Warning to Homeowners: Protect Bikers and Obey the Law By Keeping Grass Clippings and Leaves out of the Road

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Most people think distracted drivers and bad roads are the biggest dangers facing motorcyclists and bicyclists.

Those are the most obvious dangers.

What many homeowners don’t realize is that they could be responsible for one of the most overlooked types of dangers to motorcyclists: blowing yard waste like grass clippings and leaves into city streets and rural roads.

Grass clippings are slippery when dry and feel like you’re riding on ice or grease when they get wet.

Leaves are slippery, wet or dry, but they hide other dangers, too, by disguising potholes and other hazards in the road that can shred tires and worse. Large leaf piles raked into streets and roads send bicyclists into the path of cars. The leaf piles also clog the storm drains, leaving more water on streets and roads – another danger.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANew York has two different statutes that prohibit the blowing or placing of grass clippings and leaves on roads.  Vehicle and Traffic Law Sec. 1219(b) requires that any person who drops, or permits to be dropped or thrown, upon any highway any material which interferes with the safe use of the highway shall immediately remove the same or cause it to be removed.  Vehicle and Traffic Law Sec. 1220(a) provides that “no person shall throw, dump, deposit or place, or cause to be thrown, dumped, deposited or placed upon any highway, or within the limits of the right of way of such highway, or upon private lands adjacent thereto, any refuse, trash, garbage, rubbish, litter or any nauseous or offensive matter.”

Homeowners, if you blow your grass into the street or road, blow it back onto the curbing or into your yard. It won’t hurt your grass – its actually good for it. If you fail to do so, you are in violation of the statutes listed above and could be sentenced to a fine, community service of both.

Slippery-When-Wet-Sign-X-W8-10aMore importantly, if your yard waste is responsible for a biker losing control and crashing, you will be personally responsible for the biker’s medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering associated with his injuries. These damages could easily reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a serious injury.

No responsible homeowner would ever intentionally place bikers at risk of harm. By following the laws requiring you to keep yard waste out of the street, you’re doing your part to ensure motorcyclists and bicyclists can safely pass your property.

Many landfill operators no longer accept bagged leaves or grass, so mulch or compost your grass and keep your leaf piles out of the street or road for easy pickup by your municipality.

Those are great ways to share the road with motorcyclists and bicyclists.

Thank you for reading,

Adam Gee
[email protected]
(607) 733-8866


Pedestrian Collisions In Chemung, Ithaca A Reminder About Walking Safely At Night, Says NY and PA Accident Lawyer

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WETM-TV.

Two Twin Tiers pedestrians were struck by vehicles at night this week, leaving a 15-year-old girl dead in the town of Chemung and seriously injuring a second person in Ithaca.

New York State Police said 15-year-old Xanadu Rumsey was walking along County Route 60 near Tomasso’s golf course and restaurant in the Town of Chemung at about 9:30 Tuesday night when she was struck from behind by a vehicle. She was transported to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, where she was pronounced dead.

State Police in Horseheads said the girl was walking in the same direction as traffic when she was struck. The investigation continues and troopers have not released any information about the driver of the vehicle.

reflective-pedestrian-crossing-signs-watch-for-pedestrians-l7534-lgState Police are asking anyone who saw two people walking along County Route 60 at about 9:30 Tuesday night to call State Police at 607-739-8797. They did not say who the second person was with Xanadu.

At 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, a tractor-trailer hit a pedestrian at the intersection of State Route 13 and Willow Avenue in Ithaca.

The pedestrian, who has not been identified, is in stable condition Thursday at an unidentified regional trauma center with serious injuries that are not considered life-threatening, according to the Ithaca Police Department.

Police said the injured pedestrian suffered a severe head injury. The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured.

Anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to call the Ithaca Police Department at 607-272-9973 or its tip line at 607-330-0000. Email tips can be sent by going here: www.cityofithaca.org/ipdtips.

