The Orlando Law Group

Litigation

Our attorneys have extensive experience in a wide range of civil litigation, including actions involving personal injury, insurance, professional liability, real estate, construction, and more. While we believe in settling when it is appropriate for our clients, we also believe that there are some cases that should not be settled. Our lawyers can handle all aspects of litigation.

Our attorneys have past experience practicing insurance defense. They defended hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and surgery centers in medical malpractice claims. They also defended insurance companies regarding slip and falls, product liability and car accidents. Because of this experience, we know how insurance companies think. Additionally, we have the experience to effectively and aggressively litigate your case.

It is important to remember that there are statutes of limitations that apply to personal injury cases. This means that there is a time limit in which you can pursue a lawsuit. For this reason, it is recommended that you contact an attorney without delay to protect your right to file a lawsuit.

Service Offerings:

  • Appellate
  • Business Disputes
  • Landlord Tenant Litigation
  • Mortgage Foreclosures
  • Construction Litigation
  • E-Discovery & Information Management
  • Employment Litigation
  • Insurance Litigation
  • Products Liability
  • Premises Liability
  • Real Estate Litigation
  • State & Local Litigation
  • Trusts, Estates, Guardianship & Other Fiduciary Litigation

Meet Your OLG Attorneys

Jennifer A. Englert

Jennifer A. Englert
Attorney & Managing Partner
(407) 512-4394
jenglert@theorlandolawgroup.com

Kimberly E. Hosley

Jeffrey W. Smith

Sophia Dean

Wendy Hernandez O’Donnell

Wendy Hernandez O’Donnell
Attorney
(407) 512-4394
wodonnell@theorlandolawgroup.com

Nicole Rofé

Jarrod Etheridge


Jarrod Etheridge
Attorney
(407) 512-4394
jetheridge@theorlandolawgroup.com

Marsha Summersill


Marsha Summersill
Attorney
(407) 512-4394
msummersill@theorlandolawgroup.com

Erika De Jesus


Erika De Jesus
Attorney
(407) 512-4394
edejesus@theorlandolawgroup.com

M. Florence King


M. Florence King
Attorney
(407) 512-4394
fking@theorlandolawgroup.com

Dan Sanders


Dan Sanders
Attorney
(407) 512-4394
dan.sanders@sanderslegalsolutionspllc.com

With COVID-19, there has been a blanketed feeling of stress brought about by financial strife. Many individuals and businesses are struggling to make their normal payments. This has caused all eyes to stay locked on the monthly moratorium that keeps getting extended every month. This acted as a barrier for many, but also increased the unknown moment of when we would begin to see the ripple effects brought about by a fractured market. We may be at the beginning of the tidal wave of evictions.

What makes the latest Moratorium different?

In the latest extension, which brings the new date to September 1st, new language seems to allow eviction filings to resume. It may even allow for some residents to be removed from their living conditions. The statewide moratorium that was put into place before encompassed more protection for renters, suspending, “any statute providing for an eviction cause of action.” Even though the interpretation of that statement was thought to prohibit landlords from filing, many began the process anyway. A staggering statistic: about 400 commercial and residential evictions have been filed in Orange County as of this time. In terms of what exactly the newest extension suspends, it only halts the “final action at the conclusion of an eviction proceeding” and only for tenants who have been “adversely affected by the COVID-19 emergency.”

It seems that language may open the floodgates, and we may begin to see the onslaught of evictions begin to move forward. A standard amount for Orange County is 1,000 evictions filed every month. With the amount that has built up, we could see at least 5,000 cases filed.

Why is Central Florida vulnerable?

Central Florida is particularly a vulnerable location, being that it relies heavily on the tourism industry. Homelessness, industries on the brink of shutting down, and a wave of restaurants closing permanently are all a part of the predictions being placed at this time. With the language of the new moratorium, landlords will see much more success with their filings. Not only this, but the fact that so many tenants, who are accustomed to the moratorium being unaltered, will not realize the differences and when they are summoned to court may chose to ignore it. If so, this could result in them having five days to reply. If they do not, they could lose their case and automatically be kicked out.

Many have faulted the fact that this extension has been put forward without more clarity on how it differs from the ones that have come before it. Not only was this placed days before the prior moratorium was set to expire, it also came without comment or clarity from the governor. It was not until later that he stated that the order would only effect those who have not been financially impacted by the pandemic.

Caught between difficult dilemmas, the change was implemented to help give landlords and property management companies assistance when their tenants refuse to pay. Sifting through those who have been affected by the pandemic and those who have not may be a tough task. In June alone, 1.02 million Florida residents were still without work. This is a frightening figure, and one that indicates that Florida will be heavily impacted economically for some time.

