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Business Law

Civil Theft Lawsuits May Be Used to Recover Personal and Business Property

When someone wrongfully takes your property, you can use Florida’s civil theft Statute (F.S. 772.11) to recover the property and/or seek damages. This law is designed to make the victim whole after a theft and encompasses a wide range of “property.” Individuals and businesses can use the civil theft law to reclaim property, recover damages, and more. The same Statute offers protection against exploitation of the elderly.

What Constitutes “Theft”

A successful civil theft claim requires that you prove:

  1. The statutory elements of theft; and
  2. Felonious intent.

This essentially means that you must prove that you owned the property and that the other person took it or denied you the use of it knowing that they did not have a legal right to the property.

What is Property?

Under this law, property has a broad definition. The property must have value and can include: tangible and intangible personal property and real property.

Key Aspects of a Civil Theft Claim

Before filing a civil theft claim for damages the plaintiff must serve a 30 day written cure notice to the defendant. The notice must include a demand for treble damages (three times the amount) if the defendant fails to timely pay.

A civil theft lawsuit must be initiated within 5 years after the cause of action accrues or within 5 years from the date that the civil theft conduct ends.

Trial

At trial, the plaintiff must prove the civil claim with “clear and convincing evidence,” which is higher than the “preponderance of the evidence” burden of proof that other civil lawsuits must meet.

The type of evidence that the plaintiff must present will depend on the nature of the claim. This may include theft, possession of altered property, or dealing in stolen property.

The jury or judge will determine the actual damages that the plaintiff sustained and, if actual damages are found, multiply that amount by three. The court will also make a determination as to the amount of attorney’s fees and interest to be assessed. No punitive damages are allowed. n>

Closing

Civil theft claims may arise from a variety of circumstances because of the broad definition of property.

If you believe you have been the victim of civil theft or have been served pre-suit notice, please contact the attorneys at Lieser Skaff Alexander. Our skilled lawyers have extensive experience in this area and have represented both sides in civil theft lawsuits.

 

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Business Law

Starting a New Business? Plan for Success by Hiring an Attorney

Many entrepreneurs start a company using do-it-yourself legal forms that have been downloaded from the internet. While this process may be expedient and inexpensive, the lack of professional legal guidance can result in costly mistakes that damage the venture before it has a chance to start. Make a true investment in your business by working with an attorney that practices in Tampa before starting the formation process. This decision will start your company off on the right foot and support its ongoing success. A business attorney will help you:

  • Select the right legal structure. Each type of business form, from partnerships to incorporation, offers various protections and risks for the owners and investors. A business attorney will listen to your goals and help you select the business format that best serves your needs, protects you from personal liability and is structured for future growth.
  • Comply with local, state and federal regulations. An attorney will assure that your business is compliant with all initial filings and registrations. He or she will also know the additional federal, state and local laws, ordinances and regulations that must be met, depending on the type of business you are starting. Your attorney will also help you complete annual filings and manage the legal documentation required by law.
  • Utilize effective contracts. Nearly every business enters into lease agreement for services and supplies. There may also be agreements between partners, investors and employees. To protect your interests, these contracts must be drafted and reviewed by a lawyer who will assure that they are  compliant with all relevant laws and regulations.
  • Protect intellectual property and trade secrets. Intellectual property and trade secrets often differentiate a business from its competition and this information must be kept confidential. However, potential partners or investors may need access to this data, as well as financial and other operational material, to evaluate the investment opportunity. Before sharing any business information your attorney should draft an effective non-disclosure agreement specific to your needs. In some instances, copyrights and trademarks may also be required to provide protections when your products enter the marketplace. Before sharing any business information with someone outside the company, work with your attorney to put the proper protections in place.
  • Manage negotiations. When you are negotiating, include your attorney in the process. He or she will have experience in negotiating agreements and can often achieve better terms than you would on your own.

A business attorney has extensive experience working with a variety of businesses, helping them form, expand, and, in some instances, close. They will assure that you stay compliant with laws and regulations, but can also help you complete mergers, purchase other businesses and so much more. Recognize that your lawyer is a member of your team and will do their part to support your business success.

