Avoidable pool tragedies

There were 51 fatal child drownings in Florida pools or spas in 2017, a 20 percent spike compared to 2016 when there were 40 fatal child drownings in the state. With pools, lakes and year-round swimming weather, Florida easily tops northern states.

According to figures released by the USA Swimming Foundation on Tuesday, Florida again leads the nation as the state with the most child drownings in 2017. The drownings last year involved children 15 and younger, with 80 percent involving children under the age of 5. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1-4 nationwide.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Pool Safely campaign urges Florida families to enroll their children in learn-to-swim programs, learn CPR and be diligent in watching children at pools and spas and other bodies of water. Here are some of their steps to stay safer when spending time in or near the water in 2018:

▪ Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa and always watch your children closely around all bodies of water.

▪ Designate a water watcher to supervise children in the pool or spa. This person could be a lifeguard or adult family member and should not be reading, using a smart phone or be otherwise distracted.

▪ Learn how to swim, and teach your child how to swim.

 ▪ Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults.

▪ Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapment.

▪ Ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards, and if you do not know, ask your pool service provider about safe drain covers and ask your public pool if their drains are “VGB compliant.”

▪ Take the Pool Safely Pledge before spending time in or near the water this year. This online pledge basically has you read through the above tips and vow to heed them any time you or your child come into contact with a body of water.





3 Killed in Boating Accident

Authorities allege a Kansas man was intoxicated when the boat he was operating struck a rock bluff on the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri, killing three friends.

Hayden Frazier, 22, of Overland Park, was released from jail Sunday morning. He was arrested Saturday on three preliminary charges of boating while intoxicated involving a death of another person. It wasn't immediately clear when formal charges will be filed.

The Missouri Highway Patrol on Sunday identified says the three victims who were killed: 23-year-old Joseph LeMark, of Overland Park; 24-year-old Daniel Lewis, of Overland Park; and 21-year-old Hailey Hochanadel, of Olath.

Authorities say 21-year-old Ashley Lamb, of Olathe, was in serious condition after being flown to a Springfield, Missouri, hospital.

The crash happened before 2 a.m. Saturday, throwing three people into the water, authorities said. All five people involved were friends who graduated from high school in Olathe.

Accident reports say Frazier, Hochanadel and LeMark were ejected into the water in the crash that happened before 2 a.m. Saturday. State Patrol Sgt. Scott White said Frazier climbed back aboard and paddled the 1991 Regal Runabout across the channel to a dock at Simmons Point.

A neighbor called to report the incident.




License Plate Cover Violates The Law - Police Can Light You Up, Rules Appeals Court


License Plate Cover Violates The Law - Police Can Light You Up, Rules Appeals Court

Seemingly everybody in South Florida has a license-plate frame — adorned with logos of your car brand, auto dealer or favorite sports team.

They can get you in big-time trouble.

A Miami appeals court ruled Wednesday that a police officer acted legally when he pulled over a motorist whose frame partially covered the word "Florida" on his license plate, but not the tag numbers or decals. The driver, Marcelo Pena, was arrested for driving with a suspended license — and for the drugs the cop found in his car.

The Third District Court of Appeal was not naive to the abundance of the frames "frequently supplied by car dealers” and that “many otherwise law abiding citizens install them specifically to show allegiance to a club, fraternity, college or sports team or, as a means of other self-expression."

"But the Legislature gets to make the laws that govern our public roads and highways," Judge Robert Luck wrote in the opinion, "and it has done so clearly and unambiguously by prohibiting the obscuring of the word 'Florida' on state license plates."

Pena was pulled over in 2015 by a Miami-Dade police officer in West Kendall. Pena's SUV had a silver plate frame from Grand Prize Chevrolet, a car dealership now known as Bomnin Chevrolet.

The frame covered "" at the top of the familiar orange-adorned tag, and "Sunshine State" at the bottom. The tag number and registration remained visible.

Officer Carl Senabria soon realized Pena was driving with a suspended license, and also found a bag of alprazolam pills; he was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, and drug trafficking.

But Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Diane Ward ruled the traffic stop was illegal. relying on a another appellate-court ruling that said a frame obscuring a county name on a tag was not enough to be pulled over. Prosecutors appealed and the Miami appeals court dismissed Ward's decision, saying the actual word "Florida" must be clear.

The ruling likely won't spark a spike in traffic citations — Florida cops aren't generally aggressive about license plate frames unless the plate numbers themselves are clearly covered.

But law enforcement nevertheless is warning motorists.

"A lot of people don't know it's against the law," said Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Alejandro Camacho, a spokesman. "A good rule of thumb: No letters, numbers or decals on the tag can be covered, period."

Don't go it alone. If you have criminal charges, please contact us for a free confidental case review. 



Johnson & Johnson Defends More Baby Powder Claims


Johnson & Johnson Defends More Baby Powder Claims

A trial for a lawsuit alleging that Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder was responsible for the death of a woman due to her exposure to cancer-causing asbestos began in South Carolina on Monday in the latest case against the healthcare conglomerate and a supplier over their talc-based products.

J&J said that its widely-used baby powder never contained asbestos, a known carcinogen linked to mesothelioma.

The case also names as a defendant a local unit of Rite Aid, one of the largest U.S. drugstore chains, which allegedly sold the baby powder used by the woman.

The case marked the first time a drugstore was involved in a talcum powder liability trial and a lawyer for the company, Sarah Johnston, said there was no reason for Rite Aid to be part of the suit.

In opening statements, a lawyer for the family of Bertila Boyd-Bostic, who died of a rare form of cancer in 2017 at the age of 30, told a jury in the Darlington County Court of Common Pleas that J&J had known for decades that its baby powder contained asbestos.

J&J and its supplier, a unit of Imerys SA, deny the allegations, and their lawyers said their talc product did not cause any form of cancer, according to an online broadcast of the trial by Courtroom View Network.

The case is one of several in recent months that alleged asbestos in talc products caused mesothelioma..

A New Jersey state court jury in April ordered J&J and Imerys to pay $117 million to a man who alleged he developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure from J&J Baby Powder. An appeal is pending.

J&J has also been battling some 6,000 cases claiming its baby powder caused ovarian cancer.

Boyd-Bostic used baby powder nearly all her life, her family's lawyer, Christopher Swett, said on Monday. In 2016, she was diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma, an extremely rare form of cancer that develops in the lining around the heart.

"J&J's choices are why we're here," Swett said. He accused the company of concealing knowledge of asbestos contamination since the 1970s and choosing not to warn consumers of the risks.

If you have health consequences from continued use of Johnson & Johnson baby powder, please contact us for a free confidential consultation.



Miami-Dade homeless sex offenders camp closed down


Miami-Dade homeless sex offenders camp closed down

Officials have cleared a homeless camp where hundreds of sex offenders lived in Northwest Miami-Dade, Monday.

Miami-Dade Police surrounded the homeless sex offenders camp site along Northwest 71st Street and 36th Court to make sure everyone was out.

A judge denied a lawsuit to allow those who call the camp home to stay, last week.

Dozens who were living in tents has already started to move out on Friday.

Many of the homeless sex offenders who lived there had no place else to go because they were complying with a county law that prevents them from living within 2,500 feet of schools.




Miami officer charged with assault after video shows him kicking at suspect’s head

A Miami police officer was charged Tuesday with second-degree misdemeanor assault days after video emerged appearing to show him kicking the head of a handcuffed suspect on the ground.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office charged Mario Figueroa on Thursday after an investigation, the office said in a news release.

Bystander footage of the incident sparked furor  and cries of excessive force when the video involving car-theft suspect David Vladim Suazo went viral, leading to rebukes from city officials. Figueroa was suspended with pay later Thursday.

“Officer Mario Figueroa can have no excuse for the alleged actions seen on the initial videotape,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. “This community demands respect for all individuals taken into custody. Any evidence of abuse, which is also evidence of a crime, will assist us in going forward with this case.”

Rundle had previously said she was “shocked and appalled” by the video, which has amassed more than 250,000 views. A date of arraignment has yet to be set, the state attorney’s office said.

The video drew swift rebuke from top officials.

“I’m very happy the chief took swift, immediate action,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said of Figueroa’s immediate suspension.

