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Crossroads Law Questions and Answers Below

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This site is published by Crossroads today and sponsored by Cole, Cole, Easley & Sciba, P.C. It is intended to provide a forum to discuss general legal concepts. Cases are always very fact specific and the application of the law will vary from case to case. The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice from Crossroads Today, Cole, Cole, Easley & Sciba, P.C. or any of the contributing authors. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us or Cole, Cole, Easley & Sciba, P.C. does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us or Cole, Cole, Easley & Sciba, P.C. until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

Crossroads Law Questions and Answers

Question: My son’s roommate had my son’s income tax return posted on his bank card. When the first stimulus check came out, the roommate claimed the card was stolen. My son had moved out by this time. The IRS is showing that the second stimulus check has been posted to the same account. Is there anything that my son can do to get his 1800 dollars?

Answer: That is very unfortunate that someone take your son’s Covid Relief Check especially a person you son trusted.  I would tell your son to go to the following website and report the theft https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/05/did-id-thief-steal-your-stimulus-payment-report-it-us.  I would also speak with an accountant regarding a potential tax refund for the money that he did not receive.

Question: Yes I have a friend who was recently arrested for an incident that happened in 2016. In this case we were pulled over and they found drugs in the car, when asked who’s drugs they were I admitted that they were mine and she didn’t know they were there so they arrested her for some city tickets and charged me with the drugs. Well a couple days later when I went to court they informed me that I had a co-defendant for the case and through the whole case I kept telling them she had nothing to do with it and I even wrote a letter to the court clerk letting them know she had nothing to do with it. Well I went to prison for that case. As for her she did her time for the tickets but was released when she was done. Well if she had a felony charge they wouldn’t have released her. So she gets out not knowing she has this other charge. Now 4 years later she is in a complete different state and they arrest her for an outstanding warrant here in Texas. What can I do to make sure the charges don’t stick and hopefully stop her from being extradited back here to Texas. Thank you for your time

Answer: So sorry to hear about this unfortunate series of events. First, there are a number of reasons why your friend may not have had notice that she was to be charged for this incident. It could be that the District Attorney’s office after looking at the case decided to have the grand jury indict her when the case was submitted to them. Indictments typically take place well after a person is released from custody, which would explain her being released from jail only to find out a warrant had been issued later.

To the root of your question, though, what can you do to keep her from being extradited and or help her fight the charges. There are mechanisms to fight extradition, however, even if successful, will still mean that she has a warrant out for her arrest and she can be held and required to fight extradition again in her home state. Her best bet, would be to hire a lawyer in Texas that can meet with the DA and negotiate her bond amount prior to her turning herself in to the county jail where the offense is alleged to have occurred. District Attorneys in every county will a have a different view on negotiating bond amounts, some will be happy to help, and others won’t negotiate until after she has turned herself in and a motion to reduce bond is filed. It would also be helpful to speak with a bond company to try to figure out a general cost of her bond prior to turning herself in. Once, bonded out, she would await her court date. While she awaits her court date, it would be wise for you to meet with her lawyer and have he/she draft an affidavit attesting to her innocence, which would be step one in “making sure the charges don’t stick”. The District Attorney handling the case however will have sole discretion whether or not to drop the charges prior to trial. If trial is necessary, you would likely be called as a witness and have the opportunity to tell the jury she is innocent. Barring any big mistakes in the prosecutor’s case, the jury would be the only people that would be able to find your friend not guilty. I hope this helps.

Question: We sold a mobile home to “friends” in 1998, supplying them with the title. (We did not get a signed bill of sale). They never transferred the title to their name and later sold the mobile home. This past year (2019) we received a tax statement for the home. We know where it is and have made attempts to reach the owners to get the matter settled but owner will not respond to our calls and messages. What course of action do you recommend?

Answer:  I would recommend calling the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs MANUFACTURED HOUSING DIVISION P. O. BOX 12489 Austin, Texas 78711-2489 (800) 500-7074, (512) 475-2200 FAX (512) 475-1109. Attached is a link to different forms that may be used to document the transfer. https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/mh/docs/1037-applysol.pdf

Without knowing more details it is hard to be more specific. You may also check with the TXDMV. Attached is a link to page related to transferring trailers, but I believe the Manufactured Housing Division of the TDHCA is probably the best place to start. https://www.txdmv.gov/motorists/buying-or-selling-a-vehicle/trailers


Question:  On 03/28/2020 my husband and I were driving on 72 between Runge and Kenedy when a large safety barrel blew in front of us. I could not avoid it completely because of on coming traffic but was able to avoid hitting it with the center of my car. The right side of my car now has minor damage. Can I have my insurance help me go through the county/city or whoever owns the safety barricades?

