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South Florida Business Defeats Attempt to Have Court Disqualify its Attorney in Breach of Contract Case

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.

Shortly after the Fort Lauderdale company sued, the authorized reseller went to court, asking the judge to disqualify the Fort Lauderdale company’s lawyer, which would mean barring that attorney from doing anything in the case of behalf of his Fort Lauderdale client. The lawyer, the authorized reseller argued, had done work for it in the past, and that conflict meant that his advocating on behalf of the Fort Lauderdale company (and against the lawyer’s former client, the authorized reseller) would be something prohibited by the rules that govern attorneys.

After holding a court hearing, the trial judge disqualified the lawyer. On appeal, however, the Fort Lauderdale company emerged successful, getting its lawyer back on the case in the process. The trial court had based its decision largely upon two interactions between the contested attorney and the authorized reseller. One was a meeting that involved both the attorney and an agent of the authorized reseller, in which “general business” matters were discussed. The other was an interaction in which that same agent and the attorney discussed the authorized reseller’s contract with Apple (and in which the agent may have given the lawyer a copy of that Apple contract).

These things, by themselves, weren’t enough to force the attorney off the case, the appeals court decided. The first event — the meeting — was something in which third parties (including an officer of the Fort Lauderdale company) were present, which meant that any information exchanged could not possibly have been confidential attorney-client communications. The reseller’s contract with Apple similarly wasn’t confidential because, as with the meeting, third parties (including the Fort Lauderdale company) were made privy to that information.

When you find yourself embroiled in a dispute that has become commercial litigation, your case may go down many different paths, covering many different issues and areas of the law. It pays to be ready by being represented by strong and well-versed counsel. The hardworking South Florida contract litigation attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon have been helping clients handle the many and varied directions in which their commercial disputes have proceeded. Find out how our team can help you with your case.

Contact us online or by calling (305) 935-4440 to schedule your consultation and find out how this firm can help you protect your interests.

More blog posts:

South Florida Real Estate Agent Wins Appeal in Contract Breach Dispute with Broker, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, June 23, 2017

Stok Folk + Kon Client Secures $8M Award in Breach of Contract Litigation Victory, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, May 18, 2017

Photo Credit: OpenClipart-Vectors, [CC0 License], via Pixabay