But new police body-camera video released Tuesday complicates the allegations of actual assault, suggesting that Figueroa did not connect on his kick.

“Missed on the kick. Learn how to aim, my boy,” Suazo tells Figueroa while handcuffed to the ground at a hospital. He has complained of chest pains, the state attorney’s office said.

Figueroa replied: “If I wanted to kick you, you know, I would have kicked you right.”





Has Miami Cell Phone Company BLU stolen and sold your data?

The Miami company was secretly selling phones infected with spyware that sent users' cell-tower location data, call- and text-message logs, contact lists, used applications, and even the full contents of text messages to a third-party Chinese company called Shanghai Adups Technology.


If you are a BLU customer, please contact us regarding upcoming class action litigation.






Veterinarian Pleads Not Guilty To Puppy Drug Mule Heroin Trafficking Operation


Veterinarian Pleads Not Guilty To Puppy Drug Mule Heroin Trafficking Operation

A veterinarian pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to federal charges that he implanted liquid heroin in puppies to turn them into drug mules for a Colombian trafficking ring.

Lopez Elorza, 38, who also goes by Lopez Elorez, became a fugitive in 2005 when authorities arrested about two dozen suspected traffickers in Colombia.

Before he fled, the defendant had "gained some notoriety" from accusations that he was part of a barbaric scheme that turned an undetermined number of puppies and dogs into "animal couriers" by stitching packets of liquid heroin into their bodies, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Reilly told a magistrate judge on Tuesday.

The puppy mules were sent on commercial flights to New York City, where the drugs were cut out of them, authorities said. Investigators believe the puppies would have died in the process, but it was unknown how many were involved.

"Over time, drug organizations' unquenchable thirst for profit leads them to do unthinkable crimes like using innocent puppies for drug concealment," James J. Hunt, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's New York office, said in a statement.

U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said: "Dogs are man's best friend and, as the defendant is about to learn, we are drug dealers' worst enemy."

Ten puppies were found during a 2005 raid on a farm in Colombia, DEA officials said. Five ended up running away, three died from infection and two were adopted, including one that became a drug-sniffing dog for Colombian police, officials said.


Andres Lopez Elorza appeared in federal court in Brooklyn after being extradited from Spain, where he was arrested in 2015 on a U.S. warrant. He was ordered held without bail. 


Trump Administration Agrees to Leave States' Medical Marijuana Programs Alone


Trump Administration Agrees to Leave States' Medical Marijuana Programs Alone

The Trump administration is abandoning a Justice Department threat to crack down on recreational marijuana in states where it is legal, a move that could enable cannabis businesses in California and other states that have legalized pot to operate without fear of federal raids and prosecution.

President Trump personally directed the abrupt retreat, which came at the behest of Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado. White House officials confirmed the policy shift Friday. Trump did not inform Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions in advance of the change in policy, an almost unheard of undermining of a Cabinet official.


Gardner was incensed in January when the Justice Department announced that it was rescinding an Obama-era policy that directed federal prosecutors not to target marijuana businesses that operate legally under state law. The senator had blocked Justice Department nominees in retaliation.

In conversation with Trump this week, Gardner said he was assured that the federal government would not interfere with his state's marijuana industry and that Trump would champion a new law that gives states the authority to set their own pot policies. In response, he lifted his remaining holds on nominees.






A Russian mixed martial arts fighter who has connections with President Donald Trump, the president’s personal attorney Michael Cohen and Russian President Vladimir Putin was questioned this week by the FBI, his manager confirmed Saturday.

Fedor Emelianenko was questioned by agents who met him in his hotel room on Tuesday, manager Jerry Millen said before Emelianenko’s Bellator MMA heavyweight fight against Frank Mir. Millen declined to detail his client’s conversations with the agents.

The agents were in attendance at Saturday’s fight, Millen said.

Putin has attended Emelianenko’s fights, and the 41-year-old fighter has been photographed with the Russian president. His connection with Trump dates back to 2008, when he was signed by Affliction Entertainment, a fight league in which Trump had an ownership stake. Trump announced a joint venture involving MMA and Emelianenko at a news conference on June 5, 2008.

