I Have an Animal but I Don’t Want to Keep It

This usually happens 1) when you buy / adopt an animal 2) if an animal is abandoned with you

  • I just purchased a puppy/kitten from a Pet Store, and it got sick/died. Can I do anything about it?

Yes, you are protected under the Florida “Pet Lemon Law” (Florida Statute 829.28) IF you follow all the requirements strictly as required in the Statute. This law spells out the remedies available to you, and also covers “congenital defects” (things that may not be immediately visible, but conditions the animal was born with).

Both of these scenarios are related to the animal being unfit for sale at the time of purchase. I have had many situations where the Pet Store changes their warranty to make it different from the Statute. You may go along with this, but they must CLEARLY say that you are waiving your statutory rights.

  • I just purchased a puppy/kitten privately, and it got sick / died / isn’t suitable. Can I do anything about that?

Yes, but not so easily. If it is a Pet Store, you will have a contract and a bill of sale. If it is a private sale, you should insist upon them. This will help avoid people developing temporary amnesia, and a dispute about who said (or didn’t say) what. It is also a good idea to have the animal you are going to purchase checked by your veterinarian. The suitability issue is a difficult one (although if clearly vicious, may not be so difficult), and may depend more on your relationship with the breeder. Like everything else, there are nice ones, and not so nice ones.

  • I just bought a horse, and it isn’t as they said it was. Can I do anything about it?

Yes, but there is a reason there are so many jokes about horse-traders. First of all, despite the common practice of a handshake in the horse business, GET A CONTRACT (you can always blame it on your attorney!) Secondly, despite what the seller may say, GET A PRE-PURCHASE EXAMINATION done by your choice of Veterinarian, and have him pull (but not necessarily run) a blood test. Unbelievable as it may be, the horse may be tranquilized or have pain-killers in its body.

Now you are protected under contract law, and also in Florida under Florida Statute 535.16 regarding deceptive trade practices including the disclosure of known medical conditions.

On a practical note, however, you have to be prepared to enforce your rights, or otherwise let the “bad guy” get away with it.

  • I just adopted a dog from an animal shelter / rescue society, and he bit someone – are they liable?

Usually not, unless they knew about the dog being vicious, and didn’t tell you. In most cases their adoption contracts are so watertight that they will have no liability.

  • This animal just showed up in my yard / paddock. Now what can I do?

First check and see if there is any indication of ownership – it might just be lost. Most vets / shelters will scan dogs for a microchip either free or at minimal charge. There may be a rabies tag. Some horses have tattoos. There may be “lost dog / cat” signs around. If there is an owner out there, they may just be looking – so file a police report.

It is also a good idea to alert local veterinarians, shelters, and rescue societies.

If nothing happens within a reasonable period of time, you can do what you might not want to do – turn the animal in for euthanasia at the local shelter, but keep a record of what you have done.

Alternatively, of course, you can be the person the animal “adopted” and proceed as if it is yours. Hopefully the original owner will not surface in the future and cause a problem.

Sealings and Expungements

A lot of people may have made a mistake, in the distant past, or used poor judgment which resulted in them being arrested. They may also have been subsequently convicted. It is a sad fact that this one issue will keep showing its ugly head for the rest of your life. Every time you do a job application, e.g., it will show up on your background check.

          There is, however, a way to avoid a long and detailed explanation, with the hope that your explanation will be accepted. The way to avoid this, is that the law allows you to expunge (make it disappear), if you were arrested, or, if you were tried, pled, or otherwise convicted, sealing  the conviction (basically can’t be found).

  • Can I clean up my criminal past by doing this?

The law allows ONE such action, with the exception that certain crimes are not eligible for this.

  • How long does this take?

It is a long and tedious process, which requires fingerprinting, a petition to Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement, the agreement of the State Prosecutor and the Judge, and about 2 months after it is done to work its way through the records. So figure about 6 months.

  • How much does it cost?

$750, provided there is no appeal and all documents are provided in a timely manner upon request.

  • If I got arrested for something, which subsequently never went to Court, will it still show on my record?

Yes, unless you get an expungement, in which case it will go away about 8 weeks after you get the Order from the Clerk.

  • Can I still do this, even if it did go to Court, and I was convicted?

Yes, but now we are talking about sealing the records – same as with expungements, but sealed instead.

  • Even if it is a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor, can I still get it sealed?

Yes, with the same limitations as before.

  • Do I lose my civil rights, if convicted of a felony?

Yes, but if you successfully get your record cleaned up, then there will be no reason to lose your rights (but remember, you only do it for one offense).

  • What about the recent Florida Constitutional amendment which passed?

