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Vol. III, Issue No. 3
March 27, 2014
Happy Spring! It's not so happy for Tiger Woods who had a jury verdict entered against his company for violating a Florida deceptive trade statute. Our March Briefing also covers the dangers of self-drafted wills as well as what happens when sales talk becomes fraud. Last, we discuss a couple of the cases we have "on our plate."

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Beware of the Dangers of Self-Drafted Wills


When is a self-drafted will not a will? When a court says so. Last month, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that a document purporting to be a holographic will (one  made in hand writing, signed and dated by the testator) was not in fact a will.  In the case of In re Reid, the primary asset of the deceased was 80 acres of land near Grand Rapids.  She made handwritten notes as to how to divide her estate and excluded three of her siblings. The Court determined these notes were not a legal will but instead were intended to be used by her attorney to prepare a will. She indeed had spoken to an attorney but "failed to follow through before her death." She was found to have died without any will and the siblings she likely intended to exclude, therefore, shared in her estate.  Lesson: Don't leave your wishes to chance. Contact Mark Snitchler to make sure your or your clients' assets go where they are intended to go.
Tiger Woods Finds Florida's Deceptive
Trade Act Costly

Your business contract has been breached in Florida and litigation can be costly for a plaintiff. However, as Tiger Woods will likely soon find out, Florida's Deceptive Trade Practices Act ("DTPA") provides a powerful tool to shift attorney's fees to the defendant.


Florida's DTPA prohibits unfair methods of competition and unconscionable acts. A prevailing party may be awarded reasonable attorney's fees even if the contract doesn't provide for them.  In a recent Miami case, the plaintiff accused Woods of violating a licensing agreement after his company did not provide autographs for the plaintiff to sell. On March 12, 2014, a jury of six women found that Woods' company breached its contract, violated its duty of good faith and fair dealing, and, importantly, engaged in deceptive and unfair trade practices under the DTPA.  A copy of the jury verdict can be found hereThe jury awarded $668,346.00 in damages to the plaintiff which, with interest, could exceed $1.3 million. Additionally, the plaintiff's attorneys will seek attorney's fees under the DTPA which could approximate $1 million. With some litigation creativity, cost effective representation can be achieved.

When Does Sales "Puffery" Cross The Line Into Fraud In The Inducement?

Many people in sales use some form of "puffery": promotional statements that represent subjective rather than objective views which no reasonable person would take seriously. However, when statements are made as fact and then relied upon by a buyer, fraud in the inducement arises. 
In the case of Ann Arbor Rehab Center v. Schudy, the plaintiff purchased software which was designed to increase its revenues through the use of electronic medical records. The defendant stated that he "personally designed the software that he was selling" and that he "had resources at Harvard, and in California and Japan."  The software was a complete failure and decreased plaintiff's revenues.


The trial court found fraud since the software was designed by a team of programmers. Additionally, the defendant had no "resources" in Harvard or in California, so those representations were "undeniably false". The plaintiff relied on the false statements to buy the software. The Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment of approximately $190,000, which included damages for the lost productivity of the plaintiff's employees. When your sales people are boasting - make sure they're not defrauding.

On Our Plate 

* John Hubbard and Kenny Lee are scheduled to begin trial involving an employee's embezzlement of funds from the employer we represent.


* We were recently retained to represent a 50% owner of a business in litigation against the other 50% owner - again calling into question the wisdom of 50/50 ownership splits.

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Self-Drafted Wills
Tiger Woods
Sales Fraud
On Our Plate
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