VirginLaw

The Blog

  • Virgin Islands Poses Unique Challenges to Insurers

    http://www.ambest.com/video/MediaArchive.aspx?lid=5464788416001&vid=5476480496001

    Attorney Bentz: Virgin Islands Poses Unique Challenges to Insurers

    Attorney Karin Bentz said the Virgin Islands is known as a plaintiff-friendly region, which require a variety of legal strategies and responses from those defending insurance claims. Bentz spoke with A.M. BestTV at the 2017 national conference of the National Association of Independent Insurance Adjusters.

  • Victory for Emotional Support Animals-3rd Circuit holds Fair Housing Claim survives death of dog owner in Virgin Islands

    Appellants Barbara Walters and Judith Kromenhoek
    filed these civil rights actions under the Fair Housing Act.
    Walters and Kromenhoek sought accommodations for their
    disabilities in the form of emotional support animals, which
    were not permitted under the rules of their condominium
    association. They allege violations of their right to a
    reasonable accommodation of their disabilities, 42 U.S.C.
    § 3604(f)(3)(B), and interference with the exercise of their
    fair housing rights, 42 U.S.C. § 3617. They also allege
    supplemental territorial claims.
    Among other issues, these cases raise the question
    whether a Fair Housing Act claim survives the death of a
    party. We hold that the District Court improperly answered
    this question by applying a limited gap-filler statute,
    42 U.S.C. § 1988(a), and, in turn, territorial law. We
    conclude that the survival of claims under the Fair Housing
    Act is not governed by Section 1988(a), but rather by federal
    common law, under which a Fair Housing Act claim survives
    the death of a party. Accordingly, we will reverse the District
    Court’s grant of summary judgment against Walters executrix.

  • Evictions in the USVI

    Ease of Eviction
    The eviction process in the Virgin Islands is very straight forward. Once the tenant is served, but at least three days before the bench trial, the landlord may file a Forcible entry and detainer complaint with the Magistrate Division of the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands. The time varies between when the complaint is filed and when the case is actually heard. Barring an issue with service, most cases are heard within a month of filing. Similar to most civil proceedings, the most important aspect of the Forcible entry and detainer process is service. If the tenant is not served and, or the landlord lacks sufficient proof of service, the matter will not be heard. The tenant must be adequately served with notice before a Forcible entry and detainer action is heard.

    Similarities between eviction process in the V.I. and mainland U.S.

    Most jurisdictions in the United States mainland have enacted statutes to govern the relationship between landlord and tenant and, most specifically to provide landlords the ability to use a summary judicial proceeding to regain possession. Like the Virgin Islands, jurisdictions such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Missouri, require landlords to use a summary judicial proceeding to regain possession of a leased premises. This statutory action is called a different name in different states. For instance, in the Virgin Islands the statutory action is called an action for forcible entry and detainer. However, in states such as Alabama, Minnesota, Utah and Washington, the statutory action is referred to as an unlawful detainer action. In California, the eviction action is called an action for possession whereas it is referred to as a summary eviction action in Massachusetts, North Dakota and West Virginia. Regardless of how the action is styled, its main purpose is to afford landlords the opportunity to avail themselves of the court without resorting to force or violence to retake the leased premises. The Virgin Islands Forcible entry and detainer statute is of no exception.

  • Trademark Representation-Intellectual Property

    If you are looking for trademark and/or copyright representation in the Virgin Islands, we are here to help. In addition to our trademark and copyright infringement practice the following services are also provided by our firm:
    Due diligence for intellectual property transactions
    Trademark registration in the US Virgin Islands
    Trademark prosecution in the US Virgin Islands
    Registration of copyrights in the US please give us a call to find out how we can help you.