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Business Law

Business Owners Need to Ensure their Websites, Not Just their Buildings, Comply with the ADA

Signed into law in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et. seq., declares that “physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society.”[1] According to the Southern District of Florida, websites may well be one of those aspects.

Title III of the ADA

To begin, some background information: To protect the rights of disabled individuals and to facilitate their participation in “all aspects of society,” the ADA prohibits discrimination against such individuals, much as other laws afford heightened civil rights protections to people on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and/or religion.

The ADA is divided into five “titles”[2] or sections that each relate to different areas of public life,[3] including Title III, which regulates “public accommodations” and sets the minimum standards for accessibility with regard to alterations, renovations, and new construction. Title III prohibits the owner of a place of “public accommodation” from discriminating “on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). In plain language, Title III means that business owners have to make reasonable modifications to their usual way of doing things when serving people with disabilities.

What is a “Public Accommodation”?

But does Title III apply to all businesses? The ADA defines “public accommodation” broadly, and includes in its definition private entities and facilities whose operations affect commerce and fall into one of twelve very broad categories, which include things like “place[s] of exhibition or entertainment,” “sales or rental establishment[s],” and “service establishment[s].”[4]

Moreover, federal regulations define the term “facility” as “all or any portion of buildings, structures, sites, complexes, equipment, rolling stock or other conveyances, roads, walks, passageways, parking lots, or other real or personal property, including the site where the building, property, structure, or equipment is located.” 28 C.F.R. § 36.104. In short, most privately-owned business that sell goods or provide services are “public accommodations” and they are required to provide the protections and access required by Title III in all of their facilities.

If you own your own business, you probably know all of this already. You already know about sidewalk heights and parking lot requirements and bathroom stall configurations. You know about allowing service animals in your store and making sure your staff is trained on communicating effectively with customers who are blind or have hearing or speech disabilities. For the conscientious business owner, Title III’s compliance requirements are standard operating procedure. But what you may not know is that your website might have to comply with Title III too.

Gil v. Winn Dixie Stores, Inc.

In 2017, Juan Carlos Gil filed a lawsuit against Winn–Dixie Stores, Inc., alleging Winn-Dixie’s website is inaccessible to the visually impaired, in violation of Title III of the ADA. See Gil v. Winn Dixie Stores, Inc., 242 F. Supp. 3d 1315 (S.D. Fla. 2017). For example, Mr. Gil (who utilizes access technology software to operate a computer but cannot see the computer screen) claimed that Winn-Dixie’s website would not interface with his screen-reader software to allow him to refill prescriptions or find coupons. See Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 257 F. Supp. 3d 1340, 1343-44 (S.D. Fla. 2017).

Winn-Dixie admitted that its physical grocery stores and pharmacies are places of public accommodation but denied that its website was also a “public accommodation” under the ADA. 242 F. Supp. 3d at 318.

ADA Website Compliance Lawsuits

While Gil v. Winn Dixie Stores, Inc. is not the first case where the application of Title III to websites came into play, it is one of the first in Florida where a court confirmed that the website in question was inaccessible under Title III. It also provides Florida business with a thorough summary of where Florida’s federal courts seem to be headed with regard to this issue.

As the Gil Court explained, there is currently a “split” in America’s federal circuit courts about the ADA and its application to websites. Id. at 1319. In the First, Second, and Seventh Circuits, the ADA can apply to a website independent of any connection between the website and a physical place; in the Third, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits, places of public accommodation must be physical places, and goods and services provided by a public accommodation must have a sufficient nexus to a physical place in order to be covered by the ADA. Id.

The Eleventh Circuit—the circuit that Florida’s district courts answer to—has not yet addressed whether websites are public accommodations for purposes of the ADA. However, district courts within the Eleventh Circuit have, and those district courts have generally held:

(1) the ADA does not apply to a website that is wholly unconnected to a physical location, but;

(2) the ADA does apply to a website if a plaintiff can establish a “nexus between the website and the physical premises of a public accommodation.” Id.

The Court’s Decision in Gil

The Southern District of Florida eventually found in favor of Mr. Gil, stating that while the “Court need not decide whether Winn–Dixie’s website is a public accommodation in and of itself,” the “factual findings demonstrate that the website is heavily integrated with Winn–Dixie’s physical store locations and operates as a gateway to the physical store locations.” 257 F. Supp. 3d at 1349.

