On Wednesday our Partner, Ben Rubinowitz, lectured to more than 60 Assistant District Attorneys from the Nassau County District Attorneys office. Ben was asked to teach Cross Examination skills to the ADA’s based on his experience and success in the Courtroom. “I felt honored to be asked to teach cross examination skills to the ADA’s. I started out as a prosecutor and know first hand the challenges that these ADA’s face each day. I have used those same skills that I learned as an Assistant DA to prosecute those who cause injury or death to our clients.” In his lecture, Ben stressed the importance of focusing on every aspect of trial with an eye toward strengthening the argument for summation. He stressed the importance of presenting a fair and honest case, methods of dealing with non-responsive witnesses and how to dissect a witness who tells less than the truth. Following Ben’s presentation the Director of Training commented that the Assistants enjoyed the presentation so much that they immediately requested an additional presentation by Ben.
In New York City, if a driver fails to exercise due care and seriously injures or kills a pedestrian he may be criminally charged based on the so called “Right of Way Law”. (Sect. 19-190 of the NYC Administrative Code ).This law went into effect in NYC in August 2014 as part of the Vision Zero initiative to reduce injuries and deaths related to traffic accidents in the city.
Last Friday, June 24th, a Queens Judge ruled this law unconstitutional. Judge Gia Morris issued a ruling in favor of Isaac Sanson, a school bus driver who failed to yield to an elderly woman in a crosswalk and fatally hit her. Morris opined that because drivers can be charged under the Right of Way law even if their intent or awareness of committing a violent act can’t be proven, the law violates Sanson’s due process.
“The very fabric of our criminal justice system is that an accused person stands before a court innocent until proven guilty, and is entitled to significant constitutional protections separate and distinct from a civil case,” Morris wrote. She went on to state that it was conceded by by all parties that the law intended to use a civil tort negligence liability standard. She thus held that “Such use of a civil tort liability standard of negligence in a criminal case violates a defendant’s rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the federal constitution and state constitutional protections. Specifically, it violates a defendant’s right to due process, to be presumed innocent, and a defendant’s rights against self-incrimination. Thus, the defendant has met his burden of establishing, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the statute is unconstitutional.”
A defectively designed gear-shifting control in some previously recalled 2014 and 2015 Fiat Chrysler Jeep Cherokee models caused 266 crashes and 68 injuries according to a report that was recently published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The report doesn’t mention any deaths despite the fact that Star Treck actor Anton Yelchin was killed on June 19 after his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backward and fatally pinned him against a wall. According to the report, rollaway crashes are prone to happen with these types of gear-shifting controls because they are confusing for the driver. Most reported cases involved drivers who believed they were in the Park position and exited the car. Read more in the Claims Journal
A 69 year old pedestrian died in a car accident Tuesday night. Stephanie Dains was killed fifteen blocks away from where another pedestrian died approximately a week before (see previous blog). The pedestrian was crossing Broadway at the intersection of 75th St. around 8:30 PM when she was struck by a SUV. The driver who is 18 years old stayed at the scene of the accident. The police indicated that the car had the green light. She was sent to the hospital in critical condition but could not be saved. Read the more in the NY Daily News
After a 30-year-old pedestrian was killed by an unlicensed driver who jumped the curb in Brooklyn (see previous blog ), NYC, her family petitioned the Brookyn DA’s office to initiate a grand jury investigation into the accident and obtain justice for their loved one.
Last December Victoria Nicodemus was walking on a Fort Greene sidewalk with her boyfriend when she was fatally struck by a SUV that apparently jumped the curb to avoid a bus. The SUV was driven by 39-year-old Marlon Sewell. The driver had his license suspended and wasn’t supposed to be behind the wheel. Also according to a recent article from the Gothamist, a preliminary police report indicated that Sewell jumped the curb to avoid the bus in front of him but in a statement yesterday, Transportation Altternatives Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro said that Sewell made the reckless decision to drive on the sidewalk to avoid waiting behind the bus.
