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Law Offices of Jonathan M. Cooper

New York Noncompete, Trade Secret & School Negligence Blog

This blog by the six-time published author Jonathan Cooper, is intended to educate the general public about issues of interest, particularly innovations and changes in the law, in the areas of non-compete agreements, breach of contract matters, school negligence (and/or negligent supervision), construction accidentsslip and/or trip and fall accidentsauto accidents, and, of course, defective or dangerous products

For additional information on any of these topics, readers are encouraged to download these FREE e-books:

 


12/11/2009
Jonathan Cooper
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What Is A School's Responsibility To Assure The Safety of Its Teachers? Not Much, NY Court Says.

In this article, Long Island school accident attorney Jonathan Cooper discusses a disturbing case that was handed down from New York's highest court that dismissed the lawsuit of a school teacher who was assaulted by a student. For additional information on this topic, please visit his website at www.JonathanCooperLaw.com.

Category: Keyword Search: personal injuries

8/23/2009
Jonathan Cooper
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Sometimes the courts get it right - and for the right reason.

In Nutley v. Skydive the Ranch, the plaintiff suffered personal injuries when he was forced to rely on his secondary chute rather than on his primary parachute which had failed. In their motion to dismiss the complaint, the Skydive ranch pointed out to the Court that before he embarked on the skydive, the plaintiff had signed an agreement in which he expressly waived his right to sue for the ranch's negligence.

But that's not why the appellate court dismissed the case: under New York law, any contract or agreement between the owner or operator of a facility and a paying customer stating that the owner may not be held liable for its negligence is void and unenforceable (see NY General Obligations Law 5-326). Instead, the appellate court noted that since the plaintiff's claimed injury resulted from a risk that was open and obvious, and inherently part of, the activity of skydiving, the plaintiff voluntarily assumed this risk, and therefore the defendant Skydive ranch could not be held liable for his injuries.



Category: Keyword Search: personal injuries

7/24/2009
Jonathan Cooper
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As reported in our news section, earlier this week, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, in a joint announcement with its sister organization, Health Canada, announced that nearly 90,000 gas grills were recalled after they had collectively received a whopping 161 reports of fires, burn injuries, and other assorted personal injuries, including loss of hearing, due to the defective design of these Chinese-made grills. And these complaints were all logged in less than 3 years.

Apparently, the fire hazard with this particular product, the Blue Ember Gas Grill, is that the gas tank's hose is set too close to the firebox.

In analyzing this news story, two questions immediately come to mind - and its not the first time we've raised these issues (see "CPSC's Recall of (Yet Another) Defective Crib Raises Questions About Recall System in General"):

  1. Why did it take so many reports of grill fires before this latest round of the recall became effective?; and,
  2. Why didn't the first round of recalls of this product in 2008 solve this problem?

The fact that these questions need to be asked is certainly troubling.

Category: Keyword Search: personal injuries

6/7/2009
Jonathan Cooper
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Following a recent story on CNN which reported that Chrysler's bankruptcy filing would mean that personal injury lawsuits against the auto manufacturer would now effectively be barred, the predictable response from tort reform advocates of "WHO CARES," was prominently displayed in the blog comments section of the report. My response to that is simple: you should. And here's why: even if you don't drive a Chrysler, someone else who's on the road with you just might. And if no one in the manufacturing  or distribution chain of that vehicle has any incentive to make sure that their consumers are apprised of any defects in the vehicle, whether in its design or manufacture, guess who's being put at risk? That's right - not only the drivers of those vehicles, but everyone around them, including you and me. So before anyone's too quick to dismiss as inconsequential this corollary to Chrysler's bankruptcy filing, perhaps they should take a broader view of the broader impact on consumer safety, and consider the possible impact on them.

Category: Keyword Search: personal injuries

4/26/2009
Jonathan Cooper
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After a trial that recently took place in Brooklyn's federal court, a jury found that Black & Decker, which manufactured the lawnmower, was liable to the plaintiff, who lost his fingers in the cutting blades of one of its lawnmowers, because the lawnmower was defectively designed. The significance of this case lies in the second part of the jury's finding, however: although the jury held that the lawnmower was defectively made, in that the Black & Decker lawnmower's on/off switch was too readily turned on, which was a safety hazard, and further held that this defect was a significant factor in causing the plaintiff's personal injuries, they also held that by forgetting to unplug the mower before performing maintenance on the machine, the plaintiff was 90% responsible for his own accident. Consequently, despite finding that the plaintiff's loss of his fingers was worth $2 million, the plaintiff was only awarded $200,000.