That integration and connection to Winn-Dixie’s physical stores made all the difference to the Southern District of Florida, and the Gil Court ruled Winn–Dixie had violated the ADA:

Although Winn–Dixie argues that Gil has not been denied access to Winn–Dixie’s physical store locations as a result of the inaccessibility of the website, the ADA does not merely require physical access to a place of public accommodation. Rather, the ADA requires that disabled individuals be provided “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). The services offered on Winn–Dixie’s website, such as the online pharmacy management system, the ability to access digital coupons that link automatically to a customer’s rewards card, and the ability to find store locations, are undoubtedly services, privileges, advantages, and accommodations offered by Winn–Dixie’s physical store locations. These services, privileges, advantages, and accommodations are especially important for visually impaired individuals since it is difficult, if not impossible, for such individuals to use paper coupons found in newspapers or in the grocery stores, to locate the physical stores by other means, and to physically go to a pharmacy location in order to fill prescriptions.

The factual findings demonstrate that Winn–Dixie’s website is inaccessible to visually impaired individuals who must use screen reader software. Therefore, Winn–Dixie has violated the ADA because the inaccessibility of its website has denied Gil the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations that Winn–Dixie offers to its sighted customers.

Id.

What Does Gil Mean for Business Owners in Florida?

The Gil decision likely means that there are more lawsuits heading our way.

The Gil decision signals that at least some federal courts in Florida are willing to apply Title III of the ADA broadly enough to encompass a website if a business has a brick-and-mortar location. Since virtually all brick-and-mortar businesses also operate websites, but most business owners are not yet aware that their websites could expose them to lawsuits like Gil, there is likely to be an uptick in the number of Title III cases filed over the next few years.

Moreover, while the ADA does not provide damages to plaintiffs, a court can order businesses to take the steps required to make the website compliant, and it can also award attorneys’ fees to the plaintiff’s lawyer—which could be substantial.

What can business owners do right now?

At the moment, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (the “WCAG”), which the Gil Court discussed in its opinions, is generally recognized as the best guidance regarding website and mobile application compliance with the ADA.

Familiarize yourself with the WCAG, work with your information technology department to evaluate your current level of compliance, and then contact qualified legal counsel to develop a strategy to protect your business.

__________________

[1] On January 1, 2009, a large-scale amendment to the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) became effective.

[2]  Title I, regulating employment, essentially requires  covered employers to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in all aspects of employment, including by providing reasonable accommodations.

Title II, regulating public services provided by state and local governments (including transportation services), requires public entities make their programs, services, and activities accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Title IV regulating telecommunications, requires telephone and internet companies to provide a nationwide system of relay services, which allow individuals with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate.

Title V contains various miscellaneous provisions applicable to the other Titles.

[3] Titles I, II, III, and V of the original law are codified in Title 42, chapter 126, of the United States Code beginning at § 12101. Title IV of the original law is codified in Title 47, chapter 5, of the United States Code.

[4] 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7) identifies the twelve categories as follows:

(A) an inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging, except for an establishment located within a building that contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and that is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as the residence of such proprietor;

(B) a restaurant, bar, or other establishment serving food or drink;

(C) a motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of exhibition or entertainment;

(D) an auditorium, convention center, lecture hall, or other place of public gathering;

(E) a bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment;

(F) a laundromat, dry-cleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a healthcare provider, hospital, or other service establishment;

(G) a terminal, depot, or other station used for specified public transportation;

(H) a museum, library, gallery, or other place of public display or collection;

(I) a park, zoo, amusement park, or other place of recreation;

(J) a nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school, or other place of education;

(K) a day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, adoption agency, or other social service center establishment; and

(L) a gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or recreation.

 

 

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Business Law

LSA Writes Article for Florida Bar About Florida’s Litigation Privilege

Lieser Skaff Alexander attorneys wrote an article about Florida’s Litigation Privilege that was published by the Florida Bar Journal in the September/October 2018 issue (Volume 92, No.8).