If you are going to walk at night along a street, road or highway, here are some safety tips to remember:

  1. Always walk facing traffic. Do it because it’s the law, but also so you can see what is approaching and maximize your time to avoid the car if it is potentially endangering you.
  1. Get as far to the right as you can – don’t walk on the fog line. Give cars as much room as possible, not because they don’t have to go around you, but because you want to do everything in your power to avoid a collision.
  1. Wear light-colored clothes and consider wearing something reflective to maximize your chances of being seen. Also consider carrying at flashlight that you can shine so an oncoming driver has a better chance of seeing you.
  1. Recognize that perhaps the most dangerous time for a pedestrian is when two oncoming cars are meeting near your location. The operators of the cars will be focused on each other, and the oncoming headlights will impede the vision of both drivers, making it harder for them to see you. They are likely to move toward, or even onto, their shoulders to give each other as much room as possible.
  1. Walk in well-lit areas. Avoid poorly-lit areas if at all possible.
  1. Obey traffic signals and devices unless a police officer directs otherwise, including pedestrian signals.
  1. Assume drivers do not see you. While you should do whatever you can to increase your visibility, do not walk into a crosswalk assuming that the oncoming vehicle can see you. It’s better to wait to be sure the vehicle stops than to make a wrong assumption.
  1. Do not wear headphones and turn off your phone. Be alert at all times while walking.

Thank you for reading,

Adam Gee
[email protected]
(607) 733-8866


Police Investigate After Pedestrian Struck By Vehicle In Town Of Chemung, Says NY and PA Accident Lawyer

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A pedestrian was struck by a vehicle Tuesday evening in the town of Chemung, and the New York State Police are investigating, according to Twin Tiers news reports.

Emergency responders were called to county Route 60 near Tomasso’s at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday for reports of an injured pedestrian. Tomasso’s is a restaurant and golf course.

According to one news report, the person struck by the vehicle received CPR on the scene. It was not clear if the pedestrian was transported to a hospital.

State police declined to release any other information at midday Wednesday.

We will update this post as more information becomes available.  Our thoughts are with the pedestrian, and we hope to hear good news concerning his or her condition soon.

UPDATE – local media is now reporting that the collision occurred at approximately 9:15 PM on July 17, 2018.  It is also reported that the pedestrian involved in this collision is a 15 year old girl who was walking home with her father, and that emergency crews were performing CPR on the girl at the scene.  More information is expected to be released later today.

UPDATE #2 – We are very sad to report that pedestrian has died.  15 year old Xanadu Rumsey was pronounced dead at the Robert Packer Hospital after being struck from behind by a vehicle.  It is reported that this was a hit and run collision, and the police continue to investigate and search for the driver involved.  If you have any information concerning this collision, please contact the NY State Police at 607-739-8797.

Thank you for reading,

Adam Gee
[email protected]
(607) 733-8866

 

 

 


Elmira Seeks Safer Streets With New Transportation Plan

Elmira City Hall.

Elmira City Hall.

Our streets could soon be getting safer in the city of Elmira and Chemung County.

That’s because the city of Elmira and town of Southport are among the communities that have taken positive steps forward recently in adopting Complete Streets policies and designs in hopes of making our streets safer for bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians as well as improving traffic flow.

Nicolette Wagoner.

Nicolette Wagoner.

Elmira City Council voted unanimously recently to adopt the program, which is in compliance with state law and the state Department of Transportation guidelines. According to a 2011 state law, state, county, and local agencies must consider all users’ convenience and mobility, not just the needs of motorists, when planning transportation projects that receive state and federal money. The Southport Town Board had previously approved it.

Chemung County Planning Commissioner Nicolette Wagoner and county Public Works Commissioner Andy Avery, who wrote the proposal that was approved by Elmira council members, showed real vision for a safer future for all people in drafting and supporting this policy.

Andy Avery.

Andy Avery.

Complete Streets, adopted as law in New York State, targets the improvement of transportation options in all communities for residents of all ages and abilities. That means all street construction and reconstruction projects need to be accessible to people with disabilities and safe for everyone, regardless of the method of transportation.

