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Consumer law refers to a broad range of rules and regulations intended to protect the people who purchase a product or service, as well as enforce truthful and ethical conduct among businesses in the marketplace. Our Orlando consumer rights attorneys have extensive experience representing clients in a variety of business disputes. We also handle commercial litigation cases and help businesses protect their rights and interests. You can read about the different types of cases we handle in the sections below.
Many clients are reluctant to take action against a business due to concerns about the financial investment required to pursue just compensation. At Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter are proud to work on a full or sometimes partial contingency basis for our clients. With our contingency fee arrangements, you don’t owe attorney fees until our lawyers win a positive verdict or settlement on your behalf.
For an evaluation of your consumer or commercial rights case, please call Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter today at 855-880-4741 to schedule a free consultation. Our attorneys serve clients in Orlando, the Four Corners, Tampa, and other nearby areas of Florida.
- Class-Action Lawsuits
- Statutory Civil Theft
- Debt Harassment Claims
- Deceptive and Unfair Business Practices
- Commercial Litigation
- The Arbitration Fairness Act of 2011
Class-action lawsuits are designed to help a large number of people receive compensation for losses they have all suffered as the result of a common circumstance. Many times, large corporations are responsible for the losses of many different people. Class-action lawsuits allow numerous victims to obtain the quality legal representation they need in order to recover compensation from large corporations. Class actions are appropriate when everybody in the class has suffered the same wrong and a similar injury.
Class actions have been filed in response to:
- Defective products
- Toxic torts
- Securities law fraud
- Consumer fraud
- Defective medical devices
- Dangerous drugs
- Environmental claims
- Wage and hour claims
- Employee benefit disputes
- Human rights violations
When large corporations are sued, they can hire the most expensive lawyers to represent them and prevent them from being held liable for the losses they caused. With a class action, the little people can band together to fight on an equal footing and, if monetary compensation is recovered, it goes to a common fund. After the class action has been settled, the parties involved each receive their share of the settlement from the common fund.
There are four criteria which must be met in order for a lawsuit to receive class-action status:
- Quantity: There must be a very large number of similar claims, making it more practical for them to be resolved in one lawsuit instead of separate ones.
- Commonality: The claims must share common factual issues and questions of law.
- Typicality: The individuals named as representatives of the entire class must have claims that are typical of the average class member’s claim.
- Adequacy: The individuals named as representatives of the class must be capable of adequately representing the interests of the entire class.
One question we often get is how do you join a class-action case? Generally, if you qualify as part of the class of plaintiffs, you will be included automatically and you will receive a notice informing you of the lawsuit and what actions you need to take. If you decide that you do not want to participate in the lawsuit, you can opt out. However, if you do not exercise your right to opt out of the lawsuit, you may be bound by the terms of the settlement.
There are two factors which should determine whether it’s better for you to opt out and file a separate claim: the size of your claim and your willingness to litigate the case on your own. If the damages you suffered are relatively small, then it’s best to remain part of the class. However, if you have suffered serious personal or financial damages, you may want to file your own claim to make sure your interests are best represented. It’s best to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer before making this decision.
Statutory Civil Theft
Statutory civil theft claims govern disputes where your property was intentionally taken by another individual or corporation and that party refuses to return your property upon request. Since this is a civil case, no criminal penalties, such as jail time, are administered. Instead, you can recover monetary damages for the theft of your property.
In order to file a statutory civil theft claim, you must first provide a written notice to the party who has taken your property requesting its return. This party has 30 days from the receipt of this notice to comply with the request. If your property has not been returned by the end of this time period, you can then file a statutory civil theft claim to recover monetary damages for your loss.
In the state of Florida, you may recover three times the value of the property which has been taken from you as part of your statutory civil theft claim. It is important to understand that civil theft claims only apply to disputes over tangible property, not unpaid debts.
It’s important to keep the following points in mind when considering whether to file a statutory civil theft claim:
- Economic loss is generally not covered under civil theft statutes
- In order to successfully recover damages, you must prove that there is “substantial fact or legal support” for your claim
Economic loss refers to damages incurred by the loss in value or the loss of profits not covered under a personal injury claim. They are considered to be a breach of contract, and therefore covered under contract law rather than tort law. As a result, you are not able to recover damages for financial loss in a civil theft claim.
The second point regarding the need to provide "substantial fact and legal support" for a civil theft claim relates to the ability to recover attorney's fees. In a Florida statutory civil theft claim, the defendant will be responsible for your attorney's fees if you are successful in proving your case.
However, you may be held responsible for the defendant's legal fees if the court determines that your claim lacks "substantial fact or legal support." In other words, if you do not have clear and convincing evidence in support of your civil theft claim, the court may order you to pay the defendant's attorney's fees.
Debt Harassment Claims
In the U.S., millions of people are affected by some form of debt. And while you’re legally bound to follow the terms of your payment agreement, there are laws that protect you from harassment from debt collectors. For example, the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) prevents unfair and illegal collection practices in attempting to collect a consumer debt. If you are being harassed regarding your debt, you may be entitled to receive $1,000 or more depending on the violation.
