Articles Posted in Commercial and Business

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Your sales distribution agreement is undoubtedly a very important contract to you. Whether you are the manufacturer or the distributor, these agreements can be vital to the success of your business. It stands to reason, then, that a breach of the agreement by the other side can be devastating to your business. Generally, proof of a breach will only entitle the injured party to monetary damages although, in some narrow circumstances, an injured party may be entitled to an injunction. To learn more about your array of options if you’ve been harmed by the breach of a commercial agreement, talk to an experienced South Florida commercial litigation attorney about your case.

One recent South Florida case offered a real-life example of a scenario that did not warrant an award of injunctive relief. On Jan. 1, 2017, a medical device company entered into an agreement with a distributor of medical devices. The agreement called for the latter to become an exclusive distributor of the former’s products in a specific sales territory for a period of five years. The agreement contained a clause that barred the distributor from selling products or services that the manufacturer considered to be in competition with its own.

Almost 12 months later, the two entities wound up in court. The manufacturer accused the distributor of breaching the contract. The manufacturer alleged that the distributor tried to unilaterally cancel the agreement and also solicited business on behalf of one of the manufacturer’s chief competitors.

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Sometimes, when the entity with which you have contracted does not perform as it promised in your agreement, resolving that problem can be as straightforward as suing, obtaining a favorable verdict and damages award, and then receiving payment from the party that lost. At other times, though, deciding to bring a breach of contract lawsuit to resolve your commercial dispute is just the beginning. Whatever your commercial litigation case needs, make sure that you have Florida business litigation counsel who is familiar with all of the techniques and tools available to protect your interests.

The seeds of what would become a protracted commercial litigation case began with a real estate investor’s agreement to purchase several notes and mortgages for several properties. The purchaser wired more than $370,000 to the sellers, but they never transferred the notes or the mortgages. The failure led the buyer to sue for breach of contract and fraud. The crux of the buyer’s complaint was that the sellers didn’t actually own the mortgages and notes they purported to sell and had no intention of doing anything other than pocketing the payment provided by the purchaser.

The sellers did not take any action, and the buyer obtained a default judgment. The judgment called for the sellers to pay the buyer almost $430,000. The buyer eventually concluded that pursuing the seller companies directly was not going to yield actual payment, so it employed a new strategy. The buyer launched a supplemental legal action in which it attempted to “pierce the corporate veil” in order to go after the assets of the two individuals who owned the seller companies, as well as their other entities. The action also named the couple’s children.

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One of the most fundamental decisions that has to be made in any commercial litigation action is where to bring the lawsuit. Obviously, there are many considerations that go into this decision. It is essential, though, to make sure that the court you select is a proper forum and has jurisdiction over the parties you seek to sue. Without jurisdiction, the court cannot act, and your case cannot proceed. When making these and other vital decisions, it pays to get advice from knowledgeable Florida commercial litigation counsel.

The underlying case that led to this recent jurisdiction argument was a contract dispute between a Central Florida substance abuse and eating disorder rehab facility and an insurance company based in Maryland. According to the rehab facility, it provided treatment to eight of the insurance company’s members, and it confirmed the members’ eligibility under each of their insurance policies.

The rehab facility didn’t get paid and sued the insurance company for breach of contract in Broward County. The insurance company sought an order dismissing the case against it, arguing that it did not have sufficient contacts with Florida to give the Florida courts jurisdiction over it.

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Commercial landlords face many potential challenges with regard to their tenants. For example, what does it mean if a tenant stays on past the expiration of the lease period but continues paying rent month to month? What does it mean if that tenant eventually stops paying rent but still does not vacate the property? Each of these two scenarios is legally different and may call for different legal responses. To ensure that your interests are fully protected, make sure you have a knowledgeable South Florida landlord-tenant attorney representing your business.

Recently, a court outside Florida was presented with an interesting legal question. In the case, a commercial tenant (a medical clinic) had leased a space from a landlord. The term of the most recent written lease had expired in 2003. After that expiration, the tenant remained, paying rent month-to-month. In July of 2011, the tenant stopped paying rent. In December, the landlord sent a notice telling the tenant to pay up or get out. The tenant did not respond.

The landlord next filed an unlawful detainer action. Between the filing of the unlawful detainer action and the order of eviction, plumbing problems caused raw sewage to flow from the sinks in the space, permanently damaging the medical equipment, supplies, and patient records of the tenant. The tenant sued the landlord for negligence (among other causes of action). The case went to the Court of Appeal, which determined that the landlord was not liable to the tenant for damages.

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Seeking to invalidate an agreement based upon a contract term that is allegedly unenforceable under the law can be tricky. The court may decide that the provision is, in fact, enforceable under Florida law. Alternately, the court may decide that the provision is unenforceable but that it is severable and, as a result, the larger agreement survives. Success, if you are seeking invalidation, lies in proving that the problematic provision was unenforceable and that it was integral to the larger agreement. If you find yourself challenging a commercial contract for this or any other reason, be sure you have representation from experienced South Florida commercial litigation attorneys on your side.

These issues of enforceability and severability were at the center of a recent dispute in South Florida. The agreement was a “subcontract” in which a construction management firm contracted for the subcontractor’s provision of doors in an assisted living facility. The subcontractor allegedly completed all of its obligations under the agreement. However, more than $100,000 remained due and unpaid, according to the door company.

So, the subcontractor sued the contractor and its surety in South Florida. Not wanting to go through a full civil trial, the contractor and the surety asked the judge to compel arbitration. The subcontract contained an arbitration provision that covered any “claim, dispute or other matter in question arising out of or related to this Subcontract Agreement.”

