Saturday, December 29, 2012

Snow and Ice Injuries

We've had a few short snow flurries so far this year, including on Christmas, but it looks like this weekend will be the first serious snow storm. Right now, there is a nice blanket of snow on the ground, and plenty of holiday decorations still up to highlight the wintery scene.

With snow and ice, however, come weather related car accidents, slip and falls, and other injuries. Every year I do a snow and ice blog post around this time. Injuries happen all year long, but claims based on winter-time car accidents or slip and falls are particular types of personal injury lawsuits that I have a great deal of experience with.

If you need a personal injury attorney, contact me. A lawyer can help you or your loved one get compensation for your snow and ice accident related injuries.  For a brief video describing my services as a Suffolk County Car Accident and Slip and Fall Attorney, click this link.




Monday, December 3, 2012

Personal injury attorney

Personal injury lawyers help people. A lawyer can't make it so you're not in pain, or erase a traumatic event, but a lawyer can get you compensation for your injuries.

Money helps. It can be a college fund for an injured child, an inheritance for a family that lost a loved one, or simply a means to improve your quality of life.

I want to help. If I take your case, I will fight for you, work with you, and do everything I can to get you the best result possible.

Personal injury law isn't especially complicated, but you want a lawyer that knows the law. I know personal injury law extremely well, and I have both the academic credentials (receiving a first year award and graduation prize in Tort Law during law school) and the practical experience (arguing countless motions and appeals) to show it.

Most cases settle, but you want a lawyer who can take your case to trial. I have tried numerous cases, obtained great results for my clients, and love being in front of a jury. If I can get you a settlement that I think is fair, I will push you to take it because that's my job; but if the other side won't pay, I will push the jury to award you the highest amount they can.

If you are looking for an attorney because you've been hurt in a car accident, construction accident, or slip/trip and fall, contact me.  For a brief video describing my services as a Suffolk County Personal Injury Attorney, click this link.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Consumer Attorney -- Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy battered the Northeast on Monday, causing widespread damage throughout New England, and leaving New York with the a number of fatalities and prolonged power outages.

From what I've heard on the radio, LIPA's still saying 7-10 days, and I'm hoping they are trying to underpromise and overdeliver. Friends and family have told me lights in parts of Commack, Nesconset, Seldon, Manorville and Shirley are back on. Smithtown, St. James, and Lake Grove are still out. Hauppauge was still out as of last night. Verizon's cell service is mostly out, except for in the areas with power and an occasional spotty signal.

Suffolk County's courts are open today 10/31, if they happen to be on your trick or treat route.

Hurricane Sandy is likely to lead to a number of situations where lawyers are needed: car accidents, insurance claims, and business disputes, to name a few.

Depending on demand, I may investigate and send a foil request regarding LIPA's response to the storm, or become otherwise involved in assisting those who are impacted. Utilities aren't liable for outages absent "gross negligence," and have a tariff that covers many claims. I was involved in litigation with Con Ed over a large balckout in Queens several years ago, and I received a number of calls from Nassau and Suffolk (and was interviewed for a news story) when Irene hit. At the time, with Irene, recommended people file a tariff claim, and did not commence an action.

I'm curios how LIPA prepared for this storm in light of what they learned from Irene. At the moment, there are still a ton of trees down, so we'll have to wait and see.

Below are some pictures of how Smithtown, Long Island, looked after the storm.

11/5 UPDATE - Still no power in much of Smithtown (including my house). My law office, in Hauppauge, is up and running. I'm confident that LIPA's employees, themselves Long Islanders, are working as hard as they can. Other States, however, seem to have responded much more quickly, and people are seriously questioning LIPA's preparedness for this storm. The gas shortage has also become a major problem.  From the information I've heard, it's rumored that many locations will not have power until November 14th or 28th.

11/7 UPDATE - Still no power in at least my area of Smithtown; the gas lines are absurd.


