Category Archive: Atlanta Law

Making Your Remote Office a Success

With the unique challenge of working and keeping businesses going during COVID-19, having a remote office has become our new normal but it can still be an unknown, possibly even stressful, factor amid these disruptive and uncertain times.

It’s more important now than ever to keep your mental and emotional well-being in check, as well as that of your employees and staff.

SET SCHEDULES 

Keeping a regular, and realistic, schedule is vital. Plan your day as if you were in the office with a start time, lunch time and quitting time. Make sure you allow technology-free time to pamper yourself, whether that’s reading a book, working on a jigsaw puzzle or a soothing bath.

HAVE A DEDICATED WORK SPACE

You don’t need a room specifically for your home office but find space that is to be your work area during work hours. This can be a corner in your bedroom, living room or on your kitchen table. Tell your family this is your work area during your scheduled work times. After hours, it can go back to its intended use.

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK 

Working from home doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean parking yourself at your desk 24-7. Your mind and body need breaks throughout the day so be sure to take them, preferably every 30 to 60 minutes. It may be getting up to stretch for a few minutes or getting a glass of water. On phone calls, get in the habit of standing rather than sitting to keep that blood flowing.

BUT WATCH OUT FOR THOSE DISTRACTIONS!

Working from home can be wonderful (saving on gas and travel time with no commute and hey, you don’t even have to wear shoes!) but being at home can lend to a host of distractions. Don’t let your laundry, that Harry Potter marathon or social media impact your productivity.

STAY CONNECTED

That said, social media is a wonderful way to keep in touch, not only with family but also co-workers. The office is not only a place to work but also a method to combat loneliness and isolation. Working from home, especially for extroverts, can create anxiety. So check in with your co-workers, not just to discuss work-related matters but also fun things, like sharing recipes and family and pet photos.

AND GET FRESH AIR

Fresh air and sunshine are a necessity. With fewer people driving, and warmer weather upon most of us, getting away from your desk, out the door and into the environment is fundamental. Not only will it invigorate you but will keep your immune system healthy.

SHARPEN YOUR SKILLS

If your workload is lighter than normal, it’s the perfect time to investigate some online courses that will improve your skills, raise the value of your expertise and give you continuing education credit. As a bonus, it also takes your mind off economic worries.

DON’T FORGET YOUR EMPLOYEES

If you’re in management, it’s imperative not to neglect your employees. Understand that they might be feeling anxious, overworked and even isolated. Make yourself available to address any issues they might have. Have regular meetings by video or phone to keep everyone up to date. Let your staff know the best way to reach you with questions or emergencies. Find out if your health plan offers support for insureds who may need it and pass that information along.

 

Lastly, smile and breathe!

Social Media Litigation: Free Speech or Censorship?

In 2017 now-retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy noted in an opinion on a First Amendment case before the Court that the impact of social media in the cyber age was revolutionary. Indeed, Justice Kennedy went further to note it was one of the most important places to exchange ideas and likened it to a public square or park. The case was Packingham v. North Carolina and it reflected Justice Kennedy’s position that the public forum doctrine should evolve with the times, and not leave new forums of debate to remain unprotected.

 

The Legal Battleground

 

The question now is where does this leave the future of free speech in the context of social media. As communication evolves so do standards of private platforms, attempts at censorship by government actors, and the rise of extremist speech – all happening in the world of digital media.

 

Government blocking users: Government officials removing, or even blocking, critical comments online has become more and more prevalent. Another example of this is the blocking of speakers using critical language on Twitter feeds or comment pages on government websites. These actions violate the principles found in the landmark 1964 First Amendment case, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan.

 

Private censorship of speech: Much of social media’s censorship, however, is not initiated by the government but rather by private entities – specifically, the social media companies themselves. These platforms monitor content that violates their own terms-of-service agreements which, in turn, are reacted to by outcries of censorship. Recent examples include a controversial radio show host being banned from Facebook, Apple, and Youtube for engaging in hate speech.

