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“I Want My Job Back!”

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

From the world of employment law comes the story of (Washington Post) 13 United Airlines flight attendants who want their jobs back, after being let go. Because I don’t particularly enjoy flying, this story hit a personal chord.

On July  14, 2014, a United flight was scheduled to fly from San Francisco to Hong Kong. This is what they found on the plane:

 plane

     The flight attendants were spooked by the drawings on the plane. They asked airline officials to do a full search and safety inspection throughout the plane before takeoff. The airline refused to do it and did not take the drawings serious as a potential threat.

The crew then refused to fly. The airline felt that they did the necessary inspections and complied with all governmental requirements. Because the crew refused to fly, they were fired for insubordination. Now, they have filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, asking the Department of Labor to reinstate them and determine whether they are entitled to back wages and legal fees.

The original flight was cancelled without available crew. To date, none of the flight crew attendants have found work with other airlines. The airline continues to assert in response that the flight had been deemed safe to fly.

And now to switch topics. In case you did not receive our January newsletter, you can click here.

And for pic o’ day, the grammar police:

grammar police

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The Win/Loss Column

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

A while back I had a client ask me if I had ever lost a case. I guess it’s no surprise that no one advertises the cases that had a bad result. It sometimes is difficult to categorize a win or loss because the verdict might be more than the offer from the insurance company, but less than the demand for settlement. To me, that’s a loss too.

Unfortunately, I have had worse results than that. During my second year of practice, I represented a man who had got beaten up by another man. So, I filed a lawsuit for damages because of my client’s injuries… from being punched.

The defendant denied everything and claimed that my client had started the fight. Of course, there was that small matter of the obvious. The defendant was about 250 pounds and my client weighed about 90 pounds, if he was soaking wet and full of bananas. I suppose that the saying, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”, could have been argued.

The trial only took a couple of hours. The jury came back with a verdict. The piece of paper was handed to the bailiff, who handed it to the Judge. I was looking closely at the Judge’s face for any clue about the verdict.

The Judge began to read the verdict. “We the jury find for the plaintiff”. The Judge paused. Then he continued, “and award damages in the amount of… $1″.

My client was gratified that the jury believed him. He wasn’t happy that the verdict was only 1 dollar. And it didn’t matter to him that I did not charge my fee of 1/3 of the recovery… 33 cents.

I recall an attorney once telling me that losses make us better lawyers. I prefer a different method of improvement.

And for pic o’ day, this is one that you might have to think about a little bit:

dell

 

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Two Sides of the Lawsuit

Monday, January 12th, 2015

The news story is titled Woman sues daughter, son-in-law over housing dispute. (PilotOnline.com) So far, it sounds like the usual lawsuit, if such a thing exists among family.

The first part of the article, the reporter tells us the story of the mother-in-law. She claims that she went to live with her daughter and husband in Chesapeake. To accommodate her, the family built a mother-in-law suite. That is undisputed.

She claims that she contributed $70,000 to build the suite and added an additional $10,000 for closing costs, $6,000 for home furnishings and then chipped in $2,000 for a pool in the backyard .  In exchange for the monies, she would be allowed to live in the suite for as long as she wanted.

According to the mother-in-law, she moved into the suite in 2008. About a year later, the relationship went sour. She was denied access to all other areas of the property except her suite, which also meant no swimming for her. She also claims in the lawsuit that she was not allowed to use the refrigerator and was prohibited from walking on the carpeted part of the kitchen floor. As the infomercial would say, “But wait, there’s more”.

She claims that the family installed privacy doors so that they wouldn’t have to look at her. Then, it all went south, when she went to see family and had some physical issues. Upon her return, the lawsuit claims that the family demanded that she leave. She did. Later, she came back for her things. She has now filed suit for $150,000 plus her attorney fees and costs.

So far, that sounds like meanness. shear meanness from the family. “But wait… there’s more”.

The attorney that represents the family tells a different story. The family claims that she left the home by choice. She was having some health issues and went to stay with another family member while they were on vacation.  She didn’t want to be left alone in the house.

When the Murphy family returned from vacation, they expected mother-in-law to return home. She didn’t. They claim that she still has a key to the house and is welcome back at any time. As a result, they say that they don’t owe her anything. The continue to live up to the agreement.

With those facts… you be the judge!

And for pic o’ day,

watch the game

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Remembering Curley Byler

Monday, January 12th, 2015

One of the paralegals has a sign hanging at her desk that says, “But first, coffee”. Seems appropriate for a Monday morning blog!

coffee

This weekend I went to the funeral of  Clarence H. “Curly” Byler. He was the landlord for my first law office. I have known the Byler family for many years and feel fortunate to call them my friends.

At the funeral, several got up with very special rememberances of Mr. Byler. He had been a very successful businessman in Virginia Beach and developed commercial and residential real estate throughout Hampton Roads.  Let me just mention a couple of remembrances for the blog.

The first related to him as a pilot. He served as a pilot in World War II. So, for the rest of his life, he continued to fly. Even in his last days, he was still talking about his special airplane.  One of the flying stories is also good application for life.

