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  • August 29, 2018 9:30 AM | Mo N. ElDeiry, Esquire (Administrator)

    Expert Opinion: Defending Lawsuits under Title III of the ADA

    Chain Store Age

    By Scott Topolski

    August 28, 2018

    Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that individuals with disabilities are not discriminated against with respect to the actions and activities of owners or operators of places of public accommodation such as shopping centers and strip malls, restaurants, physicians’ offices, zoos, amusement parks, museums, theaters, convention centers, arenas and stadiums.

    Historically, Title III lawsuits brought by individuals or public advocacy groups have focused on physical or access-related issues with respect to places of accommodation — issues that are commonly referred to as architectural barriers. Examples of such architectural barriers include alleged problems or issues with or arising from: parking spaces; curb cuts; ramps; heights of bar and restroom counters; width of bathroom stalls; doors and doorways, including hardware; signage, seating and dining surfaces; and pathways and landings from parking spaces to buildings.

    Pursuant to the ADA, the Department of Justice has published regulations to implement Title III, i.e., the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, which specifically address such items. These are often referred to as simply ADAAG.

    New Type of Lawsuits

    In the last several years, a new wave of ADA lawsuits has literally exploded on to the scene. These are claims against owners and operators of websites, alleging that these websites are not accessible to the legally blind or visually impaired. There has been a sharp rise in the number of such filed cases in 2017 and, thus far, in 2018.

    In the one known such case to actually go to trial, namely Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida found that Winn-Dixie’s website violated the visually-impaired plaintiff’s rights under Title III in that the vast majority of the search tabs, together with the search box, on the company’s website did not function with screen reader software designed for individuals with visual impairments.

    The landscape with respect to ADA lawsuits may, however, be changing rather significantly. In February of this year, the United States House of Representatives passed the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017. The bill is currently before the Senate. While it has a number of different aspects to it, the most pertinent provisions of this proposed law are as follows:

    1. The requirement of a detailed pre-suit notice to the owner or operator of a place of public accommodation, prior to filing a complaint in court;
    2. Sixty days for the owner or operator to respond as to how he or she will address the alleged violations;
    3. Another 60 days for that owner or operator to correct the alleged violations or make substantial progress in making such corrections.

    In effect, the new bill would put a minimum 120-day freeze on the ability to file a lawsuit under Title III. Many — both those opposed to and those supporting this bill — believe that the proposed amendment to the ADA will drastically reduce the number of such lawsuits.

    The best course of action for owners and operators of places of public accommodation such as shopping malls as well as those who own and operate websites is to be proactive on the front end. Do not wait until a lawsuit has been filed because, at that point, the focus will be as much on the attorney’s fee claim of the plaintiff’s lawyer as it will be on making necessary changes to alleged architectural barriers on the property or modifications to websites. Simply put, hiring and investing in an ADA expert prior to being sued, whether it is with respect to physical or access issues on the property or updating the website and then making the changes recommended by the expert, while admittedly not inexpensive in many or even perhaps most circumstances, may turn out to be much more cost effective than waiting to be sued and then having to hire a defense expert, pay for an attorney to defend the lawsuit, pay the plaintiff’s attorney his or her fee if and when the case settles and pay for the costs associated with becoming ADA-compliant anyhow.

    Indeed, once a lawsuit is filed, the issue of the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees often becomes, for lack of a better term, the tail wagging the proverbial dog.

    Businesses subject to Title III of the ADA would be wise to remember the words that Benjamin Franklin uttered over 200 years ago — “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That statement could not be more appropriate in the context of claims or potential claims under Title III. Take the necessary steps and spend the money now to minimize the possibility of a lawsuit that may very well cause one to spend more money and to take even more steps down the road.

    Scott Topolski is a member of the litigation department in the Boca Raton (Florida) office of Cole Schotz.

  • August 15, 2018 9:55 AM | Marc Hurwitz

    Have you checked your social media settings recently to ensure only the information you want known is showing?  How about your clients?  

    A lot of cases at Crossroads Investigations include searching social media for clues. But we want our friends to stay safe from snoops like us!  That's why we've vastly updated our "Crossroads Investigations Social Media Privacy Tip Sheet" - a 19-page guide to ensuring your privacy settings are set correctly for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.  

