You have my animal, and I want it back!

This is known, in legal terms, as an action in Replevin.

Animals are considered property, and if another person has them illegally, you can get it back. Considering the nature of the property (a living animal), there are legal devices in place to resolve such matters promptly.

Common scenarios which arise are:

  • 1)animals caught in the middle of a divorce, live-in relationship,
  • 2)animals which go for breeding, treatment, or safe-keeping, and don’t come back,
  • 3)animals lost or adopted out, but subsequently found by original owner, and
  • 4)animals sold and paid for, but not given to buyer.

#1I am breaking up–who gets the dog?

Irreparable breakdown of a romantic relationship. Ideally, the parties should work it out themselves. This usually works until there is a pet involved. Then, if fighting, it comes down to a property dispute – who owned it, who paid vet. bills, who paid other expenses, who took care of animal for most part – etc. Some courts are veering towards “best interest of the pet,” especially if the matter is part of a divorce in family court, and may be a factor also.

#2- I gave my dog to ______ for a temporary period of time and now they won’t give him/her back.

Get a written (and legal) contract. “Don’t worry about it, we will take care of everything” would be fine if everyone kept their word, but it is always amazing to me how two different parties remember a conversation so differently , or how one party suddenly gets amnesia. Get it in writing! For breeding, common terms are a fee and/or “pick of the litter.” Make quite clear whether there is any limitation on the registration / sale / location of any animals produced. Find out who goes where. If a person is too sick, and wants someone else to take care of animals, make sure agreement is in writing when he/she can get them back. Vets / boarding facilities, assuming they have an interest (as in unpaid bill), do have the right to keep your animal until paid.

#3- We just got a new pet, and now the original owner wants it back.

 Just like buying something in a pawn shop, property is presumed to have passed legally, and original owner has limited rights, The intermediate party does not have any liability, presuming he did not know the person had it illegally. Most formal adoption agencies have airtight contracts which absolve them of any liability once the animal is adopted. Then it falls to the original owner to prove that they have a right to the animal. Courts will consider a very specific I.D., and what was involved both before and after his “loss,” from the original owner, and how the new owner acquired it.

#4- I paid for it, now I want it.

NEVER waive your rights under the Florida Pet Lemon Law. It is not great for purchasers, but not bad, and if the seller wants to waive it, don’t do it. This seems to be more of a problem with horses. In any case, this is usually a breach of contract issue (you did get the agreement in writing, yes?). So, if the person materially breached the contract, you will win.

How do I do it?

In addition to a breach of contract claim, if applicable, you also have the right to get your stuff back (replevin). The claim must be submitted in a certain form, and certain assertions made, but the important ones are a specific description of the animal, and why you have a right to possess it..

The procedure varies somewhat depending on where you are, but usually there is a fairly quick hearing (within a month, which is recognized as being “quick” within the legal system) to make an initial finding of who is entitled to what. There may, (or may not, depending on where you file) be a final hearing on the matter some months down the road). There may (or may not, depending on where you file) be a requirement to post bond.

Can I do it myself?

Like everything else in the legal system, you can always do anything yourself (representing pro se is the Latin for “on behalf of yourself.”) However, it is a tedious process, requires precision, and also requires a Court appearance. If the other side is represented by an attorney, it may be like bringing a knife to a gunfight, If you mess it up, you can’t go again.

Next month the reverse, you have a dog/cat/horse, and you want to give it back.

I don’t want to go to trial…can’t we just make an agreement?

That is called “Mediation.”

Mediation is when the person who is filing a lawsuit and the person being sued meet and try to come to an agreement. The attorneys are there as well as a paid, impartial, neutral mediator. The mediator is in charge of the meeting and his/her job is to try to get both sides to come to an agreement. This happens before a full-fledged trial.

When can I have mediation for my case?

Mediation can be done even before the lawsuit is filed, and if both sides agree to it, they can just get together and try to work it out, without an attorney or certified mediator. HOWEVER, this often results in a shouting match. And you both are even further apart from agreeing to anything! If this happens, often a complaint is filed by the person who believes the other was in the wrong. If it is going to be in Small Claims Court, (for damages under $5000), the judge will order you to go to mediation, and there is a group of mediators generally on standby for the court that day.

