The Right to Farm Act protects farmers from being sued by their neighbors.  The RTFA says that a person cannot sue an agricultural operation for a nuisance arising out of a normal agricultural operation more than one year after the operation started or was substantially expanded or altered.  This one year limitation is a “statute of repose.”  That means that neighbors have no more than one year to bring a complaint, even if an injury or problem occurred after the year expired.  A recent case (Burlingame, et al. v. Dagostin) provided another victory for farmers.

In this case, a group of neighbors complained when a farmer began spreading liquefied swine manure (LSM) from its finishing operation onto their farm.  When I say “group of neighbors” I mean a big group.  I counted 83 Plaintiffs in the caption.  The Dagostins operated Will-O-Bet Farm since 1955.  In 2011, they switched from a beef farm to a swine finishing operation.  They received their CAFO permit and nutrient management plan approval in 2012.  They began spreading LSM in June 2013.  In May of 2014, a large group of the neighbors brought a suit for nuisance because of the odors of the manure.  Both the Trial Court and the Superior Court held that the Right to Farm Act did not allow neighbors to bring this action because the action was started more than one year after the agricultural operation started. Continue Reading Nuisance Claims Against Farmer Dismissed by Right to Farm Act

This past spring, I wrote a post about the permitting requirements for businesses and organizations that transact business within the spotted lanternfly (“SLF”) quarantine zone, which includes Lancaster County.  Since that time, we have entered the time of year where the SLF eggs have hatched and the large, red, yellow and brown winged insects have been seen flying around our area.

Recently, I have been seeing more and more information about the SLF and the harms it can cause to local agriculture. Almost every day, I see neighbors posting that they have seen SLFs on their properties and wondering what they should do to get rid of them. (If you’re wondering, too, click here to read the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s guide on how to eliminate or control SLF adults).  Just this morning, Warwick Township, where I live, reported that SLFs have been seen in various locations throughout Warwick Township. They also posted an interesting story map on how the SLF made its way to Pennsylvania.

The good news is that the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is offering 31 in-person SLF permit classes through the end of the year. If your business or organization is required to obtain a permit, or if you are simply interested in learning how to curb the threat the SLF poses to our community, you can sign up for the free two-hour class at the Lancaster Farm & Home Center.

Laura McGarry is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Penn State Law and provides legal counsel to individuals and businesses in Lancaster and surrounding communities.

If you are asking yourself this question, the answer is absolutely yes, you should seek the advice of counsel about whether a Prenuptial Agreement is a good idea for you. Let’s face it, the era of everyone getting married right out of high school and acquiring all of their assets and liabilities together during the marriage is long gone. Chances are, you already have assets and liabilities going into your marriage, or maybe it is even a second marriage, and you really need to understand the impact your upcoming marriage will have from a legal standpoint.

I realize that prenuptial agreements are often regarded as unseemly. But they get an unfair rap. A prenuptial agreement is just the legal document that outlines the understanding of both spouses as to how they wish to maintain their assets both during the marriage, and in the worst case, upon a divorce. It simply codifies the intention of the parties going into the marriage as to how they will keep both separate and joint assets, and treat debts, so that it is perfectly clear how the division of assets and liabilities is to take place upon a divorce. It is often used as part of an estate plan for a second marriage. In fact, just like if you die without a will, without a prenuptial agreement, your marital assets and debts are divided pursuant to the law. Most of us don’t want the law to decide for us what happens with our assets after we die, so we undertake estate planning and sign documents such as Wills in order to control the distribution of our assets. A prenuptial agreement is no different– it puts you in control of what happens to your marital estate upon divorce or death.      Continue Reading Do I need a Prenuptial Agreement?

