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The Dietrich Law Firm P.C.’s compassionate team would like to take a moment to remember all of those who have lost their lives during the pandemic. Our hearts go out to those families who lost loved ones after being exposed to COVID-19 in nursing homes. In the pandemic’s early days, Governor Cuomo’s directive placed residents in substantial danger by admitting COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals into long-term care facilities. The mandate prohibited nursing homes from testing any patients admitted to determine their level of contagiousness. In exchange, health care centers were provided with blanket immunity from COVID-19 liability.

The Repeal’s Implications for Nursing Home Victims

Liability protections allowed health care centers to cut corners and jeopardize vulnerable patients while increasing profit margins. The immunity law eliminated a significant deterrent that loved ones of nursing home residents had to protect their family members from neglect and mistreatment. Critics have pointed out Cuomo’s questionable motivations as the Greater New York Hospital Association, an influential lobbying group, donated lots of money to his campaign.

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Whether texting, listening to music or scrolling through social media posts, the number of distracted pedestrians has significantly increased in recent years. Almost anyone who travels around in busy sections of town can attest to the alarming number of people not paying attention while walking. Unfortunately, distracted pedestrians can easily place both themselves and others in considerable danger.

What are the Consequences of Distracted Pedestrians?

Since 2004, the number of severe injuries to pedestrians using their smartphones has more than doubled. Recent research reveals that over 60 percent of pedestrians are distracted by other activities while on foot. As a result, more and more people are randomly tripping over curbs, waking into oncoming traffic, and falling down steps. This can be particularly troublesome for motorists when distracted pedestrians attempt to cross streets while looking at their phones instead of oncoming vehicles. Drivers may be forced to swerve out of the way and into other cars. Crossing the street distracted is even more dangerous when motorists fail to pay attention.

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A recent Third Circuit Court ruling in Carmen Rosa Gomez v. Norfolk Southern Corporation, et al. (Case No. 2:17-cd-00231) could be a defining moment for some Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) claims. The case was brought by the widow of a lift truck operator who was crushed to death in a work accident. Eleven defendants, including the Norfolk Southern Railway (NSR), are parties to the lawsuit. The court’s ruling on who can be considered a common carrier and an employer may have larger implications by potentially expanding the types of defendants who can be named in future FELA claims.

Court Ruled Against H&M and NSR

A truck collapsed on top of the plaintiff’s husband while he was unloading a shipping container from a railcar. When the accident occurred, the plaintiff’s husband was an employee of H&M International Transportation, Inc. (H&M), a contractor hired by NSR to manage operations at the terminal. The widow made several allegations against the defendants, including FELA claims against H&M and NSR. In summary judgment motions, both defendants asserted that they should not be named in a FELA claim. H&M argued that it was a contractor, not a common carrier, while NSR contended that it was not the decedent’s employer.

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In Haviland v. Lourdes Med. Ctr. of Burlington County, Inc., the plaintiff suffered a shoulder injury while undergoing a radiology exam because the technician deviated from accepted standards of medical care. However, the trial court dismissed the case because the plaintiff failed to file an affidavit of merit (AOM). The legal issue revolved around whether New Jersey law mandates AOMs for vicarious liability claims filed against healthcare establishments involving negligent unlicensed employees. After reviewing the medical malpractice case, the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled that the plaintiff was not required to file an AOM with his complaint. The decision to reverse the lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit could have profound implications on future vicarious liability claims concerning the requirement of AOMs for med mal cases.

The Ruling’s Possible Implications For New York Med Mal Cases

New Jersey and 27 other states require an affidavit of merit for medical malpractice cases. Under New York Law, all med mal actions must be accompanied by a certificate from the plaintiff’s attorney, declaring that he or she consulted with at least one licensed physician and, after thoroughly assessing the facts of the case, has determined that there are adequate grounds for pursuing such action. The affidavit of merit mandate was primarily designed to filter out frivolous claims before they are brought to court.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is investigating a multistate outbreak of potentially dangerous bacteria. Hand soaps linked to Burkholderia Cepacia infections, sold at Walmart and other retailers, were voluntarily recalled over health concerns. B. Cepacia is the name given for at least 20 different species of bacteria that are often antibiotic-resistant.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest public health threats of modern times. Unfortunately, roughly 2.8 million victims contract antibiotic-resistant infections, and over 35,000 of those suffer fatalities each year. According to the CDC, B. Cepacia is found in soil and water, but contaminated medicines usually cause human infections. Although B. Cepacia poses minimal risk to healthy individuals, those with certain sicknesses, such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, and weakened immune systems, may be more vulnerable to infections, which can cause severe lung disease and even death.

What Scent Theory Products are Contaminated? 

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Chief Judge Janet DiFiore announced that the New York State Unified Court System intends to resume some in-person operations, including a limited number of jury trials in courts throughout the state. Although the chief judge has determined it is finally safe to bring people back to courtrooms, trials will take on a much different look than before COVID-19.

What to Expect for Jury Trials Under the “New Normal”

The District Attorney of Erie County, John J. Flynn Jr., promised that every possible effort would be made to ensure everyone’s safety. Anybody entering the court will be temperature checked, health screened and required to wear a mask. Social distancing has altered the traditional approach of summoning hundreds of potential jurors for jury selection. Depending on the capacity of the courtroom, under the “new normal,” less than 40 people, including the judge, court staff, 12 jurors, 2 alternates, lawyers, and defendants, will be admitted. All members of the jury and observers will be required to sit 6 feet apart from one another. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of courtrooms are equipped with enough space to handle social distancing. State Supreme Court Justice Paula L. Feroleto said, “We have one operating courtroom in each of the eight counties of Western New York that can accommodate that social distancing.” By the end of the month, Erie County plans on having two grand juries, which will meet on alternating days.

