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Feb082013

Hydraulic Fracking in California - This Means War

Litigation Los AngelesEnvironmental Litigation  

Stephen T. Holzer
818.907.3299

 

Environmental Defense

 

 

Here comes the boom: If someone told you that California could become the next Texas in terms of oil production, how would you react?

Do you envision barren tracts of land featuring nothing but the mechanical bob of pump jacks? Or do you picture thriving cities and an end to the state budget crisis?

It's these conflicting images that may very well spark the next great political wars, as the oil and gas industries face off with environmental watch groups over what's known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The likely battleground is Monterey Shale – a stretch of rock formation lying between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which potentially holds 15.4 billion barrels of oil, according to the United States Energy Information Administration.

That's a lot of crude – adding about two thirds more to the national oil reserve, in fact.

 

California Fracking: Frightening Consequences or Financial Boon?

 

For the environmentalists, drilling is bad enough.

But fracking means injecting fluid, sand and chemicals to open up cracks in the shale, which allow more natural resources to flow into oil and gas wells.

The oil and gas industries have been fracking in California for decades, but a recent boom in technology now allows companies to drill horizontally, targeting very specific areas for the injection technique. With less guesswork involved, speculators are moving in. The environmentalists are on heightened watch. 

State and national green groups claim hydraulic fracturing may pose risks to ground water, air quality and seismic stability, citing problems in Pennsylvania where fracking for natural gas has caused some concern.

Environmental Defense Lawyer - Fracking

Earthjustice, representing four environmental plaintiffs, filed a suit in October against the California Department of Conservation Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) for insufficient evaluation of fracking risks. The Center for Biological Diversity filed another complaint against DOGGR in January, claiming the Department issued permits for fracking-related oil and gas well operations without tracking, monitoring or supervising the high-risk practice.

However, a recent study by Plains Exploration & Production Co., owner of the Inglewood oil field, found that hydraulic fracturing of two test wells here in Los Angeles posed no threats to either groundwater or air quality, and did not induce seismic activity.

 

Expect Fracking Complications

 

As the environmentalists demand oversight to deal with land, water and air safety, oil and gas companies will fight back.

One of the issues they're already voicing is that of trade secret protection. The industry seems to be willing to disclose the identity and nature of the chemicals used in fracking to a certain point – but not enough to risk the years of investment they've made to perfect their new technology. It will be interesting to watch how all of this plays out in California courts over the coming year.

In the meantime though, here comes the boom: The Monterey Shale's liquid assets are already helping California's economy. Speculating oil companies are already moving in, bidding more than a thousand dollars an acre in some land auctions, according to the New York Times. Fracking advocates agree this is the very thing we need to bolster our red-ink economy.

Stephen T. Holzer is the Chair of our Environmental Practice Group. Direct your questions regarding environmental concerns and your property to Mr. Holzer via email.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Wednesday
Jan232013

Promises, Promises: Supreme Court Eases Up on Making Fraud Claims

Business Litigation Attorney EncinoFranchise Litigation Attorney

 

David Gurnick
818.907.3285

 

Overruling an 84 year old precedent, the California Supreme Court made it easier to claim a contract was brought about by fraud. Generally, when parties put their full agreement in writing, the law prohibits them from claiming an outside promise or assurance that differs from what the writing says.

For example, say a promissory note promises repayment in three years; but to get a reluctant lender to lend, the borrower orally promises to repay the loan in one year. Later the lender may seek to rescind the loan and cancel agreement, claiming to have been misled by the borrower’s false oral statement.  In countless situations, contracting parties claim they were promised or assured something that differs from what their written agreement says.

Under old law, the lender’s claim would not be allowed. This is because an oral promise of repayment in one year, directly conflicts with the written agreement’s statement that repayment is due in three years. The law calls this the Parol Evidence Rule

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court said it is fundamental that fraud undermines the validity of any agreement. The Court added that the Parol Evidence Rule should not be used to facilitate fraud. The court ruled a party may claim that a contract was induced by fraud, even if the inducement was an oral statement that differs from the agreement’s written terms.

The Court also gave a warning. Proving fraud "requires a showing of justifiable reliance" on the claimed misrepresentation.