Related Posts & Websites:

* FEMA Disaster Assistance (learn if you are eligable for, and apply for, Federal disaster relief assistance)

* New York State Public Service Commission (regulatory body overseeing utilities);

* LIPA Storm Center (updates and information from LIPA about the storm response)

Hurricane Irene Power Outage Claims (A prior blog post explaining how courts assess liability against utilities if they are sued (whether in an individual lawsuit or class action, and providing information about the PSC's internal claim process);

* "Israel Warns LIPA on Storm Response," Patch.com by Jason Molinet, 10/30/12 ( Congressman says "LIPA during Irene did not perform satisfactorily. They said they got their act together. We’ll be watching.")

Gas Lines Persist as Fuel StartsFlowing Again,” By Timothy Bolger, Long Island Press, 11/2/12


* "What Cuomo can do to Con Ed and LIPA," By Dana Rubenstein, Capital New York, 11/7/12

Can customers sue power companies for outages? Yes, butit's hard to win,” Reuters News & Insight, By Alison Frakel, 11/8/2012 (I was interviewed for this article)

* "Why LIPA failed: Utility ignored warnings it wasn't readyfor major storm,” Newsday by Gus Garcia-Roberts and Will Van Sant, 11/8/2012 (argues that LIPA "failed to upgrade antiquated technology, neglected vital maintenance and regularly underbudgeted for storm response")


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Business Attorney

Business law is divided into two broad categories: transactional and litigation.  I handle transactions (planning for problems before they arise), but the majority of my experience has been in litigation (dealing with problems after they happen).  These two areas work together well, and I've found that the litigation experience is extremely helpful in transactional work.

What I offer clients is quality work, professional service, and personal attention.  There are two extremes among business attorneys, and I fall somewhere in the middle.  On the one end, there are firms that churn out boilerplate work quickly and efficiently, but may have a limited capacity to go beyond that.  For example, actually lawyering a case does not fit into some firms' business models, and they have trouble reacting when there are legitimate (or even arguable) defenses to their clients claims in a litigation context, or where a transaction develops in a way that does not quite fit their pre-drafted documents.  On the other end of the spectrum are firms that over-lawyer every case, and spend unfathomable amounts of their clients' time and money on nonsense.  For example, I've seen numerous instances where firms will take very simple things and make them unnecessarily complicated, or have multiple attorneys and staff spend considerable time with multiple conferences and meetings to schedule tasks that can be completed by a single attorney in only a few minutes.

I'm in the middle of these extremes.  I try to handle things as efficiently as possible, with an eye towards always moving forward towards the clients' goals, and at the same time I address each matter as a lawyer (not merely a paper-pusher).  I focus on execution -- getting things done, rather than just talking about getting things done -- but at the same time give each issue the time and attention that is required to ensure that things are done properly.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Constitutional Case Covered by Smithtown News


One of my cases was reported on in the Smithtown News last week:
"A Smithtown lawyer has taken on a pro bono case to help defend a Port Jefferson Station resident in his effort to fight an alleged red light camera violation, with evidence that the yellow interval at that intersection was malfunctioning at the time of the alleged violation.... Mr. Kreppein will argue that Mr. Buttaro was deprived of due process of law and should have been permitted to present a defense at the hearing rather than being told he had to wait for a later appeal hearing. 'In this case, Appellant was not permitted to present a defense. Appellant was, essentially, taken into a room and told that he was guilty, no matter what, with no opportunity to present evidence, cross-examine a witness, or even have the merits of his defense considered by the Court.'"
(Read More: "Smithtown lawyer challenges red-light-camera ticket," by Corey Adwar, The Smithtown News, 9/14/2012).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Judge Humor

Sometimes, judges will incorporate a tongue-in-cheek remarks into a decision, or make other attempts at humor.  Sometimes, these attempts are even successful.

I just came across a random unpublished Order from Judge Kaplan in the Southern District.  The Order, in its entirety, reads:

ORDER, The action is dismissed on the grounds that the complt. is delusional and that pltff failed to comply with an order of this Court...SO ORDERED...


