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Posts Tagged ‘Rhode Island’

Massachusetts Enacts Legislation Authorizing Virtual Notarization During COVID-19 State of Emergency

Posted on: April 30th, 2020

By: Jennifer Markowski

On April 27, 2020, Governor Baker signed into law An Act Providing for Virtual Notarization to Address Challenges Related to COVID-19 (the “Virtual Notarization Act” or the “Act”). In doing so, Massachusetts joins a number of other states, including Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire and Georgia (among others), in adopting temporary measures to permit virtual notarization during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Massachusetts Virtual Notarization Act shall remain in effect until three (3) business days after Governor Baker’s March 10, 2020 declaration of state of emergency terminates and permits a duly authorized notary public to virtually notarize signatures during this time. According to the Act, notaries shall adhere to the following protocols when performing an acknowledgment, affirmation, or other notarial act using real-time video conferencing:

  • Both the notary and the signer must be physically located within Massachusetts and the signer must swear under the pains and penalties of perjury as to his or her location.
  • The notary must observe the signing of the document.
  • The signer must verbally assent to the recording of the video conference.
  • The signer must disclose any other person present in the room and make that person viewable to the notary.
  • The signer must provide the notary with satisfactory evidence of identity per M.G.L. ch. 222, § 1. If the notary is reviewing government-issued identification, the signer must visually display the front and back of the identification to the notary and then send a copy of the identification (front and back) to the notary, which will be maintained securely and confidentially for ten (10) years.
  • The notary must indicate in the notarial certificate that the document was notarized remotely under the Act and indicate the county in which the notary was located at the time the notarial act was completed.
  • After the video conference, the signer must deliver the original executed documents to the notary.
  • The notary must make an audio and video recording of the notarial act and maintain the recordings for ten (10) years.

In addition to the preceding list of requirements, there are two additional steps to be taken for any documents executed in the course of a real estate transaction. If the signer is not personally known to the notary, during the initial video conference the signer must display a second form of identification containing the signer’s name. Another government-issued identification, credit card, social security card, tax or utility bill dated within 60 days of the video conference are acceptable forms of identification.  Additionally, upon receipt of the executed document(s), the notary and signer must engage in a second video conference during which the signer verifies to the notary that the document received by the notary is the same document executed during the first video conference. The signer must again disclose any other person present in the room and make him or her viewable to the notary.

The notary must also execute an affidavit that provides that he or she has:

  • Received a copy the signer’s identification and visually observed it during the video conference with the principal, if applicable;
  • Obtained the signer’s verbal assent to record the video conference;
  • Taken the signer’s affirmation that he or she was physically present within Massachusetts; and
  • Been informed of and noted on the affidavit any person present in the room and included a statement of the relationship of any person to the signer.

The notary shall retain the affidavit for ten (10) years.

The Act does not alter or amend the requirement in Massachusetts that the closing of a transaction involving a mortgage or other conveyance of title to real estate may only be conducted by an attorney duly admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth.

If a notary chooses to notarize documents under the Virtual Notarization Act, it is advisable to confirm with the client that a virtually notarized document is acceptable.  Additionally, it is also advisable to confirm that any applicable errors and omissions policy will cover professional acts involving a virtual notarization.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Jennifer Markowski at [email protected].

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include re-opening the workplace, protecting business interests, shelter in place orders and more. Click here to view upcoming webinars.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**

What Rhode Island Employers Should Know About COVID-19

Posted on: March 19th, 2020

By: Jennifer Markowski and Catherine Scott

Governor Gina Raimondo has declared a state of emergency in the state of Rhode Island and implemented certain measures, such as the closing of public schools through April 3, that have a direct effect on Rhode Island employers. The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (RIDLT) continues to issue guidance to Rhode Island employers to help with these issues.

Unemployment Benefits

In light of the impact of COVID-19, many employers have needed to consider layoffs, furloughs, salary and time reductions, and other options for reducing costs.  Many affected employees are entitled to unemployment benefits.  To facilitate the receipt of benefits, RIDLT announced it would suspend the seven-day waiting period for unemployment claims related to layoffs or involuntary furlough due to COVID-19. Employers who are considering furloughs or layoffs due to COVID-19 can contact our office with any questions about these measures.

Paid Leave Benefits

Many employees in Rhode Island will be eligible to use their paid time off and/or sick leave if their offices remain open but they are unable to work due to an illness and/or childcare issues. The Healthy and Safe Families and Workplace Act provides most employees in Rhode Island with one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked up to 40 hours per year. The size of the employer will impact how the law is applied, and the waiting period will be determined by the class of the employee.

