Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

‘Mabel’s Restaurant’ Coming to Arlington Heights — The restaurant coming to the grounds of the Dominion Apartments, at the former Sherwin Williams paint store (3411 5th Street S.), is called “Mabel’s Restaurant.” An outdoor seating area is planned for the restaurant, according to permit filings. [Arlington Economic Development]

Northam Visits Amazon — “In June, we were excited to open our first temporary office space for our Arlington headquarters in Crystal City. Today, we welcomed @GovernorVA to tour our new work space and meet with Amazonians from the Commonwealth.” [Twitter]

Crystal City Conducting Survey — “The area encompassing Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard – Arlington is a dynamic mixed-use urban center and Virginia’s largest walkable downtown… we are embarking on a place branding effort to uncover our neighborhood story and create a striking visual identity.” [Crystal City BID]

History of Heidelberg Bakery — “Heidelberg Bakery is a local landmark in Arlington… In this oral history clip, Carla and Wolfgang Buchler, owners of the Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe, discuss the lack of diversity in breads that Wolfgang found in America when he first came to the U.S. in the 1970’s–and how tastes have changed, partly due to Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe’s delicious treats.” [Arlington Public Library]

Glebe Road Bridge Project — “The Virginia Department of Transportation on Tuesday, Aug. 13 will hold a community forum on its plans to rehabilitate the Route 120 (North Glebe Road) bridge over Pimmit Run to improve safety and extend the bridge’s overall lifespan. The event will be held on from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Williamsburg Middle School, 3600 North Harrison St. in Arlington.” [InsideNova]

‘Drunkard’ Ruling Won’t Be Appealed — “Virginia’s attorney general on Friday said he will not appeal a ruling that struck down a state law allowing police to arrest and jail people designated as ‘habitual drunkards.'” [Associated Press]

Oil in Sink Causes ‘Fatbergs’ — “If you pour used cooking grease down the kitchen sink, you’re not alone — according to a new survey, 44 percent of respondents in the D.C. region pour cooking oil, fat, or grease down the sink at least occasionally. In doing so — rather than dumping it in the trash–you may be contributing to the creation of something truly horrifying — a fatberg.” [DCist]

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Local and international police departments came together at Justice Center Plaza (1425 N. Courthouse Road) this morning (Friday) to commemorate the seven Arlington police officers who died in the line of duty.

“We’re here for a show of compassion and solidarity to those who are no longer with us,” said Arlington Police Chief Jay Farr. “There is a unique sense here — a kindred spirit that brings us together.”

The names of the officers, and the circumstances of their deaths, were read aloud as roses were placed at their memorial. The most recent was Corporal Harvey Snook III, who died in 2016 as a result of cancer contracted from rescue and recovery operations at the Pentagon following the 9/11 attacks.

After the names were read, Deputy Anne Nardolilli performed an original song called “More Than a Name,” celebrating the lives of the fallen officers.

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By Medical Malpractice Attorney John H. Fisher of John H. Fisher, PC

When patients suffer from medical negligence, they can file a lawsuit and receive compensation for damages in a court of law, unless you are an active service member in the United States military.

For the 1.3 million active duty military, Feres legal doctrine prevents medical malpractice lawsuits from being filed against the United States government. While one case recently tried — and failed — to challenge the law by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, there has been a push to grant our military members the same justice and rights as citizens.

On March 9, 2014, Lt. Rebekah “Moani” Daniel died four hours after giving birth to her daughter, Victoria, at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Bremerton, Washington, where Lt. Daniel lost more than a third of her body’s volume of blood from post-partum hemorrhaging.

As a result of the 69-year-old Feres doctrine, Lt. Daniel and her heirs are prohibited from seeking justice by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against military personnel or military medical facilities. Lt. Daniels’ widower, Walter Daniel, alleges medical malpractice in his wife’s death and has been arguing that fact in the lower courts.

Feres v. United States is a landmark 1950 case that established service members or their families cannot file medical malpractice claims. Feres is an archaic law and one that several Supreme Court justices have denounced over the years. Originally, the law was only meant to keep troops from filing a claim if they were hurt as a result of combat, not when they were removed from combat settings. Mr. Daniel has not been successful in overturning the Feres doctrine after the Supreme Court refused to take up the case.

For now, the Feres doctrine remains intact. “It is a disgrace that the country does not provide justice for the men and women who risk their lives for our nation every day,” says John Fisher of John H. Fisher, PC. “This case deserved to be heard by the Supreme Court, and it is tragic that it was not. This means that our troops will continue to be denied justice while serving our country.”

