51. Round Two: General Contractor Attains Legal Knock-Out of Wealthy Beachfront Owner

After three years of litigation, Mackey Law Group has attained a victory in the Florida Appeals Court for an Anna Maria general contractor!

As referenced in our January 2019 blog, a wealthy beachfront owner refused to pay a general contractor for the last draw on a remodeling contract. The beachfront owner then lawyered-up and embarked on a very expensive and nasty litigation path, all to avoid paying what was due to the contractor. The beachfront owner did the following:

  • Put the general contractor through a multi-day trial using no less than three lawyers, only to seek to amend his claims after the general contractor had rested its case. And unbelievably, the Judge allowed the beachfront owner to amend and allowed a second trial!
  • Between the first and second trials (which were 18 months apart due to the court’s calendar), the beachfront owner and his lawyers went to the two Anna Maria newspapers and attempted to win the litigation through the press;
  • The beachfront owner and his lawyers  also went to the City of Anna Maria and attempted to get the City to prosecute the general contractor for alleged permit violations on other remodel jobs that the general contractor had done over the past few years;
  • The beachfront owner and his lawyers also contacted many of the general contractor’s ex-customers/homeowners on Anna Maria Island in an attempt to have them come testify against the general contractor at trial;
  • Finally, the second trial took place right before Christmas in December 2018 before the same Manatee County Circuit Court Judge, who by this time had been voted out of office. This Judge had kept the case as his last act before leaving the bench. And, to make matters worse, the beachfront owner’s lawyers had been on the Judge’s ill-fated re-election committee and the Judge had denied the general contractor’s motion to recuse the Judge! Nevertheless, Mackey Law Group went into the ring again and won the case for the general contractor. The wealthy beachfront owner was ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars to the general contractor.

But things did not stop there. The beachfront owner appealed the court’s decision the Florida Second District Court of Appeal. And, the appeal alone was not enough for the wealthy beachfront owner and his lawyers either, they also: (i) tried to convince the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to prosecute the general contractor for fraud (when those claims had been soundly defeated at trial); and (ii) filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Professional Regulation (DBPR) for alleged contracting violations (those claims also having been defeated at trial). Not only were these two additional nasty tactics unsuccessful; in May 2020, the Florida Second District Court of Appeal affirmed (approved) the lower court’s ruling in favor of the general contractor! The second round thus ended in a legal knockout of the wealthy beachfront owner.

The lesson here? Never back down to a wealthy bully and his legal team. When you are right, you are right. Get to a good construction lawyer and defend your rights. Here at Mackey Law Group we have been successful construction litigators for thirty years. Hire the best.

By: Pete Mackey, Esq.

50. MACKEY LAW GROUP Remains Open for Business

We remain open for business during normal operating hours at this time.   Only our attorneys and staff have been in our building and on the job for several weeks now – with our lobby doors locked and safe practices in place.  We continue to work diligently for our existing clients and are still accepting new consultations which we are conducting by phone.   If you have a legal need or would like to consult with one of our attorneys, just call our main phone number at (941)746-6225.

49. Need Rent Relief Because of COVID-19?

Due to Governor DeSantis ordering that non-essential businesses in Florida be closed during the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, small business owners have been forced to shut their doors. The resulting loss of income has left many unable to pay their commercial rent.  Some ruthless landlords are moving forward with evicting these small businesses.

However, being forced to close may enable one to legally fight back against their landlord, as they can no longer perform under their lease contract. This “frustration of purpose” or “impossibility of performance” may enable a tenant to be released from an obligation to perform under a contract; i.e. the tenant business can’t sell their goods, or provide their services, so they can’t pay rent.

Mackey Law Group has already been on the cutting edge of defending our local small businesses and we’ve been achieving favorable results for those who think their back is against the wall. Call us today so we can fight for you and win.

By: B. Kyle Stalnaker, Esq.