Answer:  Ms. Zapata, My advice would be to let your insurance company handle the repair, pay your deductible, and if they are able to recover from the at fault party you will get it back.


Question: When hosting a party, is it legal to have flashing red and blue lights (like a cop car) on a stand outside the venue?

Answer: After conducting a cursory review of the laws applicable to the use of red and blue lights in Texas, their use as proposed does not create an obvious violation of the law. However depending on the location of the lights and relationship to others in the area that could change the outcome. Additionally, if these lights are in a public area or are near a roadway, it will get the attention of law enforcement. If law enforcement shows up, they will ask you to stop using the lights, whether it violates the law or not. Finally, wherever law enforcement makes contact with you, they may be free to issue citations or arrest people for other violations of the law that they observe. In short, its probably not a good idea.

Question: Can a child chose to live with the other parent?The child is always not with the other parent. Always with sitters they don’t like and don’t feel comfortable with them. My child ask me to find a way to have them move in with me, so i want to know can a child chose the parent they want to live with and yes the child is 12

Answer: In Texas, once the child reaches the age of 12 their wishes can be considered by the judge.  The child’s selection cannot be the sole factor considered by the judge.  Assuming there is an existing order relating to the child, a motion to modify would need to be filed with the court.  You should consider consulting with an experienced family law attorney on the best way to proceed.

Question: In Texas can a landlord evict someone who allows other people to move in without prior written consent. And does a landlord have to renew someone’s lease?

Answer: The short answer to the question is that they can probably evict someone who allows others to move onto the property without consrnt.  It would depend on the terms of the lease and the landlord would have to go through the eviction process.  Generally speaking a landlord does not have to renew a lease and can terminate the lease during the term based on the terms of the lease contract.  Again, there is a process the landlord must go through to evict someone.

Question: I was in an accident on Navarro and Glasgow yesterday. I was the last in line waiting to turn left onto Glasgow. I was actually in the intersection waiting for a safe window to turn. I decided to be safe and wait for the light to turn first. The light turned yellow, southbound left lane slowed down and stopped. The southbound right lane did not. I was exiting the intersection when they barreled through at a high rate of speed, hitting me (no brakes) head on, totaling my car, my air bags deployed, their’s didn’t. The responding officer was rude, and never got my side of the story. At the hospital, to my surprise, I was told that it was my fault! Honestly, what traffic school teaches, “Go faster if you see a yellow light.” She then, passive aggressively insulted me, because she was “Army” and I was a “Marine”. I am a honorably discharged, disabled, three toured Iraq war hero. With an impeccable driving record. This is my first accident in over 20 years! So my credibility is not an issue. I honestly feel that I was wronged by lackluster police work. Sadly, Victoria PD is known for that. I was never asked my side of the story, ever. We all know, that intersection is so bad! The reason being the timing on the lights causes everyone to speed and try to catch the next one. Creating unsafe conditions for driving especially on the north side. We locals know this but yet the city does nothing! People have died this year on Navarro. I have never needed legal advice before. But I feel I need it. Even my VA therapist says I need a lawyer for this. It takes a lot for me to ask for help. But can you please help me?

Answer: Very sorry to hear about your accident.  Thank you for your service.  I am not completely clear how the crash occurred.  I have some familiarity with that intersection.  The investigating officers do their best when doing a crash investigation.  The investigating officer usually gets it right but not always.  When the officer gets it wrong, it is harder to deal with the insurance company without a lawyer.  This is the kind of case that that you will probably want to talk to a lawyer that is experienced in handling these kinds of cases.  We wish you the best and let us know if we can help you.

Question: Is there a statute of limitations (“SOL”) for a wrongful termination claim?

Answer:  Yes.  For certain Federal discrimination claims the time period can be as short as a 180 days.  For torts, such as the negligent infliction of emotion distress there is a 2 year SOL.  For contract claims you are generally looking at a 4 year SOL.  Be aware that these time periods are state statute specific so it is best to have the claim evaluated quickly to look at the specific issues of your case.

Question: Is it legal for an officer to make a traffic stop and impound a vehicle without issuing a reason for the stop (traffic ticket} or a traffic ticket without the reason for the impound. Being a traffic stop, is there a due process by law for seizing motor vehicles?