Friday, August 3, 2012

What's in Your Child's Best Interest -- Custody and Visitation

In custody and visitation disputes, the best interests of the child or children involved is the key question. Parents want what's best for their children, even if they have difficulty figuring out what that is. During a divorce or other custody dispute, it's an emotional and difficult time for everyone involved.
It can be hard for one or both parties to make judgments objectively, or agree on anything.

As lawyers, we sometimes get paid for doing good, and helping families do what's best for their children is one of those times. I commend the parents who are doing their best to be objective, work with the other parent, foster healthy relationships for their kids, and promote the children's education, morals, happiness, and overall well-being.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Attorney Fees

Every case is different, and a client's retainer agreement will govern the fee-arrangement in any individual case. In general, however, the rates I charge are as follows:

Private Civil Litigation, Business, and Matrimonial - $400 - $450 per hour, plus costs and disbursements, with an initial up-front retainer based on anticipated work and complexity.

Employment Discrimination - In plaintiff-side discrimination and harassment cases, fees are often the greater of one-third or court awarded fees, with costs, disbursements, and other fees paid by the client or advanced for the client (depending on financial ability, complexity of the case, or other factors). Defense cases and union grievences are treated as private civil litigation. Severence Disputes are addressed on a case by case basis.

Personal Injury - one-third contingency (if no recovery, then no fee), with disbursements taken off the top, or advanced by the client directly, depending on the circumstances.

Transactions may be billed hourly, or on a flat fee, on a case-by-case basis.

Insurers, Unions, and Municipalities may have negotiated rates.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Employment Discrimination Lawsuit Featured on News 12 Long Island

One of my employment discrimination cases was featured on Long Island News 12 last night.  The story is available on their website. ("LI man sues Nature's Bounty for alleged racial discrimination," 5/22/2012).   The case was previously covered in the New York Law Journal (here [subscription required]), and the Court's May 1, 2012 decision denying summary judgment and permitting the case to be decided by a jury can be read here.  In its decision, the Court comments that although "Defendant argues a single, race-neutral remark is insufficient to raise an inference of discrimination. This argument ignores the fact that disallowing Plaintiff s 'kind' from using a specific door reasonably could be interpreted by a jury as discriminatory." 


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Published Decisions

While most day-to-day court orders are not published beyond the county clerk's file in the particular case (public record for most cases, and sealed for matrimonial and some others), decisions from the appellate courts, as well as select trial level decisions, are published and used as guidance for deciding future cases.  Below is a list of published decisions where I have been the lawyer writing the briefs and/or arguing the appeal or motion:


PERSONAL INJURY

Murphy v. NYC Transit, 74 A.D.3d 1158 (2d Dept. 2010) - Reversing dismissal of claim against municipality for failure to properly respond to assault.

Morris v. Bianna, 69 A.D.3d 910 (2d Dept. 2010) - Affirming denial of summary judgment in dram shop claim related to stabbing in a bar.

Funk v. UPS, 73 A.D.3d 851 (2d Dept. 2010) - Dismissing claim for trip and fall based upon inadequate lighting during a charity event.

Luo v. Mikel, 625 F.3d 772 (2d Circuit, 2010) - Reversing summary judgment on issue of serious injury in a motor vehicle accident case.

Wang v. 161 Hudson, 60 A.D.3d 668 (2d Dept. 2009) - Affirming jury verdict on liability, and remanding for new trial on damages.

Strickland v. PAL, 2009 NY Slip Op 50067(U) (Kings County, 2009) - Denying summary judgment in case regarding negligent crowd control.

Zheng v. Cohen, 52 A.D.3d 801(2d Dept. 2008) - Affirming denial of motion to dismiss construction accident claim.

Stawski v. Pasternack, 54 A.D.3d 619 (1st Dept. 2008) - dismissal reversed, and summary judgment granted in Plaintiff's favor, in legal malpractice claim based upon failure to timely file a construction accident claim.