If a written agreement says one thing, but a person claims something else was promised orally, there will be questions how the complaining party could rely on the oral statement. Reading the agreement would have revealed the conflict. If the party did not read the agreement, their reliance was not justified. “Negligent failure to acquaint oneself with the contents of a written agreement precludes a finding that a contract is void for fraud,” the Court noted.

The Parol Evidence Rule is still in effect. It still prevents a party from claiming an oral promise makes the parties’ agreement different from what the writing says. By allowing a claim for fraud, the Court’s decision partly changed a long-established California rule. With regard to overruling an 84 year old precedent, the Supreme Court quoted revered Justice Felix Frankfurter, that “wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.”

The decision is Riverland Cold Storage, Inc. v. Fresno-Madera Production Credit Association 2013 Daily Journal D.A.R. 561 (Jan. 14, 2013). Look for a lot more discussion about this case in legal news.

 

David Gurnick is a Business and Litigation Attorney, a Certified Specialist in Franchise and Distribution Law (State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization), and the author of two legal treatises. You may reach him via email for more information.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
Wednesday
Jan092013

Los Angeles Personal Injury Compensation

Injury AttorneyAccident Attorney San Fernando Valley 

by David B. Bobrosky
(818) 907-3254

 

If you have been injured in an accident and are thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit, you are most likely wondering “how much is my case worth?” It’s a legitimate question, as you need to decide if it’s worth going forward with your claim or lawsuit. However, it is not an easy question to answer. 

My advice is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. These consultations are generally free – they are at our firm – and will be time well spent. 

However, depending on your injuries, how soon it is after your accident, and what type of treatment you’ve received, a potential attorney may not be able to give you the answer you want. 

Injury Compensation LawyerIn fact, in most cases it should be difficult for any legitimate attorney to provide you with a specific answer. At the least though, an attorney will be able to let you know if it’s worth pursuing. In my view, less significant injuries may be better resolved by going through small claims court.  (Read: California Small Claims Court for Smaller Personal Injury Cases for more information.)

One of the things we can do as attorneys to help you answer this question is explain what type of damages are available to accident victims. Whether you have a small or large claim, consider the following categories when you think about your past and future losses that may be related to your accident:

 

Compensatory Damages

 

Compensatory Damages are exactly as they sound: They compensate you for losses you have suffered due to your accident or injury. Compensation can include:

Construction Accident LawyerEmotional Distress – The psychological consequences of your accident could cause anxiety and fear, not to mention sleep loss.

Enjoyment Loss – If your accident forces you to change your lifestyle, i.e. give up sports, hobbies or other recreational activities, you could be entitled to compensation under this category.

Income or Wages – Did you miss work to recover from your injury? Did the accident leave you disabled in some way, forcing you to change occupations, or leave you unable to work at all? You may be able to recover for these losses.

Change in Marital Relationship – Personal Injury lawyers call this Loss of Consortium, and it generally refers to the negative impact an injury could have on your marital relationship. These are common in more serious injury cases, for example when someone is left paralyzed. Every aspect of the marital relationship, including the ability to have sex and be intimate, is damaged. 

Medical Bills – You can be reimbursed for past and future medical care related to your accident. If you will need ongoing treatment for chronic pain, physical therapy, new prosthetics, etc. – your personal injury lawyer will consult medical experts to estimate the costs of that care.

Pain and Suffering – Pain and discomfort stemming from your injury. (For more details on what is included in this category, read: Pain and Suffering - Damages and Compensation in a Personal Injury Lawsuit.)

Property Damage or Loss – This compensation is based on the fair market value of any items lost because of an accident. They could include damage to a vehicle in the case of a car accident, replacement of furniture or clothing if you were injured by a defective product, etc. You could also receive Loss of Use compensation, i.e. reimbursement for a car rental.

 

Punitive Personal Injury Damages

 

In some personal injury cases, the defendant can be held liable for extreme carelessness or blatantly ignoring safety standards, usually with an eye to increasing profits. Juries can punish these defendants by awarding you punitive damages.

Additionally, they are meant to make an example of the defendant – in an effort to keep other companies or individuals from choosing profits over safety, for example. In car accidents, such punitive damages can be sought against drunk drivers and against distracted drivers (i.e., drivers who are talking or texting while driving). 

