BMHJ Blog: Legal Information, Resources, & News: Business/Commercial Litigation

A thorough pretrial investigation is usually worth the expense.

Nicholas J. Lawrence, Esquire
July 28th, 2014
By: Nicholas J. Lawrence, Esquire

In this day and age insurance companies, businesses, and claims professionals are all understandably looking for every way possible to minimize legal expenses. However, limiting the pretrial investigation is often a false economy. Two recent cases in northern Virginia illustrate the importance of thorough investigation and case preparation, even in “routine” or minor personal injury cases in general district court. The following summary is of two recent cases involving rear-end collisions with no liability defenses, and no dispute as to the authenticity or reasonableness of the medical bills claimed. The only issue was whether the plaintiffs were truly injured.

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Geloo v. John Doe – The First Amendment and Modern Technology

Steven W. Bancroft, Esquire
Nicholas J. Lawrence, Esquire
July 1st, 2014
By: Steven W. Bancroft, Esquire and Nicholas J. Lawrence, Esquire

The courts are continuing to sort out how best to apply traditional legal rules and remedies to modern technologies like internet message boards. This week saw a first amendment issue in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County in Geloo v. John Doe et al, 2013-9646, and a fourth amendment decision by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Riley v. California, 573 U.S. _____ (2014). Riley required the Supreme Court to determine the extent to which the fourth amendment’s warrant requirement, which was drafted over two hundred years before the invention of the modern smart phone and internet, will apply to such modern technologies. The Supreme Court’s decision treats the vast amount of information on a modern smart phone like the “papers” known to the drafters of the Constitution, and according to the opinion, the search of the data on a modern cellular phone or smart phone will generally require a search warrant, just as a search of a person’s desk would have required a search warrant in the time of the founding fathers.

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Yelp! The return of litigation as a result of internet postings on Yelp.

Patrick Burns, Esquire
March 10th, 2014
By: Patrick Burns, Esquire

The same old story with a surprising result.

A Fairfax County jury reached a surprising decision in late January regarding damages in an online defamation action. The defendant (and counter-plaintiff) hired a Fairfax-based business to make some cosmetic repairs to her property. Dietz Dev., LLC v. Perez, Case No.: 12-16240, (filed October 31, 2012 Fairfax Circuit). After the contractor completed a portion of the work, a disagreement ensued and Ms. Perez, the defendant, allegedly locked the contractor out of the job site. In response, the contractor filed suit to recover for unpaid invoices, but failed to file a court-ordered pleading and lost the matter on summary judgment. Thereafter, Ms. Perez, made a series of allegedly defamatory posts on Yelp and Angie’s List regarding services provided by Dietz. Among other comments posted, Ms. Perez accused Dietz of moral turpitude, causing damage her home, committing trespass, theft and invoicing for work never performed. Dietz claimed such statements cost his business $300,000 in work opportunities, in addition to the damage to his business’s reputation. An injunction prevented Perez from making new statements and $750,000 in damages was requested. In response, Perez filed a counter-claim for defamation against Dietz.

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Think Before You Yelp!

Patrick Burns, Esquire
January 14th, 2014
By: Patrick Burns, Esquire

Online business review websites, such as Yelp and Angie’s List, have become a popular resource when deciding whether to enlist the services of a particular business. In fact, the success and failure of a business can depend on online reviews. It should come as no surprise there have been a number of cases nationwide that allege defamatory postings on Yelp. See, e.g., Yelp, Inc. v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc., No. 00116-13-4, 2014 Va. App. LEXIS 1 (Va. Ct. App. Jan. 7, 2014); Sanders v. Walsh, 219 Cal. App. 4th 855 (2013); Wilkerson v. RSL Funding, L.L.C., 388 S.W.3d 668 (Tex. App. Houston 1st Dist. 2011). However, such cases do not prevent negative reviews of businesses, if truthful. On the other hand, individuals should think twice before posting a negative review that contains inaccuracies. Any inaccuracy a business deems harmful could result in a lawsuit with expensive consequences.

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Photographs Are Worth a Thousand Words: Document a Property Condition Before It Is Materially Changed

Nicholas J. Lawrence, Esquire
December 9th, 2013
By: Nicholas J. Lawrence, Esquire

Business owners performing significant changes to their property should consider photographing the existing condition before making any changes. A recent case in the City of Virginia Beach illustrates the potential problem when improvements are made without documenting the existing conditions. In 2006, an elderly patron of a parking garage tripped and fell on the 4″ curb beside an elevator loading platform. About six months later, with no reports of any prior problems, the curb was painted yellow as part of an effort to improve overall visibility inside the garage. Eighteen months later, the property owner learned of the fall for the first time when a lawsuit was filed.

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Disclaimer

This blog and the information provided has been prepared by Bancroft, McGavin, Horvath & Judkins, P.C. (“BMHJ”) for information purposes only and is not intended nor to be construed as legal advice. This blog may contain the opinions of the members and associates of this firm on various legal issues and is not legal advice. Read More