It’s August, training camps and preseason games are in full swing, and the NFL regular season is right around the corner. In case you missed it on my firm bio, I’m the reigning champion of my fantasy football league. Fantasy football is just a game, but you’d be hard pressed to find many that treat it that way. I’ve been a member of many leagues over the years, and there are inevitably problems that arise throughout the course of the season. How can you avoid some of the most common problems and avoid hiring a fantasy sports dispute resolution attorney?

Tip 1: Read the Rules

The league rules are basically a contract that you are agreeing to at the beginning of the season. If members don’t read the rules, it’s asking for trouble. It could start at the draft – why is everyone selecting a kicker in the first round? Oh, field goals are 25 points. Or it could happen later in the season, as it did with our league one year with an argument about a trade deadline. The dispute led to approximately 132 spirited emails before it was finally resolved. That may not be an exaggeration.

Assuming you haven’t had your draft yet, determine the rules of your league now and send a reminder email for everyone to review the rules well in advance of the draft. Even if your draft has occurred, rule changes that don’t affect scoring could still be made since the season hasn’t started yet. Make sure to highlight any rule changes and address any disputes that occurred in previous years. Continue Reading The League: Tips from a Lawyer for a Successful Fantasy Football Season

When it comes to technology risks, it is easy to be lulled into believing that risks like scamming and hacking are only targeted at the largest of business enterprises. While large technology companies like Facebook and Twitter are certainly forced to react to such threats, it is naïve to think that small businesses cannot also be the target of attacks. To paraphrase the eternal wisdom Dr. Seuss, “a company’s a company, no matter how small.”

Even “low tech” small businesses can become victims, as highlighted by the recent attack on Lancaster County’s Amish Experience at Plain & Fancy Farm. Amish Experience became the victim of a phone scam called spoofing, where an attacker uses a business’s caller ID to make robo-calls to unsuspecting users. While the attack itself did not disable the Amish Experience’s systems, a wave of calls from the aggravated recipients of the robo-calls overwhelmed all seven of the Amish Experience’s phone lines for an entire business day. More detail on this attack is available in the Central Penn Business Journal’s recent article Phone scam puts Amish Experience on hold.

Continue Reading A Company’s a Company, No Matter How Small – Being Mindful of Technology Risks As a Small Business

Nearly all home builders and developers give some sort of warranty to their buyers.  Sometimes these warranties are limited and negotiated between the builder and the buyer.  Other builders provide a “standard” ten-year warranty from one of many home warranty companies.  No matter what kind of warranty is provided, however, builders want to make sure that the written warranty is the only kind of warranty that applies.  Whenever a builder has a dispute with a homeowner, the  homeowner will try to establish other kinds of warranties:  an implied warranty of habitability, an implied warranty for merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose, a warranty for reasonable workmanship, or claims for misrepresentation of latent defects in the new home construction.

A recent decision by the Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed this issue.  Streiner v. Baker Residential of Pennsylvania decided that if the written warranty is “clear and unambiguous” that it effectively eliminates any other warranty “express or implied as to quality, fitness for a particular purpose, merchantability, habitability, or otherwise.” Continue Reading How to Make Sure the Builder’s Warranty is the Only Warranty

You don’t have to be an expert to see that over the past two decades, our lives have been slowly taken over by technology. At home, your FitBit tracks your steps, heartbeat and other health information, your personal photos and documents are stored in the cloud, and any number of home appliances are getting “smarter” and increasingly connected. Technology has also shaped the office and what it means to be at work, allowing work from nearly anywhere with mobile devices and the rise of email, video conferencing and high speed cellular connections. Technology has changed the way we work, play, and even raise our children. Continue Reading Information Technology & Internet Law Practice Group Launches Serving the Greater Lancaster Area

Last month the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Ag Issues Forum was certainly informational.  Less than twelve hours before the  meeting, torrential flooding closed a portion of Route 30 for two hours and opened a three foot wide sinkhole in the highway.  Twelve hours later, the topic of the Ag Issues Forum was storm water management regulations.

The speakers for the month were Jim Caldwell of Rettew, Inc. and Peter Hughes of Red Barn Consulting. Jim and Peter discussed the history of storm water management regulations, both in general and specifically how they relate to agricultural projects.

