BHL Bogen

BHL Bogen
BridgehouseLaw LLP - Your Business Law Firm

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Case of the 
Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat

FAA has to reconsider regulating airplane seats
A federal judge in Washington D.C. has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to review seat sizes and legroom on commercial airlines.

The ruling comes after an advocacy group, Flyers Rights, petitioned the FAA in 2015 to implement new rules to regulate seat space. Since the FAA declined the request, Flyers Rights took the matter to court and now won the right to move forward.

The argument of Flyers Rights is that the space is a matter of safety, not merely comfort. Small airline seats can put people's health at risk with conditions like deep vein thrombosis, which can cause blood clots in people's legs and therefore be potentially life threatening. On the other hand, the FAA relied on studies and tests, which say that seat spacing is a matter of comfort, not safety.

The judge ruled in favor of the advocacy group, when writing that aircraft seats and the spacing between them have been getting smaller and smaller, while American passengers have been growing in size. She declared the tests and studies as outdated and irrelevant and agrees with Flyers Rights.

In conclusion, the judge sent the issue back to the FAA. She said the agency must come up with a better-reasoned response to the group's safety concerns. The FAA now wants to consider the ruling and its next steps. The agency is evaluating the spacing between seat rows when testing to make sure that airliners can be evacuated safely. The airline industry itself has long opposed the regulation of seat size, mostly to squeeze in an extra seat and make more money. Therefore, its main U.S. trade group declined to comment on the ruling.

The space between seats strongly varies between different airlines. The most legspace is offered by JetBlue, with 34 inches, the least by Spirit with 28 inches. Delta, American Airlines, Virgin and Southwest are in the middle, with 31 inches respectively 32 inches of space between seats.

It remains to be seen, whether this is a good thing for passengers. On the one hand, taller and bigger individuals will be glad about more space, whereas on the other hand, tickets will become more expensive, if the airlines have to take out seats in order to make more room. As of now, passengers are able to choose airlines with more or less space in exchange for more expensive or cheaper tickets. If all airlines have to make flying more comfortable, the ticket prices inevitably will rise for most airlines.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

What Amazon's decision to collect sales tax in all states does (and doesn't) mean for your business 
Gone is the need to speculate about where and when Amazon will next collect; come April 1, 2018, the e-commerce giant will tax deliveries into Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, and New Mexico and be registered in 45 states plus the District of Columbia. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon don't have a general sales tax.

When the largest ecommerce seller in the world makes a move like this, it sparks questions.

Do other ecommerce sellers now have to start collecting tax?

What about Amazon's third-party sellers?

Will this impact state tax policy?

There are simple answers to some of these questions, yet sales tax rules for e-commerce sellers remain anything but simple. Read on to learn what Amazon's decision does and doesn't mean for your business.

Do other ecommerce merchants now have to collect sales tax?
Amazon's decision does not mean other merchants now have to collect. State nexus rules still apply: A business only has to collect state sales tax when it has a specific type of connection to a state, such as in-state employees, inventory, or infrastructure. eBay and many other sellers are adamantly opposed to collecting where they lack nexus.

Amazon's decision does not immediately impact tax policy for its third-party sellers; like other remote vendors, FBA sellers are required to collect only where they have nexus. Since a third-party seller's property in an Amazon fulfillment center creates nexus for that seller, FBA sellers have nexus in any state where Amazon stores its products. Of course, Amazon doesn't have a warehouse in every state where it now collects, which means that FBA sellers need to know not only where their product is stored, but also where Amazon has or will have a warehouse.
However, there are many who believe this move by Amazon will eventually expose the identity of Amazon's third-party sellers, many of whom have long been flying beneath the radar of state tax officials, who know they exist but have lacked the resources to find them.