The Military Health System has changed dramatically in the 69 years since Feres was first adopted. While Mr. Daniel’s petition may have resulted in failure, advocates for overturning the Feres doctrine are calling for a change that will grant U.S. service members the same rights as those they protect.

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By Criminal Defense Attorney Floyd Oliver of Price Benowitz LLP

In June, Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, wrote an op-ed in the Daily Press.

It called for the state to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana possession and to stop sending innocent people to jail. The letter received bipartisan support, which means Virginia could see decriminalization very soon.

“It is about time,” said Floyd Oliver of Price Benowitz. “Every time legalization occurs in another state, it makes Virginia’s laws look more and more outdated. The Attorney General was absolutely correct. It is time to stop disproportionally targeting African Americans, which is what the current law does, and stop sending anyone to jail that does not deserve to be there.”

The plea from the Attorney General comes at a time when marijuana possession convictions are increasing in Virginia. In 2003, approximately 13,000 Virginians were arrested on marijuana possession charges. In 2017, almost 28,000 people faced charges, an increase of 115 percent.

Those charged face harsh penalties, too. Even a first offense misdemeanor charge could land a person in jail for up to 30 days, and they could be required to pay a fine of $500. A second offense, even for a small amount of marijuana, has consequences of up to a full year in jail and fines up to $2,500.

Those convictions are costing Virginians approximately $81 million a year in additional taxes. However, the social cost is much greater than that. Like in many other states across the country, possession laws seem to target individuals of color.

From 2007 to 2016, the Virginia Crime Commission reports, African Americans saw the most arrests. In fact, they made up 46 percent of all possession arrests.

This is not the first time the idea of decriminalization has been raised in Virginia. Last year, Virginia’s Senate Majority Leader, Thomas K. Norment, Jr. sponsored a proposed bill that would decriminalize the drug, but that effort failed. Now, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pushing for decriminalization, it may just be the time to end the unfair criminal charges.

Decriminalization is not the same as legalization. If a new law decriminalizing the drug was passed, those found in possession of marijuana would still face penalties. However, those consequences would be much less severe and would likely be the equivalent of a traffic ticket.

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By Estate Planning Attorney Steve Novak of Estate & Probate Legal Group, Ltd.

Estate planning is important, but it also becomes very challenging when certain factors are present.

In January, TD Wealth held their 53rd Annual Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning. Attorneys, trust officers, insurance experts and accountants were in attendance. Of these, 105 were asked about the biggest issues that can crop up during estate planning. The three factors these professionals identified included family conflict, market volatility and tax reform.

“These are definitely some of the biggest issues we see in our office,” says Steve Novak of Estate & Probate Legal Group. “It is for these reasons, and more, that it is so important to have an attorney by your side when estate planning. An attorney can help settle all of these issues swiftly, and ensure an estate plan is enforceable, and properly represents the individual’s best interests.”

Among all the many factors the respondents stated could present problems during estate planning, family conflict was number one. The most common type of this conflict is designating beneficiaries.

Some family members may be unhappy with who was chosen, or how much of a share they were gifted. While this may tempt some not to tell their family about their estate plan, failing to communicate the plan with family members was another form of family conflict the participants stated could cause a problem with estate planning.

Somewhat surprisingly, volatile markets can also bring complications to estate planning. Some want to gift beneficiaries with something that will be long-lasting, but short-term fluctuations can cause those making the plan real cause for concern.

Lastly, the major overhaul to tax law in 2017 is now playing a major role in estate planning. With increases in the federal gift and estate tax exemption, more people are starting to place assets they would like to gift into trusts.

This allows the gift to be considered the beneficiary’s and theirs alone. If a child goes through a divorce later in life, a trust will make it clear that it was separate property and so, protect that family member in the future.

Unfortunately, these are just the three main issues that arise most often during estate planning. They are also the biggest reasons anyone creating an estate plan should speak with an attorney that can help.

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By Personal Injury Attorney John M. Cooper of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers

The numbers are in and it is now official. Virginia has a distracted driving problem.

A study was conducted by road safety company, ZenDrive, places Virginia at the top of the list for the most distracted drivers in the entire country. Maryland was tenth while the District of Columbia came in at 17. So, what is the problem in Virginia? Why does this state have so many distracted drivers?

“Our laws are too loose on the matter. It’s just that simple,” says John M. Cooper of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers. “When police officers essentially cannot enforce a law, it is a useless law and people will not abide by it. This is a main reason there are so many distracted drivers on Virginia’s roads.”