Vignapiano v. Herbert Construction, 46 AD3d 544 (2d Dept. 2007) - Dismissed negligence case against property manager.

MATRIMONIAL, DIVORCE, AND FAMILY LAW

Ferri v. Riutta, 2012 NY Slip Op 30299(U)(Suffolk County, 2012) - among other things, dismissing an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim by in-laws against spouse involved in a divorce because the alleged conduct was not “so outrageous or extreme as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency" and, as "New York State does not recognize a cause of action to recover damages for this tort between spouses... it would appear that an action by the parent of a divorcing party to recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress in connection with the actions by and between the divorcing child and child-in-law should not be recognized by this court.”

Stolte v. McLean, 2012 N.Y. Slip Op 50115(U) (Suffolk County, 2012) - granting declaratory judgment to claimants in a post-divorce action over life insurance and pension proceeds.

Gaffney v. Romanello, 82 A.D.3d 930 (2d Dept. 2011) - Affirming order regarding interim counsel fees.

Wallach v. Wallach, 2007 NY Slip Op 30864(U) (Suffolk County, 2007) - granting motion for discovery in post-divorce action for breach of settlement agreement.

BUSINESS

Mavropoulos v. Anderson, 2012 NY Slip Op 30546(U) (Suffolk County, 2012) - resolving various pre-answer motions in shareholders dispute, including denying a motion to dismiss based upon an alleged agreement because agreement said "lawyers agreement to follow" and "the purported agreement did nto constitute a final agreement and a meeting of the minds regarding the dissolution."

Bharucha v. Greenberg, 2011 NY Slip Op 30171(U) (Nassau County, 2011) - denial of motion for summary judgment in breach of contract action regarding escrow agreement in a real estate transaction.

Salomon v. Burr, 769 F.Supp.2d 83 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) - Denial of summary judgment on personal guarantee in a real estate transaction.

Abuelhija v. Chappelle, 08-cv-3679 (S.D.N.Y., 2009) - dismissal of claim for breach of settlement agreement in an entertainment/management dispute.

Kremen v. Morelli, 54 A.D.3d 596 (1st Dept., 2008) - Legal malpractice claim dismissed.

Rothman v. Morelli, 43 A.D.3d 769 (1st Dept., 2007) - Dismissing claim in attorney fee-sharing dispute.


EMPLOYMENT

Crump v. N.T.B.Y., Inc., ___ F.Supp.3d ____ (EDNY, 2012) - denying motion for summary judgment in employment discrimination case because "disallowing Plaintiff's 'kind' from using a specific door reasonably could be interpreted by a jury as discriminatory."

Green v. Canarsie2012 NY Slip Op 50702(U) (Kings County, 2012) - motion to dismiss denied as premature in employment discrimination case. 


Graham v. Fareed, 55 AD3d 405 (1st Dept. 2008) - dismissal claim in contract/employment action reverse.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Divorce Attorney: Pension and Life Insurance Benefits Agreement Enforced Post Judgment

I recently received a much awaited decision on one of my cases in the Suffolk County Supreme Court in a post-judgment matrimonial matter.  In this case, the stipulation of settlement in the prior divorce had provided for certain rights regarding one of the parties' pension and life insurance proceeds. That spouse, however, then made his second wife the beneficiary, who received the proceeds upon his death.  The first wife and children moved to enforce their rights, and the Court found:

Separation agreements purporting to equitably assign pension benefits should be given the same protection as Court Ordered benefits... a Separation Agreement expressly distributing pension benefits as marital property pursuant to the Equitable Distribution Law is enforceable...
Similarly, the court found:
A promise in a separation agreement to maintain an insurance policy designating a spouse as beneficiary vests in the spouse an equitable interest in the policy specified, and that spouse will prevail over a person in whose favor the decedent executed a gratuitous change in beneficiary...
The full decision can be read here.   

