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How Small-Business Owners Can Reduce Slip & Fall Liability

How Small-Business Owners Can Reduce Slip & Fall LiabilityAs a small-business owner, you likely don’t have the deep pockets of a large corporation. If sued, you can’t pay out a hefty settlement and then just move on. One costly lawsuit may have the power to break you and your company. The good news is that Maryland is one of the few states that applies a principle called “contributory negligence” to personal injury claims. As opposed to the “comparative negligence” rule that most states follow, contributory negligence is more favorable to defendants. Basically, it means that in order to win compensation, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant is entirely responsible for the incident that led to injury. In comparative negligence states, the party being sued may be on the hook for some damages even if the plaintiff is found to be partly responsible for the accident. That said, it’s in your and your customers’ best interests to make…

Buying a Business? Consider Getting an Attorney’s Help

Business litigation attorneyIt’s part of the DNA of any business: a desire to expand and take on new challenges. One time-honored way for a business to do that is to simply acquire another business. Or, rather, it may seem simple – but as with many transactions in the business world, there are complexities beneath the surface, and a smart business owner will not tread those waters alone. Know the Different Types of Business Purchases When structuring the sale and purchase of a business, there are two options: an asset purchase or a stock purchase. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and to make the right choice, you need to understand the implications of each type, including what is actually included in the sale under each structure and the tax implications of both. In an asset purchase, the buyer agrees to purchase certain assets from the seller, including things such as fixtures, equipment, licenses,…

MHIC Complaints: What Homeowners Need to Know

Contractor Measuring For LevelWhen you hire someone for a home improvement project, you want some assurance that the work will be of good quality and conducted in a timely manner. Your contract should state the scope of the project, along with specific details about costs, payment, and timelines; but, occasionally, homeowners find that the promises included in a contract don’t come to fruition. If you suffer actual monetary losses due to a contractor’s sub-standard or incomplete work, you may file a claim with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (“MHIC”). The MHIC oversees a Guaranty Fund, which is funded by contractors’ licensing fees. Should the MHIC find your claim to be valid, you may be reimbursed up to $20,000. Finding Reputable Contractors When considering contractors to handle your home improvement project, you can contact the MHIC by email or phone to check for any previous complaints for a Contractor in their records. Any complaints…

How to Pick the Right Attorney for Your Business’s Litigation Needs

Maryland Business AttorneysBusiness owners hope they’ll never end up in a courtroom attempting to resolve a legal conflict. Unfortunately, there may be a time when that’s the only option. If you find yourself in that position, you’ll want to find an attorney skilled at litigating business-related matters. When looking for an attorney, consider the following: Recommendations – Consult other business owners you know to ask whether they’ve had an attorney litigate matters on their behalf. You may be able to collect some good input about whom to consider (and whom not to consider) for your legal needs. You can also look for client testimonials on an attorney’s website. Professional experience – Many people assume that all attorneys can handle litigation; however, there are plenty of attorneys who rarely (if ever) set foot in a courtroom. When contacting attorneys about your needs, always ask how much experience they have with litigation. You might also be able to…

New Overtime Regulations: What Small Businesses Need to Know

Maryland Overtimme RegulationOn December 1, 2016 new federal overtime regulations take effect, making about 4.2 million more U.S. workers eligible for overtime pay. Currently, only salaried workers earning less than $23,660 per year are eligible under federal regulations for time-and-a-half pay when they exceed 40 work hours in a week. Under the new rules, non-exempt workers earning less than $47,476 per year are eligible for overtime pay, when they work more than 40 hours. The rule change is intended to have several effects, including: More take-home pay for middle-class families A greater work-life balance Job creation (because employers that previously counted on salaried workers to exceed 40 hours per week may decide to hire additional staff, rather than pay time-and-a-half to existing workers). The new overtime regulations will create some logistical headaches for business owners. Options for Salaried Employees Businesses may have to make adjustments to accommodate the new overtime regulations. If,…

Sony loses motion to dismiss lawsuit over employee data breach

On June 15, a federal judge refused to agree to a request by Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. to dismiss a lawsuit that some of its former employees had filed over a computer hack related to the release of "The Interview" in 2014. Maryland moviegoers and entertainment buffs probably remember the comedy being released in November after a huge controversy involving North Korea. In "The Interview," Seth Rogen plays the part of an ordinary-guy-turned-spy whom the CIA sends to North Korea, along with his friend, to assassinate Kim Jong Un. The country was unhappy with the film, and U.S. officials blamed its hackers for the cyber attack on Sony because of the anger that was stirred. The hack made Sony initially cancel releasing the film because it destroyed company data and exposed Hollywood secrets. On Dec. 8, 2014, Sony sent a letter to its employees to explain that their private information…

Legal options for dealing with an uncooperative business partner

Columbia business owners may be interested in some options available to deal with a partner that is not cooperating. Avoiding a deadlock can be accomplished in a few ways, depending on the circumstances. Many small businesses are owned by a small number of people. This can spell trouble when one of those business partners is uncooperative or not performing. Resolving the situation can depend on two main factors. In business entities that are set up as partnerships or meant to act like a partnership, like LLCs, each partner is meant to have equal control of the business. This means that a majority vote of other partners may not be enough to solve the problem. In corporations, however, having a majority of owners may be enough to get around the lack of consent. When a majority is unavailable, dispute resolution provisions in the business formation documents may be helpful. There may…

Effective human resources policies for businesses in Maryland

If you own or manage a business in Maryland, you likely believe that a proactive approach may anticipate potential areas of conflict and could avoid protracted and costly litigation. Disputes cause by the actions of employees or disagreements with former employees are often particularly challenging, but they can often be prevented with clear policy and procedure guidelines and effective employment contracts. You may be able to prevent many workplace disputes by providing employees with well defined boundaries. Access to the Internet is often necessary for employees to perform their duties, but malicious software can infect networks and impact entire organizations if this privilege is abused. The use of company email accounts may also lead to problems when employees voice controversial opinions or make disparaging comments about customers or suppliers. A well written employee handbook should also clearly state your organization's stance regarding workplace harassment and discrimination. These accusations can both…

Hormel Foods facing AgFeed lawsuit

Many Maryland residents and businesses have shown interest in the outcome of a lawsuit against Hormel Foods. The suit alleges that Hormel Foods did not disclose issues about a company responsible for raising the livestock used in their products. The issues that lead to the suit dated back to 2010 when AgFeed Industries was in negotiations to buy M2P2, a pork supplier. Officials from Hormel Foods reportedly gave AgFeed Industries assurance that the company was in compliance with contracts. The suit alleges, however, that Hormel was aware of problems with M2P2 and filed a request for arbitration over a dispute about the reimbursement amount from Hormel. AgFeed Industries shareholders have stated that they would not have gone through with the purchase had they been aware of the M2P2 problems. The acquisition had a severe financial effect on AgFeed. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court…

Confidentiality agreements can protect sensitive information

Maryland businesses who have important and sensitive information as part of their business process may be reluctant to engage in ventures with other companies. They may be afraid that their proprietary technology or information could be compromised. However, they may also need share that information with other parties. They may need consultation from an outside company or they may need to share that information as part of their sales process to a potential client. One effective way to manage this problem is with a confidentiality agreement. A confidentiality agreement can help two businesses work together without fear of information being compromised. It can also reduce the risk of future business litigation. An agreement generally specifies who is disclosing the information and who is receiving it. It should also specify exactly which information is confidential and it should define exactly what the term confidential means. In some agreements, confidential could mean…