Answer: You have asked a number of questions, but they all seem to surround an officer’s authority to impound a vehicle during a traffic stop. Texas Transportation Code 545.305 sets out several ways that an officer can impound a vehicle during a traffic stop. Two, of the many, reasons that would give an officer justification for towing a vehicle, are that the vehicle was operated by a person the officer arrests for an alleged offense and the officer is required by law to take the person into custody or that it (likely meaning the car) is in the OPINION of the officer, a hazard… The second provision seems to grant the officer very wide discretion in deciding whether to impound a vehicle. All that is required is that the officer has an opinion that the vehicle is a hazard.

To answer your question about whether the officer needs to give a reason for the impound, the applicable law doesn’t seem to require that the officer give a reason to the driver so long as he/she has a justification under the law.

Our courts have granted officers wide discretion in their decision to impound a vehicle as evidenced by language from a 1976 case out of the 13th Court of Appeals:  “As part of the privilege of driving a vehicle in this State, a licensed driver, impliedly agrees to allow a peace officer to have his vehicle towed and stored when the driver either commits some statutory offense or even when such vehicle becomes immobilized and it requires the officer to remove either the driver from his vehicle or his vehicle from the scene of an accident. Otherwise, these vehicles would constitute a hazard to traffic and would be subject to theft, vandalism or in the case at bar destruction by the elements.” Bray v. Curtis, 544 S.W.2d 816 (Tex. Civ. App. 1976), writ refused NRE (Mar. 16, 1977). Although this case seems to be dealing with an older law governing the impoundment of vehicles, it reflects much of the rationale that is still the basis for our current law.

Lastly, regarding your question about due process, the statute governing this type of towing does not outline a hearing process. One would likely have to bring suit under a common law theory of conversion, which would be very difficult to prevail given the wide discretion an officer has by statute and certain immunities that the government enjoys.

Question: I added a line to my mobile service for a friend, trying to help her in a crappy situation. I cancelled her line and took the phone back once the second month was up because she didn’t pay her part of the first bill in full and wanted to delay the second bill that was due on the 10th of this month. Verizon offers a service called “promise to pay” and I utilized that service (also adds a fee to the next bill) in order to give her time. The new bill date became the 27th of this month. Now she is refusing to pay me her part, therefore, leaving me in a bind. I have screenshots of the conversations. Is there anything I’m able to do to receive the money? I truly appreciate any help/advice that can be offered!

Answer: If the service plan with Verizon is in your name, you owe the money.  Outside of filing a small claim in JP court, there is nothing else you can do.  You did not say how much money you are talking about but there will be a small fee for filing the claim and having your “friend” served with the lawsuit.  The cost of filing is likely more than the money you are trying to collect and even if you get a judgment it does not mean you will be able to collect anything.  My advice to you is, send your “friend” a bill and hope she does the right thing someday and pays it.  Otherwise, call it the price for good experience and always remember NEVER EVER guarantee a note, which is similar to what you did, unless it’s very secured or you are ready, willing and able to pay the tab someday.

One of my favorite quotes is “I’ve learned that when a man with money meets a man with experience, the man with experience ends up with the money and the man with the money ends up with experience.”  

  1. Jackson Brown Jr., Live and Learn and Pass It on: People Ages 5 to 95 Share What They’ve Discovered about Life, Love, and Other Good Stuff

Question: I evicted some rentors from my house, when I rented to them they were lovable, I evicted them because they were terorizing the neighbors, and they would not pay. They sued me and by lying and crying, the jury believed them. I am going to ask for a retrial. The judge has not ruled yet, but what is it that they can do to me now, before the retrial?

Answer: Part of the answer depends on what court the original trial was in.  If it was in JP Court, then you are entitled to appeal to the County Court at Law.  Because this sound like a JP case this response assumes that it is.  Appeals from other courts are handled much differently.  After trial, the jury reaches a verdict.  Based on the verdict, the court renders a judgment.  You can appeal the Judgment to the County Court at Law.  You have to file an appeal bond or cash in lieu of an appeal bond that is twice the amount of the Judgment.  This allows the case to be appeals but assures the money will be there if you lose the case on appeal. It is hard to say what the consequences of a Judgment will be without looking at it.   Unlike the JP court , the County Court at Law is more strict on procedure.  I would recommend that you hire an attorney.  If you do not hire an attorney, Rule 506.1 of the Texas Rules of Civil procedure is a good place to start.  Because this case involves an eviction, Rule 510.9 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure may also apply.