Friday, February 3, 2012

Save Sanity And Trees

                Other attorneys may disagree, but my general philosophy with legal drafting, whether drafting a contract or a litigation document, is to make things as simple, concise, clear, and efficient as possible.   “Papering” the other side can have some strategic advantage in rare instances, and often even a concise legal document would be considered voluminous by a lay person.   As a general rule, however, my contracts are written so that they can be easily understood without ambiguity or excess verbiage; my pleadings tell people what a case is actually about; my discovery demands and responses are short and to the point; and my motions are relatively easy to read and understand.

             One prime example where trees weep over the inefficiency of the legal profession is in discovery.   Many lawyers will preface their document demands with pages upon pages of meaningless instructions and definitions, followed by an unnecessarily large number of duplicative and barely intelligible demands.  The only “instructions” necessary for responding to a discovery demand are the CPLR and the Administrative Rules (in State Court), or the Federal Rules (in Federal Court), and the rules of the individual judge.  No matter what “instructions” an attorney puts on their demands, a party cannot unilaterally override those rules.
   
             Personally, with respect to discovery, I am a big fan of Rule 26 in the Federal Rules.    Under that rule, a “party must, without awaiting a discovery request, provide to the other parties…  (i) the name and, if known, the address and telephone number of each individual likely to have discoverable information… (ii) a copy of all documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things that the disclosing party has in its possession, custody, or control and may use to support its claims or defenses, unless the use would be solely for impeachment… and (iii) a computation of each category of damages claimed…  [and] documents or other evidentiary material… on which each computation is based, including materials bearing on the nature and extent of injuries suffered” and (iv) insurance information.  

             Thus, under Rule 26, or a State Court discovery demand that parrots its language, everything should be disclosed - period.  Obviously, you may need some specifically tailored requests to ensure that everyone knows what is considered relevant, and so that you have a basis for seeking court intervention if there is noncompliance.  A laundry list, however, does not help anyone.  In fact, clever efforts to turn 10 demands into 200 only serve to create more work for everyone, including the Courts if they become involved.  Addressing discovery disputes over a handful of well-written requests is relatively simple when compared with fighting over dozens, or hundreds, of separate requests.    In fact, I think the reason for some of the overkill is lawyers being fearful that they will forget something, but it is a lot easier to overlook an issue buried within an encyclopedic demand than to monitor compliance with a tightly drafted one.  

             The same rule applies with virtually all legal drafting.  I recently filed a motion to dismiss for a defendant in a case where the Plaintiff's claim against my client, although highly defensible, was relatively simple.  The Plaintiff's attorney probably spent days drafting a complaint that rivaled war and peace.  They speculated all over the place "upon information and belief," and asserting dozens of far-fetched causes of action, but somewhere along the lines forgot to include the one basic claim that actually made sense.

             With motion practice, all the time lawyers will write tomes, expecting judges (who are, believe it or not, human beings), to parse out the one or two really important aspects of their argument -- which were conveniently placed in the middle of a footnote on page 145 of their brief.

             Keeping things concise and simple (which requires knowing what is important and what isn't), makes everything easier, and more cost effective, for lawyers, clients, and the courts.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Divorce Attorney

"A civilized divorce is a contradiction in terms... l'm going to urge you to be generous to the point of night sweats. The all-important thing is to get you through this as quickly and cleanly as possible so that you can begin rebuilding your life." - War of the Roses

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Constitutional Rights Attorney -- Criminal Harassment

UPDATE:

In May and July 2014, the Court of Appeals issued two pivotal decisions bearing on the First Amendment and public order offenses.  In Golb, the Court found aggravated harassment in the 2nd Degree unconstitutional (based on the same reasoning as described in my post below), and then in Marquan the Court of Appeals commented on the practice of using "no legitimate purpose" to save otherwise unconstitutional statutes.  Read More here.

