Real Estate and Property in Thailand – Legal Information For Prospective Property Buyers

Thailand is one of the most exotic and beautiful locations in the world. For this reason, it is one of the top tourist destinations and continues to draw new arrivals each year. Many of those coming to Thailand eventually decide to remain in the country as expatriates. When seeking to relocate to any country, the issue of home ownership becomes a paramount concern. Hopefully this piece will shed light upon some of the many facets of Thai Property Law.

Obtaining Real Estate or Property in Thailand

In order to stay in Thailand for the long term many people opt to buy Thai Real Estate. Owning a home in Thailand can be a bit of a risky enterprise since Thailand has many laws that preclude foreign ownership of land. However, there are some ways in which a non-Thai can own or control Thai property.

Thailand Condos

Condos in Thailand are a popular choice for many expats. Under Thai law a foreigner is allowed to own a Thai Condominium provided the Condo meets certain requirements laid out in the Thailand Condominium Act.

Thai Real Estate Lease

A long term lease of Thai Real Estate is another attractive option to many prospective foreign Property owners in Thailand. However, there is some misunderstanding regarding Thai leases. Many people believe that Thai leases are automatically renewable and they can last for over 30 years, this is simply not the case.

Thailand Usufruct

A usufruct of Thai property is another possibility. This is much like a life estate under the common law system in that a usufruct can grant a person the right to the use of land for life. There are many formalities that must be kept in mind when drafting a usufruct which is why it is advisable to have a lawyer prepare a usufruct.

Thai Company Formation for Property Ownership

Another method of “owning” property in Thailand is having a Thai company own the property and have a disproportionate number of voting shares allotted to the non-Thai property “owner,” this method allows a non-Thai to keep control of the property while still adhering to Thai law.

For interesting insights regarding Thai Real Estate and Property Legal issues please see: http://hubpages.com/hub/Buying-Property-or-Real-Estate-in-Thailand

The legal system of Thailand is complex body of regulations and rules. As with any legal structure used to own real estate, it is wise and recommended that a competent lawyer draft all documents and conduct due diligence research in order to make sure ones interests are fully protected.

Court Reporter Firms – A Most Valuable Resource For Small Law Firms

It would seem that law firms would have no problem hiring the best court reporters. But that’s often not the case, especially for smaller law firms that don’t have a human resources department. Although smaller firms know what they want in a reporter, finding the time and resources to determine whether a reporter meets their qualifications can prove difficult, and usually results in their using one of two methods to find the right reporters: seeking professional references from other law firms that require litigation services, or seeking reporters through the aid of court reporter firms. While professional referrals can be helpful to finding top rate reporters, seeking a reporter through court reporter firms is usually the better option for two reasons: many reporting firms offer additional litigation services associated with court reporting, and contacting a reporting firm is the best way to choose from the largest number of qualified candidates.

In some cases, court reporter firms that offer additional legal services are contacted to secure these services alone. But the most common reasons that law firms turn to reporting firms is for assistance with depositions reporting, which begins with hiring the right reporter for a company’s type of depositions. In terms of deposition type, the first selection criterion is whether a law firm conducts video or non-video depositions. In today’s legal scene, the assumption that a reporter has experience in video depositions is automatic. But insuring that the experience exists through a reporting agency is the safest bet. The next selection criterion is whether a reporter has experience with a law firm’s case area. For example, a health law firm would be wise to hire a reporter that has training and experience in medical terminology. The third selection criterion is what type of reporting technology is desired, such as digital reporting, voice writing, real time reporting, etc.

The three selection criteria mentioned above are the basic building blocks for choosing the right court reporter. But there’s also a fourth selection criterion that isn’t as straightforward as the rest: determining whether a reporter has the right personality. From a distance, a court reporter’s personality would seem to be one of the last things that determined his or her court reporting ability, as a reporter’s job doesn’t involve interacting with attorneys or deponents during the reporting process. However, there are various instances of poor transcript quality and even emotional reactions from reporters due their previously unnoticed personality flaws. While the majority of reporters are professional enough to handle circumstantial feelings of boredom, bias, unexpected anger, etc., some reporters aren’t as adaptable. To avoid such reporters, reputable court reporter firms evaluate their candidates’ personality in addition to their credentials and work experience.

