For businesses of all sizes and in all industries, facing litigation is something that must be done with a high degree of forethought and a critical understanding of both the immediate and long-term implications. While litigation can be disruptive, it can also be necessary; and, whether you are being forced to defend against allegations or you need to take action to protect your company’s interests, taking a strategic and informed approach is the best way to secure a favorable resolution as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
At Hackleman, Olive & Judd, we provide experienced legal representation for complex business disputes in Fort Lauderdale and throughout Florida. We understand the practical and financial considerations involved in pursuing litigation, and we take a real-world approach to confronting the issues impeding our clients’ operations. From defending companies in indemnity disputes to taking swift action to protect our clients’ intellectual property, a business litigation lawyer at our firm will always do what it takes to make sure our clients’ interests are secure.
Meet Our South Florida Business Lawyers
With decades of combined legal experience, our business lawyers offer deep insights and strategic thinking for complex litigation. With significant trial experience, our Fort Lauderdale-based attorneys are also skilled negotiators who seek out leverage and who are able to offer creative solutions for pursuing out-of-court settlements. We use pre-trial practice and the discovery process to our clients’ advantage, and we aggressively pursue opportunities for resolution while remaining attuned to the changing dynamics of our clients’ disputes.
Meet the business lawyers at Hackleman, Olive & Judd.
Common Issues in Business Litigation
Our business litigation attorneys routinely represent local, regional, national and foreign companies in litigation involving issues such as:
While allegations of antitrust violations often entail regulatory enforcement action, private rights of action under state and federal antitrust laws can give rise to disputes among competing businesses as well. Common issues in antitrust cases include allegations of illegal monopolies and price fixing arrangements, refusals to deal, vertical trade restraints, and unfair competition.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Fiduciary duties exist under a wide range of circumstances, and breach of fiduciary duty is a common allegation in litigation among shareholders, partners and board members of privately-held companies. Breach of fiduciary duty is a common allegation in public-company shareholder litigation as well, with individual investors often come together to allege that the company’s leadership has failed to adequately protect the company’s stock value.
Breach of Substantive Contract Terms
Business disputes frequently arise out of contractual relationships. While a well-drafted contract should reduce uncertainty and mitigate the parties’ risk for litigation, not all issues can be anticipated, and one company’s failure to perform as promised can leave its counterparty with little choice but to pursue legal or equitable remedies. From outright nonperformance to failure to meet binding service levels, many types of contract breaches have the potential to warrant litigation.
Enforcement of Warranty and Indemnity Provisions
Warranty and indemnity provisions serve essential risk-mitigation functions for contracting parties. However, due to the potential exposure when these provisions come into play, they are frequently at the center of complex business disputes. We have significant experience representing businesses in Fort Lauderdale and throughout South Florida in litigation involving a wide range of warranty and indemnification-related issues, including multi-party litigation in state and federal court.
Fraud allegations can take many forms, and in business litigation it is common for allegations of fraud to accompany claims for breach of contract and various other causes of action. A business litigation lawyer at our firm can handle cases involving pre-contract and post-contract fraud as well as those involving fraud outside of the context of contractual business relationships.
Intellectual Property Infringement
Intellectual property (IP) rights are among many companies’ most valuable assets, and protecting IP rights often requires swift legal action in federal court. We represent companies in infringement litigation involving trademarks, copyrights and patents, and we have significant experience both proving infringement and successfully disputing infringement allegations in licensing and non-contractual contexts.
Like antitrust violations, securities violations can lead to both government enforcement action and private litigation. We handle shareholder derivative lawsuits and third-party litigation involving issues such as restatements of earnings, public offerings, private placements, tender offers, proxy solicitations, misstatements and omissions, and mergers and acquisitions.
Claims of tortious interference often involve complex multi-party litigation, and they frequently have time-sensitive implications. We represent contracting parties as well as third parties in tortious interference litigation and related disputes involving fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract.
Trade Secret Misappropriation
Like other forms of IP infringement, misappropriation of a company’s trade secrets can have devastating financial consequences. Federal law requires companies to act aggressively to police and enforce their trade secrets, and failure to take necessary legal action can result in loss of trade secret protection. From competitors to disgruntled former employees, companies often face several risks for their trade secrets to be improperly exposed. A Fort Lauderdale business litigation lawyer with Hackleman, Olive & Judd can help companies protect their interests as plaintiffs and defendants in trade secret litigation.
Unfair Trade Practices
Unfair trade practices include the use of fraud, false advertising and other improper methods to gain a commercial advantage. Unfair trade practices litigation often involves complex questions of law and fact; and, like antitrust and securities litigation, it can involve regulatory action as well. Our attorneys provide strategic and detail-oriented representation for unfair trade practices litigation, representing suppliers, vendors, lenders, retailers and other commercial parties.
