Posts tagged with "policy"

Ensure Sufficient Insurance to Cover Potential Hazards at Your Home

Do you own a dog or cat? Do you have a pool or a trampoline? Do you ever offer house guests an alcoholic drink?

This is National Safe at Home Week. If you’re like me, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about how visitors to your home could hurt themselves.

In part, we fail to notice the hidden dangers that lurk in our homes, because we know the risks and have taught ourselves to avoid them. Perhaps your porch railing is wobbly, but you know not to lean against it. Or maybe your dog is aggressive around food, so you have learned to give him a wide berth while he’s eating. Your house guests, on the other hand, might not know to take these precautions.

Then there are the potential dangers we recognize, but choose to live with, in hopes that visitors will also use good judgment. When you invite people to swim in your pool, you assume they know their own swimming ability, and won’t go in unless they’re comfortable around water. If you hold a dinner party, you try to be a good host, but hope that people know when they have had too much to drink.

Importance of Property Insurance

The unfortunate truth is that accidents do happen, and we live in a world where it’s not unheard of for relative to sue relative, friend to sue friend, neighbor to sue neighbor. We need to prepare for the possibility that someone may be injured at our home, and we should all have sufficient insurance coverage to protect us in case that happens.

Whether you own or rent your home, your property insurance should include liability coverage. Liability insurance covers you if someone is injured on your property, and may also cover you for certain injuries that occur away from your home. For example, if someone slips and hurts themselves at your house, your insurance company will cover that person’s medical expenses and the cost to defend you in court if they sue you. If you were walking your dog in the park and he bit someone, your insurance would probably cover that, too. Understand, however, that liability insurance only covers other people who are injured at your home. It doesn’t cover you or your family if you’re injured.

It’s important to discuss your needs with your insurance agent. If you have potential hazards on your property, such as a swimming pool, a dog or a house is in poor repair, find out exactly what you need to do to protect yourself. You may need to buy a separate liability policy to ensure that you’re sufficiently covered.

Dogs

Almost every state has a law that deals with dog bites. These laws can vary a lot from state to state, so you need to check the laws in your area to see how dog bites are treated. Talk to your insurance company about whether your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy covers not only dog bites in general, but if it covers your breed of dog.

Dog bites cost insurance companies millions of dollars each year, and it’s not uncommon for an insurance company to refuse to cover certain breeds of dogs, especially those considered by experts to be the “most dangerous.” These breeds include pit bulls, rottweilers, and chow chows, just to name a few.

It’s also common for many insurance companies to increase the insurance premiums or cancel the policy altogether after an owner’s dog bites a victim and costs the company money.

Serving Alcohol

If you serve alcohol to guests at your home, you need to be prepared for the fact that they could be involved in a traffic accident after leaving your home.

A drunk person cannot collect for injury to himself, but a third party injured by the actions of a drunk person can collect from the party’s host under certain circumstances. This is especially important when the drunk person has little or no insurance to cover a serious or fatal injury.

Laws vary widely by state, with some states not imposing any liability at all on social hosts. Other states limit the responsibility of hosts to injury that occurs on the premises where the party is being held. Other states extend hosts’ liability to injuries from traffic accidents involving the person to whom they served alcohol.

Most states impose liability on social hosts where alcohol is served to a minor, if the host was reckless in serving alcohol, or if the host should have recognized the extent of the guest’s intoxication and not served him or her more alcohol.

Swimming Pools

Swimming pools can be fun, but drowning is one of the leading causes of death among young children. If you have a pool, you have an obligation to take all of the necessary steps to ensure the safety of your family, your neighbors, and your guests–even uninvited guests. But you should also be prepared for the worst-case scenario: Accidents can happen, even if you have taken all of the necessary precautions. As a pool owner, you need to protect yourself if an accident occurs.

Purchase swimming pool insurance coverage. Your homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance or condo insurance usually will not cover you for pool-related accidents and lawsuits. You may also want to purchase a separate liability policy.

Check with your insurance agent to find out what safety and protective equipment is required by your policy. Also ask whether discounts are available if you install additional types of equipment, such as pool alarms.

