January 16

The Duty Disclose Construction Defects in a Residential Real Estate Transaction

By: Bobby Jones Construction Law
Are thinking of buying or selling a residential property? Have you ever wondered what the law requires the seller to disclose as part of the sale of the home in Florida? The answer is this: If the seller knows of a construction defect or other issue that materially affects the value of the home and which is not open an obvious to the buyer, it must be disclosed as part of the sale of the home.

Disclosure normally occurs when the real estate agent presents a contract for sale to the seller. As part of the paperwork, there is a standard disclosure form for the seller to fill out. This is the seller’s opportunity to disclose issues about the property that require disclosure. Note, however, that the buyer cannot simply turn a blind eye to open and obvious defects.

What about home improvements made by the seller that do not comply with the Florida Building Code? The Second District Court of Appeals took this issue head on in Jensen v. Bailey. The sellers hired various companies to perform significant remodel work to their home. Unfortunately, the companies failed to pull the proper permits and also failed to perform the work in accordance with the Florida Building Code. There were numerous construction defects of which the buyer was unaware until after they had purchased the home.

The buyers sued claiming that the seller should have known the construction companies they hired failed to pull the required permits. The theory was based on the legal requirement under the Florida Building Code that owners ensure that permits are pulled for the work performed. The sellers testified that they had no knowledge that the permits were not obtained and also did not know the Construction violated the Florida Building Code. The trial court accepted and believed their testimony, but nevertheless still held the sellers liable because they had a corresponding duty to ensure and to know whether permits were pulled.

The sellers appealed the trial court’s decision. The appellate court reserved the trial court and held that the seller can only be liable if it is proved that they actually knew no construction permits were pulled. The appellate court was afraid of the slippery slope of when a seller “should have known” about a defect and cautioned against the law requiring sellers to essentially warrant the home’s wellbeing.

The best way to protect oneself against such a situation is to hire a reputable home inspector who is not affiliated with a realtor or any other person with an interest in completing the sale. I would recommend a home inspector who is a licensed general contractor in the State of Florida. Not all home inspectors are licensed general contractors and possess the expertise to identify all construction defects and violations of the Florida Building Code, ASK! The goal of the inspection should not be to green light the sale, but to alert the buyer to each and every potential construction defect present in the residence.

If you need advice concerning your duties and rights as a seller or a buyer and what practical steps you should take to increase your chances of a smooth purchase or sale of a home, contact us. We are located in St. Petersburg and we can help. If you are currently being threatened with a lawsuit or currently in a lawsuit, we can also help. We have experience representing both buyers and sellers in residential and commercial real estate in relation to nondisclosure, construction defects, negligence, code violations, misrepresentation and fraud, broker and agent claims, breach of contract and rescission claims.

If you feel that you have been sold a house with construction defects, you should immediately call Jones Law Group at (727) 571-1333 during regular business hours or (727) 753-8657 on weekends or after regular business hours.

Jones Law Group
5622 Central Avenue
St. Pete, FL 33707


January 15

Motorcycle Accidents – An Alarming Rise in Florida Fatalities

By: Heath C. MurphyPersonal Injury

While there has been a trend in recent years showing fewer automobile accidents, the same cannot be said for motorcycle crashes. Since 2001 the number of people in Florida injured in a motorcycle accident has risen by 50%. While the number of deaths of motorcyclists involved in an accident has risen by 90%. The increase number of motorcycling deaths can be partially Florida’s repeal of the its mandatory helmet law, but the rise in accidents, as a whole, must be attributable to other factors.

The most common reason for an accident involving a car and a motorcycle is an inattentive or distracted driver that fails to see the motorcycle. Another common reason for motorcycle accidents is poor road conditions. Examples of road conditions which can cause a motorcycle crash include potholes, areas of the road which are degraded, loose stones or gravel and road construction. Known road hazards should be properly marked utilizing maintenance of traffic standards and failure to do so can render the persons responsible for the road’s maintenance liable for negligence.

With all the hazards facing motorcyclists, whether it’s the distracted driver or the road conditions, it falls upon the riders to maintain a state of hyper vigilance and protect themselves from accidents. While this is a touchy subject among riders, the statistics seem to strongly indicate that wearing a helmet saves lives and prevents traumatic brain injuries. However, studies also show that riders who wear a helmet cannot hear as well as riders who do not wear helmets. More importantly, there is a reduction in the peripheral vision motorcyclists that choose to wear helmets. Ultimately it is a personal decision for each rider to make assessing the increased risk of injury with the reduction in hearing and vision that wearing a helmet will cause.

Unfortunately, the results of a motorcycle accident can be devastating and include:

1. Death;
2. Traumatic brain injury and/or concussions;
3. Spinal cord damage and/or paralysis;
4. Disfigurement;
5. Fractured or broken bones;
6. Nerve damage and/or bikers arm;
7. Lacerations, contusions and road rash; and
8. Neck and back injuries.

Have you been involved in a motorcycle accident which you believe might not be your fault? Contact an experienced St. Petersburg personal injury attorney at The Law Offices of Bobby Jones today. The decision to hire an experienced motorcycle accident attorney is an extremely important one. Everyone has heard the horror stories of the insurance company taking advantage of the unrepresented victim. Worse yet, are the stories of the accident victims who hired a big mill law firm and were poorly represented. It is an important decision, do not base it on whether the attorney owns a motorcycle or has a catchy commercial. It is important that your motorcycle accident attorney has experience in handling motorcycle claims and an extensive knowledge of injuries and future issues faced by the injured rider.