Affliction ended up folding for financial reasons after two events, both headlined by Emelianenko.

Cohen was the league’s chief operating officer. Two weeks ago, the FBI raided Cohen’s New York offices, hotel and home, seeking information about a nondisclosure agreement he brokered with porn star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had an affair with Trump in 2006.

The fighter’s encounter with the FBI was first reported by The Telegraph of London



Gay Panic - a new twist on self defense


Gay Panic - a new twist on self defense

After James Miller retired from the Austin Police Department, he took up guitar, strumming the instrument at a nearby musicians’ bar, trying to put together a jazz band and getting together at the house of David Spencer, a 32-year-old neighbor and a saxophonist who shared his passion.

In September 2015, after a night of music and drinking at Spencer’s house, Miller testified, his younger neighbor made a fatal mistake: He moved in for a kiss.

“We were playing back and forth and everything, and I just let him know — Hey, I’m not gay,” Miller, 69, said in an affidavit, according to Austin NBC-affiliate KXAN.

“We been playing. We’re musicians and all that kind of stuff, but I’m not a gay guy. Then it seemed like everything was all right, and everything was fine. When I got ready to go — it seemed like [expletive] just started happening.”

Then, he said, he pulled out a knife and stabbed Spencer twice.

Miller showed up at a police station a few hours later, at 3:45 a.m., according to a police report obtained by the Austin American-Statesman, and said, “I think I killed someone. … I stabbed him.”

He was charged with murder.

Three years later, the former police officer claims that the killing was self-defense and that he was in a “gay panic” after being hit on by another man.

Such claims are legitimate, viable defenses in all but two states — California and Illinois — despite the work of LGBT advocates and a resolution by the American Bar Association to have the defense banned.

In Miller’s case, the defense was successful. Jurors did not find him guilty of murder or manslaughter. He was convicted of criminally negligent homicide, but he will not spend a day in prison.


The former police officer was sentenced to six months in jail. He will have to complete 100 hours of community service, pay $11,000 in restitution to Spencer’s family and use a portable alcohol monitoring service for at least a year. He will also be on probation for a decade.


North Miami Beach Mayor Charged


North Miami Beach Mayor Charged

North Miami Beach Mayor Jorge Vallejo was criminally charged as a result of his actions during the 2015 North Miami Beach municipal elections.


Mayor Vallejo pleaded guilty to two counts of violating campaign finance laws, statutorily designated as 1st degree misdemeanor crimes, and resigned from office. The investigation arose from financial activities undertaken by a political committee named "Floridians For Progress" ("FFP"), created in January of 2015 by George Vallejo's aunt, Denise Corredeira, at Vallejo's request. Prior to Vallejo's 2015 unopposed re-election as Mayor of North Miami Beach, donations were made to FFP after being personally solicited by Mayor Vallejo.


In May of 2015, the treasurer of the FFP political committee wrote a check totaling $5,000 to an entity called JATC, Inc., as payment for "fundraiser consulting" as indicated personally by Vallejo. The investigation showed that this statement was false. JATC, Inc. is a Florida corporation formed in 2014 by George Vallejo and his wife, Sandra Shinego, with a long-time friend of Shinego's listed as the sole incorporator and registered agent.


Between mid-May and early June 2015, $5,000 moved from FFP to JATC, Inc. and then to Creations Unlimited LLC, a Wyoming corporation formed in 2013 and subsequently purchased by Vallejo and Shinego. Bank records show that the JATC, Inc. money received by Creations Unlimited LLC was largely spent on the personal expenses of Vallejo and Shinego.


In addition to resigning from his mayoral post, Vallejo must serve 90 days of house arrest with a GPS monitor and complete 500 community service hours. He will also be sentenced to 18 months of reporting probation and may not early-terminate the probation prior to completing all 18 months. Vallejo shall also be prohibited from seeking Federal, State and local elected office during the pendency of his 18-month probation. He must also write a letter of apology to the North Miami Beach community as a part of this plea. 


Condo Boards Slow Your Roll; Changes to Florida Condominium Laws


Condo Boards Slow Your Roll; Changes to Florida Condominium Laws

“Mini dictatorships” and “totalitarian regimes” of the condominium variety were put on notice by State Rep. Rene Garcia, who co-sponsored the new condominium legislation.

