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Blog: Opinions & Observations

The Importance of Carefully-Worded Job Descriptions - March 2016

March 04, 2016

by Jeffrey D. Wilson While employers are not legally required to draft job descriptions for most positions, many do anyway in an effort to define job duties. This week the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that, while not groundbreaking, serves as a reminder of how important it is to properly word position descriptions, including those used to advertise job openings. In Stephenson v. Pfizer, Inc., No. 14-2079 (4th Cir. Mar. 2, 2016), the Court took up a...

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Is Manifest Disregard of the Law Still a Ground for Vacating Arbitration Awards? - March 2016

March 02, 2016

by Jack Rephan Eight years ago, the United States Supreme Court, in Hall Street Assocs., LLC v. Mattel, Inc.,[1] had before it the issue of whether or not parties to an arbitration agreement could expand the grounds for vacating an award under §§ 10 and 11 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA).[2] In holding that parties to an arbitration agreement cannot by private agreement expand the grounds for the reviewing an arbitration award, the Court also said that the FAA provides...

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Oil Spills: The Clean Water Act to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 - February 2016

February 25, 2016

by James T. Lang A tugboat overturns in a waterway adjacent to a small shipyard off of the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River, near the Campostella Bridge in Norfolk, spilling an estimated 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the river. Firefighters who specialize in hazardous substance releases, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality respond to the scene. The shipyard owner/operator is criticized for his failure to notify the National...

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Protection From Day One: The Importance of Employee Handbooks - February 2016

February 22, 2016

by Jeffrey D. Wilson In my second year of law school, one of my classmates was hired for a summer position by a prominent law firm. A few days before her new job was to begin, she sheepishly approached me and asked, “What happens when I start my job?” When I asked what she meant, she replied, “On the first day, what will happen when I get to the office? Will I have a desk? Do they have office supplies? Will someone tell me what I am working on?” It was then I realized that...

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Recovery of Attorney's Fees and Costs in Virginia Civil Actions - January 2016

January 19, 2016

By Michael E. Ornoff, Esq. Litigants in civil lawsuits frequently ask if they will recover their attorney’s fees and costs if they win a civil suit which they initiate or which has been brought against them. Where they are recoverable, potential liability for such fees and costs can become a consideration as important as the amount of the underlying claim in balancing the risks versus benefits in initiating the action and in assessing whether to settle a case or take it to...

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Teaming Agreements in Virginia: Are They Enforceable? - January 2016

January 12, 2016

By Jack Rephan Teaming agreements are widely used in Virginia and elsewhere by prime contractors and subcontractors who regularly deal with federal, state and local governments for the provision of services, construction and other things to meet the needs of these public bodies. Therefore, it is essential that prime contractors and subcontractors are aware of Virginia legal statutes regarding the enforceability of teaming agreements and understand many of the Virginia courts...

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Property Settlement Agreements: Balancing the Special Fiduciary Relationship Between Spouses and “Fairness” - December 2015

December 01, 2015

by Naveed Kalantar When dealing with a property settlement agreement between spouses going through a separation or divorce, it is easy to assume, like many contracts, that when the agreement is signed, it’s a “done deal.” However, Virginia courts have addressed numerous instances in which one party has claimed their spouse committed fraud to induce them into signing an agreement or that the agreement was “unconscionable.” This is only one of many reasons we advise our...

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Divorce: Are Assets with No Value Subject to Equitable Distribution? - November 2015

November 11, 2015

by Patrick L. Maurer In Virginia, courts divide marital assets between parties (Code Ann. § 20–107.3, Michie, 2012) after analyzing evidence to determine whether the property is separate, marital or a hybrid of the two. In most cases, this is easily determinable. The court then ascertains the value of the assets, which in many cases can be stipulated by the parties. If not, they are offered into evidence, often resulting in disagreements between the representatives of each...

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Environmental Law and the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act: Where Local Knowledge is a “Must” - October 2015

October 07, 2015

by James T. Lang Living on the water provides beautiful vistas, opportunities for boating and fishing and other amenities, all of which come with a (sometimes hidden) cost because the waterfront is subject to a complicated web of environmental laws and regulations. Among these, the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (found at Virginia code §§ 62.1-44.15:67 to 62.1-44.15:79) is unique in that it is a creature of local government, with minimal state oversight, and no federal role...

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How Citizens' Environmental Lawsuits Can Stop Pollution - September 2015

September 24, 2015

by James T. Lang The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) have primary responsibility for enforcing the environmental laws and regulations in the Commonwealth of Virginia. There are times, however, when the EPA or the DEQ are unwilling or unable to take action against a polluter who is contaminating water, air or land in violation of environmental law. Sometimes the government fails to act because the...

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