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Huntington Beach Law Blog

Protect a new business and its’ founders with the right structure

Starting a new business is exciting. The founders turn their dream into a reality and pour their hearts into this new endeavor. Bearing this in mind, many owners think of the business as an extension of themselves, so it is smart to protect it - as well as themselves - from any legal issue that might come up. Considering that 80% of businesses survive their first year, and 50% make it to five years, smart decisions can protect owners now and in the future.

Looking to the future

Are you properly protecting your company against lawsuits?

Being a business owner is an exciting line of work. You may look forward to all of the successes your company will see over the years, but you likely also know that you set yourself up for complaints and claims simply by offering a product or service. The chance exists that unhappy clients, customers or competing businesses could attempt to file a claim against your company.

Of course, though you know this is a possibility, you do not want to unnecessarily set yourself or your company up to receive negative feedback or to face legal claims. As a result, you want to do your best to ensure that your company operates properly and that your employees represent your company well.

New bill looks to fine utilities that cut power unnecessarily

The damage and loss of life caused by wildfires is a serious concern for most here in California (and, of course, our neighbors across the Pacific in Australia). This has led to some soul searching about the risks, including utilities since the now-bankrupt PG&E and others' power lines were determined to be a significant contributor to the fires over the last decade.

State Senate drafts SB 378

Jury award $54.6m in suit against WalMart

The 9th Circuit Court recently affirmed the San Francisco jury trial award of $54.6 million to long-haul truckers working for WalMart. According to news reports, this award is for damages plus interest for not paying the drivers during rest breaks, layovers and the inspections of their semi-trucks. The ruling by the three-judge panel was a 2-1 decision to support the jury award. The 16-day trial that featured a robust number of motions is likely the conclusion of litigation that lasted 12 years.

Next steps

Local governments, police and hospitals targets for ransomware

It has become clear in recent years that local governments, its agencies, and other large organizations are the targets of hackers launching ransomware. It starts with a suspicious email that is opened, but soon the hackers have encrypted files and locked down the computer networks of townships, local governments, law enforcement, and even hospitals. Frequently, the only way to regain control of the computer system is to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bitcoin, which is difficult to trace back to the criminals.

The year 2019 saw upwards of 140 such attacks involving local government, health providers, municipal organizations like schools and other public entities. This number is up 65% from 2018 when there 85 documented attacks. Considering the embarrassment some agencies will feel, these numbers are likely lower than the actual numbers. Moreover, there is, unfortunately, no guarantee that the hackers will not attack the same victims again.

UC Regents agree to union demands

Strikes can turn into long, drawn-out affairs where causing collateral damage is more common than addressing the actual issues in the dispute. Thus, it was refreshing to see the University of California Board of Regent’s swift response to a 26,000 UC Service and Patient Care workers, who launched an unfair labor practice strike on November 13, 2019. This was the third one-day strike in a year where the union alleged that there was illegal outsourcing of UC jobs to contractors.

The Board of Regents adopted y one day after the strike. The details include:

Does your former employee have a case for wrongful termination?

Perhaps one of the most difficult and stressful parts of your job as a small business owner occurs when things aren't working out with an employee, and you must take steps to fire him or her. Losing a job can be an emotional event, and it is not uncommon for terminated employees to lash out at their bosses when they are let go.

You may be facing this situation now if you have recently fired an employee who is now threatening to sue you for wrongful termination. This kind of threat may strike fear into you. In addition to being a drain of your business's time, money and resources, a wrongful termination lawsuit could damage the reputation of your business. However, quite often, terminated employees do not fully understand what wrongful termination means.

Uber pays $4.4 million to address sexual harassment

Bay Area tech companies are synonymous with innovation, but the #MeToo movement had a significant impact there as it did in traditional business, media and entertainment. Uber was one of the many tech-based companies that tolerated sexual harassment in the workplace.

This changed when a former engineer named Susan Fowler blogged about being sexually harassed at the company by coworkers and even her boss. She went on to point out that the company’s human resources department ignored her complaints.

Car insurance fraud hurts carriers and clients

Many shake their heads every time they pay a car insurance bill. This may explain why there is an estimated $29 billion in insurance fraud committed by one in 10 drivers on the road each year. These acts could be strategic omissions of little things like a speeding ticket from three years ago or adding a false claim of whiplash if the policyholder was in a car crash. This is rationalized as one person sticking it just a little bit to some giant corporation that is “paid for doing nothing,” but there are also claimants out there engaged in criminal behavior.

What people do not realize is that every car insurance policy accounts for this behavior by adding an extra $200-$300 each year to the price of the policy. Moreover, this is far from a victim-less crime because it slows down the process for insurance claims, takes money out of a state’s budget and can put innocent people in danger.

California institutes insurance moratoriums

California insurance commissioner Ricardo Lara has instituted a one-year moratorium (officially listed as SB 824) that bans carriers from dropping the policies of homeowners living in areas struck by wildfires in 2019. This will provide some relief for about 800,000 homeowners who live in the areas around 16 major wildfires in California this year, including the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County. The moratorium will last until December 5, 2020.

In addition, Lara has called for a voluntary moratorium by carriers not to drop California homeowners in areas outside the moratorium. The rationale for the voluntary and legal moratoriums is to provide some protection to homeowners who have seen their premiums double in triple -- this year will give them a chance to shop for a new policy. Still, the chances are that they will pay more if they can find a policy.

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