At the time of writing this newsletter, it has not yet been passed by the Florida legislature, although it almost certainly will be. Please note that this does not automatically restore ALL rights, but does allow the right to vote. At present it is unclear whether a petition will be required, or whether it happens automatically.

  • What about the right to bear arms?

 Still possible, as long as it was not a violent felony, but a lot more complicated.

Why Do I Need a Will?

A will is a way of making sure your assets get distributed how you want them to be after your death. Nobody likes to think that time will come, but it will, hopefully later rather than sooner.

But even if you are young, and think you have no assets, it is a way of making sure that who you want to get something, gets it, including a personal belonging. This will avoid family squabbles and feuding. All too often I hear, “but Mother wanted me to have this.” Without a will, this is a recipe for disaster if different people disagree.

What do I have to do to Make a Will?

  1. Decide who you want to get what.
  2. Select someone to be your “Personal Representative” (someone who agrees to make sure that your wishes are carried out and all bills are paid.)
  3. Set up an appointment with us to give us all the details, at which time we will set up another appointment for you to review the will, and “execute” the document. We will need two witnesses, and it has to be notarized.

Do I have to Register the Will?

You don’t have to but you can. This has been in a state of flux over the years, but now you can. This is particularly useful if you have reason to believe that your will may not be found upon your death. It usually involves filling out a form, with a small fee. The other approach, however, is to let your loved ones, and personal representative, know where to find it.

Is there Anything Else that I should do?

Yes–there is a “Living Will.” This is to deal with your wishes under certain circumstances, usually where you are in a “vegetative state” with no chance of improvement. There is also a “Health Care Surrogate.” This is to appoint someone who will make health care decisions for you if you are not capable of making them yourself. We usually include these documents with our service for a will.

What Happens if I die without a Will?

Unlike a common misconception, this does not mean all your assets will go to the State. There are rules of inheritance in these cases, and only if there are no surviving relatives that can be found are the risks of losing the contents of the estate real.

The most common scenario is when one spouse dies. Even without a will, the surviving spouse will inherit. If there is no surviving spouse (or if you both die at once, like a car or plane crash), then the assets of the estate will be divided equally between the surviving children. many times the person who has the assets does not want a particular child to inherit. This can a be accomplished with a will, but if there is no will, he/she will get his/her equal share.

Do I have to go through Probate Process?

Not necessarily. If the estate is very small (there are ways to make it so) you may not have to go through probate at all. If it is less than $75,000 then you can do a “summary” process, which is quite straightforward. If it is over $75,000 then you will have to open probate. If you have a homestead exemption, it is not included in the $75,000.

Will I have to Pay Taxes on my Inheritance, or Pay Estate Taxes?

Inheritances do not create ea taxable event at the time, but subsequent sale of the assets probably will, but consult with your tax adviser for more information. Estate taxes are collectible in Florida, but the value of the estate has to be very high for them to apply (currently $11.2 million).

Can I Change my Will if Circumstances Change in the Future?

Yes you can, although it has to be done in writing with witnesses and the same formalities as the original one.

Can I do a Will Myself?

There are forms which can be purchases, and then you “fill in the blanks.” These are usually alright for the simplest of wills , but BEWARE–there was a recent case where just a small error cost the will maker $5,000 fighting a will dispute which she subsequently lost. In any case, you will still have to get it notarized in front of witnesses. Furthermore, handwritten wills are NOT acceptable in Florida.

How Much Does it Cost to Get you to do it?

Our normal price for a simple will is $400, with the cost of a “reciprocal will” (i.e. mirror image for husband and wife) being $600.


Defamation of Character: What it is and what can be done

What can I do if someone says or writes something bad about me?

Defamation of character is when someone communicates, either in
writing or verbally, to another person something false which harms the
person to whom the communication relates.

The Two Types of Defamation

If the communication is in writing, it is libel. If it is verbal, it is slander.

Damages Available

The damages vary according to the circumstances. There is damage
to reputation in general (this will not be worth much if you are a multiple
convicted felon), or special damages, which may be related to loss of job or
family, regardless of reputational damage.

What if I say something bad about someone or a business?

Well, it had better be true, and if necessary, you might have to prove
that you reasonably believed it was true. So you need to think before you
post something (e.g. on Facebook).

Don’t I have a First Amendment right to say what I think?

Only up to a point. E.g., you cannot yell fire in a cinema if there isn’t
one, you cannot incite people to riot. You don’t have a right to maliciously
communicate something that is not true.

There are, however, Certain Privileges

Statements made in Court under oath are protected against
defamation suits in order to encourage people to testify truthfully without
worrying about future retaliation.

