The firm's business litigation practice focuses on the following areas:
breach of contract
fraud, unfair competition
deceptive business practices
bad faith failure to provide insurance coverage
misappropriation of trade secrets
, breach of corporate duty, LLC or partnership agreement, and
interference with contracts or business relations
Additionally, the firm assists clients in setting up new businesses, including corporations, partnerships, LLCs, PLLCs, and will negotiate shareholder, partnership, or operating agreements on behalf of members, shareholders or partners.
The firm represents creditors, including financial institutions, medical services providers, builders, subcontractors, and any company or individual who sells goods and services on a high volume basis. The firm uses a unique three step process to maximize recovery for its clients. (1) Debt Collection. (2) Litigation. (3) Judgment Recovery. Many firms offer one or two of these services, but tend to lack expertise in all three. Whether you have a few large accounts, a high volume of small accounts, or a file of paper judgments that have never been collected on, you owe it to your company to turn these files over to someone with expertise in all three phases of the collection process. The vast majority of these files can be handled at little or no cost to you, the client.
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Note: the following descriptions are for general information only. They do not constitute legal advice. Neither are they intended to be complete descriptions of each type of case. A complete definition and analysis of each type of case would be much too lengthy to set forth here.
Breach of Contract
This is one of the most common legal matters. A breach occurs when a party to a contract fails to live up to their end of the deal. Typical scenarios include: unfinished or incorrect workmanship, undelivered goods, or nonpayment. Often there are multiple modifications to the original contract, many of them verbal, leading to complex issues later. The vast majority of business disputes will involve some variety of breach of contract.
Fraud occurs when any kind of false statement, or other representation, is made intentionally, to deceive the person reading or hearing it. Usually the idea is to get the other person to sign a contract, or perform a service. Typical scenarios include misrepresentations about the quality of a house or car, the type or extent of services to be provided under a contract, or the terms of payment. The writer or speaker must know the statement is false, and the person to whom it is directed must have relied upon it. If these elements exist, then the plaintiff may have a claim for fraud. Additionally, if fraud is proven against a business, there is a automatically a violation of the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, N.C.G.S. §§ 75-1 et seq.
A related action is called negligent misrepresentation. This action is similar to fraud, the primary difference being that the erroneous statement was made accidentally, or without knowing that it was false.
The North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, covers two primary topics: (1) unfair methods of competition among competing businesses, and (2) deceptive business practices.
Unfair and Deceptive Business Practices
The North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act covers virtually any kind of business activity imaginable. A violation requires only that a person or company suffer damages due to a "deceptive act or practice" "in or affecting commerce." This broadly worded law applies to virtually any kind of commercial activity imaginable.
Moreover, violations of this law are subject to triple damages, and attorneys fees may also be awarded. Violations of this law can be very expensive, and potentially devastating to any company doing business in North Carolina. Making matters even worse, the law does not require an intentional act, or bad faith by the defendant. Even a person intending to conduct their business ethically could violate this act.
This is a highly sophisticated and problematic area of law. Decisions turn on specific facts, and quite often, two seemingly similar cases will be decided in completely different ways. Because a violator is subject to treble damages, it is imperative that both plaintiffs and defendants seek counsel knowledgeable about the many subtleties and intricacies of this Act.
Since the law in this area can change quickly and with no warning to the typical business owner, it is advisable to periodically examine your business practices, and have them reviewed by counsel to ensure that your business employs the best possible practices to maintain compliance with this law.
For more information about the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, go to my weblog.
Bad Faith Failure to Provide Insurance Coverage
Policyholders often assume they will be covered by their insurance, only to find out later that their insurance company either won't pay their claims, or will try to low-ball them. Insurance companies can be held liable for damages if they act fraudulently or in bad faith. When you present a claim to your insurance company, it must adjust your claim, cooperate with you regarding the claim, tell you in writing exactly why it is denying the claim, identify each portion of the contract it is basing its denial on, and must attempt to find a basis to pay the claim (rather than looking for reasons not to pay). Intentionally making an offer the insurance company knows is too low could be considered bad faith under Chapter 75. Insurers have been known to offer less than the full value of your claim, insinuating that you can take pennies on the dollar today, or spend years in court trying to get the full amount. When people are in dire straits, such as having nowhere to live after a hurricane, they have very little bargaining power with which to seek their full compensation, and often end up unable to rebuild their homes or replace their property.
Misappropriation of Trade Secrets
Misappropriation typically occurs when an employee, competitor, or other party acquires, uses, or discloses business information they know, or should know, is a trade secret. This can also be a violation of the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and thus subject the wrongdoer to triple damages, and attorneys fees.
Even if the misappropriation is merely threatened, and has not happened yet, the law allows for an injunction to prevent anyone from revealing or making use of the misappropriated information.
Interference With Contracts or Business Relations
This is a claim that arises when there is a business relationship between two parties. When a third party comes along and interferes with that relationship, by inducing one not to do business with the other, they can be liable. These claims come in two primary forms: (1) prevention of the making of a contract, and (2) interfering with an existing contract. Depending on the egregiousness of the defendant's conduct, damages can be quite severe.