By Jennifer King

At Maya Murphy, P.C., our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is dedicated to achieving the best results for individuals and their families and loved ones whose daily lives have been disrupted by injury.  Our personal injury attorneys assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and throughout Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating to a personal injury claim or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact our Westport office by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Policy of Enforcing Connecticut Non-Compete Agreements to Protect Employer’s Interests

Torrington Creamery, Inc. v. Davenport, 126 Conn. 515 pertains to a dispute regarding a non-compete agreement between an employer and employee in the dairy products industry in 1940.  While this case is by no means recent, it is a seminal case that lays the groundwork for the policy of enforcing non-compete agreements in Connecticut on the grounds of protecting the employer’s interest.  Specifically, this is one of the first Connecticut cases to address the enforceability of a company’s non-compete agreements when another company acquires it.

Case Background

The High Brook Corporation employed Mr. Preston Davenport as a farm manager and superintendent beginning in 1932 at its Torrington, Connecticut location.  The company produced and distributed dairy products in the towns of Torrington, Litchfield, Winsted, Thomaston, New Milford, New Preston, and Greenwich, all towns in western or southwestern Connecticut.  High Brook changed its name to The Sunny Valley Corporation in March 1938 and on April 15, 1938, had Mr. Davenport sign an employment contract.

The contract specified that Mr. Davenport would receive a fixed compensation with no set duration and that he would be subject to several restrictive covenants.  A non-solicitation clause prohibited Mr. Davenport from soliciting, either directly or indirectly, Sunny Valley or its successor’s customers for a period of two years.  Meanwhile, a non-compete clause prohibited Mr. Davenport from engaging in the dairy production and distribution industry in the towns where Sunny Valley operated.

Another clause in the employment agreement stipulated that a court’s invalidation of a portion of the agreement would not affect the legally binding nature of the other provisions.  Sunny Valley sold its operations and assets to Torrington Creamery, Inc. in October 1938 and the company discharged Mr. Davenport from employment on October 18, 1938.  He proceeded to start his own dairy production and distribution business in February 1939 in the towns of Torrington and Litchfield.

The Court’s Decision 

Torrington Creamery sued Mr. Davenport to enforce the duration and geographical limitations of the restrictive covenant he had signed with Sunny Valley Corporation.  The Superior Court in Litchfield County found in favor of Torrington Creamery, Mr. Davenport appealed the decision, and the case went on to the Connecticut Supreme Court where it affirmed the lower court’s decision.

The Supreme Court found the terms of the non-compete agreement to be reasonable and necessary for the protection of Torrington Creamery’s business interests.  The notion of “protecting an employer’s business interests” is a driving force and major policy concern when deciding whether to enforce a non-compete agreement under Connecticut law.  Restrictive covenants become valuable assets of the employer and courts generally hold that the employer is entitled to the right to safeguard these assets.

Equally as important, the court held that the employer benefits contained in a restrictive covenant can be assigned to a purchaser in the event of the sale of the business and its assets.  Thus, when a company acquires another company, it gains the legal authority to enforce the acquired company’s valid non-compete agreements.  Courts view restrictive covenants as valuable business assets that provide for the necessary protection of the employer and any successor company.

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County.  If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Identifying Acts of School Bullying

October is the National Anti-Bullying month, yet the issue of bullying in schools remains headline news on a routine basis. Just today, I read about an incident where “two girls beat [the victim’s] head into the wall and floor when the teacher was out of the room,” causing “permanent hearing loss in her right ear.”[1] Worse still are the stories where the victim took his or her own life as an escape from the daily torment inflicted by bullies.

Without a doubt, parents are scared for the safety of their children. In her on-the-air speech addressing an email she received from a viewer critical of her weight, Jennifer Livingston of WKBT News 8 in Wisconsin admitted that “as the mother of three young girls [the growing prevalence of school bullying] scares me to death.”[2] Ms. Livingston further emphasized, “The internet has become a weapon. Our schools have become a battleground.”[3] Therefore, it is imperative that you, as a parent, are able to recognize acts of bullying and report incidents to your child’s school. The former is the focus of this article.