 

David B. Bobrosky is a Los Angeles Accident and Injury Attorney at our Firm. For more information about damages and compensation or to get a free consultation regarding your injury, email him: dbobrosky@lewitthackman.com.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
Wednesday
Jan022013

Spousal Support | How to Find Hidden Assets

Encino Tarzana Divorce LawyerDivorce Lawyer

 

 

by Vanessa Soto Nellis
818.907.3274

San Fernando Valley Custody Lawyer Los Angeles

 

 

When it comes to spousal support, bitter feelings sometimes prompt people to take negative action. In order to lash out or get back, some spouses will attempt to hide assets or refuse to fully disclose the value of them.

And sometimes, people just forget. (Check out my last blog, Divorce and Money – Overlooked Assets, to get an idea of what you should be looking for in this situation.)

In either case, an experienced divorce attorney can help. You and your spouse will need to draw a complete financial picture of your community and separate property so your attorneys can divide your assets properly.

 

Protecting Your Interests During the Division of Assets Process

 

So what are the most common ways for your spouse to hide funds or property? The most common is collusion – your spouse's efforts to conspire with others to hide money. Opportunities for collusion can come through:

  1. Business: Your spouse may ask an employer to delay payments on bonuses or raises until after your divorce. If your spouse owns a business, s/he could pay salary to an employee who doesn't exist, report purchases for services, equipment or supplies that never get delivered, inflate expenses, or temporarily turn down contracts in an effort to reduce annual earnings. 

  2. Family Members: If blood is thicker than a sense of ethics, your spouse's family could be holding cash, physical assets and other items. They could also be the recipients of a hefty "loan" which won't be paid back until after your divorce. 

  3. Friends: Is your spouse suddenly close to a new friend? A girlfriend or boyfriend may be helping to hide assets. Social media can be helpful in uncovering the truth, and remember that it is important to maintain active relationships with your own friends and family to help in this effort. Now is not the time to withdraw socially, you need to be alert and engaged, especially if you don't trust your spouse to be honest about finances.

Your divorce attorney will know good forensic accountants who can help find hidden assets, especially if your soon-to-be ex owns a business. The key is for you to be proactive in this situation. Stay organized and alert, and you'll minimize the financial consequences of your divorce.

 

Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Divorce and Divorce Mediation Attorney with 10 years' experience at our Firm. Contact her via email: vnellis@lewitthackman.com.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Dec262012

What to Do When a Claim is too Small to Hire a Lawyer

Corporate Litigation Lawyer Los AngelesBusiness Litigation  

 

Paul C. Bauducco
818.907.3245

Many people and companies have disputes or potential lawsuits involving damages in the thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars. While these claims are important, they are often too small for the party to hire a lawyer to file an action.

I have often explained to potential clients why a claim for several thousands of dollars, while a significant sum, was not large enough to justify hiring a lawyer to litigate, since the costs and attorney’s fees they would pay would be far greater than any judgment they might win.

Fortunately, there is an alternative other than walking away from the claim. The California Legislature has provided for Small Claims Courts to resolve such disputes quickly and inexpensively.

In Small Claims Court a person or company can quickly bring a claim to trial without lawyers, who may not represent either party; and without expensive pre-trial motions and discovery. However, the damages which can be claimed in the Small Claims Courts are limited.

In most cases, an individual can seek damages up to $10,000, while a corporation or business is limited to damage claims of $5,000. If a party’s claim is worth more than the allowable damages, the party can still bring a small claims action, but the party’s damage award may not exceed the maximum damage award allowed under the statute. Filing fees for a small claims case range from $30.00 (claims up to $1,500) to $75 (claims of $5,000 to $10,000).

The rules of evidence and other legal formalities do not apply in Small Claims Court, since there are no lawyers involved. The parties tell their stories -- presenting their witnesses, documents and other evidence to a judge, as there are no jury trials.

The Los Angeles Superior Court has an excellent website explaining the small claims process, fees, service of pleadings, etc.

Small Claims Court is a very useful tool when a claim is important, but not large enough to hire a lawyer.

 

Paul C. Bauducco is the Chair of our Business Litigation Practice Group. Contact him via email: pbauducco@lewitthackman.com.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
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