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Steps To Becoming Real Estate Lawyer

Couple looking at a houseThere are special circumstances within every industry where it is beneficial to have an attorney with training in that particular area. Real estate is no different. Whether it is a commercial property, residence or vacation home, having an attorney who understands real estate law is extremely important. From an attorney’s standpoint, becoming proficient in real estate law can open up a wide variety of opportunities. To become a good real estate attorney, there are few steps a person must take. They include:

Education

The first step in any profession is to receive the right type of education. For real estate, entering law school is only the first wrung of the ladder. The list begins with:

  • Work towards and attain the law degree
  • Take business courses whenever possible
  • Attend classes real estate agents must have to learn the details of the industry and become proficient in both terminology and practice

real estate lawyerWhile this may seem a lot to take on, the only way a real estate attorney is going to be effective is if they know and have training in the real estate industry. It is important to have a working knowledge of the system, its protocols and laws that govern the sale of property.

Internships

It’s important to have a working knowledge of the real estate industry. While attending college, begin to apply for internships with law firms that deal primarily with real estate and commercial properties. As an intern, being able to sit in on meetings and draft legal documents is sometimes a better source of learning that sitting in a classroom. Normally, a student must be into their second or third year of law school before applying for a true internship. If work is available as a clerk or researcher, jump at the opportunity. Those positions are open to anyone and will still allow for hands on knowledge of the field.

Study Programs

Find individuals from both fields to study with. It provides an opportunity to share thoughts, ideas and concerns while asking questions that are directly associated with your field of interest. As part of a well-rounded study program, add visiting real court rooms to learn how commercial law cases are treated within the judicial system.

Proper Licensing

Each industry has its own licensing and certification criteria. The most important thing to do when graduation draws close is to become aware of what types of licensing will be needed before a practice is opened up. Passing the state Bar exam is the most important. Without that license, it is illegal to practice law in any way. The next step is to determine what type of certification or licensing is needed when working within the real estate industry.

As an attorney, there will be no involvement in the actual sale of a property so a real estate license may not be needed. This can depend on the state in which the law practice is located, however. The Real Estate Board may require some type of certification that states the attorney in question is proficient within the real estate industry. Because the industry is so specialized and has laws that are unique to its area of practice, extra credentialing may be required.

Establishing a Practice

law practiceOnce all of the credentials are in place and the practice is ready to open, reaching out to the real estate professionals is the next step. Building a reputation is extremely important if an attorney is trying to build a client base. Join sites like Manta, LinkedIn and forums that are directly affiliated with the real estate industry. Continue to reach out to others, including friends and neighbors. Take out a small ad in the area’s legal director.

Each step in the process is one more taking an attorney closer to their goal. Working within two industries can be a challenge, but it can be accomplished.

Restaurant Chain Violates Labor Laws Again

Restaurant Chain Violates Ohio Labor Laws AgainI wanted to talk about a chain of restaurants in Ohio who faced an employment case filed by the US Department of Labor (DOL) and Ohio employment attorneys back in 2012. The three branches of the restaurant chain, identified as El Rancho Grande, were discovered by investigators to have violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The lawsuit called for them to pay around $285,000 in back pay. This totaled the amount that should have been paid to more than 170 employees. The lawsuit was filed against the restaurant chain and their owners, Juan Hernandez and Francisco Magana, in a District Court in Dayton.

DOLAccording to the investigators from the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, the branches in Gran Fiesta Inc. in Cincinnati, El Rancho Inc. in Sharonville and WRGRM LCC in Dayton failed to pay their workers properly in terms of wages as overtime pay.

Weekly, the said workers were paid a flat fee, that when thoroughly computed, summed up to an amount below the hourly minimum wage requirement. Labor law also states that workers should be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week, but again, the three entities ignored to abide by this rule. In addition, they also did not keep payroll records and monitor time cards which are also a requirement of labor law. Mohajerian Law Firm based in Los Angeles stresses that employers NEED to know and fully understand the labor laws at both the state and federal level to have healthy employer/employee relationships. And when in doubt, consult a qualified labor law attorney.

