Baltimore Anti-Discrimination Housing Bill Rejected

On behalf of The Law Firm of Campen & Manganaro.

On Monday, the Baltimore City Council defeated a bill that would have banned landlords from discriminating against potential tenants who use government housing vouchers to pay their rent.

The bill, introduced by requirement as part of a settlement between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the county government, was aimed at providing more opportunities to the county’s poor.  It was rejected on a 6-1 vote.

“This bill has been and continues to be about a very simple point: prejudice and discrimination,” Councilman Julian Jones, who cast the lone vote in favor of the measure, said.

Opponents of the bill pointed out that it would create more paperwork and costs for landlords, while residents also raised concerns that it would cause more voucher holders to move to their area, lowering property values and possibly leading to a high concentration of the poor in areas where vouchers are already heavily used.

“I want to reduce poverty,” stated Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, “but without guarantees that more voucher holders would not move into my district, I cannot support the legislation as it is written.”

Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond, calling her vote against the bill “a very tough, tough decision,” explained: “While I agree with the aims of this legislation, I cannot in good conscience vote for a flawed bill created by a process in which I played no part.”

As it stands, prospective tenants in Baltimore County currently looking to use housing vouchers can still be turned away by a landlord.

Maryland Law To Prohibit Pay Discrimination Based On Gender Identity

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On behalf of The Law Firm of Campen & Manganaro.

An expansion to the Maryland Equal Pay law, prohibiting pay discrimination on the basis of gender identity, was recently signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan and will go into effect Oct. 1, 2016.  This new legislation is called the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.

Under the new act, the law prohibits pay discrimination from employers based not only on sex, but now gender identity as well.  This expansion also provides some new employment protections for employees, such as prohibiting employers from “providing less favorable employment opportunities,” such as limiting employment opportunities or placing certain employees on “less favorable career tracks,” based on sex or gender identity.

In addition, the new legislation advocates pay transparency, thus helping to close the wage gap by allowing employees to discuss their wages openly with one another and prohibiting employers from retaliating against them for doing so, although it does allow employers some leeway by allowing them to set guidelines.  These include reasonable times and places during the workday to discuss wages, as well as prohibiting employees from disclosing another employee’s wages or the company’s trade secrets, and protecting an employee’s right not to disclose wage information should they chose not to do so.

New Deer Poaching Law in Maryland

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On behalf of The Law Firm of Campen & Manganaro.

New legislation mandating fines of up to $10,000 for poaching deer has now become law in Maryland, according to the Cumberland Times-News.

Gov. Larry Hogan did not sign House Bill 410, but didn’t veto it either. Since there was no veto, Maryland law allows the legislation to become law even without the signature of the head of state as long as it passed successfully through the General Assembly.

District court judges who find someone guilty of illegally killing a deer now must assess restitution charges based on the size of the deer’s antlers, with the lowest bringing restitution of $300 and 40 hours of community service, and the largest bringing restitution of $5,000-$10,000 and 80 hours of community service. This is on top of already preexisting law that allows a judge to fine guilty parties up to $1,500 for the poaching of any deer.

The Case After the Case: Finding Hidden Money for Our Clients

After our firm settles a personal injury case, an outsider might assume our goal is simply to get a check cut for our client, get a check cut for our fee, and move on so we can start working on another case. Well, some attorneys may work that way, but not here at Campen & Manganaro. We don’t stop working until we’ve recovered as much money for YOU as possible. Case in point – see example below.

As you can see, the final settlement our client authorized us to accept was in the amount of $130,000. Our client approved this amount and understood our fee*, so she was really only expecting to recover $130k minus $52k, minus the total of all outstanding medical bills and liens. You can see them listed below. The Medicare lien was especially hefty, coming in at $31,842.05. At this point, we certainly could have just proceeded with having our own fee paid, and given our client what she expected. But that’s not how we work. We knew there was hidden money out there for HER. While our fee would never have increased at that point, our commitment to our client was to recover as much as possible.

So, we made a strong effort to negotiate a reduction in the medical bills for this client. Sometimes health care providers and other lienholders will cooperate, sometimes they won’t. You can see all the bills that were owed and all of the savings we obtained for our client below. In this case, we were able to successfully argue that much of the treatment included in the Medicare lien was unrelated to the accident.

In other words, our fight for your rights doesn’t end with the insurance company. Our fight ends when we know we’ve handed you the most money we can possibly obtain for you.

*Just as an FYI, in this case we had to file suit and litigate, which is why our fee was increased from the typical 1/3 to 40%. This case was taken on contingency, so we were not paid a dime until we recovered for our client.

The_Case_After_the_Case_Settlement_Statement

Samantha Manganaro, Esq.
(301) 668-5808

Sami_2753

How to Start a Small Business in MD

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Samantha Manganaro & Courtney Luck meeting to discuss Courtney's new acupuncture business.

Samantha Manganaro & Courtney Luck meeting to discuss Courtney’s new acupuncture business.

Starting a new business in Maryland is no easy task. Campen & Manganaro wants to see Frederick, Urbana, and all of Maryland’s other beautiful neighborhoods grow. Who doesn’t want a new bakery down the street, or new options for dogsitters when you go out of town? In meeting with an old friend who’s starting her own acupuncture business, I realized it might be helpful to create a list of tasks for all you entrepreneurs out there. Please see below, and good luck!

CHECKLIST FOR NEW BUSINESSES IN MD

  • Choose a Name – Pick something unique! Check these places to find out if someone is already using your name:  1) USPTO website at http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=tess&state=4807:wzrohp.1.1;
    2) State Department of Assessments and Taxation website at http://sdat.resiusa.org/ucc-charter/Pages/CharterSearch/default.aspx; and 3) Remember to also check GOOGLE and other search engines. Trademarks exist even without registration.
  • Register Your Trade Name here: http://www.dat.state.md.us/sdatweb/nameappl.pdf -$75 with rush fee.
    HELPFUL HINT: It’s worth it to pay the extra money to rush paperwork with SDAT. And if you have the time, go to the office yourself, and file there.
  • Decide if you want to be an LLC or a Sole Proprietor. (This warrants an entirely separate blogpost, but a very bare bones description is this: As an LLC your personal assets are protected, but you’ll have to pay taxes, fees, and it’s more work. As a Sole Proprietor, you pay less and have to do less, but your personal assets are not protected. We can talk S Corps and C Corps later, but most small businesses don’t start that way typically because LLC’s are easier and cheaper to start up. You can always roll into a corporation.)

    Want to be an LLC?

Samantha Manganaro, Esq.
Ph. (301) 668-5808

Sami_2753

 

What if I’ve been injured in a car accident, but I don’t have health insurance?

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You may be surprised to learn, to recover pain and suffering damages from a car accident you might not need to pay an attorney OR your doctors upfront. This applies even if you don’t have health insurance. I felt that this was an important blog post to write, because we see so many people who are in bad financial situations pass up seeing an attorney after they’ve been the victim of an auto accident. Many of them have the impression the system is unfair, so they don’t expect recovery; or sometimes they’re afraid to talk to an attorney because they don’t have health insurance. There’s no reason to worry about that. In fact, there’s absolutely the potential for a person of limited means, without health insurance, or even car insurance, to recover for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages, as long as they’re not at fault.

Here’s how this works – Someone rear-ends your vehicle, or does something else to cause you to be injured in an auto accident. And what happens next is a process of you paying little to nothing in order to recover for your damages.

1) You come to us and since we work on contingency, you don’t pay us a dime unless you recover damages.

2) As long as you have PIP (Personal Injury Protection) Coverage, you don’t pay for most, if not all, of your medical expenses or lost wages. Your insurance company will pay at least up to the limit.

3) Even if you don’t have health insurance or PIP coverage, you don’t pay for your doctor’s bills as long as you’re not at fault. Why? Because many doctors work on what is called “assignment”. This means because the doctor knows that the other party is liable, he/she agrees to wait to be paid by the other party’s insurance company. You’ll simply sign an Agreement stating the doctor will get paid out of your recovery. And most importantly, you’ll get the medical care you need!

So the point of all this is to say – no matter who you are or what your position in life, you should never be afraid to contact an attorney if you’re injured in an auto accident. If you suffer at the hands of another person, you deserve proper medical care, and it’s that person’s insurance company that must pay for it.

Thanks, and hope you never need us! But if you do, we’re happy to answer any questions you have.

Sami_2753

Samantha Manganaro, Esq.
(301) 668-5808

BROOKS v. JENKINS – What’s the real deal with pain and suffering for pets in MD?

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ICanHasNonEconomicDamages

In 2012 a case called Brooks v. Jenkins changed the scene for how Courts treat pets in Maryland. In this case two police officers entered a couple’s property in order to arrest their son. One of these police officers felt it necessary to shoot the family dog, Brandi, right before the couples’ eyes in order to clear danger. Well, a jury watching video of Brandi approaching the police officer, slowly and with tail wagging, decided differently. (The camera just happened to be rolling in his police car.)

