A New Twist on Identity Theft and Fraud: How can Realtors, Lenders, Title Companies and Law Firms Protect Your Clients and Yourselves?

June 30, 2014 on 9:40 am | In General Interest, Real Estate Litigation, Real Estate Strategies, State & Federal Litigation, Susan B. Tarley | No Comments

A case out of Virginia Beach underscores the deviousness of those who engage in identity theft. As reported in Virginia Lawyers Weekly, Guy Gugliotta owned two lots in Virginia Beach. A local realty company maintained contact with Gugliotta via mail in case he was interested in selling the lots. In 2012 someone purporting to be Gugliotta notified the tax assessors office to change the mailing address for tax bills. Then they notified the realty company that they had decided to sell the lots. The lots were listed for sale and in August, a purchaser made an offer.

The seller documents were handled via mail with the fraudulent seller executing documents in Florida and sending them to the closing agent. Deeds to transfer property require that the seller’s signature be notarized so surely this was the end of the road for the fraudster.

But no, not only did the thief take the identity of the owner; he also took the identity of a notary public in Florida. The notary public declared under oath that it was not his signature and that he had never notarized the documents.

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Attorney-Client Privilege: What is it and how do you protect it?

June 23, 2014 on 11:29 am | In Business Planning, Common Interest Community, State & Federal Litigation, Susan B. Tarley | No Comments

Originally posted 2010-06-29 00:57:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The attorney-client privilege permits confidential communication between an attorney and her client.  The objective is to encourage open communication, which permits an attorney to provide thorough, competent and complete advice.  Generally speaking, only a client can waive the privilege, but as found by the Virginia Supreme Court in Walton v. Mid-Atlantic Spine Specialist, PC, et al., a client’s inadvertent disclosure of a privileged communication may operate as a waiver of the attorney-client privilege.

In this Williamsburg medical malpractice case, a defendant doctor wrote a letter to his attorney calling into question his medical diagnosis he gave to his patient. The doctor kept this letter in a separate notebook. During discovery the defendant medical practice used a third party service to copy document requests. The letter was provided inadvertently to the plaintiff.

Although the defendant claimed that he did not produce the letter or permit anyone else to produce the letter, the Court found that the defendant did not take adequate protection to protect the letter. The Court noted that the notebook in which the letter was found was not marked as confidential or privileged. Furthermore, the Court held that the client did not take prompt action following disclosure.

The Virginia Supreme Court considered five main factors in determining whether the inadvertent disclosure waived the client’s privilege.  The Court looked at:  (1) the reasonableness of the precautions to prevent inadvertent disclosures, (2) the time taken to rectify the error, (3) the scope of discovery, (4) the extent of the disclosure, and (5) whether the party asserting the claim of privilege or protection for the communication has used its unavailability for misleading or otherwise improper or overreaching purposes in the litigation making it unfair to allow the party to invoke confidentiality under the circumstances.

As a start, clients should maintain attorney-client privileged communications in a separate file or notebook and clearly mark the file or notebook and each communication as “CONFIDENTIAL-ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATION.”  Then, if an inadvertent disclosure is made, the client should contact her attorney as soon as possible to determine a plan of action to restore the attorney-client privilege.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

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One important tip for your construction project – Change Orders

June 23, 2014 on 11:29 am | In Construction litigation, General Interest, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

Originally posted 2010-11-03 07:12:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The DPOR regulations require Class A Contractors to obtain written change orders “which are signed by both the consumer and the licensee.” This requirement sounds pretty reasonable and easy to maintain, yet the reality is that many contractors fail to fully comply with this provision, leading to possible problems down the road.

 

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When is it unlawful for a business to terminate an employee?

June 23, 2014 on 11:29 am | In Business Planning, Jason Howell, Merger & Acquisition, Neal J. Robinson, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

Originally posted 2011-07-12 08:30:35. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The short answer is, rarely. Virginia is an at-will employment state. This means that an employer can discharge an employee for any reason or for no reason at all, just not for an unlawful reason. An employer who terminates an employee for an unlawful reason may be liable to the employee. The question answer in this blog post is: when is a reason unlawful?

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ADA Compliance – (Another) Update on HOAs, Condos and Swimming Pools

June 23, 2014 on 11:29 am | In Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation, Susan B. Tarley, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

Originally posted 2012-05-21 09:00:08. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

We have blogged about new requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) that may affect Homeowners Associations and Condominium Associations that own swimming pools, wading pools, or spas. Subsequently, we updated our previous post to report upon an update to the required compliance date.