47. MLG Lawyers procure $100,000 for Motorcycle Injuries

MLG lawyers Jorge Martinez and Kyle Stalnaker recently procured $100,000 for clients who were cut-off the road by an automobile driver. In addition, MLG lawyers assisted our clients in obtaining additional money for the damaged motorcycle. In December 2019, MLG’s clients were coming back from an early dinner in Lakewood Ranch on their motorcycle. Our clients were cut-off the road by a driver pulling out of a shopping center who failed to pay attention to the approaching motorcycle. As a result of being cut-off, the MLG clients suffered rib and elbow damage. They immediately called us. By being experienced in representing people involved in motorcycle accidents, lawyers Martinez and Stalnaker were able to get our clients compensation for their injuries and damaged motorcycle within 90 days of the accident. Our lawyers do not just push paper; they get results.

If you find yourself involved in a motorcycle accident, you should immediately do a few things: obviously, make sure your injuries are being treated, take pictures of the scene, get copies of the police report, and call an experienced lawyer. And, never give a follow-up “recorded statement” to an insurance adjuster or agent. Even more importantly, never hire a lawyer because a tow-truck driver or some “investigator” hands you a lawyer’s business card or because of some smiling face on a billboard. Getting compensated for being injured in a motorcycle accident involves legal expertise and there will be an insurance company and its lawyers on the other side trying to take advantage of you. And, not all lawyers are the same. If those billboard and T.V. lawyers were really successful, they wouldn’t have to be out there tooting their own horns and paying for ads to get clients. Many times, those personal injury lawyers/mills settle cases for less than what the case is worth because their advertising budgets need to be fed.

Clients come to MLG lawyers because we are experienced and well known. Client’s know that our lawyers’ get results. We’ve been getting fast results for clients for over thirty (30) years here in Bradenton. In addition, some of us at Mackey Law Group are motorcycle riders ourselves.

46. Is Someone Filing Bankruptcy To Avoid Paying You?

Bankruptcy is a process that a lot of people use, sometimes deceivingly, to avoid paying what they owe.  Perhaps you are attempting to obtain a judgment or you already obtained a judgment against someone (or a corporation), and you’ve spent money on attorneys’ fees and court costs to get to that point.  The whole reason for pursuing your lawsuit was to collect what was owed to you; then, all of a sudden, the person you are suing files a suggestion of bankruptcy and there is an immediate stay against further action by you.

The question becomes, how do you proceed and is there anything that you can do?  At this point, you need to hire an experienced litigator, one that knows what to do in order to lift the bankruptcy stay and collect what is owed to you.  We recently obtained over $71,000.00 (which included attorney’s fees) for our client by pursuing our client’s right to collect within the debtor’s bankruptcy proceeding.  Don’t be intimidated by bankruptcy threats.  Most times, bankruptcy lawyers fold like a cheap suit when faced with pursuit of a debt within a bankruptcy proceeding.

Should you be owed money and the other side is threatening bankruptcy or seeking to hide behind a bankruptcy proceeding, call us.  Our lawyers know what to do and can help.

Submitted by:  Jose D. Estigarribia, Esq.

45. Don’t Miss The Homestead Filing Deadline!

The deadline for filing for the Florida Homestead Tax Exemption is March 1, 2020.  If you purchased a new primary residence in 2019, don’t assume the closing agent or the bank will file your Homestead Exemption application form.  You are responsible for doing it if you want the exemption!

If you don’t know what the Homestead Exemption is, here is an explanation:  If you have a primary residence in Florida, you are likely entitled to Florida’s Homestead Property Tax Exemption. Your primary residence is where you reside at least 6 months out of the year; but, you can only have one homestead residence.

The real estate taxes that you pay annually are based on the county’s “assessed value” of your property and the Homestead Exemption operates by reducing this assessed value. A reduced assessed value means less taxes. Eligible homeowners may receive a reduction of up to $50,000.00 from the assessed value of their homestead! There are additional exemptions that may also apply, including exemptions for certain disabilities, widows and widowers, and low-income seniors. However, you must take the necessary steps to classify your property as your homestead and apply for any additional exemptions prior to March 1st of the year in which you will be taxed. You must also own the property on January 1st of the year in which you are applying.

