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As it has now down now annually for more than a decade, the American Tort Reform Association has released a new edition of its “Judicial Hellholes” report, and this year, ranking Florida No. 1. It was deemed the worst in terms of “judges in civil cases systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally to the disadvantage of defendants.” injury attorney

Do not be duped by this report, even if it gets circulated in various media reports. Here’s the truth of the matter: The ATRA is part of a well-funded public relations campaign (one that has been discredited numerous times by media outlets as well as state and national legal experts and academics).

It’s an organization that receives millions of dollars from deep-pocketed CEOs and others with business interests who want to make it harder for you collect damages if you’re seriously hurt. It’s prepared by a business-oriented group that takes a clear stance against personal injury lawsuits and sizable class action awards. The American Association for Justice refers to the report as “slick propaganda.” It plays on the erroneous theory that people and attorneys are getting rich off bunk personal injury claims. Continue reading

Any experienced probate litigation lawyer in South Florida is familiar with the stereotypical “evil stepmother” trope. It’s not necessarily that there may not be truth to it in some families, but it more often than not really comes down to the fact that in so many probate, estate and trust cases, the interests of the surviving spouse (more likely to be the stepmother) so often conflict with those of adult stepchildren. It’s fair to say that a significant portion – bordering on half – of contested wills, trust contests, life estate challenges, elder financial abuse allegations, deed revocations – involve some type of conflict between adult stepchildren and stepmothers.probate litigation

This is certainly not to say that stepmothers are “evil” in all or even most of these scenarios. What it does highlight is the fact that so many conflicts in matters of estate involve this dynamic and it’s indicative of the fact that an increasing number of families are blended and this inevitably can create long-simmering tension that can spill over into disputes over estate property, beneficiary rights to a trust or an inheritance.

The Pew Research Center reported just a couple years ago that in 1960, 73 percent of children were living in two-parent family households. By 2014, that figure dropped to 46 percent. The number of single-parent households rose from 9 percent to 26 percent during that time. Sixteen percent of children live in so-called “blended families,” with a stepparent, step-sibling or half-sibling. And of course, these figures reflect family structures in childhood; those single parents often go on to get married as the children get older or reach adulthood. There is also an increasing trend toward cohabitation among elderly paramours, which might further complicate matters legally. Continue reading

It’s imperative if you have suffered a serious personal injury to consult with an injury lawyer with extensive experience and a proven track record of success because there are many technical distinctions that can complicate even a seemingly straightforward claim. injury attorney

For example, if you are injured in a nursing home fall, is it a general personal injury claim or should it be filed under a theory of medical malpractice? There are several considerations one must make before choosing, and the distinction – though potentially a fine line – is important because medical malpractice claims have different requirements for notice, statute of limitations and burden of proof. If you pursue the wrong theory, you might ultimately find your evidence doesn’t meet the proof burden for the proper theory, and therefore you can’t recover any damages.

There can sometimes be a similar cloudy distinction between general negligence and premises liability, the latter of which involving the duty of landowners and occupiers to use reasonable care in addressing hazards and warning of them. In Florida, certain premises liability claims, such as slip-and-falls in a business establishment, must meet a higher standard of proof, as outlined in F.S. 768.0755. While claims of premises liability require a property owner or occupier to use ordinary care to reduce or eliminate an unreasonable risk of harm created by a condition on site that the defendant knows or should know about in the exercise of ordinary care, general negligence involves negligent activity where an owner or occupier do what a person of ordinary prudence in the same or similar circumstances would have done.

It was a failure to file the proper type of claim in United Scaffolding, Inc. v. Levine that resulted in the Texas Supreme Court’s reversal of a verdict favorable to a slip-and-fall injury plaintiff against a scaffolding contractor. Continue reading

In Florida premises liability law (which pertains to the responsibility of property owners to keep their site reasonably safe), the “open and obvious” doctrine is one that essentially states if a hazard or condition was open and obvious to a reasonable person, the landowner isn’t liable (or might be less liable) for failing to address the danger or warn the injured person about it. The idea is a visitor should have been able to recognize and appreciate that an open and obvious danger was present and take measures to protect themselves from that harm. personal injury

It can be a powerful defense, and one our personal injury attorneys in Fort Lauderdale are committed to challenging head-on. We recognize there may be numerous exceptions to the open-and-obvious doctrine, including:

  • Landowner knew people would likely be hurt even if they were aware of it;
  • Negligence per se, which involves violation of a health or safety statute, for which landowner could be liable regardless of the awareness or actions of the injured party.

Continue reading

An arbitration panel has awarded more than $34 million to the estate of the co-founder of the Home Shopping Network, finding that bank Morgan Stanley, along with its broker and branch manager, engaged in unauthorized trading, breach of fiduciary duty/ constructive fraud, negligence, negligent supervision and unjust enrichment. Arbitrators additionally concluded the bank violated Florida law against exploitation of vulnerable adults. elderlyman

These damages involve actions over a three-year period from 2009 to 2012, and involve investments in banking and financial services. At the time, the decedent was alive, but suffering from severe dementia, of which he died in 2012, according to InvestmentNews.com. The bank insists there was evidence the accounts were profitable and were managed in accordance with their client’s wishes, a view clearly not shared by arbitrators. Decedent’s widow stated her primary hope was that the case would spur greater protections for elderly investors.