Immediately after the accident, Sewell was charged with two misdemeanors and thought he would get away with a $500 ticket. However after the Brooklyn DA office agreed to open a grand jury investigation things changed. Yesterday the grand jury voted for Sewell to be indicted for second-degree manslaughter.
Another defective Takata airbag killed a woman last Sunday in Malaysia. The victim had a minor accident and the airbag deployed and exploded spraying metal shards. Her chest was bleeding and she died moments later. More than 100 people have been injured and 11 have died so far from defective Takata airbag accidents. For a detailed analysis of the recall see “Takata Airbag Recall-Everything You Need to Know” in Consumer Reports. Last May in Texas a 17 year old girl died the same way. Takata airbags are found on most Asian branded cars and more than 100 million vehicles have already been recalled worldwide making this recall the biggest and most complex worldwide recall ever. The recalls of defective airbags are still ongoing. The last victim was driving a Honda City subcompact and her accident happened just days after Honda Malaysia announced a recall of an additional 145,000 vehicles. Read more in the NY Daily News
Last week a young pedestrian died in a truck accident but the police said that the truck driver, despite leaving the scene of the accident, will not be charged.
21-year-old Noha Goldstein (picture) was crossing Broadway at the intersection of 61st Street near Columbus Circle in Manhattan, NYC, when hit by a garbage truck, suffering injuries resulting in his death. The driver never stopped. He continued on his way leaving the young man dying in the street. The police were able to find the driver a few days later by looking at video footage of the accident. However for some strange reason the video jumps and only footage of before and after the accident are available. The police said that they believe that the truck driver wasn’t at fault and that he didn’t stop because he probably didn’t see the pedestrian and didn’t know that he hit him because of the nature of the garbage truck.
Read more in the Gothamist
Last year 342 car accidents in New York City were caused by fatigued or drowsy drivers and 626 by drivers who fell asleep behind the wheel according to NYPD statistics. Driver fatigue is often experienced by taxi and limousine drivers who are working long shifts without proper rest.
A study conducted by the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health and published last year in the the Singapore Medical Journal shows that one in 3 taxi drivers participating in the study experienced driver fatigue. The study also found that the risk of dozing off unexpectedly was much higher after 10 hours of driving.
Symptoms of driver fatigue include trouble concentrating on the road, unexpected nodding, short term memory issues, longer time to react when facing a dangerous situation, yawning and rubbing eyes as well as unexpectedly drifting out of the lane.
After 3 children were killed by unstable dressers and chests that tipped over on them IKEA is recalling 29 million defective products. The recall involves MALM chests and dressers as well as other chests and dresser models that have more than 3 drawers. These products are unstable and can tip over if they are not properly anchored to the wall.
After two young children died in tip over accidents involving MALM chests in 2014, Ikea and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) launched a repair program offering a free wall anchoring repair kit. Unfortunately this repair program wasn’t enough. Additional tip over incidents were reported including a 22 year old boy who died last February after a MALM 6 drawers chest fell over on him. Following this fatality, IKEA and the CPSC announced Today the above voluntary recall.
Consumers can require a free wall-anchoring kit or return the furniture and obtain a full refund for dressers purchased after 2002, and a partial store credit for older ones.
14 people suffered personal injury after a fire truck struck a MTA bus in NYC. The accident occurred Sunday in Astoria, Queens, NYC at the corner of Ditmars Blvd and 21st Street. A little bit after noon the fire truck was heading down Ditmars Boulevard to respond to a blaze nearby. Sirens and emergency lights were on. According to the NY Daily News, the truck passed a red light and collided with the bus that had the green light and was crossing on 21st St. Witnesses said the crash sounded like a bomb. The impact was so strong that the bus careened into two other parked cars and jumped the curb before finally stopping two steps away from people sitting at an outdoor cafe. 12 bus passengers were injured and transported to the hospital. Two firefighters were injured as well and also transported to the hospital.
Later on during the day another fire truck collided with a car two blocks away. One person suffered minor injury. The fire truck also had emergency lights on when the accident happened.
Last year there were 382 fire truck accidents in NYC.