For businesses in Florida, the cost of commercial general liability (“CGL”) insurance can be overwhelmingly expensive, but it is a necessity for financial protection. After it is purchased, a business will generally feel reassured that they are “protected” from any and all potential claims for “bodily injury” or “property damage.” This is doubly true when it comes to contractors and subcontractors in the construction field given the potential liabilities existing on multiple projects at any given time. Under a standard CGL policy, an insurer obligates themselves to “pay those sums that the insured becomes obligated to pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury’ or ‘property damage’ to which [the] insurance applies.” Because of this language, the insurance company, or insurer, has a right and duty to defend the business against any suit seeking damages that are covered by the insurance policy. Thus, when claims are made for damages, insurers will Read More
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In May 2016, we wrote about the United States Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) newly approved Final Rule expanding overtime coverage to an additional 4.2 million employees. In general, the Final Rule substantially increased the weekly salary level requirement for exempt employees from a minimum of $455.00 to $913.00. Additionally, the Final Rule provided for automatic updates every three years. The Final Rule was set to take effect on December 1, 2016. Following enactment of the Final Rule, several states filed a federal lawsuit seeking to bar enforcement and overturn the rule. On November 22, 2016, a Texas federal judge sided with the states and issued a nationwide preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the Final Rule. The nationwide injunction is temporary only, in order to allow the court more time to receive evidence and issue a final ruling as to whether the DOL exceeded its statutory authority in implementing the Final Read More
Posted on TCPalm.com on September 7, 2016. David Carter, Gould Cooksey Fennell, Vero Beach was recently recognized in the 2016 edition of Florida Trend’s Florida Legal Elite. The list of 1,144 honorees, published in the July issue of Florida Trend magazine, includes attorneys in private practice as well as top government and nonprofit attorneys. Actively practicing Florida attorneys were asked to name the attorneys they hold in highest regard as professionals — lawyers with whom they have personally worked and would recommend to others. Florida Bar President William J. Schifino, Jr. notes, “My goal is to engage and utilize the incredible resources of legal leaders throughout the state. For the public and our profession, Florida Legal Elite offers a guide to outstanding attorneys recommended by their peers.” “Florida Trend’s 250,000 readers are executives who rely on the legal community for many crucial corporate assignments,” says Publisher Andrew Corty. Carter practices Read More
Local businesses are being targeted by ADA accessibility testers at an alarming rate. The number of lawsuits filed in federal court is already up 63% from last year. The three states with the most lawsuits continue to be Florida, California, and New York, and the record pace shows no signs of slowing down. Attached to this post is a recent newspaper article highlighting the ADA attack on local businesses on the Treasure Coast. There are steps you can take to ward off a lawsuit, but you must act promptly, and ideally, before a lawsuit is filed. Even if a lawsuit has already been filed, there are steps you can take to minimize the financial burden. For more information, please contact Gould Cooksey Fennell. Click here to read full article titled “Vero businesses hit by a rash of ADA lawsuits” on VeroNews posted August 18, 2016.
On August 2, 2016, the Treasury Department issued proposed regulations that would significantly reduce the tax planning benefits involving family limited partnerships and similar structures which are effective tools for certain wealthy families. Under a typical scenario, one or both parents might transfer various assets worth several million dollars into a limited partnership or limited liability company structured to have both controlling/voting shares and non-controlling/non-voting shares. The parent(s) might then transfer, either by gift or sale, substantial portions of the company, via the non-voting shares, to lower generation family members. Under the terms of the company’s governing documents, there are significant restrictions imposed on freedoms and controls of the non-controlling/non-voting shareholders; and those limitations warrant a significant discount in determining, for transfer tax purposes, the value of what has been given or sold to the lower generation (or to trusts for their benefit). Historically, those limitations might justify a valuation Read More
Four attorneys from the firm have been selected to the 2016 Florida Super Lawyers and Rising Star lists. Troy Hafner, David, Carter and Gene O’Neill are selected to the Super Lawyers list and Anthony Guettler was selected as a Rising Star. Each year, no more then five percent of the lawyers in the state are selected as Super Lawyers and no more than 2.5 percent are selected to the Rising Star List. Since 2006, Gould Cooksey Fennell has had at least three attorneys represented on the Florida Super Lawyer list. Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The Read More
On May 16, 2016, as we expected, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued its Overtime Final Rule expanding overtime coverage to an additional 4.2 million employees. Summary of the Final Rule: Standard salary level: The final rule has increased the salary level to $913.00 per week ($47,476.00 annually); Highly Compensated Employee (“HCE”) exemption: The final rule increases the annual salary for these employees to $134,004; Bonuses, incentive payments, and commissions: The final rule will allow up to ten percent (10%) of the salary threshold for non-HCE employees to be met by non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay, or commissions, provided these payments are made on at least a quarterly basis; Automatic updates: The final rule provides that the salary threshold will automatically update every three years, beginning January 1, 2020. Each update will raise the salary threshold to the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census region; Read More
Over the past several months, there has been a flurry of media coverage surrounding transgender restroom access being provided by many large businesses. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has now taken the opportunity to put employers on notice of its position that denying an employee access to a restroom corresponding to the employee’s gender identity is sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC defines transgender as “people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from the sex assigned to them at birth (e.g. the sex listed on an original birth certificate)” and a person need not undergo any medical procedures to be considered transgender. The EEOC’s recently published fact sheet refers to past administrative rulings, and provides the following guidance for employers: Denying an employee equal access to a common restroom corresponding to the employee’s gender identity is sex discrimination; Read More
We have blogged several times in recent months on the expected changes the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) plans to implement concerning overtime coverage. Based on early reports, the proposed rules and regulations may extend overtime pay to an additional 5 million employees. As reported earlier, the DOL has announced its intent to essentially double the salary requirement for exempt employees in professional, executive, and administrative positions from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $970 per week ($50,440 annually). The proposed rules also seek to increase the total annual compensation requirement needed to exempt “highly compensated employees” from $100,000 to $122,148. Finally, the proposed rules seek to establish a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels going forward. The DOL’s final rule could be here in a matter of days or weeks, and employers may have only 60 days to prepare before they take effect. The impact Read More
Click Here to read a recent article titled Jax Utilities v. Hancock Bank: Equitable Remedies No More? published in the Florida Bar’s Winter 2015 ActionLine publication authored by GCF’s attorney Sean Mickley. The article focuses on the recent appellate decision, Jax Utilities v. Hancock Bank out of Florida’s First District Court of Appeal, which held that when a lending institution makes the unilateral decision to cease funding a construction project without notice to the contractor, the contractor’s rights and remedies are limited solely to the statutory relief provided for under Section 713.3471, Florida Statutes. In analyzing the opinion, Mr. Mickley interprets the statutory language cited as support for the First District’s decision, and dissects the reasons why the court’s prohibition on all other forms of relief is wrong.