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Memphis trial lawyer Bill Walk to join Pietrangelo Cook PLC

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

William B. Walk Jr., one of Memphis’ most successful and well-known trial lawyers, is joining Pietrangelo Cook PLC. Walk brings with him more than 25 years of litigation experience and a varied practice comprised largely of representing plaintiffs in wrongful death, medical malpractice and catastrophic injury cases.  Walk has obtained numerous multi-million dollar jury verdicts for his clients.

“Bill is one of the best trial lawyers in Memphis and I am thrilled that we now have him on our team,” said Anthony Pietrangelo, managing member of Pietrangelo Cook PLC. “His style, his integrity and his reputation for zealous advocacy have all made him a force to be reckoned with and we know that our clients will benefit from having him on board.”

“Pietrangelo Cook has a great reputation as a full-service law firm,” said Walk. “They bring in clients and keep them forever, handling all kinds of disputes and transactions for them. I’ve known those guys for years and I look forward to being a part of this great group of lawyers.”

Beginning in May 2016 Pietrangelo Cook will open the doors to a second office, which will expand the firm’s presence to downtown Memphis. The new office is located in the South Main Historic District at 431 South Main Street, Suite 200, Memphis 38103.

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Firm launches web site seeking information in gold fraud

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Pietrangelo Cook has launched www.wattsgoldcase.com, offering a reward for actionable information following a $22 million judgment for three firm clients in a federal fraud case.  The web site follows nearly three years of litigation.

On February 29, 2016, the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee determined that Defendants Cleal Watts III and Indico System Resources, Inc. had perpetrated a multi-million dollar gold fraud on the Plaintiffs. In reaching this conclusion, the Court granted the Plaintiffs “summary judgment” and awarded them $22 million in damages. In addition to making detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law detailing each step of the Defendants’ fraud, the Court issued a permanent injunction, effectively freezing the Defendants’ assets and barring any third-parties from aiding and abetting the Defendants in dissipating any of the subject funds.

The wattsgoldcase.com web site features downloads of critical pleadings in the case, as well as evidence considered by the Court in reaching its conclusion. The Plaintiffs hope the web site will assist in obtaining evidence and information necessary to execute on their judgment.

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New Rules May Make More Employees Eligible for Overtime

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

The United States Department of Labor has tentatively approved long-debated changes in overtime rules that could become effective this year.  These changes will have a significant impact on employers around the country.

Though the final iteration of the new rules has not been made public, wage experts believe it will include the following changes:

– The current salary exemption is based on a minimum salary of $455/week ($23,660/year). When the new rules take effect, the minimum salary required to be exempt from overtime is going to increase to approximately $1,000/week ($52,000/year).

– There will be automatic annual increases in this minimum salary, likely tied to an inflation index.

– There may be more restrictive testing on employee duties that qualify employees as exempt.

The expected practical implications of this rule change for all employers are obviously significant:

– Fewer employees will qualify for exempt status. The DOL has estimated that some 5 million employees will need to be converted to non-exempt (hourly) status.

– To preserve exempt classifications, employers will need to increase salary to meet the new salary threshold.

– For employees converted to non-exempt status, employers will need to develop a new compensation plan, include rate or method of pay, taking into account the possibility of overtime pay.

– Possible redesign will be necessary of job descriptions, job schedules, staffing, and wage/hour policies.

– Communication to employees of the changes and the reason for the changes will be required.

– Training or re-training of formerly exempt employees should occur regarding time-reporting procedures, compliance with overtime rules, and adherence to rest and meal break requirements.

– Supervisors will need to be instructed on how to manage, counsel, coach, and discipline newly non-exempt employees to comply with timekeeping and record-keeping requirements.

For more information about the potential rule changes, click here.

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Pietrangelo Cook Wins Jurisdictional Dispute in $5m Gold Fraud Case

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

District Court Judge Thomas Anderson held that two Texas Defendants knowingly directed their communications into the state of Tennessee, when they made phone calls and sent emails about an alleged gold scheme to Pietrangelo Cook’s clients in Memphis. The Order, entered in December 2014, resolved a threshold jurisdictional dispute and it means that the case can proceed in the Western District of Tennessee.