The litigation privilege “initially developed to protect litigants and attorneys from liability for acts of defamation, but has since been extended to cover all acts related to and occurring within judicial proceedings.”[1] It is a doctrine deeply grounded in public policy considerations. As the Restatement (Second) of Torts explains, “‘absolute privileges’ are based chiefly upon a recognition of the necessity that certain persons, because of their special position or status, should be as free as possible from fear that their actions in that position might have an adverse effect upon their own personal interests.”[2]

With regard to attorneys, specifically, Florida courts have explained:

The basis for such . . . privileges for lawyers is to permit a free adversarial atmosphere to flourish, which atmosphere is so essential to our system of justice. In fulfilling their obligations to their client and to the court, it is essential that lawyers, subject only to control by the trial court and the bar, should be free to act on their own best judgment in prosecuting or defending a lawsuit without fear of later having to defend a civil action for defamation for something said or written during the litigation. A contrary rule might very well deter counsel from saying or writing anything controversial for fear of antagonizing someone involved in the case and thus courting a lawsuit, a result which would seriously hamper the cause of justice. As such, the law has long looked with disfavor on such slander actions against lawyers uttered in the due course of judicial procedure except in the most extreme cases where the defamatory statement was totally irrelevant to the lawsuit and was uttered with deliberate and premeditated malice.[3]

The ligation privilege is the result of “balancing of two competing interests: the right of an individual to enjoy a reputation unimpaired by defamatory attacks versus the right of the public interest to a free and full disclosure of facts . . . .”[4]  Florida courts have “determin[ed] that the public interest of disclosure outweighs an individual’s right to an unimpaired reputation,” and “have noted that participants in judicial proceedings must be free from the fear of later civil liability as to anything said or written during litigation so as not to chill the actions of the participants in the immediate claim.” Id.

“The privilege first arises upon the doing of any act necessarily preliminary to judicial proceedings.”[5]

But, what constitutes an act “necessarily preliminary” to a judicial proceeding?

Once court called such acts “steps in the judicial process.”[6]  Another Florida court determined that communications “required by [a] section [of the] Florida Statutes” were necessarily preliminary and immunized by the litigation privilege.[7] The Supreme Court stated that immune acts were those “incidental to the proper initiation” of a judicial proceeding.[8]

In short, pre-suit notices, which “Florida law requires a plaintiff to send . . . before filing a complaint” are “necessarily preliminary” to a judicial proceeding, and thus absolutely privileged.[9]

However, that rule of thumb is not always as simple as it sounds.  The article does a deep dive on these issues and can be read here.

Enjoy!

[1] Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomms., 372 F.3d 1250, 1274 (11th Cir. 2004).

[2] Restatement (Second) of Torts § 584, at 243 (Introductory Note: “Absolute Privilege Irrespective of Consent”).

[3] Sussman v. Damian, 355 So. 2d 809, 811 (Fla. 3d DCA 1977).

[4] Levin, Middlebrooks, Mabie, Thomas, Mayes & Mitchell, P.A. v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 639 So. 2d 606, 608 (Fla. 1994).

[5] Burton v. Salzberg, 725 So. 2d 450, 451 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999), rev. dismissed, 741 So.2d 1134 (Fla. 1999); see also Webb v. Bush, No. 2006-CA-001567, 2010 WL 5071536 (Fla. 1st Cir. Ct. March 5, 2010) (“As all the alleged defamatory statements were made during judicial proceedings or preliminary to judicial proceedings, the statement is absolutely privileged.”).

[6] Ball v. D’Lites Enterprises, Inc., 65 So. 3d 637, 638 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011).

[7] Stewart v. Sun Sentinel Co., 695 So. 2d 360, 362-63 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997)

[8] Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 277 n.2 (1993).

[9] Echevarria, McCalla, Raymer, Barrett & Frappier v. Cole, 950 So. 2d 380, 386 (Fla. 2007)

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Business Law

Tampa Bay Homeowners Have Limited Recourse When HOA Fails to Act

The following scenario occurs all too often: a homeowner abandons their home, the homeowner’s association (HOA) places a lien on the property for failure to pay dues, the HOA forecloses on the lien, making it the current owner of the property, and property falls into disrepair, becoming an eyesore or worse. As a result, residents become increasingly frustrated by the HOA and its board members, their neighbors.