The violations don’t just pertain to the kitchen staff’s wages, but also to the restaurants’ servers. Their wages fell below the minimum wage levels, as well. The federal mandate for minimum wage in Ohio is $7.25 an hour (for those employers grossing $292,000 or less. In 2014 Ohio raised it’s minimum wage to $7.95/hr). Deductions were also made for their uniforms, which lowered the amount they would receive even more.

Here’s a look at the minimum wage in other states in the US.

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Some quick information of labor laws in Ohio:

George Victory, the district director in the Columbus division said, “Low-wage workers such as restaurant servers and kitchen staff are far too often taken advantage of because they are reluctant to question employers about their pay and benefits.” Fully aware of these types of situations, he expresses, “We are committed to ensuring that all workers receive their rightful wages and benefits.”

It was also reported that El Rancho Grande already has a prior offense with regards to labor and employment law. In their last case, which happened ten years ago, they were also involved in wage violations, as well as falsification of payroll records. That time, investigations were done in by the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL. It ended with employers agreeing to pay around $100,000 in back pay.

File A Car Insurance Lawsuit After An Accident

File A Car Insurance Lawsuit After An AccidentIndividuals who have been involved in an automobile or motorcycle accident are often faced with the choice of whether or not to file a lawsuit. Depending on the type of accident, property loss and the amount of mental and physical injury that was caused, an attorney may have to help them decide.

When a car is lost, most people want to be reimbursed for the value. If a person is injured, their emotional and psychological wounds may last long after their physical wounds have healed. Once quality of life is affected, it is much harder to put a price on the resulting aftermath.

Is a Lawsuit Worth It?

Determining if a lawsuit is worth the time and effort is up to the victim and their attorney. In the event of a traumatic injury or extensive property damage, the immediate cost of an accident may not be known. Insurance companies and agencies will often push for a hasty settlement in the hopes that the extent of their coverage will be limited to a much lower amount than what the end result may eventually be.

  • Extensive injuries may lead to several months of rehabilitation and physical therapy
  • Property damage may take several weeks to assess depending on the nature and extent of the damage
  • PTSD can result in years of psychological problems that require treatment

In some cases, settling out of court may be the best option. If the only loss was material possessions or property, a person may actually come out ahead if they take a lump sum settlement. In the case of a physical injury, the repercussions may dramatically affect a person’s quality of life or ability to hold a job. If that is the case, settling out of court can be devastating. The pain and suffering that accompanies a debilitating injury can last long after the physical damage has healed.

Beware of a Quick Settlement

car-insurance-companiesThe major insurance companies want to pay as little as possible. If an insurance company offers a settlement within a few days of the accident, it means they may know something they don’t want the other party to find out. For instance, if their client is financially secure an insurance company may choose to offer a quick payout to prevent the victim from going after, not only the insurance company, but the other person as well. If the victim accepts the settlement, they have no recourse to sue for more money after they find out the other driver’s true value.

Hiring an attorney can help a person weigh their options and determine exactly how much compensation they are entitle to. Recovering the cost of a vehicle or piece of property is much easier than determining the cost of a lifetime of pain and suffering. Medical bills from the initial injuries can skyrocket if it is determined the person may need prolonged care. Most attorneys will advise their clients to avoid settling until they know the true extent of all injuries and property damage.

Misdiagnosing Skin Cancer: What It Can Cost

Misdiagnosing Skin CancerSkin cancer is one of the few cancers in which the mortality rate still continues to rise. It is also a form of cancer that can be prevented by taking proper care of the skin.  Part of the reason for this is the misdiagnosis of the disease. Malignant melanomas are being misdiagnosed at an alarming rate, leaving individuals to wonder about what is exactly going on with their health. Melanoma has been the cause of many skin cancer related deaths, even though it is one of the rarest forms of the disease.