Additionally, the Coronavirus Response Act has been executed by President Trump. The federal legislation mandates that certain employers provide additional paid leave to their employers.  You can read here to find out more about the provisions and whether it applies to your business.

Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) and Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) Benefits

For employees whose offices are open but do not have access to paid leave benefits, Rhode Island offers both TDI and TCI insurance benefits. Similar to unemployment benefits, RIDLT announced it would waive the seven-day out-of-work period required before a claimant can receive TDI and/or TCI benefits. Claimants for such benefits will be allowed to temporarily qualify for benefits via self-attestation of quarantine due to COVID-19, rather than being required to supply medical certification. Moreover, employees who are required to stay home due to issues with childcare may be temporarily eligible for TCI benefits.

Unpaid Leave

We note many Rhode Island workers are likely entitled to job-protected unpaid leave under the Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act and/or the federal Family and Medical Leave Act as it stands.

If you have questions about these laws or how they apply to your business, feel free to contact Jen Markowski at [email protected] or Cat Scott at [email protected].

Additional information: 

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues every day for the next week. We will discuss the impact of Coronavirus for companies in general, but also for business in insurance, healthcare, California specific issues, cybersecurity, and tort. Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients. Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the Coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments. For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

A Series of Particular Events: Foreseeability and the First Circuit

Posted on: February 6th, 2019

By: Thomas Hay

A three-judge panel on the First Circuit denied Omni Hotel’s petition for review of their decision to overturn a lower court ruling that awarded summary judgment to Omni and reinstated a negligence charge filed by a man who was beaten, and his arm broken by a group of individuals in Omni Hotel’s Providence, Rhode Island hotel lobby. The First Circuit held that the development of a particular sequence of events can, without more, render future harm foreseeable.

The First Circuit’s opinion effectively broadened the duty of care imposed on hotels to protect guests and members of the public against spontaneous criminal conduct by a third party.

The plaintiff lived in a condominium complex adjoining the hotel. He had access to and regularly used the hotel’s services and amenities. On the night in question, hotel security had evicted from the premises a group of youths whose partying had caused a disturbance. Some of the evicted group returned outside the hotel with a case of beer and attempted to pick a fight with a passer-by which was seen by the hotel’s valet. A number of the group would later reenter the hotel’s lobby and proceed to beat the plaintiff resulting in the breaking of his arm.

While the lower court found that Omni had a special relationship to the plaintiff, as the “possessor of land that holds the land open to the public/member of the public,” on the issue of foreseeability, the lower court found that the hotel did not have a legal duty to protect the plaintiff from an attack spontaneously committed by third parties. Additionally, the lower court found it unforeseeable that the specific rowdy and later evicted group would spontaneously attack the plaintiff.

In the First Circuit’s review of the case, Omni cited Rhode Island cases that pertained to a “past occurrences” theory of foreseeability, whereas the plaintiff cited cases that illustrated a “sequence of events” theory of foreseeability. The First Circuit ultimately agreed with the plaintiff, saying that while it may not have been foreseeable that the group would assault the plaintiff at the time of their eviction, the attack was foreseeable by the time the group had returned and tried to pick a fight with the passer-by.

The First Circuit stated that the development of a particular sequence of events can, without more, render future harm foreseeable. According to Omni, this decision imposes an undue burden on businesses, “which will now unnecessarily face the prospect of a jury trial every time anyone is injured on their premises.”

While the implications of this case as it pertains to the liability of business owners and injuries that occur on their premises goes to be seen, hotels in the First Circuit should be wary of omitting to assist any guest or even member of the public from the actions of aggressive third parties.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Thomas Hay at [email protected].

 

Mu v. Omni Hotels Management Corp., 885 F.3d 52 (1st Cir. 2018)
Mu v. Omni Hotels Management Corp., 882 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2018)

“Sanctuary Cities” Get a Reprieve For Now

Posted on: January 10th, 2019

By: Pamela Everett

As many city, county and state attorneys are aware, in 2017 the US. Department of Justice (DOJ) added three conditions to the application process for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (“Byrne JAG”) program in an effort to eliminate so called sanctuary cities. The Byrne JAG program originated from the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968,  which created grants to assist the law enforcement efforts of state and local authorities. Under the Byrne JAG program, states and localities may apply for funds to support criminal justice programs in a variety of categories, including law enforcement, prosecution, crime prevention, corrections, drug treatment, technology, victim and witness services, and mental health.