    You can find it here: https://xinvestigations.com/socialmedia/

    Please consider sharing it with your family, friends and clients!

  • July 30, 2018 7:00 PM | Mo N. ElDeiry, Esquire (Administrator)

    Can Your US Citizenship Be Taken Away?
    By Elina Santana - [FLN - Member - Miami Chapter]:

    In June, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) quietly announced the creation of a Denaturalization Task Force aimed at finding and deporting naturalized citizens who are suspected of lying on their citizenship applications.  The news has stoked fears that President Trump’s already restrictive immigration policies are taking a McCarthy-style authoritarian turn.  It has many naturalized citizens asking when the government can take away your citizenship, and more importantly, what omissions are relevant to the inquiry.  If an omission is considered lying, then is forgetting to list a prior address or failing to mention your nickname in the “other names used” section enough to launch a denaturalization fishing expedition? 

    Let’s discuss.

    A Lawful Permanent Resident (an “LPR”) can apply for naturalization if he/she has been a Legal Permanent Resident for at least five years (or three years in some limited cases), is at least 18 years old, has continuous residence in the U.S., has good moral character, and is able to pass a civics and history test in English. The most common reasons people get denied include having tax issues, owing child support, having arrests, or traveling too much outside of the country.

    Assuming an LPR applies and is granted citizenship, can it ever be taken away? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.  However, it is currently extremely difficult to denaturalize someone, and it very rarely happens in practice.  Denaturalization, which is the legal process of stripping someone of his or her citizenship by revoking it, has had a torrid past that for centuries was at the center of racists and xenophobic immigration policies, such as anti-Asian movements and McCarthy era inquiries into political ideologies. But today, a naturalized citizen of the United States can generally only be denaturalized if they refuse to testify before Congress, are proven a member of a subversive organization (such as the Nazi party or Al Qaeda), due to a dishonorable discharge, or falsified or concealed relevant information in their naturalization application.

    The last of these reasons is what has most of the naturalized public concerned.  While the idea of “falsifying” or “concealing” information sounds quite extreme, applicants commit many errors when applying that can later be deemed “lying.”  For example, the application asks for “other names you have used since birth.”  Do you have to list your embarrassing childhood nickname or the misspelling of your name that someone accidentally printed on your diploma? Well, the fact is, that if you don’t list them, the FBI can’t fully crosscheck its database.  This may sound like a silly example, but let’s put it in context:

    Let’s say you’re Russian, and your name is Андрей. You’ve always translated it as “Andrei” on your US paperwork, but your US friends call you “Andrew.” You entered on a tourist visa, met an amazing woman, overstayed your visa, got married, and applied for residency and later citizenship.  Congratulations, you’re a citizen. Now what if back when you overstayed your visa, immigration initiated removal proceedings against you, and you didn’t even know about it until recently.  The officer who issued the Court documentation spelled your name “Andrey,” which is a common variance in spelling when translating your name. You’ve seen it accidentally spelled that way before on some of your old paperwork.  You personally never used the “Andrey” spelling so you never listed this on your naturalization application as an alias, and thus this past deportation order never came up in the naturalization background checks. Now what? Does it make a difference if it’s been ten (10) years since you became a citizen? What if it’s been thirty (30) years?

    The Miami Herald recently reported on an elderly woman who is undergoing denaturalization proceedings because she failed to disclose her previous involvement in a crime.  As reported, she was “the secretary of an export company called Texon Inc., [where] she prepared paperwork for her boss, who pocketed money from doctored loan applications filed with the U.S. Export-Import Bank.”  You can read the full article here: LINK.  She never made any money beyond her salary, and in the end, she helped the FBI make a case that put her former boss behind bars.  She took a plea deal.  The arrest, the investigation, the cooperation… it all happened after she had become a US citizen. So why is she being denaturalized? The application of naturalization includes a question that asks, “Have you EVER committed, assisted in committing, or attempted to commit, a crime or offense for which you were NOT arrested?”  She answered “no,” and now the government is arguing that the scheme started before she became a citizen, so she lied by not admitting to crimes for which she had not been arrested.  This presents serious due process concerns because had she known she could lose her citizenship, perhaps she would not have taken a plea deal—perhaps she would have taken the case to trial seeking a “not guilty” verdict.