Good probate litigation attorneys in Fort Lauderdale know that so often, we don’t recognize an elderly loved one is being financially exploited until after the individual dies. Although the aforementioned case is unique in terms of the scope of the exploitation, the circumstances themselves aren’t all that rare, and we’re likely to see quite a bit more cases in the coming years, as the American population ages. Continue reading

When you take your child to a restaurant, park or other property, the property owner owes both of you a duty of care to help avoid the risk of foreseeable injuries due to hazards on site. However, a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that parents are not absolved of personal responsibility for their children’s safety upon entering the premises of another. injury attorney

The personal injury lawsuit before the court involved a child who suffered serious injury to his finger, which ultimately had to be amputated, when a stanchion (also known as a rope barrier) fell onto his hand as he and his brother were playing while his parents waited in line to place their order.

The boy’s parents sued the restaurant on a theory of premises liability. Trial court granted summary judgment to defendant. The court concluded any duty the restaurant might have owed to the child in this case was “abrogated” by the fact his parents were with him with him.

To abrogate means to avoid responsibility for.  Continue reading

A South Florida seafood restaurant has been deemed liable to pay $2 million in damages after a federal jury determined the restaurant’s employee was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of a crash that injured another driver. The question of exactly what the worker was doing at the time of the crash was central to the issue of vicarious liability – and whether the restaurant could be made to pay.car accident lawyer

Vicarious liability is a form of strict, secondary liability in which a supervisory party (like an employer) can be held responsible for the negligent actions of a subordinate or associate (i.e., an employee). It stems from the belief that these supervisory parties have a right, ability or duty to control the actions of their subordinates. It’s not necessary to prove the supervisory party was actually negligent or even that it knew about the subordinate’s actions. This type of liability falls under the umbrella of a doctrine called respondeat superior, which is Latin for “let the master answer.”

In some cases, it’s obvious that a worker was acting in the course and scope of employment. An example might be a truck driver delivering cargo from a supplier to a receiver in a company-owned truck. However, if at any point that driver is side-tracked or is running a personal errand and the crash occurs at that time, defendant could argue the driver was not acting in the course and scope of employment and therefore the employer can’t be liable. That’s what defendant tried to argue in the recent case before the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida. Continue reading

The AARP reports that roughly 60 percent of American adults lack proper estate planning, with only 4 in 10 having a will or living trust. This isn’t shocking news, but it is concerning, considering that settling an estate with no will in Florida is often a challenging endeavor. Although older adults tend to have a better handle on these records (which makes some sense, given that as we age, we face the reality that estate planning is important), it’s wrong for younger generations to assume it isn’t necessary, even if they aren’t wealthy. A will stipulates things like what will happen to your small children if you and your spouse die, who can make financial and health care decisions for you in the event you’re incapacitated. probate litigation attorney

The term “intestate succession” refers to the distribution of one’s estate when one dies absent a valid will. The process varies from state-to-state, but generally follows that one’s surviving spouse and other heirs will receive decedent’s possessions in order of descent.

Florida’s intestate succession laws are outlined in F.S. Chapter 732. It should be noted that state laws can frequently change, so it’s important to discuss your options with a probate litigation lawyer if you have concerns about your rights and obligations.  Continue reading

Those who patrol Florida’s deadly streets and highways regularly spot motorists texting and driving, but are often powerless to do anything about it, despite the known danger and the fact that such action is against the law. That’s because Florida is one of just a handful of states that has deemed texting to be a secondary offense for non-commercial drivers, meaning officers can’t stop the driver or issue a ticket unless the driver also committed some other offense. That may soon change, as The Associated Press reports state lawmakers are considering a measure that would classify texting-and-driving as a primary offense, one that would be worthy in and of itself to initiate a traffic stop.distracted driving accident lawyer

This has the potential for a major impact in a state where some 2,700 people died in car accidents in 2017. It’s not known for certain how many of these crashes involved a texting driver, partially because unlike drunk driving, texting-and-driving is not so obviously traced. Meanwhile, the U.S. government opines that approximately 3,500 people are killed and 400,000 injured nationally in texting and other distracted driving accidents annually.

Florida is in company with three other states – Ohio, South Dakota and Nebraska – that make texting a secondary offense. Two other states have no law banning the practice, while another only imposes limitations for non-commercial drivers under 21.  Continue reading

It’s estimated that nearly 30 million people experience a house fire just during the holidays, according to InsuranceQuotes.com.  The National Fire Prevention Association reports more than half a million properties are destroyed annually by fire, with nearly 80 percent of those being residential properties. When someone is injured – or worse, killed – in one of these incidents, it can be utterly devastating. Part of picking up the pieces means determining whether certain parties may be liable for the fire, and whether home insurance or some other entity may be required to pay damages to survivors. injury lawyer

Recently, the Connecticut Supreme Court considered a house fire liability lawsuit brought by the estate representative for a mother and her three children all killed in a fire at a public housing complex. Defendants in the case were the city fire department and five city officials. Plaintiff alleged the city was negligent in its failure to inspect smoke detection equipment in decedent’s unit in compliance with the applicable fire safety regulations and codes.

Although the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants, finding they were entitled to sovereign immunity, the appellate court reversed and the state supreme court affirmed, finding a jury could reasonably find defendants displayed reckless disregard for the health and safety of the public. This is the standard necessary in that state to overcome a defense of immunity against a government agency or official, which means there is a possibility defendants could be held liable. Now the case can go to trial.  Continue reading

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