HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT HOME IMPROVEMENT LAW? TAKE OUR QUIZ!

Answer questions 1 to 10. Answers appear after the quiz. Good luck! 

1.         A person performing more than $5000 in home improvements in one year must be licensed with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

2.         Every contract for a home improvement must be in writing.

3.         Installation of shrubbery, ornamental plants, and natural landscaped beds is considered a home improvement.

4.         If a home improvement contract is not signed by the homeowner, it is not enforceable even if the work has been performed.

5.         A home improvement contract may contain a clause requiring the homeowner to reimburse attorney fees and costs if the contractor must sue for payment.

6.         A home improvement contract must inform the homeowner that he/she may cancel the contract without penalty within three days of signing.

7.         A home improvement contract must inform the homeowner that the contractor carries at least $50,000.00 in liability insurance.

8.         To perform home improvements in NJ, a Pennsylvania contractor must be registered to do business in NJ and licensed as a contractor in NJ.

9.         It is the responsibility of the homeowner to assure all proper permits are issued.

10.       Contractors violating PA or NJ home improvement consumer protection laws may be subject to treble damages, attorney fees and expenses.

If you have a legal matter related to your employment, please call our Yardley office at 215-493-8287 or send us an email HERE. We will be glad to help.

Answers:

1. TRUE
2. FALSE.  Contracts under $500 need not be in writing.
3. FALSE.  But installation of patios, decks, driveways, pools, fences, doors, security systems, etc.  is.
4. TRUE.  But contractor may recover reasonable value of services if equitable to do so.
5. FALSE.  This may void the contract at the customer’s option.  
6. TRUE
7. TRUE
8. TRUE.  New Jersey has its own Contractor’s Registration Act similar to PA.
9. FALSE.  The responsibility lies with the contractor.  
10. TRUE

A Look Back at the Dental Assistant who was Fired for Being ‘Irresistible’

In today’s post, I wanted to return to a case that made headlines back in December 2012. It involved a dental assistant who was allegedly fired for being “too attractive.” If you need a quick refresher about the case, refer to this ABC News story from December 23, 2012. Here are the highlights:

 After working as a dental assistant for ten years, Melissa Nelson was fired for being too “irresistible” and a “threat” to her employer’s marriage.

“I think it is completely wrong,” Nelson said.  ”I think it is sending a message that men can do whatever they want in the work force.”

On Friday, the all-male Iowa State Supreme Court ruled that James Knight, Nelson’s boss, was within his legal rights when he fired her, affirming the decision of a lower court.

“We do think the Iowa Supreme Court got it completely right,” said Stuart Cochrane, an attorney for James Knight. “Our position has always been Mrs. Nelson was never terminated because of her gender, she was terminated because of concerns her behavior was not appropriate in the workplace. She’s an attractive lady. Dr. Knight found her behavior and dress to be inappropriate.”

The way one looks and dresses can impact employment, but is an employer’s decision based on looks and dress discriminatory?

For instance, in this article titled “Looks can kill job prospects,” we see that it has happened all over – from the military to the financial industry. Consider this one case highlighted in the article:

And more recently The New York Post reported that a yoga teacher, Dilek Edwards, had filed court papers over her dismissal from a chiropractic clinic. Charles Nicolai, the owner of the clinic with his wife, Stephanie Adams, had told Edwards that his wife might become jealous of her on account of being “too cute.” (Adams denied the allegations.)

While I personally feel the Iowa dental assistant’s case was discriminatory, it wouldn’t be the first time I disagreed with a court’s decision.  Saying employment decisions based on being “too attractive” are not based on gender seems to me like saying layoff decisions aren’t based on the company’s financial performance.  Employers would do well do have clearly defined dress codes.  And all managers and supervisors should have enough self-control to do their jobs without having to fire someone simply because he or she is attractive.

If you have a legal matter related to your employment, please call our Yardley office at 215-493-8287 or send us an email HERE. We will be glad to help.

A White Christmas Can Bring Black And Blue With It

The early snows and freezing temperatures look like they may assure us a rare White Christmas this year.  However, the beautiful winter landscapes and the artistry of glittering ice have the potential for creating serious injuries whether you are in an automobile or on foot.  In this blog, I will discuss your responsibility as a pedestrian versus the landowner’s responsibility to keep sidewalks and parking areas clear.

In Pennsylvania, we have what is known as the “Hills and Ridges Doctrine.”  It controls whether or not a person can recover money damages for injuries from a fall on ice or snow.  In plain English, the doctrine says a person cannot recover for injuries in a fall occurring while a storm is taking place or within a reasonable period of time thereafter unless the condition that causes the fall is “hills” or “ridges” or some other man-made feature.  For example, if a snow plow has piled up snow blocking access to a walkway forcing the pedestrian to take a more treacherous route, the snow plow company may be liable if the pedestrian falls and injures himself on the detour.  However, if the pedestrian leaves home and walks in an unplowed area moments after the storm ends, the landowner will not be responsible for a fall caused by a natural accumulation. 

The doctrine provides landowners a “reasonable” period of time after a storm to clear walkways and parking areas.  Business owners who invite the public to their premises are under a greater duty to clear sidewalks and parking areas during and after a storm than private property owners.  While the law does not define what is a “reasonable” period of time, the more time that passes after the end of a storm, the less likely the “Hills and Ridges” doctrine will apply.  Certainly, any landowner who does not make the effort to plow and salt sidewalks and parking areas within forty-eight hours after a storm, particularly businesses, exposes itself to liability if someone falls on the premises. 

