AdobeStock_335918168-300x200A civil lawsuit is a common experience for business owners. Whether you are filing or defending a lawsuit, it is important to work with an experienced litigator who knows how to protect your legal rights throughout the discovery process. The experienced business lawyers at Structure Law Group, LLP know how to protect both you and your business from inappropriate discovery requests by seeking a protective order. Here are a few examples of tools our experienced attorneys can employ to protect your rights.

Privacy

Certain information must be exchanged during the discovery process. This is not, however, an unlimited right for the other party to learn every detail about your personal life. Discovery requests must pertain to information that are admissible at trial – or “reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence.” If you are asked about personal information that does not pertain to the lawsuit, your attorney can object. Objections can be made to written requests, such as interrogatories, requests for admission, or requests for documents.   Objections can also be made to questions posed at a deposition.  By following up with a protective order, your rights to preserve your objections can be protected throughout the remainder of the case.

AdobeStock_368546040-300x200Litigation is a reality in the life of a business owner. Most business owners will, at some point, have to engage in litigation in order to protect their legal rights. Litigation can result in a monetary judgment that is enforceable by court order. A judgment is the first step to collecting what is owed.  Unfortunately, many defendants are either unable or unwilling to pay.  Luckily,  there are many ways in which a business lawyer can enforce money judgments through the legal system. Here are some of the legal tools at a creditor’s disposal that can help collect money owed pursuant to a lawful court order:

Writs of Execution

A writ of execution is a court order to the local sheriff that directs his (or her) deputies to seize a debtor’s assets in order to satisfy an existing money judgment. For example: if your company has a judgment against another company, you can ask the court to issue a writ of execution against the debtor company’s business accounts in the amount of your judgment.

AdobeStock_282672626-300x200Sadly, it is not uncommon for litigants to abuse the discovery system in a civil lawsuit. Sometimes it is an attempt to make an opponent’s legal fees too high to continue litigation. Other times, a party might be trying to drag out a lawsuit and force the opponent to settle rather than continue indefinitely. These tactics are especially common when a business knows that a competing business is undercapitalized and cannot afford litigation that is costly or lengthy. But business owners do not have to succumb to these tactics. Learn more about what an experienced litigator can do to protect your business throughout the discovery process.

What RFAs Do – And What It Costs to Prove Them

Requests for Admission (RFAs) are a specific type of discovery tool that can be very effective when used properly. An attorney submits RFAs to the opposing party. These are formed as questions that the answering party must either: 1) admit, 2) deny, 3) admit in part, 4) deny in part, or 5) explain why it is unable to answer.  It is also possible to object to the request entirely, but courts do not take kindly to gamesmanship in the discovery process. If the answering party fails to answer these questions, it is considered an admission that they are true. It might not come as a surprise to learn that parties sometimes lie on these questionnaires. When this happens, the asking party or “Propounding Party” has an opportunity to prove that the question should have been admitted as true. This can be done in many ways. Your attorney might, for example, hire a forensic investigator to review the other party’s financial statements. You might find a former employee who can testify that the statement should have been admitted as true. Your attorney might even hire a private investigator to uncover evidence of the truth. However done, it almost always costs the Propounding Party money to prove that the RFA should have been admitted in the first place.

AdobeStock_69411638-300x200A breached contract can result in significant business losses. The amount of the contract may not reflect lost business, missed opportunities, and other financial losses that can seriously hurt your bottom line. Unfortunately, these losses are not adequately reflected by the value of the breached contract. In some cases, the contract actually specifies a value for breach – an estimate known as “liquidated damages.” This pre-breach estimate rarely reflects the full value of your company’s financial losses. This is why many companies seek punitive damages in addition to their specific losses under the contract. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for misconduct in order to deter such conduct in the future. They are not, however, available in most breach of contract cases. Learn more about punitive damages – and when they might be available to help mitigate your losses under a breached contract.

Can You Get Punitive Damages for Intentional or Malicious Breach?

In California, punitive damages are only available in a breach of contract case if the defendant has also committed an intentional tort. This means that mere negligence, or a poor choice to breach the contract, will not justify punitive damages on its own.

AdobeStock_271469937-300x200In general, shareholders are protected from liability for the debts of the corporation. This is because the corporation is viewed as a separate legal entity with its own assets and liabilities. This “corporate veil” of protection can, however, be pierced in certain situations, and personal liability imposed on the shareholders. Creditors use this legal tactic strategically to be sure they can access funds for what they are owed. The experienced California business attorneys at the Structure Law Group can help advise creditors on how to effectively pierce the corporate veil in order to satisfy the debts they are owed.

