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Endless Florida disputes help keep the lawyers busy

To freshen Shakespeare's famous quote for modern times, the first thing we do is hire all the lawyers — so we win in court. It's the American and Floridian way, as seen in these four business disputes winding their way through our legal system.

4. Water wars. Escalating the dispute between two states, Florida sued Georgia on Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court accusing its northern neighbor of hogging too much water from a shared river basin. Florida leaders argue that Georgia is destroying the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. Florida lost the last round over water rights.

So who are these Georgia water hogs? Power companies and municipalities. But one Georgia company tops all with the size of its nonfarm surface water withdrawal permit. Homestead Energy Resources LLC's permit lets it suck out more than 16 billion gallons daily, reports the Atlanta Business Journal. That's more than the next 49 big permit holders in Georgia — combined.

3. Witness to murder. It's been seven years since the name "Gus Boulis" appeared in this newspaper. Boulis founded the Miami Subs restaurant chain, and around 2000 in the Tampa Bay area also controlled the SunCruz Casinos "cruise to nowhere" gambling business. In 2001, Boulis was gunned down in his car in Fort Lauderdale. But it was not until this week that a Broward County jury started hearing the case against two men accused of arranging the execution.

A key witness was the unlucky driver who, on his way to buy some milk, happened to end up behind Boulis' vehicle when the alleged mob shooting occurred. Now a banker in Tampa, Robert Puskarich testified in the trial of Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello, 75, and Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari, 56. Both face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

2. Challenge cable TV status quo. FilmOn.com, an Internet-based TV provider, last week opened up another TV antenna array in Tampa, expanding into its 16th market as the company seeks to overturn a U.S. District Court of Appeals injunction.

FilmOn delivers local TV station signals as part of a video service using remote antennas. It does not pay broadcasters and, like Aereo (another firm entering the Tampa market), argues that it simply provides its online subscribers remote access to TV antennas. The dispute: Is the company delivering TV station signals without permission or compensation?

Once this all gets resolved, watch for more options in ways to watch TV shows.

1. Vince and the "breastaurant." Only two months ago, the Tampa Bay Times wrote about Steve Finelli and his new Hyde Park restaurant called Stacked Burgers, a place that features food like "Double D" hamburgers for "people who like their burgers stacked and, ahem, their waitresses, too."

What that story did not mention was that former Tampa Bay Devil Rays managing partner Vince Naimoli, 76, last year loaned Finelli $60,000 to help expand the restaurant. Finelli promised to repay within weeks — an interesting detail — but never did, says a lawsuit filed Sept. 17 by Naimoli's attorneys at Tampa's Trenam Kemker law firm. Naimoli — whose tightfisted reputation when he ran the Rays is legendary — wants his money back. With interest.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@tampabay.com.

Endless Florida disputes help keep the lawyers busy 10/02/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 11:05pm]

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