How could a law be the problem when Virginia actually does ban texting and driving? It is because that is all the law bans. In Virginia, people can do whatever they want with their phones while they are behind the wheel, as long as they do not text or email. They can still use their GPS, watch videos, browse social media and even play games.

This makes enforcing the ban on texting and driving extremely difficult. Officers can pull a driver over if they see them on their phone, but those drivers can simply claim they were using their phone for another purpose. Without a new law banning all use of handheld devices, the problem is only going to grow.

That is just one problem surrounding distracted driving in Virginia. The other, perhaps much bigger problem, is that many drivers do not fully understand just how dangerous their behavior is. Without that realization, particularly if the law remains as it is, there is no reason for these ‘phone addicts’ to put the phone down while they are driving.

Unfortunately, that means more car accidents, and more lives taken on Virginia’s roads. Clearly, the Commonwealth needs a new law that will save those lives and reduce the number of crashes that are seen year after year.

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By Person Injury Attorney Darryl B. Kogan of Kogan and DiSalvo. P.A

It is getting safer to go to work!

A study conducted by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has found that workplace injuries and illnesses are down by approximately two to three percent around the country. During the study, NCCI used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine the frequency of injuries and illnesses sustained by full-time workers in the United States.

The study divided incidences of injuries and work-related sicknesses into categories of industry, gender and the age of workers. One of the most interesting results to come from the study showed that the age group that reduced the amount of work-related injuries were younger people aged 25 to 34.

While historically, this group has regularly seen the most amount of workplace injuries, the numbers dropped by almost 50 percent between 2006 and 2017. Within this group, the majority of injuries were from contact, which made up 32 percent of injuries, and overexertion, which constituted 35 percent of injuries for those under the age of 34.

“It is difficult to say why this younger group has seen such a drop in injuries,” says Darryl B. Kogan of Kogan and DiSalvo. P.A. “Regardless, it is certainly good news. It is even better that while this age group may have seen the largest reduction in workplace accidents, all age groups saw a drop, which means workplace accidents are being reduced nationwide.”

Overexertion, a main cause of workplace accidents, was also seen in workers aged 45 to 64. This group saw the most amount of overexertion injuries, however, they were also prone to slip and falls. For those in this older age group, slip and falls made up 44 percent of workers’ compensation claims.

Interestingly, while there still may be a nationwide wage gap between the sexes, it simply does not exist when it comes to workplace injuries. Incident rates among men fell to 95 per 100,000 for workers’ compensation claims in 2017 from 142 in 2006.

Women, on the other hand, did not see as big of a reduction, but they too, reduced workplace accidents from 106 per 100,000 in 2006 to just 82 in 2017.

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By Family Law Attorney Brian W. Reidy of Reidy Law Office, LLC

In divorce, it is more common than people think for one spouse to hide assets from another spouse.

By doing so, the spouse hiding the assets may be required to pay less in child support, alimony and other expenses related to the divorce. Luckily, hidden assets do not always stay hidden forever.

“There are ways to discover a spouse is hiding assets and make sure the final divorce agreement is fair to all parties,” says Brian W. Reidy of the Reidy Law Office, LLC. “You just have to know where to look, and what to look for, which is why having the help of a family lawyer is so important.”

The first place to start looking is the spouse’s paystubs. These contain a lot of information, including how much money has been diverted into a 401(k) or been withheld for taxes. If these combined amounts are grossly more than the spouse’s take-home pay, they are likely using those tools as a place to park their income, and hide it from you.

A person’s tax return will also shed significant light on a spouse’s hidden assets. Schedule B of a tax return outlines the interest and dividends a person may be earning, while Schedule D will outline all capital gains and losses.

In addition, if a Form 1099-R is included with the tax return, it means a spouse is using a retirement account to park money in, possibly until shortly after the divorce is finalized.

Both pay stubs and tax returns can be accessed during the discovery phase of a divorce. During this stage of the proceedings, both sides can request information from the other side that can help support their case in court. If one party asks the other side for this type of documentation, it must be provided to them.

In an ideal world, divorces would always be an honest and open process. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Everyone wants the terms of a divorce to be fair. Knowing how to spot hidden assets is one way to ensure they will be.

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By Family Law Attorney Brian W. Reidy of Reidy Law Office LLC

Millennials often say that it is more difficult for their generation to get a job, buy a house and secure their financial future.

Perhaps this is the reason attorneys are reporting an increase in prenuptial agreements among millennials that want to protect that future.

A survey among the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that over half of these professionals were seeing an increase in the number of millennial prenuptial agreements they were drafting.

