Does your Business use Employee Noncompete Agreements?

October 30, 2014 on 1:22 pm | In Business Planning, Merger & Acquisition, Neal J. Robinson, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

The legal issues related to employee “non-competes” (also known as covenants not to compete or non-competition agreements) are often not well understood by employees subject to them, the companies insisting upon them, or the companies intending to hire persons subject to them.  That may well be especially true in the Commonwealth of Virginia where one frequently hears, “That agreement is so broad it will never be enforced and Virginia doesn’t ‘blue pencil’ these agreements, so no problema.”

Williamsburg Virginia Business Lawyers

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Builders and Owners: Have your residential construction contract reviewed before you sign it

October 30, 2014 on 1:22 pm | In Common Interest Community, Construction litigation, HOA litigation, Real Estate Litigation, Real Estate Strategies, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

 

Construction litigation has become a time-consuming and expensive area of legal practice. Even in residential construction, attorney and expert fees, and other costs of the lawsuits can rise high into five figures. Unfortunately, in many instances, better planning and attorney review at the beginning may have prevented the bitter litigation that ensued.

Williamsburg Virginia Business Lawyers

Construction Contracts

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In litigation, you can’t always get what you want (especially if you don’t ask)

October 30, 2014 on 1:20 pm | In Construction litigation, Contributors, General Interest, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Real Estate Litigation, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

It’s a fundamental rule in Virginia that the Plaintiff (the person filing a lawsuit) can only recover the relief requested in the Complaint. In a recent unpublished decision, the Virginia Supreme Court reaffirmed the requirement that a party can only get relief if they ask for it.

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Can an engineering firm limit its liability by contract?

October 30, 2014 on 1:20 pm | In Business Planning, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

 

Maybe not, in certain circumstances. A Fairfax County judge has determined that an engineering firm cannot limit its liability by contract in a case involving a 2008 fee contract. The typical fee agreement for an engineering firm includes some form of “limitation of liability” in which the firm seeks to limit its liability “to the amount of fees paid” to the firm, whether the claim is for breach of contract or warranty, or for negligence. In the case of Dewberry & Davis, Inc. v. C3NS, Inc., the engineering services firm, Dewberry, filed a fee claim against C3NS. C3NS filed a counterclaim for breach of contract. Dewberry had a limitation of liability clause in its fee agreement. It sought summary judgment to prevent C3NS from claiming that the limitation of liability paragraph was void. The Court sided with C3NS.

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Lawsuits against HOAs are expensive and time-consuming for all

October 30, 2014 on 1:19 pm | In Common Interest Community, General Interest, HOA, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation, Susan B. Tarley | No Comments

A Virginia Circuit Court case highlights the expense and time commitment required when a homeowner sues a common interest community (referred to as “HOA” in this article). Furthermore, this case illustrates that HOAs can rarely predict or control when they may be dragged into a lawsuit.

In this case, Hornstein v. Federal Hill Homeowners Association, a homeowner had her house for sale with a pending sales contract. Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 55-509.5, the HOA provided a disclosure packet that revealed that the homeowner’s fence was not located on her property. In fact, the homeowner’s own survey confirmed that fact. The pending sales contract fell through.

The homeowner sued the HOA in Fairfax Circuit Court for slander of title and tortious interference with contract, including a claim for “bodily injury,” and “mental anguish.” The HOA prevailed in the case, leading to the homeowner’s petition for appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court. [UPDATED: The Virginia Supreme Court refused to hear the case, meaning that the Circuit Court’s decision stands].

Another battle has been waged regarding whether the HOA’s insurance carrier had a duty to defend the HOA in the underlying litigation. When the HOA’s insurance carrier denied coverage and representation, the HOA sued the insurance carrier. The case was removed to the federal court. The 4th Circuit District Court agreed with the insurance carrier. The HOA appealed and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and held that the insurance carrier had a duty to defend. The insurance carrier has appealed for a rehearing. [UPDATED: the insurance carrier lost its appeal and was ordered to pay the HOA $217,308.86 for the attorneys’ fees the HOA incurred].

