Category Archives: Business Litigation Practice Area

SAM Partner Michael Sherman Representing Danny Wimmer in Litigation Battle

Danny WimmerStubbs Alderton & Markiles Partner Michael Sherman is lead counsel to Danny Wimmer Presents in a legal battle against his former law firm disputing their 14.3 percent membership claim to his company DWP. Danny Wimmer Presents is a music festival production and promotion company that is headquartered in Los Angeles.

To read the full article on Pollstar click here.

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles attorneys representing Danny Wimmer Presents are Michael A. Sherman, David Harris, and Barak J. Kamelgard.

Michael ShermanMichael Sherman  is an accomplished trial lawyer in high-stakes, “bet-the-company” litigation, and has represented both large and early-stage companies as well as entrepreneurs in all facets of business and complex commercial litigation. He has evenly split his litigation practice on both the plaintiff and defense side of cases, has first-chaired numerous trials in complex matters in industries as varied as energy, securities, healthcare, environmental, consumer products, technology, project development/finance, advertising, real estate and apparel, and is highly skilled in class actions and unfair competition law.

For more information on our Business Litigation Practice, contact Michael A. Sherman at msherman@stubbsalderton.com.

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The Los Angeles Increase in Minimum Wage and Who It Affects

Is Your Company Subject to the Minimum Wage Ordinance Taking Effect July 1, 2017?

The Office of Wage Standards increases the Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County minimum wage rates under the Minimum Wage Enforcement Ordinances.  If your minimum wage employees are on a bi-weekly pay schedule, starting the next pay period, they may be entitled to wage increases.  If the employees actually perform their work within Los Angeles City or Los Angeles County boundaries and they are not public employees, then the new minimum wage law (starting July 1, 2017) affects minimum wage employees’ pay rate in accordance with either the “small business” category (25 employees or fewer) or the “regular business” category (26 employees or greater).

For businesses that operate within the City of Los Angeles or the County of Los Angeles and are subject to either ordinance, pay rates for their employees increase next month.  The increase takes place this July 1, 2017 from $10.00 to $10.50 per hour for companies with 25 or less employees, and from $10.50 to $12.00 per hour for companies with 26 or more employees.

The City and County of Los Angeles only count the employees that work within the City and County boundaries—not outside—because an employee is defined as those “employees that work within the geographical boundaries,” so those employees outside the geographical boundaries do not help those employees within boundaries get the higher increase because they are not considered employees for purposes of this City or County Ordinance.

If you are unsure if your company or employer is subject to the small business category or regular business category, complete a MW2-MWO worksheet located at www.wagesla.lacity.org to find out.

To see if your company is within the boundaries governed by the City or County Ordinances, visit www.neighborhoodinfo.lacity.org.

For more information on wage and hour legal issues, including litigation, please contact Ryan C. C. Duckett at rduckett@stubbsalderton.com or Jeffrey F. Gersh at jgersh@stubbsalderton.com, or call (818) 444-4500.

Nothing herein shall be constituted as legal advice.

 

About Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP is a business law firm with robust corporate, public securities, mergers and acquisitions, entertainment, intellectual property, brand protection and business litigation practice groups focusing on the representation of, among others, venture backed emerging growth companies, middle market public companies, large technology companies, entertainment and digital media companies, investors, venture capital funds, investment bankers and underwriters. The firm’s clients represent the full spectrum of Southern California business with a concentration in the technology, entertainment, videogame, apparel and medical device sectors. Our mission is to provide technically excellent legal services in a consistent, highly-responsive and service-oriented manner with an entrepreneurial and practical business perspective. These principles are the hallmarks of our Firm.

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SAM Partner Michael Sherman Featured in Law360 representing Cocrystal Pharma

Law360Stubbs Alderton & Markiles’ Partner Michael A. Sherman was featured on Law360 representing Cocrystal Pharma, Inc. (COCP) against BioZone Laboratories Inc. and provided his insight into the difficult situation facing both companies.

