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James T. Snyder Law Blog

Injured by a leased or rented car or truck? Getting around the Graves Amendment: Stratton v. Wallace.

In 2005, Congress delivered (yet another) sweet chocolate bonbon to major corporate enterprises when it enacted what is commonly called the “Graves Amendment.”  The Graves Amendment was enacted to shield and protect motor vehicle leasing and rental companies from vicarious liability as “owners” of the millions of cars and trucks they lease or rent to consumers, either directly or through vehicle fleet and rental agencies.

But maybe those companies are not completely off the hook.  There’s a fly in the Graves Amendment soup that a sharp plaintiff’s lawyer and law firm in Buffalo, New York, has identified and exploited -- to the benefit of a dead woman horribly killed by a negligent truck driver operating a leased tractor-trailer in New York: Stratton v Wallace, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105816 (W.D.N.Y., July 31, 2014).

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James Snyder
A major 2018 N.Y.S. Court of Appeals victory for injured plaintiffs: Rodriguez v. City of New York.

New York’s highest Court, the Court of Appeals, has just issued what can only be called a seismic-shift decision that greatly benefits injured persons in New York State.

The case, Carlos Rodriguez v. City of New York, 2018 N.Y. LEXIS 793 (2018), issued on April 3, 2018, makes the summary judgment process on liability much more fair and equitable for injured plaintiffs.

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James Snyder
How is loss of consciousness after a personal injury accident measured to determine pain and suffering damages?

How is loss of consciousness after a personal injury accident measured to determine pain and suffering damages?

In a brain injury setting following a car crash or motorcycle accident, construction injury, slip and fall or medical malpractice incident, loss of consciousness -- temporary or permanent -- raises the question of whether and to what extent the injured party is conscious “at some level” of his or her pain and suffering, sufficient to establish general pain and suffering damages, for example, at New York State Pattern Jury Instructions § 2:280.

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James Snyder
More about the dangers of accidents involving self-driving, autonomous vehicles.

Here’s another report from California about how badly self-driving, “autonomous” vehicles operate, recently described by the online tech newspaper The Register:

“Self-driving cars still suck.  On the subject of self-driving cars, a recent report from the California’s Department of Motor Vehicles reveals that autonomous vehicles still make simple mistakes. The DMV asked eight companies: Baidu, Delphi Automotive/APTIV PC, Drive.ai, GM Cruise, Nissan, Telenav, Waymo and Zoox to identify common failures and how often human drivers had to take over during mishaps….

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James Snyder
Live, on-road autonomous vehicle testing -- using everyday Americans as human guinea pigs.

Will self-driving cars replace human drivers?

 Probably someday.  Sooner rather than later.  But hopefully for those of us who love cars, we’ll continue to have the option of driving ourselves, in addition to having our car or truck drive us around. However, until that day, self-driving cars are going to be dangerous to be around. They are being tested in real-world driving scenarios in California, Arizona and now Connecticut, and no one seems to think that’s a problem. Perhaps because the companies developing these cars are so big, powerful and wealthy they can bend the various state Departments of Motor Vehicles to their will?

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James Snyder
Motorcycle collisions -- "left-turn-in-front-of" collisions and injuries caused by a car or truck failing to yield the right-of-way to a motorcyclist.

Unfortunately, I was going to the public library yesterday morning in a small but busy town near my home, and as I traveled down the main street, I saw the flashing red and blue lights of multiple emergency vehicles and police cars at the intersection where I would turn right into the library.  Across the street at the intersection was a donut shop.  As I approached, I saw a huge, beautiful Harley-Davidson loaded on a flatbed wrecker, its entire front wheel and fork assembly ripped off and dropped on the flatbed next to the cycle.  Adjacent to the wrecker and the police cars was a small blue sedan, front end destroyed, its hood up, over the curb and pointing in the direction of the donut shop.  There were fluids all over the road.

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James Snyder
Practice pointer for plaintiff's attorneys -- Federal removal jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1441.

You’re a plaintiff’’s personal injury attorney in New York State, and you mostly practice in New York State court.  However, occasionally you end up in Federal court, likely removed from state court on the grounds of diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1441.  Or, you might consider just commencing that multi-state motor vehicle collision claim in Federal court, based upon the belief you will be removed to Federal court by the defendants on diversity grounds anyway.

Two important cautions are in order for New York State plaintiff’s practitioners who become involved in diversity jurisdiction in Federal court.

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James Snyder
Construction season in New York State -- time to talk about legal protections for injured workers and laborers.

Are you a construction or demolition worker who got injured on the job? You need to read this. New York State has a remarkable trio of laws intending to protect workers and laborers involved in the construction, erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of buildings.

This trio of powerful protections is well-known to commercial property owners and general contractors in New York by their statutory names: N.Y. Labor Law §§ 200, 240(1) and 241(6). I want to discuss each protective statute, and related case law, over the next several weeks in this blog. Let’s begin by talking about the first and probably most renowned: Labor Law § 240(1), also known as New York’s “Scaffold Law.”

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James Snyder
Electronic discovery in New York -- disclosure of "private" Facebook photographs.

Think you’re safe in litigation from discovery of your Facebook or other social media information just by switching your Facebook pages from publicly-accessible to private?  You’d be wrong. 

In a classic case of “be careful what you ask for,” an injured plaintiff snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in a recent New York State Court of Appeals decision, Forman v. Henkin, 30 N.Y.3d 656 (2018), regarding discovery of photographs and pictures posted in plaintiff’s “private” portion of her Facebook social media pages during litigation.

 

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James Snyder
Spring danger for motorcycle riders -- the first ride of the season.

It has been the coldest, snowiest spring ever here in Central New York.  But that has not stopped our good friends and neighbors -- motorcycle riders -- from getting out on their bikes when the roads have been reasonably dry and the temperatures “warm” in the 40’s and 50’s.  However, their appearance has been shocking and unexpected to everyone else driving on the roadways, who have been thinking more about seeing snowplows than motorcycles.  That shock and lack of expectation by car and truck operators is always bad news for motorcyclists in the spring, because this year cagers are totally unprepared mentally to see a motorcycle on the road while snowbanks or freezing cold temperatures are still present.

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James Snyder
LivaNova PLC (formerly Sorin Group Deutschland GmbH) Stöckert 3T blood heater-cooler infections.

During open heart or open chest surgery, patients are placed on a machine called a “heater-cooler” that keeps their blood warm as it recirculates through their body.  However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has issued a warning regarding the risk of Mycobacterium chimaera or NTM infection from Stöckert 3T heater-coolers manufactured and distributed by LivaNova PLC (formerly Sorin Group Deutschland GmbH), a German company.  These Stöckert 3T heater-coolers are in widespread use in hospitals in the United States.

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James Snyder
Traumatic Brain Injury ("TBI") -- mild to severe, millions of Americans suffer.

Consider this remarkable and sobering fact about traumatic brain injury (known as “TBI”) in the United States, as stated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:  “In 2013, about 2.8 million TBI-related emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalizations, and deaths occurred in the United States.  TBI contributed to the deaths of nearly 50,000 people.  TBI was a diagnosis in more than 282,000 hospitalizations and 2.5 million ED visits.  These consisted of TBI alone or TBI in combination with other injuries.”  

People have the wrong idea about TBIs.  Most believe a TBI is something that leaves a person in a vegetative state; it can, but it does not have to ... According to the CDC on its website, the leading causes of TBI include falls, being struck by or against an object, and motor vehicle collisions -- all extremely common risks and occurrences in the life of every American.

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James Snyder
Back injury update: John F. Kennedy's struggle with chronic back injury, disease, surgeries and pain.

Now we know in much greater detail how seriously President John F. Kennedy suffered from a bad back and chronic back pain.  In a recent Journal of Neurosurgery article, two neurosurgeons, T. Glenn Pait, M.D., and Justin T. Dowdy, M.D., wrote a fascinating article about President Kennedy’s severe and debilitating back issues, and how it affected his life and presidency -- even possibly the cause of his remaining upright in the seat of his limousine in Dallas on November 22, 1963, by wearing a canvas corset worn around his hips and lower back that “played a role in setting up Oswald’s final shot.”

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James Snyder
No-Fault Blog No. 4: What if I'm injured operating my motorcycle?

As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, if you’re injured in a car or truck collision in New York State, you’re covered by New York No-Fault insurance for your medical bills, lost wages, and out-of-pocket incidentals/necessities arising from your injuries ... On a motorcycle and get injured in a collision?  No such luck.

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James Snyder