Just before her 80th birthday, Ernest (“Big Daddy”) Bux’s octogenarian Auntie Delusional (Auntie Del) died without a will or any other estate plan in place to give guidance to her husband (Uncle Tom) and their two adult children. “Who needs one?” was her retort for decades. And, “Wills are so over-rated.” Was Auntie Del right? Is a will or other estate planning really necessary?

Continue Reading Family Matters: Does Everyone Really Need a Will?

Mark Eting is one of Duncey’s Caps top outside sales agents. Because the company is based in Texas, but Mark lives in Cleveland and sells for the company in the northeast, Mark purchased a personal computer and a laptop to use for work purposes, but did not get reimbursed by the company. He did, however, provide the computer to Duncey’s IT department to install the company’s sales tracking program. Unbeknownst to Mark, the IT department also installed software that allowed the company to determine when Mark accessed the sales tracking program and what information he accessed. Duncey’s employee handbook – which Mark acknowledged – stated the company could monitor his use and access of company data on personal devices. For the laptop, Mark purchased software called “LogMeIn” which allowed him to remotely access the home personal computer while he was on the road. Thus, Mark could use his laptop while traveling, access the home computer, and enter the sales data. At a team sales retreat, Mark casually mentioned to his boss, Tom Prior, how he logged his sales data on the road by using LogMeIn.    

When Mark quit, Duncey’s IT department investigated his use of the sales program, and found he had been logged in more than usual. Suspicious of this activity, Tom went into LogMeIn and successfully guessed his username and password. While perusing Mark’s personal computer, Tom found Mark had set up a Google Mail account and was emailing Duncey’s customer information to one of its competitors. Duncey filed suit against Mark for various claims. When Mark read the lawsuit’s allegations, he realized the only way Duncey’s learned that information would have been by accessing his personal computer or laptop. Mark fired off a counterclaim for computer hacking. Does Mark’s claim stand a chance?  

Continue Reading An Employer’s Spooky Interpretation of its Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy

Too old to trick-or-treat, too cool to stay at home with their parents and wanting some Halloween excitement, high school students (presumably 18 years old) Rosemary and Buffy head for Hill House, a new haunted house where the actors can touch the guests, separate them from their group and even force them down “secret” passages. Shelling out $20 apiece, Rosemary and Buffy sign a one-page form without reading it and step in to a terrifying experience – but not as they expected. Accosted by all manner of ghouls, Rosemary is forced down a secret passage where a “vampire” gropes her. Chasing Buffy through the darkness, a chainsaw-wielding maniac runs Buffy into a wall. They emerge from Hill House crying and screaming. Rosemary is distressed; Buffy later discovers that her nose is broken. They want to sue Hill House and its employees, but what about that one-page form (release) they signed?

Continue Reading #MeToo and “Releases” in a Haunted House – Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun

Excited about closing on his new house, Furst Thyme Byer received emailed wire transfer instructions for his full $250,000 payment from his broker Chad at Chase N Rainbows Realtors. Complying with Chad’s instructions in the letter, Furst emailed Schneckner at Schneck’s Loans who wired the closing funds, as instructed, to what they both thought was In-O-Cent Title Company’s account. The next day, Ida at In-O-Cent Title called Furst looking for the money. Checking with Schneck’s Loans, Furst confirmed the funds were wired to the In-O-Cent Title account as directed. But In-O-Cent Title never received the money. The wiring instructions were bogus. They came from a similar email address, but it was not Chase N Rainbows’ – nor was it In-O-Cent Title’s bank account. Is anyone besides Furst responsible for the missing funds? If so, who? The title company? The mortgage broker? The real estate broker? Continue Reading Who Loses When Hacked Emails Send Wire Transfers to the Wrong Account?

As summer ends and the cooler weather of fall arrives, Tripp Freeley yearned for the days of sun, sand and surf.  So Tripp began planning his family’s vacation for next summer.  A hotel would not work for Tripp, his wife and three young kids – they needed a house with multiple bedrooms.  So Tripp went to an online short-term rental by owner website and reserved a house near the beach. 

