17Dec 2014
Goldstein Buckley Cechman Rice & Purtz Attorney

By John B. Cechman, Partner

In 1980, Mrs. Cassisi purchased a Maytag clothes dryer.  Nineteen months later, the dryer caught fire and burned down her house.  Mrs. Cassisi instituted a product claim against Maytag and the appliance store where the dryer was purchased.   She hired an expert who testified at trial that the fire originated inside the dryer but, because of extensive damage, the expert could not specifically identify the defect.  The expert suspected that there was an electrical short inside the dryer but he was unable to negate other possible causes of the fire.  The trial court dismissed the case because the defect could not be identified.  The appellate court awarded Mrs. Cassisi a new trial deciding that when a product malfunctions during normal operations, an inference of defect arises such that the case can be presented to a jury for consideration.  That does not necessarily mean Mrs. Cassisi makes a recovery, but at least she was entitled to a jury decision.

These many years later, the Cassisi inference is still the law of Florida. If a defective product causes significant property damage or personal injury, keep the product and contact an attorney knowledgeable in product liability law.  Maybe the Cassisi inference will be of some help to you.

For more information on product liability or personal injury, call Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz at (239) 334-1146 to make an appointment to speak with an attorney for a free consultation.

01Dec 2014
Goldstein Buckley Cechman Rice & Purtz Attorney Richard L Purtz

By Richard L. Purtz, Partner

You and your family have decided to brave the crowds at the mall this time of year as you want to add some holiday cheer under the Christmas tree of family and friends. As can be expected, the parking lot is nearly full and you have to park a lot farther from an entrance compared to other times of the year. You end up at the end of a row, some 30 cars in the row away from the nearest entrance. You park your car and as you start walking toward the store, a car passes close by you and a person hanging outside the car window grabs your purse and pulls you onto the side of the car and then onto the ground as the car speeds off with your purse. You find yourself in extreme pain from the yanking of your purse, hitting the car and then the ground. You summon police who tell you that you are the fourth person this has happened to “TODAY”.

Is this an unlikely scenario? Not in today’s world. Who is responsible for your losses and injuries? Surely the thieves, but do you have any other recourse. The answer is YES.

Under Florida law, a commercial business property owner has a duty to protect you from foreseeable harm. Florida has adopted the Restatement (Second) of Torts which states, “If the likelihood that a third person may act in a particular manner is the hazard or one of the hazards which makes the actor negligent, such an act whether innocent, negligent, intentionally tortious, or criminal does not prevent the actor from being liable for harm caused thereby.” Florida courts have uniformly held businesses liable when criminal conduct and the harm arising therefrom is reasonably foreseeable.

So when is criminal conduct foreseeable? When it has happened in the past, police departments, the Sheriff’s office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement all keep records of reported crimes. These records, known as a crime grid, can be obtained for a specific address to determine if similar crimes had occurred in the past. If they have, then the business owner has a duty to protect you from subsequent similar acts. The failure to do so can lead to the business owner being responsible to pay for losses and harms one sustains.

Furthermore, in the above scenario, use of a car as an instrumentality of the crime, and one’s body coming into contact with the moving vehicle entitles one to the benefits of automobile insurance for PIP and uninsured motorist coverages. These coverages pay medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering damages sustained due to the incident.

Be safe this holiday season by being vigilant and providing security to you and your family by carrying full auto coverage which includes uninsured motorist coverage. Call Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz at (239) 334-1146 to make an appointment to speak to an attorney to review your insurance today.

17Nov 2014

Tis’ the season for increased customer traffic in your local stores.   Whether it’s a grocery, do-it-yourself hardware, dining, or retail store, or a plethora of other type of establishments –they will be busy.   With vacationers visiting Southwest Florida in addition to holiday shopping, local businesses will see an influx of traffic in their businesses.  Florida law requires business owners keep their premises in a reasonable safe condition for invitees (patrons) on their property.  This means they have to keep the floors free of any dangerous conditions including, but not limited to, debris, liquid or other substance that they know of or should know of.   With increased foot traffic throughout your local stores, there is a chance that the dangers of slip and falls on the floors are increased.

If you happen to suffer a trip or slip and fall at a store and are injured, there are some things you need to know in order to protect your right to recover for your injuries and losses.  The key to fall down law in Florida, is that the victim must prove the business owner either knew or, or should have known of, the dangerous condition.  Absent this, the victim cannot recover for their injuries and losses.   So what can you do to protect yourself?  First, if you do have a fall you need to try to figure out what it was that you fell on and you need to document it either by photograph or by trying to determine the size, shape, color and other characteristics of the substance and where it came from.  Often the best way to prove how long a substance was on a floor is to determine if it looks dirty or if it looks like other patrons have also encountered the substance (look for streaks or foot prints).  Obviously there are circumstances where you are not aware of what you fell on and are not able to determine it.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have a case.  That brings me to my second point – hire an attorney experienced in litigating fall down cases.  Such an attorney has the ability to know whether there are ongoing issues with certain business in the area and also to do an investigation to determine if there was a dangerous condition that caused you to fall.   The earlier you hire an attorney the better.  Attorneys can send correspondence to the business asking them to preserve any evidence, including potentially video from the business which could tell the story of your fall.

We want you to have a wonderful and happy holiday season and that starts by being careful, but if you are the victim of a fall down incident, contact us for a free consultation.

10Oct 2014
Retired Goldstein Buckley Cechman Rice & Purtz Attorney Jeff Rice

by J. Jeffrey Rice, Managing Partner

Most Florida businesses are finally showing dramatic signs of recovery. But with new growth must come more awareness of the legal issues which can disrupt or ruin our businesses.

Before You Hire

With growth comes added employees, and hiring those employees comes with rules to protect them from discriminatory hiring practices. These include age, sex and ethnic discrimination. Any of these can create legal problems which can disrupt a growing business.
To protect your company from legal problems in this area, make sure that those employees who handle hiring are educated in these areas and provided with the necessary tools. This can be as simple as making sure that you keep detailed files of applicants’ resumes to show you hired the most qualified person without concern of gender, ethnicity or age. It is wise to have two of your HR people do interviews when possible. Remember that potential employers are legally bound not to indicate if they would prefer a man or woman for a particular job. And during interviews of potential employees, employers cannot ask applicants if they are married or have children.

Once hired, legal concerns can arise if an employee is harassed due to race or sex by other employees or management. To protect your business from such concerns, it is advisable to have a written policy in place prohibiting such conduct (with all employees signing a document acknowledging this policy). You should educate employees on proper work place conduct, and address complaints immediately once they are raised. This would include potential termination of employees guilty of violating a policy or committing any of these transgressions.

Management is legally responsible to keep job sites clear of any reported or known hazards, including using faulty equipment or irresponsible use of hazardous chemicals or other like material. Workers are protected from employer retaliation in the event an employee reports a potential problem, so if this occurs, correct the problem immediately.

At Termination

American workers are probably the most protected in the world. An employer must be very careful when dismissing an employee for cause. Make sure to protect your company from a wrongful termination suit by having any employees that are let go sign documents that have been prepared by attorneys which make the reasons and terms of dismissal very clear. If you must terminate an employee, be sure to have at least two people witness the termination meeting and make the meeting direct and succinct.

Speak to an Attorney

This article covers some simple legal issues that should be considered. But employment law is complex, and to further protect yourself, business people should contact an attorney. Call our office at 239-334-1146 and speak to one of our attorneys to ensure you are protected from a costly human resource mistake.