Common violations by creditors and debt collectors include but are not limited to:
- Calling your place of work and harassing you over unpaid bills
- Repeated phone calls or voice messages with rude behavior or abusive language
- Attempting to collect money you do not owe
- Threats, including suggestions of arrest, prosecution, force or violence
- Contacting family members or other third parties about your debt without prior consent from you
- Contacting you after you have secured the services of an attorney; once a lawyer has represented you for the alleged debt, it is illegal for a creditor to continue to contact you
- Attempting to collect old debts that are now exempt due to the statute of limitations
- Attempting to collect debts after you have successfully filed for bankruptcy
- Falsely suggesting they are attorneys or government representatives
- Calling you between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. in your time zone without your prior permission
If you have been a victim of any of the above practices, or have been otherwise harassed over your debt, please call the experienced lawyers at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter today for help with your case.
Deceptive and Unfair Business Practices
A deceptive or unfair business practice is an action carried out by a business intended to mislead consumers into purchasing their product or service. Both federal law and Florida state law make deceptive and unfair business practices illegal, and you may recover damages from a deceptive business owner for their unfair trade practices.
The business owner does not have to intentionally try to deceive consumers to be found guilty of deceptive and unfair business practices. Any conduct deemed unfair is illegal regardless of the whether the business owner meant to deceive others with their actions.
The following business practices are considered deceptive and unfair:
- False advertising
- Fake testimonials and endorsements
- “Bait and switch” advertising
- Deceptive statements of guarantees
- Deceptive pricing practices
- Charging prices higher than those published or advertised for a particular product
- Providing an unreasonably low estimate for a job and then charging more money for “extras” in order to raise the overall price of the job when these “extras” should have been included in the original estimate
Almost anyone who is the victim of an unfair or deceptive business practice in Florida may pursue a lawsuit. Florida law defines a consumer as “an individual; child, by and through its parent or legal guardian; business; firm; association; joint venture; partnership; estate; trust; business trust; syndicate; fiduciary; corporation; any commercial entity, however denominated; or any other group or combination.”
If you prove successful in this type of case you may receive compensation for actual damages incurred, any attorneys’ fees and court costs, and declaratory judgments and injunctive relief. Additionally, laws allow that the state may take further action against a business in violation of the act on behalf of one or more consumers.
When contracts are breached, trade secrets are stolen, or information has been misrepresented, the consequences can be disastrous for your business and the Orlando commercial business litigation lawyers at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter can help protect your rights in court.
Our attorneys have experience representing small businesses and large corporations in a variety of plaintiff commercial litigation claims, including:
- Contract disputes
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Unfair competition
- Trade secret misappropriation
- Business defamation
- Intellectual property rights
- Landlord/tenant disputes
- Ownership disputes
- Disputes over non-compete clauses
- Shareholder disputes
- Partnership disputes
The Arbitration Fairness Act of 2011
Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that aims to settle legal disputes outside of the court system. While this can be valuable in some situations, many commercial companies and employers place forced arbitration terms in their contracts, requiring disputes to be settled by arbitration alone. This prevents people from exercising their legal right to take a company to court, allowing many major industries to escape accountability altogether.
Simply because a case is going to arbitration instead of trial does not mean that you should forgo legal representation. It is equally important to have a skilled lawyer by your side regardless of the path your claim takes through the legal system.
Brought down to the level of the average consumer, forced arbitration means that you are denied your right to pursue a potential lawsuit or class action against a corporation whenever you:
- Sign up for a credit card
- Sign a contract for a cell phone service
- Open a bank account
- Enter into a student loan
- Plan to buy a car
- Sign an employment contract
- Place a loved one in the care of a nursing home
Arbitration is a private system of justice. There is no judge, jury, or appeal process, and the decisions of an arbitrator are not reviewed by the public to ensure they got it right. In addition, contracts usually name the arbitrator that will be used, which is almost always based on company preference. Because of this, individuals are prevented from effectively suing for defective products, scams, negligence, and even abuse.
In an effort to protect the constitutional rights of consumers and employees, the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2011 has recently been proposed by Senator Russ Feingold (Wisconsin) and Congressman Hank Johnson (Georgia). With support from numerous different groups, law organizations, and sponsors, the proposed bill would outlaw mandatory binding arbitration clauses in employment, franchise, and consumer disputes.
Under the bill, parties involved in a dispute would be allowed a choice between arbitration or a court action when pursuing a complaint. This decision would be made after a dispute arises, allowing for an informed decision about the individual’s options. The rights that are at stake with employment and consumer disputes are simply too important – to both the nation and the individual – to be left in the hands of an arbitrator who lacks the accountability and openness that comes with court actions.
Contact Our Experienced Consumer and Commercial Litigation Lawyers Today
Our attorneys have been representing personal injury victims on a contingency fee basis for many years. During this time, we have developed a strong comfort level with this fee arrangement system while consistently delivering successful results to our clients.
By taking your case on a contingency fee basis, we are foregoing all payment unless you win. Rather than charging you a high hourly rate, we will take a percentage of your total recovery. This prevents you from paying excessive up-front fees which may make filing your claim prohibitively expensive. Our only goal is to provide you with the most effective legal representation possible so that you are in the greatest position to recover the compensation you deserve.
For an evaluation of your consumer rights case, please call Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter today at 855-880-4741 to schedule a free consultation. Our attorneys serve clients in Orlando and many other Florida communities.