  • Gross Receipts Tax Amnesty until January 3, 2017

    VIBIR IMPLEMENTS THE GROSS RECEIPTS TAX AMNESTY

    MARVIN L. PICKERING, DIRECTOR OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS BUREAU OF INTERNAL REVENUE, ANNOUNCES THAT THE
    GROSS RECIEPTS TAX AMNESTY, SIGNED INTO LAW BY GOVERNOR KENNETH E. MAPP, ON OCTOBER 6, 2016 (ACT
    NO. 7930) IS IN EFFECT AND WILL END ON TUESDAY, JANUARY 3, 2017.
    DIRECTOR PICKERING STRONGLY URGES TAXPAYERS WHO HAVE OUTSTANDING GROSS RECEIPTS TAX OBLIGATIONS
    TO FILE AND PAY THE GROSS RECEIPTS TAXES BEFORE THE DEADLINE. HE STATED THAT THE LAST GROSS
    RECEIPTS TAX RETURNS THAT WILL QUALIFY FOR THE AMNESTY PROGRAM IS THE AUGUST 2016 MONTHLY GROSS
    RECEIPTS TAX RETURN AND THE ANNUAL 2015 GROSS RECEIPTS TAX RETURN.
    PAYMENTS FOR THE GROSS RECEIPT TAX UNDER THE AMNESTY PROGRAM SHOULD BE MADE BY CASH, CREDIT
    CARD (VISA OR MASTERCARD), BANK CHECKS AND MONEY ORDERS. DIRECTOR PICKERING EXPLAINED THAT DUE TO
    A CONCERN ABOUT DISHONORED CHECKS, WE ARE TAKING THIS PRECAUTION TO ENSURE THAT ALL
    PAYMENTS ACCEPTED UNDER THE AMNESTY PROGRAM WILL BE HONORED BY THE BANK.

    DIRECTOR PICKERING FURTHER CAUTIONED TAXPAYERS THAT THE

    AMNESTY DOES NOT AFFECT THE BUREAU’S COLLECTION EFFORTS. “THE BUREAU WILL CONTINUE TO CONTACT
    DELINQUENT TAXPAYERS AND ATTEMPT TO OBTAIN PAYMENTS THROUGH THE STATUTORY COLLECTION METHODS,” HE
    ADDED.
    FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CALL THE DELINQUENT ACCOUNTS AND RETURNS BRANCH ON ST. CROIX AT
    773-1040, EXTENSION 4254, OR 715-1040,
    EXTENSIONS 2232 ON ST. THOMAS.

  • 3rd Circuit upholds dismissal of consortium claim after spouse’s ‘surprise’ settlement

    (Reuters) – A federal appeals court has affirmed the dismissal of a woman’s loss of consortium claim after she accused her then-husband of secretly striking his own settlement in a case they brought over his injuries from a crash involving an allegedly defective Ford Motor Co truck.

     

    The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Thursday that a lower court had rightly granted Ford’s motion for summary judgment on the claim from Jacqueline Rupert, who said she lost the companionship and comfort of her husband Michael after he suffered devastating burn injuries in a 2010 crash that led to the loss of both legs, an arm and penis.

     

    According to their 2012 lawsuit, Michael Rupert was involved in an accident while driving his 1993 Ford F-250 pickup truck. The truck caught fire and he was unable to escape the cabin, leading him to suffer severe burn injuries. He and Jacqueline settled with the driver of another vehicle involved in the accident and the driver’s employer for $19 million, of which Jacqueline received about 3 percent, according to court filings.

     

    The Ruperts then sued Ford, bringing claims including strict liability, negligence and failure to warn, as well as a loss of consortium claim on behalf of Jacqueline. They alleged that had the truck cabin been better designed, Michael would not have been trapped and his injuries would have been avoided or mitigated.

     

    While the suit was pending, the couple was also going through divorce proceedings, which Jacqueline described as contentious, according to court filings. The spouses each retained separate attorneys, but Jacqueline said they were cooperating on the litigation until Michael suddenly announced that he had reached a settlement with Ford that did not include her.

     

    Jacqueline said this put her at a disadvantage, as she had relied on Michael’s legal team to lead the litigation, particularly since her claim was derivative and predicated on the success of his case. She asked for, and received, an extension on certain discovery deadlines.

     

    Ford moved to disqualify Jacqueline Rupert’s expert witnesses, and the court partly granted the motion, striking critical testimony including support for her claim that the truck was not crashworthy. Without that support, Jacqueline could not support her claim, and the judge granted Ford’s motion for summary judgment.

     

    Jacqueline Rupert appealed, saying the court had wrongly excluded her expert witness’s testimony and had treated her unfairly as she attempted to carry on with the litigation after Michael’s departure. She also argued that the court had erred in letting Michael settle and dismiss his claim without prejudice, depriving her of the right to litigate her claim.

     

    The 3rd Circuit disagreed, and affirmed the judgment. The district court had allowed Jacqueline to continue with her claim and even granted her brief deadline extensions after Michael’s settlement. Jacqueline “did not provide evidence establishing her right to control her husband’s settlement negotiations,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Theodore McKee, joined by Judges Thomas Ambro and Anthony Scirica.

