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COVID-19 Transactional Law

Notarized from the Comfort of Your Home: COVID-19 Does Not Stop Florida’s Online Notaries Public

With bank lobbies closed and large numbers of people working from home to slow the spread of COVID-19, many are without reliable notaries public or do not want to risk potential exposure to the virus through physical interactions. This has many scrambling to comply with critical deadlines or otherwise take care of business. However, fortunately, Florida has joined the ranks of states that permit online notarial acts, and people can have their documents notarized from the comfort of their own homes or offices, even if outside of Florida.

But not so fast! Not just any notary public can complete online notarizations.

Businessman writing testament at notary public officeIf you are in need of an online notary public, look for someone who holds the designation of a Remote Online Notary service provider, or “RON.” This notary public has registered with the State as an online notary, posted a $25,000.00 bond, holds $25,000.00 of errors and omissions insurance and has completed the required educational course.

Once a qualified online notary public is selected and retained, the online public notary will confirm the identity of the signer either through personal knowledge or through the following: (1) remote presentation of the signer government-issued ID, (2) authentication of the ID, and (3) knowledge-based authentication, which involves answering at least five questions within a two-minute time span, such as what vehicles the signer has owned or where they have lived.

The signer will then appear before the online notary public by means of audio-video communication technology that allows for real-time, two-way communication in which the participants are able to see, hear, and communicate with one another. This technology will be used to record the signer and the online notary public as they complete the signing of the document in question and the required notarial act.

See? The process is easy enough, but please keep in mind that it still takes longer than in-person notarization, and because most notaries are not RON’s and many people are seeking out RON’s right now due to COVID-19, finding an available qualified notary can be difficult. Those seeking notarial services—especially those under deadline—should prepare their documents and retain a RON to complete the notarial act as soon as possible.

Also note, that online notaries are unable to solemnize marriages or notarize probate instruments until July 2020.

If, someone is up against a deadline and absolutely cannot find a RON or an in-person notary to perform a required notarial act, the Florida Supreme Court issued Administrative Order AOSC20-16 on March 18, 2020, which temporarily allows oaths to be administered remotely for testimony, depositions, and other out-of-court legal testimony, so long as the notary or other qualified person can positively identify the “witness” via audio-video communications equipment. This arguably could provide a basis for allowing any notary that is not a RON to perform a remote notarial act. Please keep in mind though that the AOSC20-16 is not entirely clear and might apply to only testimony like depositions, where there is a requirement that the individual administering the oath be physically present—and not to non-litigation-related documents such as documents required to close real estate deals or comply with Florida’s Construction Lien law.

Categories
COVID-19 Transactional Law

Businesses Beware: A Stack of Mail Can Be a Stack of Liability

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

It appears that “pandemic” should be added to this famous, unofficial motto of the United States Postal Service. COVID-19 has reportedly caused “only minor operational impacts” to USPS’s ongoing delivery of mail. FedEx and UPS also continue to make deliveries with limited interruptions, despite the spread of the Coronavirus.

Mail Piling Up on a Desk

Even during this surreal time of national emergency, when many companies embrace social distancing and remote work, they still need to remain vigilant about their mail and deliveries. Unless instructed otherwise, carriers will continue to do their part in keeping our economy moving. Businesses must take measures to ensure that any legal notices are regularly opened, reviewed and timely addressed or provided to counsel, as they could contain important legal deadlines.  These deadlines are ignored at a business’s peril:

  • Contractors that miss a construction defect notice may inadvertently waive their opportunity to repair, and also face sanctions in any subsequent litigation;
  • Landlords that neglect a written demand for verified lease provision pursuant to Florida Statute 713.10, may open their property up to liens by their tenants’ contractors;
  • Associations that fail to comply with requests for record inspections could be liable for damages; and
  • Generally, any party to a contract could miss an opportunity to cure a notice of default.

Despite the interruptions to daily life, legal deadlines will be largely unchanged, especially when the courts remain open.

If mail is being ignored or neglected, companies could discover days or weeks too late that the stack of mail that had been piling up is actually a stack of liability.

 

Categories
Transactional Law

Abrogation of Florida’s Economic Loss Rule (ELR) and What It Means

Background

The “Economic Loss Rule” or “ELR” is a judicially created doctrine, which stands for the proposition that if there is a contract between two parties, then absent physical property damage or bodily injury, those parties rights to sue for things related to that contract are, in essence, limited to a lawsuit for breach of contract.  In other words, they cannot to sue for a tort such as unjust enrichment.  Stated differently, the Economic Loss Rule bars a tort claim such as negligence or fraud when the losses or damages are purely economic.