Tuesday, September 24, 2013

We Welcome Michele Sabo Conti - The Newest Member of Our Tax & Estate Planning, Corporate & Business Law, and Oil & Gas Groups

Michele Sabo Conti, Esquire
Michele Sabo Conti is a member of the firm's Tax & Estate Planning, Corporate & Business Law, and Oil & Gas Groups. She focuses her practice on estate and trust planning, administration of estates ranging from $100,000 to over $25 million, preparation of power of attorney documents for use with financial institutions and health care facilities, as well as living wills.  One of  her main goals when drafting documents is to focus on eliminating and minimizing gift, inheritance, income, and federal estate tax whenever possible.  In addition, she also drafts Pennsylvania inheritance tax returns and represents fiduciaries and beneficiaries in the administration of estate and probate matters.  Michele also works with individuals who own real estate associated with mineral rights leasing, including natural gas.

Another area of focus for Michele is in the area of elder law.  She focuses on advanced planning strategies for clients to shelter assets from the Medicaid spend-down, potential tax matters, guardianship and gifting consequences, as well as creating strategies to avoid the Medicaid spend-down through the use of irrevocable trusts, annuities, and long-term planning.

In 2005, she received her LL.M. in Taxation from Villanova University School of Law, she received her J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law in 2004 and participated in a certificate program from the University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland in 2003.  She received her B.A. in Political Science and Writing from Allegheny College in 2001, and in June of 2000, she participated in a certificate program at Oxford University, St. Anne's College in Oxford, England.

You can reach her at 412.456.2818 or
mpc@muslaw.comClick here to view her complete bio.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Business Workshop: Lien Deadline Clarified

Frank Kosir, Jr., Esquire
A recent Pennsylvania Superior Court decision clarifies when the clock starts ticking on the filing deadline for a mechanic's lien claim.

In Pennsylvania, building contractors have six months after completion of work to file a mechanic's lien, which is an interest in the title to a property for contracting companies that have supplied labor, materials or equipment to improve it.

Contractors file the so-called mechanic's lien when they haven't been paid.

In the case in question, the owner of a piece of property in Cumberland County decided to terminate the contract before the building was completed. After entering into a termination agreement with the property owner, the contractor returned to the job site to correct deficiencies on several occasions. When it wasn't paid for its work, the contractor filed a mechanic's lien within six months of completion of the remedial work.

Unfortunately for the contractor, the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas dismissed the mechanic's lien, ruling that the six-month period in which to file a lien started on the day the termination agreement had been signed -- and not on the last day the contractor performed remedial work.

By the time the contractor filed its lien, more than six months had passed since the signing of the termination agreement.

On appeal, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the lower court's decision. The court held that although the contractor had returned to the property after the termination agreement was signed, all of this work was remedial in nature and was performed solely for the purpose of correcting previously deficient work.

This remedial work, therefore, did not serve to extend the completion date for the purpose of a mechanic's lien.

The lesson for contractors is obvious: Understand when the filing period for a mechanic's lien claim begins and ends.

For more information on this topic, please contact Frank Kosir, Jr. at fk@muslaw.com.

This article originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Business Workshop section. Business Workshop is a weekly feature from local experts offering tidbits on matters affecting business. Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/business-workshop-lien-deadline-clarified-703549/#ixzz2fR9YbRtH

Monday, September 16, 2013

Business Workshop: Reimbursement from a Settlement

Jason Mettley, Esquire
Jason Mettley's article, "Reimbursement from a Settlement" was published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Business Workshop section.  Please click here to read Jason's full article.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Chad Michaelson Recognized in the Emory Law Alumni Magazine

Chad I. Michaelson, Esquire
Chad Michaelson was recognized in the Emory Law Alumni Magazine for his accomplishment of being named by Super Lawyers® as a 2013 Rising Star.  Please click here to read Chad’s full article.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Richard Kotarba Recognized By Boston College

Richard G. Kotarba, Esquire
Richard Kotarba was recognized by Boston College for his recent accomplishment of being named a 2013 Super Lawyer.  Please click here to read Mr. Kotarba's full article.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Previous Owner Responsible for Failure of Underground Gasoline Storage Tanks?

Hovis v. Sunoco, Inc., 2013 PA Super 54, 2013 Pa. Super. LEXIS 141 (2013)

Frank Kosir, Jr., Esquire

This matter addressed the issue of whether the Pennsylvania Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act provided the owner of a parcel of real property contaminated as a result of leaking underground gasoline storage tanks used in their gas station operation with a cause of action against a prior owner of the property who had owned and operated the gas station for a brief period of time.  W. Virgil Hovis and Dorothy D. Hovis (“Owners”) are the owners of certain real property (“Property”) situated in the Borough of Sewickley, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.  The Property had been used as a gasoline/service station for at least fifty years and had originally been owned by the Owners.  On June 17, 1965, the Owners sold the Property to Sunoco, Inc. (“Sunoco”), which held title until May 12, 1976, at which time it conveyed the Property back to the Owners.  After divesting itself of title, Sunoco supplied the Owners with gasoline for sale at the Property and continued to do so for numerous years.

In January of 1999, the Owners became aware that the underground gasoline storage tanks had begun to leak, resulting in the contamination of the Property.  Several months later, the Owners removed these tanks and commenced remediation procedures, seeking recovery from the Pennsylvania Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board (“USTIF”) for the costs incurred.  After conducting forensic testing of the Property, USTIF concluded that some of the gasoline spillage predated the 1994 eligibility cut-off date and prorated the Owners’ reimbursement to forty-three percent (43%) of the total cleanup costs. Thereafter, the Owners commenced an action against Sunoco pursuant to Section 1305(c) of the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act (“Tank Act”) (35 P.S. §§ 6021.101-6021.2104) seeking recovery for the remaining clean-up costs based on Sunoco’s ownership of the Property from June 17, 1965 through May 12, 1976.  The trial court entered summary judgment for Sunoco concluding, inter alia, that Sunoco was not an “owner” or “operator” as defined by the Tank Act, and that the Owners had failed to establish that any of the contamination had occurred during the time that Sunoco held title to the Property.

On appeal, our Superior Court affirmed.  In issuing its ruling, the court noted that the Tank Act became effective in 1989 and, by its language, applies only to owners of storage tanks from its effective date forward.  In this matter, there was no dispute that Sunoco had divested itself of title to the Property in 1976, well before the effective date of the Tank Act.  Furthermore, there was nothing in the record to support a conclusion that Sunoco had served as the operator of the Property during the effective period of the Tank Act, as its involvement was limited to its delivering gasoline to the Property and placing it in underground storage tanks over which it had a no control.  For these reasons, Sunoco was neither an “owner” nor an “operator” under the Tank Act, and the trial court had properly entered summary judgment against the Owners.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Jason Yarbrough Recognized in the Hamption Edition of Trib Live

Jason M. Yarbrough, Esquire
Jason Yarbrough was recognized in the Hampton edition of Trib Live for his accomplishment of being named by Super Lawyers® as a 2013 Rising Star.  Please click here to read Jason’s full article.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Business Workshop: I-94 Cards Go Online

Joel Pfeffer, Esquire
Non-immigrant visitors to the United States will no longer be handed a paper "I-94 card" at customs.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection -- the agency of the Department of Homeland Security charged with controlling and protecting U.S. borders at all official ports of entry -- has automated the I-94 arrival and departure form and placed it online.

The I-94 form provides foreign visitors with evidence that they have been lawfully admitted to the country, which is needed to verify alien registration, immigration status and employment authorization.

Non-immigrant foreign nationals will no longer need to fill out a paper form when arriving to the U.S. by air or sea. The Customs agency will generate records of admission using traveler information already transmitted through electronic means. Agents also will stamp the passports of foreign nationals.

Customs phased in the change at airports and sea ports over a month-long period earlier this year. (Foreign nationals who cross into the United States by land from Canada and Mexico will continue to receive I-94 cards.)

Going paperless will save the government millions of dollars and speed up entry into the United States for visitors.

But what about foreign nationals in need of proof of their status to apply for a driver's license, Social Security number or employment eligibility verification? Travelers who want or need a hard copy of their I-94 can print it off at Custom's website at www.cbp.gov/I94. Many foreign nationals, especially those on business or working, may feel more comfortable keeping a hard copy of the I-94 with their passports or other travel documents.

For more information on this topic, please contact Joel Pfeffer at jp@muslaw.com.

This article originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Business Workshop section. Business Workshop is a weekly feature from local experts offering tidbits on matters affecting business. Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/i-94-cards-go-online-699927/#ixzz2d54PtpMg

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Nicholas Bell on Winning Team for American Bar Association Most Outstanding Public Service Project

Nicholas J. Bell, Esquire
Nick Bell was part of the Allegheny County Bar Association Bar Leadership Initiative Class of 2012-13 that won first place in the American Bar Association’s national Award of Achievement for Most Outstanding Single Project - Service to the Public contest.  The American Bar Association announced the winners at its Annual Conference in San Francisco.

For their community project, the class addressed the growing issue of students texting while driving, as well as drunk driving.  To reach a large number of high school students with their message, the class sought assistance from UNITE, a national health and wellness organization and selected their “Arrive Alive Tour” to showcase at two of Allegheny County’s largest high schools.  The program shows students how they are impaired if they drink or text while driving by giving them a virtual reality headset to wear in an actual vehicle.

Meyer, Unkovic & Scott was pleased to be a gold sponsor of the program at both high schools.
Nick is an associate and member of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Group.  He represents clients in a variety of complex commercial and business disputes in state and federal courts.  Prior to joining the firm, he served as a law clerk to Judge Joy Flowers Conti of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Nick exemplifies a commitment to his community and profession as an associate member of the W. Edward Sell American Inn of Court and serves as a member of the Executive Committee and Co-Chair of the Programming Committee.  He also is a member of the Allegheny County Bar Association, Pennsylvania Bar Association, and American Bar Association.  As active member of the Allegheny County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, Nick currently serves on Council and as Chair of the education committee.  He is serving on the Host Committee for the 2014 ABA YLD Conference that will take place in Pittsburgh, PA.

Nick earned his law degree from Duquesne University School of Law in 2009.  While in law school, he participated in the joint degree program and received a master of business administration from Duquesne University Graduate School of Business in 2010.  He attended The Catholic University of America and received his bachelor of arts in Political Science in 2006.  He resides in Squirrel Hill with this wife and children.