Here’s some advice for GENERAL CONTRACTORS in Southwest Florida. When contractors ask me to review their contracts, one thing usually stands out — the attorney’s fees clause is missing. What if you are a contractor who is remodeling someone’s home, and the owner disputes whether you, as the contractor, should be paid full price. Take it to small claims court? Well, as a trial lawyer, I say, “NO.” But, we understand that you don’t want to “throw good money after bad” by paying an attorney $2,000 to recover $1,000 from the owner. So, what to do? Our Answer: Insert an attorney’s fees clause into your proposal and final invoice. Go to your computer and enter this into them, now: “The customer also agrees that, if there is a dispute, and the parties to this contract must go to court to resolve their dispute, the prevailing party will be entitled to the court’s award, and an additional award of attorney’s fees, plus litigation costs.” Assuming certain other clauses are NOT present, such as an arbitration clause then, when the owner disputes owing you $1,000 for added work, you can say, “Okay but, if I turn it over to my attorney, then you may end up owing his fees, the court costs, and the $1,000 when it ‘s all done and over.” It will make a big difference to the parties who dispute your bills and, according to what I see, the owners will pay, rather than take a chance at court. Otherwise, what have they to lose? Call Myers Law at (239) 690-3322 for details. Our initial consultations are free.
Ouch! If a marriage ends and divorce becomes a reality, an attorney should lead you through the complicated maze of legal issues presented in divorce court, especially if child custody and child support will be part of the discussion. There are two ways to pay divorce attorney’s fees in such cases: a flat fee and an hourly rate. No lawyer should agree to take a percentage if and when he or she is successful with the divorce litigation. In other words, “contingent fee agreements” are not applicable here, even though they are very common in personal injury cases. Additionally, there are two types of costs a client will have to pay: attorney’s fees and litigation costs. Oftentimes, a lawyer will ask for prepayment in the form of a “retainer.” If the retainer is to be non-refundable, the lawyer is required to obtain the client’s prior consent and agreement in writing. As far as “flat fees” are concerned, this can be a one-time payment that pays the attorney’s professional fees. For example, a Fort Myers lawyer might agree to represent a woman in a divorce case, and accept a one-time payment of $10,000, for example, to cover all the time the lawyer spends on the case, even if it takes a year-and-a-half to litigate. Litigation costs, such as the court filing fee of approximately $400, may be paid or billed separately. Retaining an attorney on “an hourly rate” means the client pays a retainer (usually) and agrees to pay the attorney $250 per hour, for example, for each and every hour the lawyer is actively engaged in working on the divorce. Remember: lawyers sell their time. Again, litigation costs, such as the cost of hiring court reporters, are charged and billed separately. Normally, with an hourly rate case, the client receives a bill, periodically, identifying what work has been done, and the time taken to do it, plus costs expended during that billing period. So, in summary, to hire a lawyer for a divorce, you may pay a retainer at first, and you will probably be billed for costs, even though the retainer can be used for pre-paid litigation costs as well (depending on the Fee Agreement entered into), and a client can pay the lawyer either with one lump sum up front OR pay the lawyer by the hour during the pendency of the litigation.
The Palm Beach Post’s article about an excessive award a Palm Beach County jury gave in tobacco litigation drew attention to the modern method by which courts analyze a litigant’s entitlement to compensatory damages in death cases. “18.5 million jury award against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco ruled excessive,” Nov. 30, 2016. Whether it be caused by a bad product, such as tobacco, or by a wrongful actor, such as a bad driver in a car accident, Florida law (through its courts) addresses the numbers that ought to accompany such losses. We’re talking about the pain and suffering award juries award to surviving family members because the economic losses associated with medical expenses and with lost time at work are treated differently, and may be awarded in addition to the pain and suffering amounts. But, the Fourth District Court of Appeal (DCA) rendered recent opinions identifying the considerations courts should look for. The primary consideration from which lawful death awards are formed should give more to the much closer relationships between the survivors and the decedents during the decedent’s illness. See R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Odom, __ So. 3d ___; 2016 WL 6992162 (4th DCA, Nov. 30, 2016). Then, the victims should be categorized as a) spouses; b) adult children; and c) dependent children. In Odom, the Fourth DCA noted that for a surviving spouse, an $11 Million award is probably okay. It always depends on the circumstances of the case. On the other hand, awards over $6M, given to surviving adult children, are probably too high and likely to be struck down as excessive, as in Ms. Odom’s case. Notably, however, awarding $7.5 Million and $4 Million to a child (over 9 years old) and another (just grown out of infancy) are not necessarily excessive. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Grossman, ___ So. 3d ___; 2017WL34572 (Fla. 4th DCA, Jan. 4, 2017). By the way, a jury also awarded the minor children $22.5 Million in Punitive damages for the loss of their mother to cigarettes, and the Fourth DCA affirmed the award. The above mentioned cases are still active and ongoing, but give practitioners help is evaluating their cases.
Notably, the Florida Bar has certified Attorney R Frank Myers as a Board Certified in Civil Trial Law. Congrats Frank!