New CDC Report On Seat Belts

Seat belt laws were created fairly recently in the United States, and their implementation has varied across states and vehicles-the consequences of which have proven detrimental on numerous occasions. One night last fall, a father and his daughter were traveling down a San Diego highway when he suddenly lost control of the vehicle and swerved into oncoming traffic. His daughter was ejected and died at the scene of the accident. The vehicle, a 1956 Volkswagen Beetle, had never been outfitted with safety belts, nor was the father ever required by law to install any. Given the strong relationship between occupant protection and the use of safety belts his daughter may have survived the accident had she been wearing one.

An estimated 12,713 lives were saved by seat belts in 2009. Moreover, more than 72,000 fatalities were prevented between the years of 2005 and 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In California, 574 of the 1,963 vehicle occupants killed in motor vehicle collisions in 2008 were not wearing any safety equipment, according to the California Highway Patrol’s accident statistics. As much as drivers who “buckle up” have improved the safety of motor vehicles, there were no laws mandating their use until New York enacted the first one in 1984. In the following years, every other state would follow, except for one: New Hampshire.

Seat belt laws fall into two categories: primary and secondary. In states where primary laws are in effect, law enforcement officials may stop a vehicle and issue a citation when either a driver or a passenger is not wearing a belt. An officer may only issue a citation for not wearing a safety belt after the vehicle has been pulled over for another violation in states with secondary laws. “Currently, 31 states, including California, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have primary seat belt laws, and 18 states have secondary laws”, explains Jim Ballidis, a California personal injury lawyer.

Compliance has been higher in states with primary laws than in those with secondary laws, according to NHTSA. A recent telephone survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed NHTSA’s finding: drivers in California, Oregon, and Washington-all states with primary laws-reported the highest seat-belt use in the country. Coming in first place was Oregon, where 94% of the people surveyed claimed to be seat-belt wearers, followed by California with 93.2%, and Washington State with 92%. Surprisingly, New Hampshire did not rank the lowest. Whereas 66.4% of people surveyed there said they always use a safety belt, only 59.2% of people in North Dakota reported the same.

As seat-belt use has increased, the number of vehicle occupant fatalities has decreased, according to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS). The recent CDC study noted a similar correlation between seat-belt use and injuries resulting from accidents: between 2001 and 2009, the injury rate among motor vehicle occupants decreased by 16%, while between 2002 and 2008, the number of people using buckling up rose from 81% to 85%.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 5-34 in the United States. Safety belts have the potential to reduce the risk of fatal injuries during a crash by approximately 45%, according to the CDC. Considering these two facts, everyone should buckle up.

Guide to Finding the Best Law Firm for Your Business

A law firm is a simple business entity formed by one or more lawyers, who look after the interest of their clients together. Lawyers in these firms can also allow other lawyers to work with them, who are called associates. In a law firm, all the partners not only share the profits and loss incurred, but also the risks associated with running the firm. It functions similar any other company, however in most companies lawyers cannot raise money through IPO’s, which is why conflicts of interest is often not there in this type of business.

How to choose a law form for your business?

For any business, finding the right law firm to handle all their legal issues and get better legal advice is very important. The following guide will help businesses to choose the best law firm for their legal issues.

a. Factors to look for in a law firm:

The first and foremost factor that should be taken in to consideration is to find a firm that has experience in working with businesses similar to the client’s business and understand the nature of the business. Also, they should be able to offer legal advice and explanations in simple, plain language, and not in legal terms. For start-up businesses, small firms are the best option because they charge less and value them more as a client. All solicitors working in the firm should have a practicing certificate issued by the law society, which the professional body for law solicitors. A qualified firm means, it is verified by the law society and so can offer better legal advice.

b. Searching law firms for your business:

The first place to look for a law firm is the law society. The law society can put individuals in touch with solicitors in the particular specialization or particular area, and also arrange for a free consultation. Other people to ask for recommendations include friends, people from similar businesses, accountants, bank managers, and local chamber of commerce.

c. Arranging a meeting with solicitors:

It is always advisable to see a number of solicitors and have a face to face meeting before selecting one. Questioning the solicitor, what they know about your business and its sector, will help enable you to make a decision on whether to choose them or not. Most solicitors charge fee on a per hour basis, so check out how much your solicitors charge. You should try and make them agree a fixed spending fee, so that you don’t spend above your budget limits. To this end, it is advisable to get quotes from solicitors before proceeding. Above all, see what other services the solicitors can offer you for the better growth of your business, and take advantage of the situation.

Conclusion:

The legal market is very big which makes choosing the right law firm for your business a difficult task. A detailed research and a clear idea of what you are looking for in a firm will help you make the right decision and growth of your business.