You only need to apply for your homestead exemption once. If you have already applied for the exemption on your property, you do not need to apply again; However, if you purchased a new primary residence last year, you must reapply for homestead this year on the new property.

Contact your County Property Appraiser for information on how to apply for the homestead designation. Manatee County residents can follow this link to submit their 2020 homestead application online: https://ofa.manateepao.com/ApplyOnline/WebForm1.aspx

In addition, don’t miss out on portability!  You may also be entitled to transfer your homestead accumulated savings from your former residence to your new residence. This is known as “portability”. Merely applying for the Homestead Exemption doesn’t get you this extra savings benefit; an additional form needs to be filed. Here is a link with more information on portability: https://www.manateepao.com/faqs/portability-of-save-our-homes/.

For more information about Florida’s Homestead Property Tax Exemption and portability, don’t hesitate to contact our office.

 

By: T.R. Smith, Esq.

44. Why Are So Many People Entrusting Their Family Law Cases to MLG?

At Mackey Law Group, our trial lawyers have been inundated with family law cases over the past few years. Why is that? The answer is very simple and explained below.

First, a divorce/family law case is, in fact, a litigation case; do not let someone or a “divorce lawyer” convince you that your divorce case is a friendly get together where everyone sings Kum Ba Yah around the campfire or that your divorce case can be settled via “collaborative” resolution. A divorce/family law case is usually complicated, both legally and emotionally. Let’s face it, a divorce involves one spouse wanting out of the marriage, usually being mean, and most always attempting to take advantage of the other spouse.  Second, anyone in a contested divorce/family law proceeding needs a good trial lawyer. You need to know that your lawyer has been there before, tried cases to conclusion, and knows how to win.

And third, results matter. Results matter a lot. We believe Mackey Law Group has the highest intake of divorce/family law cases over the past few years, relative to any other law firm in Manatee or Sarasota Counties. Why? Because “the word is out”. People know that our lawyers are up on the law, know how to handle the other side of a divorce/family law case, and know how to get positive results for our divorce clients. Yes, there can be a winner and a loser in a divorce/family law case. Our litigators are current on Florida’s child support/timesharing law, the law concerning division of assets and liabilities between spouses, and all aspects of alimony. Equally important, our litigators are just that: we are litigators and trial lawyers. We don’t panic and throw our clients under the bus if settlement cannot be attained; we try the case and we usually win for our law firm’s clients.

Our initial consults usually last no more than an hour. In that time, we let our clients know where they stand and where we can take them in a divorce/family law proceeding. If you have already been to another lawyer or if you have even hired another lawyer and don’t think you’ve got the right-one on your side, schedule a consult with us; if you don’t, you could be going into a divorce gunfight-of-a-trial with a lawyer who draws water-pistols.

By: Pete J. Mackey, Esq.

43. Fire & Stone Preparing to Reopen

By Joe Hendricks | Sun

January 14, 2020

CORTEZ – The owners of the Fire & Stone pizzeria on Cortez Road hope to reopen their restaurant as early as this week.

When reopened, the renovated Fire & Stone restaurant will feature the same menu that has long-included its signature all-you-can-eat pizza buffet, but there will additional seating on the outdoor patio and more parking spaces and new golf cart parking spaces in the reconfigured parking areas. The formerly cash-only establishment will also now accept debit and credit cards.

Owned by Radka and Peter Ross, the popular pizzeria closed temporarily last May in order to address Manatee County’s concerns about the grease trap system and also to address allegations cited in Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) inspection reports dated May 13 and May 14, 2019.

Last week, Peter Ross said a new grease trap has been installed to the county’s satisfaction. He also said he and his wife reached a settlement with DBPR in December and the state agency has redacted all of the alleged violations cited in those May 2019 inspection reports.

Ross emphatically reiterated statements he made last year in response to the allegation that the grease trap issue caused a slick in nearby Sarasota Bay.

The May 14 DBPR inspector’s report said, “Per Manatee County Code Enforcement Officer Jorge Martelo, they required the operator to seal off all drains going out of the building, as the operator was pumping the sewage into a drainage ditch, which has now caused a slick in Sarasota Bay.”