Misdiagnosis has been a major factor in the lack of treatment of malignant melanomas. Early detection could save hundreds of lives each year, but sadly, many signs go unnoticed. Part of the problem stems from hurried examinations where physicians don’t take the necessary time to thoroughly assess a mole, lesion or other suspicious area on the skin. Insurance companies place limits on the amount of time a doctor can spend with each patient, as well as what tests and procedures can be requested.

melanomaMalignant melanomas are rare cancers of the skin. An increase in pigmentation is an excellent indicator. If a mole or lesion has had a drastic change in color, texture or size, this can also be cause for worry. They can appear in the eye as well as in the bowel. Almost 80 percent of all malignant melanomas are discovered and accurately diagnosed when they are still localized and have not started to spread.

When a person goes to the doctor with a concern about a mole or other skin abnormality, they want answers about what is going on with their health. A misdiagnosis of a melanoma can be considered medical malpractice or professional gross negligence. If a doctor’s misdiagnosis results in injury to the patient, or worse case scenario, their death, a malpractice charge may be considered. Before a lawsuit can be filed, it must be determined that a healthcare provider was amiss in how he or she performed their duties and medical responsibilities.

State Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Due to Medical Malpractice

Every state has its own statute of limitations when it comes to medical malpractice cases and the lawsuits that stem from them.

New Jersey: 2 years

Pennsylvania: 2 years

West Virginia: 2 years (from when the act first could have been discovered, must be filed prior to the 10th anniversary of the discovery date)

Ohio: Lawsuits against healthcare providers must be filed within 1 year. Plaintiffs can give defendants notice of their claim within a year of the date of the injury.  After 2 years medical malpractice cases can no longer be filed legally.

The misdiagnosis of medical melanoma happens more often than it should. The lawsuits that stem from those misdiagnoses are filed to make sure that healthcare providers and insurance companies are held accountable for their actions and the damage they have caused. Responsibility and restitution are key elements of each and every lawsuit filed in the name of a patient who has experienced a misdiagnosis.

Girl Inspires Lawmaker to Introduce Bakers Bill

Little Girl Inspires Lawmaker to Introduce Bakers Bill

A little girl from Troy, Illinois, Chloe Stirling, recently got her heart broken when her dream of one day owning a car had just turned into a nightmare. Folks would usually be proud of seeing the younger generation saving up for their dream, but apparently the Madison County Health Department doesn’t share most people’s sentiments.

Chloe has been selling homemade cupcakes for family, friends and charities so she could, in the future, afford her own car. However, the health department shut down her operations because the little girl didnt have the necessary requirements and because her home’s kitchen didn’t live up to certain standards.

State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville)State Representative Charlie Meier, however, is none too pleased about the health department’s decision. To him, they’ve gone too far. According to the Illinois Review, Meier said, “While the idea for this may have been started because of a little girl in Troy, her situation did shed some light onto a bigger issue negatively impacting charity groups and their ability to raise funds. This legislation will allow for groups to hold bake sales without any fear of the health department shutting them down.” For this reason, he decided to introduce a new bill that would benefit people who do “home kitchen operations.”

In the health department’s viewpoint, small operations such as that of Chloe’s might not comply with rules on sanitation, and so other people’s health would be at risk. David Clayton, the man behind Larry’s House of Cakes, was interviewed by WSIL-TV and says that the ideal kitchen should have a three-compartment sink “so you have a wash, a rinse and a sanitize” and that bakery employees must also follow strict rules while working in the kitchen. Point is that home-based bakeries must comply with the same things.

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But this new bill, named Chloe’s Law, suggests making changes that would be more suitable for home operations. “We don’t want the government to be so huge and oppressive that it hurts people more than it helps,” explains Meier. To qualify, people must have a monthly gross income of less than $1000, the food must not be potentially hazardous, and consumers must be informed that the product was made in a home kitchen.

Though there is one law that allows making food in the kitchen to later sell to the public – the Cottage Food Operation Act – it only permits food to be sold in a farmers market. If passed, the new law can allow people to sell food from their homes without fear of health departments shutting them down. It can also benefit not just individuals looking to earn a few extra dollars, but also startups, schools, religious organizations, non-profit organization and charities. “This country was made great by people starting their own business. You got to start somewhere,” Meier said. As for Chloe, it is said that a new kitchen will be added to their home. Either that or her parents would have to find her a more suitable space.