Question: I was awarded a small claim court judgement against a yard and tree service but the business owner has ignored the court order and I really need to take care of the damage they caused. How do I collect?

Answer:  I can only imagine your frustration as I have been there myself.  The first thing you must do is ask the Clerk at the Justice of the Peace office for an abstract of judgement.  From there you need to take it to the County Clerk’s office and file it in order to create notice in the County that money is owed to you.  Also, if you aware of the individual owning real property (land/real estate) in any other County file your judgement there also.  Send all of this to the debtor and demand payment within 30 days.  Send the letter Certified and make a copy for yourself.  If judgment is not paid you can file and Application for a Writ of Execution to have property such as chain saws, tree trimmers, lawn mowers seized by the Sheriff so they can be sold to satisfy the debt.  Unfortunately, some people don’t pay their debts and the process to make them do so is time consuming, don’t give up!

Question: Last year we contracted with a contractor to remodel our house in Mission Valley. After many delays, poor workmanship and incomplete work we fired them in October. At that point we had paid them 3/4 of the contracted amount and withheld the last 1/4. Today I received a letter from a local plumber that the contractor had hired to do some work. They stated that they had not been paid for the work they did in September. My question is, am I responsible for the plumbing bill since the contractor defaulted on it? The plumber was hired by the contractor and not by us. Thank you for any help you can offer me.

Answer: I believe you do have some responsibility to the plumber for work performed, assuming the work was done correctly.  The general contractor would also have responsibility for the bill.  The reason the plumber is probably sending you the bill is because he was also stiffed by the same contractor

Question: I have a Class A misdemeanor for assault in 2005. It is the only charge on my criminal record. How can I get an expungement?

Answer: The issues centers on whether your charge was dismissed, you pled to a differed adjudication, or received straight probation/pled guilty to the assault charge.  The former two are eligible for expungement/non-disclosure the latter are not.  I would consult with a criminal defense attorney in order to review your case and if eligible have your record expunged.

Question: My children has visitation with their dad 1st, 3rd and 5th Fridays, including Thursdays. But he recently went to work in Odessa and is gone when it’s his weekend. Their step mother is not the easiest to work with and has called me vulgar names the last time I met up to pick up my kids. My question is do I have to allow my children to go with their step mom when their father is out of town?

Answer:  The Order in a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship controls when it comes to issues of possession and access to the child.  Generally, there is a paragraph which states “Each conservator may designate a competent adult to pick up and return child, as applicable.”  I do stress that the Court’s Order details the specifics for your custody arrangement and the rights and responsibilities of each party, therefore, it is extremely important that you consult the Order regarding issues of possession, access and custody.  If a party fails to comply with the Order the Court has the discretion to hold the at fault party in contempt for failure to comply with the Court’s Order.  Further, if you believe that current arrangement is not in the best interest of the child I would consult a family law attorney to address having the Order amended to address your concerns.

Question: I am a landlord with 8 apt units. One of my tenants is under a lease until June. He is a hoarder. This poses many health and safety issues. Is there grounds for eviction.

Answer by Rick Stafford:
The answer to your question is possibly. Your lease is controlled by your contract and the property code. The property code does give you the ability to evict based off of waste, but this is fact and case law specific. Your contract may also give you more broad rights to evict; however, your tenant also has protection under the property code and if you violate some of his rights he could have a claim against you. Best advice I can give is to contact a lawyer about your options on how best to proceed with an eviction. The money you spend up front just might save you more in the long term.

Question: I was in an accident, not my fault, my doctor told me to file under my personal injury protection on my insurance and I would not have to pay it back even if the other insurance company pays the bills. Is this true?

Answer by Luther Easley:
Robert, your Doctor is exactly right. Personal injury protection (PIP) generally covers medical bills and lost wages up to $2,500 related to car crashes, among other things. You should call your insurance company to see if you have (PIP) coverage and they will give you the details which your insurance company requires to release payments. If you are injured and believe that you are going to continue to suffer harms I would recommend consulting an attorney before making any agreement with the other persons insurance.

Question: : I was recently let go from a local sheriffs dept. the reason being because I was an “at will” employee. I don’t have a disciplinary history and I didn’t do anything wrong. No other reason was given besides that I was no longer needed. I feel that because I was about to blow the whistle on violations of jail standards and on fraudulent time keeping that I was fired. How do I fight this when no lawyer will take my case?