The first condition, called the “Notice Condition” requires grantees, upon request, to give advance notice to the Department of Homeland Security of the scheduled release date and time of aliens housed in state or local correctional facilities. The second condition, called the “Access Condition,” requires grantees to give federal agents access to aliens in state or local correctional facilities in order to question them about their immigration status. The third condition, called the “Compliance Condition” requires grantees to certify their compliance with 8 U.S.C. § 1373, which prohibits states and localities from restricting their officials from communicating with immigration authorities regarding anyone’s citizenship or immigration status. Grantees are also required to monitor any subgrantees’ compliance with the three conditions, and to notify DOJ if they become aware of credible evidence of a violation of the Compliance Condition. Additionally, all grantees must certify their compliance with the three conditions, which carries the risk of criminal prosecution, civil penalties, and administrative remedies. The DOJ also requires the jurisdictions’’ legal counsel to certify compliance with the conditions.

A number of jurisdictions have sued the DOJ and the U. S. Attorney General regarding these new conditions and sought a nationwide injunction; however, so far, none have  been successful in obtaining a nationwide injunction.  Recently a partial win was handed to the states of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, and Commonwealths of Massachusetts and Virginia and the City of New York. The States and the City challenged the imposition of the three conditions on five bases: (1) the conditions violates the separation of powers, (2) the conditions were ultra vires under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), (3) the conditions were not in accordance with law under the APA, (4) the conditions were arbitrary and capricious under the APA, and (5) § 1373 violated the Tenth Amendment’s prohibition on commandeering.  This case challenged the authority of the Executive Branch of the federal government to compel states to adopt its preferred immigration policies by imposing conditions on congressionally authorized funding to which the states are otherwise entitled.

While the court held that the plaintiffs did not make a sufficient showing of nationwide impact to demonstrate that a nationwide injunction was necessary to provide relief to them, it did find as follows: (1) The Notice, Access, and Compliance Conditions were ultra vires and not in accordance with law under the APA. (2) 8 U.S.C. § 1373(a)–(b), insofar as it applies to states and localities, is facially unconstitutional under the anticommandeering doctrine of the Tenth Amendment. (3)  The Notice, Access, and Compliance Conditions violated the constitutional separation of powers. (4)The Notice, Access, and Compliance Conditions were arbitrary and capricious under the APA.  (5) The DOJ was mandated to reissue the States’ FY 2017 Byrne JAG award documents without the Notice, Access, or Compliance Conditions, and upon acceptance to disburse those awards as they would in the ordinary course without regard to those conditions.  Additionally, the DOJ was prohibited from imposing or enforcing the Notice, Access, or Compliance Conditions for FY 2017 Byrne JAG funding for the States, the City, or any of their agencies or political subdivisions.

The DOJ was prohibited from imposing or enforcing the Notice, Access, or Compliance Conditions for FY 2017 Byrne JAG funding for the States, the City, or any of their agencies or political subdivisions.

There are several other cases pending, including one filed by the City of San Francisco, seeking the issuance of a nationwide injunction to prohibit the enforcement of the new conditions. Stay tuned for more developments in this area.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Pamela Everett at [email protected].

 

Related litigation: City of Chicago v. Sessions, 264 F. Supp. 3d 933 (N.D. Ill. 2017); affd. appeal, City of Chicago v. Sessions, 888 F.3d 272 (7th Cir. 2018), but later stayed the nationwide scope of the injunction pending en banc review. Conference City of Evanston v. Sessions, No. 18 Civ. 4853, slip op. at 11 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 9, 2018) City of Philadelphia v. Sessions, 280 F. Supp. 3d 579 (E.D. Pa. 2017); City of Philadelphia v. Sessions, 309 F. Supp. 3d 289 (E.D. Pa. 2018)(currently on appeal); California ex rel. Becerra v. Sessions, 284 F. Supp. 3d 1015 (N.D. Cal. 2018)

 

HOA’s Situated in California’s Coastal Zone May Not Unilaterally Ban Airbnbs

Posted on: November 27th, 2018

By: Frank Olah

In the past few years, online booking sites such as Airbnb have predominated the short-term vacation rental market. As a result, many of California’s traditional vacation destinations have seen a surge in short-term rental (STR) activity causing cities and municipalities to issue rules in an effort to regulate this new type of market without alienating full-time residents.

