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Jocelyn-Smith-Headshot-2-002In March, 2020 attorney Jocelyn Smith, Esq. joined Brick Business Law’s business litigation practice.  Ms. Smith joins the firm as a senior associate-level attorney and will be working primarily on contract, corporate and commercial disputes and other litigation matters along with the firm’s current Senior Attorneys, John Koda, Joe Kennett and Kevin Brick.

Ms. Smith received her B.A. degree, with honors, in political science from University of Florida in 2002.  While at UF, she was on the varsity Speech and Debate Team.  She went on to obtain her J.D. degree from Georgetown Law School in 2006 where she served on Barrister’s Counsel and competed on the Moot Court Team.

Ms. Smith brings 13 years of litigation experience from her prior firms (as well as the Legal Advocacy Center of Central Florida), where she focused on consumer finance, complex commercial litigation and intellectual property matters.  A significant portion of her experience includes litigating disputes throughout central Florida.

Doctors rushing patient to surgeryToday I was contacted by an investigative reporter wanting to interview me about business that are charging Covid-19 surcharges and increasing fees for providing services.  The reporter wanted to know (1) if this is something to be expected, (2) is this legal and (3) what can affected (a) consumers or (b) businesses do about it.

Here are my responses:

1. Should We Expect Businesses to Raise Their Rates During COVID-19?

Below is a link to a white paper for Florida small business owners outlining legal issues related to Covid-19.   Please contact us if you’d like to set up a free consultation with a business attorney related to a specific matter or concern.  We are available by phone or video conference.  We look forward to hearing from you.

BBL Covid 19 White Paper

Court-Image-300x200In the case of Colon v. Accountable Climate Solutions, Inc.Brick Business Law prevailed in its Motion for Final Summary Judgment in full defense of the Plaintiff’s case and was awarded its attorney’s fees and costs.  The case was brought by a former employee of Brick’s client who claimed he was forced to work overtime and was due unpaid wages and overtime wages.  Brick was able to obtain admissions and secure other documentary and testimonial evidence which left no genuine issue of material fact to be litigated as to the employee’s claims and the Motion for Final Summary Judgment was brought on behalf of the employer in May of 2019.

Pursuant to Florida Statute 448.08, the prevailing party in any action for unpaid wages may be awarded their reasonable attorney’s fees from the non-prevailing party.  Although it is not required, the Court found that Brick had properly noticed, plead and supported entitlement to all fees and costs and, in addition to rejecting all of the employee’s claims, entered a final judgment against the employee for all of the fees and costs incurred by the defendant in defense of the suit.

Critical to the defense of the case was the employer’s record-keeping system, its document-management system and implemented practices, which required the employer and employee to sign-off on and document hours, jobs and earnings.  Certain employers are subject to record-keeping requirements with regard to employee records.  Additionally, EEOC, FDA and FLSA each have their own requirements for how long employment records must be retained.  However, even where records are not required, clearly set-out processes of signing in and out, approving hours, requiring employees to sign-off, setting up policies and procedures which are consistently enforced, having a clearly-defined compensation plan and maintaining employment records are all best practices which can make the difference in the defense of an informal claim or a lawsuit by a former employee brought for a number of different reasons.

Brick Business Law, P.A. is pleased to announce that Joseph Kennett, Esq. has joined Kennett-Pic-199x300the Firm as a Senior Litigation Attorney. Joe adds considerable trial, litigation and business experience to the Firm’s growing practice. Joe will be handling primarily business litigation matters for the firm out of the St. Petersburg office location. A link to Joe’s biography is located on the Firm’s website in the “about us” section.

Brick Business Law has its main office in Tampa with branch offices in St. Petersburg and Orlando. Founded in 2015, the Firm focuses on serving the needs of businesses, primarily with regard to business litigation, advice and counseling. The Firm is accepting new clients and offers free initial consultations at its offices or by phone. For more information, visit www.brickbusinesslaw.com or call 813-816-1816.

In the case of Mandarelli, et al v. Power Line Industries, Inc., filed in the Circuit Court of Hillsborough County, Brick Business Law filed and gavel-1238036-300x201won a motion for contempt and sanctions resulting in a rare final judgment sanction in the case.

The Plaintiffs sued Brick’s client under a number of theories of liability such as breach of contract and fraud alleging that Power Line Industries sold a defective product to the Plaintiff and defrauded him.  Brick counter-sued on behalf of its client for defamation due to videos that the Plaintiff posted on YouTube claiming that the product was defective and the Defendant was deceiving the public.

