Monday, April 24, 2023

County Officials Warn: Be aware of unsolicited property offers. “Know your rights before you sign.”

Schuyler County Clerk Theresa Philbin and County Attorney Steven Getman are warning property owners to be aware of unsolicited offers to buy land in Schuyler County, often at a deep discount from the actual value.

 “Reports have surfaced this month of a company soliciting  property owners in the area offering to buy vacant land for cash,” Philbin said.  “The offers include a Purchase and Sale Agreement, asking the owner to sign and send back within a short period of time.  The quick cash offer they make is always below the assessed value, and sometimes by as much as 15 to 25 percent. That could cost you thousands of dollars, depending the price and your property’s actual value.”

 “Many of these buyers are, basically, throwing out nets to see if they can find an owner who doesn't understand the real value of their property or an owner that wants to sell quickly at (almost) any cost. They may be senior citizens, facing a personal situation that is forcing them to consider selling their real estate. These buyers are often hoping to find sellers willing to sell at 85% or less of the true market value.”

County Attorney Steven Getman,
County Clerk Theresa Philbin

While the offer may be perfectly legal, signing and sending back the agreement, Getman pointed out, would create a binding contract.  That contract, Getman said, may obligate the owners to conditions or expenses they did not understand before signing. 

“For example, the offer may state the buyer will pay all closing costs, but also require the seller to clear up any liens or encumbrances on the property at the seller’s own expense before the sale,” Getman explained.  “That could include mortgages, property taxes or even electric, water and sewer bills.  If the sale price does not cover those expenses, the sellers could be left paying out more than they are getting for the property.”

In another case, Getman noted, the offer required to seller to convey to the buyer all personal property located on the land.

 “That could include items such as expensive appliances, motor vehicles or even items of sentimental value,” Getman said.

 Therefore, property owners should review any documents very carefully and consult an experienced attorney before signing any type of agreement, Getman said.

Philbin and Getman offered several tips to property owners who receive unsolicited offers to buy their land:

  • Never sign anything until you are sure you want to move forward
  • Have your own attorney review the document before your sign them. If you do not have an attorney, the New York State Bar Association may be able to refer you to an appropriate attorney via the NYSBA Lawyer Referral and Information Service:
  • Check out the would-be buyer online. If someone is legitimately interested in buying your home, you should be able to retrieve information about them. Look for any red flags such as bad reviews or lawsuits.
  • Ask for references. If the buyer will not offer any, something is wrong. If their references are sketchy and cannot be verified, you need to rethink doing business with that person. 
  • Find out the fair market value of your home before you agree to a price.
  • Consider bringing in a real estate professional to represent you and give you a fair opinion of your land’s value. If the buyer is legitimate they should be willing to discuss terms with your agent.
  • If selling your property seems like a good idea, do not jump at the first offer made (especially if it represents just a small fraction of the land’s worth).

Finally, if you receive anything in the mail about your property that seems questionable, Philbin and Getman said that you can contact the County Clerk or, in the event of possible criminal activity, local law enforcement.


“Keep in mind that this is often totally legitimate,” Getman said. “The goal here is to understand what you may sacrifice for convenience.”

“Know your rights before you sign,” Philbin said.

The Schuyler County Clerk is responsible for all books, files and other necessary equipment for the filing, recording and depositing of deeds, maps, papers in actions and special proceedings of both civil and criminal nature, judgment and lien dockets and books for the indexing of the same as directed or authorized by law.

The Schuyler County Attorney is the legal advisor for county government and its various officials. The County Attorney prosecutes and defends civil actions on behalf of the county and county employees acting pursuant to their official duties.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Fair Trial/Free Press Conference: Local media, the law, and alleged police misconduct

Albany Law School, the New York University School of Law, and the New York Fair Trial/Free Press Conference are sponsoring 2023 Fair Trial/Free Press Conference, to be held on April 24, 2023, from 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Hear from a distinguished panel of judges, prosecutors, print and broadcast journalists, media counsel, and other practicing attorneys during the Fair Trial/Free Press Conference.