The next summer the family drove 7 hours from Dallas to the house.  Shortly after they began getting situated there was a knock on the door.  Tripp opened the door to find a local code compliance officer.  The compliance officer told Tripp that the city made it illegal to rent the house, and they had 24 hours to vacate.  Tripp is floored and mortified that his “perfect” family vacation is now ruined.  Does the city have the right to ban property owners from renting their homes out on a short-term basis?   Continue Reading Think You Can Rent Out Your House While You’re On Vacation? Think Again.

Last month, Jim Duncey, the majority owner and face of Duncey’s Caps, Inc., was involved in a car accident and arrested for DWI.   Facing a PR crisis Duncey’s board of directors called an emergency meeting.  The board implemented its crisis plan, issued a statement condemning driving while intoxicated, suspended Duncey, ordered him to attend rehabilitation, and made a $100,000 donation to MADD. 

While the company survived the initial PR crisis, its bottom line did not.  Retail sales during the following quarter were down 20%.  One of the company’s major commercial customers also terminated its contract that produced $3 million in revenue annually.  To make matters worse, the board’s private investigator discovered that Duncey had previously been arrested for DWI three years earlier while on vacation in another state, but had managed to keep it quiet.  Does the company have any legal remedies against Duncey on top of terminating him?  Should the company seek those remedies? Continue Reading The Calm After the PR Storm: Recovering Damages from the Offender

After reluctantly shuttering her family owned Widgets-R-Us last month due to insufficient profits to pay even the secured debt, Susie Sears is now dealing with disbelieving unsecured creditors. What should she do?

Continue Reading Your Shuttered Business: Bankrupt It, Dissolve It or Walk Away?

Seeing the bottom line awash with red ink yet again, Susie Sears reluctantly decided to shut down her family-owned Widgets-R-Us.  Pressured by thinning margins, a weakening labor pool and increasing competition from foreign markets, Widgets-R-Us is leveraged to the hilt and profits are insufficient to pay even her secured debt. With no viable assets or business, there’s nothing to mortgage or to sell. How can Susie and her fellow company officers walk away without becoming personally liable?

Continue Reading Closing up Shop: Your Company and You

Jim Duncey is more than just the majority owner of Duncey’s Caps, Inc. – he’s the face of the company, appearing on billboards, in television and radio ads, and on the home page of the company’s website.  He is one of the most influential and recognizable business leaders in the city.  On Saturday night Jim and his wife Diane attend a charity event at the toniest country club in town.  With a little “liquid courage” Jim was the high bidder at the night’s live auction, which earned him respect (and envy) from those in attendance.  On the way home Jim ran a stop sign and t-boned another vehicle.  The driver of the other vehicle suffered serious injuries that would force her to spend several weeks in the hospital.  Police investigating the accident gave Jim a field sobriety test, which he failed.  Jim ended blowing a .12 BAC and was charged with DWI.  The accident, along with Jim’s arrest, was the lead story on the Sunday news.        

With the face of the company in legal and public relations trouble, Duncey’s board of directors called an emergency meeting to discuss the situation and consider options.  What can they do?

Continue Reading Jekyl and Hyde: When the Face of Your Company Becomes a PR Liability

 

Before Duncey’s Caps, Inc. hired Bud Dunop as its new human resources manager in 2018, all of Duncey’s human resources issues were handled by Dot Uris. One of Dot’s responsibilities was to have all new employees complete their new hire paperwork, which included an agreement for the employee and Duncey’s to arbitrate any employment-related disputes.  The arbitration agreement included a signature block for Dot to sign on behalf of Duncey’s.  Instead of signing each employee’s agreement, Dot just placed it in the employee’s file.   

One day Don “Crash” Gordon broke his foot when he walked around the corner of the warehouse and stepped into a bucket that another Duncey’s employee placed on the floor.  Crash filed a lawsuit against Duncey’s when it failed to cover his medical bills.  Duncey’s attorney filed a motion to compel arbitration, attaching a copy of the arbitration agreement that Crash signed but Dot did not.  Will Duncey’s be able to get this lawsuit sent to arbitration? Continue Reading Are Employers Required to Sign Employees’ Arbitration Agreements?