    Does this mean you must mark “yes” if you frequently drive above the posted speed limit? Last year, the US Supreme Court heard a case (Maslenjak v. The United States) about how broadly the US government could use this question against a naturalized citizen.  The US attorney argued that they could use this type of “lie” against a naturalized citizen for any crime, even minor traffic offenses.  In response, Justice Stephen Breyer said he found it “rather surprising that the government of the United States thinks” the naturalization law should be “interpreted in a way that would throw into doubt the citizenship of vast percentages of all naturalized citizens.”  Ultimately, the Court ruled unanimously that only material offenses need be disclosed, but how the term “material offenses” will be interpreted is only now beginning to play out in denaturalization cases around the country, as long-term citizens are finding themselves in court.

    Given the current political climate and anti-immigrant rhetoric, citizens are right to worry about the new denaturalization task force. BUT SO FAR, the law is on their side.  The Supreme Court decision ensured that not all “lies” open someone up to denaturalization because not all lies or omissions make someone ineligible for naturalization in the first place.  This is good news because even though, in theory, the government could try to denaturalize you over a typo or simple error, they will have a tough time sustaining it in court.  Nevertheless, the fear being generated is very real and the timing of the creation of this task force casts doubts on the administration’s motives. Maybe legally-speaking naturalized citizens shouldn’t be too worried, but as Vox writer Dara Lind said, “their worry comes from a place far too deep to be calmed by promises that the law ought to protect them. After all, they had thought the law gave them the same rights, as citizens, as any American born here.”  The task force reads as another step towards the erosion of the American Dream.

    By Elina Santana| July 24th, 2018

  • September 14, 2017 8:41 AM | Mo N. ElDeiry, Esquire (Administrator)

    On 09/12/17 - IRS issued this statement:

    Hurricane Irma victims in parts of Florida and elsewhere have until Jan. 31, 2018, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments." 

    Individuals who reside or have a business in Broward, Charlotte, Clay, Collier, Duval, Flagler, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Putnam, Sarasota and St. Johns are covered by this announcement.  

    Affected taxpayers include anyone reliant on K-1s and other information from entities impacted by the storm. 


    Find further details on the 

    IRS site


  • September 07, 2017 12:23 PM | Magda Abdo Gomez


         Disaster can strike anywhere, any time. For those of us living in South Florida June first signals the start of hurricane season. While we generally focus on readying our home and keeping our loved ones safe, we must also take steps before and after a disaster to prepare for its impact on our taxes.


          If you have important personal or business documents in paper format, these should be scanned and stored electronically. Make sure that electronic documents are backed up.

        In the event you are ever audited, loss of records due to a disaster is not a winning defense. At most the IRS will provide you additional time to obtain the documents. Failure to provide substantiation for an item on a return will result in disallowance.

    Photograph your home and business before and after the disaster. An actual inventory of the contents of your home and business is also helpful. This will make it easier to make claims against your insurance company for any loss due to a natural disaster. It may also be useful for claiming a casualty loss deduction on your return, if applicable.


    Tax filing and payment deadlines do not change as a result of a natural disaster. If the area is federally declared as a disaster area the IRS will issue a notice setting forth the applicable postponement period, which can be up to one year. This does not constitute an extension of the deadline; it allows the IRS to disregard the time period for filing and paying during the postponement period.

    The IRS notice will specify which states and counties can take advantage of the postponement period. A taxpayer does not have to reside/operate in the disaster area to be considered a taxpayer “affected” by the disaster. A taxpayer is affected by the disaster if records needed to comply with filing and payment deadlines are located in a declared disaster area.

    It is important to know that the postponement relief does not apply to all tax filings and deadlines. For employers, the postponement does not apply to the duty to deposit employment taxes, and to issue W-2s and 1099s. Additionally, the postponement does not apply to interest accruing on tax balances which were outstanding prior to the disaster.

    In the event a taxpayer incurs a casualty loss as a result of the disaster, it may be possible to elect to deduct the loss in the year prior to the disaster by filing an amended return. This would provide a taxpayer with a refund of taxes previously paid at a time when cash may be in short supply as a result of the disaster.