The full article on Law360 can be viewed here.

Michael Sherman is an accomplished trial lawyer in high-stakes, “bet-the-company” litigation, and has represented both large and early-stage companies as well as entrepreneurs in all facets of business and complex commercial litigation. He has evenly split his litigation practice on both the plaintiff and defense side of cases, has first-chaired numerous trials in complex matters in industries as varied as energy, securities, healthcare, environmental, consumer products, technology, project development/finance, advertising, real estate and apparel, and is highly skilled in class actions and unfair competition law.

For more information on our Business Litigation Practice, contact Michael A. Sherman at msherman@stubbsalderton.com.

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Six Stubbs Alderton & Markiles’ Attorneys Listed as 2017 Southern California Super Lawyers

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP is pleased to announce that six lawyers have been named to the 2017 Southern California Super Lawyers. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

Super Lawyers Magazine features the list and profiles of selected attorneys and is distributed to attorneys in the state or region and the ABA-accredited law school libraries. Super Lawyers is also published as a special section in leading city and regional magazines across the country. Lawyers are selected to a Super Lawyers list in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP would like to congratulate the following attorneys named to the 2017 Super Lawyers list –

Scott Alderton - Super LawyersScott Alderton is a founding partner of the Firm, Managing Partner, and a member of the Firm’s Executive Committee.  Scott is co-chair of the Firm’s Venture Capital and Emerging Growth Practice Group and chair’s the Firm’s Interactive Entertainment and Video Games Group. Scott advises both public and private clients across a number of industries, including technology, manufacturing and distribution of goods in commerce, finance, the Internet, interactive video games, and new media industries.

Joe Stubbs - Super LawyersJoe Stubbs is a founding partner of the Firm, and a member of the Firm’s Executive Committee. He is co-chair of the Firm’s Venture Capital and Emerging Growth Practice Group, and of the Firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions Practice Group. Joe practices in the areas of corporate and securities law, emphasizing the corporate representation of both publicly-held and privately-held emerging growth and middle-market companies, venture capital and private equity firms, angel investment groups and investment banks.

Michael Sherman - Super LawyersMichael Sherman is an accomplished trial lawyer in high-stakes, “bet-the-company” litigation, and has represented both large and early-stage companies as well as entrepreneurs in all facets of business and complex commercial litigation. He has evenly split his litigation practice on both the plaintiff and defense side of cases, has first-chaired numerous trials in complex matters in industries as varied as energy, securities, healthcare, environmental, consumer products, technology, project development/finance, advertising, real estate and apparel, and is highly skilled in class actions and unfair competition law.

Jeffrey F. GershJeff Gersh - Super Lawyers is a Partner of the Firm. He has litigated, arbitrated, or mediated complex business and commercial matters, for both plaintiffs and defendants, whether individuals, public or private corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies and/or its members, shareholders and partners, involving various types of disputes, including contract matters, trade secrets, intellectual property (trademarks, copyrights and trade dress) negligence and fraud, employment, real estate, license agreements, the apparel and garment industry, and general business matters.

Kevin Debre - Super LawyersKevin D. DeBré is the chair of the Firm’s Intellectual Property & Technology Transactions Practice Group.  Kevin advises entrepreneurs and companies that use intellectual property to build their businesses.  Kevin has particular expertise in structuring and negotiating technology commercialization and patent licenses, strategic alliances, research and development collaborations, trademark licensing and brand merchandising agreements and manufacturing, distribution and marketing arrangements.  He also counsels clients on compliance with data security and privacy laws and regulations.

Tony Keats is a partner of the Firm and Co-chair of the Trademark and Copyright Practice Tony Keats - Super LawyersGroup. Tony’s almost three decade legal career has focused on both the legal and business protection of brands and creative content from consumer products to entertainment, from designer goods to the Internet. Since he commenced practice, he has provided counsel and has litigated cases on behalf of many of the world’s largest consumer product and entertainment companies, as well as individual entrepreneurs, actors, and musicians. Tony’s litigation background also includes related commercial matters involving unfair competition, contract disputes, rights of publicity violations, business torts, domain name infringement, and idea submission claims.