The Firm aggressively executed its litigation strategy, including motion practice and discovery, over the course of a year of litigation.  The Plaintiffs were continually dilatory and obtuse in their responses.  Due to the Plaintiff’s tactics, Brick filed a Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.380(b) motion for contempt and sanctions, arguing at the hearing that the Court should find that the Plaintiffs’ tactics constituted the “rare circumstance” which justified the ultimate sanction of the striking of the Plaintiff’s claims and dismissal of the lawsuit, plus contempt of court and an award of Brick’s attorney’s fees and costs.  The Court heard Brick’s Motion on June 4 and ultimately issued its Order on September 4 granting all relief requested in the Motion.

John-Pic-214x300Brick Business Law, P.A. is pleased to announce that John Koda, Esq. joined the Firm as a Senior Litigation Attorney, effective July 2, 2018.  John brings over twenty years of business, real estate, commercial and consumer litigation experience to the Firm and will be heading the Firm’s St. Petersburg/Sarasota practices.   John’s full biography can be found here.

Brick Business Law focuses its practice on two areas: business counseling and business litigation.  The Firm’s main office is located in downtown Tampa with a satellite office in St. Petersburg.  The Firm offers prospective clients free initial attorney consultations and has flexible pricing plans including flat fee, hourly, monthly, blended and contingent fee pricing plans (when appropriate).   The Firm can be contacted by calling the main office line at 813-816-1816 for an initial consultation.  More information is located at the Firm’s website.

 

WEB-ONLY-RyanGphoto-20151124-Kevin-Brick-Headshots-0100-CROPPED-300x200One of the questions I get asked most often by new clients is whether someone who files a lawsuit in Florida (or is sued in Florida) can win their attorney’s fees from the opposing party.  Like many legal topics the answer is “it depends.”  I hate giving this answer, which is why I look so serious in the picture on the right.  Let’s go through the basic parameters:

I. Default Rule: All Parties Pay Their Own Attorney’s Fees.

Unless an exception applies, all parties are required to pay their own attorney’s fees.   This is the “default” rule in Florida litigation.  However, there are a lot of exceptions.  Let’s look at the exceptions which allow the “prevailing party” to recovery their own attorney’s fees from the other side.

gavel-1238036-300x201A deposition is a discovery tool used by attorneys to compel witnesses and opposing parties to answer questions under oath.  Generally, they should be used for three purposes: to gather information, to gain admissions and to test out theories of the case.  As a former prosecutor and a business litigator, I have had the opportunity to witness attorneys who were very skilled at taking depositions, but most were not.  When an attorney takes a great deposition, the case and facts become more clear and, as a result, a favorable and faster outcome is likely to occur.  In the best circumstances, the deposition of a party opponent or a key witness is often where the opposing party sees their case fall apart.  This occurs if an attorney’s deposition reveals useful information, gains admissions and successfully undermines (or bolsters) a witness’ credibility as well as the attorney’s theory of the case.

law-education-series-2-1467427-300x225I recently had a business contracts case where we represented a business seeking recourse for the breach of a business contract.  The defendant’s main defense was that it was a third party who signed the contract, not the defendant.  Throughout the course of the deposition, I gained a number of admissions from the defendant which (a) undermined the factual credibility of her defenses; and, (b) gained testimony which supported one of our alternate theories of the case – that the third party had her authority to execute the document on her behalf and that it was reasonable for my client to rely upon this apparent authority; and, (c) gained information about the existence of other documents which supported my client’s positions.  The case settled at the deposition table for full damages plus my client’s attorney’s fees, due to the fact that the opposing party realized in the deposition that we were very likely to win at trial.

The groundwork for making a deposition successful is laid long before the day of the deposition.  Here are some deposition preparation practices which have helped me have success on the day of the deposition:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABrick Business Law, P.A. was named as the 9th best “Small Business Professional Service” Provider in the entire State of Florida by Startup Savant, a resource guide for small businesses.  The firm was the top law firm in the Tampa Bay Area to appear on the list, which includes multiple categories of top resources for business owners, entrepreneurs and aspiring start-ups.

The list includes a total of 152 professionals, organizations and service providers which cater to small businesses throughout the State of Florida.  The honor was bestowed upon Brick Business Law in only its first year of service.  The firm was notified of the distinction on April 20th by way of an e-mail congratulations from Startup Savant founder Ryan James.

Brick Business Law is a Tampa Bay Area law firm which focuses on serving businesses’ legal needs in and around the Tampa Bay Area. The Firm’s practice areas include business consulting services (such as reviewing and drafting contracts or providing risk mitigation advice) as well as business litigation.

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