Terms You Can Expect to Hear During Business Litigation

Business Litigation

As an attorney experienced in business litigation, I work with a wide variety of clients.  They can include business owners, executives, employees, salespeople, vendors, etc.  Any time that you are engaged in a conflict with a business, a business attorney is the best person to take your case.  This will ensure that you have the best opportunity for receiving your desired outcome.  If you are unfamiliar with the legal process and suing because of a disagreement or having been wronged, it can be overwhelming not knowing what to expect.  I take the time to explain everything in detail so that my clients can be prepared, and that includes discussing some of the legal terms that will be encountered.  With that in mind, here are some terms and definitions that you should know.

  • Plaintiff.  If you are suing someone, you are the plaintiff.  For example, if you are suing a business because they violated the terms of your contract, you would be the plaintiff. 
  • Defendant.  In a civil case, the defendant is the person or entity that you are suing as part of your business litigation. In the example above, the defendant would be the business that violated the terms of your agreement. 
  • Compliant.  The complaint is your lawsuit.  It is the written document that names the parties that are involved in the case, what you are claiming happened, and what you are seeking by way of restitution for resolving the issue.  It must be filed with the court and served on any party that is involved in it. 
  • Discovery. In business litigation, discovery is both important and extensive.  This is the process we go through to obtain information on what happened along with the parties involved.  We typically start with interrogatories which is a list of written questions we need to have answered.  We will also ask for the production of specific documents.  This is where business litigation can become tedious.  Document production might include all written correspondence, including emails.  We may also ask for copies of bank statements, contracts, purchase orders, etc.  The list can be large depending on the details of your case.  We will review the answers and information that comes back and use it to prepare for court.  We may also conduct depositions where we ask the other party questions under oath with a court reporter recording the answers.  This too can be referenced in court.
  • Mediation.  There are times where mediation can be helpful.  This is a non-binding negotiation session where both parties work through attorneys to try and resolve the case.  Since it is non-binding if you do not agree, the trial can continue as planned.
  • Arbitration.  When taking a case, we always want to view any contracts that are involved.  One clause that we will check is whether or not arbitration is mandatory.  If it is, or if this is a preferred option, you can present your case before an arbitrator.  This is done outside of court but can also be legally binding. The benefits are that your case will be heard faster. 

As a business litigation attorney, I am happy to answer your questions and discuss your case in further detail.  For more information, give me a call.

When Is It Time for Business Litigation?

Business LitigationWe specialize in business litigation and have found that in most cases, people would prefer to avoid going to trial.  This is understandable considering if you do go to court it can be more expensive and take longer than if you settle outside of it.  For this reason, we often recommend attempting to mediate first.  As an attorney, we can initiate mediation where the other side comes with their attorney, we sit in opposite rooms and try to negotiate.  This can be an effective way to resolve conflict and at, bare minimum, will clearly demonstrate where each party stands and what issues neither one are willing to budge on. While this works some of the time, there are many instances where it simply won’t and litigation then becomes your only option outside of arbitration for resolving the dispute.

One challenge that businesses often face is finding a lawyer that is willing to go to trial.  Most business attorneys won’t, opting instead to do things outside of the courtroom.  There is certainly a need for lawyers to establish corporations and handle contracts but this can leave businesses in a lurch when they need more and their attorney doesn’t offer it.  If you are in this situation, we recommend that you give our office a call. That doesn’t mean that you can’t ever use your attorney again, only that you need more services than what they are willing to offer.

When we engage in business litigation, it is important for us to understand the facts of the case. In this type of law, evidence is extremely important because very often disputes are subject to interpretation. In fact, that is why many business disputes arise in the first place. Two parties view a situation differently or interpret a contract from different points of view and this leads to a conflict that cannot be resolved without the help of a judge.

Since we need to build a strong case, we will typically want to see the following:

  • Contracts.  If you and the other party entered into a contract, we want to see it.  We will also need to see any addendums or side agreements that went with it.
  • Emails.  If you have an email chain of correspondence, this can be helpful for us to review.  We can read them and determine if there is anything that can prove why what you believe to be true – is true.
  • Financial documents.  Money is at the root of most business disputes so we will need to see any financial documents that back up your claims, show the loss you suffered, create a paper trial, etc.
  • Formation documents.  In the case of a partnership dispute, we will need to see your business formation documents to understand how the company was set up in the first place and to determine what rights each party has.  This will also be necessary for proving that you have the right to sue on behalf of the company if that is what you are trying to do.

As a lawyer specializing in business litigation, we are an expert at helping you to navigate through what can be a difficult situation.  If you need help, call us for a consultation right away.

The Challenges of E-Discovery in Business Litigation

Business LitigationWe represent clients in need of business litigation services and regularly find that preparing for trial can be one of the most cumbersome tasks that management has to participate in.  Trial preparation used to be more simplistic with witness testimony and the gatheingr of evidence.  With the digital age, the landscape has changed and e-discovery is making preparation more time-consuming.

Big data has changed the landscape, and each business and employee has a large digital footprint that can often be reviewed as part of litigation.  Electronically stored files, emails, chats, and information can all be used as part of litigation whether for your defense or because the other side requested a subpoena for it.  With that in mind, we advise businesses to create a plan for how to store, sort, and retrieve data in a cost effective way prior to ever engaging in litigation.  If it’s too late and a lawsuit has already been filed, here are some ways to retrieve what you need.

  • Email.  Most IT departments will keep copies of emails and back them up on a continuous basis.  Speak with your IT department to see if this is the case.  If you are using a cloud based system this can also be helpful as it is easy to login and view emails in an inbox and in the trash.  The key is finding the emails that you need.  In business litigation, there may be that one email that proves your case.  When looking for it, consider any keyword that may have been used in the title or body of the email.  You can also search by name or date though this requires having specific knowledge of the incident.
  • Cloud storage.  If your company is using cloud based storage like Google docs, it can be easier to store documents, keep a record of them and access the documents at any time.  Your IT department should have a copy of each employee’s password or administrative access to get into both emails and the cloud document storage at any time.  This is essential for ensuring that documents can easily be found when you need them to be.  Even documents that are private should be shared with someone in the IT department. This can help you in the event that an employee is let go and then sues you.  The IT department can then access their files and determine if anything is there that can confirm your version of the events and your case.

As your attorney, we will discuss what information is needed to help build your case so that you can speak to the IT department about how to retrieve it.  If, on the other hand, you are being asked to produce documents for the other side, we must consider whether it is an appropriate request and if it puts your business in jeopardy. For example, if someone in your organization signed a confidentiality agreement with a client and you are being asked to produce email documents that are tied to their account, you could be in violation of that agreement by turning them over.  With that in mind, we will need to carefully review any requests for document production and e-discovery to ensure that by complying you do not violate any other standing agreements while engaged in business litigation.