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New Safeguards in Place for the Protection of Nursing Home Residents

Nursing Home Care Attorneys

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently revised regulations for nursing home facilities, which may help prevent elder abuse and make life for residents a little better. The regulations apply to all nursing homes that participate in Medicaid/Medicare programs. For a complete look at the old and new regulations, check out this side-by-side comparison from The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. Here’s a quick summary of some of the major changes: [Read more…]

Knowing Who Services Your Student Loan Can Pay

Corporate Law Attorneys

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of millions of student borrowers who may have been illegally cheated or deceived by Navient, the nation’s largest servicer of student loan debt. Navient, formerly known as Sallie May, who also services student loan debt. Navient counts over 12 million borrowers with over $300 billion in debt. The Navient lawsuit comes at a time of growing student loan debt, which now stands at more than $1.4 trillion dollars nationally. [Read more…]

Alabama Law Requires a Jury’s Verdict to be Unanimous

courtroomA mistrial was declared in a Huntsville, AL criminal case where a man is on trial for shooting his daughter’s boyfriend. The jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case of Fitzgerald McQueen, who shot his daughter’s boyfriend after finding him naked in his daughter’s closet late at night. McQueen argued self-defense, in that he went to check on his daughter, only to find the naked man, Jaizon Collins, in hiding. Conversely, the prosecution argued that McQueen shot Collins out of anger. Collins, who was not killed in the attack, was charged with statutory rape due to the age difference with the daughter. However, those charges were dropped and the case was removed to juvenile court.

Alabama law requires that the jury reach a unanimous verdict. Ala. R. Crim. P. 23. When the jury is unable to reach a unanimous decision, the judge declares a mistrial. Before declaring a mistrial, however, the judge often instructs the jury to try deeply to reach a unanimous verdict. This is sometimes known as a “dynamite charge.” If the jury is still unable to reach a unanimous decision, the mistrial is declared. The prosecution must then decide whether to bring charges once again. In this case, Circuit Judge Donna Pate has already set the case for retrial in September of this year.

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Uninsured/Underinsured (UM) Motorist Coverage Update: Validity of Declining UM Coverage by Electronic Signature Remains in Question

Car crashUnder Alabama law, all car insurance policies must provide uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM coverage). Ala. Code § 32-7-23. Nevertheless, in spite of this mandate, 22% of drivers do not have liability insurance. UM coverage is vitally important in that it protects drivers and passengers who have an accident caused by someone else who lacks car insurance altogether, or who has insufficient liability insurance. In the event you have an accident with an uninsured/underinsured motorist, you may file a claim with your own insurance company under your UM policy. Each insurance policy sold in Alabama is required to have at least $25,000 per person in coverage for personal injuries. Even if you do not see an uninsured/underinsured motorist provision in your car insurance policy, you still have the minimum coverage, unless you sign a written waiver declining the coverage.

In Johnson v. First Acceptance Insurance Company, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals recently considered the case of Mr. Johnson, whose underinsured motorist claim was originally denied by his own insurance provider, First Acceptance. The parties agree that Mr. Johnson was assisted in submitting an electronic application for insurance with the help of a First Acceptance agent. However, the parties dispute whether Mr. Johnson actually electronically signed his name in a waiver of UM coverage. First Acceptance Insurance argued that Mr. Johnson declined uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage through an electronic signature; Mr. Johnson denies he ever declined UM coverage. The Court ultimately decided not to rule on the validity of an electronic signature in declining UM coverage, but did allow Mr. Johnson’s case to continue, based on the parties’ factual dispute of the facts. We look forward to the outcome of the case.

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Announcing Our New Partner: Andrew M. Sieja

Andrew M. SiejaMartinson & Beason is pleased to announce our new partner, Andrew M. Sieja. Andy began working with the firm in 2009 when he returned to the Huntsville area after practicing in Dallas, Texas. Andy is a graduate of Texas Wesleyan School of Law in Fort Worth, Texas after having attained his bachelor’s degree at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.

Andy regularly represents and advises his clients in several areas from probate, probate litigation, and estate planning to business formation, transactions, and litigation. Andy enjoys being able to represent his clients on a wide array of areas and is integral in making Martinson & Beason a full-service law firm.

Andy is an active member of the Rotary Club of Greater Huntsville, has served on its Board of Directors, and is on the Board of the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. He believes strongly in giving back to his community and regularly provides pro bono legal services to clients through the Madison County Volunteer Lawyer Program.

Martinson & Beason is proud to add Andy as a partner and looks forward to his continued contribution to the firm’s long history and storied reputation.

Diversity Leadership Colloquium

caleb-ballew-attorneyCongratulations to Caleb W. Ballew, associate attorney at Martinson & Beason, on accepting his nomination to the executive committee of the Diversity Leadership Colloquium in Madison County, Alabama.