     

    The district court had also correctly excluded the critical portions of testimony because they were not in the witness’s key area of expertise, the panel held.

  • Leveraging Technology in the Law Office to Lower the Cost of Legal Fees-Is your lawyer up to speed?

    Compared to 20 years ago law offices and the tools accessible have drastically changed.  Phones, the Internet, and computers have advanced to make information flow within seconds. Below is a summary of the technology that has transformed law offices’ business models and relationship with clients. Make sure your lawyer has them and is using them:

    Law Equipment

    Laptops are more accessible and transportable. Both lawyers and paralegals can now take important files on the go with them. The introduction of tablet devices and smart phones has made it even easier to carry around emails and files. Accepting payments with these devices is easier with the addition of card reader applications and equipment for tablets and smart phones. All attorneys at the Law Offices of Karin A. Bentz, P.C. have their own Ipad for use in legal research and other tools needed for quick access to information.

    Legal Software

    Law practice management software can help generate important legal forms. Form templates are available on different software too. Calendar systems and a variety of other programs also exist. These all help make it easier for a paralegal to provide proper assistance to a lawyer and lower costs. We use the Software Technology Programs for billing, calendaring and forms. We store all documents using Worldox making for a near paperless office.

    Research Tools

    Search engines give law offices access to unlimited information, especially about legal precedent and current clients. Legal research systems, such as WestlawNext, can help lawyers look up all the information they need in one database. Most of these resources require a subscription. We use Westlaw next.

    Virtual Law Offices

    No physical office is necessary to conduct legal matters. Law professionals can handle cases virtually. A Virtual Law Office or VLO is growing in popularity with the advancement of technology and the shortening of time for meetings. Clients, attorneys, and legal staff can be in touch via phone, email, and video conference sessions. This type of communication allows for lawyers and clients to save time on traveling and money on office overhead. We use skype and facetime for conferences if necessary.

    The amount of technology law offices have available makes it possible for more efficient legal practice. Information can be shared in a matter of seconds. The ability to communicate with clients in less time and for less money allows lawyers to focus more on the law and less on the technicalities of business. This saves clients on cost, time, and stress. Make sure your legal practitioner has the best legal technology to assist you with your legal matters.

  • Can you file a QUI TAM ACTION in the U.S. Virgin Islands?

    Under the False Claims Act (FCA) a private person (relator) may bring a qui tam civil action ‘in the name of the Federal Government” against “any person, who, inter alia, “knowing presents. . . to the. . . the . . .Government… a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval.” 31 U.S.C. Section 3729(a). Most states have a False Claims statute. The Virgin Islands Legislature has not enacted a local false claims statute. Residents of the Virgin Islands however may file a qui tam action on behalf of the federal government, if federal funds are implicated.

    What is a Qui Tam Action?

    Qui tam is a type of lawsuit that a private person may bring against, an individual, a private company, or a municipal corporation (agency of the government) that is defrauding the federal government and recover funds on the behalf of the federal government. The qui tam action is filed under seal, i.e. it is kept secret, to give the U.S. Justice Department an opportunity to investigate the allegation of fraud. If the claims succeed, the relator’s share may be up to 30 percent of the proceeds of the action, plus reasonable expenses, costs, and attorneys’ fees.

  • Your Resident Agent-Virgin Islands

    Your Registered Agent Matters to Your Success

                In the United States Virgin Islands, every corporation must have a “registered agent.”  A registered agent is a person designated to receive legal documents on behalf of the company and must be located in the Virgin Islands.  Many companies choose Virgin Islands law firms to serve as their registered agents.  The registered agent is the first to receive and review court documents if the company is involved in a lawsuit in the Virgin Islands.  This serves two important purposes for the company.  First, it reduces the danger of a default judgment if court documents are not responded to in a timely manner.  Second, it eliminates the potential embarrassment or harm to reputation caused by having court documents served at your place of business.  The law also serves to protect consumers or other business partners by ensuring a company cannot “hide” from lawsuits by providing a false address or business location.  Choosing a resident agent that is well established in the Virgin Islands community can give a business owner peace of mind that legal issues involving the company are addressed quickly and appropriately.    Our law firm can provide you with a resident agent. Please contact us for further information.