Pietrangelo Cook’s clients, the Plaintiffs, filed their initial Complaint against Defendants Cleal Watts, III (“Watts”) and his company, Indico Systems Resources, Inc. (“ISR”) in July 2013 alleging, among other things, fraud, conversion, misappropriation, violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, violations of the Securities and Exchange Act, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that Watts and ICR deceived the Plaintiffs into investing millions of dollars in the purchase of unrefined gold dust from Ghana with the stated purpose of import, refinement and resale in the United States. Watts allegedly claimed experience in this area and claimed to own a refinery in Dallas. He promised Plaintiffs a thirty percent (30%) return on their investments. Plaintiffs never saw any gold, any profit or even the return of their investment. You can read the Complaint here.

In December 2013, counsel for Watts and ISR filed a Motion to Dismiss, asserting that the district court in Tennessee did not have personal jurisdiction over Watts or ISR because, they claimed, their clients had no offices in Tennessee, did no business in Tennessee, had never been to Tennessee and, finally, never knew the Plaintiffs were in Tennessee. After an evidentiary hearing in December 2014, the Court ruled these arguments did not preclude Tennessee from exercising jurisdiction over Watts and ISR. More particularly, the Court found that Watts did know that Plaintiffs were in Tennessee and, that since the phone calls and emails formed the “heart of the cause of action”, i.e., the fraud, they were sufficient to confer personal jurisdiction upon the Court over the Defendants. Accordingly, the litigation will proceed in Tennessee.

You can read a copy of the Court’s Order here.

 

 

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Labor Board warns that McDonald’s may be “joint-employer” under NLRA

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has warned that if McDonald’s cannot settle disputes it has with some of its franchisee’s employees, it may treat McDonalds as a “joint-employer” under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).  The International Franchise Association has condemned this possibility and attorneys who frequently appear before the NLRB worry that such a finding would materially change the relationship between franchisors and their franchisees.

“If the NLRA were read to treat franchisors as joint-employers under this law, the implications would be enormous for franchisors around the country,” according to Pietrangelo Cook attorney Carl Jacobson.  “Not only would franchisors have real exposure for the conduct of their independent franchisees, but such a treatment could ultimately result in the creation of nationwide collective bargaining units, which would be completely contrary to the basic tenants of franchise law.”

The NLRB is charged with enforcing the NLRA, and routinely investigates claims filed by employees that their employers have violated the NLRA’s express protections for protected concerted activity.   Simply put, if a franchisor were considered a joint-employer under the NLRA, it would mean that an employee of a regional McDonald’s franchise could file a charge against the owner of that regional restaurant as well as the corporate franchisor.

From the NLRB’s statement on the matter:

“The National Labor Relations Board Office of the General Counsel has investigated charges alleging McDonald’s franchisees and their franchisor, McDonald’s, USA, LLC, violated the rights of employees as a result of activities surrounding employee protests.  The Office of the General Counsel found merit in some of the charges and no merit in others.  The Office of the General Counsel has authorized complaints on alleged violations of the National Labor Relations Act.  If the parties cannot reach settlement in these cases, complaints will issue and McDonald’s, USA, LLC will be named as a joint employer respondent.

The National Labor Relations Board Office of the General Counsel has had 181 cases involving McDonald’s filed since November 2012.  Of those cases, 68 were found to have no merit.  64 cases are currently pending investigation and 43 cases have been found to have merit.  In the 43 cases where complaint has been authorized, McDonald’s franchisees and/or McDonald’s, USA, LLC will be named as a respondent if parties are unable to reach settlement.”

You can read the statement from the President of the International Association of Franchisors, excerpted below, here.

“The NLRB’s Division of Advice recommendation that franchisors and their franchisees be designated as joint-employers is both wrong and unjustified. This legal opinion would upend years of federal and state legal precedent and threaten the sanctity of hundreds of thousands of contracts between franchisees and franchisors, a bedrock principle of the rule of law.