Answer by Luther Easley:
In Texas, as a general rule, employment is “at will.” This means that an employer can terminate an employee for any reason, no matter how arbitrary or irrational, or no reason at all. Unfortunately, unless you have proof that you were fired because of knowledge of some type of illegal activity being done by the Sheriff’s Office the likelihood of success of this case is low. You may also try to contract the Texas Ranger’s Office in Austin Texas (512) 424-2160 to report violations and seek help in reporting these issues.

Question: : I was rear ended at a traffic light. I was out of work for 6 weeks and have medical bills of $7000. What is a reasonable amount to accept for pain and suffering only? I understand that they will have to pay medical and lost wages, but am only unsure on the pain and suffering.

Answer by Luther Easley:
Your question of what is a reasonable amount for pain and suffering is not a question that can be answered as simply as we both may like. The firm generally does not come to a decision on that number till we have had a chance to review all the medical, police reports, speak with our client about the injury, and evaluate the potential for future P & S, among other factors. Pain and Suffering is unique to each individual, a broken arm for a mother of three who has to type all day may cause more pain and suffering than a broken arm for a college student with no children. To come up with that reasonable number you have to ask yourself what do you feel would be reasonable and could I convince 12 other people in this community that the number is fair. Further, word to the wise with insurance companies, they do not have to pay anything, they may fight you on coverage for your medical bills and lost wages and may not come with an offer on pain and suffering at all. I cannot put a number on your pain and suffering but you must ask yourself what is the amount over $7000 that would make me feel whole.

Question: I was hit by a vehicle while in a meeting at work. To date the police have yet to charge the driver with anything at all,what are my options?

Answer by Will Sciba:
If the goal is to have the person prosecuted, then the only thing you can do is continue to bring it to the attention of law enforcement. Individuals cannot prosecute criminal cases. If you were injured or have other damages, then you can talk to an attorney that handles civil litigation and try to recoup those losses.

Question: I was in a divorce several years ago. During the marriage we had purchased a home together, and the mortgage was set up in both of our names. After the divorce, we agreed she would keep the house and she took up making the payments herself. We looked into removing me from the mortgage, but we aren’t sure if anything short of a refinance will give her full ownership without still leaving me on the loan. I just want to make sure that I am protected in case something happens years down the line. What would be the best course of action?

Answer by Jim Cole:
The issue of the ownership of the home should have been addressed in the divorce decree. If it was not a deed would need to be prepared that transfers your interest to her. The mortgage is another question. The bank is going to be reluctant to let either of you off the mortgage. The only way that is likely to happen is if your ex can qualify in her own right. The only course of action for you to be fully protected is to find a mortgage company that is willing to finance the house in you ex’s name only.

Question: How far can my employer “encourage” me to donate to United Way?

Answer by Will Sciba:
I am not aware of any restrictions on an employer encouraging employees to donate money to the United Way. The United Way is a good organization that does good work. It would probably be different if they were strongly encouraging you to donate to a religious organization. Employers are, with some exceptions, not allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion. It may also cross the line if they require a donation to a charity, but I am not aware of a particular law that would prohibit such a requirement.

Question: Our neighbor owns horses that come in to our yard and eat our grass every day. What can we do about this?

Answer by Will Sciba:
Victoria county has adopted stock laws that make it illegal for owners of livestock to allow their animals to run at large. If a livestock owner knowingly allows livestock to run at large, they can be held liable for damages. The law prohibits a person from doing anything to maim, kill or injure a horse. (Texas Agriculture Code section 143.033). The law also proves that it is a Class C misdemeanor for a person to knowingly allow “an animal to trespass on the land of another in an area or county in which the animal is prohibited from running at large.” (Texas Agriculture Code section 143.034). In an area where stock laws have not been adopted it is the responsibility of the land owner to fence livestock out of their property. The first thing you need to do is determine if the area you live in has adopted stock laws. If stock laws have been adopted in your area, then I would recommend talking to your neighbor and explaining the situation to them. If they do not keep their horses on their property , you can report them to the police. Of course only you can decide if keeping horses out of your yard is worth upsetting you neighbor.

Question: My ex-husband got a new job. He was only paying $400 per month for 3 kids while he was on unemployment. What can I do to make him start paying more child support?