Great article from John Stoner, Partner at RKL! We often have the pleasure of working with John on behalf of our mutual clients and he is truly an expert when it comes to business advisors. His article also highlights the need for business owners to take a look at their performance and critically evaluate themselves and their business, not just in times of turmoil, but also when things are going well. Too often, experts (especially attorneys) are brought in when there is a problem that needs to be fixed or when things reach a breaking point, but it shouldn’t be that way. We understand many owners don’t see the value in spending time and money with their accountants and attorneys unless there is a specific problem that they identify and need help resolving. However, a little forward-thinking and some regular analysis can go a long way in ensuring the long-term health of your business and avoiding problems before they start.

We take great pride at Russell Krafft and Gruber in being a part of your team of trusted business advisors so that we can provide advice in good times, and give you the tools to avoid the bad.

One of the questions I am asked most frequently from condominium and homeowner Association boards (and managers) is whether the Association is liable for injuries that occur on the common elements? The answer that I always give is that an Association is only liable for an accident on the common areas if they knew of the problem and failed to take reasonable care to make the common area safe. The recent case of Hackett v. Indian King Residents Association reinforced this answer.

In this case, a resident of the Association slipped and fell on some branches on a common area sidewalk. The branches fell only hours before she slipped on them. It was dark when the resident fell, so she could not see the branches that caused the accident.  Continue Reading Association Not Responsible for Resident’s Slip and Fall Accident on Common Areas

Thank you to Chad Umble for another informative article about the changing landscape for PA liquor licenses.  I’m sure there are many who read the article and wonder why the PLCB doesn’t just increase the number of available licenses or create a different kind of license for grocery stores and convenience stores to alleviate the pressure on the restaurants.  The answer to that question is neither simple nor clear, but I can give you some thoughts on why those options are unlikely to occur.

First, simply issuing more licenses would involve a change to the liquor code in Pennsylvania, which would have to pass through the legislature.  It is not as simple as the PLCB simply saying that the quota should be updated or more licenses should be issued.  Any time a bill is introduced regarding changes to the liquor code, it usually generates a lot of attention from many industry groups.  The Brewer’s Association, Restaurant and Lodging Association, Tavern Owners Association, the Malt Beverage Distributors Association, and more recently the Convenience Store Council and the Food Merchants Association, all are trade groups that are impacted by even small changes to the liquor code.  Each of these organizations represents members in various aspects of alcohol sales in the state and any change to the liquor code often impacts each of these groups very differently.  As a result, when liquor bills are advanced in the house or the senate, enormous pressure is placed on our legislators to recognize the interests of these various groups and not change the landscape to hurt any particular industry.  What often happens as a result of this is little or no change.  Continue Reading More about the Cost of Lancaster County Liquor Licenses

What do recent headlines about tattoos, video games, and my favorite Katy Perry song have in common? The articles contain interesting lessons from the always complicated, but never dull (to me) world of intellectual property law. Let’s dive in:

Athletes Don’t Own Their Tattoos. That’s a Problem for Video Game Developers (The New York Times)

This article highlights some of the complexities of ownership and the right to use copyrightable works. Generally, despite being tattooed on someone’s body, the tattoo artist owns their creative illustrations. So what happens when video game developers recreate an NBA player’s likeness which includes their distinctive tattoos? You get a copyright infringement lawsuit over whether the video game developer has infringed upon the rights of the tattoo artist. For a more in-depth discussion of copyright, check out our article here.

Katy Perry and collaborators found guilty of copyright infringement over ‘Dark Horse’ (ABC News)

A jury in Los Angeles found that Katy Perry and her collaborators for the song “Dark Horse” copied the beat of a Christian rap song released in 2008 called “Joyful Noise”. In the link above, you can listen to each song and decide for yourself.

One of the elements of a copyright infringement claim is whether the work was copied, which can be proven by establishing the alleged infringer had access to the copyrighted work prior to the creation of the allegedly infringing work. In this case, despite Katy Perry’s testimony that she had never heard Joyful Noise, the plaintiffs persuasively argued that since early in her career, Perry was a Christian pop singer and due to the popularity of the track on YouTube and Spotify, Perry was likely to have heard the song.