A public figure, if making a statement within the scope of his job, are
immune absent a showing of having a malicious intent. The standard,
however, is raised, if a public figure makes a statement, in that it goes

beyond “reasonably believed to be true” to requiring fact-checking before

An ex-employer is also immune, absent malicious intent, to
communicate negative references, to encourage frank discussions in hiring

Do I need an attorney to represent me in my case, or can I do it myself?

In any legal matter, you can always do it yourself, but it may be like
bringing a knife to a gunfight if there is an experienced attorney on the
other side who is familiar with the law, and Florida law in particular.
There are many potential pitfalls which could lead to problems in a
particular defamation case. The question of whether a statement was true,
partially true or untrue, and the damages available, are known to an
attorney, but possibly not to you. A common misconception is regarding the
Statute of Limitations (i.e. the period of time after which a suit may not be
brought, no matter how much merit it may have). It is only 2 years in Florida

3 Examples of Hazards that Can Cause Serious Slip and Falls

3 Examples of Hazards that Can Cause Serious Slip and Falls

Slip and fall accidents are quite common and injure millions of people each year. These accidents occur regularly and can happen in virtually any setting, often through fault of the victim.

Fortunately, if you have been injured in a slip and fall accident that occurred on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to recover financial compensation. Your recovery can include compensation for sizeable medical expenses and costs, lost income, pain and suffering, and loss of quality of life, among other losses. In order to do so, however, you will need to be able to show that your accident was caused by a hazard that was the result of someone else’s negligence.

Some hazards that cause serious injuries include:

Improper Training

Workplace slip and fall accidents are quite prevalent. Many times, the cause of the accident can be attributed to improper training. Employees in high-risk industries should undergo extensive training prior to using and properly maintaining necessary equipment. Most importantly, employees should receive sufficient training to stay safe while at work.


We cannot control the weather. Unfortunately, weather can result in dangerous conditions. Although most hazard-causing weather  conditions occur during the winter months, individuals may remain at risk of slip and fall injuries throughout the year. Property owners have a legal responsibility to ensure that traffic areas are clear and free of hazards. Failing to use reasonable result in liability as well as substantial compensation for victims.

Wet or Uneven Surfaces

Slip and fall accidents are most often the result of a wet or uneven surface. In fact, wet or uneven surfaces cause approximately 55% of slip and fall accidents in the United States. Wet or uneven surfaces can even make walking hazardous. The following are examples of situations which are in particularly hazardous:


  • Recently waxed or mopped floors
  • Puddles
  • Loose floorboards or mats
  • Defective sidewalks
  • Cluttered floors
  • Parking lot potholes
  • Torn carpeting


Walkways should remain dry, uncluttered, and safe. Property owners should engage in regular housekeeping in an effort to keep walking surfaces both as safe and as clear as possible. Corrections should be made upon discovering hazards.



You may be entitled to compensation for injuries you suffer during a slip and fall accident. The skilled attorneys at the Thomas Nicholl Law Firm can review your case and both develop and implement an effective legal strategy to maximize your recovery of damages. Schedule your consultation today by calling 407-228-2131.

4 Common Injuries in Slip and Fall Accidents

4 Common Injuries in Slip and Fall Accidents

Slip and fall accidents send nearly nine million people to the emergency room each year, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). In many slip and fall cases, individuals injure themselves during a fall caused by a hazard. Although many slip and fall cases tend to occur on a business’ premises, many also occur while on private property.

Property owners may be held liable for a party’s injuries resulting from a slip and fall accident. An injured party may have a legal right to sue the property owner if both the slip and fall and the resulting injury occur as a result of the property owner’s negligence. In order to prevail in a slip and fall case, a victim must prove, in addition to negligence on behalf of the property owner, that the negligence would foreseeably create the danger.

Slip and fall accidents can cause injuries to all areas of the victim’s body. In more serious slip and fall cases, the injuries that victims sustain require emergency medical attention and could even lead to long-term disabilities. As a result, it is extremely important for slip and fall victims to protect their rights by retaining an attorney as soon as possible after their accident has occurred.

Some examples of common injuries caused by slip and fall include:

Spinal Injuries

Injuries to the spine, even minor injuries, can be painful and debilitating. Severe spinal injuries can result in serious injuries including partial or full paralysis. Even minor injuries may have lasting limb weakness as well as a loss of sensation.

Hip Injuries

Hip injuries are problematic. Serious hip injuries can require surgery or  replacement. Some injuries can cause victims to lose sensation in their extremities. The elderly are particularly susceptible to serious hip injuries as a result of their age, and this can also lead to financial complications.