You need to contact the Attorney General’s Office and request that your current child support order be modified because your ex-husband has gained new employment. They should send your ex-husband a request for his new income information and send you a notice setting up a meeting to review the new information and modify your support order if it is warranted.

Question: My child’s mother has supervised visitation every other Saturday to get reacquainted with our 2 year old son. When he turns three she is going to be able to keep him for the weekend. She has failed to keep up with her visitations therefor. What can I do in the best interest for my son?

Does the order setting up the supervised visitation indicate that overnights start at the age of 3, or does it indicate that a certain number of visits must take place before overnight visitation is allowed? Most orders of this sort will require a certain number of visits that CAN be accomplished by the time the child turns three, but only if the non-custodial parent stays on track. If this is not the case, you may need to get an attorney to motion the court to modify the current orders because overnight and unsupervised visits are not in the best interest of the child.

Question: My son rents a house and now the property is in foreclosure. How long do they have to move? (The landlord is going to court in the next few days.)

The federal Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 became effective May 20, 2009, and will expire at the end of 2012. The law gives tenants the right to stay in the rental home for 90 days after foreclosure or through the term of their lease unless the property is sold to someone who will occupy the home. If the new owner will live in the home, leases can be terminated with 90 days written notice. The bill provides similar protections to housing voucher holders.

Question: How can I go about filing an order for neither parent to pay child support? The Attorney General stated that one parent has to pay child support until child is grown up. They said only a lawyer can setup an order.

You didn’t indicate if there is a current order for custody and child support in place. If so, you would need to file a Motion to Modify the current order. These orders can be complicated and, because they deal with the rights and duties you have to your children, should ideally be handled by an attorney. Remember that visitation rights and support rights are not dependent upon one another. I encourage you to seek legal counsel before agreeing to give up any rights, including the right to receive child support of behalf of your child.

Question: What is the difference in a Class A Misdemeanor Assault Causing Bodily Injury and a Felony Assault Causing Bodily Injury. What is the normal punishment phase for each?

The difference lies in the grievous nature of the offense, and the available range of punishment. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 2 years in county jail, and a fine not to exceed $2000. A felony, dependent on the class (first, second, or third degree), can be punishable by commitment to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for a period of time anywhere from 2-99 years, and a fine anywhere from $2000-$10,000.

Question: I have a home warranty policy and the company is refusing to pay for fixing the compressor on the heat pump. They say that I have to have paperwork proving that I was having the unit serviced on a regular basis. The home is in South Carolina and I do have a company that services the unit on a yearly bases. I fax the warranty people a copy of all the services dates that the people who service the unit sent me. They are not taking that, and are still refusing to pay the claim. What are my rights and what can I do?

Answer by Chuck Cole:
This is the case with many companies that provide homeowner warranties. Many unscrupulous companies will take your money under the guise that they are insuring you against losses related to unexpected home repair only to decline to pay when you want to collect on a claim. You will need to look at your contract to determine your right. Unfortunately, however the only remedy that you likely have, is to file a small claim in South Carolina against the warranty company. They are likely betting you want go through the trouble. You should talk to an attorney in South Carolina to find out if there is law that address this issue. Also, you could do some internet research to see if the company has a class action suit against it or has a history of this type of activity that might interest a class action attorney.

Question: Who is responsible for unpaid credit card bills upon a son’s death?

Answer by David Coffey:
For a single person, only that person’s estate can be held responsible for debts. For a married couple, the surviving spouse may also be responsible. Additionally, if the deceased person owns property that his or her heirs wish to keep, they may have to satisfy the indebtedness in order to keep the property. Otherwise the property will be sold to satisfy the debt.

Question: What do I need to know when looking at an oil and gas lease?

Answer by Robert McKay:
The most important questions to ask when negotiating a lease are the following: How much is being offered for the lease (bonus). How much royalty is offered (1/6th, 3/16ths, 1/5th, 1/4th). What is the primary term. What pooling is requested. Surface protections When negotiating the lease keep in mind that if there is production under the terms of the lease, you may have to live with it for a very long time. You should always have an attorney review the prepared lease.

Question: My son has joint child custody. My son pays child support out of a weekly draw (so she gets her money). My son and family are not allowed to see the kids. She will not allow any visitations or phone calls; she has even remarried and moved. My son took his orders with him and called the Nueces County Police but they said it was a civil matter and wouldn’t help out. We’ve wasted more money and time doing our part and don’t get to see the kids. What if any suggestions can you offer?

