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.

40. “I’m getting divorced, can I move with my kids?”

This is a common question people ask when getting divorced and have children.

Florida law is very specific about what is allowed in a “relocation” with minor children.  There is a maximum distance that you can move without the necessity of a court order.  A lot of people, including many lawyers, are not aware that the distance is measured “as the crow flies” (straight line on a map). The answer to the question really hinges on several factors including the reasons for the move and how far the move will be.

Assuming your spouse or ex-spouse does not agree with you, relocating elsewhere with the minor children requires a Petition for Relocation.  Very precise and particular language has to be included in the petition or your case can be thrown out.

There are eleven (11) factors under Florida law that the court will look at to determine whether relocation is in the best interests of the minor children.  Some of the factors include:  the current employment and economic circumstances of each parent and whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the relocating parent and the minor children.  You will have to prove these factors to a judge.

Because of all these nuances, it is best to hire a skilled and experienced family law attorney if you are considering a relocation with minor children.  Do not hesitate to contact the litigators at Mackey Law Group.  We litigate these types of cases and win!

By: Jose Estigarribia, Esq.

39. Thinking of Representing Yourself? Think Again.

“He who represents himself has a fool for a client” – Anonymous

Too often people choose to represent themselves in court in order to save money, or because they believe that their issue is “simple”. This often leads to disastrous results. Without the aid of an attorney, you may be unable to meet all the technical requirements to prove your case or fail to realize you could have “gone for more”.

Using a divorce case as an example, this may mean paying more in child support or even having less time with your kids. In a civil case, your entire case could be lost on a technicality, even if you were right all along. Losing your case may also result in having to pay for the other side’s attorney fees and court costs, even if you didn’t hire one, defeating the entire purpose of saving money.

I have seen many self-represented litigants realize once inside the courtroom that they are in over their heads. In desperation, they will turn to the judge for advice. Unfortunately for them, their second realization is that judges are unable to provide any guidance and that they are truly on their own.

If you are thinking of representing yourself, or are currently representing yourself, call us today and our winning attorneys will make sure your case is handled right.

By: Jorge Martinez, Esq.

38. Federal Appellate Defense: Complex Litigation

Many lawyers say that they handle “complex litigation”. Really? Do they? Have they actually gotten positive results? Make them show you.

Here at Mackey Law Group, our lawyers don’t just say we handle complex litigation, we do it all the time and we win!  Recently, Pete Mackey and T.R. Smith obtained a federal court jury verdict in the Middle District Court in Tampa, Florida (yes, we actually work and try cases in federal court) for one of our business clients. This trial victory is highlighted in our blog entitled “Federal Court Jury Trial Victory”.

Then, the loser’s Washington D.C. and West Palm Beach big-firm lawyers appealed the Tampa Federal Court verdict to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta, Georgia. This did not intimidate our lawyers in the slightest; we never missed a beat. Mackey Law Group’s lawyers have litigated in federal court for years and our lawyers have successfully represented many clients in appeals. So, after year of appellate briefs and submissions to the appellate court, on July 18, 2019 the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed our client’s jury verdict. A copy of the Eleventh Circuit’s entire opinion follows this blog. Opinion Affirming

The lesson to be learned? Don’t settle for anything but the best when choosing litigation counsel. Ask questions and demand answers. Here at Mackey Law Group we are litigators who actually know how to take a complex litigation case through trial, win, and then through the appeal process if necessary. To obtain the best outcome you can, you need to retain the best lawyers you can.

36. Government at fault? Now what?

Ever heard of someone getting hurt by, or on, city, county, or government property in Florida?  Suing the State of Florida is not the same as suing a private person or a private corporation and there is a lot of “red tape” you have to deal with.

These procedures need to be strictly followed.  For example, you have to first provide notice of your intent to file a lawsuit to the Florida Department of Financial Services; you cannot just sue right away, as is the case in most civil actions against a private person or corporation.  Once the notice is filed, the government then has the opportunity to conduct its own investigation of the incident and injury prior to you being able to file a lawsuit.

Another difference is how much you can sue for.  The government does not have to pay a claim that exceeds $200,000.00 for one person, or more than a total of $300,000.00 for all claims that arise out of one incident.  Anything over this amount, needs to be addressed through a claims bill, where the state legislature has to authorize a payment that exceeds the cap amounts.  Different state agencies can be sued if they are negligent and cause injury.  They include: executive departments; the legislature; state university trustee boards; counties; municipalities and corporations that act primarily for the state or their agents.

Should you find yourself in a situation where you need to file suit against a government entity, do not hesitate to contact Mackey Law Group to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.

By: Jose Estigarribia, Esq.