Our firm has been receiving calls from a large number of Florida condominium associations over the past few days regarding the increasing problems associated with the oil spill that is plaguing the gulf coast. I have a personal connection to this growing crisis. I spent a large portion of my life in Destin, Florida, and part of my family still lives and works in the area. Late last night, I flew to the panhandle to see what our firm could do to help.

This area of Florida is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters like hurricanes and the current oil spill. In areas like Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Panama City, economies are largely based on tourism. Because of the oil spill, the phones at local hotels have been ringing off the hook with tourists cancelling reservations for the upcoming months due to the uncertainty that looms. While sitting in one office this morning, I heard more than five calls from concerned renters requesting that their reservations be cancelled and their deposits be refunded.

The consequences of the current oil spill will continue long after the spill is stopped or contained and will affect almost every aspect of life in this area. It seems inevitable that the oil slick will reach this area at some point, and the timing could not be worse. A decline in tourism during the summer months will almost surely cripple the condominiums, hotels, restaurants, beach services, retail shops, and many others who depend on the influx of vacationers during this time of year to make a living.

The question I have been asked most often during the numerous phone calls and meetings today is “what can we do to protect our business and our employees?” First, it is important to realize that even though the oil has not made landfall, its effects are far from small. From day one, the spill has created documented damages to businesses and homeowners, and these losses will grow exponentially.

Second, it is crucial that condominiums and other business diligently document the losses that are incurred. If a renter calls to cancel a reservation, the reservationist should specifically ask whether the cancellation is due to the oil spill. If so, the potential renter’s information should recorded and saved in order to document the lost income.

Also, everyone should be proactive in protecting the financial security of the association and the other businesses that are being adversely affected by this disaster. Many condominium associations and other businesses have already contacted the Merlin Law Group and we are in the process of filing a class action lawsuit in order to protect the livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people in this part of the country who depend on tourism to survive.

This Tuesday, May 4, 2010, we will be hosting an informational seminar at the San Destin Hilton in Destin, Florida. Beginning at 1:00 pm, a select group of attorneys, accountants, and other professionals will be on hand to answer questions about the steps that are being taken to protect this fragile economy and environment. So far, we have had over 100 businesses, associations, and individuals express interest in this event and we hope that you will be able to join us as well.

In order to deal with the current crisis, we have started a new website to keep the public informed. If you have any questions or wishes to speak to us about representation, you can contact us at the number listed on the website, or you can contact me directly at 813-373-9598.