Candy Factory hosts sweet free festival and shows off new expansion (LancasterOnline)

Tonight at 6:00 p.m., our favorite neighborhood coworking space, The Candy Factory, will host a community festival in celebration of nine years of coworking in Lancaster. The family-friendly festival will feature music, food, tours, and more.

Congratulations to Anne and the rest of the community at The Candy Factory!

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University Commonwealth School of Law and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs. Matt is one of the founding members of the RKG Tech Law Group.

This is a post about reasonable accommodations that does not involve an emotional support animal. I cannot remember the last time I did not write about dogs. Recently, the Pennsylvania Federal Courts ruled that an Association does not need to provide the exact accommodation requested, if the Association offers accommodations that achieve the same function.

In this case, a resident needed a walker to get around. She would use the walker to get from her condominium unit to the lobby of the building. From there, she would leave the walker in the lobby of the building and use her cane to get to her car. The resident insisted that she needed to leave her walker in the lobby of the building.

The Association was not happy leaving the walker in the lobby. It offered a handful of possible solutions. The Association offered to store the walker at the concierge’s desk and retrieve it anytime she asked. They offered to have someone bring the walker to her parking space so she could use it to get out of the car. This building has valet parking, so the Association offered to allow her to use the valet parking (presumably free of charge). The resident rejected all of these solutions. She insisted that she needed to store her walker in the lobby.

The resident sued the Association under the Fair Housing Act, claiming that they did not provide a reasonable accommodation for her disability. The District Court and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals both sided with the Association. In doing so, the Court made two extremely important points that help guide Associations. Continue Reading Associations are Only Required to Make Reasonable Accommodations, Not All Accommodations

In my previous post I discussed the steps leading up to the adoption hearing.  In this post I will talk about your testimony and completing the finalization of your adoption.

Adoptive parents testimony is typically a recitation of the information contained in an Adoption Petition, and is simply comprised of each parties’ own biographical information, including your name, address, date of birth, age, place of birth, occupation, religious affiliation, racial background, date of marriage, and the first names and ages of any other biological or adoptive children.  The adoption then requires confirmation of additional information, which I always refer to as “the silly questions.”  They are silly because they are obvious, but the law requires that they are affirmed on the record. Those questions include the following:

  1. Have you received the medical history information with regard to your adoptive child, and is there anything in that information that would cause you to not proceed with this adoption?
  2. Does the proposed adoptee own any property of value? (toys don’t count)
  3. Is it your desire to continue the parent-child relationship you have established with the proposed adoptee, and if so, are you willing to assume the parental duties with regard to this child?
  4. Do you understand that if the Court grants your Petition today, the proposed adoptee will have all the rights and obligations as if they were your biological child? (duh – everyone knows that there is no distinction in the law between adoptive children and biological children)
  5. Have you had any out-of-pocket expenses related to this adoption that would not be reimbursed to you?
  6. This one is my favorite – What name would you like the proposed adoptee to assume?

Continue Reading Finally – the Finalization of an Adoption Part II of II

Last week, a new law was passed that allows municipalities to prohibit Video Gaming Terminals (VGT) in truck stops. If a municipality wants to opt out of allowing VGTs, it must pass a Resolution that prohibits VGTs before September 1, 2019. This new law reverses the 2017 gaming law that forced many municipalities to permit VGTs, provided certain conditions were met. This bill was sponsored by two Pennsylvania Senators from Lancaster County, Scott Martin and Ryan Aument.

In 2017, Pennsylvania amended its gaming laws to permit “mini casinos” and VGT arcades. The law gave different rights to counties depending on whether a casino was located in the county. If the county had a casino, the municipalities in that county could prohibit VGTs. If the county did not have a casino already, the municipalities could opt out of mini casinos, but were not allowed to prohibit VGT arcades in “truck stops.” A truck stop was given a very broad definition in this new gaming law. Practically, many convenience stores could be built or converted to meet this definition. Continue Reading Lancaster County Municipalities May Opt Out of Video Gaming Terminals