Brain Injuries

The impact from a slip and fall accident can result in brain injuries. A blow to the head can cause a serious brain injury such as traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI can negatively impact a victim’s cognitive abilities and motor skills, and cause lasting complications for victims.

Breaks and Sprains

Some slip and fall injuries are less serious and can cause victims a minor but temporary inconvenience. Broken bones and sprains often heal with time, but they may also cause discomfort throughout recovery.


You may be entitled to compensation for injuries you suffer during a slip and fall accident. The skilled attorneys at the Thomas Nicholl Law Firm can review your case and both develop and implement an effective legal strategy to maximize your recovery of damages. Schedule your consultation today by calling 407-228-2131.

Do You Need an Orlando Slip and Fall Lawyer after an Accident?

Do You Need an Orlando Slip and Fall Lawyer after an Accident?

Slip and fall accidents can result in surprisingly serious injuries, such as broken bones, concussions, dislocations, and even spinal cord injuries. If your case was caused by the negligence of another person, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your losses. While it may seem like the easiest course of action to simply accept the first settlement offer you receive, slip and fall victims should always speak to an attorney after they are hurt. There are many ways in which an attorney can help you protect your rights after a slip and fall accident, some of which are discussed below.

A Lawyer Will Investigate Your Slip and Fall Case

While many slip and fall cases are uncontested, some require the victim to establish negligence on the part of the property owner or tenant responsible for the property. In these cases, it may be necessary to gather evidence in support of your case, which could take the form of things like surveillance footage, maintenance records, eyewitness reports, or expert consultants.

Your Attorney Will Communicate with the Insurance Company

Most slip and fall cases are resolved through reaching a settlement agreement with the at-fault party’s insurance company. It is critical to understand that insurance companies are in the business of collecting premiums and turning profits and will do everything possible to minimize their payouts when they can. As a result, insurance company representatives often engage in tactics designed to frustrate and wear down victims so that they will settle for less. In some cases, they may even try and get you to admit liability for your accident. When you retain an attorney, he or she will handle all communication with the insurance company on your behalf.

A Lawyer May File a Lawsuit

As mentioned above, most cases are resolved through the settlement process. A key component to getting an adequate settlement offer, however, is the threat of litigation. While it is completely legal to represent yourself in a slip and fall case, it is important to remember that as a non-lawyer you will be at a significant disadvantage against an experienced team of insurance defense attorneys. When you retain an attorney after a slip and fall accident, it signifies to the other party that you are serious about your claim and that you will take the matter to court if necessary.

Call an Orlando Slip and Fall Attorney Today for a Free Case Evaluation

If you have been hurt in a slip and fall accident, you may be entitled to compensation under Florida law.

Orlando personal injury attorney Thomas Nicholl will review your case at no charge and let you know whether you have a claim to pursue. Additionally, Mr. Nicholl will not collect any legal fees from you unless he brings your case to a successful resolution. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at 407-228-2131 or contact us online.

Animal Testing

For centuries, animals have been treated as nothing but property, until today. Animals have domesticated themselves right into our hearts and homes. However, I bet if you took a shower today, you would never know that the products you used were tested first for safety by animals. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “hundreds of thousands of mice, rats, and rabbits undergo testing each year to determine the safety of products like lipstick, shampoo, and mascara.”

An article by Kari Paul, “How Fake Skin Will End Animal Testing,” says cosmetics have routinely been tested by rubbing the product onto shaved skin of animal subjects, which were likely killed shortly after the test. U.S. law does not require animal testing for cosmetics, but it does not prohibit it either.

The one thing the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics (FDC) Act does state is that products must be safe before they go on the market. Ironically, this law was passed in the early 40’s, due to the tragedies that occurred after some products that tested well on animals caused many to go blind, or even caused death in humans. Almost everyone is familiar with the Thalidomide disaster which was extensively tested on rabbits, and released as safe, only to cause multiple and severe deformities and missing limbs. The reason for these deaths and mutations, and the surrounding controversy, is simply because the animals being tested on do not react the same way human beings would, according to Health Research Funding.

The Animal Welfare Act was implemented in the late 60’s to protect certain animals from cruel treatment during testing, however, that act does not cover the 90% of animals actually tested on, including rats, guinea pigs, and mice.

One of the biggest reasons for the support of animal testing is that the treatments developed such as penicillin and insulin have helped saved many lives. Yet, one of the biggest problems with animal testing is that it has gone on for years, which some believe, is way too long. On the bright side, the number is growing in the amount of companies steering clear of animal testing for cosmetics, and embracing alternative methods. The cruelty-free certification program, Leaping Bunny, has certified over 600 companies across the world for being animal-free in their product testing according to the Humane Society.