HOA
Recently, ABC’s Action News aired a similar story, and asked attorney Jeffrey Lieser of Lieser Skaff Alexander to explain a homeowner’s legal options. “They’re pretty limited, unfortunately,” he stated. He went on to explain the rights and challenges, as presented below:

Informal Option

Neighborhood residents can exercise the informal option of raising the issue at the next HOA meeting. They can ask for a vote to force the HOA board to repair the property. This is the least expensive route the residents can take, but there is no guarantee of a positive result.

Legal Actions

If the homeowners choose to take legal action, they have three options:

  1. Force a recall of the HOA Directors. The goal is to remove the directors and replace them with residents who will arrange for the repair and upkeep of the property. Achieving a recall is difficult because it often requires a 2/3 majority in favor of the recall.
  2. Sue the HOA for breach of fiduciary duty. The board is required to follow the HOA rules and residents can claim that, by refusing to maintain their property, they are in violation of those rules and, therefore, are breaching their fiduciary duties to the HOA members. This option will generally not be successful though unless residents can prove that the board members are receiving some type of personal benefit by violating the HOA rules.
  3. Sue the homeowner directly. Residents can always sue the homeowner for violation of the HOA covenants if the board refuses to do so.

If a homeowner does sue the HOA and win, the legal costs could be passed down to the other residents of the neighborhood.

Other Factors

The HOA board may be unlikely to address the problems with the property because the bank that holds the mortgage will eventually take action and obtain ownership. The HOA is often waiting for that to occur, especially in communities with limited operating budgets. Residents do have the option of contacting the mortgage holder, information that is available through public records, and requesting that the mortgage holder maintain the property.

The board’s actions may also cause problems for the HOA in the future, if it tries to sue members for other violations. “They run the risk of a homeowner raising this issue and claiming selective enforcement,” Jeff Lieser said. This places the HOA in an interesting catch-22 situation.

Jeffrey Lieser practices real property litigation and community association law, and assists HOAs and COAs address a variety of legal issues. Contact him today to learn how he can support your organization.

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Business Law

New Florida Privacy Law Could Sting Drone Operators

Drone flying in a yardA new Florida privacy law specifically concerning drones took effect on July 1, 2015.  The law bans the use of drones to conduct surveillance of private property or its occupants without their written consent.  Although the law does not impose criminal penalties on drone operators who violate the ban, they could find themselves defending lawsuits for invasion of privacy.  

Freedom from Unwanted Surveillance Act (FUSA)

Passed in 2013, the FUSA prohibits Florida police from using drones to obtain evidence without a search warrant unless there is a credible threat of terrorism or swift action is required to prevent impending danger to life or property.  The Florida legislature recently amended the FUSA to prohibit an individual, state agency or political subdivision from using a drone to conduct surveillance of private property or persons located on that property without their written permission under circumstances where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

A person is presumed to have a “reasonable expectation of privacy on his or her privately owned real property if he or she is not observable by persons located at ground level in a place where they have a legal right to be, regardless of whether he or she is observable from the air with the use of a drone.”  In other words, it is not illegal for a drone to take pictures of you in your unenclosed front yard.  However, if a drone films you while you are inside your home or sunbathing in your fenced-in backyard, you have a right to sue the drone operator for invading your right to privacy.

Surveillance

The FUSA broadly defines “surveillance” as activities that enable drone operators to observe people and real property with enough visual clarity to determine a person’s “identity, habits, conduct, movements or whereabouts,” or the “unique identifying features or occupancy of the property by one or more persons.”  Although the FUSA prohibits drone use with the “intent to conduct surveillance,” the law’s broad definition of “surveillance” would seem to allow a cause of action even if a person or their property is captured unintentionally in the background of a picture snapped by a drone.

Drone Registration

The Federal Aviation Administration now requires every owner of a recreational drone weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds to register their drone no later than February 19, 2016.  Individuals who purchase drones after December 21, 2015, must register them before they are launched.  Once registered, the drone owner will be given a unique identification that must be displayed somewhere accessible on the drone, though not necessarily externally.  Penalties for failing to register include a fine of up to $27,000, or where the drone owner has been found criminally liable, a fine of up to $250,000 and up to three years in prison.