The official Super Lawyers 2017 publication can be read in its entirety here.

For more information about Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, contact Heidi Hubbeling at hhubbeling@stubbsalderton.com or (310) 746-9803.

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Two of Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP Attorneys Named to 2017 Best Lawyers® in America List

logo-best-lawyersDecember 2016 — Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP is pleased to announce that two lawyers have been named to the 2017 Edition of Best Lawyers®, the oldest and most respected peer review publication in the legal profession.

Best Lawyers
 has published their list for over three decades, earning the respect of the profession, the media, and the public as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals. Its first international list was published in 2006 and since then has grown to provide lists in over 70 countries.

Best Lawyers is the most effective tool in identifying critical legal expertise,” said CEO Steven Naifeh. “Inclusion on this list shows that an attorney is respected by his or her peers for professional success.”

Lawyers on the Best Lawyers in America list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers on the basis of professional expertise, and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and in good standing.

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP would like to congratulate the following attorneys named to the 2017 Best Lawyers in America list:

  • Scott Alderton- Venture Capital Law
  • Michael A. Sherman- Commercial Litigation

scottScott Alderton is a founding partner of the Firm, Managing Partner, and a member of the Firm’s Executive Committee.  Scott is co-chair of the Firm’s Venture Capital and Emerging Growth Practice Group and chair’s the Firm’s Interactive Entertainment and Video Games Group. Scott advises both public and private clients across a number of industries, including technology, manufacturing and distribution of goods in commerce, finance, the Internet, interactive video games, and new media industries.

Michael Sherman is an accomplished trial lawyer in high-stakes, “bet-the-company” litigation, michael-shermanand has represented both large and early-stage companies as well as entrepreneurs in all facets of business and complex commercial litigation. He has evenly split his litigation practice on both the plaintiff and defense side of cases, has first-chaired numerous trials in complex matters in industries as varied as energy, securities, healthcare, environmental, consumer products, technology, project development/finance, advertising, real estate and apparel, and is highly skilled in class actions and unfair competition law.

The official Best Lawyers 2017 publication can be read in its entirety here.

For more information on our Venture Capital and Emerging Growth Practice, contact Scott Alderton at salderton@stubbsalderton.com.

For more information on our Business Litigation Practice, contact Michael A. Sherman at msherman@stubbsalderton.com.

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Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP ranked in 2017 “Best Law Firms” for Commercial Litigation

SAM-High-Res-Logo-1December 2016 — U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers, for the sixth consecutive year, announce the “Best Law Firms” rankings.

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP has been ranked in the 2017 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” list and regionally in 1 practice areas.

Firms included in the 2017 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.

The 2017 Edition of “Best Law Firms” includes rankings in 74 national practice areas and 122 metropolitan-based practice areas. One “Law Firm of the Year” is named in each of the 74 nationally ranked practice areas.

Ranked firms, presented in tiers, are listed on a national and/or metropolitan scale. Receiving a tier designation reflects the high level of respect a firm has earned among other leading lawyers and clients in the same communities and the same practice areas for their abilities, their professionalism and their integrity.

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP received the following rankings in the 2016 U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms”:

  • Regional Tier 2
    • Los Angeles
      • Commercial Litigation

The official Best Lawyers 2017 publication can be read in its entirety here.

For more information about Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP contact the firm at info@stubbsalderton.com.

