New York law offers numerous protections for workers who suffer injuries while performing dangerous work. Construction workers routinely find themselves in unequal bargaining positions with contractors and property owners. If they demand better safety equipment, and safer conditions in general, they might find that speaking out puts their jobs at risk. Workers who are injured because of poor safety conditions might encounter difficulty establishing liability and recovering damages. Section 240 of the New York Labor Law, commonly known as the “Scaffold Law,” establishes liability for contractors and others who control the work on construction sites. Recent New York court decisions have examined various circumstances that support relief under the Scaffold Law.

Under the Scaffold Law, contractors and property owners are responsible for providing scaffolding and other equipment that gives “proper protection” to construction workers employed on the site. The law makes an exception for residential property owners who “contract for but do not direct or control the work.” In 1993, the New York Court of Appeals held in Ross v. Curtis-Palmer Hydro-Electric Co. that “the duty imposed by Labor Law § 240(1) is nondelegable.” The court further held that an owner or contractor is liable for damages caused by a breach of the Scaffold Law “regardless of whether it has actually exercised supervision or control over the work.”

The purpose of the Scaffold Law is, in one sense, to protect construction workers against “gravity-related risks,” as the Supreme Court in Manhattan noted earlier this year in Ryerson v. 580 Park Ave. The court held that the Scaffold Law did not apply because the plaintiff’s injury was the result of tripping and falling, not “falling from a height or being struck by a falling object.” In another Manhattan case, Terranova v. ERY Tenant, the court held that a plaintiff’s injury was covered by the Scaffold law even though it did not directly involve a falling object. The injury occurred after a beam began to swing during hoisting. The plaintiff “slipped while trying to get out of the beam’s path.” The court held that the Scaffold Law applied because “the process of lifting the beam created an elevation-related risk” to the plaintiff and other workers.
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Owners of real property owe a duty of care to people invited onto their property under the legal theory of “premises liability,” a common-law doctrine derived from the theory of negligence (i.e., the absence of ordinary care). Premises liability generally holds that a property owner has a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition, and may be liable for injuries caused by a hazardous condition. The “trivial defects” doctrine is an important exception to New York premises liability. It holds that a property owner is not liable if the defect, when examined in light of the unique circumstances of the site, is not objectively dangerous. The New York Court of Appeals has held on several occasions that this is a question of fact best left to a jury. Courts in New York’s 9th Judicial District, whose jurisdiction consists of Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, and Rockland Counties, have considered several claims recently involving the trivial defect doctrine, and have often sided with plaintiffs.

In a negligence claim, a plaintiff has the burden of proving four elements. First, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed a duty of care, either to the plaintiff or the general public. Second, they must demonstrate that the defendant breached this duty of care. Third, they must show that this breach was the cause-in-fact of the plaintiff’s injuries. Finally, the plaintiff must substantiate measurable damages resulting from their injuries.

Premises liability involves a particular duty of care, from a property owner to individuals who have been invited onto the property. In some situations, such as the “attractive nuisance” doctrine, this duty of care also extends to trespassers. A plaintiff must show that the property owner knew or should have known about a defect or hazard on the property, and that they breached their duty of care by failing to repair the defect, insufficiently repairing it, or failing to warn visitors about it.
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If you have been charged with driving under the influence, you need to reach out to a seasoned New York DWI attorney who understands this area of law. At the Law Offices of Mark A. Siesel, we can examine the facts of your case and make sure that none of your rights were violated when you were stopped or arrested. With 31 years of experience, we are dedicated to providing strong, effective, and experienced advocacy throughout the entire legal process.

In New York, the basic offense of driving while intoxicated (DWI) consists of operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. In other words, someone with a BAC of 0.08 percent or more is legally considered drunk or intoxicated. DWI is not the only alcohol-related charge that New York drivers potentially face. Drivers could also face a charge of driving while ability impaired (DWAI), which is charged when a person’s BAC is between 0.05 percent and 0.07 percent, a lower threshold than a DWI.

When a person operates a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs, that person can be charged with a DWAID – driving while ability impaired by drugs. This charge is specifically for impairment by a controlled substance, regardless of whether those drugs were legal, illegal, or prescription. However, the particular impairing drug must be listed as a controlled substance under the New York State Public Health Law. Thus, impairment by some drugs may not form the basis of a DWAID charge.

