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emailIn any commercial dispute, there are many vital decisions that you’ll need to make. You may have to decide whether to file suit, whether to offer a settlement, whether to accept an opponent’s settlement offer, or whether to take your case to trial. All of these decisions carry with them significant implications; some may even involve your paying your opponent’s attorneys’ fees if you choose incorrectly. With all that is on the line, it is essential to make sure that you have an experienced Florida commercial litigation attorney on your side.

Rejecting an opponent’s settlement offer can potentially carry with it substantial financial implications. One case in which the rejection of a settlement offer was at the center of the dispute was a lawsuit between a railroad and rail-transit contractor and an asphalt production company. The rail company, which was the plaintiff in that lawsuit, decided at one point to pursue a settlement. The rail company sent the asphalt company a settlement offer via email. The defendant received the email but did not accept the offer. The case went to the jury, and they returned a verdict for the plaintiff and awarded damages that were more than 25% greater than what the rail contractor offered in the email to settle the case.

The size of that damages award in relation to the settlement offer was potentially very significant. Florida has a statute, Section 768.79, that says that, if you receive and reject a settlement offer, and the courts award a judgment that is more than 25% greater than the settlement offer (in the case of offers made by the plaintiff, or more than 25% less than the settlement offer in the case of a defense offer), the side that offered the settlement is entitled to demand that the opposing party pay its attorneys’ fees incurred from the date of the settlement offer forward.

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ResortWhen you find yourself involved in a commercial litigation action, there are multiple ways that a party might seek to short-circuit your lawsuit before it ever gets to trial. One way to prevent a case from making it to trial is to argue successfully that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the defendants. This can be a strong option if the defendants only have very minimal ties to the jurisdiction. There are situations, however, in which the law says that the defendants are barred from contesting jurisdiction, and you can proceed even if the defendants have no prior contact with the jurisdiction. In short, if you are pursuing a business lawsuit, you need experienced Florida commercial litigation counsel to help you address jurisdictional challenges and any other hurdle that might be placed in your way.

One example of a plaintiff who successfully defeated a defense jurisdictional challenge was a case involving a dispute between a general contractor and a subcontractor. The pair were working on a resort project in the Bahamas. According to the lawsuit that the subcontractor filed, a man named Jesús signed a personal guarantee of the general contractor’s debts. This was significant because, according to the subcontractor, the general contractor didn’t pay its debt to the subcontractor, which was the basis of the subcontractor’s breach of contract lawsuit against both the general contractor and Jesús.

The subcontractor brought its lawsuit in state court in Miami. At the outset of any lawsuit, there are several things you must establish in order to proceed. One of those things is that the court where you’ve filed has personal jurisdiction over the defendants you named in your action. Personal jurisdiction means that the party has a certain level of minimum contact with the jurisdiction where the lawsuit is pending.

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calendarThere can be many different ways to achieve a successful result as you defend against a breach of contract claim in Florida. Sometimes, it may involve winning on the facts by establishing evidence that shows that you are not liable or that the plaintiff didn’t suffer harm. In other situations, however, your success has nothing to do with the facts. For example, when someone sues you after the statute of limitations has expired, you are entitled to a judgment in your favor regardless of the other facts. Whichever strategy your case needs, an experienced Florida commercial litigation attorney can help pursue a successful result.

One recent multi-million dollar case from southwest Florida came down to an issue of the statute of limitations. The case arose from a dispute related to a real estate development project in Lee County. The City of Cape Coral required the developer to obtain surety bonds for the project. The developer obtained two bonds, both from the same insurance company, which totaled $7.7 million.

Eventually, the developer stopped paying its bills. As a result, first the city stopped making inspections in 2006. Next, the contractor stopped performing work in 2007. The developer’s lender obtained a foreclosure judgment against the developer in 2009.