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Indemnification and Advancement of Directors and Officers for a Utah Corporation Doing Business in California

Corporate counsel is asked to make many decisions on behalf of a corporate client. A corporate client may seek advice on choice of law selection or where it should incorporate. At the initial founding stages, many clients do not consider that the place of incorporation and choice of law will affect the corporation’s obligations to indemnify and advance expenses to directors and officers.sealofutahstateseal

For this analysis, even if the client chooses to incorporate in Utah, if most of its business is being performed in California, it will be deemed a “quasi-California” corporation pursuant to California Corporations Code section 2115 and will be made subject to several California laws regulating corporations.[1] If the corporation wants to initiate a lawsuit against a director or officer that has failed to act in the best interest of the corporation, counsel must consider where the corporation should file the lawsuit. Crucial to this consideration is that California and Utah have different standards for granting indemnification and advancement of expenses. The choice of forum will dictate the requirements and obligations of the corporation to advance and indemnify its officers and directors.

Indemnification:

A Utah corporation that meets the requirements set forth in California Corporations Code section 2115 will be deemed a “quasi-California” corporation and will be subject to a host of expressly delineated laws regulating out-of-state corporations. Included in the list of applicable provisions is California Corporations Code section 317, California’s law on indemnification and advancement. Section 317(e) provides the law on indemnification:

“any indemnification under this section shall be made by the corporation only if authorized in the specific case, upon a determination that indemnification of the agent is proper in the circumstances because the agent has met the applicable standard of conduct …”

The indemnification provision of section 317 is limited by a standard of conduct determination, meaning that the corporation will have some ability to control who receives indemnification and who does not. The standard of conduct set forth in section 317(b) requires a determination that the person to be indemnified “acted in good faith and in a manner the person reasonably believed to be in the best interest of the corporation…” By comparison, the indemnification statute in Utah operates the same way, requiring the corporation to make a determination that the person to be indemnified has met the applicable standard of conduct and has taken action in good faith and in a manner he or she reasonably believed was in the best interest of the corporation.[2] With little variance between the indemnification provisions in California and Utah, it could be expected that the law on advancement would also be similar. But that would be an incorrect assumption.

Advancement:

The Utah statute on advancement is similar to the indemnification statute, requiring that, “a determination is made that the facts then known to those making the determination would not preclude indemnification…”[3] However, unlike the Utah statute, the advancement provision in California is not limited by a standard of conduct determination, or any determination at all. Instead, the California advancement statute states:

“Expenses incurred in defending any proceeding may be advanced by the corporation prior to the final disposition of the proceeding upon receipt of an undertaking by or on behalf of the agent to repay that amount if it shall be determined ultimately that the agent is not entitled to be indemnified as authorized in this section.”

See Cal. Corp. Code § 317(f).

The only requirement for advancement under California law is that the person seeking advancement deliver an undertaking to repay the amount advanced if it is ultimately determined that he or she is not entitled to be indemnified. It is unclear whether the delivery of an undertaking requires anything more than a written promise to pay back any amounts advanced.

This is an important and interesting distinction between California and Utah law, and one that counsel must consider in evaluating disputes between a Utah corporation and its officers and directors. The result of choosing to apply California law is that the corporation might be obligated to provide advancement to its directors and officers without any determination of whether that person meets the applicable standard of conduct, limiting its ability to deny advancement those who have acted outside the best interests of the corporation.

[1] For the full list of provisions quasi-California corporations are made subject to, see California Corporations Code § 2115(b).

[2] Utah Revised Business Corporation Act 16-10a-902(1).

[3] Utah Revised Business Corporation Act 16-10a-904(1).

gina-correia_092-2-300x200

For more information about this topic, contact Gina Correia at (818) 444-4500 or gcorreia@stubbsalderton.com.  Gina Correia is a litigation associate of the Firm. Gina’s practice focuses on all stages of business litigation. Prior to joining the firm, Gina worked in-house as a business affairs law clerk for HBO. Gina’s prior experience in the entertainment industry focused on talent engagement negotiations including drafting contract request, calculating actor, producer, and writer fees for top-tier talent, and evaluating comprehensive deal points. Gina also previously worked for The Los Angeles Office of the District Attorney in the Consumer Protection Division where she researched and analyzed wire-tapping violations under Penal Code and Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

