As an essential services provider in our community for over 120 years, we are proud to remain open for the transaction of our clients’ legal business during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. During this time, the safety and health of our clients, our staff and our attorneys is of foremost importance to us. To prevent unintentional business and workplace transmissions, we have implemented certain protective measures at our office. Effective April 3, 2020, our office lobby and meeting rooms will be available for client consultations and real estate transactions “by appointment only.” Additionally, in compliance with local, state and federal COVID-19 guidance, we have limited physical gatherings and meeting group sizes to ten (10) persons or less at all times. We also continue to perform increased environmental cleaning in our public spaces.
During appointments, we kindly request all that of our clients and guests practice ordinary respiratory etiquette and remain mindful of applicable social distancing requirements.
If you have an appointment scheduled and are feeling unwell, please contact us in advance and make arrangements for your appointment to be held by telephone or web-based conferencing. If you have other concerns regarding your visit, please notify us and we will be glad to make special arrangements in order to assist you.
It is a difficult time. Concerns about the coronavirus and COVID-19 are especially acute in the context of HOAs, condominiums and cooperative associations. For members, officers and directors contemplating upcoming meetings and events, guidance is needed. The statutes governing community associations generally require public meetings, open to all and noticed in advance, and broadly proscribe the wholesale closing of common areas and common elements. Community leaders and members do not know if the statutory requirements remain fixed in light of the present public health situation. What are their options?
The Florida legislature has provided a mechanism by which condominiums, cooperative associations and homeowners’ association can adapt their operations to present circumstances. These statutes (§ 718.1265 for condominiums, § 719.128 for cooperatives, § 720.316 for homeowners’ associations) all provide for reasonable flexibility in response to damage caused by an event for which a state of emergency is declared. Florida’s Governor declared the existence of that state of emergency on March 9, 2020 (Executive Order No. 20-52). The “damage” referenced in the foregoing statutes is not expressly limited to property or building damage.
In light of this statutory authority, community associations and the leaders should keep the following points in mind as they consider upcoming operations and meetings:
- Consider postponing upcoming meetings and social gatherings;
- Cancel meetings and events involving more than 50 people;
- Adopt enhanced cleaning procedures for common areas and common elements;
- Host board and committee meetings virtually, invite members to join remotely (phone, Skype, etc.) and immediately post and circulate recordings and minutes;
- Practice social distancing; and
- Following the guidance of public health authorities such as the Florida Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even small steps can make a big difference in our communities and neighborhoods.
Boswell & Dunlap LLP was thrilled to continue its sponsorship of the 2020 Polk County Public Schools Teacher and School-Related Employee of the Year Program. Congratulations to Dr. Vincent Miller, Kay Llewellyn, and each of this year’s finalists. The firm is proud to be associated with this annual event honoring those who make the difference in the lives of our children.
Boswell & Dunlap LLP is pleased to announce that Sean R. Parker has been appointed president of the Polk Area Real Estate Council. The council connects real estate attorneys and professionals throughout Polk County and beyond to provide education, information and resources to consumers and our real estate community, to enhance the practices of real estate attorneys, and to make each real estate experience a successful, positive and rewarding one. Sean’s appointment continues the firm’s century-long commitment to our local real estate community.
Boswell & Dunlap LLP is pleased to announce that Attorney Jillian T. Spangler has been appointed Alternate Special Magistrate by the Polk County Board of County Commissioners. As Alternate Special Magistrate, Ms. Spangler will preside over Code Enforcement Public Hearings. She will have the authority to determine, based upon the evidence and testimony presented, if a code or ordinance violation has occurred. Ms. Spangler’s appointment as Alternate Special Magistrate continues this firm’s long history of service to Polk County’s local governments, and the citizens they serve.
We here at Boswell & Dunlap help all manner of clients in litigation. We have represented individuals, corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, co-ops, HOAs, you name it. Sometimes our clients are the ones bringing suit, and sometimes they’re the ones defending it. Either way, the most common question asked of us is this: what’s going to happen?
Being roped into a civil case, whether by your own choosing or not, can be frightening. That’s why we have created the Legal Process Flowchart below to help you feel more confident in what may be coming down the pike. Please keep in mind that every court case is unique, and so these pieces don’t happen every time. Likewise, the timelines of a case can be altered and extended depending on the parties and what comes to pass during the litigation process. However, this Legal Process Flowchart acts as a helpful guide to help soothe one of our clients’ most worrying questions: what’s next?
LEGAL PROCESS FLOWCHART
A. Pre-Filing: Often this time period includes contacting the opposing party and discussing possible resolutions short of filing a lawsuit. This includes learning the facts of the case, researching legal theories and sending demand letters. The basis for the suit is broken down into one Claim for each legal issue. A lawsuit may be a single claim, or several, though the lawsuit is collectively referred to as a Complaint.