Jim and Peter both discussed that the DEP’s Storm Water Management Manual does not have special regulations or Best Management Practices (BMPs) that relate to specifically to agricultural projects.  As a result, construction on a fifty acre farm needs the same kind of storm water basins as a two hundred house residential development or a strip mall. Obviously the concerns about storm water, and the ability to manage storm water, are different for these different situations. Continue Reading Storm Water Management in Lancaster County

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with a writer for Central Penn Parent magazine about what has been referred to as foster-to-adopt or legal risk adoption. Lisa Buffington posted Foster care, adoption and forever families in July.  While I agree that adoptions of children who are involved in the foster care system can be lengthy and at times, an emotional roller coaster, I think foster care adoptions are often given a bad rap so I was pleased to have the opportunity to help dispel some of the myths surrounding these adoptions.

All adoptions have legal risks associated with them and they can all be lengthy. In private adoptions, it is true that prospective adoptive parents do not have to wait through reunification efforts, but they do have to wait to be chosen.  In some cases, this can take years.  Birth parents can also change their minds for a period of time even after the child has been placed with a prospective adoptive family. In step-parent adoptions, the law imposes certain time periods that must expire and proceedings that must be completed before an adoption can be finalized. In short, all children to be adopted have to actually be available for adoption. So, whether that is through a private adoption where birth parents have chosen to voluntarily relinquish their rights, a step-parent adoption where the adopting parent must wait until a mandatory waiting period has expired, or a foster-to-adopt situation where parental rights have to be terminated involuntarily or otherwise, all of these legal proceedings take time.

There are pros and cons to all of the adoption options available to parents who wish to adopt. Prospective adoptive parents should not rule out any options until they have spoken with experienced and qualified adoption professionals. We are so blessed to have so many amazing adoption resources in Central Pennsylvania and prospective adoptive parents may be surprised to learn that some of the information they have heard about adopting through the foster care system is just not true.

Holly Filius is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Adoption.  Each Thursday that includes at least one adoption at the Lancaster County Courthouse is the highlight of her week.

Brandon_HarterBrandon Harter and Kathleen Miller have joined the law firm of Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP as associate attorneys.

Brandon joined Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in 2016 after several years with the former Lancaster firm of Hartman, Underhill & Brubaker where he began his career in private practice.  Prior to that, Brandon served as a Clerk to the Honorable A. Richard Caputo, District Judge, Middle District of Pennsylvania.  He is a 2006 magna cum laude graduate of Dickinson College and a 2009 honors graduate of William & Mary School of Law, Order of the Coif, Order of the Barristers.

Brandon provides counseling and guidance on matters relating to Business Law, Municipal Law and Civil Litigation, with a particular focus on the intersection of law and technology. His practice includes cost-effective litigation in the Federal and Pennsylvania courts, including eDiscovery solutions tailored to the nature of each dispute. Outside the litigation arena, Brandon’s practice regularly includes drafting of technology related agreements, such as IT service agreements, software licenses and document retention policies. Brandon also advises municipal organizations on a variety of issues and provides general business counseling. Brandon’s unique experience and perspective is invaluable to his clients on the privacy, data security and social media issues which increasingly arise for both private businesses and public entities.

Brandon has served on the Board of the Landis Valley Associates for several years, and is currently serving as Board President. He resides in Mountville with his wife, Cassandra, and their three children.

Bio KKMKathleen Miller began her legal career with Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP as a law clerk in 2015.  She worked in marketing for ten years at a local hospital before attending law school.  She obtained her B.A. in Psychology and Criminal Justice in 2002 from Temple University.

Kathy is a 2015 cum laude graduate of Widener University Commonwealth Law School.  During law school she was a member of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race, serving as Article Editor.  She also completed an externship with the Honorable Margaret C. Miller of the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas.

Kathy concentrates her practice in Family Law, Estate Planning and Civil Litigation.  Her goal is to ensure her clients always receive the best possible outcome.  She works with individuals and families to help them navigate through simple or complex legal matters in a manner that is least disruptive to their daily lives and allows for a smoother transition.

Kathy is a proud Ephrata native and currently resides in East Petersburg with her husband, daughter and step-son.

For additional information please visit Russell, Krafft & Gruber’s website at www.rkglaw.com.

