Categories
Construction Accidents

Irma Causes Fort Lauderdale Crane Collapse

In our blog before Hurricane Irma hit last week, attorney David S. Tupler spoke of the construction accident risks associated with the unsecured cranes atop buildings in South Florida. Despite some manufacturers' claims that cranes are designed to remain upright in winds up to 145 m.p.h., three construction cranes collapsed in Broward and Miami-Dade counties after being pummeled by Irma's winds, including one at Auberge Beach Residences and Spa in Fort Lauderdale.

What's alarming here is that the winds in Fort Lauderdale and the rest of Broward County peaked at 109 m.p.h., well shy of the claims. Our pre-Irma blog mentioned that construction cranes rarely have been put to the test in a real-world setting, as replicating such strong winds for such large structures was very difficult. We have some idea now, as captured on camera by a Twitter user:

Though there were no immediate reports of casualties as a direct result of the crane collapses, there were early signs of damage, as reported by NBC 6:

The crane collapses will undoubtedly spark debate once again over the need for better testing and stronger regulations regarding crane construction and safety. In 2008, Miami-Dade passed an ordinance requiring that construction cranes be able to sustain winds of up to 140 m.p.h., but the legislation was thrown out on a legal challenge. There no doubt will be a lot of finger-pointing and calls for renewed legislative action in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

The images we saw on television reminded us of the dangers that could result from a construction site that is not properly secured prior to a major storm. Unfortunately, the threat is far from over. Workers returning to the site should exercise extreme caution to prevent injuries from Irma-related construction accidents. The owners of construction companies are responsible for ensuring that the site is secure and safe for their workers' return, but this process sometimes is rushed and safety protocols go unfollowed.

If you're a worker who was injured under these or similar circumstances in Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in Broward County, seek the guidance of a construction accident lawyer to learn your legal options.

Categories
Lease Disputes

Can Commercial Leases be Terminated?

Update, January 5, 2018: Florida's new marijuana laws have raised many questions among landlords and tenants. Lease lawyer David S. Tupler addresses some of the biggest concerns in this blog.

In Florida, a commercial lease may be legally "broken" or prematurely terminated by a Broward County landlord or a tenant when the lessor or lessee fails to honor something previously agreed upon according to the agreement, or when the landlord or tenant fails to obey an applicable law which justifies termination of the lease in Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood. Although you should always consult with a Broward lease attorney prior to taking legal action, here is some general information to get you started.

When a landlord or tenant fails to do something agreed upon a commercial lease, this is called a "breach" of the agreement. A basic and simple example of a breach of lease is when a lessee fails to pay rent. When this happens, a lessor usually has the right to terminate the agreement after written notice and opportunity to cure the default has been provided to the tenant in accordance with Florida statutes. Another example of a breach might be if a landlord fails to make promised repairs to a leased property and the agreement specifies that the lessor will make certain repairs within a specified time period.

Written notice of a breach and the opportunity to cure are essential prerequisites prior to termination of a commercial lease. For example, one of the conditions of a commercial lease may be that the lessor promises to maintain a certain amount of liability insurance on the leased property. If the landlord fails to comply with this condition, the tenant must notify the lessor in writing of the breach and give the landlord sufficient time to obtain the promised liability insurance before seeking to terminate the lease.

Breach Isn't Always Grounds for Nullification

Breach of one condition of a commercial lease does not mean that termination of the agreement will always be legally justified. If a breach does not cause sufficient harm or damage to the interests of one party, a termination of the document may not be warranted in the eyes of Broward courts. A lease dispute lawyer must prove that the breach caused a material prejudice to the party seeking the termination. In addition, the court must consider whether forfeiture of the property would result in an unconscionable, inequitable or unjust eviction from a dwelling in Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood.

Certain conditions of a commercial lease may be implied even if they are not expressly spelled out in an agreement. One implied condition in a commercial lease is the right of a tlessee to quiet and peaceable possession and enjoyment of property. If a landlord’s actions make it essentially impossible for the tenant to have quiet and peaceable possession of the leased property, a tenant may be justified in seeking to break the lease even if there is no language in the agreement specifically prohibiting the lessor's actions.

Each commercial lease is unique to the individuals and entities involved. Prematurely breaking a commercial lease without legal grounds to do so will likely have lasting negative legal ramifications and result in damaged business relationships. An individual or entity seeking to prematurely terminate a commercial lease should promptly consult with legal counsel. A more favorable and cost-effective solution for premature termination of a commercial lease may be to attempt negotiation, through counsel, of a mutually satisfactory agreement to terminate. If you are considering the termination of a commercial agreement, you should contact an attorney experienced in disputes involving leases in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and throughout Broward County.

Categories
Construction Accidents

Hurricane Irma: Construction Accident Risks Skyrocket

Fort Lauderdale residents and businesses were given plenty of notice this week regarding the potential perils of Hurricane Irma. A week before projected landfall, we have been lectured repeatedly about the hazards associated with storm surge, heavy winds and flooding. Throughout South Florida, property owners are racing to shutter their windows, stock up on supplies and secure their properties in anticipation of the monster storm. Many construction sites in Ft Lauderdale, Hollywood and across Broward County went on "lockdown" several days before Irma hit, meaning workers were allowed on the site, but limited to securing or removing items that could be turned into projectiles by Irma's herculean winds. That was a massive undertaking, and many construction companies worked diligently to minimize the risk of injury.

Unfortunately, as is often the case before such storms when businesses are short on time and manpower, it is highly likely that some construction companies didn't do enough. Not only would this pose danger to the general public in the form of injuries from flying or falling debris, sites that aren't properly secured could resemble missile launchers during a storm, not only endangering the general public, but the workers who will return afterward.