This indicates that more millennials are understanding these agreements are contracts, but not seeing them as the divorce contracts they were once thought to be. While once people may have thought that these agreements were counting on a divorce, millennials do not seem to think that way.

“The truth is, marriage is a contract,” said Brian W. Reidy of Reidy Law Office LLC. “It is just one that many do not realize they are entering into at the beginning of marriage. The state will determine what each spouse receives in the event of a divorce. Having a prenuptial agreement just allows those involved in the contract to have a say in its final terms. It’s a great move for many millennials.”

It is true that every couple should have several conversations about finances before getting married. Each person should understand the other’s debt, income, assets and more, as it will affect their financial future.

Each person also has the right to protect the things they bring into the marriage.

While a prenuptial agreement may not make sense for every couple, it should at least be considered by all. Those that decide on a prenuptial agreement should always seek the advice of a family lawyer. Each spouse will also need to have their own lawyer that will represent their interests while the contract is drawn up.

Many millennials are finding that love and marriage are of course, very romantic things. At the same time, they are looking for ways to secure the financial future they worked so hard for.

Having a prenuptial agreement beforehand is helping them do it.

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By Veterans Disability Attorney Brendan Garcia of VetLaw

There is no doubt that veterans have an extremely difficult time when they come home from overseas, or anywhere else they serve.

After facing the most extreme conditions, they are then expected to come home and re-enter civilian life. For most, this is challenging at best. It is one of the reasons state and federal governments are constantly trying to improve the lives of veterans upon their return. Now, a new bill enacted earlier this year is going to do just that.

The bill was signed earlier this year, and it specifically looks to help veterans that wish to become entrepreneurs upon their return home. It adds veterans to The Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act, which allows them to receive surplus property from the federal government.

What is surplus property? Once the government no longer has a need for items such as furnishings, equipment and machinery, they pass it down to entrepreneurs that could use them. Before, female entrepreneurs and minority business owners were given this surplus property in addition to Veteran Service Organizations such as the VFW and the American Legion. Now, any veteran that wishes to become an entrepreneur can also receive the property.

Entrepreneurship is often an ideal situation for veterans. While adjusting to civilian life once again, they can be their own boss, run a business in an industry they love, and acclimate to civilian life at their own pace. This is of huge importance for veterans.

In addition, having more people to give surplus property also saves the federal government millions of dollars. Without it, they would spend a great deal of money on disposing the items, or finding a place to store them.

The other bonus that comes with passing on surplus property is that it helps many business owners, not just veterans, and that boosts the economy and helps create jobs.

Any veteran that thinks they may want to become an entrepreneur and start their own business should speak to the General Services Administration. This is the agency that distributes the surplus property and can provide further information on how veterans can get the help they need to open the doors of their business.

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By Personal Injury Attorney Jeff Shiver of Shiver Hamilton

Ring doorbells were not a hit on the show Shark Tank when inventor Jamie Siminoff first brought his project to the sharks.

However, that did not keep him from launching the product in 2013 and in 2018, Amazon bought his company for $1 billion. Now though, Amazon has had to scurry to fix a security flaw in their Ring doorbells that actually posed a danger to homeowners instead of keeping them safer.

The Ring doorbell is a smart doorbell. When someone is at the door and presses it, the homeowner can see through a camera in the device who rang the bell. The device also allows homeowners to open their door remotely to let someone they know into the home. Recently though, a hack has been exposed that tricks homeowners into letting thieves and criminals into their home.

So, how does the scheme work? Those wishing to interfere with the device hack into a homeowner’s Wifi network at the same time the homeowner is connected. Once connected, the hacker can then see the video and hear the audio that is transmitted from the device.

The element of the hack that is even scarier is that hackers can also insert their own video into the feed. They may use footage of a trusted person ringing the doorbell to get the homeowner to remotely open the door when that trusted person is not actually there.

Instead, the hackers are waiting to be granted entry. The dangers of this type of negligent security are quite clear. If someone’s not in the home, thieves could take whatever they wanted. If someone was in the house, particularly children, the dangers become much greater.

“It is good that Amazon took quick action on this security flaw before anyone was seriously hurt or had their home invaded,” says Jeff Shiver of Shiver Hamilton. “If they had waited much longer, they would have certainly faced lawsuits from homeowners that entrusted both the company and the device with keeping them safe.”

Indeed, Amazon has fixed the device. In their latest software update, they corrected the glitch that allowed hackers into the device. All Ring owners need to do now is update the Ring app. This will install the fix, and keep their home secure.

Amazon recommends installing all updates as soon as they become available to keep Ring doorbells working in the manner they were intended.

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