Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween: Be Safe, Avoid Lawsuits, Have Fun

With the growing popularity of Halloween as a holiday, both children and adults are cautioned to put safety first.

Many law enforcement and public safety agencies are issuing reminders nationwide to follow simple safety tips to ensure a safe Halloween, including:
* Warn children about the dangers of crossing the street.
* Avoid Trick or Treating on very busy streets.
* Always have your children use a sidewalk when there is one.
* To increase visibility, have your children carry a flashlight or glow sticks.
* Apply reflect tape or stickers to costumes.
* Make sure the costume fits your child properly before they venture out, making sure they can see out of their mask.
* Always chaperone in groups.

The National Law Journal reminds us that holiday celebrations in the workplace can create legal issues for employers and that Halloween is no exception:
With Halloween just around the corner, labor and employment attorneys are warning employers that the annual holiday could get scary — in a legal way — if costumes, or a work party, get out of hand.

Specifically, costumes that carry a political or social message, or are simply too raunchy for the workplace, could lead to a liability nightmare down the road.

[A]nother potential liability with Halloween: personal injury suits.

Above all, simple common sense can do a lot to prevent tragedies--and resulting lawsuits--from happening. Halloween is an enjoyable holiday for the entire family. Stay safe, stay smart and have fun.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Oil and Gas Leases: Know Your Rights

With the discovery of a large natural gas deposit in the Southern part of New York State, many property owners are being approached by energy companies looking to lease natural gas and mineral rights on area lands.

According to the Ithaca Journal, representatives of the New York State Attorney General and the Chemung County Farm Bureau recently cautioned that anyone considering leasing their property for natural gas exploration should know their rights:
The details of leases signed between landowners and gas companies are seemingly endless. They touch on everything from surface land-use to royalty and bonus payments or anything else landowners may want to include in their lease.

None of the leases pertaining to natural gas drilling and exploration are standard or non-negotiable, Michael Danaher, an assistant state attorney general from the Binghamton office, said. And negotiations don't pertain solely to bonus and royalty payments.

A landowner may want to negotiate a clause that requires the gas company to check the quality and quantity of the landowner's water [for example].

Ultimately, both presenters indicated the most important thing to do before signing a lease of this kind was to consult a lawyer:
Obtaining the services of an attorney familiar with leasing and knowing that all land leases are negotiable are the most basic steps in protecting property, they said, and that knowledge can be useful if a company land agent comes knocking.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What to Do if You Get a Speeding Ticket

Advice on how to fight a speeding ticket from, of all places, political magazine the American Spectator:
Even if you have a perfect driving driving record, each and every ticket is worth fighting with everything you've got. Reason? The presence of a single "moving violation" on your driving record -- no matter how minor (or bogus) -- can end up costing you hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars over the three-to-five year period it will be visible on your DMV rap sheet....

* Hire a traffic lawyer: The cost to rent a legal eagle to handle a minor traffic case (normal speeding, not "reckless driving," DUI or a major charge that has a mandatory court appearance and the possibility you might get thrown in the clink) is typically between $300 and $700. It sounds steep, but for all the reasons outlined previously, it can be money well spent -- especially if you get another ticket at some point during the next three years.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Fiscal Crisis Watch List: Don't Fall Prey to Crooked Investments

The uncertain economy has many people worrying about their fiscal health. As a result, you may find yourself vulnerable to unscrupulous individuals who try to exploit tough fiscal times with "get rich quick," lending and other scams.

The New York State Consumer Protection Board (CPB) is advising individuals to stay alert to potential scams and questionable practices highlighted on the Agency's "Fiscal Crisis Watch List:"

• Credit Counseling and Debt Management Scams
• Questionable Loans (including Payday Loans and Home Equity/Debt Consolidation Loans)
• Work At Home Scams
• Online Job Search Scams
• Investment Scams

Follow these tips to avoid schemes or scams.

• Get information upfront and in writing and read the fine print.
• Ask questions about all offers received. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
• Think carefully about every offer before accepting it.
• Never disclose credit card, bank account or social security numbers to someone who contacts you by telephone or internet. Use caution when considering a loan.
• Do not deposit a check or money order that you receive from a work-at-home offer or a sweepstakes.
• Never pay an upfront fee in order to collect a lottery or sweepstakes prize.
• Keep paperwork, including copies of any complaints you file against a business.
• Password-protect all of your computer accounts.
• Check your credit report for fraud regularly through one of three major credit reporting companies.

For more information on the “Fiscal Crisis Watch List” and ways to avoid being taken advantage of can be found here.

In addition, whenever possible, do not enter into any suspicious agreements without consulting with a competent attorney of your own choosing.

Friday, October 3, 2008

New Law Requiring Tenants Receive Environmental Disclosures

In December 2008, a new law will go into effect in New York, requiring property owners and landlords to disclose the results of environmental testing to current and prospective tenants.

Owners and landlords of both residential and commercial properties will be required to disclose test results that exceed federal or state air guidelines. Furthermore, owners of certain properties will be required to provide written notice of the testing on the first page of any lease agreement. The law also requires owners of those properties to give tenants a fact sheet and timely notice of any public meetings where the test results will be discussed, or face fines and penalties.

The law seems to be focused on indoor air contamination. However, it defines "test results" broadly. As a result, once the law is implemented it could be interpreted to include any tests conducted on air, groundwater and soil on the property.

The complete text of the new law can be found here.

Landlords and tenants concerned about this law, and their rights and responsibilties under it, should be sure to contact an attorney prior to executing any new leases, to insure compliance with the law.