ACCIDENTS DURING THE STORM

In a category 4 or 5 hurricane, virtually nothing is "hurricane proof." Construction cranes, for example, pose a massive injury threat to anyone inhabiting nearby buildings, as they are not able to be tied down or otherwise secured, leaving them at the mercy of the winds. While cranes are designed to remain upright in winds up to 145 mph, this has rarely been tested in a real-world setting. We caught a glimpse of it on live television in 2012, as Hurricane Sandy caused the collapse of a crane in midtown Manhattan. The accident was triggered by minimal hurricane-force winds which barely registered 85 m.p.h. With Irma hitting Florida as a Category 4,  packing maximum sustained winds of 145 mph and gusts up to 170, New York's crane collapse has stoked fears of potential disaster for anyone riding out the storm near any of the dozens of cranes in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County and throughout the region.

Construction companies that fail to secure large objects like metal beams, scaffolding and wood all but ensure that they'll become projectiles during a major hurricane. Smaller objects; however, could pose an even bigger threat, as they can be hurled farther and faster. Even the tiniest of objects – like a nail – can become a dart in a split second. Materials of any size that are not properly secured on higher levels of a high-rise site could be thrown great distances at very high speeds.

Suffice to say, a whole lot of cleanup and preparation is critical to preventing accidents during the storm. If a construction company didn't do enough to prevent your injuries or the death of a loved one, retaining the services of a construction injury attorney greatly increases the chances of a favorable outcome in court. You or your family might be entitled to significant compensation if it can be proven that someone's negligence caused the accident.

WORKERS' INJURY RISK BEGINS AFTERWARD

Workers returning to a construction site after a hurricane could be at great risk if the company didn't properly secure the site before the storm. Unbeknownst to them, large items could have shifted, leading to partial structure collapses and falling debris. Risk of electric shock due to live wires is also increased, especially near standing water. Toxic chemicals that were not properly secured might have spilled or leaked, leading to dangerous exposure to the unsuspecting worker.

Like any employer in Florida, construction companies have an obligation to provide a safe work environment for their employees. After the storm, it is incumbent upon them to inspect, assess and secure the site again before their employees return. If they fail to do this and a worker is injured or killed as a result, they could be found liable in a court of law and ordered to pay damages to construction injury victims or their families.

If you suffered an injury on a site that you believe was related to lack of preparation for Hurricane Irma, it is imperative that you consult with a Fort Lauderdale construction accident lawyer immediately after the incident. With every passing day, evidence of the hazardous conditions that caused your injuries could disappear, as debris is removed and structures are fixed. This evidence often is critical to a successful judgment in court. All it takes is one call to get the ball rolling. Let a law firm get a jump-start on gathering evidence that will help you, while you focus on recovering.

Broward County construction accident attorney David S. Tupler, P.A. specializes in injury cases. Schedule a FREE consult at our Hollywood or Fort Lauderdale offices.

Categories
Contract Disputes

Can a contract be voided?

If two (ore more) parties sign a written agreement, learning that it’s voidable may be jarring. However, in Broward County and elsewhere in Florida, it can happen. Contract dispute attorney David S. Tupler, P.A. offers the following as possible grounds for nullification of a signed contract in Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood:

Cooling-off Period

Even after signing on the dotted line, both parties involved in a contract may still be entitled to have three days to consider canceling it in full or have certain goods and/or services removed on the agreement if over $25. Also, sold goods and/or service deals made during a home solicitation sale also get a three-day grace period to cancel. If the signed documents are not clear on the exact process to follow to cancel, consult a lawyer. Similar to warranty periods, if the contract cancellation is not submitted in the exact manner mentioned in the executed documents, legally, the disputing party may make it non-voidable.

Illegal Agreement

Illegal drugs and crime are obvious examples of why a contract would be voidable. However, petty crimes also may come into play. For example, if a bootleg movie seller is contracted and paid to acquire a certain film or a clear quality film, the buyer cannot take the bootleg seller to court for a poor quality film. The buyer also cannot legally fight in court if the seller doesn’t acquire the film at all. In the U.S., software piracy could lead to statutory damages of anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000, a felony charge and/or a five-year prison sentence. These charges include social piracy, counterfeit piracy and online piracy as well.

Mental Capacity

A contract law attorney and possibly law enforcement may be needed to prove an agreement is voidable in the case of mental capacity. It is altogether different for someone to sign an agreement without knowing what some legal terms mean versus being inebriated. For example, a marriage can be annulled if one or both parties is bullied into signing after a fraudulent act or misrepresentation, either party is drunk (from alcohol) or on Schedule I-level drugs , one of the parties is a minor, not honest about impotency, or the marriage is a joke. Contracts work much the same way.

Minors

In Florida, almost all legal rights (including jury duty and being sued in court) can happen at the age of 18 or older. If a contract is created that includes minors, there must be someone of adult age who can agree to the terms for goods and services. Should the minor still choose to opt out of the agreement, that minor cannot be punished in a court of law. For example, if a child actor decides to not participate in a film, his guardian may be held accountable for potential fees but this would not be something that could trickle down to the minor’s credit report.

Missed Deadline

If either party is concerned about when to file a contract lawsuit, seeking legal counsel may help answer that question. The time to file a lawsuit can range from anywhere to a year to five years. If a company does not correctly file within the legal time frame, the opposing party’s lawsuit may be dismissed and the agreement could be voidable. However, if one party chooses arbitration, that eliminates the right to a dispute by judge or jury.

Real Estate

Although there are some oral agreements that can be honored in Broward County court, real estate contracts are not among them. According to the Florida Bar, the sale of real estate cannot be completed if it is not in writing within one year’s time-frame, so time is of the essence. Consult with a Hollywood or Fort Lauderdale contract lawyer immediately after a discrepancy arises for the best chance of prevailing in court.