Monthly Archives: May 2016

Prom Season – Keeping Our Kids Safe. Understanding The Law.

We are currently in the midst of prom season. It is an exciting time for both teens and their parents, and is a dream come true for many girls as it means new shoes, a new dress, and a day of beauty at the hair and nail salon.

It also a step closer to adulthood as high school graduation follows soon afterward, and then after summer break most students are off to work or college. I look back fondly at my own prom so many years ago. My high school, Stella Maris, held our senior prom at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. My friends and I engaged in all the usual pre-prom activities, including hair and makeup. We converged on one of our friend’s homes where we had a half glass of champagne and some hors d’oeuvres Dozens of pictures were taken and then we all piled into the black stretch limo that took us into Manhattan. We thought we were so sophisticated in our fancy dresses and our big 80s hair. I remember the limo driver actually stopping at a liquor store to buy us alcohol for the car ride to the prom. The drinking age at the time was 19, and even though most of us were 17 or 18, it was quite common – even expected – that we would drink before and after the Prom. Things have not changed all that much. While liquor has continued to be banned from the Prom, many of the after parties still involve alcohol or binge drinking. 

The idea of our own children engaging in such behavior is frightening for many parents while tolerated by others as a rite of passage. However, it should never be tolerated. According to, underage drinking is associated with risky behaviors like unsafe sexual activity, drinking and driving, and experiencing or engaging in violent behavior such as physical fights. Each year, alcohol-related injuries (homicide, suicide and unintentional injury) cause 5,000 deaths among people under age 21 in the United States. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for 15-20 year olds. Underage drivers represent about 5 percent of licensed drivers but are involved in 14 percent of fatal crashes. In 2011, there were nearly 7,000 alcohol-related emergency department visits among New Yorkers under age 21.

It is generally expected that there will be an after-party immediately following the prom. Today’s teens may stay in a hotel with a group of other seniors or even go to a destination like the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore. Many will attend parties at the home of their fellow students. If you are going to host one of these parties at your home, you should be aware of the possible consequences. New York State has zero tolerance for underage drinking when it comes to driving. Additionally, it is illegal to purchase alcohol if you are under 21 years of age. 

However, if as a parent or guardian you choose to give your child liquor, this is not considered illegal.  This does not mean you are allowed to serve alcohol to any other teens in your home. There are criminal penalties for serving alcohol to those under 21 and you could be held civilly liable if they hurt themselves or someone else. There is no defense, even if the other parents gave you permission for their child to drink or even if you did not buy the alcohol yourself. If the drinking occurs on your property, you will be responsible. 

Teens can enjoy themselves without alcohol; yet, many teens will still figure out a way to drink alcohol on the night of their prom. We should not be an accessory or an accomplice to this behavior.  Let’s help our kids make it to adulthood.    

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.
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Give Injured People In New York The Time Necessary To File Medical Malpractice Claims

Lavern Wilkinson’s family was barred from seeking justice for her death due to the statue of limitations. (DEBBIE EGAN-CHIN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Almost two years ago, many of us were shocked and saddened when we heard Comedian Joan Rivers was critically injured during a medical procedure and was subsequently removed from life support. I had been lucky enough to see her perform live; she was so full of energy and had such an incredible presence. Although Ms. Rivers was 81 years old, she was actively performing at the time of her death and had a number of appearances scheduled. 

I just read that her family reached a settlement in their malpractice claim against the clinic that performed the procedure, ultimately leading to her death. It appears the clinic engaged in procedures not authorized by the comedian, and they were performed by physicians not licensed to perform them in the clinic setting. Most disturbing was that the medical personnel failed to properly identify her deteriorating condition during the procedure, which caused damage to her brain and heart when her oxygen levels decreased. The settlement is rumored to be in the tens of millions.

While Joan Rivers’ death was tragic, her family was able to secure their financial future as the current law in New York allows for a two-and-a-half-year statute of limitations from the date the medical malpractice occurred to file suit against private, nonprofit hospitals or doctors. That window, however, is just 15 months when suing a municipal hospital. In Joan Rivers’ case, it seemed obvious from the very beginning that her death occurred as a result of medical error and a lawsuit was commenced.

There are many others who have been prevented from seeking justice and monetary benefits as a result of medical malpractice because it was not discovered until after statute of limitations passed. One example of this was Lavern Wilkinson, a single mom with a severely handicapped daughter, who died in March 2013 from a curable form of lung cancer. Wilkinson had gone to the emergency room at Kings County Hospital in 2010 with a terrible cough. The staff performed an x-ray showing a suspicious mass, but the single mom was never notified of this and was sent home. When she returned to the hospital two years later, it was discovered that the cancer had spread and her condition was terminal. When she tried to sue the hospital to ensure financial security for her disabled child, she was advised that the current statute of limitations barred her from seeking damages against the hospital. Tragically, Lavern died in March 2013. Unfortunately, Lavern is not alone in this miscarriage of justice. There are so many more horrible examples of people who did not find out about the errors committed by medical personnel within the two-and-a-half-year years they have to file. New York is one of only six states that adhere to this archaic rule; 44 others allow for some sort of statute based upon the date of discovery of the malpractice.

There is currently a law pending in the New York State Legislature that would address this travesty. This bill would provide that the two-and-a-half-year statute of limitations begins when the patient knows or should have known an alleged negligent act caused injury. This bill was introduced more than a year ago and is still pending. It is known as Lavern’s Law – named after Lavern Wilkinson. Lavern’s death should not be in vain. Ask your State Legislator to support this law and give victims of medical malpractice the justice they deserve.


Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.
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