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susanodess-srhl-224x300The firm’s Susan C. Odess authored an article that appeared as the featured guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article, which is titled “Court Opens Citizens Property Insurance to Claims for Consequential Damages,” focuses on a recent precedent-setting ruling with a certified question to the Florida Supreme Court by the state’s Fifth District Court of Appeal.  It reads:

. . . The appellate panel overturned the trial court’s decision and remanded the case back to the lower court for hearings on whether the claimant is entitled to consequential damages for lost rental income caused by the insurer’s delays and denials.

The case began with an insurance claim by Manor House with Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which accepted responsibility for the loss and paid $1.93 million. The property owner later reopened the claim seeking $10 million, and the insurer subsequently made additional payments for approximately $345,000. However, Citizens’ adjuster estimated the actual cash value and replacement cost value of the policyholder’s loss to be in the $5.5 to $6.5 million range.

dbr-logo-1-300x57The property owner eventually sued in 2007 seeking prompt payment of the allegedly undisputed amount of $6.4 million and asking the court to compel Citizens to engage in the appraisal procedures called for under the policy.

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JCatalano200x300-200x300For the second consecutive day, an article by one of the firm’s attorneys is featured as the guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article by shareholder John Catalano, which is titled “New Remote Online Notary Law Brings Notarization Process Into 21st Century in Florida,” discusses the ramifications of the new Florida law authorizing the use of remote online notarization to enable signers and notaries to use audio and video communications to notarize signatures.  His article reads:

. . . The remote online notary (RON) process entails the use of a live two-way video conference, such as Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangouts, to meet the statutory personal appearance requirements for notarizations. Notaries and signers will be able to see the documents on their screens during the conferences, and they must follow specific procedures for identity proofing. This includes the use of data services to have signers answer questions requiring personal knowledge, and they may also use facial recognition services.

dbr-logo-300x57Notaries using RON must provide a clear video recording with audio of the notarial act along with a post-execution document record, and they must also utilize a comprehensive vendor security program to help ensure data security. They will use their electronic notary seal as well as their signature to secure documents against tampering, and they must retain recordings of the video conferences for at least five years.

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ElisabethKozlow-240x300Our firm would like to congratulate shareholder Elisabeth D. Kozlow on her appointment as chairperson of The Florida Bar Aviation Law Committee. She will mark the beginning of her tenure at the Committee Meeting at the Bar’s annual convention on June 28 in Boca Raton.

Elisabeth has focused on aviation law, commercial real estate and leasing law since 1997. She has represented many domestic and international clients in the purchase, sale and lease of personal and business aircraft, with a focus on international clients seeking to purchase an aircraft to be titled under the U.S. Registry. She has also represented an international airline in the acquisition of aircraft.

All our attorneys and professionals salute Elisabeth on her involvement and important contributions to The Florida Bar and its Aviation Law Committee.

nsiegfriedjmilesThe firm’s Joseph A. Miles and Nicholas D. Siegfried were featured in an article in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper, about a major verdict that they recently secured for one of the firm’s clients.  The article, which is titled “South Florida Lawyers Win $4.1M for Cable Company Fired Over Service Delays,” focuses on their work in securing the verdict for an affiliate of Miami-based OpticalTel in a case involving the company’s wrongful termination by a Central Florida HOA.  The article reads:

Coral Gables lawyers Joseph A. Miles and Nicholas D. Siegfried landed a $4.1 million verdict for Miami-based company PC Services LLC, which claimed the Cascades of Groveland Homeowners’ Association Inc. in Lake County should never have terminated an agreement with the company because it wasn’t responsible for a flurry of delays and problems with services.

The 2012 lawsuit arose from years of bad blood between the parties over a deal that turned sour. On July 2007, the homeowner association terminated its contract with PC Services, claiming it had failed to properly do its job. But PC Services argued it had and lost the opportunity to make a profit on its $1.6 million investment.

The defense argued it was right to terminate the agreement because it didn’t get what PC Services promised.

dbrlogo-300x57Defense lawyers Aristides J. Diaz and Thomas R. Slaten Jr. of Larsen & Associates in Orlando did not respond to requests for comment before deadline.

Making the case was no small feat for the Siegfried Rivera lawyers, as it was laced with technical jargon that would likely stump the average juror.

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With the growing popularity of Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash and other food delivery services, many restaurants and other food service tenants (e.g., coffee shops) are now working diligently to increase their sales through delivery. Part of that process entails changes to their kitchen staffing and meal-preparation techniques, but another important element involves the use of dedicated parking spaces for takeout/delivery orders.

The online food-delivery apps are tapping into the public’s increasing aversion to cooking at home. For the first time ever in 2016, Americans spent more at eating and drinking establishments than on groceries, according to U.S. Census data. The delivery market grossed $30 billion in 2017, but Morgan Stanley estimates it could balloon to $220 billion within the next few years.

food-deliver-300x200The growth in food delivery has even led to the rise of virtual restaurants, which can only be accessed online. These establishments are discreetly nestled away in industrial parks, have no takeout window or signage, and their offerings can only be purchased via Grubhub and other delivery apps.

With the increased demand and competition in food takeout/delivery, savvy restaurateurs are now scrambling to make the necessary changes in order to take advantage of this fast-growing segment of the industry. The result of this changing dining landscape is creating the need for changes to the physical landscape of many malls and shopping centers, namely in the use of dedicated parking spaces for delivery/takeout visitors in order to enable them to make quick and easy stops.