When July 1st came around, 161 of Florida’s newest laws took effect. One law set a sales tax holiday (on certain purchases, such as clothes and school supplies) for August 5, August 6, and August 7. Another reduced property taxes. For those of us trial lawyers, we noted that Florida law now allows a person who is unable to take care of himself or herself to obtain a permanent exemption from serving on jury duty, with the proper documentation from his or her doctor.
Myers Law is set up in the heart of the GATEWAY area of Fort Myers, Florida — near Lehigh Acres. We’re now located at 12331 Towne Lake Dr. #9, next to Gateway Boulevard — next to Subway and near Boulevard Deli. We’re out here where people live and work, not downtown, for the convenience of those with legal disputes, whether civil litigation or family law. Come see us for competent, professional legal services!
It took a lot of effort, but we have successfully moved our law office from Tallahassee to Fort Myers, while ensuring we set up to continue providing legal services to our North Florida and South Georgia clients. It’s good to be back where I grew up as a teenager, even though a lot has changed since before Interstate 75 came to Ft. Myers. Hello Ft. Myers neighbors. I’m back!!
ObamaCare (a/k/a the Affordable Care Act) requires that employers with greater than 50 employees must purchase health insurance policies for their employees, and those policies must provide a statutorily-enumerated minimal amount of coverage. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a closely held corporation’s decision to NOT pay for some abortion-related medical procedures, even though ObamaCare mandates such coverage as part of a basic insurance plan. In its June 30, 2014, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and Congestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Burwell, 573 U.S. _____ decisions, the Court held that closely held corporations cannot be compelled to provide insurance policy provisions if such policies’ “minimum essential coverage” violates the corporate owners’ First Amendment right to freely exercise religion. In short, ObamaCare cannot compel some closely held corporations to provide abortion-related health insurance coverage to their employees when doing so violates the owners’ constitutionally protected right to freely exercise a religion that doesn’t include abortions.
For the first time in history, the U.S. Supreme Court specifically held that, under some circumstances where corporations are closely held by readily identifiable owners with certain religious beliefs, the corporations themselves can assert freedom of religion rights, even if the corporations were ‘for-profit” companies. The Obama Administration had already administratively created exceptions for not-for-profit corporations, such as churches, and the U.S.S.C. did not agree that a corporation should be treated differently simply because its owners desired to make a profit. Today’s decision means that Hobby Lobby will avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and still provide health insurance to its more than 13,000 employees, although its employees will have to pay for some, but not all, contraceptive care.
You’re on your way to work during morning traffic when, out of nowhere, a blue minivan in a rush to make it to work on time, runs a red light, plowing into your car’s front end. You’re understandably shaken up, and now your body feels sore and stiff. Auto accidents happen every day and can be a huge mess to deal with when you’re already feeling vulnerable. Hiring an attorney to help you through a personal injury claim can help make the process easier for you and your family.
They make it easier to deal with the Insurance Company.
Insurance Companies profit by under compensating injured persons. Sure, your medical expenses may be covered, but did you know that they should also consider future medical costs, lost wages and, the value of pain and suffering as a result of the accident? If you deal with the insurance company directly, and forego the assistance of an experienced attorney, you could be left with permanent injuries and a lifetime of pain without any way of paying for medical expenses that may arise in the future. Our experience leads us to conclude that, on average, our clients are probably getting thousands of dollars more in settlements, than if they represented themselves.
They get paid when you get paid.
It may sound too good to be true, but most attorney’s don’t require an upfront fee to work on personal injury claims. They accept clients on a contingency bases, meaning they will only bill you a percentage if your case settles or results in a judgment. This takes the financial pressure off the injured party and gives the law firm motivation to negotiate the best possible settlement in your favor.
The last thing you want to do when you’re injured and recovering is spend hours on the phone or sending correspondence to insurance companies. Hiring an attorney takes the burden off your plate so you can focus on obtaining medical care for your injuries. It’s best to hire an attorney as soon after the accident as possible due to legal deadlines that could jeopardize any claim you may have for injuries.
Attorneys have your best interest in mind when they take you as a client. They truly want to make this process as easy on you as possible. They can complete insurance documents, request medical records on your behalf, and write a proposal for settlement letter for the insurance company, without requiring you to leave the comfort of your home. How convenient is that?
Professional representation for the future.
While most claims settle long before filing suit, it is not a 100% guarantee. Sometimes insurance companies refuse to offer realistic settlements, forcing some clients into law suits so as to obtain a reward by jury trial. Without representation from the beginning, you may feel like giving up on a recovery. The right attorney will be able to help you set a reasonable value from the beginning and, if you need to file suit, the attorney can help you through the ends and outs of a complex legal system.
The next time you, or someone you care about, are involved in an auto accident, call a local attorney and talk to him or her about your claims. Most personal injury attorneys will speak with you on the phone and offer a free consultation. One thing is for sure, while it won’t hurt you to speak with an attorney up front, it certainly could hurt you down the road, if you don’t.
Erik Woody & Rachel Dodrill contributed to this blog.