Articles Posted in Business Litigation

Avoiding the Most Common Business Lawsuits 

Defending against any lawsuit has the potential to sink a Silicon Valley start-up. You must defend against even frivolous litigation especially so in today’s fast-paced and ever-expanding startup industry. There is no way to bulletproof a business from all litigation, but there are ways to greatly reduce the likelihood of lawsuits and their financial impact on your business. The experienced business litigation attorneys at Structure Law Group, LLP can help advise and protect start-ups against business litigation before it happens. While you can’t protect against all litigation, you can protect against the most common legal complaints against businesses. Business attorneys commonly defend against the following lawsuits:

  1. Breach of Contract Claims – Sometimes start-ups enter into contracts that aren’t favorable, or they run out of funding to fulfill their obligations. The business lawyers at Structure Law Group can review and draft the terms of any proposed contracts and include certain protective indemnification and liquidated damage clauses to reduce the cost of or prevent litigation.

He may have looked the part, spoken well in the interview, and had the right experience. In fact, he seemed like a great fit for your company. It’s only after a few months that you realize why he was available in the first place. Employees who clearly engage in wrongful conduct such as sexual harassment, violation of company policies, or constant tardiness are often easier to terminate than employees who aren’t the right fit for the corporate environment. San Jose businesses may fear wrongful termination litigation after firing an employee for causing dissent among the staff or failing to embody corporate values. California, like most states, is an “at will” employment state. This means that absent a contract, you have the right to terminate an employee at any time and for any reason that doesn’t violate state or federal law.

LaborLaws-300x238
Avoiding Wrongful Termination Lawsuits in California – 2 exceptions to the rule

1. Although California is an “at will” employment state, there are two notable exceptions to this rule. First, an employee with an employment contract may be protected from a termination “without cause.” This means that there must be a justifiable reason for her termination as defined in the employment contract. The employee may also be entitled to certain notice and disciplinary warnings before termination. We can review any employment contracts at issue to ensure a termination complies with these provisions.

Fotolia_189107114_Subscription_Monthly_M-300x200Perhaps more so than any other kind of business structure, a partnership is heavily reliant upon the personal relationships among the partners. If those relationships are good, the partnership has a much better chance to function smoothly. If not, the personal nature of partnerships generally means that rocky personal relationships will lead to a rocky business relationship. All too often, partners join up based on prior personal relationships that were good, only to find they did not consider business philosophies before forming the partnership. Business differences can lead to personal differences, making it that much more unlikely that the partnership’s problems can be worked out.

Start Early to Avoid Partnership Disputes

Partnerships often are formed by people working in the same industry or friends who develop an idea together. They are common in the practice of law, as well as in a number of different small businesses. Partnerships are frequently a few individuals joining together to start a business. There are steps they should take to minimize the possibility of disputes. These steps include:

Fotolia_106115248_Subscription_Monthly_M-2-300x237Intellectual property is a valuable asset for a business. When a company licenses its IP out to other businesses, it can gain a competitive advantage and also reap the benefits of a lucrative, passive revenue stream.

When dealing with IP, most business owners immediately think of patents.  Patents cover inventions including processes, machines, compositions of matter, designs, and plants.  However, patents are only one type of valuable IP.  There are other types of intellectual property that can be licensed out to increase your business’s revenue.  These include:

  • Trademarks, which protect company or product names, as well as corporate logos, slogans, and other promotional materials; and

Fotolia_202834953_Subscription_Monthly_M-300x200
An easement is a legal tool that gives someone else the right to use part of your land. Generally speaking, an easement does not give a party full ownership of that part of the property and instead, will include restrictions on how the party can use the land. Additionally, the property owner retains the right to use their land as they choose, as long as the use does not interfere with the easement holder’s rights.

One type of easement does restrict the property owner’s right to use the land – sometimes, they cannot use that part of their property at all once an easement is in place. These are called exclusive easements and, while they are rare, it is important to understand all implications of this type of easement before you ever grant one.

How an Exclusive Easement is Acquired

Fotolia_174937057_Subscription_Monthly_M-1-300x200
Despite the fact that everyone is entitled to their day in the court, the reality is that most cases are resolved out of court.  Many clients will approach their lawyers with the hope that they will be able to quickly get in front of a judge and explain their story—a vision of American justice that is reinforced in popular media and Court TV.  However, getting to trial is a long process and most cases never make it to trial.  In most situations, the cases take earlier exit ramps, such as informal out-of-court settlement, mediation, arbitration, or is resolved by a ruling before trial.  Even if a case is set for trial, it is very common for the parties to settle on the eve of trial.