“Mini dictatorships” and “totalitarian regimes” of the condominium variety were put on notice by State Rep. Rene Garcia, who co-sponsored the new condominium legislation.

Florida legislators took action in 2017 by passing a bill which Governor Rick Scott signed into law and took effect on July 1, 2017.

“This is very important for Miami-Dade because it’s something that condo owners have been waiting for for nearly a decade,” said Hialeah Republican Sen. René Garca, who co-sponsored the bill with Miami Democrat José Javier Rodríguez.

The measure provides criminal penalties for condominium board actions under certain conditions.  For example,  a board member who willfully fails to comply with a valid requests for records from an association  member would become a misdemeanor.  Refusal to release association records to avoid detection or prosecution for another offense, will become a felony punishable by up to five (5) years in state prison. 

If You need help with Florida Condominium issues, or want to know what your rights are, please feel free to contact us.


MGM Faces Liability For Mass Shooting


MGM Faces Liability For Mass Shooting

  • Hundreds of victims of the Las Vegas shooting are filing lawsuits against the operator of the hotel where the gunman was staying.
  • The lawsuits argue that the hotel and its parent company should have taken greater security measures.
  • If the victims win in court, it could change how hotels handle security.

Hundreds of victims of the Las Vegas shooting have filed lawsuits against the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and its parent company MGM Resorts International.

Several lawsuits — the largest of which was filed on behalf of 450 people — attempt to hold MGM legally liable for the shooting, which killed 58 people and injured hundreds more. Victims are additionally suing the shooter Stephen Paddock's estate and the concert organizer Live Nation Entertainment Inc. as well as, in some cases, the manufacturer of the bump stocks that allowed Paddock to fire as if he were using automatic weapons.

The crux of the lawsuits' arguments is that MGM and the Mandalay Bay failed to take preventive measures that might have foiled the attack. Plaintiffs argue that staff members should have been better trained to spot red flags with Paddock.

Over the three days between when Paddock checked in to the hotel and fired from his window at a concert across the street, Paddock took at least 10 suitcases filled with firearms into his room. Police officials said Paddock also constructed an elaborate surveillance system in the hotel, placing two cameras in the hallway outside his suite — one on a service cart — as well as a camera in his door's peephole.

"The incident that took place on October 1st was a terrible tragedy perpetrated by an evil man," MGM said in a statement to Business Insider. "These kinds of lawsuits are not unexpected and we intend to defend ourselves against them. That said, out of respect for the victims, we will give our response through the appropriate legal channels."

In October, the Nevada Supreme Court found that MGM could be held liable in a 2010 assault on a California couple at one of the company's hotels, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. The court ruled that the attack was “foreseeable” because there had been similar cases of violence at the hotel.

The question of whether the Las Vegas shooting was foreseeable is at the center of the Mandalay Bay lawsuits.

With several high-profile mass shootings having taken place in the US before the Las Vegas shooting, attorneys may argue that hotels and other venues should know to expand measures to try to prevent them, legal experts told Business Insider before any cases were filed.

"Foreseeability is one of the key components of liability," said Dick Hudak, a managing partner of Resort Security Consulting.

Heidi Li Feldman, a professor at Georgetown Law School, says it's "entirely feasible" that an attorney would make this argument based on the fact that mass shootings have taken place at other entertainment venues.

"If Congress isn't regulating gun ownership, it is going to be private parties ... who end up regulating their own premises," Feldman said.

The hotel industry has no national standards for security, and hotels aren't typically held accountable for guests' behavior. But if any of the hundreds of victims suing Mandalay Bay win their case, it could set a new precedent for the way hotels handle security.

Original Article


Chariflaw Client prevails in Trademark Dispute


Chariflaw Client prevails in Trademark Dispute

FORT LAUDERDALE — CharifLaw filed an injunction on behalf of Miami chiropractor Dr. Craig Kaler, against a competitor who began illegally using his business name.  The injunction was based on trademark infringement.