Now I’ve been hearing a lot of heavy statements going around about this case on social media and in news articles, with headlines like: “Family awarded $620,000 in pain and suffering after dog was shot by police.” That statement is true, but taken out of context can cause a lot of confusion, so I figured I should do the only logical thing and read the case. It’s a long one, so to make this a little easier for everyone, I made a list of what the court DID and DID NOT decide. And if you’re a glutton for punishment, or just a nerd like me, you can read the whole case here … http://www.mdcourts.gov/opinions/cosa/2014/1499s12.pdf

Let’s start with …

What was NOT decided.

  1. The Court did NOT decide that pets can receive non-economic damages. Pain and suffering damages were awarded to the dog’s owners. You and/or your pet still can’t recover damages for your pet’s pain and suffering.
  2. The Court did NOT say that pets in Maryland now have “personhood”. Pets are still considered “chattel”, or possessions. The Court just took a roundabout way to say that pets are very, very important possessions. (Just a note here, if a pet were given “personhood” legally, this does not mean they would be considered people. That’s a confusion that a lot of people have. It would just mean they could assert some rights. In some countries even bridges and lakes have “personhood”.)
  3. The jury did NOT award $620,000 in pain and suffering to the owners of Brandi. That was the overall amount awarded by the jury, but there were numerous issues to which the jury awarded damages, and the majority of those damages were awarded for illegal entry into the Jenkins’ home.
  4. The Court did NOT make it clear how pain and suffering damages will now be dealt with outside of the context of constitutional claims against government actors.

What WAS decided.

  1. The Court DID say that the facts were sufficient for a jury to find that Brooks was grossly negligent in shooting Brandi, and therefore not acting in the scope of his employment. This is important because it means that just because a police officer has a warrant to search your property, and just because your animals are considered chattel, doesn’t mean a police officer can shoot your animal simply because he wants to, or because it MIGHT have the propensity for violence.
  2. The Court DID affirm that the jury could award pain and suffering damages to Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins for emotional distress they each experienced when Brandi was shot. The Court basically acknowledged that pets are important to their human families. They said the statute limiting economic damages for injury to a pet to $7,500 (i.e. vet bills and the fair market value of your pet), does NOT limit compensation for violation of your constitutional rights.
  3. The jury DID award $200,000 in pain and suffering damages to the owners of Brandi, at $100,000 each, and the appellate court found that amount reasonable. They were also awarded the $7,500 cap for economic damages.

So, this case does change the direction of animal law in Maryland. Your loss of an animal friend, and the value of that pet’s life to you is respected by Maryland Courts. The value of a pet’s life to itself, is another story entirely.

Sami_2753

Samantha Manganaro, Esq.
Ph. 301-668-5808

 

 

Personal Injury Protection Insurance – Why it matters to you.

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Don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish” when it comes to your auto insurance.  We do tons of auto accident work here and one of the biggest mistakes people make is regarding their Personal Injury Protection (or PIP) coverage.  PIP coverage is there to pay for your medical bills and lost wages whether or not you were at fault in causing an accident.  You can opt out of it, so some people don’t have it at all, while most people carry $2,500 in PIP coverage.  But for just a few more bucks per premium period you can up that number to $10,000.  And if you have ever been in an auto accident with even minimal injuries, you know that with just a few days off work, a couple of doctor’s visits and a few weeks of physical therapy, you can blow through $2,500 very easily.

Another advantage to higher PIP coverage is that, in MD, the PIP insurer has no right of subrogation. Subrogation is the term used when an insurer has the right to get back the money they paid to you, if you recover in a personal injury claim. When you’re not at fault in an accident, PIP insurers cannot ask for subrogation, but your health insurance company can. This means if your settlement is for $10,000 and your PIP covers you for $10,000, you can still recover $10,000. But if a health insurer paid for your medical bills, then that $10,000 is reduced by the amount that you owe them.  So: 1) under no circumstances should you ever elect to have no PIP insurance; and 2) call your insurance agent and up that PIP coverage NOW to $10,000.  DO IT!

I know this sounds like I am an insurance agent, but the truth is we have a “love/hate” relationship with insurers.  When they provide for our clients as they have been paid to do, we love them.  When they don’t, we pursue them vigorously to make sure they do the right thing.

Have a great day.

stevecampen

Steve Campen, Esq.
(301) 668-5808