For a brief review, the HOA provided the disclosure packet in February 2006. After the homeowner’s pending sale fell through, she sued the HOA in August 2007. As we near August 2010, the underlying case may be close to resolution, but litigation with the insurance company may be far from resolving. Based upon the amount of litigation, we can assume that the HOA’s attorneys’ fees have reached six figures. Obviously, payment for these attorneys’ fees is then passed onto the homeowners (unless the case shifts payment of the attorneys’ fees to the losing party, but even then, courts rarely award the full 100% of the incurred fees).

Many lessons can be drawn from this experience. Most importantly, HOAs need to review their insurance policies to make sure they are covered fully for worst case scenarios. Our experience has shown that “anybody can sue anybody for anything at any time.” Although the plaintiff may not win (and did not win in this case), the ensuing litigation will take abundant resources. We can help you review your documents and insurance policies with the necessary professionals to protect your HOA, and homeowner interests.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

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

October 30, 2014 on 1:19 pm | In Business Planning, Common Interest Community, State & Federal Litigation, Susan B. Tarley | No Comments

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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Virginia Supreme Court upholds arbitration award granted to homeowners who sued their HOA

October 30, 2014 on 1:19 pm | In Common Interest Community, HOA, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

It is relatively routine for developers or “declarants” to include arbitration provisions into the declaration of restrictive covenants recorded to establish a common interest community. Generally, arbitration clauses are preferred by developers for a variety of reasons including avoiding a jury and having a say in the choice of the fact-finder. However, those decisions made by the developers have long lasting effects upon homeowner boards following transition, because it is difficult for a board to effect a change in the documents.

 

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Do you need an attorney to negotiate on your behalf?

March 31, 2014 on 10:31 am | In Business Planning, General Interest, Merger & Acquisition, Real Estate Litigation, Real Estate Strategies, State & Federal Litigation, Weekly Tweets | No Comments

This blog post comes from Jason Howell, our 2011 Summer Associate when he was a rising third-year law student at the William & Mary Law School. Jason is working with us this summer and debuts his first blog post.

Negotiation can be challenging. Whether you are negotiating the terms of a business agreement, trying to buy or sell property, or settling a dispute, getting to an agreement can be difficult. Even if you are successful in getting the other side to negotiate with you, you may feel at a disadvantage or worry that there is something in the final negotiated agreement you are missing.

Hiring an experienced attorney to represent you can give you advantages that can help you get to an acceptable agreement. By using an attorney in your negotiation, you can benefit from the attorney’s knowledge and skill, which can help you to reach your negotiation goals.

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I want to rent my house to a tenant, do I need an attorney to draft a lease for me?

March 31, 2014 on 10:31 am | In General Interest, Real Estate Strategies, State & Federal Litigation, Weekly Tweets | No Comments

Frequently, a homeowner contemplating renting out his property believes that he will be able to save money by writing his own lease or using a do-it-yourself lease form found or purchased online. Almost as frequently, the homeowner realizes too late that if he had spent a little money up front to have an attorney prepare a lease, or at least review his proposed lease, he could have saved himself a lot of time, money, and aggravation. By the time problems arise with a tenant, it is too late to ensure that the lease contains all of the provisions necessary to protect the homeowner’s interests.

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Virginia Leadership Retreat – 2012

July 23, 2012 on 10:21 am | In Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, State & Federal Litigation, Unit Owners Association, Weekly Tweets | No Comments

This week, at the venerable Homestead, the annual Virginia Leadership Retreat will take place. For this event, community managers and their management company executives, guest speakers, and the community association attorneys and service providers from all parts of Virginia will meet to discuss this year’s topic: Changing Times in Community Associations.

Both Susan Tarley and John Tarley will teach classes at the VLR, discussing topics about which we blog frequently. The topics for this year’s event include:

  • Learning to Communicate like a Pro;
  • The Role of a Manager as a First Responder;
  • Leadership Training;
  • Preparing for “Forcing Green” Legislation (taught by Susan Tarley);
  • Conflict Management Skills;
  • Virginia Legislative Update; and
  • Dealing with Lawsuits (taught by John Tarley).

The VLR provides us with an opportunity to mingle with other industry professionals so we can provide better service for our clients. Oh, and the golf is pretty nice, too!

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

 

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