The Justice Department has now issued a “final rule” revising “the Department of Justice regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act to extend until January 31, 2013” as the compliance date for the ADA Standards for Accessible Design for existing pools and spas.

Consequently, if your HOA or Condo Association allows non-members of the association to use its pool in exchange for some form of compensation, your pool may fall under the definition of a public accommodation. If it does, the association would have to comply with the new ADA Standards and provide accessible entry and exits no later than January 31, 2013. What does that mean for your HOA?

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Has your business been paid with a check endorsed as “Payment in Full?”

June 23, 2014 on 11:29 am | In Business Law, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

Originally posted 2013-03-20 08:52:53. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Many of us have been paid by a check that includes the written endorsement of “payment in full.” By this endorsement, the maker (writer of the check) intends to settle any dispute once the payee (recipient of the check) deposits the check. The payee worries that by depositing the check, he is waiving any right to demand full payment for the service or supply provided. This blog post addresses Virginia law and each party’s rights with respect to the endorsement of “payment in full.”

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(Yet Another) Update on ADA Compliance regarding HOAs, Condos and Swimming Pools

June 23, 2014 on 11:29 am | In Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, State & Federal Litigation, Susan B. Tarley, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

Originally posted 2012-06-05 08:00:04. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

We blogged about the extension granted by the Department of Justice for existing pools to comply with the new ADA Standards for providing accessible entry and exits. Just days after issuing its “Final Rule,” the Department of Justice published a fact information page with Questions and Answers regarding Accessibility Requirements for Existing Swimming Pools at Hotels and other Public Accommodations. The DOJ’s Q&A attempts to answer questions regarding whether your pool shall require accommodations. This blog post analyzes the Q&A.

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Caveat Emptor and a Buyer’s Duty to Investigate Real Estate Purchase

June 23, 2014 on 11:29 am | In Construction litigation, General Interest, Real Estate Litigation, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

Originally posted 2012-06-21 08:00:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

We blogged about a Charlottesville Circuit Court case in which the court analyzed the duty to disclose for a seller of residential real estate.  We wrote another post regarding that case discussing an exception to the rule of caveat emptor. Specifically, if the seller attempted to “divert” the purchaser’s attention away from problem areas, a court could find fraud and rescind the contract.

However, in Virginia, if a prospective home purchaser discovers information alerting him to a potential problem, that person is charged with knowledge he would have found had he diligently pursued the inquiry. That rule was highlighted in an unpublished opinion released by the Virginia Supreme Court. This blog post reviews the facts of that case and the lessons to learn for real estate sellers and buyers.

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Homeowner cannot be forced to join a voluntary HOA

June 23, 2014 on 11:29 am | In Common Interest Community, HOA, John Tarley, Real Estate Strategies, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

Originally posted 2010-09-23 05:35:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

In a case from the Chesterfield Circuit Court, the circuit court judge determined that a homeowner could not be forced to pay association dues to a voluntary association. This result is not surprising.


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Real Estate Listing Agreements for the sale of property: Are they enforceable even if not in writing?

June 23, 2014 on 11:29 am | In General Interest, Real Estate Litigation, Real Estate Strategies, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

Originally posted 2010-12-28 10:52:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Generally speaking a party can enforce an oral agreement. However, courts will not enforce certain contracts unless they are in writing. For example, under Virginia Code § 11-2, commonly known as the Statute of Frauds, an agreement or contract for services to be performed in the sale of real estate by a real estate broker or real estate sales person is not enforceable “[u]nless a promise, contract, agreement, representation, assurance, or ratification, or some memorandum or note thereof, is in writing and signed by the party to be charged or his agent . . . .”

Most real estate agents and brokers understand the importance of having written listing agreements with their sellers. However, a recent decision of the Supreme Court of Virginia points out that even in the absence of a written listing agreement, an oral listing contract may be enforceable if there is sufficient documentation to remove it from the bar to enforcement of the Statute of Frauds. The Virginia Supreme Court, in the case of C. Porter Vaughan, Inc., Realtors v. Most Reverend Francis X. DiLorenzo, Bishop of The Catholic Diocese of Richmond, 279 Va. 449, 689 S.E.2d 656 (2010), better defined what is meant by “sufficient documentation.”

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