If a landowner has taken reasonable measures to plow and de-ice sidewalks and parking areas, it then becomes difficult for the pedestrian to recover for injuries from a fall on isolated patches of ice or snow.  The pedestrian has to watch where he or she is walking and avoid ice or snow covered areas if a safer, alternative path is available. 

Once again, man-made hazards caused by plowing and de-icing may still create liability for a landowner or its contractors.  I have a case in which the snow plow contractor piled snow along the uphill curb of a sidewalk in a shopping area.  Not surprisingly, the snow melted, ran downhill across the sidewalk, and refroze in colder temperatures creating not only a sheet of ice, but ice on a sloped surface.  My client’s foot slipped out from underneath her as she walked along the sidewalk and her ankle fractured in three places.  In this case, the landowner’s snow removal contract specifically stated plowed snow should not be piled where it could melt and re-freeze creating a hazard to shoppers.

When the weather outside is frightful, stay inside where it’s delightful or use extra caution in any outdoor activity.  If you have any questions regarding injuries you have sustained in a fall or your responsibility as a landowner or contractor, please call or email the Fegley Law Firm at our Yardley, PA office.  (215) 493-8287 or scott@fegleylaw.com. 

Non-Competition Agreements: The Devil’s In The Details

Employers are resorting to use of non-competition agreements more frequently.  The attempt to prevent an employee from not only leaving with business, but working for a competitor, is on the rise even in businesses where it has not been common practice before such as beauty salons and doctors’ offices.  Unless a court finds the terms of the agreement are overly restrictive, non-competition agreements are enforceable. In Pulse Techs, Inc. v. Notaro, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently reaffirmed its willingness to enforce a non-competition agreement when the employee signed the agreement upon hire.  Employees anxious to have a job may unfortunately sign whatever the employer asks them to at the time of hiring and do not find out until much later the unanticipated consequences.

Employees should always seek an attorney’s advice before signing any legal document.  If you have the opportunity to negotiate the terms of the non-competition agreement, here are some ways to protect yourself:

1.  If they don’t want you to work elsewhere, ask them to continue your pay for the restrictive period or until the employer chooses to release you from the obligation.  Unfortunately, only employees who bring considerable value to the employer will have the leverage to negotiate for this term.

2.  Define what it means to “compete” as narrowly as possible.  For example, many companies have more than one product line.  If the employee worked only on one product, the employee should not be prevented from going to work for a competitor on an entirely different product.  If competition is undefined in the agreement, you can be sure the employer will interpret it as broadly as possible.

3.  Limit the time and geography of the restrictive period.  Non-competition agreements up to two years and with reasonable geographic limitations generally do not draw a court’s disapproval. However, in Lucciotti v. American Management Advisors, Inc., a decision out of Bucks County, PA, the court held that restricting the employee from working for a competitor anywhere in the United States for two years was unreasonable.  The court noted the employee brought with him to the employment many clients from around the country.  Employees should think about who they could go to work for, and where, if the job ends within the restrictions of the agreement the employer is asking them to sign.

Courts will address the reasonableness of a non-competition agreement on a case-by-case basis.  It will involve an examination of the employee’s job and skills and the nature of the employer’s business.  A small, local company will not be able to impose the same restrictions as a globally competitive corporation.  In the end, it may be more beneficial to seek employment elsewhere than to work for an employer who can end your employment at any time and severely restrict your ability to find new employment elsewhere.

If you have a legal matter, please call our Yardley office at 215-493-8287 or send us an email HERE.  We will be glad to help.

Southampton woman wins six-figure verdict in slip-and-fall case against Phila. Pathmark

As a lawyer, I believe it’s a part of my job to remain on top of cases that fall under the types of law I practice.  This is especially true for cases that happen in my area.  While I may not be representing the clients on either side, the outcomes of these cases may still affect how I would go about representing one of my clients in the future.  Therefore, it’s not surprising that I would be interested in this case about a Southampton woman who won a slip-and-fall case against a Philadelphia Pathmark.  Not only did she win, but she won to the tune of a six-figure verdict.

Here are the details for this case from PennRecord.com:

Barbara Ferguson, who resides in Southampton, Pa., filed suit earlier this year against the Pathmark on Franklin Mills Boulevard, where she contended she injured herself after she tripped and fell over a box that was being used as a makeshift doorstop at the time to prop open a large office door at the grocery store.

The complaint, initially filed at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas but subsequently removed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, accused Pathmark of negligence for creating a dangerous and hazardous condition to employees and the public.

On Jan. 24, 2011, Ferguson went into the back office at the Pathmark to obtain paperwork, and when she was leaving the office for the supermarket’s main floor she tripped and fell over the box that was acting as a doorstop, the suit said.

While court records show the jury verdict to be nearly $793,000, a Law Weekly report states that Ferguson was actually awarded in excess of $834,000 for medical expenses and lost wages.

While Pathmark no doubt argued the box should have been obvious to anyone paying attention to where they were going, the jury sided with the plaintiff.  Using a box as a doorstop was a hazard clearly created by a store employee unlike a spill which may have been caused by a shopper and which the plaintiff must show the store had notice of.  Once the jury decided Pathmark was responsible for the hazard the caused the plaintiff’s injury, they also decided the woman’s injuries caused by the accident were serious and would require ongoing care.  It is no surprise the medical care is expensive and when you add it up over the remainder of the person’s life, the numbers get large very quickly.

If you have a legal matter, please call our Yardley office at 215-493-8287 or send us an email HERE.  We will be glad to help.