Complex Commercial Litigation
The attorneys at Hackleman, Olive & Judd counsel clients in a full range of complex commercial litigation matters. Our lawyers represent Fortune 100 companies, large and small businesses, high net worth individuals, and other entities in the South Florida region and beyond. We are an experienced team of trial lawyers who are well known for our advocacy skills and creative approaches to resolving complicated, high-stakes commercial disputes.
Our firm appreciates that business disputes can be costly and highly disruptive for our clients. We work one-on-one with our clients to develop legal plans that best support their business operations and financial goals. While our aim is to resolve commercial disputes as efficiently as possible, our lawyers approach every case as if it will proceed to trial. This proactive approach gives us greater leverage in negotiations, and should litigation become necessary, we are fully prepared to litigate from the outset. We also have an experienced in-house appellate practice group that supports our trial attorneys throughout the trial process and litigates commercial litigation appeals in both state and federal court.
More on Our Areas of Practice
Our attorneys regularly represent clients in pre-litigation dispute resolution and in Florida’s state and federal courts in matters involving:
- Appellate Litigation
Our firm’s appellate practice extends to Florida’s state appellate courts and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. We represent clients on both sides of civil appeals, vigorously defending our clients’ victories at the trial level and executing comprehensive appellate strategies designed to have unfavorable verdicts and pre-verdict decisions overturned. The lawyers in our appellate practice group are skilled writers and oral advocates, and they work closely with our trial attorneys to efficiently identify and pursue grounds for appeal.
- Banking & Financial Litigation
Our banking and financial litigation practice involves representing commercial lenders, banks and other institutions in private disputes and regulatory matters. We routinely advise and represent clients with regard to issues including breaches of promissory notes, foreclosure and repossession actions, claims of lender liability, and potential liability under the Dodd-Frank Act. The state and federal banking regulations are extraordinarily complex and change frequently and at Hackleman, Olive & Judd, we have the resources and human capital needed to ensure that our clients’ financial interests are secure.
- Bet-the-Company Litigation
When your company’s future is on the line, you need a legal team that has been there before. Our firm has significant experience representing clients in high-stakes multi-party and class-action litigation, and partner Robert S. Hackleman has been named to The Best Lawyers in America in Bet-the-Company Litigation. We take an aggressive approach to representing clients whose viability is at stake, exploring all avenues for favorable pre-trial settlement while preparing to present a vigorous defense at trial.
- Class Action Defense
Our class action defense practice focuses on representing clients’ interests at all stages of the litigation, from seeking to deny class certification to disputing class members’ allegations at trial. We handle class action cases involving a wide range of commercial matters, from employment-related litigation to product liability claims, and we have experience defending large corporate clients in complex, large-scale class action litigation nationwide.
- Contract Disputes
We represent clients in litigation involving breaches and alleged breaches of contracts including real estate purchase and development agreements, construction agreements, shareholder agreements, merger-and-acquisition agreements and other commercial contracts. With experience representing business clients ranging from local retailers to multinational Fortune 100 companies, in contract litigation we focus on using the available factual and legal arguments to secure favorable outcomes for our clients as cost-effectively as possible.
- Labor & Employment
In our labor and employment practice, we represent employers facing litigation that has the potential to lead to both substantial financial liability and reputational harm. We handle cases involving executive compensation agreements and other employment-related contracts as well as claims of discrimination and harassment under Title VII, Title XI, and other state and federal laws. We also have extensive experience representing corporations and other companies in wage and overtime claims, safety and health litigation, and Department of Labor investigations.
- Land Use and Real Estate Litigation
Our land use and real estate litigation attorneys represent property owners, developers, investors, financial institutions, municipalities, commercial landlords and tenants, and other businesses in a broad array of disputes. This includes contract disputes, disputes involving easements and other property rights, entitlement and approval disputes, and litigation involving construction defects. In addition to representing clients in state and federal court, our commercial litigators also regularly handle matters pending before administrative agencies, local boards and commissions, arbitration panels, and special masters.
- Stockholder Derivative Actions
We represent clients in shareholder and securities litigation involving allegations of corporate mismanagement, breaches of fiduciary duty, and other forms of corporate misconduct. We have extensive experience in this area, and our attorneys have represented clients in stockholder derivative actions across the country. As in all commercial litigation matters, in shareholder claims we focus on identifying leverage points for negotiating a favorable resolution while pursuing a parallel path toward trial.
- Bankruptcy Litigation
The attorneys in our bankruptcy litigation practice represent commercial lenders, landlords and other creditors in bankruptcy litigation throughout Florida and nationwide. We routinely represent clients in matters involving bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings under Chapter 7 and Chapter 11, and help both secured and unsecured creditors pursue all available remedies under the federal bankruptcy code.
Common Causes of Action in Commercial Litigation
In complex commercial litigation, it is critical for all parties to thoroughly assess the veracity and viability of any potential causes of action involved. From deciding to initiate litigation to structuring defense strategies and evaluating potential cross-claims and counterclaims, having a clear view of the litigation landscape is essential to making informed decisions. We help our clients assess their options every step of the way, regularly pursuing and defending claims such as:
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Breaches of warranties and indemnification obligations
- Claims against corporate officers and directors
- Disputes between members, partners and shareholders
- Employment-related claims, including discrimination, harassment and unequal pay
- Nonpayment and nonperformance under commercial contracts
- Other breaches of contract, including improper substitution of materials and wrongful termination
- Premises and products liability
- Securities law violations and other legal and regulatory issues
- Unfair competition
- Other commercial disputes
Commercial Litigation FAQs
- Q: When can corporate officers and directors face personal liability?