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One of the retail sectors that is currently experiencing significant upheaval is the mattress industry.  Mattress Firm, the largest mattress retailer in the country, is closing hundreds of stores and scrambling to bolster its digital business as a result of significant sales declines.  Bed-in-a-box e-commerce mattress companies are sprouting up and beginning to expand to brick-and-mortar locations, but they are expected to continue to focus primarily on growing their online sales.

Analysts say overexpansion is at the heart of the industry’s troubles.  They point to the fact that there are now more mattress stores than McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S.  The end result is that the industry is in contraction, which comes at a difficult time for struggling malls and shopping centers while many other retailers are also flailing.

As landlords begin to receive rent reduction and concession requests from mattress store operators, they need to carefully consider and weigh their options.  This should begin with a thorough financial analysis of the value of the new lease rates that are being proposed, the long-term impact of the reduced lease payments on the property, the likelihood of leasing the space to a new tenant at comparable rates, and the costs and challenges that would stem from suing a tenant that may end up filing for bankruptcy. mat-store-300x200 This type of analysis can be very difficult to process, as it entails a clear-eyed look at the state of the market, the current vacancy and lease rates, and the marketing and commission costs that would be associated with securing a new tenant.

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Last week I was honored to serve as one of the co-leaders of a workshop titled “I Think That? Unconscious Bias: How to Spot It and Become an Inclusive Leader” at the International Council of Shopping Centers annual US Shopping Center Law Conference in Orlando, Fla.  The highly interactive workshop focused on biases that are automatically triggered and generate quick judgments about people and situations based on one’s background, cultural environment and experiences.

The presentation covered a number of studies and statistics about the prevalence of unconscious biases, and it concluded with helpful action plans and resources to identify and eliminate them in the workplace.

One of the studies discussed found that during the first seven seconds we meet someone, we make 11 judgments about them, including about their dress, the way they speak, the way they shake your hand, and their stare or lack of eye contact. icsclogo2015-300x300 We then naturally assign people to social categories based on stories, books, movies, media and culture, and we cherry-pick information that supports our opinions.  The end result is that we validate and reinforce our biases, making it that much harder to be neutral.

In the workplace, such unconscious biases can hinder recruiting, hiring and retention efforts, and they unwittingly shape how businesses evaluate and promote employees despite their talent and performance.

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Have you ever heard of this? If you are familiar with leases in the New York City area, you probably have.  But if you are not, you might be a bit surprised by it.  Like many legal issues that begin in either New York or California, the Good Guy Guaranty is now spreading beyond those borders, and if you are in the business of leasing space, you should become aware of it.

In essence, a Good Guy Guaranty is a pre-negotiated kick-out with the financial backing of a credit-worthy guarantor.  The guaranty is in place while the tenant is in possession, but if the tenant gives the landlord sufficient notice that it intends to vacate the premises and subsequently leaves the premises in good condition and as otherwise required by the lease, the tenant and the guarantor are both released.

shops-225x300The landlord benefits from it because it has a guarantor that backs the tenant and a tenant that surrenders possession when they vacate, thereby avoiding the need for the landlord to undertake eviction or abandonment litigation. The tenant benefits in that if it gives the landlord advance notice of its intent to vacate (usually anywhere from six to nine months) and is otherwise in compliance with the lease, it can close, be relieved of future liability and not be sued for damages.  And, the guarantor benefits in that if they make sure the tenant complies with the lease, the guarantor is never called upon to pay.

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Much has been written about the retail apocalypse, which began in 2010 and appears to have no end in sight with the recent bankruptcy filings by Sears and Toys R Us.  As the retail industry searches for ways to stem the tide of declining revenue, and online shopping continues to take its toll on traditional brick-and-mortar stores, one trend has emerged to bring mall owners a modicum of relief:  coworking in retail.

In shopping centers across the country, stores that have been left vacant by retailers are being converted into shared office space.  Coworking space inside of both enclosed and open-air malls is predicted to grow by an annual rate of 25 percent through 2023, according to a recent report from commercial real estate service provider Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).  Shared office space is expected to reach approximately 3.4 million square feet of retail space by then, concluded JLL.

cowrk-in-mall-300x217Part of the attraction of these coworking spaces for mall owners is that such spaces often serve as incubators for new retail and even service companies that could eventually mature to operate their own stores in the future.  Mall and shopping center operators also like the fact that these coworking tenants bring added foot traffic to the property.  The business owners and employees who work in these spaces represent ideal target customers and prospects for all of the other stores, boutiques and restaurants at the property.

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ORivera2014The firm’s Oscar R. Rivera will co-lead a workshop titled “I Think That? Unconscious Bias: How to Spot It and Become an Inclusive Leader” at the International Council of Shopping Centers annual US Shopping Center Law Conference.

The event, which is taking place Oct. 24-27 at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando, Fla., provides retail real estate legal professionals the opportunity to gain industry-specific knowledge and insight from leading authorities.  Attendees will be able to network with more than 1,500 industry peers at the conference, which offers presentations in four different formats with interaction strongly encouraged between panelists and attendees.

Together with his co-presenters, Oscar will help lead the session discussing biases that are automatically triggered and generate quick judgments about people and situations based on one’s background, cultural environment and experiences. icsclogo2015-300x300 He will review a number of studies and statistics about the prevalence of unconscious biases in the real estate industry, and the presentation will conclude with helpful action plans and resources to identify and eliminate them in the workplace.

Our firm salutes Oscar for helping to lead this upcoming workshop at the ICSC annual US law conference.  Click here for additional information and online registrations.