfortunately, many drivers violate this fundamental rule and often the consequences are deadly.

An Odessa man who was critically injured Tuesday morning when a UPS tandem tractor-trailer struck and rolled over on his vehicle on an icy Route 13 died early Wednesday, according to the New York State Police.

Troopers said Glenn Marsh, 58, of Odessa, was driving south on Route 13 at about 8 a.m. Tuesday when the truck, which was traveling down a hill, crossed the center line near the Chemung-Schuyler county line and struck Marsh’s sedan head-on and rolled over on it, according to news reports.

20863-2Marsh suffered massive injuries, troopers said, and had to be extricated from his crushed vehicle by emergency workers. He transported to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, PA.

New York State Police Sgt. Steve Neuberger told the news media it was the fault of the UPS truck driver: “The UPS driver lost control due to slick conditions. The truck went across the road and struck the car, and the car went under the trailer.”

Marsh died during the night, police said.

This is the latest tragic example of what happens when tandem tractor-trailers hit icy conditions, especially on hilly two-lane highways!

Thanks for reading,

Jim Reed, N.Y. Truck Crash Lawyer
[email protected]

Feds Put Pressure On Doctors, Hospitals To Make It Easier For Patients To Receive Their Medical Records


The Obama administration is knocking down the obstacles that Americans face when requesting their own medical records, which will be a big boost in prosecuting medical malpractice cases.

The federal government told doctors and hospitals that in most cases they must provide copies of these records within 30 days of receiving a request. Patients have been able to obtain copies of their records for a long time, but millions of people have complained to federal officials that they were thwarted in trying to exercise that right.

doctor-with-clipboardIn the new guidelines, which were announced recently, patients will not be required to state a reason for requesting their records, and doctors and hospitals cannot deny access out of concern that patients might be upset by the information.

“Based on recent studies and our own enforcement experience, far too often individuals face obstacles to accessing their health information,” said Jocelyn Samuels, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, which enforces federal health privacy standards, in The New York Times. “This must change.”

According to the Times, under the new guidelines, a health care provider cannot require patients to pick up their records in person if they ask that the records be sent by mail or email. A health care provider cannot deny a request for access to health information because a patient has failed to pay medical bills. A doctor or a hospital may charge a fee to cover the cost of copying, but cannot charge for the cost of searching for data and retrieving it.

The rules were issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Doctors and hospitals are supposed to provide consumers with access to personal health information within 30 days and, in some cases, can extend the deadline by 30 days. But most requests should be fulfilled in fewer than 30 days, the government said.

Unfortunately, I see this issue firsthand far too often. Many times, people attempt to get their medical records before calling a lawyer. Although this should be a good way to see what the records say quickly, they are often faced with delays of weeks — or even months — before their requests are honored.

Hopefully, these new guidelines will help, though time will only tell whether they can begin to remedy what appears to be a deep and systemic problem.


To read more about your rights, click here.


A summary of important changes:

Some of the ways in which the new guidance should make it easier for patients include:

  • Doctors and hospitals are not allowed to ask you why you want your records. If you happen to volunteer your reason for requesting your records, they cannot deny you access to your records based on your reason for wanting them.
  • Your doctor or hospital cannot require you to go to the office of facility in person if you request that they mail your records to you.
  • Nor can they require you to use a web portal to request access to your records, because there are still people who do not have internet access.
  • They must provide your records within 30 days. That’s calendar days, not business days. Under certain circumstances, that time limit can be extended by up to 30 days, but you must be notified of the extension within the first 30-day time period.
  • You can be charged a fee for the cost of making paper or electronic copies and postage, but not fees for searching for your records, storage, or retrieval. This applies even if your state laws allow the extra charges.


Thanks for reading,

Christina Sonsire

[email protected]


Hospital Horror: Nurse Clips Off Seriously Ill Infant’s Toe

A couple in New Mexico fighting to save their premature son’s life were horrified to learn that in December a nurse accidentally clipped off the infant’s left pinky toe while cutting away tape that was used to hold an IV in place.

“I don’t think that should have even happened,” Erica Hogue told TV station KOB 4. “It just makes me angry that something like this could happen.”

According to KOB 4, Erica gave birth to twin sons Davante and Delante in an emergency cesarean section at just 29 weeks last June at UNM Hospital in Farmington, N.M.

The 8-month-old boys have struggled to survive, but Delante recovered and is home with his family while Davante has fought to survive a brain bleed and much more. He has continuous intubation and a tracheotomy, had g-tube surgery and has a hole in his heart. All of these complications have weakened the infant.

She said the hospital said because of the brain bleed, he may never walk, talk, see or hear.