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MiamiThere are many different ways you can win (or lose) the issue of liability in a commercial litigation action in Florida. You can win or lose on summary judgment, if the trial judge decides that there are no relevant factual issues in dispute. You can win or lose after a full trial. You can also win or lose based on a default judgment. Certainly, the optimal path is to retain experienced Florida commercial litigation counsel from the start. However, if you’ve lost on liability, you still should not give up, since you may still be able to challenge the issue of damages.

A recent ruling from the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami demonstrated how this process works. The underlying events that eventually spawned the case began in 2003, when a high-rise condominium developer met with a information technology company. The IT company had created an online system for what it called a “smart building,” which included communication between the front desk, individual condo units, valet parking, and outside entities like dry cleaners, cafeterias, and so forth. The developer inked a deal for the company’s BeCruising system.

Condo unit purchasers were not obligated to purchase a BeCruising system, but, under the terms of the contract, the developer was, according to the IT company, obligated to sell a system to every unit purchaser. This problem eventually led to a breakdown in the relationship and to the IT company’s decision to sue the developer for a breach of contract.

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Games WorkshopWhen you decide that it is beneficial to your business interests to pursue a breach of contract or other commercial litigation action, there are many things that can sidetrack your case, with some of those detours being more severe than others. One choice that can profoundly derail your case is choosing to go forward without skilled Florida commercial litigation counsel representing you. This choice can backfire in many ways, up to and including leading to the dismissal of your case.

An example of this scenario played out in a federal court case in the Southern District of Florida. A South Florida businessman who operated stores focused on gaming and collectibles sought to sue a major miniature war-gaming manufacturing company. In the lawsuit, the businessman sued on his own behalf and listed several of his business entities as “DBAs.” The plaintiff’s lawsuit accused the manufacturing company of breach of contract, restraint of trade, fraud, and a “willful pump and dump scheme.” The businessman chose to proceed without a lawyer.

After the manufacturing company filed a motion to dismiss, the court granted that motion and threw out the case. The shortcoming within the plaintiff’s case was not related to the strength or weakness of his facts or his legal claims. The case never got that far. The court dismissed the case because the plaintiff did not meet the legal standard for standing, which is the capacity under the law to be allowed to bring a lawsuit.

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service of processWhen you find yourself reaching the point of litigation in a commercial dispute, whether it is related to a breach of contract, protecting your intellectual property, or some other basis, the chances are you’re keenly aware of certain aspects of your case. You’re well-versed in the facts and perhaps some of the law related to your lawsuit (or potential lawsuit). However, there are many more details that go into getting to court and securing a successful outcome, which is why you need skilled Florida commercial litigation counsel handling your case. Some recent Florida decisions, from both federal and state court, which focused on some of the procedural hurdles at the beginning of litigation, are examples of how small details can make big differences.

The most recent case was a state court lawsuit that originated in Palm Beach County. In that case, a mortgage company sued an LLC, but it wasn’t the factual subject matter that was the interesting part. The key aspect of this case was the fact that the defendant was an LLC, and, because of that, there are certain rules that apply to serving it with notice of a lawsuit. The law says that, if you’re suing an LLC, and you are unable to serve successfully the LLC’s managing member or its registered agent, you can do what’s called “substitute service,” which involves submitting the lawsuit to the office of the Florida Secretary of State. The statutes, though, have very specific details regarding how you have to go about doing that.

Properly completing service of process is vital because, if you don’t properly serve an opponent, that opponent can raise this in court, and the court may refuse to hear your case on jurisdictional grounds, which will stymie you from obtaining relief without even getting to have a full hearing.

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vintage tvJust because you file your lawsuit here doesn’t necessarily mean that your case will be resolved here, even if the Florida courts have jurisdiction. A battle between some Spanish-language movie channels produced an opinion recently issued by the Third District Court of Appeal that re-affirms that Florida courts follow the federal standard for granting motions that allow actions to proceed somewhere else. In the case of the movie channels, the appeals court here in Miami concluded that a court in Mexico was better equipped to take on and resolve the case than Florida was. The ruling is a reminder of the many procedural hurdles you may face in your commercial litigation dispute, which is why it pays to have experienced Florida commercial litigation counsel on your side.