He would always say that he wanted altitude, to get as high as he could when flying. Why? Because by flying so high, he said that he was “able to get above the mess”.  A good reminder to rise above it.  His son Gary also applied his desire “for altitude”, to the end of his life. Now that he was in heaven… he was now above all the mess.

The second thing of mention related to a flight that he recently took with a friend. They were up in an airplane looking down. Mr Byler looked over at him as they were reminiscing about all the good times. Then he said, “who would have thought that I’d still have money to burn… but the fire has gone out”. As his obituary noted, “Curly passed peacefully in his own bed after 93 years of doing it his way”.

And for pic o’ day, this comes from Debbie K. It makes me laugh:

snow days

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The Power of 19 Letters

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

A mention of telegraph doesn’t seem like much of technology today. In fact, probably many kids have never even heard of a machine called a telegraph. It’s no where to be found in Madden Football or the video game Call of Duty.

But there was a time that Congress stopped and looked in amazement. The date was May 24, 1844. Standing in the chamber of the Supreme Court, Samuel B. Morse sent a message of only 19 letters to his assistant, who was back in Baltimore.

Members of Congress watched the telegraph machine demonstration with fascination. What was that message of 19 letters? What God hath wrought?

The message was received. The experiment of national communication was a success. And today… I blog with reckless abandonment!

I hope you have a great weekend.

And for pic o’ day, more about words:

words

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Quick Car Research

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

The resolution and goal blogs have run their course.

Staying Fit

(This one is a re-run but it always cracks me up)

It’s now “stop talking about it… and just be about it”.

For today’s blog, I decided to point you to a quick car research tool. Owners may not always know if their vehicle still needs repaired after a manufacturer recall. Or, maybe you are shopping for a car and want to know if there has previously been some recall for that make or model.

Safecar.gov allows you to just plug in the vehicle identification number and look at the safety recalls for the last 15 years. At the bottom of the site, it also lists the automobile manufacturers that participate in this listing. It’s also a tool that we use at the firm, in analyzing potential claims.

 

And our pic o’ day from Amy M …

defending

 

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Magna Carta is Coming!

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

June 15, 1215, is recognized as the day that trial-by-jury was formally instituted. The Magna Carta in Latin is   also called Magna Carta Libertatum, (Latin to English translation: the Great Charter of the Liberties).1

Just as a history refresher before mentioning our Virginia connection; It is a document that was drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and signed by King John of England, to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of disgruntled barons.

The barons were demanding a set of ground rules going forward, for the people, that acknowledged that everyone had to obey the laws… including the King. The Magna Carta promised the protection of church rights, the barons from illegal imprisonment, and the right to a trial by jury. A trial by jury… written right in the document.2

That’s why that document has such special meaning. And now we are told that the Magna Carta is coming to Virginia. The document will be recognized and a British historian and a Virginia Constitutional Professor will join hands on January 22, to observe and celebrate its 800th anniversary.

It is part of a traveling exhibition that makes stops at law schools, courthouses, bar centers and other venues including libraries. There are four surviving originals with one also on display in the Library of Congress.

And for pic o’ day…

peer pressure

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Blogging Goals

Monday, January 5th, 2015

If I started the blog with a discussion of “Hands up, don’t shoot”; or I countered with  “pants up, don’t loot”, it might be considered a very controversial blog. In fact, I am told that the more controversial that someone writes, the more chance heated comments are posted or that the blog will go viral.

I look back over my blogs the last few years and I can say that they lack the panache of some controversy. This morning, Virginia has a former Governor about to be sentenced at the Federal Courthouse. It was and is important news. Yet, I did not blog about it. Just not in the wheelhouse of this blog.

When I think of the blog in the new year, I think of it like a legal seminar. “They” always say that if you go to a seminar and you get one helpful thing for the practice, then it has been a successful seminar.

So, what does this mean in my stream of consciousness about blogging for the upcoming year? Well, I hope to give you something each time that will stick with you. I don’t think that it takes controversy to stand out. Still, I hope it’s more than a dry recitation of the Pythagorean Theorem.

My goal is at least one good nugget. Something like Robert Louis Stevenson saying that, “Sooner or later, we all sit down to a banquet of consequences”.

And our pic o’ day is about trust:

trust

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The Bebelplatz Burning Reminder

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

The Bebelplatz (from Wiki) is a public square that is centrally located in Berlin, Germany. The square is named after August Bebel, who is credited as the founder of Germany’s  Social Democratic Party.

The Bebelplatz is known as the infamous site where, on May 10, 1933, over 20,000 books by Jewish authors were destroyed . On that date, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was invited by the German Student Union to give a speech before the burning. He stood to give an inflammatory speech as a precursor of events to come, and then the SS and Hitler Youth groups set fire to the books, which included many well-known works by such writers as Karl Marx and Albert Einstein.

Today in the square, there is a memorial set up as a reminder to the destruction of those books. It commemorates the great loss of those books with a glass plate set in the cobble stones. As evidenced by this photo, the memorial shows a view of empty bookcases that is large enough to hold 20,000 books.memorial

There is a German engraved plaque next to the glass plate. Translated in English it reads, “That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people“.