Recognizing Bullying Behaviors

Under Connecticut law for over a year now, bullying is defined as “the repeated use of a written, oral or electronic communication or physical act by one or more students directed at another student within the same school district which:

  1. Physically or emotionally harms the student or damages that student’s property;
  2. Places such student in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself, or of damage to his or her property;
  3. Creates a hostile school environment for the student;
  4. Infringes on that student’s rights at school; or
  5. Substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of the school.”[4]

Bullying on the basis of the following actual or perceived traits also qualifies: race or color; religion; ancestry; national origin; gender; sexual orientation; gender identity or expression; socioeconomic status; academic status; physical appearance; and mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disabilities.[5]

The Connecticut legislature has also taken aim at cyber-bullying, defined as “any act of bullying through the use of Internet, interactive and digital technologies, cellular mobile telephone or other mobile electronic devices or any electronic communications.”[6] Various forms of communication fall within this broad definition, including Facebook posts and messages, emails, text messages, live webcam sessions meant to ridicule or humiliate another student.

Notwithstanding these statutory definitions, you should review your child’s student handbook or school website to determine how your school district defines bullying. If neither source provides the policy, you should ask your school for a copy; this request must be fulfilled immediately.[7]

If you are the parent of a child who has been bullied or harassed at school, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced and knowledgeable school law practitioner. The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions regarding bullying or any other education law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] “Two girls accused of beating, bullying student taken into custody,” by WDRB News. October 16, 2012: http://www.wdrb.com/story/19835044/two-girls?hpt=ju_bn4

[2] “Star brother Ron Livingston defends ‘fat’ anchor sister, Jennifer,” by News Limited Network. October 5, 2012: http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity/tv-anchor-jennifer-livingston-takes-on-bully-who-criticised-her-weight/story-e6frfmqi-1226488835303

[3] Id.

[4] 2011 Conn. Pub. Acts 11-232, § 1(a)(1).

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at § 1(a)(2).

[7] “Bullying and Harassment in Connecticut: A Guide for Parents and Guardians,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education, on pp.5. http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/equity/title_ix/bullying_q_and_a.pdf

Connecticut School Districts and Bullying: What Can Parents Do?

I was greeted this morning with a very unfortunate email.  The email concerned bullying in Westport, Connecticut Schools and included a heart-wrenching video of an 8th-grade girl claiming to be a victim of bullying in Westport schools. (http://patch.com/A-gcKG) It is just not enough to feel sorry for this victim of bullying, we need to question the effectiveness of the current law and policies in place to avoid the tragic consequences that other towns have dealt with because their students were victims of bullying.

Connecticut General Statute Section 10-222d

I previously blogged about the revisions to Connecticut’s law against bullying in 2008.  Under Connecticut General Statute section 10-222d, the law requires “any overt acts by a student or group of students directed against another student with the intent to ridicule, harass, humiliate or intimidate the other student while on school grounds, at a school sponsored activity or on a school bus, which acts are committed more than once against any student during the school year.” In addition to definitional changes, the statute requires:

  1.  teachers and other staff members who witness acts of bullying to make written notification to school administrators;
  2. prohibits disciplinary actions based solely on the basis of an anonymous report of bullying;
  3. requires prevention strategies as well as interventions strategies;
  4. requires that parents of a student who commits verified acts of bullying or against whom such bullying occurred be notified by each school and be invited to attend at least one meeting;
  5. requires school to annually report the number of verified acts of bullying to the State Department of Education (DOE);
  6. no later than February 1, 2009, boards must submit the bullying policies to the DOE;
  7. no later than July 1, 2009, boards must include their bullying policy in their school district’s publications of rules, procedures and standards of conduct for school and in all of its student handbooks, and
  8.  effective July 1, 2009, boards must now provide in-service training for its teacher and administrators on prevention of bullying.
Westport’s Bullying Policy

Westport responded to the requirements of this statute with a comprehensive bullying policy which can be found on the school district’s website under the tab for parents, and then selecting policies.  Here is the direct link to the policy: (http://www2.westport.k12.ct.us/media/policies/prohibition_against_bullying_5131.911_revised_8.25.2008.pdf)

Armed with Connecticut’s law and Westport’s policy, what should we do as parents, community members, and professionals?  I do not profess to have the answers but at a minimum, we should discuss this with our children, question the school administrators, guidance staff and teachers. Together we should challenge ourselves to make a difference using the channels available to us.  There are ways that we can help to effectuate change before it is too late.