The conference combines a discussion of a hypothetical scenario with an overview of media law. Panelists will discuss the legal, political, and ethical issues that arise after a reporter is arrested while covering a police-involved shooting.

This free event is open to the public. Lunch will be provided and CLE credits are available to attorneys who register and attend.

Interested persons can attend in person at the following location:
Lester Pollack Colloquium Room, 9th Floor
Furman Hall
NYU School of Law
245 Sullivan Street
New York, NY 10012
The event will be live-streamed as well. For more information, including how to register, click here.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Schuyler County in line to receive $362,000 opioid settlement

Three national pharmacy chains—CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart--will pay Schuyler County up to $362,000 to settle claims the companies contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis in that county, under a settlement agreement to be voted on by the Schuyler County Legislature at its April meeting.


On Monday (March 27), the county’s Management and Finance Committee, chaired by Watkins Glen legislator Phillip Barnes, voted to recommend the settlement and authorized Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman to execute the necessary legal documents upon approval by the Schuyler County Legislature.  The legislature will consider the measure on Monday (April 10).


The county is estimated to receive $125,031 from CVS, $158,486 from Walgreens and $79,038 from Walmart, Getman said.


According to Getman, the three companies all agreed to the settlement with the county as a part of a nationwide agreement to resolve all opioid litigation brought by states and local political subdivisions, including a pending lawsuit filed by the county, as well as later claims brought by the New York State Attorney General’s office. The agreement calls for the three chains to pay the county over the next fifteen years, with payments expected to begin in late 2023. 


Getman said that the settlement funds can be used for a variety of purposes.


“Potential uses include treating opioid addiction, law enforcement expenditures, funding social services and similar anti-drug efforts,” Getman explained.

The proposed settlement also orders the companies to implement changes to prevent fraudulent prescriptions, Getman noted.  Those changes include the companies addressing their compliance structures, pharmacist judgment, diversion prevention, suspicious order monitoring, and reporting on blocked and potentially problematic prescribers.

If approved, the agreement would be one of several opioid settlements Schuyler County has been a part of over the past five years.  In 2021, the county legislature authorized Getman to accept up to $121,000 from Johnson & Johnson and up to $546,000 from distributors McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation to treat, reduce and prevent opioid abuse.  A similar agreement, for $41,000, was obtained from defendant Actavis, Inc. in early 2022.  In January, the county legislature authorized Getman to accept up to $116,000 from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. 


If these latest agreements are approved, the county will be in line to receive nearly $1.2 million total to date for opioid prevention and remediation.


“One cannot put a price on lives lost and families torn apart,” Getman said, “but with nearly $1.2 million expected to be delivered to Schuyler County, we can provide our community with financial assistance to continue this battle and hold these companies responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic.”


The settlements stem from a 2018 lawsuit the county filed against approximately thirty defendants, including some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. The lawsuit alleged the defendants had long known that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, particularly when used long-term for chronic non-cancer pain, and should not be used except as a last-resort. However, the lawsuit stated, the defendants spent hundreds of millions of dollars disseminating scientific materials and advertising that misrepresented the risks of  long-term opioid use.


Schuyler County was one of many local governments that filed lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers. At least 14 counties across New York sued the pharmaceutical companies for fraudulent marketing practices.


After the counties sued, in March 2019, the New York State Attorney General’s office brought its own lawsuit on behalf of the state.   In 2021, Attorney General Letitia James championed legislation to create an opioid settlement fund and in 2022 she announced a tentative deal with CVS, Walgreens and Walmart that she says will deliver over $13 Billion for communities nationwide to combat the opioid crisis.


Schuyler County’s lawsuit against other defendants remains pending, Getman said, with the possibility of more settlements and additional funding to the county still to come.  


The three companies involved in the latest proposed agreement have each issued their own statements denying liability and supporting settlement.


Resolution No. 21 (Intro), ... by Steven Getman

Monday, April 3, 2023

Second Amendment Legal Update, April 2023

A monthly update, prepared for the Schuyler County Chapter of S.C.O.P.E. NY, a statewide 501(c)4 organization dedicated to preserving the 2nd Amendment rights for the residents of New York State. For a complete copy of this month’s report, click here.