Are Drones Hovering Over Your Private Property and Invading Your Privacy?

Now that the FAA requires drones to be registered, it may be easier to identify and sue drone operators who violate the FUSA.  The successful plaintiff is entitled to recover compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and a court order to prevent future FUSA violations.        

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Business Law

Why Out-of-State Companies Keep Florida Law Firms on Retainer

Most business owners retain legal counsel to manage a variety of issues that arise during the normal course of business. Smart executives also retain counsel in states where they do significant business to assure their legal interests are addressed efficiently and effectively.

Significant Business

business people in a meeting at officeMost medium to large companies conduct business in multiple states, but not all of this business would justify the retention of local counsel. There are several questions you should ask before placing out-of-state attorneys on retainer, including:

  • How much revenue does my business generate there?
  • What amount of raw materials or other product components do I purchase from suppliers in this state?
  • How many retailers or other businesses carry my product in this state?
  • What percentage of my clients is based in this state?
  • Do I have an increased risk of a product liability lawsuit or other claim filed against me in this state?
  • Do I anticipate filing a lawsuit in this state?
  • Do I plan to expand my operations here?
  • Do I anticipate closing or reducing my business activities here?

The answer to whether you should hire local counsel will likely be determined by several of the answers to the above. However, if you conduct significant business in a state, it is practical and proactive to have a law firm on retainer.

Why Select an Out-Of-State Firm Now?

While you could wait until there is a problem to hire a firm in another state, there are significant benefits to doing so now.

  1. You hire smart, not fast. If you wait until there is a pressing legal matter before hiring an attorney, you may take shortcuts in the process to meet a filing deadline or other time-specific constraint. You may be hiring based on a mere suggestion from another attorney or another business associate, or you may simply find someone on the internet. Regardless, you won’t have a chance to fully review their qualifications, meet with them or determine if they have the resources necessary to best represent you.If you hire a firm before there is a problem, you can do so in a thoughtful and calm manner. You can interview the attorneys, check references, and check their standing with the state bar association.
  2. You create a relationship. Having out-of-state counsel on retainer allows you to create a working relationship with them before a crisis hits. The lawyers will come to know you and your business, including your goals and plans, which will allow them to better represent you in any business dealings. They are also able to identify local opportunities that you would not be aware of without local representation.
  3. You acquire state-specific legal expertise. Each state has their own laws, with specific quirks and timelines. While other attorneys could research the state laws, only those who practice there on a daily basis can truly appreciate its requirements and thus best represent you.

In many circumstances, retaining local representation for business matters is a smart choice to protect and expand your interests.

Lieser Skaff Alexander is a Tampa Bay law firm with a national client base ranging from Fortune 500 (S&P 500) companies to sole proprietors. We specialize in business law and business litigation, giving our clients small firm attention while achieving large firm results. Please contact to learn how we can represent your business interest in Florida.

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Business Law

Analyzing the Recent Verizon-Netflix Business Dispute Under Florida’s Unfair Business Practices Law

Ahhhhh…the weekend is here. It’s time to relax and watch your favorite Netflix show. Uh-oh. Why is it taking forever to download? What are all those little dots?

“The Verizon Network is crowded right now.
Adjusting video for smoother playback…”

Smart tv and hand pressing remote controlA few hundred thousand customers of Verizon and other internet service providers (ISP) recently saw this error message while experiencing slow downloads and grainy picture quality as they were trying to watch videos on Netflix. Worried that the message would tarnish its otherwise sparkling reputation, Verizon sent a message of its own to Netflix in an indignant cease-and-desist letter dated June 5, 2014.

Verizon demanded that Netflix take down the message, calling it a deceptive and unfair business practice. Verizon wanted proof that the diminished service was solely Verizon’s fault, as well as a list of Verizon customers who were shown the message. Failure to provide this information, Verizon warned, could lead to legal action. Unaffected by the threat, Netflix stated on June 9, 2014, that the error message had been sent to customers of Verizon and other ISPs as part of a test that would continue until June 16, 2014.

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