Every state where Amazon has a physical presence potentially has a right to a list of the company's FBA sellers; this information can be obtained by a request or a limited audit. Once they have it, the states will share that information with other states due to formal or informal information sharing agreements. Whether they were intentionally hiding or not, FBA and other third-party vendors will likely now be found.
According to Amazon, almost half of the products it sells are from third-parties; more than 100,000 third-party vendors each sell more than $100,000 annually on Max Behlke, director of budget and tax policy for the National Conference of State Legislatures, says, "Whatever a state is getting in sales tax from Amazon, it should probably be getting about twice that much." Once states develop a taste for Amazon sales tax revenue, chances are they won't want to leave that additional revenue on the table.

Will this impact state tax policy?
The fact that Amazon is voluntarily collecting in so many states could create a renewed sense of purpose and fuel state efforts to capture more tax revenue from remote sales, i.e, any sale that doesn't occur over a counter (e.g., catalog, internet, mail, and phone sales).

Numerous states have already enacted affiliate nexus, click-through nexus, or economic nexus laws whereby a business can establish the obligation to collect state and local sales tax through ties to in-state affiliates, referrals from in-state businesses (links on websites), or simply doing a certain amount of business in the state. Several more state legislatures are considering such policies this session, including Maryland and North Dakota.

What does this mean for you?
Unless you're Amazon, the company's decision to collect tax where it lacks nexus won't impact you now. Depending on your business, however, it could impact you down the road.
Yet many e-commerce merchants don't realize that they already have sales tax obligations when they make remote sales. All remote vendors should keep abreast of state nexus policies - those already in effect and those under consideration. It is essential to know where you already have nexus and should be collecting and remitting tax. If you are a third-party seller on Amazon, this means you should closely monitor where Amazon has a physical presence and an obligation to collect.  

Monday, August 14, 2017

NC Governor Roy Cooper Signs Drone Bills Into Law

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has kickstarted August 2017 by signing two bills into law tackling a controversial, yet exciting topic: drones. House Bill 128 prohibits the use of drones near prisons, defining "near" as a horizontal distance of 500 feet and a vertical distance of 250 feet. House Bill 337 revises existing NC drone laws, changing the language so that regulations apply to model aircraft. Drone law expert and attorney Stephen Hartzell says the new legislation is "a way for North Carolina to show that it is ready, willing and able to do business" in the unmanned aerial systems industry (UAS). Ambiguities of previous law blurred lines between what was considered a "model aircraft" and what was a "drone". Now the law establishes a single standard to eliminate these ambiguities. The measures are set to go into effect on December 1, 2017.

Drones are now a part of everyday life, but the law is slowly progressing as to how to regulate their use. Recall back in May 2015 when the Secret Service detained a man who crashed a drone on the White House lawn. Now drone-flyers have found ways to use drones to smuggle contraband, such as weapons, cigarettes, alcohol and communication devices into prisons. In at least two cases, drones have been found carrying contraband at or near North Carolina prisons and another half dozen reports of drones spotted flying near prisons. In early July a South Carolina inmate escaped from a maximum-security prison using tools reportedly delivered to him via drone. Those arrested for attempting to smuggle contraband into prisons via drones will now face a felony charge and a fine of up to $1,500.

"Criminals look to exploit the latest technology and we must make sure our laws keep up," said Gov. Cooper.
"Drones are the newest way to get drugs and weapons behind prison walls and this law will help law enforcement fight prison contraband and the crime it causes." Changes in drone law included in House Bill 337 tighten the state regulations so that they align more with federal regulation. Specifically, the minimum age for getting a commercial permit to operate UAS will be the age specified in federal law, 16. The language of the law now clarifies the UAS laws that will now apply to model aircraft as well. However, model aircraft users are still exempt from the North Carolina's permitting requirements. In addition, people wishing to obtain a commercial permit can use any form of government-issued photo ID allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). These revisions also loosen the restrictions on the use of drones in emergency management. Previously, thermal and infrared were only permitted for scientific purposes, but now the new revisions allow private and commercial operators to assist law enforcement with emergency management efforts such as search and rescue. 