Franchisees and their employees do not work for franchisors. The franchise owners who have built more than 770,000 businesses and employ millions of people control their own businesses. Franchisees have their own employer identification number with the Internal Revenue Service and file their own taxes. Franchisees establish day-to-day operations, employment practices and policies for their own businesses. Franchisees decide who to hire and fire, and also set wage rates, benefits and employees’ work schedules.”

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Jacobson and Lakey listed as Rule 31 mediators

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Pietrangelo Cook PLC members Carl Jacobson and Jonathan Lakey have been listed by the Tennessee Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission (“ADRC”) as Rule 31 mediators. A mediator is a neutral person who conducts discussions among disputing parties to enable them to reach a mutually acceptable agreement among themselves on all or any part of the issues in dispute. The Rule 31 designation signifies that the ADRC has recognized Jacobson and Lakey as qualified neutrals. Similarly, the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts has listed the two attorneys among others recognized by the state for this purpose.

Mediation is a process to assist parties in the creative resolution and full settlement of civil lawsuits, both more quickly and less expensively than full blown litigation. The most effective mediators are those who have proper mediation training and significant experience in resolving disputes. Our attorneys Carl Jacobson and Jon Lakey possess these attributes and are dedicated to the successful mediation process.

Carl Jacobson has been an attorney since 1983, and has a wealth of experience in trying cases, representing plaintiffs and defendants. Additionally, he has served as a senior executive in both a large corporation and a national franchisor, giving him the business acumen necessary to quickly understand challenging issues and to help resolve disputes on a broad range of issues. Combining his vast and diverse experiences with his frank and direct approach, Carl Jacobson is a proven mediator.

Jon Lakey has been an attorney since 1994 and has been a member of Pietrangelo Cook PLC since 2005. He has represented major commercial clients in federal and state lawsuits, both as plaintiffs and defendants. In addition to his commercial litigation clients, he maintains an active personal injury practice. He also has significant experience representing governmental entities in constitutional cases. Jon Lakey’s experience navigating long-running, high-pressure disputes has made him a determined problem-solver and a committed mediator.

If you have a civil lawsuit and need effective mediation, please contact Carl Jacobson or Jon Lakey.

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Pietrangelo Cook announces SportsTorts and NewsroomLegal

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Pietrangelo Cook PLC has launched two new blogs focused on discrete practice areas.

SportsTorts.com is a blog, primarily authored by Managing Partner Anthony Pietrangelo, which focuses on new legal developments affecting liability for sports-related injuries.  Mr. Pietrangelo will highlight interesting cases and opinions, and will also address common issues of liability.  Some of the initial entries describe issues like new MLB rules dealing with home plate collisions and misconceptions about the effect of parental liability waivers for children’s sport activities.  Visit SportsTorts by clicking here.

NewsroomLegal.com is the blog of attorney Darrell Phillips.  Mr. Phillips spent ten years working as a broadcast journalist prior to earning his law degree and uses the blog to update clients and readers on new developments in media law.  It is also an opportunity for Mr. Phillips to unravel employment issues common to working journalists like the enforceability of non-compete clauses, liquidated damages provisions, and wage and hour mis-classifications.  Visit NewsroomLegal by clicking here.

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Litigation over developmental center ends after two decades

Monday, December 9th, 2013

After 21 years of litigation, United States District Court Judge for the Western Division of Tennessee, Jon McCalla, dismissed a large class-action lawsuit over conditions at Arlington Developmental Center (“ADC”), a state-run facility for the intellectually and developmentally disabled.  Pietrangelo Cook attorney Jon Lakey, working with the Attorney General’s office, has represented the state of Tennessee in that litigation for the past 15 years.

The ADC litigation, which implicated both constitutional and statutory issues, was originally filed in 1992 after complaints surfaced concerning allegedly poor conditions at the facility.   In January 2013, the parties agreed to an exit plan to resolve the litigation within twelve months if the state completed specified obligations.  The state fulfilled all of its obligations and, in fact, completed the exit plan two months ahead of schedule.

