The Legal Insider
In this issue:
When Love Doesn't Last: How to Get Back An Engagement Ring
Deciding to propose to your significant other is one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life. Often, a ring is as a symbol of your love and fidelity. You intend to join together and become inseparable life partners for better or worse, in sickness and in health.
But even the best laid plans can go wrong. What happens if your engagement ends? Will your token of eternal bond only be a large expense?
If Your Ring Was A "Gift", Then It Is Theirs
An engagement ring can be a gift. In most states, a gift is a transfer of personal property (a ring), made voluntarily, and without an expectation of anything in return. In almost every situation, gift cannot be revoked by the giver.
But Some States, Like California, Have a Special Statute for Engagement Rings
Not just for engagement rings, but for things given in contemplation of marriage. California has a civil code for giving money or property on the assumption that a marriage would take place. The gift can be reclaimed if the marriage does not take place.
The person who gave the ring (the giver) can reclaim it if the other person calls off the marriage. But if the giver calls off the marriage, they may lose their right to reclaim the ring. If both parties mutually agree to call off the marriage, then the giver can reclaim the ring.
But If Your State Doesn't Have a Special Statute, It Could Be Considered a Conditional Gift
Your state may not have a special statute for reclaiming an engagement ring. But, many state courts consider an engagement ring as a conditional gift.
A conditional gift is subject to or dependent on a condition occurring. It can be reclaimed if the recipient does not fulfill the conditions. It is easy to see an engagement ring as a conditional gift. The ring is given on the condition that the marriage takes place.
Do I Need To Go To Court?
Laws about the return of an engagement ring vary from state to state. If the recipient will not return the ring but you still want to reclaim it, you may want to consult a family law attorney.
Injured at a Chinese New Year Parade? What Next?
On February 8th, 2016, cities throughout the United States celebrated the Chinese New Year. Large crowds gathered to see the parades and fireworks that are an integral part of the celebration.
But what is a stray firework hit a bystander? What if the crowd became panicked and someone got hurt?
Injured by Fireworks
Firework injuries are a common sight during holiday celebrations. Often, the injured person was a bystander who did not take an active role in lighting the fireworks. A firework injury claim can be based on negligence. Filed against the person who lit or otherwise had control over the firework.
It is possible to hold the firework manufacturer responsible for the injury due to product liability. But the injured person would need to prove that the firework was defective in some way. It would be difficult to prove that the firework acted in a way it was not meant to. So it will probably not be a successful claim.
Injured by a Crowd Crush
Parades or street celebrations draw large crowds. But if something goes wrong or the crowd grows hysterical, a member of the crowd can be badly hurt. The injured person can sue the organizers of the event for negligence. They can sue for physical injuries, emotional injuries, and any other relief granted by the court.
But even smaller crowds at Chinese New Year Parade can create a lethal environment. Sometimes a person was killed due to the crush of the crowd. In such an event, their estate can file a wrongful death claim against the organizers of the event.
Recovery May Still Be Possible
Parades and festivals are a chance for the community to gather and celebrate. But with things like large crowds to wild animals, there are a lot of opportunities for a parade to go wrong. In some cases, avoiding injury may not be possible. But getting the help you need to recover is possible. Contact a personal injury lawyer to see if what remedies are available to you.
How Much Should You Expect to Pay Your Family Lawyer?
Family law attorneys can be expensive, generally because these types of cases can be unpredictable. The average family lawyer bills anywhere from $200-$400 per hour, although you can find attorneys who will charge less depending on the case.
What Are Billable Hours?
Billable hours are fairly simple. A lawyer does "X" amount of work for an agreed-upon hourly rate.
- Attorney Tom bills $250 per hour and works an hour and a half to prep for a hearing. You will be billed $375 for that prep work.
How Does a Billable Hour Work?
This largely depends on how your fee agreement is structured. Generally, an attorney will bill a certain amount per hour. Any actual work done, like the example above, will be billed at that rate. Others will bill based upon a fixed-fee structure.
- Attorney Nancy bills $250 per hour. According to her fee agreement, Nancy will bill 10 minutes for every email and phone calls over 10 minutes are billed in 15-minute increments. You email Nancy once, then call and have a conversation lasting 30 minutes. Nancy bills you for 30 minutes worth of phone time and 15 minutes for the email, totaling $93.75.
Typically for family law cases, attorneys will require a fee upon hiring, which is held in trust, and works sort of like a deposit.
- You hire Attorney Nancy and she requires a $2,500 deposit the first day to be held in trust. Nancy Attorney bills $250 per hour. Nancy does 2 hours' worth of work on your case and will bill against your trust account. Your trust account now has $2,000 available.
Why Don't Family Lawyers Charge a Contingency Fee?
Contingency fees are based on the final outcome of a case. Family cases are difficult to assess the time and work needed to close the case and are therefore, too risky for attorneys to bill this way. Not only that, but state ethics committees have clear ethical guidelines for attorneys not to bill this way in family law cases.
Can I Hire a Family Lawyer For Only Part of My Case?
Limited scope representation means you hire a lawyer for only part of your case. For example, you can hire an attorney to draft your paperwork, while you do everything else. Many attorneys shy away from this kind of representation, as there are ethical implications and risks involved for both sides. However, numerous states encourage limited scope representation and some attorneys are open to negotiating their pay structure.
Constant Harassment Creates Hostile Work Environments
You may have heard the term "hostile work environment", but did you know there are actually no federal or state laws that explicitly outlaw a "hostile work environment?" That's because a hostile work environment is created via different forms of employment discrimination, which is outlawed.
What Exactly are You Protected From?
Due to federal employment discrimination laws, employees are protected from harassment behavior from the employer, a fellow coworker, client, or customer. Generally, you need to be a part of a company that retains at least 15 employees to be protected under federal discrimination laws.
What Constitutes Harassment?
Harassment can come in many different forms. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (the federal commission in charge of enforcing harassment and discrimination laws, or the "EEOC") defines harassment as unwelcome or offensive conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Recent Supreme Court rulings have also made the EEOC consider claims based upon sexual orientation discrimination as well.
The behavior becomes unlawful if the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment and/or if the severity of the conduct creates an environment that a reasonable person would find offensive, intimidating, or hostile.
Unwanted or offensive conduct can be anything from jokes concerning race, sex, disability, or other protected biases, racial slurs, and insults to threats, physical assaults, indecent gestures, or intimidation. Isolated rudeness, petty slights, or casual jokes are generally not enough, as it must be recurring and go beyond what a reasonable person would consider acceptable.
How Can You Prove You're In a Hostile Work Environment?
Each case is based upon the totality of the circumstances and each element that must be proved is based upon the type of harassment that has created the hostile work environment. Generally, the EEOC is going to consider:
- The conduct was intentional,
- The conduct was severe,
- The conduct was recurring and/or pervasive enough to interfere with the employee's ability to perform his/her job, and
- The employer knew and failed to take reasonable steps to remedy the hostile work environment.
If the harassment behavior has created an environment so severe that it affects your ability to do your job, then you may want to contact an employment lawyer.