If you know of a child affected by bullying, please act on their behalf.  Not every student will post a video to tell you this is happening. If the school is not addressing the bullying in a meaningful way to eradicate the conduct, legal redress is available and the courts will readily intervene.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me by telephone in the Firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at SMaya@Mayalaw.com. Attorney Maya is a partner at Maya Murphy, P.C. Her practice is limited to Education Law and Trusts and Estates.

Connecticut Non-Competes and Jurisdiction Can Be Applicable To Out-Of-State Companies And Employees

United Natural Foods, Inc. v. Hagen, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82871
Case Background

This case concerns two former employees, Mr. Barclay Hope and Mr. James Hagen, of United Natural Foods.  The two men worked for Albert’s Organics, a nationwide subsidiary of the Providence, Rhode Island based United Natural Foods.  Mr. Hope was employed in the Los Angeles area from 1997 to December 2006 at which time he began to work as an independent consultant in the organic food industry.  In May 2010 Mr. Hope accepted the position of Chief Executive Officer at Freshpack Produce, a Denver, Colorado based produce grower and shipper.

Albert’s Organics hired Mr. Hagen in March 2003 upon the recommendation of Mr. Hope to work in the company’s Denver offices.  Mr. Hagen left Albert’s in April 2010 and began a new job as the Chief Operating Officer of Freshpack Produce, the same company as Mr. Hope, and upon the recommendation of Mr. Hope.  While employed by United Natural Foods Mr. Hagen and Mr. Hope exchanged many emails wherein they transferred some of United Natural Foods’ transactions, customer information, trade secrets, and other confidential information.  Mr. Hope maintained hard and electronic copies of this confidential information and utilized it in the management of Freshpack Produce’s business operations.

The Non-Compete Agreement

Mr. Hope signed an “Employment Termination Agreement and Release” upon the termination of his employment with United Natural Foods wherein he agreed to abide by a non-compete agreement (one-year duration) and confidentiality provision (indefinite).  A special and notable feature of this agreement however was the choice of law provision that stated the agreement was “made pursuant to and shall be governed by the laws of the State of Connecticut” such that “the parties agree that the courts of the State of Connecticut, and the Federal Courts located therein, shall have exclusive jurisdiction over all matters arising from this Agreement”.

This is especially interesting given that none of the parties (individuals or the companies) in this case are based in Connecticut.  United Natural Foods is based in Rhode Island, Freshpack Produce is based in Colorado, Mr. Hagen worked in Colorado, and Mr. Hope worked in California.  Connecticut law is must more apt to enforce a non-compete agreement than many states.  Colorado for example, where Freshpack Produce and Mr. Hagen were based, historically has a policy against the enforcement of non-compete covenants.

The Court’s Decision

The courts do not see a problem in enforcing a non-compete agreement under Connecticut law for an individual living in California and working for a Colorado based company.  In the past, courts have enforced non-compete agreements in similar situations because the parties both agreed to the jurisdiction in the covenant and the swiftness and ease of air travel negates distance as an issue.  This case illustrates how employees should be mindful of the jurisdiction contained in the choice of law provision in their non-compete agreement.

The law and court governing the agreement could have a profound effect on the employee should a dispute arise between the signing parties of the agreement.  Corporations have the liberty to afford the best and brightest lawyers to handle their legal matters and they do things for specific, advantageous reasons.  It is safe to say that a corporation’s legal department will construct an agreement that utilizes a jurisdiction that will be favorable to them in the event of a legal dispute with a former employee.  Employees should pay close attention to the jurisdiction and make efforts to understand the applicable law if the choice of law is not that of the state where they live.

 

If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.