Complete Streets is the work of Smart Growth America, founded in 2000, to help communities plan smarter and safer development and today is a leading advocate for federal programs that support neighborhood development.

According to Smart Growth America, Complete Streets:

  • Improves safety while incomplete streets put people at risk.
  • Promotes good health while incomplete streets restrict physical activity.
  • Makes for a good ride on mass transit while incomplete streets are a barrier for riders and good service.
  • Improves mobility for older Americans while incomplete streets are a problem for older Americans.
  • Helps people with disabilities while incomplete streets impede livability.
  • Stimulates the local economy by steering people to mass transit, which pays a “green dividend,” allowing residents to spend their money in other ways in the community. This happens in cities of all sizes.
  • Is equitable streets for everyone, regardless of age, ability, ethnicity, income or travel mode, while incomplete streets are dangerous, especially in low-income communities that are disproportionatey affected by unsafe streets. In counties where more than 20 percent of households have incomes below the federal poverty line, the pedestrian fatality rate is 80 percent higher than the national average, the report says.
  • Helps keep kids save while incomplete streets are a barrier for children: fewer children riding bikes to school and increased childhood obesity rates are among the outcomes.
  • Fights climate change instead of incomplete streets hampering climate change strategies. We need more people walking, riding bikes, and taking mass transit to work and fewer motorists driving their own cars as carbon emissions continue to soar.

Wagoner, the county planning commissioner, told the Star-Gazette that the program isn’t a mandate but it encourages communities to look at all users when planning street projects.

“This shows Elmira cares about all modes of transportation, making roads safe for vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists,” she said. “It’s not a requirement but it’s a nice thing to do, and it helps us when we fill out applications for grant funding. For the federal aid we receive, DOT requires you do Complete Streets.”

In the past, Wagoner said, cities were designed with wider streets to favor automobiles. “We have to fix the mistakes that were made 40 years ago. We’re talking about making crossing distances shorter, talking about where to put crosswalks. I think adding on-street parking will show traffic down.”

She pointed to East Water Street, from Madison Avenue east to the Interstate 86 exit ramp, as an example of a street with little or no on-street parking. Because of the wider street and few if any parked cars, motorists tend to go faster. More parkers will slow drivers.

Many streetscape improvements, including work toward reopening the Lake Street Bridge for pedestrians only, are in the planning stages for 2019 and 2020 in Elmira, she said.

“We want to see pedestrian and bicycle accidents go to zero,” she told the Star-Gazette. “Elmira is flat. It should be very walkable.”

Thanks for reading,

Jim

James Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 


Legal News You Can Use: Check Out Ziff Law’s New Summer 2018 Newsletter

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Adam Gee, Christina Sonsire, Jim Reed, and Mike Brown.

 

The Ziff Law Firm debuts its new – and redesigned – free newsletter this week as the Summer 2018 issue arrives in mailboxes and inboxes around the Twin Tiers. It is filled with legal news that you can use – and much more.

Our cover story explains how our popular Veteran of the Game program came home to Elmira this summer.

Then we get to the legal news:

Our lawyers write about some of the key issues they encounter in their practices as they tackle these questions:

  • Do bicyclists in New York State have to operate by the same laws as vehicles? Ziff Law managing partner and noted bicycle law expert Jim Reed educates readers.
  • Is motorcycle insurance the same as car insurance? Partner Adam Gee, a longtime motorcyclist and motorcycle law expert, has some surprising answers.
  • Why does Ziff Law partner Christina Sonsire teach for a statewide legal education organization?
  • How does Ziff Law attorney Mike Brown’s family play a role in his legal practice?

And just for fun, we profile a downtown Elmira shop, a hidden gem that is in the “upcycling” business, in our Business Spotlight.

The owner of Nutmeg Upcycling, longtime downtown business owner Rich LaVere, talked to us about his growing business and why he keeps returning downtown.

