Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Paid Sick Leave in Connecticut

Connecticut has become the first state to mandate paid sick leave for certain employees. Pursuant to Connecticut General Statute Section 31-57s, employers must provide paid sick leave to their employees if they have 50 or more employees working in any one quarter of the calendar year. Whether an employer has 50 or more employees is determined on the basis of the Quarterly Earnings Report that an employer is required to submit to the Connecticut Department of Labor in accordance with Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-225a(j).  You are subject to the act if you have 50 or more employees even if you employ fewer than 50 service workers.   Some employers, such as 501(c)(3) organizations, for example, are exempt from the paid sick leave requirement. 

This law only applies to those employees that fall into the broad definition of a "service worker" under the Act. It does not apply to day or temporary workers, salaried employees, or non-hourly workers. Service workers may accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every forty hours worked. The maximum amount of paid sick leave a worker may accrue in one calendar year is forty hours.  

According to Governor Malloy, the purpose of the new paid sick leave law is to promote good public health, by giving those workers who might otherwise be serving food or caring for young children, an opportunity to be able to afford to stay home when sick. With questions on how this new law many affect you as an employer or whether you may qualify for paid sick leave as an employee, please contact Attorney David Rintoul.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Ten Most Wanted: Keys to Admitting and Excluding Evidence

On March 14th Attorney Richard Brown joined other well-respected members of the Connecticut Bar to present “The Ten Most Wanted: Keys to Admitting and Excluding Evidence.”  This seminar, which was organized by the Hartford County Bar Association and hosted by the Hartford law office of Shipman & Goodwin, was geared towards showing attendees the practical application of the rules of evidence.  During each of ten sessions one presenter would act as a witness while two others acted in the roles of the attorney offering the evidence and the attorney opposing the offer in a courtroom setting.  Mock arguments were heard before the Honorable Susan Q. Cobb and the Honorable Hope C. Seeley.  Attorney Brown’s presentation focused on the admission of medical, hospital and forensic/laboratory reports. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Requirements for Medical Malpractice Actions in Connecticut

An opinion letter written by a similar health care provider is a prerequisite to filing a medical malpractice action in Connecticut. Without the opinion letter, the case will be subject to dismissal. This has been the state of the law since October of 2005, when in response to the increasing costs of malpractice insurance,  the Connecticut legislature enacted Public Act 05-275, which added the opinion letter requirement to Sec. 52-190a. Thus, Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 52-190a now requires that a medical malpractice plaintiff attach a letter by a similar health care provider attesting to the medical negligence, or deviation from the standard of care by the physician, nurse, or hospital. 

While “similar health care provider” is defined in Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 52-184c(c), for the purposes of the certificate of good faith, the Connecticut Supreme Court effectively narrowed who could qualify as such in Bennett v. New Milford Hosp., Inc., 300 Conn. 1 (2011). In Bennett, the plaintiff’s decedent died following allegedly negligent treatment at the hospital following a motor vehicle accident. Plaintiff attached an opinion letter from a physician to his complaint alleging medical malpractice against an emergency room doctor. The defendant argued that the physician was not a similar health care provider within the meaning of 52-190a because while the physician had emergency medicine experience, the physician was not board certified in emergency medicine. The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with the defendant and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim for failing to provide a letter from a similar health care provider. This was the case in spite of the fact that the doctor who authored the letter may have been qualified to testify at trial.

A letter from a similar health care provider is a critical element to commence your medical malpractice action. Without it, it may be unlikely that you can go forward. If you think you have been the victim of medical malpractice, it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that legal action is taken in a timely manner and that the requirements of 52-190 are met.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Connecticut Legislature Considers New Alimony Law

Connecticut alimony law may undergo significant changes thanks to Raised Bill No. 5524. In 2013, the Connecticut legislature passed Public Act 13-213 , which required the Connecticut Law Revision Commission to study the fairness and adequacy of Connecticut alimony laws. Attorney Kate Haakonsen of Brown, Paindiris & Scott  was among those appointed to the committee tasked with studying alimony laws. The committee’s recommendations are incorporated in the bill currently before the legislature. Three major provisions of the bill are highlighted below.

Under the bill, courts may now consider both gross and net income and the tax consequences of its orders. Connecticut case law had previously suggested that only net income may be considered.

Another provision of the bill allows for the modification, suspension, reduction or termination of alimony if the recipient spouse is found to have been living in a marriage-like relationship over a period of six months. The paying spouse must prove the existence of a marriage-like relationship. The recipient spouse must then prove that the alimony should remain as is. The court must make this determination in conjunction with the existing statutory criteria of Connecticut’s alimony statute, codified in Sec. 46b-82.