PetSmart Agrees to pay $10 Million Settlement Fee

PetSmart Agrees to pay $10 Million Settlement FeeToo Much Focus on Pets and Not People?

Although PetSmart works nationwide to take care of America’s pets, it seems that the company has failed to take care of the many employees who make it possible to do so. In fact, there are some 16,000, more or less, current and past employees who allege that they are and have been underpaid. This has forced them to file a class action lawsuit against the company. The latest was filed last Janury 31, 2014 in California federal court as a violation of labor law. The case was finally settled with PetSmart agreeing to pay $10 million.

Coming clean

The good thing about this suit is that PetSmart was quick to look into the case at hand and have now owned up to the errors they made in terms of employee compensation. And the plaintiffs were rather pleased with the company’s cooperation. Graham Stephen Paul Hollis, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said that “this was a long, hard-fought settlement, but PetSmart has been pretty good about addressing these policies and realizing that mistakes had been done.”

How it all started

petsmart-grommersThe dispute between PetSmart and its employees first surfaced in 2012 when a complaint was made in Alameda County Superior Court. The plaintiffs, PetSmart groomers, had claimed that they have not been properly compensated for non-grooming duties assigned to them at work. Yes, the suit was initially filed to address issues raised by their groomers because they became aware that they were only paid 50% of the net grooming fee. This explains why most of the $10 million settlement will go to the groomers, even though it does cover compensation for all, including grooming trainees, hourly employees and salon managers assigned to PetSmart’s California branches. However, things escalated when other added concerns were raised by other employees.

petsmart-breakroomThe added concerns included meal break and minimum wage violations to nonexempt, hourly employees. According to the lawsuit, Petsmart employees were only given 30 minutes of break time during a 6- to 8-hour work day, but California labor law mandates that employees be given a meal period after 5 hours of work. Furthermore, there were also complaints of stylists not being reimbursed for their styling tool purchases.

Plaintiffs also allege that they weren’t properly compensated for serving customers even while on their breaks. “PetSmart had a policy that required employees to ask customers if they needed help. It was the culture of the store. But the company had no policy as for how to compensate people for the time they spent working while they were clocked out,” the attorney told Law360.

Minimum wage law

To those unfamiliar with the state’s wage and hour policy, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires that typical covered employees must receive a minimum of $7.25 per hour, and that they be paid for all hours the spend working. For overtime, they must be paid time and one-half the regular rate. It is stated that the only circumstance wherein employees are exempted from this rule is if they are seasonal employees, work on a tipped wage basis that meet minimum wage, or are already of managerial status or higher.

Washington Grass Seed Growers Sue the Scotts Company

grass-seedThe housing market crash has created a financial crisis among public and private sectors in the U.S. The Washington grass seed growers are one of those greatly affected by this phenomenon. People are not building houses so the demand for landscaping plummeted, including the demand for grass seed. Because of this, market price of grass seed dropped dramatically.

Before the housing bubble burst, the Scotts Company entered into a contract with a group of Washington grass seed growers for their Kentucky bluegrass seed produce. But just recently, the growers filed a lawsuit against the Scotts Company and processors Seeds Inc. of Tekoa, WA and Dye Ranch Inc. Pomeroy, WA for allegedly breach of contract over seed prices.

The Issue

The Scotts Company is not paying the agreed upon contract price of $1.30 per pound for the Kentucky bluegrass seed. The current market price for this type of seed is valued at around 65 cents according to these experts. The processors Seeds Inc. and Dye Ranch Inc. which cleaned and packaged the seeds have also filed a counterclaim against Scotts for refusing to pay the farmers what is promised them. Both processors negotiated with the farmers on behalf of Scotts. They are collectively seeking $18.5 million from the Scotts Company so they can pay the growers for their crop.

The Reaction

According to Seeds Inc. attorney Tim Esser, Scotts is persuading the growers to accept payment that is less than the contract price. Esser also cited tactics Scotts used to outlast the growers’ endurance. Scotts is reportedly claiming that some growers are padding their yields with seeds from fields not under contract. Hence, Scotts requested Seeds to do an audit to prove if this is true.