Several years ago one of my New Year’s resolutions was to lose weight. I joined a nearby Weight Watchers. Not surprisingly, several other people had the same resolution.

During the subsequent weeks, we would all show up for the weekly meetings. First, we would go behind a curtain and weigh-in. Then, we would have a brief motivational lecture to equip us with techniques for weight loss. Reminders to eat pickles or Fat Free Cool-Whip if we needed to fight cravings. (Typing that made me hungry.)

One lady faithfully attended each of the weekly meetings. Her weight loss was dramatic. The reason that I remember her so well is that she would always come into the meeting with the same dress over her other clothes. Then she would take that outer layer dress off, after her weigh-in.

That dress was what she wore to the very first Weight Watchers’ meeting. Through the weeks, it became very apparent that she had lost a considerable amount. In fact, by the end, that sagging dress  looked comical on her.

The two stories are not equal in the gravity of the event. But, they both used reminders to move forward in a positive direction.

If you have made resolutions for 2015, there will be great temptation to think “Oh well”. I have that same little voice in my head. So,  I have tried to set up some motivating reminders for some of my resolutions.

Now to my personal unintentional reminder. I was reviewing past TV spots that were run in years past, for the law firm. I pulled up some ads that were cut in 2011. Who was that fat guy in a little coat? It was me. What was I thinking? It looks like pork chops hanging from my neck.

Every year, I put some resolution emphasis on exercise and weight loss. My reminder for this year is to just pop in a 2011  JB Firm spot… and watch it. Boom.

coffee

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The Final 2014 Blog

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

I sat down to write this last blog with the idea that I needed to give you something to think about, going into the new year. Then, I stopped after my first sentence because I had too many thoughts with too few ideas. It felt like I was at the doorstep of inspiration, and inspiration refused to let me in! (or something like that)

mustache

So I decided to piece some stories together in an attempt to end up with my thoughts:

Not far from our Richmond  office stands a building with a sign that identifies it as a restaurant named Famous Dave’s Barbecue. This is an area that really enjoys BBQ for lunch as evidenced by the fact that there are three restaurants, within a 2 mile radius.IMG_0001

Regularly, we would drive by that restaurant at lunch, and invariably, someone in the car would remark that no cars are ever in the parking, “How do they stay open?”.

Prophetic! They just closed. In fact, the other two Dave’s restaurants in the Richmond area have also closed. (CBS 6) According to their CEO, the closings are part of a “strategic reevaluation”  as  ”the current leadership team continues to evaluate the performance of our legacy company-owned portfolio as we drive toward a return to positive same store sales and improved unit and company-level profitability, while we actively pursue our re-franchising strategy”. (I don’t even know what that means)

It was 2005. Sheep herding was the primary livelihood in Gevas, Turkey. The average yearly income there was $2700. According to USA Today, every family had an average of 20 sheep.

On that fateful day, 26 families were eating breakfast together on the hillside, while they watched their sheep graze nearby. No one knows what caused it, but all of sudden the sheep began running toward the edge of a cliff.

In horror, the shepherds watched as their sheep began jumping off the cliff to a certain death. One sheep apparently started toward the cliff and 1500 followed that one sheep. Soon, more than 450 sheep had died.

The only thing that saved the other sheep was the fact that those who jumped later, were saved as the pile got higher and higher. Their fall was cushioned. According to one villager, “now only a few families have sheep left. It’s going to be real hard for us”.

Xiaomi,  a Chinese smartphone manufacturer, was founded in 2010 by several Chinese entrepreneurs. The company just announced that it has shipped 17.3 million phones in their third quarter of 2014, and that they have now become the third largest cell phone maker in the world, while trailing only Samsung and Apple.

They admit to mirroring the business model of Apple; including the Chairman and CEO, Jun Lei, appearing on stage at a shareholder meeting while wearing jeans and a black turtleneck … just like the late Apple founder Steve Jobs.  They attribute their success positioning themselves as a high end alternative to the status quo.

I have been thinking about what to write for my year-end blog. It has caused me to read articles and tweets of several entrepreneurs as they identified their 2015 goals and resolutions. That included reading this USA Today article with 15 inspirational quotes from the book Whatever You Are, Be a Good One. Still I kept searching.

I came to realize that goals have to be my goals. That someone else’s goals can be aspirational, but they aren’t mine.

I looked at these three stories in their randomness and this is what I took from them. First, you need customers. In our case as a firm, you need clients. If “no one is in the parking lot”, all other goals really don’t matter.

Second, I need to be a leader who matters and knows where we are going. Just being a leader can also mean taking everyone over the cliff of failure.

Third, relates to Firm growth and the status quo. It’s fine to look at other business models of success; but, ultimately it’s about me or about the firm. I cannot be satisfied with ”how we have always done it”. I need to keep pushing!

Maybe something in this randomness will help you in your goal thinking. Thanks for reading the blog this year. I promise to do better next year!!!!! Have a wonderful New Year!

It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”

-W. Somerset Maugham

And for a final pic o’ day, I had a hard time picking what I wanted. So… I went with some “bad planning”.

bad Planning

 

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