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Original Post
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The laws criminalizing "offenses to public order," (i.e. the "disturbing the peace" family of crimes such as harassment and loitering), need to be carefully drafted to avoid constitutional issues.  Frequently, the phrase "for no legitimate purpose" is added to these statutes, letting the courts define what constitutes a "legitimate purpose," so that constitutional issues can be avoided. See People v. Shack, 86 N.Y.2d 529 (1995).

Subsection One of New York Penal Law 240.30, defining Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, however, has some drafting issues that need to be addressed by the State Legislature.  The law criminalizes any communication where someone "with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm another person... communicates... by telephone, by telegraph, or by mail, or by transmitting or delivering any other form of written communication, in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm."  This crime is classified as a Class A Misdemeanor, meaning that it carries a sentence of up to one year in prison and/or up to a $1,000 fine.

Essentially, as phrased, the law criminalizes being intentionally annoying or causing alarm, for any purpose. This could describe any other emergency communication or warning, such as reporting a fire or telling someone they need to go to the hospital right away; it could almost any argument over the telephone; or it could describe someone engaging in parody that is protected by the First Amendment.


The problem with the law's phrasing has been known for decades.  Rather than throwing out the statute, however, the courts would interpret the statute as containing additional elements or limitations, and would evaluate each case to see if the statute was unconstitutional "as applied."  People v. Dupont, 107 A.D.2d 247, 253 (1st Dept. 1985).  People v. Smith, 89 Misc. 2d 789 (App Term. 2d Dept. 1977).

In 2003, the Court of Appeals found this statute unconstitutional. People v. Mangano, 100 N.Y.2d 569, 571 (2003).

By that point, however, the legislature had already amended the statute, and thus Mangano was based on the pre-2001 version and is not necessarily binding on charges brought under the latter version.  Rather than address the Constitutional concerns, however, the 2001 amendments were mostly stylistic.  Whereas the statute previously said "communicates, or causes a communication," now it is divided into two paragraphs, one starting with "communicates," and the other starting with "causes a communication."  

In 2008, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York found the current version of the statute unconstitutional, and found that the City of New York could be civilly liable for enforcing it.  Although the constitutional issue was not appealed, the Second Circuit sent the matter back for further submissions on whether the City had an option to enforce the law, or if it was required by the State.  The matter was settled prior to another written decision being issued. Vives v. City of New York, 524 F.3d 346, 357-358 (2d Cir. 2008).

Following Mangano and Vives, some courts have held that this subdivision one of Penal Law 240.30 is unconstitutional and dismissed charges brought under that section, while others continue to enforce it depending upon how it is being applied. See People v Louis, 2011 Slip Op 21254, 927 N.Y.S.2d 592, 597 (Nassau County Dist. Ct., 2011).

The overbroad wording is a problem that could probably be fixed by simply adding the phrase "with no lawful purpose" to the law, but given the emerging phenomena of cyber-bullying and related issues, the legislature may want to do additional re-writing.  There are other disorderly conduct laws on the books that deal with general "threatening behavior," so it is not as if people are permitted to run amock, but this law, if properly worded, is supposed to deal directly with threatening or harassing phone calls and similar written/electronic communications.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Personal Injury Attorney

Personal Injury litigation has been one of my main practice areas since I started law school. Among other things, I clerked with several personal injury law firms, won my school's first year award and graduation prize in torts, and was president of the school's trial lawyer's association.

After law school, I worked for a Manhattan law office with a prominent personal injury practice, and published several articles on personal injury law. I managed a decent-size caseload, and settled or tried numerous cases.

After several years of commuting, I joined a Suffolk County law firm. I plan to stay here, raise a family, and build a successful career. With my current firm, we have solid matrimonial and business practices, and I am trying to build in the areas of employment and personal injury.

I am an extremely good personal injury attorney. I understand the law, and I am adept at valuing cases. I treat my clients with respect and compassion, and work hard to obtain the best recovery for them that I can. I can negotiate settlements, but also have no hesitation in trying cases to verdict when appropriate.