Craig H. Kaler DC PA d/b/a Ocean Chiropractic Center of Aventura filed a complaint on April 27 in the Broward Circuit Court against the defendant, located in Plantation, alleging that the company breached was violating its trademark rights.  

Dr. Kaler held his competitor responsible for consumer and brand confusion, as well as damage to his long established business goodwill, because the defendant began using essentially the same name as Dr. Kaler's, which had been registered with the State of Florida for years.     

The case was resolved without a trial.  The other party agreed to change their name.

Broward Circuit Court Case number 17-007969


David v Goliath  - Small Business Fights Back at Trademark Infringement


David v Goliath - Small Business Fights Back at Trademark Infringement

HYANNIS — After eight years operating her eco-friendly boutique on South Street, Amanda Converse had built up a loyal following of customers who came to her store, Shift Eco-Boutique, looking for ethically and sustainably made clothes and accessories.

But a rebranding campaign by an upscale Boston-based women’s clothier has thrown her company’s name recognition into disarray and pushed Converse to the brink of legal action to defend her territory.

Converse, a Falmouth native, said the renaming of stores in Mashpee and Chatham once called Resort but now dubbed SHIFT has caused confusion for her customers and infringes on her established brand. She said she has documented 20 instances since the April renaming of her customers contacting the SHIFT stores thinking they were reaching her Shift Eco-Boutique.

“In addition to being disrespectful to an established business to come into an area and create confusion, it can be harmful to my brand,” Converse said.

The Resort stores in Mashpee and Chatham are owned by In the Pink Inc., a Boston-based retailer that, at one point, owned 11 women’s apparel shops on the Cape and Islands and in Boston. The company branded itself as a Lilly Pulitzer Signature Store, but all the In the Pink locations except for the Nantucket, Mashpee and Chatham locations now called SHIFT were sold last week to Lilly Pulitzer, according to an Instagram post by the company’s founder, Gordon Russell.

A representative from In the Pink declined to comment for this story.

The word shift refers to a style of dress that is short and sleeveless with straight lines. It was popularized by Lily Pulitzer in the 1960s, but the style has been around since the 1920s. The SHIFT website notes the stores are “named after the classic dress that started it all.”

In addition to the Resort locations on the Cape, In the Pink operated a women’s boutique on Nantucket named SHIFT that opened about a year after Converse started Shift Eco-Boutique. Converse said the island location was never a problem because of its distance from Hyannis, but with similarly named stores now just miles from her South Street storefront it’s a more pressing problem.

“The name has meant so much to me and this community,” she said. “I’ve worked hard to establish the brand and have it seen in a positive light. Any threat to that is not OK.”

Converse said she learned about the SHIFT stores April 17; nine days later, she registered Shift Eco-Boutique as a trademark with the state and noted in the filing that she has been using the name since 2009. She said her attorney, Barnstable lawyer Eugene Curry, has sent cease-and-desist letters to In the Pink with no response. If there’s no action by them before summer’s end, Converse said she’ll file a lawsuit.

“I hope that they come to their senses,” she said.

Converse isn’t the only retailer in recent memory to face a trademark battle from an off-Cape brand. Cape Cloth, a Dennis company, faced an objection from Italian sportswear maker Diadora over the design of its logo, which is an angular, stylized representation of the Cape. Diadora claimed the logo was too close to its left-facing chevron angled upward that tapers off to a thin point and would be confusing to customers.

The case was eventually settled with undisclosed terms, and Cape Cloth has continued to use its logo.

Cape Cloth owner Sean Fitzpatrick said the experience of fighting off a larger, off-Cape company was a “massive” issue for him.

“I didn’t want to seem petty, and I tried to downplay it to my customer base, but behind the scenes it was a really big deal,” he said. “Starting anything, especially a business, is hard on its own. Just to survive in the free market is difficult. When someone who has deeper pockets affects what you’re doing, it’s really difficult.”


Much as Fitzpatrick did, Converse, who is the daughter of Cape Cod Times sports writer Geoff Converse, is rallying locals to her defense. Multiple comments In the Pink’s social media channels have come to Shift Eco-Boutique’s defense, and a GoFundMe has raised $2,300 toward her pending legal expenses.