Last week, Ross said, “The raw sewage in the bay did not happen. I never did anything that would hurt the environment.”

Regarding the settlement, Ross said, “The accusation of dumping sewage into the bay is gone, like it never happened, because it didn’t. They dropped everything.”

Attorney T.R. Smith represented the couple in the settlement negotiations and Chief Attorney Marc Drexler represented DBPR.

Dated Dec. 12, the stipulation and consent order of dismissal issued by DBPR says, “The amended administrative complaint is voluntarily dismissed, with prejudice.”

It also says, “Division as redacted and reissued the following inspection reports: May 13, 2019; May 14, 2019; and December 3, 2019.”

The Sun contacted DBPR seeking clarification as to what it means to have inspection reports redacted and whether that is similar to charges being dropped in a criminal case, which this was not.

On Friday, Jan. 10, DBPR Director of Communications Karen Smith provided The Sun with an email response that said, “The violations were resolved and removed from the inspection report pursuant to the settlement.”

The May 2019 inspection reports also alleged lesser violations pertaining to food handling and sanitary conditions. Although those allegations were also redacted by DBPR, Ross said steps have been taken to ensure those concerns do not arise again. The Dec. 3 inspection report posted at the DBPR website says, “No violations were observed.”

Fire & Stone is located at 10519 Cortez Road W. For more information about its anticipated reopening, call 941-792-5300.

Here is a link to the full AMI Sun article: www.amisun.com/2020/01/14/fire-stone-preparing-to-reopen/

42. Is Someone Using Their Corporation to Hide Behind and Not Pay You?

In 2015 a local businessman entered our office and inquired as to collecting on a corporate debt. His company had provided the stage and sound system for a Manatee County outdoor concert event and now the corporation that put-on the concert and its three officers/shareholders (one of whom is a local lawyer) were not paying. In other words, our client’s equipment was used to put on the concert and the concert promoters kept the revenue and didn’t pay for the stage and sound system! To make matters worse, our client had recently been turned away by Bradenton’s largest law firm and its litigation partner because “the debt is a corporate debt and cannot be collected on”.  So, one of Mackey Law Group’s client’s (a well-known entertainer) told his friend to come see us for a second opinion.

Mackey Law Group reviewed the case and decided to take things on for the stage and sound client. We not only sued the corporation that owed the money, we also sued the principals/shareholders, individually, who were behind the corporation that owed our client money. So, what did the other side do? They went to Sarasota and got the senior litigator at a big-firm. The non-payers were apparently going to teach our client a lesson.

As expected, there were multiple motions to dismiss our client’s complaint and motions to continue hearings. On the eve of the jury trial, the big-firm lawyers even put the non-paying corporation into bankruptcy. That tactic alone stalled our client’s quest to get paid for over a year. But, Mackey Law Group would not give-in to these games. We hung in there for our client and amended the pleadings one more time to sue the lone-standing person behind the now-bankrupt corporation  for using the corporation to commit a fraud on another…….yes, there is a way in Florida to get-around the corporate shield and collect from individual shareholders if they use the corporation to shield themselves in the commission of a fraud. Most lawyers do not know this; and obviously the Bradenton big firm litigators who rejected our client were not up on the law when they told our client he would never collect.

Mackey Law Group’s lawyers finally got the case set for jury trial. It took years of perseverance. Again, as trial approached, there were threats as to how we were going to lose and our client would have to pay the other side’s lawyer’s fees. However, our client now was educated by us on the law and he did not waiver. So what eventually happened? Our client won; he got paid. In fact, our client got paid via an agreement that was reached on the Friday before the Monday jury trial was to commence. Do you want proof? Take a look at the filed payment agreement in Manatee County Circuit Court Case Number 2015 CA 5907.

Don’t settle for a bad case analysis by a lawyer, no matter how “old and respected” the law firm is. Good trial lawyers are few and far between. Here at Mackey Law Group we are in the courtrooms of this state all the time. We know the law and we know how to win.

By: Peter Mackey, Esq.