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Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution

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Conflicts happen. We get into disputes with neighbors, drivers, landlords, creditors, spouses and there is just no way to resolve it without getting in each others’ face. Tempers flare, emotions run high, and court cases get filed. No one wants to go to the courthouse. Even if you’re absolutely sure your case is a winner, the thought of actually going before a judge is an intimidating unknown even when represented by a trustworthy attorney. Add the costs of filing, time, and representation and quickly small squabbles become major fights.

For over 30 years Florida has been a nationwide leader in alternative dispute resolution (ADR). In most civil matters at the county court level (where the suit is less than $15,000) judges require litigants to meet and discuss their dispute with a mediator as one of the first steps to moving a case forward. Often attorneys themselves, mediators are neutral third party facilitators trained and certified by the state Supreme Court to bump cases onto a path of mutual resolution. After a brief opening explanation of the procedures and assurances of confidentiality, the parties often separate into adjoining rooms called caucus rooms. The mediator moves between rooms trying to slowly and respectfully help the litigants realize that they may not be as far apart as they may have thought. With the fear and intimidation factors removed, resolution happens in the vast majority of cases in an hour or less. The mediator prepares a short (often one page) stipulation delineating the agreement and all the duties required by both sides and each receives a copy. The original signed agreement is then filed with the court which retains jurisdiction over the matter to force its execution. The case remains open and enforceable by the court until all terms of the stipulation are satisfied, at which time the case is automatically dismissed without any further action required.  The goal is for both parties go their separate ways relieved and satisfied, if not happy. If the case is not resolved, the mediator declares an impasse and the case continues to trial as if nothing had happened. If either party fails to honor the stipulated agreement, the non-breeching party simply files an affidavit with the court stating such and the case continues to trial.

ADR has become a popular tool across the entire state to save both the people and the court time and money for nearly all civil matters because it gives the parties all the power. The most important thing to bring to a pre-trial conference or mediation is an open mind.   You can’t control the other side of the table, but you can control your own. Here are a few simple factors to think about before you even get in the car:

  • What do you NEED from the suit? (bottom line numbers and don’t forget court costs and filing fees)
  • Where are you willing to COMPROMISE? (time for payment, place of performance, forms of payment, alternatives to money)
  • What do you have that the other side may want? (something free to you may be invaluable to your opponent)
  • Most importantly, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by going and maintaining a positive attitude

Florida’s Habitual Traffic Offender Statute

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Ever got a Driving While License Suspended ticket and thought, “No big deal, I’ll just pay the fine”? You could be gambling with your future driving privileges.

Florida has restrictions on how many tickets you can get of what kind. If you get 15 moving violations (where points were assessed) within 5 years you will be a habitual traffic offender.

You can also get the habitual status if you get 3 or more convictions (any combination) within a 5 year period of 1) driving while license suspended, 2) DUI, 3) voluntary or involuntary manslaughter while operating a vehicle, 4) any felony in which a motor vehicle was used, 5) failing to stop and render aid when required in the event of a crash which results in the death or injury of another, and 6) driving a commercial vehicle when your privilege is disqualified.

So what does it mean? Well a habitual traffic offender automatically loses their license for a 5 year period. After one full year of suspension, you would qualify to apply for a hardship license which would be valid for driving to and from work and to and from church ONLY.

Ashley McKinnis, Esq.

Medical Marijuana in Florida

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More than a year after the Legislature passed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, it appears that medical marijuana will finally be available by the end of the year in the state of Florida. On May 27, an Administrative law judge in Tallahassee dismissed the final challenge to the rule brought by Baywood Nurseries of Apopka which alleged that the rule developed by the Florida Department of Health was vague and unfair.

The rule allows eligible growers in the state of Florida to grow a strain of marijuana that is low in THC (the euphoria inducing chemical found in marijuana) but high in cannabadiol (a compound that has medical effects, but does not make one feel “stoned”). This strain, called “Charlotte’s Web,” will help people suffering from epileptic seizures, cancer, and other ailments.

The Florida Department of Health will be accepting applications from growers in the state of Florida who meet certain criteria. These criteria include having been in business as a Florida nursery for 30 years or more and grow a minimum of 400,000 plants. Currently, only five licenses are going to be available to grow and sell marijuana in the state, and roughly 100 nurseries meet the criteria.

Ideally, these growers could start selling to eligible patients who are put on a state-run “compassionate use registry” by the end of the year.  

Thomas Monoahan


Are you prepared for hurricane season?

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Hurricane season officially started on June 1, 2015, and although it has been a while since a major hurricane hit Florida, you still need to be prepared. Most homeowners in Florida wait until there is a threat of an actual hurricane before they start to gather up supplies. However, it is best to avoid a last minute scramble and be prepared before the threat of a hurricane is at your front door.

The American Red Cross recommends the following basic supplies:

. Water: one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation,
2-week supply for home)
. Food: non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for
evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
. Flashlight
. Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if
possible) Extra batteries
. First aid kit
. Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
. Multi-purpose tool
. Sanitation and personal hygiene items
. Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical
information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth
certificates, insurance policies)
. Cell phone with chargers
. Family and emergency contact information
. Extra cash
. Emergency blanket
. Map(s) of the area

Also, while it is imperative that you have these survival supplies, you also need to make sure that your homeowner's insurance policy covers you for water damage. Most people assume that their insurance policy provides this type of coverage, however many are surprised to learn after a loss that their claim is not covered. Insurance companies sell more "affordable" policies that limit the circumstances under which the company will provide coverage. While these cheaper policies seem appealing at first, many people will find that they end up being quite expensive when their claim is denied for lack of coverage. 

If you have any doubts or concerns about whether your insurance policy provides you with the coverage that you need, please contact us for a free.
consultation and review of your policy.

Ana Cristina Torres

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