Boston business litigation attorneys know that when businesses must go toe-to-toe with the government, strong and aggressive legal representation is essential.
One entrepreneur is discovering this, now that he is embroiled in a business litigation lawsuit involving his family’s motel business.
The case, out of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, involves the owner of Motel Caswell, erected in 1955 by the current owner’s father.
The federal government is suing the actual hotel building (the case is United States of America vs. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Massachusetts), in an attempt to seize the property, sell it for profit, which it intends to give to the local police department.
It’s important to note that this is the only significant source of income for the Caswells, and all of their retirement money is wrapped up in the business as well.
How is this even possible?
A recent column by George Will, published in both The Washington Post and The Courier-Journal, explains:
It centers on the crimes of former guests.
In the last 17 years, roughly 30 guests of Motel Caswell have been arrested on charges of dealing drugs. First, Will questions whether that figure is correct, as law enforcement in this case would have a substantial financial incentive to fudge those figures. But secondly, even if that were the case, those 30 incidents would reportedly have involved fewer than five on-hundredths of one percent of the roughly 125,000 rooms that the owner has rented over nearly 7,000 days.
The government is alleging that the rooms in which these drug dealers stayed had been used to “facilitate” those crimes. What’s key is that the lawsuit does not allege that the owners knew about the crimes or even that they were supposed to have known.
With civil forfeiture law, the burden of proof actually lies with the civilians, in this case the business owners. They will have to prove that they did everything they possibly could to prevent these crimes.
What they did do was photocopy customers identification cards, install security cameras and record their license plate information. The business owners even voluntarily turned all this over to police. The law enforcement agency, meanwhile, had never pressed them to do anything more. It’s also important to note that the owners have never been charged or convicted of any crime.
The business owner rightly purports that if he had a larger hotel business, this would probably not be happening.
The U.S. Department of Justice has made clear its intent with the property would be to seize the hotel, turn around and sell it for about $1.5 million, with the majority of those funds being funneled to the police department in Tewksbury, which has an annual budget of roughly $5 million.
What the government is attempting to do is called “equitable sharing,” which basically just means that both government entities will be profiting from this measure.
Civil forfeiture cases in which the property itself is said to have acted wrongly have historically been lodged against pirates. In those cases, the individuals themselves may have been off at sea, but the government could seize their property with this law.
It seems in this case, however, it’s the government doing the pirating.
A Boston business law firm, The Brown Law Firm, LLC, has offices in Belmont and Boston. For a free and confidential consultation, call 617-489-0817 or contact us through this website.