Articles Posted in Civil Rights Violations

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Eddie Fernandez
As I read the recent stories across the county of police officers using excessive force and taking the life of two men; I was reminded of the events of August 12th, 2012 right here in the Bronx.  28 year old, Eddie Fernandez, enjoying a day in his neighborhood was run down by a NYPD Police officer who decided to use his vehicle as a dangerous weapon and take the life of this young man.

Whether it was the shooting death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, or the killing of Philandro Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota, the ongoing debate rages around the country.  When should or can a police officer use a level of force they know will or likely to cause serious injury.   Under the general definition an officer may use deadly force when he or she is threatened with the same force or the perpetrator is acting in a way that causes a likelihood of serious injury to others.

When my firm was retained by Eusebia Ramirez to represent her on behalf of her son, Eddie Fernandez for the unlawful and excessive force used, I immediately hoped that some video would exist that would show what happened that day.  Luckily, video surveillance does exist and the story it tells, rivals those recently shown around the country in the recent shootings.

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It was with great anger that I read the article from the NY Times discussing a South Carolina man who was fatally shot by a police officer after being pulled over for a broken taillight on his vehicle. As Walter Scott the driver was outside the vehicle, a scuffle ensued. Certainly we would expect the officer to use that force necessary. However, due to video captured by a bystander, Mr. Scott is seen running away, when Officer William Slager fires multiple shots at him when he is at least 15-20 feet away. What is captured on video next is terrible.

The officer approaches Mr. Scott see that he has been wounded, handcuffs him, but then walks back to where the vehicle was, picks up his Taser gun and drops it right at the foot of a dying Mr. Scott. This, he hoped, would be his alibi that he feared for his safety and that Mr. Scott had used the Taser on him and fled with it.

Officer Slager is being charged with murder.

The brazen acts of this officer are both shocking and upsetting. It reminded me of the matter in which my firm, Leav & Steinberg, LLP is representing the Estate of Eddie Fernandez who was killed by NYPD Office McClain in August 2012. At that moment, Eddie was riding away on his dirt bike, when officer McClain, who had already used his police vehicle to strike one dirt bike rider, makes a U-turn and crosses into oncoming traffic and strikes the back of Eddie’s dirt bike with his vehicle. Clearly using his vehicle as a deadly weapon. Eddie died as a result of the very serious injuries sustained. A young man, who had taken care of his mother was gone. The distraught family has sought criminal and civil charges against Officer McClain and also Federal Civil Rights violations against the officer and the NYPD.

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One of a personal injury attorney’s most important tasks is to protect clients. Two major parts of that involve ensuring clients have the best case possible under the law and protecting their privacy. Our last blog was about how injury attorneys can fortify a case with information from vehicle event data recorders. We linked to the New York law about the disclosure of the information recorded by event data records, such as speed, location, and brake performance. That type of activity recording raises privacy concerns, but that comes with the injury case territory.

Another privacy issue arises from a similar recording device, the license plate recorder. License plate recorders are cameras that may be mounted on things like police cars, tow trucks, traffic signs, and bridges and they have the potential to track each and every location an individual has driven. The ACLU has called for more legal restriction on the information obtained by these devices based on rights contained in the Fourth Amendment, in part because private companies are disclosing information with little to no oversight. Some states have already passed laws on the retention of the information collected from these cameras.

New recording devices raise new issues; as technology evolves, so does the law. But personal injury attorneys have been dealing with countless privacy issues since the start. Most commonly we deal with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA law. The law says injury attorneys have to turn over certain medical records and authorizations releasing medical records directly from healthcare providers to the attorneys whose job is to defend the case. A proper HIPAA authorization is always required to release medical records, but generally speaking only records related to the body parts injured in the accident need to be turned over. In Gumbs v. Flushing Town Center III, L.P., 1114 A.D.3d 573, 981 N.Y.S.2d 394 (1st Dept. 2014), the Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the Honorable Laura Douglas to protect the plaintiff from providing authorizations to the defendants relating to some of his own medical records. His case was related to injuries sustained to his shoulder and ankle. The defendants were seeking records from his cardiologist and primary care physician. The defendants claimed the records were related to the plaintiff’s ability to work and his life expectancy.

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The term civil rights has a very broad meaning, and most people do not know what it encompasses. Civil rights generally means the rights of individuals to receive equal treatment based on certain legally-protected characteristics. In other words, your civil rights can be violated based on many different characteristics, such as race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sex, family status and more. The violation may also occur in many different settings, from employment to housing to healthcare. It is also important to note that while an individual may have violated your civil rights, you may also seek redress against that individual’s employer as part of your lawsuit, which will generally lead to a larger recovery.

The New York Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex or marital status in employment, housing, education, credit and access to public accommodations. The Human Rights Law holds employers (with 4 or more employees), businesses that offer goods, services or facilities to the public, and certain real estate sellers and landlords. Essentially, the Human Rights Law will protect you from a wide variety of discriminatory treatment from most employers, businesses and landlords.

New York City also has a Human Rights Law that prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on race, color, creed, age, national origin, alienage or citizenship status, gender, sexual orientation, disability or marital status. In addition, the law afford protection against discrimination in employment based upon criminal history, such as arrests or convictions.