Answers For The Complexities Of Business Litigation
People or organizations faced with bringing or defending a legal claim or lawsuit are often daunted. This is no surprise because legal disputes are complex and sometimes emotional. Successful resolution of legal disputes requires relying on an advisor with both knowledge and experience with the same or similar types of issues. Just as a patient with a medical problem needs a doctor who specializes in that problem, so too clients with legal issues are best served by attorneys who possess deep experience with the same issues.
The attorneys at Steve Harvey Law LLC have decades of experience in business and personal disputes, executive employment, and complex litigation. Here are some of the most common questions we get from people and organizations who hire us to advise and represent them.
How can I maximize my chance for success in litigation?
The obvious answer is to hire the right attorneys for the problem. Once you have the right attorneys helping you, the most important thing you can do to maximize your chance of success is to spend the time and money needed to prepare your case at the outset. Your attorneys need to understand the facts early in the process. This usually means getting all of the documents (contracts, emails, texts, photos, etc.) collected and analyzed up front.
A successful attorney has to be well read and understand the letter of the law on the issue in order to understand how to use it in your favor.
It also means probing your case for weaknesses, so that they can be addressed before it is too late. Your attorneys must analyze and outline the legal framework that will control the outcome. Just as a winning season for any sports team starts long before the first game, experience has shown that success in legal disputes comes from planning and thinking long before the case gets to court.
How much will it cost?
There is an old joke about the correct two-word answer to any question posed to a lawyer: “It depends.” It’s funny but it’s true. There are always multiple factors that can affect the answer. When hiring a lawyer, it will depend on the type of billing arrangement. The two most basic types are hourly fee and contingent fee.
In an hourly fee arrangement, the client pays the lawyer for their time at an agreed hourly rate. The client also pays the costs other than lawyer time, such as filing fees, court reporter fees, and expert witness fees.
In a contingent fee arrangement, the client pays nothing unless they win, and the lawyer agrees to cover all the costs in exchange for the right to take an agreed portion of the ultimate recovery (often 30-40%) and be reimbursed all costs also out of the recovery. In addition to these two basic models, there are diverse types of hybrid models, which involve part hourly fee and part contingent fee arrangements.
At Steve Harvey Law LLC, we sometimes agree to contingent fee or hybrid arrangements if the case presents a special issue of significant justice, or the potential recovery is large and likely to be obtained. Much more often, we work on hourly fee arrangements. When we do so, the amount that the client will pay will depend on how long the case will go on and how much work it will require. We often prepare budgets, which are educated guesses but not guarantees.
One way we can control how much litigation will cost is by working in stages. The best example is when we get hired to analyze a client’s problem, write a letter setting forth the client’s position, and try to settle short of litigation. In this way, we can often reach a successful resolution without the client spending money for extended litigation. And sometimes we are unsuccessful at early-stage resolution, and then the client has to decide how much they are prepared to spend on legal fees given the stakes at issue.
What are the most common causes of business litigation?
In our experience, the most common causes of business litigation are miscommunications and unreasonable behavior or expectations. The two causes are usually linked. The dispute starts when one side acts in a way that the other side deems unreasonable, whether it be breaching a contract, lying about an important business matter, or taking something to which they have no right. The other side then denies that they did it, and the dispute is over who is right.
How can lawyers help their clients achieve good outcomes in business litigation?
The job of the lawyers for the two sides is to see if they can get their clients to compromise about who is right and wrong, and if that it impossible, then the job for each lawyer it to convince the court (judge and jury) that their client is being reasonable and the other side is being unreasonable. Good lawyers help their clients by persuading them to behave as reasonably as possible both to achieve good settlements and, if that cannot be achieved, then to win the case based on the perception that their client acted reasonably and the other side did not.
Often the best outcome in a case is a settlement. Therefore having an attorney who is experienced in settlement negotiations and who knows typical settlement amounts and terms in similar cases can be a major advantage for your case.
What are the most common causes of business litigation?
A variety of disputes can lead to lawsuits, but some of the most common include:
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Breach of contract
- Partner and shareholder disputes
- Tortious interference with contract
We have handled lawsuits involving all of these issues, including complex suits with multiple allegations of wrongdoing.
What constitutes a breach of fiduciary duty?
A fiduciary is a party that has the obligation to act in someone else’s best interests. If they fail to uphold this duty, it may constitute a breach of fiduciary duty. This could mean sharing trade secrets, failing to disclose conflicts of interest, profiting at an employer’s expense, or many other examples.
What are possible remedies for breach of fiduciary duty?
The parties could settle on a sum to cover the damages caused by the fiduciary’s breach of duty. Commercial litigation is sometimes necessary to secure an award for compensatory damages. In some situations, punitive damages may also be appropriate.
Which elements must be present for a contract to be valid?
For a court to consider a contract valid, the document must meet these criteria:
- An offer to contract
- Terms and conditions that are lawful
- Acceptance of the terms and conditions
- Mutual assent
- Contractual competence, also known as capacity
If a contract does not contain one of these elements, or one of the parties fails to adhere to the contract, a dispute may soon arise.
What is the difference between breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty?
A breach of contract need not be committed by a fiduciary; it can involve a vendor, shareholder business partner, commercial landlord or any other signatory. However, a breach of fiduciary specifically involves harm caused by someone who owed a duty to act in the best interest of another person or organization.
What is the statute of limitations on a trade secret?
There is no limit on the duration of a trade secret. However, if you wish to file a claim related to the misappropriation of trade secrets, the statute of limitations is generally three years.
What happens if I violate my noncompete agreement?
Most noncompete agreements detail the consequences that the other party may take in the event of breach of contract. You may face an injunction to prevent you from continuing your competitive acts. In some rare cases, the other party may pursue a lawsuit to recover their financial damages.
What is the difference between indemnification and advancement?
These are the basic differences:
- Advancement: A contractual provision that allows or requires a business to pay its officer’s or director’s legal fees in advance or as they occur.
- Indemnification: Similarly, a business may pay an officer’s or director’s legal fees, but only if the lawsuit is successful.
Your employment contract likely has an indemnification or advancement clause. Our lawyers can help you understand what you are up against and which expenses you might have to pay.
What is a restrictive covenant and how is it enforced?
The phrase “restrictive covenant” has a variety of meanings in the law. It sometimes means a restriction on the right to sell real property. In the employment context, it means a restrictions on what an employee can do following their employment, including agreements not to compete, not to solicit clients and customers, and not to disclose confidential information. Courts carefully scrutinize agreements that restrict employment. Also, the Federal Trade Commission is considering a ban on noncompete agreements and other restrictive covenants.
What is defamation and how is it proven?
A successful defamation case involves demonstrating four elements:
- The defendant made a false statement presented as fact.
- They published or communicated that statement to a publication or another party.
- The plaintiff suffered damages as a result.
- The defendant has fault that amounts to negligence.
Although proving defamation successfully is very difficult, a qualified attorney may be able to help you salvage your reputation. Your lawyer can also defend you from a defamation lawsuit.
Ask Us More Questions About Business Torts
For more information about the complex world of commercial law, contact Steve Harvey Law LLC today. We serve clients throughout Pennsylvania. To schedule your consultation, please call us at 215-907-7313 or send us an email.