One of the alternative methods to animal testing has just recently been developed in the form of “3D bioprinting Episkin” according to Kari Paul. The Episkin is comprised of tissue donated by plastic surgery patients and grown into an artificial skin using a “collagen matrix” says Paul. The Episkin is a model of reconstructed skin used to test products on since it is nearly identical to actual skin.

L’Oreal is one of the biggest companies testing products on Episkin and no longer using animal subjects. Less than two years ago, L’Oreal announced it would “completely eliminate the testing of its products on animals.” That same year, the European Union announced a complete ban on all animal testing for products sold in the EU according to the article. America is finally catching up with the EU by announcing the Humane Cosmetics Act- a bill recently introduced to the House of Representatives. The bill is supported by countless celebrities and over 140 cosmetic companies. It is designed to eliminate animal testing of products, and the sale of animal-tested products in the United States.

Black Bears in Florida

Lately, the Florida Black Bear has been rather frequent in the news and it is time to get some facts straight about the animal. For over twenty years the black bear hunt has been made illegal to allow for the endangered animal to rejuvenate. In the past few years, however, more and more complaints have been coming in about black bear nuisances in residential neighborhoods. In 2005, the number of complaints was just under 2,000, and just last year that number rose to over 6,000 according to the Tampa Bay Times. This increase is due in large part because the population growth of humans, causing the growth of more developments which, in turn, takes away from the bears’ habitat.

The Black bear is a smart bear, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife; so smart in fact, they are lazy by choice. Black bears eat over 5,000 calories of food a day, which means most of their day is spent hunting and foraging in the woods. A black bear can smell food over a mile away, and because they quickly learned to associate people with food, they have become more attracted to the garbage we throw out. This makes the bear lazy because while they could choose to forage the woods for fruits and berries all day, they would rather intake their 5,000-calorie meals in one sitting. Garbage has become the biggest bear attractant in the state of Florida and it is the main reason bear encounters with humans have become more “aggressive.” In the past ten years there has only been 4 attacks on humans in Florida, and in each of those attacks someone had left trashcans out unsecured which attracted the bears’ attention.

Bears are predominately non-aggressive, and in most encounters with humans the bears was either defending themselves, their cubs, or their food source. The Florida Fish and Wildlife have a few suggestions for people if they want to be “bear smart” and the list includes: building a shed around your garbage cans, putting up an electric fence around livestock or beeyards, and never feeding the wild bear. The most helpful thing you can do is put your trashcans out the morning of pickup instead of the night before. If you do come in contact with a bear, it is best not to run because that will trigger the bears’ instinct to chase, instead, you should make sure the bear has a clear exit, and then scare it by yelling in an assertive voice, honking your horn, or banging pots and pans according to the FF&W. It is also a common myth to play dead, because after all, bears eat dead animals.

While it may have been the law in Florida that it is illegal to shoot a black bear, unless to protect human life, the new controversy regarding hunting has some people in a frenzy. The bear hunt is said to control the bear population; yet, there is no proof that it will do just that. The hunt is scheduled for a week in October where anywhere from 100 to 5,000 people may show up to participate. A Tampa Bay Times contributor says there is no way to control the bear population with this hunt unless it is opened up to subdivisions “where the bear problem is.” There is also no way of knowing how many bears will be killed, and if that will affect the number of bears running from the woods and into more subdivisions.


Pet Safety During July 4th



dogand flag copy









People associate loud noises, flashes, and big bangs with celebrations, but pets do not. For this reason, July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters according to the American Humane Association. Many people who leave their pets at home while they are out celebrating forget to close opens doors, gates, or windows which causes many scared pets to run away and flee. Many of these scared pets end up lost, injured, or killed due to the high stress of the Holiday. It may seem obvious but here is a list of things you can do to be sure your pet is safe this holiday season.

  • Bring your pet inside and keep them indoors at all times
  • Don’t put insect repellant on your pet that isn’t pet friendly
  • If traveling to a fireworks display, leave your pet at home and not in the car
  • Have your pet properly identified in case they get lost
  • Keep your pet away from glow in the dark sticks or other festive ornaments they might chew
  • Never use fireworks around pets
  • Don’t over-feed your pet or give them table food
  • Never leave alcohol unattended where pets can reach them
  • Close the blinds and curtains so they can’t see the lights
  • Leave on a fan, TV, or radio to block out the outside noise
  • Distract your pet with a lot of toys

There are over 63% of lost pets euthanized each year at animal shelters because they could not be properly identified and returned to their owners. The Thomas Nicholl Law Firm encourages everyone to please keep your pets safe this holiday season, because even if they do not fear thunder, fireworks can be really terrifying for a pet!