“The only thing you can do is remain positive and reach out to the people around you, especially those in the Cape Cod business community,” Fitzpatrick said. “Amanda has been somebody who is a huge advocate for local businesses, entrepreneurship and community involvement. Hopefully that karma will come back to her on that front.”


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Original Article




Your Post-Irma 48 Hours


Your Post-Irma 48 Hours

Hurricane Irma Claims Checklist

As soon as it is possible to do so, both individual and business insureds should take the following steps to maximize coverage for their Hurricane Irma claims.

• Evaluate and document the damage. Take photographs of the exterior and interior of property, including personal property. This is important to support your claim and to avoid any dispute with your insurer over what was damaged by the storm and the condition of the property post-storm and before mitigation efforts.

• Locate policies. Gather all potentially applicable insurance policies (wind-only, flood, property). Call your insurance agent or insurer if you are having trouble finding your policy. As we discussed in our article last week, while Florida law requires residential property insurers to offer coverage for windstorms resulting from hurricanes, commercial nonresidential property insurers are not required to provide coverage for windstorm damage. Thus, Hurricane Irma damage may implicate multiple separate policy forms. Locate and review your property policy, wind-only policy (if applicable) and flood policy.

• Provide prompt written notice to each insurer. It is extremely important to provide written notice to your insurance agent and insurance company as soon as possible post-storm. Policies typically require "prompt notice" or "notice as soon as practicable" and Florida courts have routinely upheld these provisions, oftentimes affirming coverage denials where insureds fail to provide prompt notice after discovering damage. At a minimum, provide written notice of damage to all potentially applicable insurers (windstorm, flood, property) even if you are unsure whether or not your losses will exceed your deductible. It is better to ensure a timely submission now rather than risk a coverage denial based on late notice when you later determine the damage you thought was within your deductible was actually far more significant and costly. Your written notice should include: name and contact information for the insured, the location of the loss/damage, the date and time that the damage occurred and a brief description of the loss.

• Take steps to mitigate the damage. Your policy likely covers expenses incurred in taking preventative measures to avoid further loss post-Irma, such as boarding up broken windows. Indeed, the applicable policies will require that you take action to mitigate existing damage and prevent any further damage to the property. Nonetheless, it is important to run any mitigation plans by your insurer after filing your claim to make sure that your efforts will not interfere with their investigation of the damage. Requesting insurer consent to estimated costs of mitigation efforts now will also expedite your reimbursement of these costs during the claims process.

• Debris removal costs are likely covered. Your policy likely covers costs incurred in removing debris from your policy. This coverage is usually stated as a percentage of your total limits. Importantly, this coverage may have a different reporting deadline than other policy coverages, such as 90 or 180 days after the loss.

• Be cognizant of proof of loss deadlines. Check the proof of loss deadlines in each potentially applicable policy. If the deadline is short (120 days or less), considering asking your insurer now, in writing, for an extension of that deadline, and preserve evidence of that request. Note, however, that your deadline will not be extended unless you receive written confirmation of the extension from your insurer.

• Prepare a proof of loss. The proof of loss is a document that identifies the property damaged and documents all amounts incurred. Oftentimes the proof of claim or proof of loss will include items like before and after photographs, receipts, invoices, quotes and other records. Be sure to check with your insurance company about the specific information needed as well as the applicable deadline for submitting the proof of loss. As discussed above, consider requesting an extension of this deadline in writing.

• Be cognizant of your duties under the policy. Property insurers are entitled to conduct a reasonable investigation of the loss with the cooperation of the insured. Most policies will include a section titled "Duties in the Event of Loss," outlining the insured's cooperation requirements such as permitting the insurer to conduct an "examination under oath" (EUO), requiring that the insured provide certain documents or maintenance records, or allowing the insurer to inspect the property. Insureds should consider consulting knowledgeable coverage counsel to help guide them through what the policy does and does not require of them, as well as guiding them through the claims process.