Answer by Will Sciba:
Child support and visitation are not necessarily tied together. The child’s support payment is to pay for your son’s share of raising the child. Visitation has to do with access to the child. Your son will likely have to pay child support unless his parental rights are terminated. Whether he can see or have access to the child is another matter that is usually the subject of a court order. If a court has ordered that he has the right to see the child, then he can petition the court to enforce the order. If there is not a current order that addresses the issue, then he can petition the court for the right to see his child. From your question, it appears that he needs to ask the court to enforce the order. This is difficult to do without the help of an attorney that handles family law cases.

Question: My brother died in Lady Lakes, Florida and left all his 401k to my sister, who died a few months ahead of him. Does the money go to his kids or to her siblings since she had no children?

Answer by David Coffey:
When a beneficiary dies first, the proceeds from a 401(k) (or any account with a beneficiary designation) will pass to any named contingent beneficiaries. If there are none, then the property will pass in accordance with the terms of the agreement creating the account. Many times the agreement provides that when there are no living beneficiaries, the property passes to the estate of the person who created the account. However, that is not always the case so you will need to contact the plan provider in order to determine who receives the 401(k) proceeds.

Question: How long does my former landlord have to either return my deposit or tell me he will return nothing?

Answer by Will Sciba:
The rules related to security deposits in Texas are found in the Texas Property Code, §92.101 – §92.109. Texas landlords have 30 days after the you vacates the premises to return the security deposit. If the landlord is keeping all or a portion of the deposit, he is required to provide a written description and itemized list of all deductions.

Question: My aunt & uncle from Colorado deeded their interest in their parents home to my Dad, who is their younger brother. My dad held on to the deeds and never had them filed. The paperwork was drawn up by my aunt’s attorney in Colorado in 2006. My dad passed away in 2007 and recently we came across the deeds. My aunt contacted her attorney and he told her the deeds were still good and we can have them filed with the original paperwork as it is. Do you know if we can do this, knowing my dad would have 3/4 interest in the home that would then be equally split between his children now, or do we have to have new deeds drawn up by an attorney since so much time has passed?

Answer by Will Sciba:
Your aunt’s attorney is correct. New deeds are not necessary. The prior deeds do need to be recorded in Colorado so I would take care of that as soon as you possibly can.

Question: Can a payroll clerk change your time sheet after you signed it and not tell you about it?

Answer by Will Sciba:
Your employer has an obligation to pay you for the hours you work. If the time sheet is accurate, it probably does not matter that it was changed. If the time sheet is inaccurate, then you may be entitled to compensation for the time that was not paid. Cases like this are often over looked because the unpaid wages do not justify the expense of a lawsuit, but they can add up over time especially if a large number of people are affected. You may also try contacting the Department of Labor.

Question: My husband of 33 years has a daughter from a previous relationship. He was ordered to pay some back child support due to him quitting his job at the Post Office. He has never seen the child/adult and doesn’t even know where she lives or if she even finished high school (one of many of the court order conditions the mother has violated). My question is how long is my husband required to pay for back child support that he could not pay for 1.5 years after leaving his previous employer?

Answer by Will Sciba:
Generally, the back child support has to be paid. The worst situation I ever heard involve a man who had to pay 14 years back child support for a child he did not even know about. The premise is that we have a responsibility to support our children. This obligation is not dependent on the actions of the other parent. If the other parent is not complying with other terms ordered by the court, then your husband may be able to ask the court to enforce those terms. There are also provisions that may allow the court to modify the amount of child support based on a change in income and other circumstances. I recommend that you and your husband contact an attorney that specializes in family law. The best way to select an attorney is to talk to someone you trust who has used a family law attorney or look in the phone book for attorneys who are board certified in family law or advertise that they handle family law. Then find an attorney you are comfortable with.

Question: I have a Life Insurance policy with a beneficiary. Does my Will over ride this beneficiary or do I have to change the beneficiary on my life insurance policy?

Answer by David Coffey:
A will does not override the beneficiary designation on your insurance policy. Insurance policies, retirement accounts, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, etc. which have beneficiary designations pass according to the designation regardless of the terms of your will. The same is true for assets held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship or with a pay on death designation.

Question: I was hired by a company and then was told that they would need a letter from my doctor in order to put me on the schedule. I got the letter and then was told I am no longer employed. What actions could I take against them?