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Subway's "Footlong" Sandwiches: Lawyers Denied Bigger Bite Than Plaintiffs
A few days ago, the Court of Appeals for the 7th U.S. Circuit threw out a class-action settlement that paid lawyers-but not plaintiffs-in a case filed against Subway for allegedly deceiving customers by selling "Footlong" sandwiches that were, in some cases, shorter than a foot long.

The dispute started in January 2013 when an Australian teenager measured his Subway Footlong sandwich and discovered that it was only 11 inches long. He posted a photo of the sandwich-lined up with a tape measure-on his Facebook page. A lawsuit ensued. Plaintiff's lawyers sued for damages and injunctive relief in the U.S., seeking class certification. Later on, the suits were combined in a Wisconsin Federal court.

A $525,000 settlement in plaintiffs' lawyer's fees was reached and approved by a federal district judge. Additionally, Subway took several quality-control measures, including displaying a disclaimer on the company's website. However, Theodore Frank, a class member and professional objector to hollow class-action settlements, objected arguing that the settlement enriched only lawyers and provided no "meaningful injunctive relief to class members." Indeed, when filing the suit, lawyers neglected to consider whether the claim was even meritorious.

In fact, early discovery proved that the breads are pretty much the same and seldom, if ever, fall below the 12 inches threshold. As a consequence, judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reversed the settlement as being an "abuse of the class-action process" since it "seeks only worthless benefits for the class" and "yields [only] fees for class counsel." The opinion also mentioned that such action is "no better than [a] racket" and therefore, "should be dismissed out of hand."

Friday, August 04, 2017

Upcoming Seminars and Events USA-­Markteintrittsseminar und Risk Management Meeting

BridgehouseLaw fördert auch dieses Event durch Sponsorship und die Stellung eines mit den Themen in den USA vertrauten Referenten.


13. September 2017: USA­ Markteintritts-­Seminar
14. September 2017: Risk Management Meeting
Die folgenden Themen werden unter Anderem ausführlich behandelt:
  • Corporate Formation and Governance
  • Standortwahl und Zuschüsse
  • US­ Taxation 
  • Vertriebsaufbau und Marketing 
  • HR und Personalrekrutierung in den USA
  • Visum und Arbeitserlaubnis
  • Datenschutz und Datensicherheit Produkthaftung
  • US­ Prozessrecht Haftungsschutz für die deutsche Muttergesellschaft 
  • Hire & Fire in den USA
  • Herausforderungen der transatlantischen Personalführung
  • Contractual Risk Management
Beide Tage sind, je nach Interesse und bisherigem USA-Engagement, sowohl einzeln als auch zusammen buchbar. Die Referenten leben teilweise in den USA oder haben aus Deutschland heraus starke USA ­Erfahrungen, die Ihnen praxisrelevante Anregungen vermitteln. Im Übrigen werdenauch Inhaus­-Schulungen angeboten, falls Ihnen diese Termine nicht passen oder Sie die Informationen gerne mehreren Interessenten vermitteln möchten.

Weitere Seminartermine für das Jahr 2017 sowie die vollständige Programmübersicht und  Informationen zu Teilnahme und Anmeldung finden Sie bitte hier.

BridgeAlliance Seminar in Cuba - Save the Date!

Our partners from the Bridge Alliance have prepared a varied agenda of activities, including a visit to the Mariel Special Trade Zone, as well as opportunities to establish relations with major industry sectors, such as energy, food, and tourism, which are open for business with foreign investors. We will also have a chance to hear directly from Cuban companies and government officials on the current portfolio of business opportunities.

It would be our pleasure to have you join us at this event! Please contact us at for further information.  

Thursday, August 03, 2017

How to Obtain Your Italian Citizenship Iure Sanguinis via Ancestor & Equality in Treatment

For many reasons it now seems there is an enhanced interest in obtaining a citizenship other than a US one. While I believe that having a dual citizenship in general is always a good thing, having a US citizenship plus another from one the EU countries is even better. For one, once you are a citizen of a EU country you could move to any of them and work and live there without a visa or a work permit.
In particular Italy allows you to obtain its citizenship not only if you are born in Italy or marry an Italian, but also if one of your ancestors was an Italian citizen; however, this is not as easy as it may sound.