    The 2017 hurricane season is forecast to be a busy one. Let’s hope that these predictions are wrong. Just in case, prepare your financial documents so you are ready for any storm. Don’t forget that I am here to provide tax assistance no matter the weather!

  • September 07, 2017 9:26 AM | Erwin Acle

    Hello everyone,

    We hope that you and your family are safe and prepared as Hurricane Irma rapidly approaches. As you may be aware, our firm has extensive experience assisting clients with property damage insurance claims (homes, condominiums, commercial buildings, etc.), so we wanted to share some helpful advice with you that could help when dealing with your insurance company after the storm. We also suggest that you share this post with your friends and family as they may find this information helpful.

    Before the storm:

    • Take pictures of your home both before and after you have done your storm preparations. This includes the interior, exterior, roof, and contents (including model #'s and receipts you may still have). One thing we learned from handling Hurricane Wilma and various other windstorm claims is that windows and doors might not show significant damage at first, but still allow small amounts water to enter into the home. Please make sure to take extra pictures of these openings as you may be required to install hurricane impact windows and doors if old windows are damaged. Insurance companies will often claim damages were preexisting and use this as a basis to deny or underpay a claim. By having pictures of your home you have created a record of the condition your home.

    • Please make sure to put up all wind protection devices for your home (shutters, panels, etc.). These devices do more than just minimize the damage your home may suffer, they have likely also resulted in you receiving a discount from your insurance company. In exchange for this discount you are likely required to put them on your home or you may have your hurricane claim denied.

    • Have all of your insurance documents ready for after the storm. Specifically, you should have the current insurance policy in a safe place. You should also save the information on your phone in case something happens to the paper copies. If you do not have a copy of your insurance policy then contact your insurance agent as soon as possible to obtain a copy of the policy or its declarations pages. If your agent is unable to provide this then ask him to provide the name of your insurance company and the phone number needed to report the claim.

    After the storm:

    • Report the claim as soon as possible. This will do more than help you get paid quicker for your claim. Insurance companies will often allege that their customers have delayed in reporting their claim and use this as a basis to deny it. We even have a case where the insurance company is claiming that a loss reported three (3) days after the loss occurred was late reporting. It is important that you report damage even if you, or your agent, do not feel that there is enough damage to meet your hurricane deductible. One of the biggest mistakes we saw after Hurricane Wilma was that people did not report a claim for this reason and then had a difficult time with the insurance company because the hidden damages they reported later were worse than they originally saw or believed.

    • You should also take steps to protect the property from further damage. Your policy will require that you do this to minimize the amount of repairs necessary for your home. This will include things like placing a tarp on the roof, covering any damaged windows and doors, drying any water within the home (including in the walls or ceiling), etc. We are familiar with many companies that provide these services and will happily provide you with their information if you need it.

    • One of the biggest mistakes we see in these insurance claims is the failure to comply with the insurance policy’s post-loss obligations. Failure to comply with these obligations could result in the denial of an insurance claim. These obligations include, but are not limited to, reporting the loss as soon as possible, providing a recorded statement, protecting the property from further damage, providing documents requested by the insurance company, keeping all receipts for expenses associated with the damage or alternative living arrangements if all or part the home was unlivable, providing a sworn statement in proof of loss, and submitting to an Examination Under Oath.

    As you can see, there are many things you need to be aware of when reporting and handling insurance claims.  Please note that the above information is general in nature and your individual circumstances may require more attention.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have or if you or someone you know needs assistance with a claim after the storm.

    Best regards,

    Erwin Acle

    Managing Partner

    Law Firm of Erwin A. Acle, PLLC

    8603 South Dixie Highway

    Suite 409

    Miami, Florida 33143

    Telephone: (786) 508-2258

    Facsimile: (305) 503-9371


  • September 07, 2017 9:04 AM | Mo N. ElDeiry, Esquire (Administrator)

    Greetings everyone.

    [FLN - Members] have been sending in lots of great information in preparation for the perils of IRMA, so members can use the [FLN - Blog] section to post and provide relevant information.

    Only [FLN - Members] are able to post, so you must be logged into your account for you to post.

    Stay safe and secure....

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