If you have been involved in motorcycle accident, you should immediately call Jones Law Group at (727) 571-1333 during regular business hours or (727) 753-8657 on weekends or after regular business hours. We will evaluate your case for free and you will never pay us a dime unless we recover compensation for your injuries.

Jones Law Group
5622 Central Avenue
St. Pete, FL 33707

January 14

Talking While Driving – The Distraction of Talking on a Cell Phone While Driving

Talking While Driving – The Distraction of Talking on a Cell Phone While Driving

By: Heath C. MurphyPersonal Injury

Do you drive while talking on your cell phone? It is not illegal in Florida which makes it safe, right? Fourteen states have banned using a hand held devise while operating a motor vehicle. A total of thirty-eight states have banned novice drivers, such as those below the age of eighteen or holders of a learner’s permit, from using a hand held device while operating a motor vehicle. In my opinion, Florida is behind the curve and will ultimately follow the rest of the country and, at the very least, limit the use of hand held devices while driving a car.

After reading the statistics, I believe most people would support Florida in this endeavor. The statistics are downright scary, especially when you consider the proliferation of bluetooth devices and cars that are equipped with bluetooth. The following statistics were based upon the most recent data available:

1. Drivers who are talking on a hand held device are 4 TIMES more likely to be in an automobile accident;
2. Talking on a cell phone decreases your reaction time. It causes a twenty year old to have the reaction times of a seventy-five year old;
3. Looking for and answering a call can take your eyes off the road for up to 5 SECONDS. Your car can have travelled more than a football field in the same amount of time;
4. Teens using a hand held device while driving are 4 TIMES more likely to be involved in a traffic than adults who are using a cell phone while driving;
5. Teens riding with other teens are 5 TIMES as likely to be in a fatal car accident.

The injuries sustained by people involved in an accident in which the other driver was distracted or talking on a cell phone can be significant and commonly include the following:

1. Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries;
2. Fractured or broken bones;
3. Spinal cord damage;
4. Neck and back injuries; and
5. Lacerations and contusions which may have been caused by either the air bags or contact with the actual components of the vehicle.

Have you been involved in an auto accident which you believe might not be your fault because the other driver was distracted or talking on a cell phone? Contact an experienced St. Petersburg personal injury attorney at Jones Law Group today.

January 13

Are You Being Paid for the Hours You Work? – Wage and Overtime Law

By: Heath C. MurphyWage and Overtime
In recent years, Florida businesses have been very aggressive in cutting back on expenses and costs, sometimes at the expense of their employees. Have you ever received a paycheck which was short hours? What did your boss do to fix the situation? At best employers will add the missing hours to your next check, but some will refuse to rectify the problem at all. Most employees are not aware of their rights to recuperate the regular or overtime hours they worked, but for which they were not paid.
The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor regulates The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards that may affect full time and part time workers in private businesses and also State, Federal and local governments. In order to collect overtime wages, you must be a non-exempt employee, meaning you are entitled to receive overtime pay based on your position and duties.
Some jobs are classified as exempt by definition. Outside sales employees are non exempt, by definition. While there are grey areas, most employees can be classified as exempt or non-exempt based upon three basic criteria: how much they are paid; how they are paid; and what kind of work they perform. As a general rule, exempt employees must be paid at least $23,600 per year on a salary (not hourly) basis and must perform exempt job duties. Failure to meet any one of the criteria will result in the employee being considered non exempt and eligible to collect overtime wages.
Obviously, the first two criteria can be easily determined. It is the third prong of the test which examines the type of work performed that causes the most trouble. If your job duties include the following abilities and/or duties you will likely be considered an exempt employee.
• Supervising two or more other employees
• Management is the primary duty of the position
• Ability to hire, fire, train, promote and discipline employees
• Ability to set rates of pay
• Ability to set sales goals
• Planning the work
• Apportioning the work among the employees
• Planning budgets
• Monitoring work for safety, legal and regulatory compliance

However, even if your job description seems to qualify as a non exempt position you may still qualify for overtime pay if your employer does not treat you as a non exempt employee. An example of this would be if your employer “docks” your pay if you miss a day of work. According to FLSA, non-exempt employees must be paid overtime wages at a rate of no less than one and one-half (1 1/2) times their regular rate of pay, after 40 hours of work has been completed within a work week.
An employee looking to file a claim for overtime compensation must do so within a specified time period. There is a statute of limitations in the State of Florida for filing such claims. In Florida, you must file your claim within two years of the date which you were entitled to earn the pay. As an employee, you are eligible to recover wages retroactively two (2) years from the date of filing your claim.
There are certain exceptions to the rules for non-exempt employees with overtime wage claims. If you or someone you know are faced with an uncompensated overtime matter, contact Jones Law Group in St. Petersburg, Florida for a free consultation to determine your rights.
If you feel that your employer has not paid you hours for which your are entitled, you should immediately call an experienced wage and overtime attorney at Jones Law Group at (727) 571-1333 during regular business hours or (727) 753-8657 on weekends or after regular business hours. We will evaluate your case for free and you will never pay us a dime unless we recover compensation for your unpaid hours.

Jones Law Group
5622 Central Avenue
St. Pete, FL 33707

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