5 Legal Issues Affecting the Main Line
And who’s leading the charge for justice.
Top Lawyer Scott Reidenbach in his Wayne office
Improperly applied stucco has damaged many Main Line homes so severely that construction-defect litigation has become the lion’s share of Reidenbach & Associates’ practice. “Stucco itself is a porous material,” says Scott Reidenbach, who is based in Wayne. “It’s meant to let water come into it, then go out of it. But a lot of times, the builder will misapply the stucco. Water gets into the stucco through improper terminations around windows, doors, below the gutters, at the roof line and at the chimney. So the water can’t get out.”
Left unchecked, water can cause something all home-owners dread: mold. And not just in the basement or a few isolated places. This is mold gone wild, spreading throughout the house. Insurance-claim periods for construction defects typically expire before the mold manifests, and homeowner’s insurance covers only the occurrences of mold, not negligent construction. Remediation bills for mold-infected homes can total $200,000 and more. Reidenbach wants his clients’ bills paid—and he’s going after major builders in this region to make that happen.
The Art of Cyber Defense
When it comes to shielding his clients from hackers, firewalls and passcodes never enter the equation for Harry DiDonato. He protects them with contracts. A transaction attorney with McElree Harvey, DiDonato devises protections for small- and medium-sized businesses that request and store personal data, including Social Security numbers and credit card numbers. “In the event of a breach, our client isn’t liable for what hackers do with that information,” says DiDonato.
Small- and medium-sized businesses are often easy targets for hackers. And, just as often, the breach is from inside the company. Employees with access to stored personal data can steal it easily, says DiDonato.
Many Main Line baby boomers are considering retirement and the fate of their companies. They also have to decide what to do with their personal estates.
That’s where Douglas Kaune of Unruh Turner Burke & Frees comes in. A tax and wills specialist, Kaune serves clients with estates valued in the millions. For years, he established trusts so assets would be safeguarded after the death of one or both parents. “Traditional planning was that, once the child was 25 or 30, the assets of the trust were paid out to them directly, and the trust then dissolved,” says Kaune.
These days, a growing number of clients are worried about what will happen to the assets they leave to their adult children. Divorce is their big concern. Kaune elaborates. “Parents say, ‘If I leave $1 million to my son and he gets divorced, will his wife get part of it?’”
A common solution is to create a trust and make the adult child the trustee. That way, the child can access the funds, but because they aren’t in his or her name, they can’t become part of any divorce settlement.
There’s no shortage of car accidents on our region’s highways and back roads—many of them caused by distracted drivers talking on phones, texting, changing radio stations, or whatever. Leonard Sloane says that case law is just emerging in regards to reckless claims and punitive damages in distracted-driver cases.
All the more reason to get good insurance. “Underinsured,” “uninsured,” “full tort” and “limited tort” are terms that people should understand before they decide on a policy. “Otherwise, you could end up in my office and hear me say, ‘You’re in trouble because you’re not covered,’” says Sloane, a personal-injury and medical-malpractice attorney with Eckell Sparks. “Insurance agents are beating their competition with low prices rather than good coverage. But why spend good money on a bad policy that could cost you even more in the event of an accident?”
No one knows how acrimonious divorce proceedings can be better than Greg LaMonaca. Fueling much of that acrimony is technology, which he says is now the biggest weapon in divorce and family law.
Whether technology is used defensively or offensively depends on who’s been doing what. Today, extramarital affairs are often proven thanks to GPS, texting and video surveillance. Proof of adultery can influence a judge’s decision to award alimony—and how much of it.
Then there’s Facebook.
“Social media has changed the entire game,” LaMonaca says. “For every client, we do Internet searches to see if there are things on their profiles that will get them in trouble.”
That trouble may even lurk on their friends’ profiles.
“Something that may not have been inappropriate years ago may be seen differently in light of a divorce,” says LaMonaca. “I always look at the date a client was married. Let’s say it is Oct. 1, 1985.
“I say, ‘Back then, did you ever think that you’d be in a divorce attorney’s office?’”