A Truly Difficult Dilemma to Solve

Even still, the waters are made murky by those who would take advantage on the pause in evictions. For the month of June, property management executives as well as mom-and-pop landlords wrote the Orange County Commission stating that some tenants are using the situation as an excuse to not pay. Chip Tatum, CEO of the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando, mentioned that 65% of its members have been in negotiation to pay, while about 27% have been unresponsive or unwilling to work towards a plan.

For the eviction process, normally a three-day notice is taped on the tenant’s front door. If the tenant does not comply within that time, the landlord may file a complaint with the court, in which case the tenant will be served a summons. To get a hearing, the tenant would normally have five days to deposit the owed rent into the court registry. One of the defenses that tenants may utilize revolves around paying this court registry. If a tenant was adversely affected by the pandemic, they may not have to pay this fee. If a tenant can illustrate loss of employment, diminished wages, business income or other monetary loss, then this could work in favor for the tenant. Saving emails from your supervisor, pay stubs or any evidence of collecting unemployment compensation may be helpful, even though unemployment compensation may indicate a tenant’s ability to pay rent.

The lasting Repercussions

Even if the tenant’s case is dismissed, they will still have an eviction filing on their record, which could make funding for housing in the future very difficult. Orange County is working hard to create a diversion program to stave off the tidal wave of evictions, and Mayor Jerry Demings said that a plan is set to be presented to commissioners on Tuesday, August 11th. No details on how the plan will work were given, but in the meantime, landlords and tenants will have to survive in a situation that excludes easy answers. Our recommendation is that you have a plan, and paperwork to provide legal foundation for your plan. When hardship arises and you feel you have been treated unfairly, our lawyers will be there to help.

Many Community Associations adopt rules and restrictions to limit pets within a community. When purchasing a home, this can be especially appealing to those who suffer from allergies, those that have animal phobias, or those who just simply dislike animals in general because of the noise they make or the mess they sometimes leave behind.

However, it has been well established that service animals, “trained to do the work or perform a task for an individual with a disability, whether physical, sensory, intellectual, or other,” cannot be kept out of a community based on a Community Association’s “pet restriction policy.” This is because the Fair Housing Act, which was adopted in 1968, was modified in 1988 to include persons with disabilities as a protected class. In summation, the Act states that no person can discriminate against another with a disability when renting, buying, or selling a house. Since the service animal is an accommodation for the disability, not allowing the animal would be considered discrimination. Also, since the Fair Housing Act is a federal law, this law supersedes any rules and regulations or any restriction within the declaration of the Association.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SERVICE ANIMAL AND AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL

The next question to consider is if there is a difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal. The answer is yes! Service animals require a high level of training and are typically trained to provide specific tasks for their owner. Emotional support animals on the other hand do not require any specific training. Their sole purpose is to provide, as their title suggest, “emotional support.” Service animals are easy to identify as they tend to be dogs and perform very specific tasks such as seeing eye dogs that provide guidance for the blind. However, with emotional support animals, Community Associations continue to see an increasing number of owners who claim to need emotional support animals with no outward demonstration of a need for support nor the animals demonstration of anything other than being a household pet.

This has left most Associations asking the quintessential question, “what criteria do we use to validate any claim from an owner as to the need for an emotional support animal or animals in some cases?” This is a difficult question to answer and has become a much-abused provision of the law in recent times.

THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

But we are not without any legal support. The law does provide Associations with some guidance.  The Americans with Disabilities Act limits support animals to dogs and miniature horses. The law also imposes penalties for false claims, although we do warn Associations that it is very difficult to prove such a claim. Associations can also require supporting documentation from an authorized physician or therapist stating the need for the animal. The law protects an individual’s right to privacy as to their specific disability but does not prevent an Association’s right to request proof of the need for an emotional support animal or the need for multiple animals if the case presents itself. The Association can also adopt reasonable rules that the owners must follow so that these animals do not interfere with the peaceable enjoyment of the community by the rest of the residents. For example, one such rule could include that all emotional support animals must always be on a leash when outside an owner’s residence or fenced in yard. Another rule could be that all owners are responsible for picking up after their animals and properly discarding all animal waste.

NAVIGATING THE FINE LINE

There is no denying that animals definitely provide therapeutic healing for those who need it. However, more often than not, we have seen many owners try to get their pets into communities that have “no pet” polices under the guise of them not being a pets but rather emotional support animal with a certificates printed off the internet. This has, in turn, created a very negative connotation and atmosphere surrounding emotional support animals.