Coverage for Lost Business Income for Commercial Insureds

Beyond the damage to insured property caused by Hurricane Irma, business insureds face lost earnings in the time it takes to repair and remediate this property damage or even to simply regain access to the affected area. Fortunately, your policy may include business interruption insurance coverage that is designed to specifically address these loss scenarios. This coverage is designed to cover lost income or profits caused by the interruption of business activities due to physical damage to property. Business interruption and related coverage endorsements may cover loss resulting from an inability to open for business; reduction in business income when the business remains open but cannot operate at full capacity; loss resulting from civil authority orders barring access to an insured business; and loss resulting from physical impediments to accessing the insured business, such as flooded roads. In addition, these policies may include coverage for lost income due to service and utility outages effecting business interruptions—an important coverage in light of the current power outage estimates.

Importantly, the damage necessary to trigger these coverages need not be to your insured property—it may be enough that the damage occurred at the property of a key vendor or supplier, or simply in the vicinity of the business, so long as it results in lost earnings to you. This type of coverage, known as "contingent business interruption" does, however, require that the physical damage be of the type covered under the applicable policy. This coverage may include the loss of key components in the company's or retail outlet's supply or distribution chain and the inability to ship goods into or out of a retail facility, warehouse or other location necessary to the operation of the business or retail outlet.

It is crucial for commercial insureds to act now to ensure that their claims for loss of business income and other business-interruption losses are honored and paid in full by their insurers. Like the coverages discussed above, business-interruption coverage typically requires that notice of a claim be made "as soon as practicable," and also typically have strict deadlines within which proofs of loss must be submitted. A failure to comply with these deadlines may bar coverage. To maximize the value of their business-interruption claims, commercial insureds should thus immediately provide written notice of business-interruption losses, whether they are losses for a full shutdown, a partial shutdown or a break in the supply chain or vendor's damage.

Florida insureds should take the steps outlined above and consult experienced insurance coverage counsel to help guide them through the claims process. Businesses may also need to consider retaining experienced accounting firms to help quantify and best present these losses to the insurer. For all Florida insureds, quick action now will help ensure that you receive the full benefit of coverage from your policies—the benefit that you bargained for.

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Original article


Hurricane Irma Takeaways for Community Associations


Hurricane Irma Takeaways for Community Associations


Here are the first steps community associations should take now that Hurricane Irma has cleared out.

• Review and update insurance policies.

All insurance policies should be reviewed and updated as necessary, at least annually. Review dates should be calendared well in advance and incorporated into other annual must-do tasks.

• Maintain landscaping and ensure potential projectiles are secured.

Trees and shrubbery grow extensively in Florida's wet, summer months, causing potential problems in strong winds. Trees can block roads and down powerlines when they fall. Items like ladders, paint cans, supplies, outdoor furniture, etc., which may normally be stored outside have the potential to become airborne projectiles posing threats to people and property and must be secured responsibly once a hurricane watch is issued. Landscaping and exteriors should be inspected regularly to minimize these potential threats.

• Establish lines of communication with local governmental authorities.

Determine well in advance who at your city hall is responsible for hurricane response and obtain contact information, including phone numbers and emails. Make sure that the association is included on notification lists (emails, texts, or voicemail) and that residents have access to transportation in the event an evacuation is ordered.

• Adopt an action plan for association hurricane response.

Divide responsibilities among officers/directors and management for operations under emergency hurricane conditions. If evacuation is a possibility, have a reliable means of communication to relay messages to residents, such as evacuation orders and transportation options. If association staff will be asked to work during the storm make adequate accommodation arrangements. This will ensure that they are on-site when needed, as well as avoiding travel that will be impossible during a storm.

• Ensure equipment in good working order.

Many communities have a back-up generator, water pump, and elevator systems. These systems, like all others, require regular maintenance to ensure that they are in good working order when needed and especially in emergencies. If your equipment has not been inspected recently, now is an opportune time.

Original Post 




Texas legislature voted to protect insurance companies

According to the Texas Tribune, In a not-so-surprising move, the Texas State Legislature decided by a margin of 91-55 to help out the other good ole boys in the good ole boy network, those poor ailing insurance companies, struggling under the burden of storm related claims they are obliged to cover.   The bill would tend to "reduce the penalties insurance companies face when they don’t pay enough, decrease the chances they will have to pay the plaintiff’s attorneys fees and protect individual agents from the negative effects of being personally sued — most notably diminished credit scores."