“They (the hospital) told us they could let him go because he got a stage-3 brain bleed,” Hogue said.

But Hogue and her husband made the decision to continue to fight for him. “We were going to take our son whatever way he came to us.”

An orthopedic surgeon stitched around his toe and placed him in a leg cast, she said, but circulation could not be returned and the toe was lost.
Hogue said she was told that the hospital investigated the incident.

“The only thing that they could do is use a different tape,” Hogue said.

She also said the hospital apologized.

“For me, that is just not enough. I believe that my baby is worth so much more than that,” she said.

UNM Hospital declined to comment, but Hogue said she and her husband are considering legal action in the future.

“Our priority is getting our son home where he belongs,” Hogue said.

Thanks for reading.

Christina Sonsire

[email protected]

Twin Tiers Drivers, Have You Heard Of The “Move Over” Law?


I recently received a message from a Twin Tiers resident after a friend of hers received a $300 ticket on a New York State highway for allegedly violating the state’s “Move Over” law.

The woman said her friend slowed down as she passed a police car, which was stopped with flashing lights. The officer was helping a motorist with a disabled vehicle.

Shortly after that, an officer pulled over her friend and informed her about the law and told her she always needs to slow down AND move to the passing lane. The woman who wrote the note to me said she had never heard of the law, and neither had any of her friends.

She suggested I warn our blog readers, and I thought that was a great idea!

I hope this story opens the eyes of many Twin Tiers drivers who were not aware of the law, and serves as a stark reminder to those who have heard of the law but did not know the specifics.

The Ambrose-Searles Move Over Law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2011, is named in honor of New York State Trooper Robert W. Ambrose and Onondaga County Deputy Sheriff Glenn Matthew Searles, who were killed by vehicles while helping motorists. The law is designed to protect law enforcement and emergency workers.

In 2012, the law was amended to include tow and service-vehicle operators.

When approaching these vehicles that are stopped, parked or standing on the shoulder, drivers are required to:

  • Reduce speed.

  • Move to an open lane (unless they cannot do so safely).

Read the full text of the law here.

The penalties are stiff:

It’s a moving violation and three points on your license. (It was two points in 2011, but increased to three points when the law was revised in 2012.)

The fine is $275 PLUS a state surcharge (tax).

If you have two violations of this law in an 18-month period, the state DMV slaps you with a Driver Assessment Fee, which STARTS at $300 and could go up from there.

So the next time you approach an emergency vehicle or service vehicles helping motorists, SLOW DOWN AND TRY TO GET OVER INTO THE NEXT LANE.

If it’s not possible to get over, give them as much room as you can and go slowly.


Thanks for reading, and take it slow out there!



James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and



Ithaca Surgeon Faces 12th Malpractice Lawsuit Since 1996!


Dr. David Schwed

Dr. David Schwed

The Ithaca Voice newspaper has just uncovered some startling information about an Ithaca-area surgeon: The doctor has been sued for malpractice 12 times in Tompkins County Court since 1996, according to records reviewed by reporter Jeff Stein.

cayuga logoThe latest lawsuit, filed Oct. 22, shows that Dr. David Schwed was sued in late October by Donna Diconstanzo for complications related to a laparoscopic colectomy, which involves the removal of a portion of the large intestine, according to Stein.

The lawsuit states that Schwed performed a laparoscopy on DiCostanzo that “resulted in significant disfigurement, scarring and the removal of covering up of her belly button.”

The lawsuit also notes that the Cayuga Medical Center website states: “At Cayuga Medical Center, we want your surgical experience to be as safe, comfortable and stress-free as possible.”

This comes despite CMC’s awareness that “Dr. Schwed has numerous medical malpractice claims and a history of payments that establish that surgical experiences conducted by Dr. Schwed are not safe, comfortable, and stress-free as possible,” the lawsuit states.

This lawsuit is ongoing.

The Voice reported that Schwed has made four payments in civil litigation since 2009, two of which were for the above-average amount, according to state records.

Only 1 percent of doctors made four or more malpractice payouts in 15 years according to data from the 1990s and 2000s, said Public Citizen, a national consumer watchdog group.

At least three lawsuits are ongoing, raising at least the possibility of a fifth payout. Only 0.5 percent of doctors had five payouts or more in the 15-year period surveyed in the Public Citizen report.

The Cayuga Medical Center, where the surgery occurred, is named as a defendant in the October lawsuit, as is Surgical Associates of Ithaca.

Dr. Sidney Wolfe

Dr. Sidney Wolfe

Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen told The Voice that the number of Schwed’s malpractice payouts should raise concerns with state officials and the Cayuga Medical Center.

Schwed has faced no disciplinary action from state officials, according to records.