As a community, we cannot let the selfish acts of some affect the true medial needs of others. So, Associations can arm themselves by knowing the laws regarding emotional support animals, require owners to provide proper documentation and implementing reasonable rules and regulations for emotional support animals within your community. This will allow those who truly need the support of a fury friend to receive the aid they need and hopefully deter others from violating the laws and instead choose to live in a pet friendly community instead.

With the world of change that we have been afforded, it is very easy to feel inundated with information regarding COVID-19. Businesses are clamoring for data that is not only useful, but also valid and from a source they can trust. The CDC has released a document detailing information that will help you understand practical protocols when someone has tested positive or could be a potential carrier of the Coronavirus, and we have broken that document down for you.

We at The Orlando Law Group understand that each business is unique, and the handling of an office may differ than the response of a restaurant. A plan that involves CDC Guidelines is a perfect defensive strategy in terms of keeping your employees confident and safe, your customers comfortable with how you are reacting, and your liability very low. You may never be sued over someone catching COVID-19 at your establishment, but not following proper guidelines could land you in a world of social media slandering that you could have preemptively avoided if you had utilized these methods of protocol.

What qualifies as exposed to the virus?

We have all seen the social media posts or heard whispers from our “In the know” neighbors saying, “Did you know someone tested positive at that location.” CDC guidelines state that persons deemed “exposed” are those who have been within 6 feet of a Positive Covid-19 person for more than 15 minutes.

What happens if an employee has been exposed to COVID-19?

If an employee has been in direct contact with a Positive COVID-19 employee, but is asymptomatic and has not been tested, they will need to quarantine from the date of exposure for 10 days. If symptoms appear within 10 days of isolation, a symptom-based strategy will implore an employee to not report back to work unless they are asymptomatic and without medication for symptoms.

What if an employee tests positive?

If an employee does test positive, then that employee will need to quarantine for ten days from the date of their positive test. After this, they will need to show that they have recovered fully from the effects of the virus. The CDC recommends that businesses take action if an employee has tested positive. Shutting down indefinitely is the last option you want to take, but there are many precautionary steps you can achieve that will put your customers at ease. If it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee went home, it is a good idea to close off any areas or stations where that employee might have spent a prolonged period of time working at. That employee should not return to work until they are in full recovery.

What defines recovery from the coronavirus?

In order to show recovery from the coronavirus, the employee will need to retest two more times, greater than or equal to 24 hours apart, in order to show that they have received two tests that were negative before returning to work. At least three days need to have passed since recovery, which is defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms. One important aspect to remember is that, if an employee has visited a physician for care, the physician’s requirements supersedes the CDC guidelines.

What actions should you take to disinfect the store?

The CDC recommends waiting 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting. This will minimize other employees being exposed to respiratory droplets. It is the best practice to open doors to the outside in order to allow as much air flow as possible during this 24-hour waiting period. If 7 days have passed since the employee that is sick has worked there, additional cleaning is not necessary outside of the usual routine process of cleaning and disinfecting of all high-touch surfaces in the facility.

What is the proper way for our business to fully disinfect?

 It is very important to clean surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting them. When disinfecting surfaces, the CDC recommends using products that meet the EPA criteria for use against SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Make sure to wear gloves and gowns that will protect you while you use these chemicals to clean. If you want to make the cleaning process more thorough, the CDC recommends hiring a cleaning company. Reach out to us on our Facebook, and we can recommend the one that we used.

Requiring current employees to get tested for COVID-19

Subject to the rules of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar state laws, requiring someone to get tested for the coronavirus is not in accordance with the law unless a manager must do so to preserve the safety of the workplace as well as the ability for that employee to perform their job. The EEOC has recently detailed that those with the virus, “will pose a direct threat of others.” When deciding to test, the CDC recommends using a resource that is accurate and reliable by checking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other public health authority websites for the latest information, including their own.

Should we close the Business?

The CDC has made it up to the store’s discretion as to whether they should close. We are certain that businesses will work hard to maintain safety protocols and keep their facilities clean. It is very important to remember that, beyond anything else, you are not alone in this. With change always comes discomfort, and it is going to take a long time to adjust to the differences of these new conditions. When the world changes, we must change with it.

The Orlando law Group is here for you. We take each conversation, each client, and each situation as they are presented to us. If you are looking for updates on COVID-19, make sure to check out our Coronavirus Legal Update Panel. We know that no two circumstances are exactly alike, and there may still be lingering questions you want answered. We will figure this out together one day at a time, doing the best we can for those we care about.

Stay focused, stay safe, and if you ever have questions, The Orlando Law Group is here to help. Never hesitate to reach out to us.

© 2020 The Orlando Law Group.