There are several requisites that one needs to have in order to qualify, and there are several rules that limit that possibility. One such rule is that, up until 2009, you could not obtain Italian citizenship through female lineage of ancestry if your female ancestor had been born before 1/1/1948, which was when Italy became a Republic and the Italian Constitution was enacted. Why? Well, in order to understand the above requirement you need to have an Italian history lesson, albeit a short one.
Italy is a relatively "young" country. As a matter of fact, it became a country only in 1861 when the Italian peninsula was unified into the Kingdom of Italy, which was then ruled by King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia, of the House of Savoy. Prior to that, Italy had consisted of many different mini-states. In 1861, the territory, except for Rome which remained under the Papacy until 1870, was unified and Italy was born as a Kingdom ruled by the Savoy dynasty.
On July 1, 1912, the first law regarding citizenship entered into force (Law no.555) and it was indeed a very male centered kind of law, reflecting the culture of the territory. According to Law 555/1912, the citizenship followed the man of the family. Consequently, if the father or husband renounced or lost his Italian citizenship, so would the entire family. This law remained basically untouched until 1983, when the Italian Supreme Court pronounced this law unconstitutional insofar as it created a disparity between men and women; Art. 1 of Law 123/1983, enacted right after the Supreme Court decision, confirmed what the Supreme Court established. The matter was then further modified in 1992, with Law no.91, which entered into force on February 5 of the same year. This law further modified the 1912 legislation. The main change of the 1992 legislation consisted in allowing dual citizenship in many more instances than before. The 1992 law was enacted because of pressure by people who migrated mostly in Argentina and Brazil, countries that, in the '80s, were experiencing a serious economic depression. Consequently, the expatriates saw coming back to the very economically "happy" Italy of the '80s as a way out of the crisis. For this reason, the 1992 law contains rules favoring the reacquisition of citizenship by Italian ancestry through naturalization.
However, true equality in obtaining Italian citizenship was not reached through any of the above laws, and is still not a complete reality today. Italian Supreme Court decisions are always considered retroactive, but in this instance, up until 2009, Italian Courts interpreted this particular decision granting equality to women to be retroactive only up until 1/1/1948. The reasoning behind it was that 1/1/1948 was the date of entering into force of the Constitution, and a law could not be held unconstitutional before the existence of the Constitution itself.
Finally, in 2009, there were two decisions by the Corte di Cassazione (the highest interpreter of ordinary laws and regulations in Italy) that inverted this trend (Cass.Civ.sez.un. 25 February, 2009 no. 4466; affirmed by Cass.civ.sez.I, 29 July 2009, no.175148 and Cass.civ.Sez.I, 19 April 2010, no.9275; further affirmed by lower tribunals such as Tribunale Roma, Sez. I, 20 January 2015, no.1304). According to the Corte di Cassazione, the child born from an Italian mother born before 1948 must be considered an Italian citizen by birth. The retroactive force of the decision also includes children born from an Italian mother AFTER the entering into force of Law 555/1912. Finally! No? No, not so fast!
Since no law was enacted to apply the principles established by the Corte di Cassazione, as of today, in order to obtain Italian citizenship through a female ancestor whose child was born before 1/1/1948, one still needs to go through an attorney in Italy and apply to the Tribunal of Rome.
In the alternative, if you don't have a "1948 issue", comply with all other requisites required by the law, and have time and money to do it, there is another choice if you do not want to deal with the long wait to get an appointment with your Italian Consulate. You can go and stay in Italy for a few months and do everything from there. You could pick a beautiful city in Italy, move there, apply for residency, and once you get it, you can submit all documentation directly to your city of residency. Who wouldn't want to spend a few months in Italy?
A much less fun option would be to have an attorney do everything for you from here. Hey, you can't have everything!