Mr. Lakey represents the state in another, similar lawsuit pertaining to conditions at other Tennessee institutions, which is ongoing in the Middle District of Tennessee.  In addition, he represents the Tennessee Department of Children Services in a class action involving the services provided to children in state custody.

Click here to read the announcement from the office of Governor Bill Haslam regarding the dismissal of the ADC litigation.

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Pietrangelo Cook welcomes Carl Jacobson as new partner

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Pietrangelo Cook PLC is proud to announce that Carl Jacobson, a litigator with 30 years of litigation and corporate counsel experience, has joined the firm as a partner.  Mr. Jacobson will center his practice on civil litigation, with a special focus on employment matters, franchise law, and personal injury actions.

From 1983 until 1999, Mr. Jacobson tried numerous cases in Tennessee’s state and federal courts, representing high-profile corporate clients such as DuPont, Schering-Plough, Aetna, Dobbs International, Mid-America Apartment Communities, Overnight Transportation, State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Company, Regions Bank, and Michael’s Craft Stores.  He then served Gate Gourmet and Lenny’s Sub Shops as general counsel, advising both on employment matters and actively participating in labor disputes with area labor organizations.

You can read more about Mr. Jacobson’s background here.

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Pietrangelo Cook wins Fayette County boundary dispute

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Fayette County Chancellor Martha Brasfield ruled in favor of Pietrangelo Cook’s clients this month in a boundary dispute that required two weeks of trial and the testimony of nearly two dozen witnesses. The Final Order clarified the location of an old creek bed featured in deeds dating back to the 1800’s and established the true boundary line between two large properties south of Highway 64.

The dispute began in 2007 when Pietrangelo Cook’s clients were surveying their property and discovered that the Defendant, their adjacent neighbor to the North, had recorded a “corrected” warranty deed, which purported to extend its acreage well into the Plaintiffs’ land, beyond the boundary line described in earlier deeds.

Pietrangelo Cook filed a quiet title action in 2008 on behalf of its clients and conducted an exhaustive review of historic deeds. The Defendant argued that the true boundary line referred to in these deeds, described as the “the meanders of the Old Cypress Creek”, was impossible to locate and that the deeds actually referred to the Cypress Creek Canal, a large man-made drainage ditch constructed in the early part of the 20th century.

Alternatively, the Defendant argued, he owned title to the now-disputed acreage between the two land-owners by virtue of a legal theory called “adverse possession,” which shifts title away from a true property owner when the “adverse possessor” uses the property “exclusively, actually, adversely, continuously, openly and notoriously” for a specific period of time.

“We were fighting this case on a number of parallel fronts,” said Pietrangelo Cook attorney Darrell Phillips, one of the lawyers who tried the case. “First, we had to show the Court that the Old Cypress Creek was not the Cypress Creek Canal and that, in fact, it was there and our experts could find it. Second, we had to prove that the Defendant had not been adversely possessing the disputed property as he claimed.”

Surveyors Bill Ollar, Doug Swink and Jason Harris thoroughly mapped the legal descriptions and located points from historic deeds that were still ascertainable on the ground and which reflected the true location of the old creek bed. Swink and Harris then took historic aerial photographs of the disputed property and produced elaborate overlays depicting the changing landscape over the entirety of the 20th century, which clearly and effectively showed the existence and location of the old creek, distinguishable from the more modern Cypress Creek Canal.

During trial, Pietrangelo Cook’s attorneys produced witness testimony undermining the Defendant’s claims of adverse possession and convincingly persuaded the Court that the Defendant had not met the high burden required to sustain such a claim.

“The Defendant introduced testimony from more than a dozen fact witnesses all who claimed that they had used our client’s property ‘adversely’ in one form or another,” said Phillips. “On cross-examination, we were able to show that their stories all conflicted with one another and, more importantly, that they did not meet the clear standard established by Tennessee statute and controlling case law.”

In its Order, the Court adopted the survey produced by Pietrangelo Cook’s expert surveyors and found that the Defendant’s claims of adverse possession were not supported by the evidence.

To read the Final Order of the Fayette County Chancery Court, click here.

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