 

Policing extremist content: Private entities, unlike the government, are not subject to First Amendment constraints. Accordingly, their obligation to regulate private expression that calls for violence or advocates hate is unknown. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects hate speech, unless it crosses into narrow unprotected categories of speech. These include incitement to imminent lawlessness, true threats, or fighting words.

 

As can be seen, the age of digital media continues to evolve. Not just by the platforms that are available, but by the public’s use of this platform, which is becoming more global and more polarized as issues are easily debated by millions online. The question is how quickly the law will catch up to the digital age and how, exactly, it should approach these important concerns.

 

For more information on free speech, visit the U.S. Court’s website or The Freedom Forum Institute.

Things to Consider When Deposing an International Witness

flights Things to Consider When Deposing an International Witness

Deposing a witness is a headache. There is coordination, fees, preparation, and numerous other things to consider. Deposing an international witness can be even worse. In addition to the standard procedures you have to undertake, there are other things to consider as well. What are the internal laws of the witness’s home country? Do you need an interpreter? Must you first submit a request through the Hague Evidence Convention?

While difficult, international depositions are by no means impossible. Proper preparation, like every other stage of litigation, is the key.

In addition, here are some helpful things to consider:

  • What local laws are there where the witness is?
  • Do you need a visa for you and the court reporter to perform the work in the foreign country?
  • What oath requirements are there?
  • Do you have to make travel arrangements for a diplomatic officer from a consulate?
  • Can you compel testimony if the witness is unwilling?
  • How can you reserve a location? Can this be done by video-conference?

Some countries strictly forbid pre-trial discovery, while others allow it in limited circumstances. Further, if the country is a member of the Hague Convention, that adds another layer of difficulty.

Certain processes can be used to get evidence without a deposition. Things such as letters rogatory and letters of request can be used. Thankfully, if you only need documentation, this is a much easier procedure. But, they can be time consuming and expensive.

However, you can tailor requests to your needs. It is important to talk to an expert in this area to determine what is right for your situation. Preemptively, the client should be warned that a substantial expense is forthcoming. Finally, be careful to not go on a fishing expedition.

Damages for Insurer’s Breach of Duty to Defend Not Capped, Nevada Supreme Court Rules

Last year, the Nevada Supreme Court issued a decision on whether or not under state law an insurer’s failure to defend – but not acting in bad faith – makes it liable for all losses resulting from the breach or just up to the policy limits plus costs. The court found an insurer’s liability is not capped at the policy limits.

The Case

After suffering brain injuries as a result of being struck by a truck, the accident victim and his guardian filed a personal injury lawsuit. The defendant, who used the truck for both personal and business purposes, was insured under a Progressive car insurance policy with a $100,000 personal auto liability policy limit. His company was insured under a commercial liability policy with Century Surety that had a $1 million limit.

Century determined the accident was not covered because it did not occur while the defendant was driving in the course and scope of his employment. The victim and guardian sued the defendant and his company claiming the accident was work-related. Century refused to defend the company. Both the owner and the company defaulted in the action. Then, the defendant and his company entered into a settlement agreement with the victim and guardian. Part of the agreement was that they would not enforce a judgment against the defendant and his company if the company assigned its rights against Century to them. The Court entered a default judgment concluding that the accident happened in the course and scope of the defendant’s employment with the company. The victim and guardian then filed suit against Century in state court, which was removed to federal court.

The Decision

The court found that Century did not act in bad faith by failing and refusing to defend the owner’s company but did breach its duty to do so. Accordingly, the company was entitled to recover damages in excess of the Century policy limit for the breach and that the default was a foreseeable result of the breach. The federal court specifically noted that bad faith was not required to impose liability above the policy limits.

The Nevada Supreme Court answered a certified question by the federal court, agreeing with its decision although noting this is the minority view. The court reasoned that, because the duty to defend is contractual, a breach of this duty gives rise to liability for consequential damages above and beyond the policy limits.AutoAccident-300x200 Damages for Insurer’s Breach of Duty to Defend Not Capped,  Nevada Supreme Court Rules

The case is Century Surety Company v. Andrew, Case No. 73756 (Nev. Dec. 13, 2018).