For more information on this topic, please contact attorney Monica Boccia at 

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Affen Selfie: Gewonnen und doch verloren - Die Tücken des amerikanischen Rechtssystems

Es gibt ein weiteres Update zu Naruto, dem berühmten, Selfie knipsenden Schopfmakaken. Bereits in unseren Newslettern im Dezember 2015 und Februar 2016 haben wir hierüber geschrieben. Dieses jetzige Update könnte gleichzeitig das letzte zu diesem Rechtsstreit sein.

Zur Erinnerung: Der britische Fotograf David Slater begab sich 2008 nach Indonesien, um die vom Aussterben bedrohten Schopfmakaken abzulichten. Dabei kam es dazu, dass ein Affe die von Slater bereitgestellte Kamera an sich nahm und mehrere Fotos von sich machte, unter anderem auch das berühmten Selfie.
Nachdem gerichtlich festgestellt wurde, dass Slater selbst kein Copyright an dem Bild erlangen konnte, wurde er zudem von der Tierschutzorgnisation PETA verklagt, die den Affen für den wahren Inhaber des Copyrights hielten. Das Gericht im Northern District of California entschied daraufhin Anfang 2016, dass Tiere nicht klagen können, solange der U.S.-Kongress dies per Gesetz nicht ausdrücklich erlaubt. Hiergegen legte PETA alsbald Berufung ein.
Im Juli fand nun die Anhörung vor dem Berufungsgericht statt - allerdings ohne Slater. Dieser konnte sich den Flug zum Gericht nach San Francisco nicht leisten, da er aufgrund des Rechtsstreits inzwischen vermögenslos ist. Hierzu kommen noch ausstehende Anwaltsrechnungen, die fehlenden Einnahmen aus dem Foto gegenüberstehen. Zudem würde ein Obsiegen im Berufungsverfahren nicht bedeuten, dass ihm das Copyright an dem Foto zusteht.
Slater gibt an, er könne sich keine neue Fotoausrüstung leisten und habe überdies vorerst genug von der Fotografie. Er wolle nun Tennis-Lehrer werden und zunächst mit dem Ausführen von Hunden seinen Lebensunterhalt bestreiten.

Dieser Fall verdeutlicht wieder, dass das Obsiegen in einem Verfahren vor einem US-Gericht nicht zwangsläufig einen Sieg darstellt. Oft entstehen durch Anwaltsgebühren höhere Kosten, als wenn früh im Verfahren eine außergerichtliche Einigung erzielt wird. Es sollte deshalb immer abgewogen werden, ob ein Prozess selbst im Falle des Obsiegens wirtschaftlich sinnvoll ist.

Ein Gutes hat diese Geschichte dennoch: Der ursprüngliche Zweck von Slaters Reise, auf diese Makaken-Art und ihre Bedrohung aufmerksam zu machen, wurde durch die mediale Berichterstattung erfüllt. Laut Slater ist diese Art ist nun nicht mehr vom Aussterben bedroht.

Haribo to Receive $21 Million
in State Tax Incentives
In March 2017, German candy maker Haribo, known for their brightly colored gummy bears, announced that it would be building its first American plant in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin just 45 miles north of Chicago. It is scheduled to be fully operational by 2020 and will initially employ 385 people. Gov. Scott Walker credited the combination of available workers, tax incentives, nearby technical colleges and universities and a global transport network for inducing Haribo to build its $242 million plant. The 500,000 square-foot facility will be one of the largest candy manufacturing sites in the US. 

In August the state of Wisconsin has announced it will grant $21 million in tax credits to Haribo for locating its factory in Pleasant Prairie. The credits are aimed at Haribo's state income tax bills through 2028. The company will receive them based largely on the size of its capital investment and the number of jobs it will create. Among other requirements, to be eligible Haribo must invest $220 million and maintain the jobs it creates throughout 2028. Its contract with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corps (WEDC) calls for the company to hire 50 full time employees by the end of 2019 and add 50-80 jobs each year through 2024. These jobs must pay at least $30,000 annually.  The 766 potential jobs at Haribo could generate up to $8.4 million in state income tax revenue over five years.