A Scotts’ attorney claimed that Seeds has consistently denied their request for audit. The lawyer alleged that Seeds and the farmers are inaccurately weighing the seed and trying to sell them to Scotts without adhering to quality control standards.

At a scheduled meeting in Spokane, Scotts Vice President for Global Purchasing Pete Supron was asked by the growers if the company would pay them if the audit showed everything was on the level, the answer was negative. In short, Scotts won’t honor the contract regardless of the audit’s outcome.

On the part of Seeds Inc., their lawyer confirmed that Scotts has already been given access to all of Seed books to check their records. As it is, Esser believed that the Scotts Company never really want to pay the farmers but is just prolonging the legal process. According to him, Scotts is trying to starve the farmers out so they would end up accepting money less than what is officially agreed.

The Outcome

The growers are now having a hard time financing their farm because no payment has been made so far. Their families are also deeply affected by the situation as bills continue to pile up. The judge assigned to the case has yet to decide whether he will rule against the Scotts Company or let them go to trial. Thinking about it, no problems ever occurred in the beginning until seed prices plummeted to the bottom level.

Garage Opener Company Saved From Million Dollar Lawsuit

garage-door-openerA major lawsuit in San Francisco was recently concluded in favor of a garage opener company (company name not mentioned).  After several years of litigation, the jury finally decided on April 7, 2000 that a garage door opener is not the cause of severe injuries suffered by firefighters trapped in a garage of a burning home way back March 9, 1995. A fire lieutenant was killed during the incident and a firefighter was severely burned, left blind and brain damaged. The injured firefighter who spent three months in a coma sued for lost pay, medical bills and damages amounting to more than $6.5 million. Family and friends of the plaintiff were devastated with the court’s verdict.

Why the Company was sued?

Firefighters who responded to the house fire call entered the burning home through the garage and tried using the same door when the commanding officer ordered a retreat. But because the garage door closed and could not be opened from inside, they got trapped. They tried calling out for help but their voices were inaudible outside due to high winds and torrential rain.

The issue presented by the firefighter’s attorney was the failure of the opener to open the garage door when the door closed on the fire hose. The hose was situated under the left side of the door. The lawyer asserted that the hose was fully charged at that time and was about two inches thick and hard. If this argument was true, the opener should have reversed when the door hit the hose. He also claimed that the defective design of the opener prevented it to function properly when exposed to intense heat.

What is the stand of the Company?

The company believed the opener was not the real cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. First, the hose was not fully charged when the door closed so it was shorter than two inches high. Second, the hose was positioned off to the left where door flex. Both factors affected the reversing capabilities of the door. Also, after interviewing an expert from this company, they believe that the garage lighting was not adequate and may have contributed to the fact that the firefighters could not see and find an exit.

Their lawyers presented evidences that demonstrated the firefighters’ errors. These included their failure to protect their only exit, errors in connecting their water supply and the improper use of safety equipment that could have prevented injuries.

Was the trial able to resolve the real issue?

The jury’s vindication of the garage door opener as having caused the injuries revealed a fair judgement. While the jury may have acknowledged the fact that installing the opener on a one-piece door poses some difficulties with regards to door flex and reversing capabilities, full responsibility for the firefighter’s injuries was placed on the fire department. No one knows exactly what made the door close behind the firefighters. The judge described it as a freak accident.

Since this is a high profile case, the verdict is significant to the entire garage door opener industry. The case showed the importance of proper testing and servicing of garage door openers and the efficient function of all safety devices. The company took an aggressive stance to regain its reputation as an established company selling high quality and safe products.

Every homeowner should follow these garage door safety tips:

GranuFlo Recall Still a Big Problem

GranuFlo Recall Still a Big ProblemFresenius Medical Care, one of the top manufacturers of medical supplies, recently experienced a standstill at their billing office which sparked controversies that linked their office’s closure to the GranuFlo lawsuit they are currently in the middle of.  GranuFlo is a product utilized in hemodialysis procedures, and the lawsuit the company is facing was filed against them due to the recall of this product. What’s more is that dialysis patients and healthcare providers have yet to get over the GranuFlo snafu that surfaced last year. It seems that things are not looking good for Fresenius at the moment.