We published a short interview in the print newsletter and there is a bonus longer interview with Rich here, where he talks about the challenges facing downtown and how the city can start turning things around. He’s an optimist!

At Ziff Law, we are committed to being environmentally responsible, so if you’d like to receive our free newsletter by email, send an email to us today at [email protected] and we will send you a PDF right away – and as a bonus, add your name for an upcoming drawing for a $50 gift card to Lib’s Supper Club in Elmira.

If you’d like to receive the newsletter by mail, call (607-733-8866) or email ([email protected]) us with your name and address and we’ll send it right out.

Happy reading!

Jim

James Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

How To Avoid No-Fault Nightmares: Review Your Car Insurance Today

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Karen Wheadon, a paralegal who works with Ziff Law Managing Partner Jim Reed, has written the following blog post about no-fault insurance coverage.

Many of our clients are victims of car crashes, and therefore, subject to the rules and regulations of no-fault insurance. Unfortunately, many of our clients struggle financially because they have inadequate no-fault coverage.

Karen Wheadon.

Karen Wheadon.

Briefly, state-required minimum no-fault insurance consists of $50,000 in coverage for the following:

  1. All necessary doctor and hospital bills and other health service expenses, payable in accordance with fee schedules established or adopted by the New York State Insurance Department.
  2. Eighty percent of lost earnings up to a maximum monthly payment of $2,000 for up to three years following the date of the crash.
  3. Up to $25 a day for a period of one year from the date of the accident for other reasonable and necessary expenses the injured person may have incurred because of an injury resulting from the accident, such as the cost of hiring a housekeeper or necessary transportation expenses to and from a health-service provider.
  4. A$2,000 death benefit, payable to the estate of a covered person, in addition to the $50,000 coverage for economic loss described above.

When shopping for car insurance, many people don’t think to invest in anything other than that basic coverage. However, additional coverage can be purchased … and can make a huge difference to someone’s life and financial stability. When we consider the growing costs of health care, $50,000 does not last long.

Here are some examples of crash victims and their no-fault insurance coverage,

Mike

Mike, like many of our clients, receives Medicare benefits. He had a serious car crash and exhausted his basic no-fault coverage. His medical bills were then submitted to Medicare for coverage and he was personally responsible for co-pays. On top of that, under federal law, Medicare (and Medicaid) are allowed to assert a lien against any third-party recovery.

What that means for Mike is that the personal injury claim/lawsuit we filed against the person responsible for causing the crash and Mike’s injuries now has a lien against it. At the time of the settlement, Mike has to pay Medicare back from his settlement. Had Mike had additional no-fault coverage, he could have avoided his bills going to Medicare and kept more of his settlement for himself.

Michelle

Michelle, injured in a car crash in 2016, had basic no-fault coverage that was paying her medical bills and was also reimbursing her for lost wages because she is unable to work. Like so many of our clients, Michelle relied on her monthly wage loss checks to pay for her basic necessities (mortgage, groceries, etc.).

Michele’s no-fault benefits were exhausted in May, leaving her with NO income at all. She has an application pending with Social Security Disability, but applicants often wait a year to hear if they are accepted or denied. If denied, the appeal process is even longer.

On top of that, Michelle’s private health insurance is through the Affordable Care Act. She has catastrophic coverage only with a $6,000 deductible. The neck surgery that was being scheduled is now on hold because she cannot afford to pay a $6,000 deductible without any income.

Obviously, Michelle would have benefited greatly from additional no-fault coverage. Her story is a great argument for universal health care because her health insurance plan is abysmal. She is a hard-working, taxpaying citizen who found herself with a disability and unable to work after a car crash. She should not have to put off medical treatment because she can’t afford her co-pay.

Opponents of universal health care argue that they don’t want the government making their medical decisions, but insurance companies already do that all the time. They arbitrarily decide a patient only needs 10 physical therapy sessions, or that they can’t have a drug prescribed by their doctor because it is too costly, or that surgery is not necessary because they have not exhausted conservative treatment options. Insurance companies base these decisions on money – their money that they would rather not pay out!