So, why is case is blog-worthy? Because it provides one of the clearest demonstrations of how New York's comparative negligence doctrine works in a practical way. More importantly, I believe that this case shows the wisdom of some facets of our judicial system, in this case, the comparative negligence doctrine.  Although some might be inclined to side with Black & Decker in this case, and might even go so far as to say that the plaintiff should never have brought this lawsuit, especially considering the high degree of culpability that the plaintiff bore for his own accident (I admit that I probably would have rejected this case had it come to my office for this very reason) I think that this attitude is wrong both on public policy grounds, as well as for this specific case and plaintiff. Simply put, had this case never been brought, Black & Decker would have had no incentive to make their lawnmower safer for consumers by making it more difficult to accidentally engage the power switch, even though it is apparently a relatively simple modification. And without this case, the plaintiff would have been denied monetary compensation that Black & Decker owes him for their share of the fault for his accident.


Category: Keyword Search: personal injuries

4/23/2009
Jonathan Cooper
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After reviewing the Consumer Products Safety Commission's progress reports regarding 25 recalled products and finding that several of the reports were either completely lacking critical information or internally conflicted, non-profit group Kids In Danger concluded in its annual report that the CPSC could not effectively determine whether these recalls were in fact successful or effective. In addition, the report opined that the CPSC's oversight of its product recalls was insufficient, because not enough was or is being done to notify consumers of the product recalls, as a result of which many of these dangerous products are remaining in consumer's homes or school facilities, rather than being taken out of circulation.

The CPSC's response to this report, which predictably defended their record on the recalls, also contained a somewhat interesting claim: according to their spokesman,  the primary method by which the CPSC  determines if its recalls are working is by waiting to see whether they are still receiving reports of problems with the product.

From this statement, it seems like the CPSC's follow-up on any one of its product recalls is largely, if not purely, reactive. Thus, theoretically, the CPSC would determine that one of its recalls failed only after someone suffered a tragic accident or traumatic personal injuries.

I, for one, would have hoped that this massive governmental agency, whose mission statement accepts responsibility for assuring the safety of our children from unsafe toys and other recreational and household products, would have a far more scientifically sound and proactive method for assessing the success of a product recall.



Category: Keyword Search: personal injuries

3/1/2009
Jonathan Cooper
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When Food Poisoning Lawsuits Go Too Far (Even Outside New York)

In this article, Long Island, NY product liability and food poisoning attorney Jonathan Cooper discusses how some products liability claims should never be brought for the simple reason that the evidence clearly indicates that they lack merit. For additional information on how products liability and food poisoning cases operate under New York law, please download or order a copy of Jonathan Cooper's FREE guide to New York products liability cases from www.ProductsLiabilityBook.com.

Category: Keyword Search: personal injuries

2/16/2009
Jonathan Cooper
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Earlier today, it was reported that when shopping in a Florida Wal-Mart's gardening section, a customer was suddenly attacked by a rattlesnake, biting his hand. Although the customer was able to shake off the snake, and ultimately killed it, he was hospitalized due to his personal injuries, and later had to return to the hospital so they could drain fluid that had built up in his lungs.

This was not the first snake attack incident that occurred at that particular Wal-Mart; there were two prior incidents that occurred in 2006. According to the customer, despite these two incidents, the store had no warning signs, and apparently did not undertake any other safety precautions. Consequently, the customer has claimed in his lawsuit that Wal-Mart should be held liable in negligence.

Interestingly, although it certainly sounds like the plaintiff in that case has enough proof to support a negligence claim, a quick search failed to find any snake bite or attack lawsuits in New York. Strange as it may sound, there are apparently some cases that New York's trial lawyers have failed to sue for - so far (though they have sued over rat and other animal bites).

Category: Keyword Search: personal injuries

2/5/2009
Jonathan Cooper
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In a case from Orange County in California that was reported yesterday, a jury held the local municipality liable for causing the collision between a car and the teenage boy’s bike, as a result of which the boy sustained serious personal injuries, including the loss of one leg below the knee.  From the news report, it seems fairly clear that the government intends to appeal the jury’s $8 million plus verdict, because from their vantage point, it is manifestly unfair to cast the lion’s share of liability on the municipality when they had no direct role in the bike and car crash; they did not own or operate either the car or the bike.  While, at first blush, the municipality’s argument seems meritorious, if you think a bit more critically, you will realize that their argument contravenes what we know from our everyday, real-world experience.

There are some intersections and streets that have had such a disproportionately high number of tragic car accidents and fatalities over the last several years (such as Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills and Rego Park in Queens County, New York, which the local papers have dubbed the “Boulevard of Death”) that it is clear to all that these roadways are defectively and dangerously designed.  Consequently, the better public policy is to hold the municipalities and states liable for these conditions; otherwise, these governmental entities will have far less incentive to assure the safety of their roads.

For additional information as to whether governmental or municipal authorities are liable for the dangerous conditions of intersections and roadways under New York law, you can read our article here.

Category: Keyword Search: personal injuries