For communities located in California’s coastal zone, the Coastal Commission has assisted with the development of Local Coastal Program (LCP) vacation rules. It has been the Commission’s position that rules affecting short-term vacation rentals in the coastal zone must be done in the context of a LCP and/or be authorized pursuant to a coastal development permit (CDP).

The coastal zone is an enormous area larger than the State of Rhode Island that varies from several hundred feet to five miles on land and includes a three-mile-wide band of ocean. Implementation of California’s Coastal Act (Pub. Resources Code § 30000 et seq.) policies is accomplished through LCPs that must be prepared by the 15 counties and 61 cities located in the coastal zone, which are then submitted to the Commission for approval. An LCP includes a land use plan. Development in the coastal zone may not commence until a CDP is issued by the Commission or a local government that has a certified LCP.

Unsurprisingly, the influx of Airbnb renters in common interest developments has raised the question of whether and to what extent HOA Boards may regulate or outright prohibits STRs. Generally, California HOA’s have the right to restrict short-term rentals, set minimum rental periods, and impose reasonable fees; and the Board’s decisions are entitled to deference by the courts.(See, Watts v. Oak Shores Community Assn. (2015) 235 Cal.App.4th 466.)

However, the issue has arisen as to whether HOA’s located in coastal zones under the Commission’s jurisdiction may similarly regulate STRs. This year California’s Second District Court of Appeal found that HOA’s located in the coastal zone do not enjoy similar discretion and deference. In Greenfield v. Mandalay Shores (2018) 21 Cal.App.5th 896, the court held that the decision to ban or regulate short term rentals, such as Airbnb’s, must be made by the City and the Coastal Commission, and not the HOA.

In Greenfield, owners in the Mandalay Shores Community Association, located in the Oxnard Shores Coastal Zone, sought to enjoin enforcement of the HOA’s resolution banning STRs because they argued the ban constituted a “development” under the Coastal Act requiring a CDP and the HOA had failed to obtain the permit before adopting the ban.

The court observed that for decades non-residents had rented beach houses at Oxnard Shores on a short-term basis. The certified LCP for the City of Oxnard did not address STRs. In 2016, the City announced it was considering drafting a STR ordinance to regulate the licensing and operation of STRs. In June 2016, Mandalay Shores, a mutual benefit corporation, adopted a resolution banning STRs for less than 30 days and imposed significant fines on homeowners who violated the ban. In August 2016, the Commission notified Mandalay Shores that the STR ban was a “development” requiring a CDP.

The issue before the Greenfield court therefore was whether such a STR ban constitutes a “development” under the Coastal Act requiring HOA’s to obtain a CDP. “Development” is broadly defined to include any “change in the density or intensity of use of land.”  Courts have given that term an expansive interpretation, not restricting it merely to activities that physically alter the land or water.

The court then analogized the STR ban to a locked gate or posting “no trespassing” signs to prevent access to a beach. The court reasoned that one of the goals of the Coastal Act is to maximize public access to the beach. By banning short-term vacation rentals, an HOA created a “monetary barrier” to the beach.

The court found that the STR ban changed the intensity of use and access to the homes in the Oxnard Coastal Zone because before the ban, STRs were commonplace in Oxnard Shores. Just to be sure there was no misunderstanding, the court held: “STR bans are a matter for the City and Coastal Commission to address. STRs may not be regulated by private actors where it affects the intensity of use or access to single-family residences in a coastal zone. The question of whether a seven-day house rental is more of a neighborhood problem than a 31-day rental must be decided by City and the Coastal Commission, not a homeowner’s association.”

The Greenfield court relied on the fact that the STR ban at issue affected 1,400 units that had historically been used for short-term rentals. While this fact may limit application of the case to new developments or those which did not historically have STRs, the Coastal Commission’s policy is to require cooperation from the HOAs in obtaining CDPs according to the local coastal plan where the HOA is situated in a coastal zone. Therefore, HOAs contemplating STR bans must work with their local government and the Commission to develop suitable regulations or risk litigation by HOA members hoping to cash in on Airbnb’s popularity.

If you need help with this or any other HOA related question, Frank Olah practices HOA law in California and Washington and is a member of Freeman Mathis & Gary’s HOA National Practice Section. He can be reached at [email protected]. For information regarding governmental regulation of STRs, please contact Dana Maine in Freeman, Mathis & Gary’s Government Law National Practice Team at [email protected].