Justin

My stepson, Justin, was involved in a near-fatal car crash in 2015. He was taken from the scene of the crash by ambulance to Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, and then quickly transferred to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa. From there, he was life-flighted to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., where he was admitted for more than a month and underwent numerous surgeries to repair his fractured neck and re-attach a shoulder and arm.

There are a lot of miracles associated with Justin’s crash – too many to recount here. The fact that he is alive and well and now a father of two beautiful little children is sometimes more than I can believe. We are very, very blessed. But as you can imagine, the medical bills were astounding. The life-flight bill alone was $54,999, which was paid in full by his primary no-fault coverage.

Luckily, in addition to the basic no-fault coverage of $50,000, Justin had $10,000 of med-pay, $25,000 of OBEL (Optional Basic Economic Loss), and $150,000 of APIP (Additional Personal Injury Protection). He had such incredible coverage because he was the passenger of a vehicle that had more than basic coverage and he was also covered under his own policy which had even better coverage. This is far from the norm.

But even all of that coverage was very quickly exhausted, leaving a balance due to Geisinger Medical Center in excess of $1 million. This was turned over to his health insurance.

Justin was 23 years old at the time of his crash, but thankfully he was still covered by his father’s health insurance plan as a result of the Affordable Care Act, which extended medical coverage for children up to age 26. Donations from friends and family through a gofundme campaign covered the deductible, so Justin did not have to file bankruptcy because of insurmountable medical debt, as so many Americans do.

Justin’s example shows that even incredible no-fault coverage cannot adequately cover you from a catastrophic injury. But catastrophic injuries are, thankfully, rare.

The vast majority of our clients are like Michelle and Mike. They have broken bones that may or may not need surgery. Most of our clients seek medical treatment locally and don’t have multiple ambulance and life-flight bills. However, even routine injuries that require fairly routine medical treatment will quickly exhaust a basic no-fault policy.

So make the wise choice and protect yourself by asking your insurance agent about increasing your no-fault coverage. Had Michele or Mike had Justin’s maximum no-fault coverage, they would not be facing hard financial and medical decisions. We hope you won’t have to, either.

Therefore, we recommend adding Additional Personal Injury Protection (APIP) of at least $75,000 and Supplementary Underinsured (SUM) Coverage of at least $250,000. The good news is that adding this additional protection does not cost much more but will give you much better protection.

If you have questions, or would like us to review your insurance policy for free, please email me at [email protected] or Jim Reed at [email protected].

Thank you for reading,

Karen Wheadon
Paralegal
Ziff Law Firm
[email protected]


Steuben County Magistrates’ Association Honors Retired Special Counsel

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From left, Hon. Betsey Farley, Steuben County Magistrates’ Association secretary; Hon. Annette Viselli Thorne, Steuben County Magistrates’ Association vice-president; Hon. Christie Brothers, Steuben County Magistrates’ Association treasurer; Maryclaire Donovan Frank; Hon. David Domm, Steuben County Magistrates’ Association president; Hon. David Gideon, New York State Magistrates’ Association president.

The Steuben County Magistrates’ Association honored recently retired 7th Judicial District Special Counsel Maryclaire Donovan Frank during its monthly meeting on May 11 at the Bath American Legion.

Maryclaire was instrumental in molding many judges throughout Steuben County, providing town and village justices with personal care, support, education, and instruction that went above and beyond the call of duty.

Maryclaire was town justice in the Town of Erwin for 17 years and was in private practice until 11 years ago, when she retired and was appointed by the New York State Office of Court Administration to the position of special counsel.

Maryclaire supervised town and village justices in the following counties in the 7th Judicial District: Steuben, Yates, Wayne, Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, and Seneca.

Maryclaire is the daughter of retired State Supreme Court justice W. Denis Donovan.

The Ziff Law Firm salutes Maryclaire and wishes her well in her retirement!