If that does not work, and no agreement is made, then the case will be scheduled for trial.

Even if a lawsuit (complaint) is filed in a higher court, mediation may still be made as long as both parties agree. In higher courts there may be extensive “discovery” — in other words, finding out more about the case by questions, documents, admissions, depositions, etc. Usually mediation is more likely to be agreed to and successful, once this is complete.

Once a complaint is filed, eventually it will be ready for trial. There is usually a management conference where deadlines are set before trial, one of which is a date by which mediation must be completed.

Does it matter who the mediator is?

You, or your attorney, may have a preference for a particular mediator. Even though they are impartial, hou may like one’s working style better than another.

When do I have to book with the mediator?

Don’t wait until the last minute to schedule hour mediation. There are a few firms who are very good, abut that all are heavily booked, so expect to have to book it 2-3 months out.

How much does mediation cost?

Costs of mediation arise and are variable because of the mediators hourly rate and your own attorney (if any) fees (if any). The costs are split between sides. Most mediators have a 3 hour minimum, and get about $325 per hour. The longest one I was ever in was 14 hours (they brought in lunch and dinner) — but there were three claimants!

What do I have to do to prepare for mediation?

For a formal mediation, there is not need for a client to get nervous, because if you don’t want to say anything, don’t. The attorneys will give their statements of the case, and present the major factors in their favor. After this, each side goes to a different room, and the mediator goes back and forth, usually ferreting out the weaknesses in the case of the person bringing the claim, but also telling the other side his/er perceived strengths. You should have discussed everything with your attorney and family members, and have an idea of what you are prepared to accept.

Who decides on whether to accept the offer?

Hopefully an agreement is made, but remember it is ONLY your decision to make. You can rely on advice when making your decision but it is, nevertheless, yours, and only yours.

Why mediate?

Occasionally the people are so unshakable in their position that mediation is, indeed, futile. However, this is usually not so as long as unreasonable demands and offers are not made. If this is not so, mediation often succeeds by resolving the case more quickly, and also avoiding extensive costs and inconvenience of a trial. Unlike on television, where the whole process is squeezed into 1/2 hour to 1 hour, expect to spend 5 days sitting, spend about $25,000, and if you have witnesses, they need to be available also for the duration of their testimony. Remember also that just because a case eventually makes it on the court’s schedule (or docket), it does not mean it will be heard at that time, and if not, then it all starts again in 3 weeks.

Won’t I get more if I go to trial?

If you choose to roll the dice and spend the time and effort, it is usually true that you will get more if you go to trial. You must decide if the amount offered in mediation is worth the saving in time, expense and the risk of getting less or nothing.

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.

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



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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!

Safety for the 4th of July

As 4th of July approaches, many Florida residents will take to the water to celebrate and this means more boating related injuries. Florida leads the nation in the number of registered boat owners totaling 899,635 per the latest reports.

Florida also leads the nation in the number of boating fatalities. Drugs and alcohol played a role in 15% of deaths last year alone.  Of the 73 deaths and 365 injuries that occurred just last year on the water (down from 420 in 2013)- Volusia county ranked in the top 10 counties.

Boaters falling overboard and drowning is the leading cause of death among boaters.

Safe boating is a choice and currently the “Wear It Florida” campaign is encouraging boat safety by promoting life jacket use whenever boaters are on the water.

As long as the boat’s pilot is not impaired, it is perfectly legal to drink alcohol while boating in Florida.

If you plan to enjoy the water this summer Thomas Nicholl Law Firm encourages you to stay safe and eliminate boating under the influence-related accidents.

If you plan to go boating this summer here are a few safety tips from the Florida Fish and Wildlife:

  • Always be weather-wise
  • Use common sense
  • Designate an assistant skipper
  • Float plan- let family or others know of your itinerary
  • Have enough life jackets and wear them!
  • Consider a FREE vessel safety check from the US Coast Guard
  • Learn to swim


If boating with pets always keep fresh drinking water available, provide a shaded area, and protect their feet as well as keep a pet lifejacket available.