Articles Tagged with South Florida legal services

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Last month, the Florida Supreme Court looked back more than 10 years to strike down a key component of the 2003 medical malpractice law. It was a 5-2 ruling written by Justice R. Fred Lewis. While the case itself surrounds a major controversial issue in the legal community, the Justice’s critique of the legislative body that passed the law is also drawing attention.

Back in 2003, the law was passed as a culmination of a debate that lasted months. Then Governor Jeb Bush took the side of doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies who complained that medical malpractice costs in Florida were growing out of control, sending good doctors to other states or away from the type of high-risk work that led to the suits. The state government eventually settled on caps that would keep pain and suffering payments at $500,000 or $1 million, depending upon a variety of circumstances.

Three years later, a 20-year-old Florida woman named Michelle McCall bled to death after undergoing a caesarian section during childbirth. Her family sued the federal government (she was treated by U.S. Air Force medical staff) and was awarded $2 million in non-economic damages. However, the medical malpractice law lowered the award to $1 million. McCall’s family fought the ruling in appeals court.

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In 2012, President Obama signed the treaty allowing Israelis to obtain investor’s visas in the U.S.  However, the treaty was not formally agreed upon and signed by the Israeli government until now.  On March 30, 2014, the Israeli government in its weekly meeting approved the reciprocal investor’s visa treaty for American Investors.

E-2 Investor Visas allow people, from a select group of countries, to enter the United States and work on a “substantial” investment within the country. While the visas need to be renewed every five years, they can last for a potentially unlimited period of time. However, they are not meant to serve as a path to immigration, and showing intent to immigrate could hurt the chance for an extension. The visas are useful for entrepreneurs who have a great deal of money, no other visa options available, and no intent to become a citizen of the United States

According to a government official responsible for pushing this issue forward, “Following government approval, we’ll need to amend prevailing regulations and draft procedures, but I hope that these steps will be completed as soon as possible.”  This means that once the procedural terms are defined by Israel for Americans investing there, the treaty will take full force and effect and Israelis will be entitled to obtain investor’s visas in the U.S.

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In 2008, the subprime mortgage crisis brought the United States economy to its knees, and six years later, we are still picking up the pieces. On March 11, an agreement between two key senators indicated that they were ready to deal with what many believe is one of the final large pieces of financial reform in the wake of the recession.

A plan was agreed upon by the two top ranking members of the Senate Banking Committee to finally do away with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two mortgage companies that were taken over by the Federal government back in 2008. Both companies have always been government sponsored enterprises, or GSEs, originally created to expand the secondary mortgage market. Fannie Mae was created as part of the New Deal, while Freddie Mac was introduced in 1970 to create competition in the market.

After being taken over in 2008, the Federal government spent $187.5 billion to keep them afloat through 2011, preventing a bankruptcy that would have had a disastrous impact. However, the market has rebounded since, and the government has actually turned that loss into a profit since. Even in the wake of the financial crisis, the two companies, along with the Federal Housing Administration, have continued to back a vast majority of new mortgages.

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The Department of Homeland Security has announced an extension of Temporary Protected Status for Haitians. Nationals of Haiti who re-register will be given another 18 months of TPS status, from July 23, 2014 to January 22, 2016.

The TPS status for Haiti was designated in 2010, after the disastrous earthquake in that country that claimed as many as 200,000 lives and left many areas in shambles. While many players in the international community lent support to Haiti, the United States’ close proximity presented an opportunity of refuge from the dangerous aftermath.

The state of Florida was particularly responsible for offering asylum, making the TPS extension particularly relevant in our corner of the country. South Florida is home to the largest percentage of Haitian Americans in the country, and Haiti lies just 692 miles away from Miami.

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A case involving Florida law firm Stok Folk & Kon and attorney Robert Stok is garnering a great deal of attention in Austrailia and around the world. Robert Stok is serving as attorney for the Mawardi family, former business partners of Geoffrey Edelsten, a medical entrepreneur who has grown into a controversial Australian celebrity.

First, a little background on the case.

