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Androvett NewsWire: April 5, 2012: Navigating Tornado Damage | Retirement Income | Apple Litigation
 
April 5, 2012 11:58 am

Reputation, Experience Matter in Storm Repairs
The swath of damage left by severe storms often serves as an easy-to-follow path for fly-by-night contractors who arrive on homeowners’ doorsteps offering “too-good-to-be-true” repair deals. While they may promise to handle all the insurance claim details in addition to needed repairs, these contractors far too often are inexperienced and untrained for the job, says Dallas insurance attorney Marc H. Fanning, Chairman of Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin. “Assigning part of your insurance claim to these so-called contractors could be a huge mistake,” he says. “Following any type of home damage, consumers need to contact their insurance agent immediately, then work with the adjuster assigned to the claim and gather estimates from licensed, reputable contractors. Working with a ‘Chuck in a Truck’ can jeopardize your ability to get your home properly repaired and the claim resolved in a timely fashion.”

Although most workers will target residential areas, those looking to handle the highest-dollar repair jobs will contact business owners. Dallas attorney Darrell Cook, founder of Darrell W. Cook & Associates, who regularly represents businesses in construction lien cases, says both small and large companies can fall victim to unskilled or unscrupulous repairmen, some of whom make a career out of post-disaster scams. “Business owners shouldn’t overlook the qualifications of who is handling their repair work,” says Cook. “It’s not unusual for a company to be stuck with a bad repair job or an outrageous invoice that can bring unwanted liens on their property when all they were trying to do is get their business reopened.” For more information, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

Insurance Woes Likely to Follow Dallas Storms
For many home and business owners, Tuesday’s tornado outbreak was responsible for sweeping away, flooding or destroying practically everything they owned. Houston insurance attorney Phillip Sanov, head of The Lanier Law Firm’s Bad Faith Insurance Practice Group, says insurers often deny, delay or underpay legitimate claims following massive storms. “When everything is destroyed, policyholders often have trouble providing documentation about the damage, and insurance carriers cite pre-existing conditions or insufficient proof.” In those instances, Sanov tells clients to check with family or friends to see if they have photographs of the property to assist with claims. “The number one tip I can give is to document everything, from every conversation with adjusters to every dollar spent on immediate, temporary repairs. This information can help speed the claims process and ensure you’re fully paid what you’re owed.” For more information, contact Alan Bentrup at 800-559-4534 or alan@androvett.com.

Businesses Need Tornado Response Plans
When this week’s tornadoes ripped the roof off of the Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Arlington, most of the residents from the Dallas-area nursing home already had been moved to a protected area within the facility. Despite attempts from staff members to shield residents, two were hospitalized and more than 130 had to be relocated. Dallas nursing home attorney Jeff Rasansky of the Rasansky Law Firm says elder care facilities and other businesses need severe weather action plans to not only protect their residents and customers, but also to guard against future legal liability. “In addition to getting people to safe areas, these plans also should account for who is responsible for turning off electricity and gas if a building is damaged,” Rasansky says. “Practice drills will insure employees know their roles, and conducting these drills regularly will go a long way toward proving that appropriate efforts were made to protect their residents.” For more information, contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

Feds Expanding Retirement Income Options
When given a choice, retirees frequently choose lump-sum payments over other lifetime annuity options offered through their employer-sponsored retirement plans, even though lump-sum payments increasingly create a risk that retirees will outlive their income. Recent IRS rulings may make lifetime income options more attractive, however. “These new rules give retirees much more flexibility to, for example, roll a lump-sum distribution into a separate pension plan, allowing combined retirement benefits to be paid in an annuity form,” says Russell Gully of the Dallas office of Thompson & Knight. “There are also proposals that allow for a new ‘qualified longevity annuity contract’ that would delay without penalty the current requirements for minimum annuity distributions after age 70. These rulings and proposals recognize that retirees are living longer and need more options to better plan for long-term needs.” For more information, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