Elements of Alter Ego Liability

In order to pierce the corporate veil, the plaintiff must prove “alter ego liability.” Alter ego literally translates to “other self.” In alter ego liability, the corporation has been treated as an extension of shareholders’ personal interests, so the courts find it fair to hold shareholders liable for the corporation’s debts, as well. Plaintiffs in California must establish: (1) that there is a unity of ownership and interest between the owners (or shareholders) and the corporation, and (2) that it would be unfair to only hold the corporation accountable for its debts in order to establish alter ego liability.

AdobeStock_392831851-300x200COVID-19 has created significant issues when it comes to workplace safety, and lawmakers are racing to implement rules based on changing circumstances of the pandemic while attempting to balance the interests of employers and employees. While Congress has engaged in protracted and fierce debate over economic relief packages, state and federal agencies have been much quicker to act on safety rules –  and to enact the emergency authority necessary to enforce these rules. Employers in California must be aware of these rules and the immediate actions they require. Here are some of the most basic safety rules that have been enacted to protect California employees from the spread of the coronavirus in the workplace:

What the New Rules Require

Cal/OSHA has adopted emergency rules that require employers to protect their employees from the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. These rules require employers to:

AdobeStock_170059060-300x200Even with all the unexpected challenges of 2020, the California State Legislature still passed employment laws that will take effect in 2021. If employers do not change their employment practices to adhere to the new laws, they can face liability in an employment lawsuit or administrative sanctions from state agencies such as the Labor Commissioner. Learn more about some of the many changes that will take effect in 2021:

COVID-19 Laws

It should be no surprise that many of these new laws address the immediate safety concerns presented by the coronavirus pandemic. As noted by the California Chamber of Commerce, two bills took effect immediately upon signing in September 2020. The first expands supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons for certain employers not already covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The second creates a rebuttable workers’ compensation presumption for workers that contract COVID-19 under certain conditions. The law requires employers to report COVID-19 cases to their workers’ compensation carriers.

AdobeStock_252763744-300x200In November 2020, California voters approved what is arguably the most comprehensive privacy rights law in the nation. The California Privacy Rights Act does not take effect until January 1, 2023. But its requirements are far-reaching, and California business owners have a lot of work to do to prepare their businesses for compliance with the law before that date. Moreover, violations of the new Act prior to 2023 can cause bad public relations and potential liability in other areas. Business owners should meet with a California lawyer now to determine how the new law will affect their business, what steps must be taken, and the most efficient process for implementing these measures as soon as possible. The sooner these changes are integrated into a company’s practices and culture, the less likely it is the business will face liability under the Act.

Corporate Responsibilities Under the California Privacy Rights Act

The CPRA requires businesses to track an entirely new category of user data: “sensitive personal information.” This includes government-issued identifiers, finance information, biometric data, health status, precise geolocation, contents of emails or texts, and race or ethnic origin. Sensitive personal information is a subcategory of personal information that is protected under existing privacy laws. This means that it, too, must be de-identified or subject to an aggregation exception. The CPRA adds an additional requirement for businesses to implement “reasonable security measures” to protect personal information. What measures are “reasonable” will be determined by the type of information that is collected. Detailed financial or medical records will likely require higher levels of security than basic demographic information. Retention periods must also be updated to meet only what is reasonably necessary to perform the purposes for which the data was collected. This means that sensitive personal information might have a shorter retention policy than more general personal information.

AdobeStock_168271721-300x200Most business owners are aware that they must comply with minimum wage laws. However, what is less well known is that there can be different regulations made by a state, county, or even a municipal government. Even more confusing is that these regulations can change, and the changes can take effect at different times of the year. Working with a Silicon Valley business lawyer ensures your compliance with all current wage laws and prevents costly employment disputes in the future.

State Minimum Wage Changes

The California state legislature sets the state minimum wage. The wage policy is frequently reviewed, with annual changes generally taking effect on January 1 of the next calendar year. California’s statewide minimum wage is currently $13 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees and $12 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees. According to the Department of Industrial Relations, California law currently requires an increase in the minimum wage every year, making it important for employers to check every annual change in order to keep current with their legal obligations.

AdobeStock_314925095-300x200The Supreme Court of California recently issued an opinion with significant consequences for any business that enters into contracts. This opinion addresses liability for interfering with an at-will contract, as well as the limits of the few exceptions to the statutory ban on non-compete agreements in our state. It is essential for business owners to understand the implications of this ruling in order to enter into enforceable contracts that will not leave them liable for damages, court costs, and other costly expenses.

The Latest Supreme Court Ruling

On August 3, 2020, the Supreme Court of California issued an opinion that answered critical questions about how California law on tortious interference with business relations applies to an at-will contract. The Court ruled that companies are not liable for encouraging others to end an at-will contract unless there is “independent wrongfulness.” This analysis relied heavily on the uncertain nature of an at-will contract. While parties to a binding contract are negotiating for certainty in their future business relationship, there is no such certainty in an at-will contract. For this reason, legitimate business competition takes precedence over the terminable relationship in such a contract.

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