While corporate officers and directors are generally insulated from liability under the theory that they are acting on behalf of the corporation and not in their individual capacities, there are certain circumstances in which directors and officers can face personal liability (however, most directors and officers in large companies have “D&O” liability insurance, and many companies will indemnify directors and officers against most shareholder claims). Some examples of claims that have the potential to lead to personal liability for corporate directors and officers include:
- Abusing corporate authority or neglecting corporate duties
- Engaging in conflict-of-interest transactions
- Making improper use of inside information for personal or third-party benefit
- Misappropriating corporate assets (theft, conversion and accounting fraud)
- Q: What is the difference between a mass tort and a class action?
While mass torts and class actions both involve multiple plaintiffs, there are important differences between these types of claims. Most notably, in a class action, one plaintiff serves as the representative for the entire class, and the class must be “certified” by the court in order for the action to proceed. In a mass tort case, each plaintiff asserts his or her own claim individually – often because one or more of the elements required for certification cannot be satisfied. For companies defending against mass tort and class action claims, each type of claim presents its own unique challenges, and at Hackleman, Olive & Judd we are skilled at representing companies in both types of large-scale tort litigation.
- Q: What records will my company be required to disclose in litigation?
It depends. Generally speaking, discovery in complex commercial litigation – including specifically electronic discovery (or “e-discovery”) – is extensive. In many cases, all parties will have a legitimate interest in collecting substantial amounts of information from the other parties to the litigation, and the burdens of discovery can often spur settlement negotiations. However, parties to litigation and ADR can agree to limit the scope of discovery where appropriate; and, when necessary, parties to complex commercial litigation can seek protection from abusive discovery requests as well. At Hackleman, Olive & Judd, our litigators are skilled at using the discovery process to our clients’ advantage.
- Q: Could my company’s employees be forced to testify in a deposition?
Potentially. When employees have information that is material to pending litigation, it can be appropriate for counterparties to request that such employees provide the information in the form of deposition testimony. These requests can either be made directly (often after identifying individual employees at an earlier stage of the discovery process), or generally through a request for testimony from a corporate representative. We fight to protect our clients’ employees as much as possible, from disputing the relevance of the information requested to arguing that the requested information is available from alternate sources already produced.
- Q: When is mediation or arbitration an alternative to litigation?
Mediation and arbitration – the two most common forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) – are potential alternatives to litigation in all types of commercial disputes. If the parties can agree to use ADR, there will likely be cost-saving and resource benefits on both sides. Mediation and arbitration also offer greater privacy protection and generally involve more-limited discovery, and these too can be highly-attractive benefits when considering the publicity and scope of discovery in commercial litigation.
In disputes between contracting parties, the terms of their agreement may dictate use of one form (or potentially both forms) of ADR. The courts can also order parties to attempt to resolve certain issues through mediation. In any case, there are unique strategies involved in mediating or arbitrating a commercial dispute. We routinely advise clients with regard to their options for avoiding litigation, and we have represented clients in ADR involving a wide range of commercial disputes in Florida and before mediators and arbitrators around the country.
- Q: What penalties can financial institutions face under the Dodd-Frank Act?
Enacted in 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”) imposes potentially-substantial penalties for financial institutions that provide consumer-level financing. Depending upon the scope and nature of the litigation, these could include:
- “[T]he greater of actual damages or an amount equal to 3 times the total amount of direct and indirect compensation,” for mortgage originators;
- Reimbursement of finance charges and fees;
- Additional financial penalties calculated on a per-transaction bases or twice the amount of any finance charges; and,
- Costs and attorneys’ fees.
- Q: When can a creditor seek to deny a discharge in bankruptcy?
While the federal bankruptcy code provides broad protections for debtors who are entitled to relief, it includes a variety of protections for creditors as well. Depending on the circumstances involved, potential grounds for creditors to seek to deny a discharge in bankruptcy include (but are not limited to):
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Dishonesty in bankruptcy proceedings (i.e. filing false schedules or ailing to disclose information)
- Fraud, theft and embezzlement
- Refusal to obey a court order
- Willful and malicious injury
- Q: When should an employer consider a lawsuit against a former employee?
While there are many reasons for employers to be cautious about initiating litigation against former employees, there are a number of circumstances in which legal action can be both necessary and appropriate. If a former employee has misappropriated the company’s trade secrets, violated the terms of a confidentiality agreement or non-compete, or made defamatory statements about the company (including in social media posts online), seeking judicial intervention may be the correct course of action.
- Q: How long do you have to file a civil notice of appeal in Florida?
In Florida state court, parties have 30 days from the date of the order being appealed. This includes final judgments as well as interlocutory orders (decisions on motions rendered prior to verdict). The same is generally true when appealing a federal district court decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit as well, although there are some notable exceptions at the federal level.
Schedule a Confidential Initial Consultation at Hackleman, Olive & Judd
If your company is facing a potential dispute, we encourage you to contact us for an initial consultation. With offices in Fort Lauderdale, our firm represents parties to complex commercial disputes across Florida and nationwide. To speak with one of our attorneys in confidence, please call (954) 334-2250 or get in touch with us online today.