South Carolina’s Whistleblower Protections – A Review for SC Attorneys, Lawyers & Law Firms

South Carolina whistleblowers who are employed by a South Carolina state government agency are protected from adverse employment actions when they timely report violations of state or federal laws or regulations or other wrongdoing. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and law firms who represent SC state government whistleblowers should be aware of the protections afforded to these employees who are fired, demoted, suspended or otherwise subjected to an adverse action in reaction to a report of fraud or other wrongdoing by a public agency or one of its officers or employees. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers and law firms should also be aware of the administrative requirements necessary to invoke the protections of the state’s anti-retaliation statute, as well as the relief provisions afforded to such SC whistleblowers. There are also some whistleblower protections for government and private employees who report violations of South Carolina’s occupational safety and health statutes, rules or regulations.

South Carolina’s Whistleblower Protection Act for State Government Employees

South Carolina’s General Assembly enacted legislation called the “Employment Protection for Reports of Violations of State or Federal Law or Regulation” (the “Act”) to protect South Carolina state employees from retaliation or disciplinary actions when they report violations of state or federal laws or regulations or other wrongdoing including fraud and abuse. See South Carolina Code § 8-27-10, et seq. The Act prohibits a South Carolina public body from decreasing the compensation of, or dismissing, suspending or demoting, a state employee based on the employee’s filing of a protected report of wrongdoing with an appropriate authority. S.C. Code § 8-27-20(A). The protected report must be made by the SC whistleblower in good faith and not be a mere technical violation. Id. The Act does not apply to private, non-government employers or employees. S.C. Code § 8-27-50.

A public body under the Act means one of the following South Carolina entities: (A) a department of the State; (B) a state board, commission, committee, agency, or authority; (C) a public or governmental body or political subdivision of the State, including counties, municipalities, school districts, or special purpose or public service districts; (D) an organization, corporation, or agency supported in whole or in part by public funds or expending public funds; or, (E) a quasi-governmental body of the State and its political subdivisions. S.C. Code § 8-27-10(1).

A South Carolina employee under the Act is an employee of any South Carolina public body entity, generally excluding those state executives whose appointment or employment is subject to Senate confirmation. S.C. Code § 8-27-10(2).

An appropriate authority under the Act means either (A) the public body that employs the whistleblower making the protected report, or (B) a federal, state, or local governmental body, agency, or organization having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement, regulatory violations, professional conduct or ethics, or wrongdoing, including but not limited to, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (“SLED”), a County Solicitor’s Office, the State Ethics Commission, the State Auditor, the Legislative Audit Council (the “LAC”), and the Office of Attorney General (the “SCAG”). S.C. Code § 8-27-10(3). When a protected report is made to an entity other than the public body employing the whistleblower making the report, the Act requires that the employing public body be notified as soon as practicable by the entity that received the report. Id.

A SC whistleblower employee’s protected report under the Act is a written document alleging waste or wrongdoing which is made within sixty (60) days of the date the reporting employee first learns of the alleged wrongdoing, and which includes (a) the date of disclosure; (b) the name of the employee making the report; and, (c) the nature of the wrongdoing and the date or range of dates on which the wrongdoing allegedly occurred. S.C. Code § 8-27-10(4).

Pursuant to the Act, a reportable wrongdoing is any action by a public body which results in substantial abuse, misuse, destruction, or loss of substantial public funds or public resources, including allegations that a public employee has intentionally violated federal or state statutory law or regulations or other political subdivision ordinances or regulations or a code of ethics, S.C. Code § 8-27-10(5). A violation which is merely technical or of a de minimus nature is not a “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.

Rewards for SC Whistleblowers

When a SC state employee blows the whistle on fraudulent or abusive acts or violations of federal, state or local laws, rules or regulations, and the protected report results in savings of public funds for the state of South Carolina, the whistleblower is entitled to a reward or bounty under the Act. However, the reward is extremely limited. The provisions of the Act provide that a SC whistleblower is entitled to the lesser of Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000) or twenty-five percent (25%) of the estimated money saved by the state in the first year of the whistleblowing employee’s report. The South Carolina State Budget and Control Board determines the amount of the monetary reward that is to be paid to the employee who is eligible for the reward as a result of filing a protected report. See S.C. Code § 8-27-20(B). This reward is very meager when compared to the bounty provisions of the federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3732 (the “FCA”). The FCA allows a qui tam whistleblower or relator to receive up to 30% of the total amount of the government’s recovery against defendants who have made false and fraudulent claims for payment to the United States. Some recent federal FCA recoveries by the U.S. Department of Justice have exceeded $1 Billion Dollars.