Mental Disabilities Covered Under ADA
A recent federal court decision serves as an important reminder for employers that relatively common mental health conditions are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. In one of the first discrimination lawsuits taken to trial concerning bipolar disorder, a Washington man last week was awarded more than $315,000 based on allegations he was fired despite a diagnosis of his condition. “There are a wide range of impairments under the ADA that qualify as a disability, and employers need to view any documented mental condition with seriousness rather than skepticism,” says Dallas attorney Mark Shank of Gruber Hurst Johansen Hail Shank LLP. “Employers must manage the performance issue not the disability, but these situations can be difficult when mental illness is causing a performance issue that may require disciplinary action.” He notes managers need to be trained on how to recognize and respond to any request for accommodation. For more information, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

Supreme Court Unlikely to Change Audio Stance
The Supreme Court’s same-day, public release of audio recordings from last week’s Obamacare hearings highlights both positives and problems. “There are things that can’t be discerned from the written transcript that only come across in the audio, so in that way it’s valuable,” says Rich Phillips of the Dallas office of Thompson & Knight. “However, I expect the court will continue to do so only in extraordinary cases.” While many state courts stream their oral arguments live, most federal courts’ recordings are not usually made public. “There are still concerns that advocates will attempt to play to the wider audience instead of focusing on effective appellate arguments,” says Phillips. “There also are concerns about how audio will be used. The GOP’s manipulation of Solicitor General Verrilli’s opening into a negative ad is a good example of the court’s fears and probably will be a setback for those who would like same-day or live broadcast of Supreme Court arguments.” For more information, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

Executive Pay Backlash Impacts CEO Wallets
The backlash against high executive compensation has had an effect, according to a recent survey from The Wall Street Journal on CEO pay increases. The Journal’s study of compensation for 65 CEOs found that, despite fairly significant gains in their companies’ profit and revenue, the CEOs’ total direct compensation increased just 1.4 percent in 2011, as opposed to rising 11 percent in 2010. Given that backdrop, executives who are in the midst of negotiating their own compensation packages should be mindful of the public’s concern, says Joe Ahmad, an executive employment lawyer at Houston’s Ahmad Zavitsanos Anaipakos Alavi & Mensing. “One of the best ways to ensure that the executive’s compensation is allied with shareholder interest is to seek at least a portion of their pay in instruments aligned with shareholder interests, like stock and stock options,” Ahmad says. “That way, when shareholders do well, executives do well, and there may be fewer complaints.” For more information, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

Warrantless Mobile Phone Tracking Must Stop
Privacy advocates are crying foul over the increased use of mobile phone GPS information by federal and local law enforcement to track people without the benefit of a court warrant. Houston criminal defense lawyer Jimmy Ardoin says a recent U.S. Supreme Court case over GPS tracking makes it clear that these warrantless searches should not be admissible in court. “This is basic – police need a warrant to track your moves in this manner unless there are exigent circumstances,” says Ardoin. “It’s also offensive to see phone carriers making money off their customers’ information by charging police for reports on the minute-by-minute locations of cell phone users. These companies are complicit in eroding their customers’ liberties and damaging their right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.” For more information, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

Inventor Sues Over iTunes, Playstation Network
Inventor Benjamin Grobler, who says his data vending technology is being used in the iTunes and Playstation Network systems, has sued Apple Inc. and Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC for patent infringement. Grobler is represented by Christopher Banys and Richard C. Lin from the Palo Alto, Calif., office of The Lanier Law Firm. In 2004, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued U.S. Patent No. 6,799,084 to Grobler. The patent covers data vending systems that allow users to store and manage digital music, video, software and other items on electronic devices. “This is yet another instance where a tech giant has taken an inventor’s work and used it as their own,” says Banys, head of the firm’s nationwide intellectual property practice. “Almost everyone uses iTunes or the Playstation Network, and we believe the defendants should be held accountable for profiting from our client’s patent without permission.” For more information, contact Alan Bentrup at 800-559-4534 or alan@androvett.com.


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