Feedback online or review on computer laptop concept vector illustration, flat cartoon pc with voting hands thumbs gesture and reviews stars, idea of like or dislike symbolsIf your business provides consumer-oriented goods or services, your reputation is very important to you.  When I use the term “consumer-oriented,” I mean goods or services that are primarily used for personal or household purposes.  That is not to say that businesses that do not directly affect consumers are not worried about their reputations.  In fact, they are, because reputation means everything.

Suppose one of your customers claims one of your employees stole an item while they were at the customer’s home making repairs.  You interviewed all of the employees who were at the customer’s home.  None of them saw the item in question.  You speak to the homeowner, and discover that your employees were working in a completely different part of the house than where the homeowner keeps the item.  You looked in the company vehicles and do not see any evidence of the item.  The only thing supporting the customer’s claim is that the customer was not home at the time your employees were there.  The customer files a police report.  Your team cooperates, and the police do not find sufficient evidence to support any charges.  The customer is insistent that your employees took the item, and is threatening to sue.  What do you do?
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tornado over the house (3d rendering)Henry Gale was having difficulty leasing his modest four-bedroom house in North Dallas. But his fortunes changed when multiple tornadoes blew through the city in late October, damaging multiple nearby homes. Suddenly faced with several offers, Henry doubled his rental rate and signed a twelve-month lease with the Diggs, a family whose home was undergoing a lengthy restoration due to tornado damage. But Henry’s elation turns to despair the next month when the Diggs sue him for “price gouging.” Are dark skies ahead for Henry?
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My last article pointed out a situation where parties conflate contractual indemnity and damages clauses.  The standard language in Dunce’s Caps’ contract provided for an indemnification of “any and all losses arising from any breach of any representation or warranty in the agreement” and capped those losses at the price of the order. When Dunce’s failed to deliver the promised 100,000 hats, Flat Backs filed an arbitration action seeking recovery of an alleged $4 million in damages, even though the purchase order price was only $500,000. Ignoring Dunce’s damages cap argument, the arbitrator Terry B.L. Judge awarded Flat Backs the full $4 million. Arguing that Judge was not permitted to award Flat Backs more than $500,000, Dunce’s appealed to the state court seeking to overturn the arbitration award because Judge exceeded his jurisdictional limits. Did Dunce’s contractual indemnification provision operate as a cap on the damages that Flat Backs could recover for Dunce’s breach of contract?
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Struggling these last several months with the family dynamics and dilemmas of transitioning his family business to the next generation, Big Daddy Ernest Bux, 65, now turns to ordinary, practical considerations. What are Big Daddy’s businesses worth, and do they have sufficient value/cash flow to accomplish his plans? Will Big Daddy’s estate planning cover the estate taxes and transfer estate assets consistent with his plans and goals?

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Nifty Counsel, Dunce’s Caps in-house lawyer, came up with what he thought was a brilliant way to minimize the company’s liability to its customers.  Nifty added arbitration provisions to Dunce’s customer purchase order agreements, and included language that the customer agreed the arbitrator could not award the customer damages exceeding the price of the order.  Flat Backs, a major retail hat company, filed an arbitration action against Dunce’s after Dunce’s failed to deliver 100,000 Auburn Tigers 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champions hats.[1]  The demand for arbitration alleged $4 million in damages, even though the purchase order price was only $500,000.  Terry B.L. Judge, the arbitrator, ignored Dunce’s arguments that the purchase order’s arbitration clause prohibited Judge from awarding Flat Backs more than $500,000, and awarded Flat Backs the requested $4 million.  Dunce’s then asked a court to overturn the arbitration award for the same reason – Judge exceeded his jurisdictional limits.    
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In recent months we have discussed litigation funding, specifically covering what litigation funding entails, whether such agreements are legal in different jurisdictions and the ethical issues surrounding litigation funding agreements. There’s an opportunity to continue the conversation as we keep a close eye on the Texas Legislative Session, just as we did last month with a recap of bills related to civil litigation. Members of the Texas House and Senate introduced bills relating to the disclosure of litigation funding in state court lawsuits.
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After several months of telling family and friends that his wedding venue business on Big Bux Ranch was for sale, Jeff Bux is contacted by his biggest competitor Hustler Plentee who also owns a wedding venue in the next town south of Buxboro. Hustler asks if Jeff will tote-the-note because his credit is maxed out at Buxboro State Bank, which is owned by Ernest “Big Daddy” Bux. Wanting to avoid a broker’s fee and an attorney’s time, and hoping that he might be able to get a job at the Bank, Jeff – uncharacteristically – asks his father for advice to help him sell it himself. Can Jeff sell his own business? If you were Big Daddy what would you say?
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Earlier this year we covered how Jim Duncey, the majority owner and face of Duncey’s Caps, Inc., was involved in a car accident and arrested for DWI.  While the company survived the initial PR crisis, its bottom line did not.  Retail sales during the following quarter were down 20 percent.  One of the Duncey’s major commercial customers also terminated its contract that produced $3 million in revenue annually.  Things are so dire that the company is considering laying off half of its workers.  But Duncey’s outside counsel is confident that the major commercial customer does not have the authority to terminate the contract early, and is lobbying Duncey’s to file a lawsuit that could result in $10 million in damages.  Outside counsel advises Duncey’s that the commercial customer has enough assets to satisfy a judgment.  But Duncey’s board is concerned that it cannot afford the cost of long and protracted litigation.  The Board knows that the commercial customer will hire the best law firm in the country to defend the case.  Duncey’s outside counsel suggests Duncey’s uses a litigation funder who will cover the law firm’s fees and the litigation expenses.  What factors should Duncey’s Board consider when deciding whether to use a litigation funder?
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