Last week I received a fax from a business advertising their latest deals. Even if you’ve long ago disposed of your fax machine (hopefully in Office Space fashion), keep reading – the principles in this post apply to email, voice calling and text messaging too!

Before swiftly recycling the unwanted fax, like any good lawyer, I thought to myself: I wonder if there is a law that regulates unwanted faxes? Turns out, there is, dear reader – the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”) was amended in 2005 and provides specific circumstances where a fax sender is permitted and is not permitted to send faxes.

Basically, you are only allowed to send an advertisement via fax if you have an “established business relationship” with the recipient. The statute is a strict liability statute, meaning that if you do not fit the “established business relationship” exception, the sender could be liable for $500 per page in money damages.

An established business relationship is defined as: “a prior or existing relationship formed by a voluntary two-way communication between a person or entity and a business or residential subscriber with or without an exchange of consideration, on the basis of an inquiry, application, purchase or transaction by the business or residential subscriber regarding products or services offered by such person or entity, which relationship has not been previously terminated by either party.”

In addition to strict liability for damages under federal law, there are similar regulations in place under the Pennsylvania Unsolicited Telecommunications Advertisement Act. A violation of the Pennsylvania law could enable treble damages (triple the usual amount) for certain violations.

Our firm has encountered lawsuits where companies file class action lawsuits against a large number of defendants for sending unwanted fax advertisements. Since it is a strict liability statute, and with the possibility of treble damages under Pennsylvania law, such lawsuits can be lucrative to plaintiffs and expensive for businesses who violate the law.

The TCPA also limits telemarketing calls and SMS text messages as well.

What about spam email? There’s a law for that too, called the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. There are very specific requirements for what you need to include in commercial emails. Commercial emails are defined as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” The law also makes you responsible for those acting on your behalf, so if you hire a company to handle your email marketing, confirm that they are following the appropriate procedures for CAN-SPAM Act compliance. Fines per violation could be up to $16,000, so it’s important to make sure any commercial emails you send comply with the provisions of CAN-SPAM.

Business owners rely on effective and creative marketing to grow their business, but make sure you’re aware of the limitations of these marketing methods so that you aren’t faced with an unwanted lawsuit or fine.

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs.

You may have read the New York Times article entitled Contract for Deed Lending Gets Federal Scrutiny.  The Times reported that the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) is looking into whether a commonly used technique for the sale of residential real estate known as a Contract for Deed or Installment Sale Agreement may violate federal Truth in Lending laws.  It is speculated that the CFPB is focusing on the increased use of this technique and abuses in the marketplace that target lower income buyers.

Up to now, the CFPB has focused on institutional financing and has not focused on the individual sale of houses by homeowners.  The recent interest in these matters may be based on what the Times reports to be a widespread use of this technique in the mid-west and south where there are a large number of homes that sell for less than $100,000.00.  The article points out that a firm in Texas, apparently, has become a national player in the Contract for Deed business. Continue Reading Contract for Deed and Installment Sale Agreements

Governor Wolf recently signed a Bill that makes it much easier for condominium and homeowners’ associations to limit leasing in their communities.  House Bill 1340 makes it clear that a leasing restriction can be passed without unanimous approval of all unit owners.  This means that an amendment to limit or even prohibit leasing in the community can be enacted the same way as any other amendment to the governing documents.  It can be passed by the affirmative vote of sixty-seven percent of all unit owners (unless the Declaration provides for a larger percentage).

We have worked with many condominium and homeowners’ associations to enact amendments that would limit the number of units that are leased in a community.  In many cases, opponents of these amendments have argued that preventing a unit owner from leasing their unit is a “change in the use of a unit.”  Section 3319 of the Pennsylvania Uniform Condominium Act (and Section 5319 of the Pennsylvania Uniform Planned Communities Act) provides that an amendment that changes the use of a unit can only be enacted with unanimous consent of all unit owners.  This led to the question of whether prohibiting a unit owner from leasing their unit was a change to the use of the unit or not.  No Pennsylvania Court had ever ruled on the issue, however, there have been a number of rulings in the condominium setting from other states.  These rulings have been split.  Some states have said leasing amendments require unanimous approval, while others have said they do not. Continue Reading Condo & Homeowners’ Associations Do Not Need Unanimous Approval To Limit Or Prohibit Leasing