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Distracted driving is the cause of countless accidents in New York and across the United States. If you or someone close to you has been injured in an accident caused by distracted driving, you may be entitled to compensation for your harm. At the Law Offices of Mark A. Siesel, our New York distracted driving accident attorneys understand how to handle these claims. With years of experience, we take an aggressive approach in fighting for your legal rights at every step of the way.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as driver inattention that can lead to an accident. In other words, a distraction takes place when drivers divert their attention from the primary task of driving to focus on some other activity. The NHTSA reports that distracted driving was the cause of 3,477 deaths and 391,000 injuries across the country in 2015. Driver inattention or distraction was listed as a factor in 19.1 percent of all crashes and 10.4 percent of all fatal crashes in New York in 2014, according to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. Examples of distracted driving include but are not limited to:

  • Talking or texting on your phone without a hands-free device;
  • Adjusting the stereo or GPS;
  • Turning back to comfort a child in a car seat;
  • Checking social media;
  • Fatigue or drowsiness;
  • Emotional distraction;
  • Watching a video; or
  • Putting on makeup or grooming.

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On March 23, 2018, a self driving Tesla SUV crashed while the vehicle was operating on autopilot in Mountain View, California. According to a spokesperson for Tesla, Walter Huang, 38, a software engineer for Apple, did not have his hands on the steering wheel for approximately six seconds before the fatal crash occurred.

Tesla maintains that its “autopilot” system can brake, accelerate, control speed, change lanes and self-park, but does require that the operator must keep his or her eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel so that they can control the vehicle to prevent accidents.

Tesla contends that in the March 23rd accident, Mr. Huang took no evasive measures to prevent the Model X SUV from colliding with a concrete divider. This despite allegedly receiving “several visual and one audible hands on warning earlier in the drive”. Photographic evidence shows that the front of the SUV was destroyed, the roof torn from the car and the front wheels were off the vehicle and on the roadway. Additionally, the vehicle went on fire, but Tesla alleges that Mr. Huang was not in the vehicle when this occurred. Further, the accident was worsened as a result of a missing or damaged safety shield at the end of the barrier, which is designed to reduce the impact into the divider. Continue reading ›

There was an interesting editorial by Joe Nocera of the New York Times on August 11, 2015 as to the NFL’s settlement with thousands of its ex-players and their families of a class action lawsuit alleging that the NFL knew of, and failed to disclose, the serious long terms effects and cognitive impairment caused by repeated concussions. Essentially, Nocera concludes that despite the amount of the settlement, and the conditions it covers, it is woefully inadequate.

One of the well-known victims of the repeated concussions, which leads to a condition known as “CTE”, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, was Junior Seau, a Hall of Fame linebacker who played for several NFL teams including the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots. Seau, who committed suicide at the age of 43 three years ago, shot himself in the chest so that his brain could be studied by the National Institutes of Health, as well as the Boston University CTE Center. Dave Duerson, a tremendous defensive back for the Chicago Bears and New York Giants, was another ex-player who intentionally shot himself in the chest so that his brain could be studied, so convinced was he that the loss of memory and cognitive functioning he was suffering from were caused by the effects of repeated concussions and the devastating effects of CTE. This neurodegenerative disease leads to an accumulation of a sticky substance known as “tau”, which interferes with brain function, and results in a number of serious debilitating effects, including mood swings, depression, headaches, poor impulse control, loss of memory, dementia, and in some cases, Alzheimer’s Disease, ALS, or Parkinson’s Disease.

The lawsuit by the former players and their families, as well as approximately 200 players who “opted out” of the class action to bring their own claims, including the family of Junior Seau, notes that the NFL “held itself out as the guardian and authority on the issue of player safety”, but in fact knew of the risks of CTE and other neurological conditions from repeated concussions and kept this knowledge from the players, and did not change league regulations to minimize the risk of concussions.

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This past Saturday, July 18, 2015, there was an horrific DWI crash in Cutchogue on Long Island.  An intoxicated driver of a pick up truck that collided with a limousine and killed four women attempted to leave the scene of the accident.  Police reported that the driver of the pick up truck, Carlos Romeo, 55, got out of his truck after the crash and walked approximately 1000 feet, climbed a fence and was walking down an embankment when ordered to stop by Southold Police Officers.  Mr. Romeo was given standardized field sobriety tests and was arrested for DWI.

The accident occurred when Mr. Romeo, who was driving westbound on Route 48, collided with a limousine carrying eight young women who had returned from a local winery and were celebrating a birthday.  The limousine driver attempted to make a U-turn at an intersection, when the limo was broadsided on the passenger side by the pick up truck.  3 of the women were pinned inside the limousine and a fourth died later that day at Peconic Bay Medical Center.  The four women who were killed were identified by Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley as Brittney M. Schulman, 23, of Smithtown, Lauren Baruch, 24, also of Smithtown; Stephanie Belli, 23, of nearby Kings Park; and Amy R. Grabina, 23, of Commack, on the North Shore.