Back in September, the Mawardi family, who were engaged in very contentious litigation with Edelstein, reached a settlement with Edelsten that the Mawardis intended to be a a resolution to a dispute involving the ownership of excessive business assets, including United States housing complexes, a hotel and casino in the Dominican Republic, and a Challenger 601 jet aircraft. The Mawardi family was to receive cash payments, mortgages on real property and an insurance claim worth approximately $4 million dollars for a total settlement value of approximately $11 million dollars.

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Florida lawmakers are looking to rewrite the state’s gambling regulations in 2014. They want to change the industry in a way that hasn’t been done since the 1996 statewide lottery vote.

The issue of gambling in Florida came to a boiling point when, three years ago, Genting proposed building a massive casino at the former site of the Miami Herald and Omni commercial complex. The Malaysian company promised the new complex, which they called Resorts World Miami, would create 100,000 jobs. However, lawmakers resisted changing Florida gambling laws that would allow the project to move forward.

Two republican Florida state representatives, House Speaker Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel and Senate President Don Gaetz of Niceville, are pushing a constitutional amendment for the upcoming general election ballot requiring future gambling expansions to go before voters statewide. To enact the constitutional amendment, which would in effect change the course of history for Florida gambling laws, a 60 percent “yes” vote is required.

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It might not be surprising that an ethical issue is being discussed and deliberated in the Florida law community. However, it might seem unusual to some that the issue surrounds LinkedIn, the popular social network for professionals, including in this case, lawyers and their firms. Even those who have never visited the website are undoubtedly familiar with the barrage of e-mails inviting them to do so.

This is serious business. It all starts with a new set of rules that was adopted by the Florida Supreme Court in May of 2013, which governed the use of internet marketing by Florida lawyers. The rules were intended to discourage deceptive, manipulative, misleading information, limiting online marketing content to “objectively verifiable” results, characterizations, and testimonials. While Florida lawyers have always worked with relatively strict advertising limitations, this was the first time the restrictions were extended to their websites.

In an attempt to comply with the new rules, law firm Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley PA asked the bar to advise them on which statements from their online presence met the “objectively verifiable” requirement. They were not satisfied with the response they received.

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On June 14, 2013, after unanimous passage by Florida legislators, Governor Rick Scott signed the Florida Revised Limited Liability Company Act into law, providing the first major overhaul to the way LLCs do business in Florida in 14 years. LLCs formed after January 1, 2014 will be required to work under the law, which will then be extended to all Florida LLCs by January 1, 2015. However, existing LLCs can elect to adhere to the law any time after July 1, 2014.

Operators of Florida LLCs should be intimately aware of the effects of the law before the approach of these deadlines. The new act is based largely on the Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act, created by the Uniform Law Commission, a promoter of uniformity of laws among states. Here are some of the important changes being initiated.

Like all LLC Acts, the new one is a “default statute”, meaning LLC operating agreements may deviate from the rules unless expressly prohibited. The new act raises the list of these non-waivable provisions from six to sixteen. Included in these provisions is an increased ability to remove a member after misconduct, the ability to sue or be sued in the name of the LLC, and many others. Like before, in the absence of established guidelines put forth by an operating agreement, stipulations of the new act will become binding. Those working with an LLC should carefully examine the full extent of the new waivable and non-waivable provisions.

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Florida is home to about 6% of the total United States population. It is also home to a whopping one quarter of total foreign investment in United States residential real estate. Since the 2008 financial crisis and housing collapse, the South Florida real estate industry has bounced back at an extraordinary rate. Due in part to foreign investors, as well as low interest rates and prices, the tax base in Florida is skyrocketing, encouraging development and investment even further.

Construction in South Florida is rampant, and expected to increase even more, with areas competing for the most attractive projects. As more foreigners raise their financial stakes in the local market, they are beginning to call Florida home, relocating aspects of their personal lives and business operations. These investor immigrants are arriving from all over the world, excited to enjoy life and do business in South Florida. However, they still need to go through an immigration process to relocate permanently.

As high-end luxury condominiums and other housing projects are built, the South Florida legal community is adapting to the particular needs of wealthy foreign investors. The demand for specialized legal services, from securing immigration status for family members to providing L-visas for intra-company transfers, is rising.