At one time, a few decades ago, it was easier to bring a civil case in Florida than it is today. However, the Florida Supreme Court became concerned that the Sunshine State was becoming the “courthouse for the world.” With that concern in mind, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in 1996 that adopted the federal standard for forum non conveniens.

Forum non conveniens, which is Latin that translates into “forum not agreeing,” is a motion a party to a lawsuit may make in order to argue that another court, or forum, is in a better position to handle the case. Under the federal standard for forum non conveniens, a court must look at four things:  whether another forum exists that is both sufficient and has jurisdiction, the private interest factors of each side, whether “the relevant public interests” point in favor of another court, and whether or not the plaintiffs can bring suit in the alternative forum.

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steel pilingsThere are lots of minute items and details that go into putting together a successful commercial litigation case. For example, if you are pursuing a breach of contract case, it is important to have proof that the defendant’s alleged improper actions or inactions related to the contract you’ve cited in your case. That issue proved to be key in a successful appeal and a reversal of a $776,000 judgment handed down by a Broward County court. This case demonstrates that, whether your case is a $7,000 one or a $70 million one, it is vital to, with the help of experienced Florida contract litigation counsel, ensure that you have covered all of the necessary details.

The dispute underlying this case focused on a rental contract between a construction company and a company that provided steel sheet pilings. The pilings in question were ones used by the construction company on its work on the Interstate 595 project in Broward County. The agreement called for the pilings company to lease pilings to the construction company and for the construction company to pay the pilings company in periodic invoices.

A year later, with the construction company roughly $500,000 behind on its payments, the pilings company sued for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. In its amended complaint, the plaintiff attached the rental contract but did not attach any invoices or any other contracts. The plaintiff followed that up by filing a motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff argued that the construction company signed the deal, took delivery of the pilings, and did not pay the invoices. These facts alone established that it was entitled to judgment in its favor on the breach of contract claim, it argued.

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houseWhenever you go to court to seek relief based upon an alleged breach of contract, there are several keys to success. There is establishing liability. There is also establishing your damages. Both are essential parts of a positive outcome. Experienced Florida contract litigation attorneys can help with regard to crafting a winning case on both of these vital components.

The latter of these two was a major problem in one recent breach of contract case from the Second District Court of Appeal. The case involved two LLCs with very similar names that had entered into a contract to engage in a business venture. One LLC was responsible for finding “distressed mortgages that holders were typically willing to sell for less than face value.” The other LLC provided the capital to finance the purchase of the mortgages, and the first LLC serviced the loans for the second LLC. The parties executed the deal in 2003.

Then, the housing collapse happened, and the LLC responsible for finding the properties and servicing the loans fell deeply into debt. The parties worked out an oral agreement in which the servicing entity would not service any more loans and would transfer all of its existing files to its contract partner.

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AppleYour commercial litigation case can involve many battles, some of which may not always be expected. You may have to litigate items that go beyond just the contractual dispute that started your case. In one recent case, a plaintiff in a breach of contract case even had to litigate in order to use the attorney it preferred. Whatever the twists and turns in your case, it pays to have experienced Florida contract litigation attorneys on your side who can help you be prepared for anything.

Apple, Inc., the maker of many popular technological devices like iPhones and iPads, maintains a program in which it licenses certain businesses to operate as what it calls “Apple Authorized Resellers.” In order for a business to be licensed as an Apple Authorized Reseller, it must sign a contract with Apple. A Doral-headquartered business that maintained several locations in South Florida signed such a deal with Apple to sell and service Apple products as an Apple Authorized Reseller.

In 2012, that company signed a separate deal that granted to its new contract partner the right to use the authorized reseller’s trade name to sell Apple products in Fort Lauderdale. As part of their contractual relationship, the authorized reseller forced the Fort Lauderdale company to make certain purchases. Those forced purchases and the debt they caused the Fort Lauderdale company to incur eventually led those two businesses into court in Broward County, with the Fort Lauderdale company accusing the authorized reseller of breach of contract, among other things.