James T. Snyder Law, PLLC
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James T. Snyder Law Blog

A.I., Big Data and the threat of proxy discrimination: a revolution in the U.S. insurance industry.

Artificial Intelligence (“A.I.”) and mass data collection (“Big Data”) is changing the face of the insurance industry -- and not for the better for you and me. A New York Times article dated April 10, 2019, entitled “A.I. Is Changing Insurance: Some technologies are better left in the laboratory,” by Sarah Jeong, examines a massive effort by insurance carriers to utilize machine learning and secret algorithms to collect both public and private data on customers.  Use of this data raises serious concerns about how and to what extent insurance carriers may be engaging in what is called “proxy discrimination,” the use of facially-neutral information gained from other, “proxy” sources (i.e., not blatant racial or sex classification alone, but use of ZIP codes, grade point averages, credit card purchase information, facial recognition analysis, etc.), to identify targeted customers whom the carriers do not wish to insure, or will only insure at a higher premium payment.    

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James Snyder
Just out: rare N.Y. Court of Appeals opinion re: D.W.I. stops and refusal to submit to a breathalyzer: Matter of Schoonmaker v. N.Y.S. Department of Motor Vehicles.

Someone clearly had enough money, interest and aggravation to take an administrative law determination on a traffic stop violation to New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.  That rarely happens. The case, Matter of Schoonmaker v. New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 02259 (Ct. App. 3-28-19), 2019 N.Y. LEXIS 614, involved the appellant Schoonmaker’s appeal of a Department of Motor Vehicles determination revoking his driver’s license for refusing to submit to a chemical test for driving while intoxicated in violation of N.Y. Vehicle and Traffic Law (“V.T.L.”) § 1194. 

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James Snyder
Part VII of damages in personal injury: Emotional distress and the physical consequences thereof, including being in the "zone-of-danger."

As part of our on-going discussion of damages in personal injury cases, Part VII of this blog series addresses “Emotional Distress and Physical Consequences Thereof,” which is described at New York State Pattern Jury Instruction (“P.J.I.”) 2:284.  That section -- which is separate from the pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life charge -- can be read read to a jury if there is evidence in the record that the injured party’s injury caused additional, verifiable emotional or neurological sequelae, and may apply to claims when the plaintiff is in the zone-of-danger.

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James Snyder
Arrowhead Capital Finance, Ltd. v. Cheyne Specialty Finance Fund, L.P.: New York Court of Appeals speaks to N.Y. Judiciary Law § 470.

Potential personal injury (and all other legal case) clients beware: lawyers who are admitted to practice law in New York State but who reside in another state must maintain a physical office in the State of New York to practice law here and conduct legal business in the New York State courts.  This is the rule contained in N.Y. Judiciary Law § 470 (first enacted in 1862), which may come as a surprise -- and a trap -- to many attorneys licensed in New York but residing outside of New York State.

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James Snyder
Potential injury claims for U.S. military personnel for hearing damage, hearing loss or tinnitus from defective 3M Combat Arms Earplugs (CAEv2)

It has recently come to light that U.S. military service members were provided with defective earplugs meant to protect their hearing during loud explosions, the firing of military arms, and battlefield noise.  The yellow and green earplugs were manufactured by the 3M Company, and were known as reversible or dual-end 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2).  the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit determined that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 Combat Arms earplugs were too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen without the user noticing and therefore did not perform well – causing users to experience hearing damage, hearing loss, and tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears).

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James Snyder
Son Tom Snyder sworn in as an attorney-at-law in New York State. Welcome to the New York Bar!

Our son, Thomas J. Snyder, Esq., was sworn in to the New York State Bar on January 9, 2019. Another proud day for his parents. Tom is pictured here, far right, after the admission ceremony with the distinguished Justices of the N.Y.S. Appellate Division, Fourth Department, in Rochester, N.Y. Tom will continue on to complete his Ph.D. studies at the University of Chicago in modern German legal and constitutional history.

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James Snyder
Part VI of damages in personal injury: Brain injury or death for a motorcyclist in a motorcycle versus car or truck accident.

Let’s get concrete for just a minute. Some of this “damages in personal injury” material is kind of abstract.  Let’s bring it down to earth with an actual case, involving a tragic, fatal motorcycle accident. How are pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life established if there was a traumatic incident that led to death? Consider this (very unfortunate, sad) fact pattern:  A motorcyclist going straight with the right-of-way strikes the passenger side of an automobile making a left turn from the opposite lane crossing directly across the path of the motorcycle.  The driver of the automobile testifies at deposition: “I never saw the motorcycle before I turned.”  That’s negligence as a matter of law as against the car driver. Now for damages.

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James Snyder
Part V of damages in personal injury: Pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

In this and the blog entries that follow, we will explain the different types of general damages recognized under New York State negligence law. First and foremost, let’s address the two “big” general damages categories in personal injury: (i) pain and suffering; and (ii) loss of enjoyment of life. In New York law, they go together like ham and eggs. If an injured plaintiff sustains pain and suffering, he or she almost always can identify and quantify related loss of enjoyment of life.  

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James Snyder
Part IV of damages in personal injury: Piercing the veil on computer-based claims modeling.