Types of Disputes We Handle
Business litigation can involve a wide range of complex issues in a wide range of contexts. From irreconcilable disputes between company founders to bet-the-company litigation involving multiple commercial parties and multi-million-dollar exposure, at Hackleman, Olive & Judd, our Fort Lauderdale lawyers have the capabilities and resources needed to effectively represent clients in a broad array of business-related disputes. Our experience includes helping protect clients’ interests in cases involving:
- Disputes Among Partners or Shareholders
- Disputes Between Companies and Their Suppliers
- Disputes Between Competitors
- Disputes Between Contractors and Subcontractors
- Disputes Between Employers and Employees
- Disputes Involving Unrelated Third Parties
- Regulatory Business Litigation
Potential Signs of Impending Business Litigation
While companies and executives often view litigation as a means of last resort, in many cases taking legal action – whether formally or informally – can be critical to protecting a company from unnecessary and undesirable consequences. A proactive approach is often the best way to prevent future harm, and seeking legal advice at the first sign of a potential dispute can often significantly reduce a company’s risk exposure. Some signs that litigation may be on the horizon – and that it may be time to take action – include:
- Communications have broken down. Oftentimes, business executives and key stakeholders will be able to resolve their differences by working together with an open mind. But, if communications have broken down, there may be little choice but to pursue legal alternatives.
- Prompt action is necessary to prevent further damage. With certain types of issues, such as IP infringement, taking prompt action can be necessary to prevent further damage. If a competitor has obtained your company’s trade secrets or patented technology, or if a startup has adopted a confusingly-similar trademark, you may need to seek immediate injunctive relief in order to protect your company’s intangible assets.
- The financial stakes are substantial. When the financial stakes are high and there is not a clear mutually-beneficial path forward, litigation can quickly become an inevitability. However, even in high-stakes litigation, pre-trial practice will often produce a result without the need for a costly trial.
- The parties have differing interpretations of material contract provisions. From ambiguous contract terms to issues that no one anticipated at the time of contracting, there are a host of issues that can cause parties to have different opinions about their contractual rights and obligations. Fundamental disagreements about material contract provisions are often precursors to business litigation.
- There is discord among shareholders, employees or consumers. Internal or external discord will often signal the potential for securities, unfair trade practices and certain other types of business litigation. These types of issues can swell quickly, and a proactive response can be essential to mitigating the risk of substantial liability.
Business Litigation FAQs
Q: Will my case go to state or federal court?
Whether a business dispute ends up in state or federal court depends on a number of different factors. As a general rule, the federal district courts have jurisdiction over cases involving: (i) issues arising under federal law, and (ii) disputes between parties located in different states where the issue is a question of state law and the “amount in controversy” is greater than $75,000. In certain cases, filing in state court and filing in federal court will both be options, and it is up to the plaintiff to decide which venue offers the greatest advantages. However, if the plaintiff files in state court, the defendant may be entitled to file to have the case “removed” to federal court.
Beyond questions of state and federal jurisdiction, parties contemplating litigation must also decide which state court or which federal court in which to file. Once again, the options will be limited, and a strategic assessment will be required.
Q: When can a company compel mediation or arbitration?
In the context of a dispute between businesses, mediation and arbitration can be compelled by contract. If you have an agreement that stipulates to a particular method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), or multiple forms of ADR, the key question will be whether your mandatory mediation or arbitration provision is legally-enforceable for the dispute at hand. There are limits to the enforceability of these provisions, and some mandatory ADR provisions are written to apply to only certain types of disputes, so determining whether you can compel ADR (or whether you are required to submit to ADR) requires a critical assessment of the relevant terms of your agreement.
Q: Are mandatory jurisdiction and venue clauses enforceable?
Generally speaking, yes. Mandatory jurisdiction and venue clauses are common; and, in arm’s-length commercial relationships, they are typically going to be enforceable. However, once again, there are limits. For example, if a court lacks jurisdiction over a particular dispute, a mandatory jurisdiction clause cannot override the legal restrictions on judicial power. Depending upon the issues and facts involved, it may also be the case that it is both parties’ best interests to negotiate an alternate venue from what they previously selected. These clauses are often not as straightforward as they seem, and businesses facing litigation should be sure to explore their options with an experienced Fort Lauderdale business litigation lawyer.
Q: What is required to prove trademark, copyright or patent infringement?
Trademarks, copyrights and patents are different forms of intellectual property, and each has its own standard for infringement. For example, in the case of trademark infringement, the primary question is whether one company’s use of a trademark creates a “likelihood of confusion” with another company’s pre-existing trademark rights. Each of the federal circuits has its own list of factors for assessing likelihood of confusion, and different factors can be weighted differently depending upon the unique facts and circumstances involved.
In copyright infringement cases, the question is whether the alleged infringer copied a protected work. Unlike trademark infringement cases where knowledge of the plaintiff’s trademark rights is not required to establish liability, in copyright cases, “originality” is a valid defense to infringement. As a result, copyright cases tend to be highly fact-specific, and whether the plaintiff’s copyrights are registered is a critical factor in assessing potential liability as well.
Patent infringement cases are often highly-technical in nature, and establishing liability requires a detailed assessment of the patented claims, the alleged infringing use and other factors. Since registration is required for patent protection (and since patent records are publicly-available), lack of knowledge or intent is not a defense to direct infringement.
Q: What steps should I take to protect my company after a breach of confidentiality?
If your company’s confidential information has been compromised, you may need to act quickly to mitigate the damage and protect against further disclosure. There are a number of legal tools and remedies available in cases involving breaches of confidentiality, and to protect your company’s assets you should speak with an attorney promptly.
Speak with a Business Litigation Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, FL
If you would like to speak with an attorney about your business dispute, we encourage you to contact us for an initial consultation. To speak with a business litigation lawyer at Hackleman, Olive & Judd, please call (954) 334-2250 or inquire online today.