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Another police-related fatality has recently gained national attention largely in part because it seems to reverberate the murder of George Floyd. As you may recall, Mr. Floyd was killed after a police officer kneeled on his neck, sparking national protests against police brutality and racism. The family of Angelo Quinto, the Asian American who died after a brief encounter with police, filed a lawsuit against the Antioch Police Department (APD). A spokesman for the APD told reporters that there is an ongoing investigation into the man’s death.

The Wrongful Death of Angelo Quinto

In 2019, Mr. Quito was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy. The 30-year-old man frequently suffered from paranoia and anxiety attacks. According to Cassandra Quinto-Collins, Mr. Quinto’s mother, she called the police to their Northern California home because her son was in the middle of a serious mental health crisis and needed help. Shortly after arriving, one of the responding police officers knelt on Angelo’s neck while the other handcuffed him. Ms. Quinto-Collins, was there watching the police and trusted they knew what they were doing. Meanwhile, Mr. Quinto pleaded with the officers, “Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me”. After nearly 5 minutes of the officer kneeling on the victim, he lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Unfortunately, Mr. Quinto never regained consciousness and died 3 days later at the hospital.

Slip and fall accidents frequently occur in New York, and in many instances, they cause significant harm. Some people hurt in such incidents can recover damages, but whether they are owed compensation depends on numerous factors, including what caused them to fall and how long the dangerous condition was present. In a recent New York ruling, a court discussed each party’s burden of proof with regard to negligent claims arising out of slip and fall accidents. If you suffered injuries on someone else’s property, you could be owed damages, and it is smart to meet with a dedicated Buffalo personal injury attorney to discuss your harm.

The Plaintiff’s Fall

It is alleged that the plaintiff lived in a building owned by the defendant. As she was leaving the building one day, she slipped on the landing and fell down a flight of stairs that led to the front door. She was injured in the fall and subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging they negligently permitted a dangerous condition to exist on the property, which caused her to suffer injuries. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff could not specify what caused her to fall and, therefore, her claim must fail. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed.

Proving Liability in Slip and Fall Cases

Under New York Law, if a plaintiff in a slip and fall case cannot identify the cause of his or her fall, it is fatal to any negligence claim arising out of the incident, as it would require the judge or jury determining liability to make a finding of proximate cause based on pure speculation. In the subject case, the defendant argued that the plaintiff did not know what caused her to fall, and therefore, her negligence claim should be dismissed. Continue reading

While most car accidents in New York are caused by negligent driving, some are brought about by sudden, unavoidable obstacles. Thus, New York recognizes the emergency doctrine, which can operate to remove liability for drivers who encounter sudden unexpected conditions and subsequently cause collisions during their attempts to avoid a dangerous situation. The application of the emergency doctrine does not automatically mean a driver cannot be held accountable for injuries suffered in an accident, however, as demonstrated in a recent New York opinion. If you were hurt in a crash caused by another driver, you have the right to pursue damages, and you should speak to a seasoned Buffalo car accident attorney about your possible claims.

The Plaintiff’s Accident and Subsequent Claims

It is reported that the plaintiff was riding a motorcycle when the defendant, who was driving the vehicle in front of him, stopped suddenly after a dog ran into the road. The plaintiff rear-ended the defendant and suffered injuries in the collision. He then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that her negligence caused the accident and his subsequent harm. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that pursuant to the emergency doctrine, she was not negligent. The court denied the defendant’s motion, and she appealed. On appeal, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

The Emergency Doctrine

Under New York law, drivers that stop suddenly must do so with due regard to other drivers and the exercise of reasonable care. Drivers must also signal appropriately to anyone traveling behind them before stopping abruptly. The appellate court noted that while the defendant submitted evidence that supported the assertion that she was not negligent, the plaintiff raised a factual dispute by submitting an expert affidavit stating that the best practice for a driver who encounters an animal in the road is to avoid stopping. Continue reading

Fatal car accidents sadly are a common occurrence in New York, and in many cases, they are caused by dangerous conditions encountered in the roadway. While people who lose loved ones in collisions are frequently able to recover damages from the parties responsible, fatalities do not always arise out of negligence, and a plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s acts proximately caused the harm alleged to recover damages. Recently, a New York court issued an opinion explaining the proof needed to establish proximate cause in a case in which the plaintiff’s decedent died after crashing into a barricade on a bridge. If you lost a loved one in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you could be owed damages, and it is advisable to contact a knowledgeable Buffalo car accident attorney about your rights.

The Decedent’s Harm

Allegedly, the decedent was a passenger in a vehicle that crashed into a bridge that was no longer in commission. He suffered fatal injuries in the accident, after which the plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging, in part, that the defendant negligently maintained and operated the bridge. Specifically, the plaintiff asserted that the steel box barrier the defendant used at the entrance of the bridge created a dangerous condition. A non-jury trial was held, and the court determined that the steel box barrier was not a substantial factor in bringing about the decedent’s death and found in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff appealed, but on appeal, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Establishing Proximate Cause in Negligence Claims

The appellate court found that, contrary to the plaintiff’s assertions, a fair assessment of the evidence supported the trial court’s ruling. Further, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the ruling violated prior case law establishing that victims of accidents are not required to name specific remedies and prove that if they were implemented, it would have prevented the harm suffered. Instead, the court explained that a trial court is not precluded from weighing whether a person was likely to suffer the same harm regardless of whether the defendant acted negligently. Continue reading

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