Apparently, Fresenius had failed to inform their clients regarding the problems they had discovered with their product. The only ones they thought of notifying were their own supply shops. Although the FDA  issued a class I recall the on the product, thousands upon thousands of dialysis patients had already received the product which could have posed grave consequences to their health. It was also said that the company was fully aware of the problem and that several institutions were already using their product, but they only extended the information to Fresenius-owned clinics.

A class I recall by the FDA is the highest level recall there is. It indicates that the product is so bad that it  can cause significant health damage and even death. This stemming from Fresenius’ decision to change their product labels in early 2012. More on product labeling re: the FDA here.

This – the failure to disseminate information – seemed to be a common denominator that links the different lawsuits that were filed against Fresenius. Reports say that this started due to the discovery of a memo that was given out to medical practitioners working at Fresenius clinics. The said memo, which was released in November last year, pointed out that improper use of the GranuFlo product has a possibility of causing metabolic alkalosis that may lead to heart attacks, stroke, cardiopulmonary arrest or even death. And plaintiffs are curious to know when the company first learned of this  problem and why they did not consider a wide-ranging communiqué.

Kidney-articleInline“In light of these troubling findings… this issue needs to be addresses urgently,” stated the memo, which also implied that doctors and medical practitioners should take actions to remedy the problem. But even though they did make an effort to warn the 1800 clinics and physicians regarding GranuFlo, the fact remains that they never thought of alerting the other 1800 clinics who weren’t under their banner. As it turns out, the US Food and Drug Administration failed to receive a memo, as well. The issue only caught their attention when a copy had leaked out, prompting Fresenius to correct the lack of warning and issue a recall.

For more information head over Avvo.com to see a detailed timeline of this case.

UPDATE:

GranuFlo Multidistrict Litigation Shows Only 201 GranuFlo lawsuits in federal court

GranuFlo Multidistrict Litigation Shows Only 201 GranuFlo lawsuits in federal court from Michael J. Evans

Collecting On Insurance Benefits of a Missing Person

Collecting On Insurance Benefits of a Missing PersonWe all know that we do have the right to collect on the life insurance policy of a diseased loved one, but what about when a person goes missing? That would be a very different story. Not only will you be dealing with the reality that someone dear to you isn’t coming back any time soon and the pain that comes with it, you will also have to deal with a different and more difficult process should you decide to obtain such benefits. Most often, these cases rarely lean towards success. However, it is worth the try.

When to Start Processing a Claim

Before you can make a claim and collect insurance benefits, you will have to present the insurance provider with proof that the insured is already dead or, in this case, presumed dead. Normally, if the insured passed away, you would have to submit a death certificate. But in a missing persons case, the decision will have to come from the courts. The American Council for Life Insurers also has their own criteria for how and when a missing person should be presumed dead, and the courts will have to base their decision off of this to help the family proceed with their claim. The criteria are as follows:

  • The person disappears without explanation
  • The person has been missing beyond the 7-year waiting period
  • A search for the missing person had ensued
  • The person hasn’t been contacted since the realization of his or her disappearance

Below is some great information on our life insurance economy.

The whole reason why insurance companies are on the fence about giving away life insurance benefits in missing persons cases and why the ACLI has specified such a lengthy waiting period is because of false claims, as well as fear of murder-for-hire cases. Losses due to fraudulent claims have reached almost $80 billion per year, with around $12 billion of that amount from life insurance fraud.

Reappearance of Missing Person

What about when the missing person finally resurfaces? What happens to the insurance payout his or her loved ones had already started to receive? Depending on the laws of the state, two things can happened. In some states, it would have to be given back to the person who went missing, as well as any other asset that was divided between his or her family members. But in other states, they might also have a specific waiting time wherein a person cannot get assets back when he or she returns after the said time.

This article was written by the C. Walter Searle Insurance Agency in Nutley NJ. Visit their office at 410 Franklin Ave. Nutley, New Jersey 07110 or visit them on the web at searleinsurance.com.