Caleb will serve as the Parliamentarian for DLC, where he will provide advice to the executive committee on the group’s governing by-laws and constitution, as well as help DLC meet its goal of providing community service and leadership to North Alabama.

DLC’s participants and alumni are a diverse group of community members and professionals who seek to improve the Huntsville-Madison County area by actively serving the community. Members and alumni include business owners, city and county government officials, education personnel, attorneys, non-profit and community organizers, and many other individuals.

Caleb graduated from the leadership colloquium in April 2016 and looks forward to helping the Huntsville community through his new position with DLC.

Are you Carrying a “Flaming Rocket” in Your Pocket?

e-cigarette injuriesOn Wednesday, a California man’s electronic cigarette (also known as an e-cig or vape) exploded inside the pocket of his pants causing severe injury. The blast caused third degree burns, and the man who was rushed to the hospital. Shortly before the explosion, the man reported the device became very hot. Video of the incident is available here. While e-cigarettes may seem like a harmless alternative to smoking, they pose significant hidden risks.

If you’re carrying an e-cig in your pocket, you may be carrying a ticking time bomb and not even know it. FEMA has referred to the devices as “flaming rockets” for the explosions caused by component failure. This is because when the battery seal erupts, pressure builds very quickly within the device and “can be propelled across the room like a bullet or small rocket.” Some members of Congress have even called for the devices to be recalled in response to their dangerous history.

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The Grounds (and Hurdles) for Challenging a Will

In a will contest, a contestant challenges a will as invalid, usually for mental incapacity, undue influence, fraud, or a technical failure. Although somewhat of a rare occurrence and a tedious process, a will contest may be the only recourse for a client who has been disinherited or disenfranchised. First, only an interested party who has a potential interest to gain can challenge a will. A will can be invalidated in part or in whole. If a will contest is successful, the probate or circuit judge has options such as invalidating the challenged will, reinstating a previous version, or distributing property under the laws of intestacy. Beyond the hurdles of a will contest, the testator (the person who signed the will) sometimes inserts a “no-contest” provision into their will or trust. Under such a provision, the testator instructs that anyone who contests the validity of their will is disinherited. While these clauses create additional difficulties for one contesting a will, it is not always an absolute bar to the challenge. It would be a good idea for the client to consult an attorney to weigh their options and get a better assessment of their rights before challenging or contesting a will.

An interested party cannot challenge a will simply for being unfair. Instead, they must prove one of the following conditions or other good cause: [Read more…]

Martinson & Beason Blast from the Past: “Courthouse Commentary” from The Huntsville Times, 1965

Martinson & Beason, P.C. attorneys recently uncovered an old Huntsville Times “Courthouse Commentary” feature from August 1, 1965, remarking on the slight confusion surrounding names at Martinson & Beason.

Douglas Carroll Martinson, who founded the firm in 1937 out of the back of his grandfather’s store, named his son Douglas Claude Martinson (the father of current partner Doug Martinson). When the younger Martinson joined his father’s law practice in 1964 after graduating from the University of Alabama School of Law, minor chaos ensued.

The Huntsville Times article, written by Jerry Hornsby, shrewdly points out: “Douglas Carroll Martinson and his son, Douglas Claude Martinson, practice law in the same offices in the Uptown Building. There is hardly a correct way for the telephone caller to ask for the proper Martinson, since they are not, as many people believe, “junior” and “senior.” The article suggests the caller say something like, “Mr. Martinson, please—you know, the older one.” Eventually, secretaries steered clients into using “junior” or “senior.”

The name game took on a new dimension when Douglas Claude Martinson, II, began practicing with the firm in 1990. To avoid confusion, Doug is commonly referred to as simply “D” or “DII” around the office. Name mix-ups may end with D, however, whose eldest son is named Clay and currently attends the University of Alabama.

Last Chance to Reject Uber’s Revised Mandatory Binding Arbitration

iphoneUber users opt out of the latest changes to the ride-sharing company’s terms of service, which includes a revised mandatory binding arbitration agreement, but they must do so by December 21st, 2016. Uber sent an email to users on November 15th notifying them of the updated terms of use. The email states that the new terms take effect November 21st, 2016. Users have one month from that date to reject the new terms. If a user rejects the latest terms of service, their contractual relationship with Uber will be governed by the last terms of service agreed to.

Although Uber’s prior terms of service also had a binding arbitration agreement, a judge from New York’s Southern District recently found the arbitration agreement to be invalid. Uber revised its terms of service to make the binding arbitration agreement more likely to be enforceable. However, it must give users a period of time to reject these new terms of service. The decision, Meyer v. Kalanick, is only binding in the Southern District of New York. However, the court’s opinion and rationale may be persuasive in other courts, and all users still get a chance to reject the revised terms of service.

[Read more…]

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