However, the Act does not supersede the State Employee Suggestion Program, and if a whistleblower employee’s agency participates in the State Employee Suggestion Program, then items identified as involving “wrongdoing” must be referred as a suggestion to the program by the employee. A South Carolina government employee is entitled to only one reward either under the Act or under the State Employee Suggestion Program, at the employee’s option. Id.

Civil Remedies for SC Whistleblowers

If a South Carolina government employee suffers an adverse action related to employment within one (1) year after having timely filed a protected report which alleged wrongdoing, the employee may institute a non-jury civil action against the public body employer after exhausting all available grievance or other administrative remedies, and such grievance/administrative proceedings have resulted in a finding that the employee would not have been disciplined but for the reporting of alleged wrongdoing. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(A). The adverse action or retaliations can include is dismissal, suspension from employment, demotion, or a decrease in whistleblower’s compensation. The statutory remedies under the Act that the adversely effected employee may recover are (1) reinstatement to his or her former employment position; (2) lost wages; (3) actual damages not to exceed Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000); and (4) reasonable attorney fees as determined by the court. Id. However, an award of attorney’s fees has a cap under the Act, and may not exceed Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000) for any trial and Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000) for any appeal. Id.

At least one court has addressed the Act’s remedies with respect to a whistleblower employee. In Lawson v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 340 S.C. 346, 532 S.E.2d 259 (2000), the S.C. Supreme Court held that when a whistleblower employee is limited to a recovery under the statutory remedies of the Act when the employee alleges a wrongful discharge only on the grounds of his whistleblowing. In Lawson, the court granted summary judgment against the employee because he could not point to a violation of any policy, ethics rule, or other regulation as a basis for his whistleblower action which amounted to “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.

Adverse Actions Based Upon Causes Independent of a Protected Report

In the event the appropriate authority which received the report determines the whistleblower employee’s report is unfounded or a mere technical violation and is not made in good faith, the public body may take disciplinary action including termination and, notwithstanding the filing of a report, a public body may dismiss, suspend, demote, or decrease the compensation of an employee for causes independent of the filing of a protected report. Id. A South Carolina public body may also impose disciplinary sanctions against any direct line supervisory employees who retaliate against another employee for having filed a good faith report.

Statute of Limitations

Under the Act, a whistleblower’s civil action must be commenced within one (1) year after the accrual of the cause of action or exhaustion of all available grievance or other administrative and judicial remedies, or such a lawsuit is forever barred. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(B).

Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”) Whistleblower Protections

South Carolina has a separate whistleblower protection statute for employees who report violations of statutes, rules or regulations regarding occupational safety and health. S.C. Code § 41-15-510. The protected activities include filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or testifying about OSHA violations. Any employee who has been discharged or otherwise discriminated against by any person in violation of Section 41-15-510 has the right to file a complaint with the South Carolina Commission of Labor alleging such discrimination. The SC Labor Commissioner shall cause investigation to be made as he or she deems appropriate, and, if the Commissioner determines that anti-discrimination provisions of Section 41-15-510 have been violated, he must institute a law suit in the appropriate court of common pleas against such discriminating person or entity. In any such action, the court of common pleas has injunctive authority to restrain such OSHA anti-discrimination violations, as well as authority to order all appropriate relief including rehiring or reinstatement of employee to his or her former position with back pay. S.C. Code § 41-15-520. Unlike the Act, the OSHA whistleblower protections are available to state government and private employees.

Conclusion

South Carolina whistleblowers who are employed by a South Carolina state government agency are protected from adverse employment actions when they timely report violations of state or federal laws or regulations or other wrongdoing. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and law firms who represent SC state government whistleblowers need to know the protections afforded to these employees who are fired, demoted, suspended or otherwise subjected to an adverse action in reaction to a report of fraud or other wrongdoing by a public agency or one of its officers or employees. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers and law firms should review the administrative requirements necessary to invoke the protections of the state’s anti-retaliation statute, the statutes of limitations, as well as the remedial provisions afforded to such SC state government whistleblowers, in order to properly advise such clients. So too, the employment attorney should be aware of the rights and remedies of both private and South Carolina government employees who blow the whistle of violations of state OSHA statutes, rules or regulations.

© 2010 Joseph P. Griffith, Jr.