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In any commercial contract, there are several things you are going to want to be sure the document has. However, in addition to having each of the “nuts” and “bolts” that are necessary to accomplish your objectives, all of the contract’s pieces need to mesh together into one cohesive, clear, and unambiguous agreement. If the document lacks clarity and unambiguity, this may lead to problems for you later, including in circumstances in which you need to litigate a dispute over the agreement, as one commercial landlord found in its recent Florida court case. To protect your interests, make sure you are working with an experienced and knowledgeable Florida landlord-tenant attorney when it comes to the preparation of your lease agreement.

The recent case was a dispute between a Miami-Dade landlord and its commercial tenant. The tenant was a seller of watches, jewelry. and other valuables. The landlord provided a master safe for storage of the tenant’s valuable items. The lease contract stated that the landlord assumed no legal responsibility for losses due to burglary, fire, or the vault doors failing to close properly. At some point, the tenant suffered a loss and sued the landlord for that loss. According to the tenant’s lawsuit, the landlord allowed an unauthorized person to access the master safe, and that unauthorized person removed $2 million worth of the tenant’s items.

The landlord took the logical step of asking the trial judge to throw out the case. The landlord’s argument was that the exculpatory clause in the lease agreement clearly covered the scenario that triggered the tenant’s loss, which meant that the landlord had no liability, and the tenant had no case. The trial judge agreed and ordered the matter dismissed.

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In the course of your commercial litigation action, you may reach a point at which your interests dictate getting a court order that prevents your opponent from taking certain actions. If you decide to seek an order of injunctive relief, there are certain specific things that you’ll have to demonstrate to the court in order to succeed. Whether you are seeking to use an injunction or some other legal tool to advance your interests in your commercial dispute, it pays to make sure that you have a skilled Florida commercial litigation attorney on your side.

One recent commercial contract case from Miami provided an example of what it takes to get a valid injunction. The basis for the underlying case was a commercial services agreement that called for one entity to provide services and to advance funds to the other entity. In exchange for the provision of services and advance of funds, the service provider was to receive a 20% interest in the profits of the other entity, an investment company.

There are certain circumstances under which a business agreement and compensation provision like the one outlined above might be easily workable. There are other situations, though, in which it can become complicated. A circumstance in which the business arrangement sours and in which the recipient of services owns exactly one asset, which it is poised to sell, is an example of the latter. That was the situation facing this service provider. It had not received the compensation to which it thought it was entitled, and the entity that owed payment to it was allegedly on the verge of selling its only asset and distributing those proceeds.

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In some cases, completing your trial and getting a favorable verdict and an award of damages is the end of the line. In other cases, securing a judgment is just one step among many in obtaining the final outcome you need. Your situation may dictate that you have to take one or even multiple legal actions in order to get the money that the trial court said you were owed. These situations illustrate the importance of having experienced Florida commercial litigation counsel who can help you at every step required to get the compensation owed to you.

A recent case from South Florida is an example of a scenario in which the award of damages was not the “end of the road.” The owner of a fast-foot restaurant chain and an ice cream brand had sued a Panamanian corporation in Panama and won, with the court awarding damages to the plaintiff. In seeking to collect on its judgment, the plaintiff engaged in further investigation and discovered that a third party held, in a bank account in Miami, more than $13 million in funds. The significance of this entity and its bank account was that, allegedly, that third party owed the defendant $13 million.

Since the money allegedly was owed to the defendant, and the defendant owed the plaintiff payment of the damages award, the plaintiff served a writ of garnishment on the bank. The writ of garnishment is the tool that allows you, as the creditor, to seize money owed to you by a defendant, even though that money is held by a third party. Sometimes, these writs can be used to seize from an employer the wages of an employee who owes a court-ordered obligation or payment. Other times, it can be used in situations like this.

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In your commercial litigation case, there are several things that are necessary parts of achieving the beneficial result your business needs. One of these is understanding the rules of court procedure and using them accordingly. The proper use of the rules can aid your case, while failing to follow the rules can possibly be fatal to your case. This is just one of many areas in which it helps to have representation from an experienced Florida commercial litigation attorney.

One case in which the rules of procedure played a key role was a commercial lease dispute from Miami-Dade County. The plaintiff in the case, which was recently decided by the Third District Court of Appeal, actually sued three entities.

When you file a lawsuit in civil court, you have certain procedural rights. For one thing, the rules say that you may amend your complaint one time “as a matter of right.” In this case, the plaintiff availed itself of that right and filed an amended complaint. The filing of this amended complaint happened before any of the defendants had filed anything in the case. The trial court gave the plaintiff “assurances that the plaintiff would have an opportunity to amend.”

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Many times, winning your commercial litigation action may come down to the factual evidence you have. In other situations, achieving a fully successful result also requires a detailed knowledge of the rules of court procedure, as one case originally from Palm Beach County recently demonstrated. The rule that the plaintiff cited in its court papers made all of the difference in allowing that party to sue all of the defendants it desired to include in its contract dispute case. This example demonstrates how the knowledge and skill of experienced Florida contract litigation counsel can help you achieve favorable results.

The origins of the case began with a commercial contract between a precious metals and rare coins company and a marketing entity. The marketing entity agreed to promote the coin company’s publications for 15 years. In exchange, the coin company agreed to pay the marketing firm a percentage of net revenues.

Eventually, the relationship soured. The coin company sued the marketing firm in federal court, alleging violations of federal intellectual property law, as well as asserting state law claims. The federal court decided to dismiss the state law claims from the federal action, and those went forward in a separate state law case.