In our last blog post, at Part III, we began the discussion about the insurance industry utilizing computer software to analyze personal injury claims, including equalizing claims payments across localities, regions and the U.S. generally.  The name of this computerized game is “Reduce Risk, Raise Profits, Repeat.” To really understand the liability insurance business in America, you have to grasp just one concept: risk.  That is all the insurance companies care about: minimizing, reducing and even eliminating risk that they will have to pay money -- big money, little money, any money at all -- to resolve a claim for damages against their insureds.

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James Snyder
Part III of damages in personal injury: Settlement versus trial, and what's a Colossus?

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, approximately 95 percent of personal injury cases in the U.S. settle.  The other five (5) percent are cases where: (i) the insurance carrier thinks the demand is too high and the case defensible, or (ii) the plaintiff has an outstanding case that appears a sure winner and the offer is too low -- so the case goes to trial.  Black’s tells us further that of the 5 percent that go to trial, approximately 90 percent of the time plaintiffs lose.  Of those trial cases where a plaintiff does win, damages are better and paid at a higher monetary rate when the case is before a trial judge, rather than a jury.

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James Snyder
Part II of damages in personal injury: Drilling deeper: how much, and how much is too much?

Damages in personal injury can seem mysterious to both attorneys and laypersons alike.  In this series of posts, we attempt to lift the veil and shed light on these concepts.  The ultimate cost of damages falls upon the party who was negligent and caused the incident and injuries (called the “tortfeasor”), and their insurer.  In this post, Part II, we drill down deeper into those concepts, especially in actual practice in the real world of tort settlements and litigation.  

 

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James Snyder
What are "damages" in personal injury, and how are they determined? Part I: Introduction

In this post, we begin the first of a series of informative blog analyses and discussions regarding the award of monetary damages in negligence for personal injury cases in New York State. These blog posts are not meant to offer specific legal advice, which can only occur where an attorney-client relationship exists, but we trust they will be helpful to you in a general way.

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James Snyder
Johnson & Johnson hit with $4.69 billion damages verdict in baby powder-asbestos ovarian cancer trial in Missouri.

It was a jaw-dropping verdict: on July 12, 2018, a jury in Missouri awarded 22 women who were alleged to have contracted ovarian cancer by using Johnson & Johnson baby powder $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages, for a total award of almost $4.7 billion.  The plaintiffs in this case alleged that the Johnson & Johnson talc-based powders, sold as “Baby Powder” and “Shower to Shower” contained asbestos -- a well-known carcinogen -- and, when applied as a feminine-hygiene product, was absorbed through the skin and caused ovarian cancer.  Six of the 22 women plaintiffs had died from their cancer at the time of trial.

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James Snyder
"Face-to-face" counseling obligation of New York pharmacies for people with disabilities.

In New York State, for on-premises pharmaceutical delivery/pick-up by a patient or patient representative, pharmacists have a mandatory, non-delegable legal duty, pursuant to 8 N.Y.C.R.R. § 63.6(b)(8)(i)(a), to personally counsel each patient or patient representative “on the premises of the pharmacy … who presents a prescription … in person in a face-to-face meeting whenever practicable.

But imagine for a moment you are blind or deaf, or have a serious vision impairment or a utilize a cochlear implant for hearing loss.  What would you do to ensure you know all about your medicine in consultation with a pharmacist referring to a prescription label you cannot see, or a speaking with a pharmacist you cannot hear?

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James Snyder
Pharmacy access rights for the blind and vision-impaired in New York State.

I have an interest and experience in providing legal help to individuals with all kinds of sensory impairments and disabilities, to ensure they have proper accommodations and access to equal, effective communication under New York State and Federal law.  This includes the New York State Civil Rights Law, N.Y.S. Human Rights Law, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Today we begin to talk about access to pharmacies for individuals who are blind and vision-impaired.

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James Snyder
In search of a motorcycle on private property, curtilage matters, U.S. Supreme Court says last week.

Curtilage.  Sounds like something that describes yogurt gone bad.  Or something your doctor scrapes off an infected wound. 

Nothing having to do with motorcycles would ever come to mind when using the word “curtilage.”

Until now. Because a new U.S. Supreme Court decision, Collins v. Virginia, 584 U.S. ___ (2018), was just handed down last week that held the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment does not permit the warrantless entry of a home or its surrounding area -- the curtilage -- in order to search a vehicle therein.

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James Snyder
It's "Speed Week" in New York State -- a perfect storm for D.W.I. arrests.

It’s “Speed Week” this week in New York State.  The weather is nice, roads are clear, and people are out in their cars and trucks.  So law enforcement is out, too, with extra patrols working the highways and byways all around New York State looking for speeders and aggressive drivers on the road. Think you can’t get caught?  In 2017 during “Speed Week,” police in New York State issued more than 21,000 tickets to motorists across the state -- in one week.

Being pulled over for speeding gives the police all kinds of extra opportunities to look at your car, question you, possibly even ask you to get out of the car to conduct a personal or vehicle search, depending upon the circumstances. That’s when the trouble begins.

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James Snyder
Working at an unsafe height in Manhattan -- N.Y. Labor Law § 240.

On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, I was sitting in the evening on the West Side piers in lower Manhattan when I saw the actual construction scene set forth above.  I watched, dumbfounded, as the laborers worked high above the ground and water.  I could see no safety gear in use as the workers actively crawled and walked all over the superstructure as the boom trucks delivered huge loads of decking at least three or four stories up….

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James Snyder