The bill provides an opportunity to modify alimony for the paying spouse who is retires at age sixty-five or older. The recipient spouse must prove why alimony should not be modified. Alimony may be modified in early retirement situations if the paying spouse proves that a modification should be permitted. In addition to considering the paying spouse’s retirement, the court must also consider the factors of Sec. 46b-82.

If passed, these changes could take effect as early as October 1, 2014. With questions on how this new bill may impact your alimony, please contact the family lawyers of Brown, Paindiris & Scott.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How do Lawyers get Paid when Representing Accident Victims?

When representing accident victims, lawyers are often paid on a contingency fee basis. Under the contingency fee structure, the client pays nothing up front. Connecticut General Statute Section 52-251c allows the attorney and the client to create a contract to condition the attorney’s fee based on a percentage of the damages or the settlement amount that the client receives. That statute also provides that the attorney may be paid 33 1/3% of the client’s recovery. This percentage may decrease, depending upon the size of the recovery. 

Rule 1.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct requires an attorney to provide a client with a written fee agreement.  This written fee agreement typically provides that the attorney covers all costs related to bringing the case and is reimbursed by the client only upon obtaining a successful outcome. 

Contingency fees enable injured clients to secure high quality representation without having to pay attorney’s fees out of pocket. If you are a victim of an unfortunate accident, the personal injury attorneys at Brown Paindiris & Scott can assist you with understanding your legal rights and help you to achieve a favorable outcome in your case.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

City Steam Brewery Café Defending Allegations of Trademark Infringement

City Steam Brewery Café is one of Hartford’s popular restaurant and entertainment venues, but the “City Steam” name may be in jeopardy. As reported in a recent Hartford Business Journal article, Anchor Brewing Co., which is located in California and manufactures Anchor Steam beer, has sued City Steam Brewery Café and asked the court to stop City Steam from using the “City Steam” name because they allege that similarities between the two names will confuse customers. City Steam Brewery Café has used the “City Steam” mark in conjunction with its products and services since 1997 and its bottled beers are now sold throughout New England and New York. In 2012 City Steam registered its “City Steam” trademark in the beverages category, whereas Anchor Steam registered its “Steam Beer” trademark in the beverages category in 1982. In our opinion, these particular marks are different enough so that the public is not likely to be confused, but trademark owners have a right, and an obligation, to enforce (or at least attempt to enforce) their rights in order to maintain protection.  

Trademarks are critical assets for businesses because they help consumers identify the sources of goods and services. Accordingly, a trademark communicates a business’s reputation and goodwill, so it is crucial for a trademark owner to stop any potential infringement of its mark before customers mistakenly purchase goods from other sources. To prove trademark infringement, an individual or business must show: that they own the trademark; that the allegedly infringing mark is very similar or identical to the mark that is already in use; and that the infringing mark is affixed to similar goods and services as the mark that is already in use.   

In deciding trademark infringement cases, courts evaluate a variety of factors to determine whether there is a “likelihood of confusion” between the two marks. Appearance is an important element, so courts utilize the “sight, sound, and meaning” test to determine whether two marks look the same, sound the same, and have the same commercial meanings. Courts also evaluate whether the goods or services associated with the marks are related. In addition, courts may consider the uniqueness of the marks; the similarity of the marks; whether the trademark holder can offer evidence of confusion, such as through consumer surveys; and the alleged infringer’s reasons for copying the mark.

The lawyers of Brown, Paindiris & Scott can help you to protect your intellectual property and defend against claims of infringement.  For more information, click here.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Drone Spotted at Deadly Crash Site

Hartford police reported seeing a drone with an attached camera at the site of a fatal crash on February 1st. In response, the Federal Aviation Administration has started an investigation. The FAA has currently only implemented policies on the use of drones, limiting flying no lower than 400 feet. Nine states have drone laws, but Connecticut is not one of them. Some Connecticut lawmakers hope to change that; a hearing on the subject was held earlier this week.

The use of drones has only recently increased. The federal government has used drones and companies, such as Amazon, anticipate using drones as a more convenient and efficient way to make deliveries to customers.

Many question whether the use of drones will intrude on privacy, since drones are considerably smaller than airplanes and helicopters, and can easily access certain areas that were previously off-limits to these larger aircrafts. Law enforcement officials fear that drone use during criminal investigations will provide an advantage to criminals by alerting them of possible police presence. Legal professionals anticipate that the increase in drones will create a new role for lawyers as drone law develops.