Mr. Romeo has had previous legal problems.  Back in January of 2014, he was operating construction equipment without proper training when a bucket fell off, fatally striking a co-worker.  There is a civil lawsuit pending in that case by the family of the co-worker.  After the July 18th accident, Mr. Romeo was taken to Eastern Long Island Hospital.  At the hospital, blood tests determined that Mr. Romeo’s blood alcohol level was in excess of 0.08%, the legal standard for intoxication in New York, and he was arraigned at his hospital bed, pled not guilty, and was ordered held on $500,000 cash bail or $1 million bond, and charged with one count of misdemeanor DWI, which carries fines of approximately $900.00 and a minimum six month revocation of his driver’s license.  However, Mr. Romeo faces much more severe criminal responsibility than the DWI he is presently charged with, due to the four fatalities and serious injuries of the other young women in the limousine.

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As anyone who drives on the major highways and parkways in the Westchester County area and other counties in the lower Hudson Valley such as I-684, I-287 and I-87, for example) is aware, the average driver on these highways will: follow too closely; change lanes without signaling; approach the rear of another vehicle quickly and change lanes at the last second; drive at an excessive speed; drive while distracted by texting, emailing or speaking on a cell phone, and in general drive aggressively. In an analysis conducted by the Journal News this past week, there was an examination of more than 107,000 vehicle crashes in the Lower Hudson Valley between August 1, 2011 and July 31, 2014. The majority of accidents occur on a straight section of roadway without traffic controls.

25% of crashes are due to rear end collisions. Of those types of accidents, at least half involve a sports utility vehicle. This is not surprising, in that due to the added weight of these vehicles, the stopping distance from application of the brakes to a complete stop is greater than with a lighter passenger vehicle. In these rear end collisions, 15% occurred when the driver was completely stopped, and 14% happened when the motorist was stopping or slowing down in traffic. 16% of traffic accidents in the Hudson Valley occurred at a traffic signal, 7% were at a stop sign and 5% occurred in a no-passing zone. Surprisingly, accidents involving commercial vehicles were involved in only 1 % of the collisions.

The most common accident occurred in clear and dry weather; with a youthful driver returning home from work, driving an SUV; who was driving while distracted or following too closely, and on a Friday.

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Each year, hundreds of truck drivers are killed in rollover accidents across the United States due to a combination of factors. The most prevalent causes are the congested roadways and exit ramps which are antiquated, inadequately lit or designated, and due to truck drivers who are too tired, distracted or overworked. The interstate highway system is in grave need of an overhaul, with crumbling roadways, designs from the 1950’s and the much more substantial burdens of the larger loads carried by a booming trucking industry.

Rollover crashes resulted in more than 50% of the fatalities of truck drivers and their passengers in 2012, despite the fact that rollovers were only 3.3% of all large truck accidents that year. 300 truck drivers or their passengers are killed and 3,000 injured each year in rollover crashes. For the 2.6 million workers in the U.S. who operate trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds, rollover accidents are the number one cause of on the job deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Other factors which are contributing to this substantial fatality rate among truck drivers and occupants include outdated highway engineering and ever increasing gridlock as the continuing success of the trucking industry places more burdens on the nation’s aging highways.  Continue reading ›

The Town of New Castle (Chappaqua), has moved forward with safety improvements at its Roaring Brook Road Metro-North railroad crossing without waiting for federal funding for implementation.  In light of the recent February 3 horrific crash a few miles south at the Commerce Street crossing in Valhalla, in which Edgemont resident and married mother of three Ellen Brody was killed (along with five front car passengers on the northbound Metro North train) when her Mercedes SUV was struck, the issue of railroad crossing safety has become a high priority.

The Roaring Brook Road crossing is one of seventeen railroad crossings in Westchester County, and Putnam County.  Additional railroad crossings are located in Rockland County.  The safest crossings are either tunnels or bridges above the tracks.  However, the cost of such measures can be prohibitive.  The Town of North Castle apparently considered installing an overpass in its development plan in 1963 and again in 1989.  Town officials state that there have been fourteen reported malfunctions of the railroad gates at the Roaring Brook Crossing in the last ten years.  The MTA, responsible for maintenance and operation of the warnings systems, alleges that there have been only nine reported malfunctions in the last five years, but that tests they conducted did not show any defects on those nine occasions.

When gates do not function correctly, the “fail safe” position is that they are supposed to go down and stay in position while the crossing lights remain on.  There have been two reported close calls at the Roaring Brook station this month in which that did not happen.  In one, a Chappaqua resident had to back up quickly when the crossing lights came on and the gates began dropping.  She claims that the train went by five seconds after she got off the tracks; Metro-North states that it was 15 seconds—either way, a very close call.  Earlier in March, a driver from Mount Kisco at the Roaring Brook Station claims she had to break through the gate seconds before a train traveling at 75 miles per hour came into the station.  At that speed, it would take well more than the length of two football fields to stop the train, as the train is travelling at approximately 110 feet per second at 75 miles per hour and it would take several seconds to bring the train to a complete stop.

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