Thanks for reading,

Jim Reed

Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Email: [email protected]
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Web: www.zifflaw.com
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
NYBikeAccidentBlog.com


Three Partners At Ziff Law Named 2018 Super Lawyers

Adam Gee, Jim Reed, and Christina Sonsire.

Adam Gee, Jim Reed, and Christina Sonsire.

Jim Reed, Adam Gee, and Christina Sonsire of the Ziff Law Firm have been named 2018 Super Lawyers in Upstate New York following a rigorous nomination process.

Super Lawyers, a rating service of lawyers working in more than 70 practice areas, selects the top lawyers based on nominations by their peers and an evaluation of 12 indicators of professional recognition and achievements. Those selected are grouped by practice area and size of the law firm. Ziff Law is a personal injury and medical malpractice law firm.

“We are so proud to be the only firm in Upstate New York where all the partners have been selected as Super Lawyers because it speaks to our excellent reputation among our fellow lawyers who selected us during the peer review process,” Jim said. “For our clients, that reputation is a huge factor in ensuring that we achieve the very best possible results for their cases.”

Jim, the managing partner of the law firm, was selected for Super Lawyers for the 11th year in a row. Jim has been with the Ziff Law Firm since 1986 and has been managing partner since 2001.

Adam, a partner in the law firm, was selected for Super Lawyers for the seventh time. Adam has been with Ziff Law since 2004.

Christina, a partner in the law firm, was selected for Super Lawyers for the second time. Christina was selected as a Super Lawyers Rising Star, for outstanding lawyers 40 years old and younger, from 2013-2016. Christina has been with Ziff Law since 2008.

To learn more about the Ziff Law Firm, go to www.zifflaw.com. To learn more about Super Lawyers, go to www.superlawyers.com/new-york-upstate.


NY State Appeals Court Reinstates $550,000 Verdict To Elmira Woman For Fall At Rochester Hospital

Attorney Christina Sonsire calls her client Thursday with the good news about the State Appeals Court judges' decision.

Attorney Christina Sonsire calls her client Thursday with the good news about the State Appeals Court judges’ decision.

Today was a great day for one of Ziff Law Attorney Christina Sonsire’s clients. A state Appeals Court has overturned a Chemung County Supreme Court judge’s decision to reduce a jury award to an Elmira woman who fell at Highland Hospital in Rochester.

On October 7, 2016, a six-person jury in Chemung County Supreme Court awarded an 83-year-old Elmira woman $550,000 for damages she suffered in a 2013 fall near the entrance to Highland’s Emergency Department.

The Elmira woman fell shortly before 6 a.m. on October 16, 2013, while helping her daughter get into a wheelchair in a parking garage.

“Highland Hospital allowed cement parking stops to be placed inside of a pedestrian walkway that bordered the handicap parking stalls,” said Sonsire, who represented the woman. “The parking stops were the same color as the parking garage floor, and lighting in the area was grossly inadequate. My client – who was told to report to Highland Hospital in the early morning for cancer surgery – was simply walking in a reasonable manner when she tripped.

“As a result, my client suffered a four-part proximal humerus fracture of her left shoulder, leaving her with significant loss of range of motion in the joint. These limitations make it very challenging for her to care for her daughter in the manner she did before the fall.”

Judge Judith O’Shea presided over the one-week trial in fall 2016 and attorney James Wolford of the Wolford Law Firm in Rochester represented Highland Hospital and its corporate owners, Strong Health MCO, LLC and Strong Partners Health System, Inc.

Following the trial, Wolford made several motions, including a request that the jury award be reduced because it is excessive.

On March 23, 2017, Judge O’Shea denied all of Wolford’s motions except his request for a verdict reduction. Saying the verdict was excessive, O’Shea reduced the verdict to $225,000 – a decrease of nearly 65 percent.