“It’s multiple payouts against someone, and the (state) medical board doesn’t seem to be doing anything,” said Wolfe, whose expertise on malpractice has been cited by CBS News, the New York Times and other national publications. “The question is, ‘Why haven’t they done anything?’”

Wolfe said it’s important for patients to be informed of the malpractice histories of their doctors.

“Letting people know about well-established facts about a doctor — including malpractice payouts … is part of a public health responsibility of a reporter,” Wolfe said.

“One might at least raise the question, ‘Would some of the people injured since then not been injured had the medical board acted on these four cases that are between 3 and 5 years old?’”

To see the history of civil litigation against Dr. Schwed, click here.

Thanks for reading!

Christina Sonsire
[email protected]

Ziff Law’s Christina Sonsire Named Again To State Judicial Review Panel

For the second year in a row, Attorney Christina Sonsire of the Ziff Law Firm will play a prominent role in our state legal system!

Christina Sonsire.

Christina Sonsire.

Christina has been appointed to a panel of trial lawyers who will advise Gov. Andrew Cuomo on his selection of a new judge for the New York State Court of Appeals, the top court in the state.

Christina, a member of the board of directors of the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers, will join 13 other trial lawyers, all members of the academy, in interviewing the seven finalists on Friday in Albany.

Everyone at the law firm is proud of Christina and this amazing honor. Christina uses these meetings to grow as a lawyer so she can better serve her clients at Ziff Law.

Like last year, Christina is the ONLY trial lawyer on the panel chosen to represent the Elmira, Corning, Ithaca and Binghamton region. AND … It is the first time the academy has had an opportunity to advise the governor on the selection of a chief judge.

This year’s panel is important because the attorney selected will serve as the court’s chief judge, Christina said. The current chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, retires at the end of the year.

Cuomo asked the Academy and other state bar associations to screen the candidates and make a recommendation, said Christina, who was appointed to the panel by Academy Executive Director Michelle J. Stern.

Christina was selected because of her strong record as a plaintiffs’ attorney, primarily in medical malpractice cases. She has also lectured extensively across the state.

“Serving on this type of committee is an excellent opportunity to both help strengthen to New York’s top court as well as gain insight from some of the state’s top lawyers,” Christina said. “I was blown away by the caliber of attorneys we interviewed last year, and this this year’s candidates may be even more impressive. I am very thankful for the chance to participate and represent our area.”

The finalists include a former Manhattan U.S. attorney, the Westchester County district attorney and the state’s former chief administrative judge — the same position Lippman held before his appointment to the Court of Appeals.

The seven nominees:

Gail Prudenti, an experienced judge who retired as the chief administrative judge in July. Lippman was the chief administrative judge before his appointment as chief judge of the Court of Appeals.

Caitlin J. Halligan, the solicitor general under Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who later served as the chief counsel in the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Janet DiFiore, Westchester County district attorney.

Michael J. Garcia, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan from 2005 to 2008.

Carey R. Dunne, Rowan D. Wilson and Stephen P. Younger, Manhattan lawyers.

According to the New York Times, DiFiore, a former State Supreme Court justice in Westchester, and Prudenti, who presided over the appellate division in Brooklyn, are the only two nominees with experience on the bench.

Thanks for reading,



James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and



Ziff Law’s Christina Sonsire Named Rising Star For Third Year In A Row By Super Lawyers

Christina Sonsire.

Christina Sonsire has been named a Rising Star again for her trial work.

Christina Sonsire of the Ziff Law Firm has been recognized by a national rating service as a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” for the third year in a row for her work as a trial lawyer.

Super Lawyers, which evaluates top lawyers from more than 70 practice areas, honored Christina because she is an outstanding attorney 40 years old and younger who has been practicing law for fewer than 10 years, according to the rating service. Fewer than 2.5 percent of attorneys receive this recognition.

Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a multistep selection process that includes peer nominations, evaluations and independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual basis.

To learn more about Christina, click here.

We are so proud that Christina was again selected as a Rising Star because she is the first local lawyer ever selected for this great honor. Her selection confirms what we already knew: Christina continues to be considered one the finest young attorneys in New York state if not the entire country.

“I am really proud to be named a Rising Star,” said Christina, who primarily handles medical malpractice and catastrophic injury cases. “I love the kind of work that I do, and am so proud to be able to do it in my hometown with such a great law firm.”

Christina is a 1994 graduate of Elmira Notre Dame High School. She has a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a law degree from the University of Montana. Sonsire is on the board of directors of New York state’s Academy of Trial lawyers and frequently lectures across the state on topics related to injury and malpractice law.

Thanks for reading,



James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and