Often, the cheapest and most efficient way for a dispute to get resolved is for the attorneys to work on an out-of-court settlement.  This can occur at any point either before or after a lawsuit has been filed.  Under this track, attorneys informally negotiate a resolution.  If the parties agree to it, the attorneys will memorialize the resolution in a settlement agreement.  This is often the quickest way to resolve a case, as it does not require any third-party intervention—it only requires the parties to work together to settle their differences and capable counsel to guide the parties through the process.

In addition to out-of-court settlements, cases often get resolved with the help of a neutral third-party.  For instance, cases often go to non-binding mediation before they move on to trial.  Indeed, more and more courts are making mediation a mandatory step before allowing the case to move to trial.  During mediation, the parties present their case to a neutral third party whose job is to facilitate a settlement agreement by working with the parties and their attorneys as a go-between. Sometimes, cases may end up in front of a neutral third-party who has the authority to make a binding decision.  For instance, if the parties signed an agreement for binding arbitration, a private judge will make the final decision and the parties must live with the decision whether or not they are happy with it.  Arbitration is usually less costly and more efficient than going to trial.

Options When Faced with a Legal Dispute

When faced with a legal dispute, it is important to know what your options are. A San Jose business owner typically juggles multiple commercial relationships on a regular basis – vendors, clients, employees, contractors, and business partners. Given the nature of running a business, it is likely that a legal dispute will come up at some point. When this happens, it is very important to educate yourself on what your options are. Litigation can subject a business to unnecessary stress, be huge time sink, and cost you significant legal fees and expenses. Alternative dispute resolutions like mediation and arbitration are processes that may allow you and the other side to reach a solution that you both can live with without the substantial causalities that litigation typically entails.

The experienced San Jose corporate attorneys at Structure Law Group have extensive experience in litigation, mediation, and arbitration. They can discuss the pros and cons of each option with you and help you pick the best course of action for your business.

Fotolia_176587400_Subscription_Monthly_M-300x169
Technology is an integral part of our business in this fast-paced world. This is true no matter the size of your organization, especially in the Bay Area. Managing contracts efficiently and effectively can be a burdensome task, but a critical one. Contracts form the basis for almost every deal we do. They are inherently important. Nowadays, there is software for virtually almost any application, including contract management. Considering a system to manage your Bay Area contracts can help to streamline your business.

What is a Contract Management System?

Contract management can mean different things to different businesses. In the general sense, contract management is the process a company uses to create, negotiate, execute, and track contracts. A contract management system is an automated system that helps streamline various components of contract management. There are many Bay Area and national companies that offer various software to manage contracts. At the heart of these systems is the ability to use it as a repository for legacy and new contracts, increase the operational process of contract drafting, and automate as much of the process as possible.

Fotolia_69411638_Subscription_Monthly_M-300x200Contracts are essential to any business deal. No matter how close the parties and no matter how clearly the terms are spelled out, there is always a possibility of the other party breaching the contract. Whether a contract is with a vendor, another business, an employee, or any other party, a breach can cause financial harm to your company.

Fortunately, a contract should also dictate your rights and options to seek legal remedies in the event of a breach. Our experienced business and contract attorneys can help you through each step of this process to ensure the matter is resolved as efficiently and favorably as possible.

  1. Talk to the other party. Sometimes, a party to a contract may not even realize they are in breach of the agreement. If the breach involves non-payment, there may be ways to agree on a payment plan or another arrangement to fulfill the contract without taking legal action. It is always a good idea to speak with a party – or have your lawyer do so – to explore options to resolve the issue.

Fotolia_75565417_Subscription_Monthly_M-300x200If your business employs workers in California, you need to be aware of California laws that govern employer obligations and employee rights regarding overtime. Employer compliance is strictly enforced, and a failure to comply can result in a class action lawsuit against your business. California courts are known for being very employee-friendly, which can mean extensive liability for employers in overtime claims. At Structure Law Group, we can help your business understand the obligations regarding overtime and assist it with a plan to help manage those obligations.

Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees

California law requires overtime to be paid to all non-exempt employees. An employee is only exempt if they fit into a specific category codified by the State of California Department of Industrial Relations. The list includes many professions and occupations, but some of the more common business classifications for an exempt employee includes: