Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Legality & Liability associated with COVID-19

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Legality & Liability Associated With COVID-19 The Coronavirus – COVID-19 – is now a pandemic and a world crises. It is important that we are all educated and informed about this virus.  The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) are excellent sources for accurate information and guidance.  COVID-19 is a real and imminent health concern; but, please be calm and avoid hysteria and panic.  Become informed and take all necessary precautions and safety measures. A National Emergency has already been declared, along with State, County, and City declarations of emergency.  Public and private Schools systems, universities and colleges, the courts, public retail establishments, and the like have closed.  COVID-19 [...]

Unified Trial

What Is A Unified Trial?Except in the Bronx, where unified trials are the norm, the general rule is that jury trials are bifurcated, with the issue of liability being decided first, followed by a trial on the issue of damages. However, there are limited circumstances where the plaintiff can ask for and be granted a unified trial. This circumstance generally arises where the issue of damages (i.e. the injuries) are relevant to the issue of liability. The most common scenario is a pedestrian knockdown case, where the defendant is claiming that (a) the pedestrian was never hit by the vehicle or (b) the pedestrian ran into the side of the vehicle as opposed to the front striking the pedestrian. These [...]

Bifurcated Trial

What is a Bifurcated Trial? With the exception of cases venued in the Bronx, the general rule is that the trial on issue of liability (who is at fault for the accident) and the trial on the issue of damages (the injuries sustained and the compensation appropriate for them) are separated. This is known as a bifurcated trial. The overarching purposes for bifurcation are the simplification and narrowing of the issues for the jury to decide in each jury trial and the efficiency of the court system. The rationale for the latter is that if the jury finds that the defendant is not liable for the accident, the issue of damages becomes irrelevant. Put another way, if the defendant [...]

Bench Trial

What is a Bench Trial?When discovery in a case is complete and the case is placed on the trial calendar, both the defendant and the plaintiff have the right to demand a jury trial to determine any issues of fact. Issues of law are determined by the judge and when there no disputed facts to be decided, there is no right to a jury trial. The distinction between issues of fact and issues of law is beyond the scope of this post, but suffice it to say, the jury generally determines the credibility of the parties, the apportionment of fault among the parties, and the damages sustained. If, however, the plaintiff does not demand a jury trial and the [...]

50-H Hearing

50-H Hearing After filing and serving a Notice of Claim, the next pre-requisite to filing a lawsuit for money damages against a public entity or authority is a statutory hearing, which is generally referred to as a 50-H hearing (the legal authority for this hearing is General Municipal Law Section 50-h for certain claims and other statutes for other claims, hence the term “50-h” which is generally used in the legal community to mean any hearing on a claim against a public entity or authority). The 50-h hearing is very similar to a deposition (but not as extensive or thorough). You will be asked questions under oath by an attorney retained by the entity or authority against which [...]

Reckless Endangerment Standard

Reckless Endangerment Standard The law recognizes that when a police officer is responding to an emergency, the officer cannot be expected to obey all of the traffic laws in the way that a normal driver would under normal conditions.  Hence, the Vehicle and Traffic Law specifically permits police officers to disregard a number of traffic laws, including stop signs, red lights, speed limits, turning lanes, and one-way streets.  There are limits, however.  The officer must be responding to an emergency, must be operating an authorized vehicle, and must be using his or her emergency equipment (such as lights and sirens).  And even if the officer can prove all of those exceptions, he or she is still held to [...]

De Minimis Defect

What Is De Minimis Defect? Often in trip and fall cases, the party responsible for maintaining the property where an injury occurred will claim that the defect is "de minimis".  The courts consider a defective condition to be "de minimis", and hence not actionable, if the defect is "trivial", "insignificant", or "insubstantial".  Essentially, the argument is that although there may be a defect (such as an elevated sidewall flag), if the defect is very minor or slight, the court can decide that the defect is not dangerous enough to justify holding the property owner or tenant legally responsible to the injured party for the injuries sustained.  The courts have resisted setting specific dimensions for what is, and is not, [...]

Court of Claims

What Is the Court of Claims?The Court of Claims is a separate and special court system set up specifically for cases against the State of New York and its various branches and divisions. For example, if you are struck by a New York State police vehicle, you are not permitted to sue in the regular state court system. The case must be brought in the Court of Claims. There are a number of procedural differences, most importantly that there is no right to a jury in the Court of Claims. All trials are bench trials. While the same substantive laws apply, the outcomes can be vastly different. The Attorney General's office, which represents the State of New York in [...]

Landlord’s Duty To Prevent Assaults

Landlord's Duty To Prevent Assaults If you were assaulted by a third party in your apartment building, you of course can sue the perpetrator, but the landlord may also be liable to you to compensate for your injuries and pain and suffering.  Landlords have a duty to take minimal precautions to protect tenants from the reasonably foreseeable criminal conduct of third parties and are liable to an injured tenant if the landlord's conduct caused the assault.  The important factors in most cases like this are whether the assault was foreseeable and whether the landlord took reasonable steps to prevent that foreseeable assault from occurring.  For example, in a building lobby where assaults have occurred prior to your incident, [...]