B. Filing: We file the Lawsuit with the Clerk of Court and personally serve the Respondent/Defendant. The Answer to the Complaint must be filed with twenty (20) days.
C. Respondent/Defendant files their Answer and lists Affirmative defenses and Motions to Dismiss, if applicable. An Affirmative Defense is a legal excuse for matters raised in a Claim and a Motion to Dismiss is raised when the Respondent believes there is no legal basis to move forward, or there is a missing element to the complaint. Complications include:
- Counter claims: Wherein the Respondent files a Claim based on the same facts against the Petitioner.
- Cross-Claims: Wherein either party files a claim on issues involving the same parties but arising from different facts.
- Third Party Claims: One of the parties alleges a third party had a role in the matter in the Complaint.
- Answers are required for any of the above, if filed.
D. Discovery: This is the process of learning about the case facts. Often, it is the most time-consuming process in litigation. Three primary tools are used:
- Depositions (Recorded interview/statement of witnesses)
- Interrogatories (Written Questions submitted by the parties to one another)
- Request to Produce/Admit/Inspect (Written communications designed to narrow the issue of dispute).
- Disputes about the above discovery tools are heard by the court if needed.
E. Setting the Matter at Issue: A party to the suit files a notice with the Court the matter is ready to proceed.
F. Case Management Conference: This sets the case on the Judge’s calendar for the first time, and results in a discussion with the Court and Order to complete tasks before setting the case on the trial calendar. Tasks include: listing witnesses, listing expert witnesses, listing exhibits, attending mediation, making efforts to narrow the issues before the Court and writing a brief statement of the matter at issue for the Judge to consider, among other details. The Court then issues a Pre-trial Order that the parties must comply with prior to setting a Pre-trial conference date with the Court.
G. Mediation: This is a Court required effort to reach a conclusion short of trial. The parties meet with an agreed upon expert mediator who listens to the positions of both sides then attempts to find common ground and reach a compromise solution. If a solution is reached, the Court ratifies same, if not, the mediator files a notice of impasse and the case is set for a Pre-trial Conference with the Judge.
H. Pre-trial conference: The parties meet with the Judge and discuss setting the case for trial, and review the Pre-Trial Order requirements, settle any disputes, hear preliminary motions, motion to limit the scope of the evidence (Motions In limine) and Motions to dismiss, etc.
I. The Case is set for trial: A date for the trial is set on the Judge’s Docket (Calendar) Depending on case age and duration, may take precedence or be “stacked” and only proceed to trial if other cases do not proceed. Often the parties will not know until the morning of the trial.
- Two (2) types of trials are available: Jury and Non-jury.
- Jury: If a jury trial is set, the Monday of the trial the parties will select jurors and the case will begin and take place the days following.
- Non-Jury: This type of case takes place when the Judge hears the facts, and renders the decision. It is generally faster, but should only be selected in cases with certain types of facts.
J. Judgment: The Court or jury renders a decision. If favorable, the Order is recorded with the Clerk of Court, then served on the losing party. Various methods of enforcement may be employed to collect and monetary results, as needed.
We have multiple litigators here at Boswell & Dunlap, and we pride ourselves in communicating with our clients and making sure they feel prepared every step of the way. If you are seeking representation in your court case, please be sure to contact us at 863-533-7117 and ask to speak to one of our litigation attorneys today.
On January 24, 2020, Robert Chilton will host a free HOA seminar at the Lakeland Public Library on Lake Morton. The event, which begins at 3:00 p.m., will focus on legal issues facing Florida homeowners’ associations and include topics such as meeting procedures, estoppel requests, covenant enforcement and statutory updates. Mr. Chilton has been certified to provide HOA board member education courses by Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
All are welcome. However, as space is limited, please contact the firm by January 20, 2020 to reserve your place.
On December 5, 2019, the firm was pleased to join with the Greater Bartow Chamber of Commerce in hosting, once again, a Very Merry Holiday Celebration. Many thanks to the chamber, the Grove in the Swamp BBQ Team, all of the elves at Terrie Lobb Catering and, of course, to Mr. Clause for making the long trip down from the North Pole. The event was a great success.
September 13, 2019 – Boswell & Dunlap LLP was elated to help sponsor the Polk State College Foundation’s Tenth Annual Wine for Wisdom fundraiser! The sumptuous California-themed event, which took place on September 12, 2019 at Polk State’s Winter Haven campus, was a smashing, sold-out success. Since its inception in 2010, Wine for Wisdom has raised more than $425,000 in student scholarships. Boswell & Dunlap LLP is privileged to be associated with such an important occasion.
Boswell & Dunlap LLP congratulates the nominees and winners of the 2019 Polk Emerging Leader Awards. The firm is proud to support the annual event, held in Bartow, and put on by the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce in coordination with Endeavor Winter Haven, Emerge Lakeland and Engage Bartow. This event annually recognizes five emerging leaders from across Polk County for their contributions to our community, both personally and professionally.