“We were extremely disappointed by Judge O’Shea’s ruling,” Sonsire said. “The right to a trial by jury is the bedrock of our civil justice system. This type of judicial interference undermines the notion that a trial of one’s peers, rather than an elected judge, will make decisions in cases like this.”

Sonsire and her client decided to appeal Judge O’Shea’s decision to the state Supreme Court Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department.

“Under New York law, a trial court can only interfere with a jury verdict if the amount deviates materially from what would be reasonable compensation,” Sonsire said. “The authority of a court to upset a jury’s monetary award should be used sparingly as it infringes upon a person’s right to a trial by jury.

“We knew it was risky to appeal the decision, as there was a chance the Third Department could reduce the verdict even further. However, my client and I both felt so strongly that this type of interference was inappropriate that we were willing to take the risk.”

On May 10, 2018, the Third Department issued a decision reinstating the $550,000 verdict in full. Unpaid judgments grow at a rate of 9 percent per year, meaning the amount Highland Hospital must pay is now close to $625,000.

“This is an occasion where justice truly has been served. My client suffered a serious injury that has a lasting impact on her life. The Third Department showed respect for the men and women who served on the jury by honoring their decision, and it confirmed to all people living in the Southern Tier that their right to a civil trial by jury remains intact.”

Sonsire said the best part, however, was telling her client the great news. “Not much beats making a phone call like that. I think the world of my client and her family, and I know the friendships we created through this litigation will last forever.”

A link to the May 10, 2018, decision is here.

Thanks for reading,

James B. Reed

Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

Top NY Court Questions Privacy On Facebook Posts, So Think Before You Post

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If you think your private Facebook account and its personal photos will never be exposed publicly, think again.

The top court in New York State recently ruled that parts of Facebook users’ private profiles are fair game to opponents in a lawsuit and can’t be shielded by privacy settings.

 

According to news reports, the Court of Appeals case in question involved a woman’s serious fall from a horse in a Long Island park in 2011. Kelly Forman sued the horse’s owner, claiming a strap attaching the stirrup to the saddle broke, leading her to fall. She said she suffered traumatic brain damage that has caused memory loss and difficulty communicating, among other problems.

 

Attorneys for Mark Henkin, the horse’s owner, wanted access to Forman’s Facebook account, saying they needed that to evaluate her credibility and injuries. A trial court granted access to private sections of her Facebook account, but an Appellate Division decision said Forman only had to show photos and messages she planned to reveal at her trial.

 

The Court of Appeals decision basically said Forman can’t decide what Facebook information can be revealed in her trial.

 

The case returns to the trial court now, where the horse owner’s attorneys can pursue Forman’s Facebook information.

 

The Court of Appeals, in the 7-0 opinion, compared social media material like Facebook photos to information kept in a file cabinet and said it should be available in a lawsuit if relevant.

 

NY Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

NY Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore compared Facebook information and medical records in writing for the court. If a patient commences a lawsuit, the patient may have to release private files if they pertain to the lawsuit, she wrote.

 

For example, if a person brings a lawsuit, the other side – the insurance company and their lawyers – often ask the person suing to see their Facebook postings, including photos. In some cases, they want to see why you are not able to do something now that you were able to do before.

 

Previously, NY courts have been specific that a defendant and their insurance company and their lawyers didn’t have a right to look beyond a person’s public settings in Facebook. If you permit everyone to see everything on Facebook, then defense lawyers and their insurance companies can see everything, too. But if you lock down your settings to friends only, posts were off-limits to the other side.

 

With the new ruling, the courts are not going to automatically allow access beyond a privacy setting. Trial judges will decide on a case-by-case basis if it’s appropriate for a defendant and their insurance company to see what was posted privately.

 

There is a very good reason for that decision: what the court is saying is just because you label something as “private” doesn’t necessarily mean that information is not relevant for the other side to be able to see. People often have to disclose private information in a lawsuit because the courts consider it relevant.

 

Here is the bottom line to remember from this case: there is no such thing as 100 percent privacy once you post something online.

 

Think before you post.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

___________________________________

James B. Reed
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com