Answer by Will Sciba:
Texas is what is considered a “right to work” state. The phrase “right to work” is a little counter-intuitive. It basically means that you can be fired at any time for any reason. It also means that an employee can quit at any time for any reason. There are some exceptions to this general rule. The most common exceptions are racial discrimination, sexual harassment, discrimination based on sex, age discrimination, and discrimination based on a disability. There are other laws that may apply depending on the circumstances. There are also laws that protect employees from retaliation for complaining of illegal discrimination.

Question: My Ex-husband passed away, we have 2 kids and we were living together since the divorce. Could I ask for all government benefits as a widow and mother of his children? In Texas when are you consider legal married?

Answer by David Coffey:
If your children are either under 18 or are under 19 and still in high school, they are entitled to survivor benefits. If you were married more than ten years to your ex-husband, you will be eligible to receive survivor benefits at retirement regardless of whether you were married at the time of death. A common law marriage exists when a man and woman a) are living together, b) hold themselves out as being married, and c) both intended to be married. You have two years from his date of death to establish that you were married.

Question: While in a pet store a customer reaches to pat my dog without me knowing, (back turned talking to store rep),and my dog snapped at the customer ‘s hand before I could snatch her away, and breaks the skin (1″ scrape and draws blood) am I liable for that?

Answer by Will Sciba:
Typically a minor injury such as a scratch will not result in a lawsuit because the cost of pursuing the claim will be more than the claim is worth. If a claim is made you should turn it over to your home owners or renters insurance if you have it. In order for an injured person to recover from a dog bite, the injured person will typically have to prove that the owner had reason to know that his/her dog posed a danger to others. This can be shown through prior instances where to dog has bitten or shown aggression towards people in the past.

Question: How do I make sure I am being paid the right amount of royalty by the oil company?

Answer by Robert McKay:
The check stub will contain a decimal interest attributable to your royalty. This decimal interest should equal the interest you own in the royalty.

Question: If the wife owns the house before the marriage or (common –law marriage) and her name is the only one on the deed, can the husband be granted any claim to the property?

You can contact an attorney that specializes on workers comp to make sure you are being paid the right amount. Typically you will be limited to the benefits you are awarded through the comp system; however, you may have a third party claim if someone other than your employer caused your injury. If you collect from a third party, you will have to reimburse the comp carrier before you can put any money in your pocket.

There may be a claim for reimbursement if improvements were made or mortgage payments were made during the marriage.

Question: I was hurt at work and I am receiving comp benefits. I am having trouble making ends meet can I do anything to make up for the money I am losing?

Answer by Jim Cole:
You can contact an attorney that specializes on workers comp to make sure you are being paid the right amount. Typically you will be limited to the benefits you are awarded through the comp system; however, you may have a third party claim if someone other than your employer caused your injury. If you collect from a third party, you will have to reimburse the comp carrier before you can put any money in your pocket.

Question: I fell at a store. Do they have to pay my medical bills?

Answer by Will Sciba:
You should ask whether the store has no fault medical payments coverage. If it does, then it should cover medical expenses up to a certain amount. The limit of medical payments coverage is typically between $1,000.00 to $5,000.00. If there is no medical payments coverage, or if your injury is more severe; you will have to prove that the store is at fault. To prove the store is at fault, you must present evidence that (1) there was an unreasonably dangerous condition on the premises (2) the store employers know or should have know of the condition, and (3) the store employees failed to act reasonably to warn of the condition or make the condition safe.

Question: My husband of 10 years was previously married for 20 years. She signed the deed away to my husband; however both of their names are still on the mortgage loan. If he passed away can she come back and claim the house?

Answer by David Coffey:
No, she assigned all right to the house by signing the deed.

Question: My neighbors have an oil well on the property next door that is producing. My property is leased but no well has been drilled. Is there anything I can do?

Answer by Robert McKay:
Yes. If the well is causing drainage of oil or gas from your property, you can insist that the company which has your land leased drill a well on your land to prevent drainage.

Question: How can I make sure my family does not fight over my stuff when I die?

Answer by David Coffey:
There is no way to guarantee that your family will not fight over their inheritance but I would recommend having a will and sharing with them your desires regarding the division of your estate.

Question: I have a loved one that just passed away. What do I need to do now?

Answer by David Coffey:
First, take time to celebrate the life of your loved one and take time to let the grieving process occur. Then contact an attorney to assist you with the next steps. He or she will need a copy of the death certificate and the original will. If there is no will, gather all information regarding your loved one’s next of kin before meeting with your lawyer.