LEGAL CORNER: Am I liable if my employees make alcohol or tobacco sales to minors?

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QUESTION: I recently entered into a contract agreement to buy a home and the fence around the yard had been destroyed by a storm. The owner never got around to fixing it. Because I was buying the home, I fixed it. The owner also failed to disclose there were several other major problems under the foundation and would not drop the price of the home so I opted out. Can I get the money back for the fence?

ANSWER: In answering this question, the Law Center is going to presume that the viewer was purchasing the property over time on an owner finance arrangement. (It is unlikely that a buyer would make repairs to home before purchasing the home in a conventional home-purchase situation). So, assuming the purchaser was buying on an owner-finance arrangement, then the answer to the question depends on the contract arrangement. Most owner finance agreements generally call for all improvements to become part of the property and hence belong to the original owner (the seller). If the contract was silent, or if there was no contract, then the viewer would have to prove that the land owner (the supposed seller) was unjustly enriched by the building of the fence, or that the seller clearly understood that the viewer built the fence with a full and reasonable expectation of becoming the owner of the property. Otherwise, the fence probably belongs to the land owner (the seller).

If the sale actually closed, and if the repair of the fence was discussed prior to the close of the sale, then the viewer is entitled to enforce whatever the agreement was that was stipulated to between the seller and the buyer. However, when the parties made no provision for a particular situation, it is assumed that they intended to bind themselves not only to the express provisions of the contract, but also to whatever the law regards as implied in the contract (CCArt. 2054 No provision of the parties for a particular situation)

In most real estate sales, the seller is the one who makes repairs before closing. Here is some helpful information for a buyer to keep in mind When the seller makes repairs before closing.

If the seller makes repairs before closing, take your home inspector back for a recheck as soon as you receive word that repairs are complete. Do not wait for the final walk-through, because you don't want to find out on the day of closing that repairs have not been made or have been made poorly. The home inspector may charge you an additional fee for the service. Repairs made after closing: There are a few basic scenarios for repairs made after closing: The seller can give you a lump sum at closing to cover the cost of repairs you agree to initiate after closing. The seller can prepay a repair person to do the work. A portion of the seller's proceeds can be held in trust after closing and used to pay for repairs (usually computed on 1 and a half times the estimate). A signed agreement should be in place to ensure that repairs are made. The method you use depends on the complexity of the repairs.

QUESTION: We are celebrating Black History month. I would like to know how does a particular group of Americans end up with a month officially set aside to celebrate their historic accomplishments? And also, do other group of Americans have months set aside to celebrate their accomplishments?

ANSWER: The setting aside particular months to observe the achievements of a particular group of Americans is referred to by the Federal Government as Special Emphasis Program Observances. These were designed for the purpose of providing cultural awareness to everyone. Commemorative activities conducted for these observances are expected to be educational and employment-related.

The following are Special Emphasis Observances implemented by Presidential Proclamation, Executive Orders and Public Law as cited below:

  • January - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
  • February - African American History Month
  • March - National Women’s History Month
  • May - Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month
  • June 26 - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month
  • Sept 15 - Oct 15 National Hispanic Heritage Month
  • October - National Disability Employment Awareness Month
  • November - National American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month

For more information, you can head over to www.archives.gov/eeo/special-observances

QUESTION: I recently purchased a convenience store and do not know very much about laws of liability when it comes to me being required to pay fines if employees in my establishment were caught selling cigarettes or alcohol to a minor. I was told these fines could reach into the thousands of dollars, is this true?

ANSWER: As the owner, you are liable and the fines can be severe. The sale of tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, or the now trendy, vapor products to a minor by a retail dealer's agent, associate, employee, representative, or servant shall be considered an act of the retail dealer. Your license could very possibly be suspended, revoked, or fines and penalties could be assessed, unless you have complied with all of the requirements are met, which are: 1)The employer requires employees to attend a commissioner-approved seller training program.(2) The employee actually attends the training program.(3) The employer does not directly or indirectly encourage the employee to violate the prohibited sales provisions of this Chapter.

LA R. S. 26§917 & 918. §917. Violations by employee; employer liability A. Sale of tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, or vapor products to a minor by a retail dealer's agent, associate, employee, representative, or servant shall be considered an act of the retail dealer for purposes of suspension, revocation, or assessment of civil penalties unless all of the following conditions exist:(1) The employer requires employees to attend a commissioner-approved seller training program.(2) The employee actually attends the training program.(3) The employer does not directly or indirectly encourage the employee to violate the prohibited sales provisions of this Chapter.B. The commissioner shall establish by administrative rule the minimum requirements for an approved seller training program. Upon submission of an application which establishes the course curriculum the commissioner may approve seller training programs with the minimum requirements. Training courses may be approved which are offered through private seminars or by accredited colleges or universities. The commissioner may charge an application fee in such amount as is necessary to defray the expense of processing the application.C. The provisions of Subsection A of this Section shall not apply if a retail dealer, or lawful retailer of alternative nicotine products or vapor products, as applicable, within one hundred eighty days from the hiring of an agent, associate, employee, representative, or servant can prove that he has made application to have the employee attend a training program or the retail dealer or lawful retailer, as applicable, has received an extension of time in which to comply from the commissioner because of unavailability of a training program. Civil penalties A. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Chapter to the contrary, the commissioner may, in lieu of or in addition to revocation or suspension of a permit issued under the authority of this Chapter, impose the following schedule of fines to be paid into the state treasury:(1) For a first offense, not less than fifty dollars but not more than five hundred dollars.(2) For a second offense, which occurs within two years of the first offense, not less than two hundred fifty dollars but not more than one thousand dollars, etc.

Disclaimer: The information furnished in this answer is general and may not apply to some situations. All legal situations are unique. No one should rely to their detriment on these answers. Anyone with a potential legal problem should seek the advice of a licensed attorney before taking any action or inaction. The answers provided are not intended to be specific legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created between the SWLA Law Center and the viewers of KPLC-TV.

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