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Doing Business in California: “Quasi-California” Corporations Made Subject to California’s Corporate Laws

smallerMany, but not all, provisions of the California Corporations Code expressly apply if a private, out-of-state corporation has a sufficient “presence” in California (called a “quasi-California” corporation.) An out-of-state corporation is treated as a “quasi-California” corporation, and thus subject to specified provisions of California Corporations Code, if (1) more than half its business (based upon a three-factor formula including property, payroll, and sales) is done in California (the “doing-business” test); and, (2) more than half of its voting securities are held of record by persons having addresses within the state of California (the “voting-shares” test).[1]

For analysis, hypothetical SmallCorp, Inc. is incorporated outside of California with substantially all of its business performed inside California.

Hypothetical Illustration: Does SmallCorp, Inc. Satisfy the Requirements of § 2115(a) to Qualify as a “Quasi-California” Corporation?

 A.    The “Doing-Business” Test

To satisfy the “doing-business” test, a corporation must do more than half of its business in California. The three “doing-business” factors are: (1) property, (2) payroll, and (3) sales. The first question is whether the proportion of a company’s property, payroll, and sales in California compared to the company’s total property, payroll, and sales is more than 50 percent during its latest full income year. (See Corp. Code §2115(a)(1).)

To determine whether the factors meet the one-half doing business requirement, sections 25129, 25132, and 25134 of the Revenue and Taxation Code define the factors as follows and provide the necessary equations:

· the property factor is a fraction, the numerator of which is the average value of the taxpayer’s real and tangible personal property owned or rented and used in this state during the taxable year and the denominator of which is the average value of all the taxpayer’s real and tangible personal property owned or rented and used during the taxable year;

· the payroll factor is a fraction, the numerator of which is the total amount paid in this state during the taxable year by the taxpayer for compensation, and the denominator of which is the total compensation paid everywhere during the taxable year; and

· the sales factor is a fraction, the numerator of which is the total sales of the taxpayer in this state during the taxable year, and the denominator of which is the total sales of the taxpayer everywhere during the taxable year.

Thus, if the average of the property factor, the payroll factor, and the sales factor is greater than 50 percent during its latest full income year, the “doing-business” test is satisfied.

Assume SmallCorp owns property such as products, machinery, office equipment, and also rents office space in California. SmallCorp does not own or rent any property in any other state. So, the equation is as follows:

(1) Property —-> property in CA / all property    =   1/1       = 100%

SmallCorp has several employees, 90% of whom live and work in California. Accordingly, SmallCorp pays 90% of total compensation paid to all SmallCorp employees to those who live and work within California, as demonstrated below:

(2) Payroll —>   amounts paid in compensation in CA / total amounts paid in compensation =  9/10  = 90%

For this hypothetical, because the first two factors result in 100% and 90% of business performed in California, even if 0% of sales, the next factor, occurred in California, SmallCorp would still do more than one-half of its business in California, satisfying the “quasi-California” requirements. Assuming SmallCorp has no sales in California, the equation is as follows:

(3) Sales —>  ​sales in CA / all sales   =  0/1   =    0%

This conclusion is reached by taking the average of 100%, 90%, and 0%, then dividing the total sum (190%), by the count (3) which equals 63.3% of SmallCorp’s business is done in California.

For a more representative hypothetical, assume that SmallCorp does 70% of its sales in California. If sales are 70% in California, the amount of total business performed in California is 86%, using the same formula: (total sum ÷ count). Accordingly, the proportion of a SmallCorp’s property, payroll, and sales in California compared to the company’s total property, payroll, and sales is more than 50 percent and the “doing-business” test is satisfied.

B.     The “Voting-Shares” Test

The second test is whether the corporation’s outstanding voting securities held of record by persons with California addresses is greater than 50 percent. (See Corp Code §2115(a)(2)).

Assume there are two voting shareholders in SmallCorp: Arnold and Ford. Arnold’s address is in Hermosa Beach, California. Ford’s address is in Orange County, California. Thus, both shareholders of voting securities have addresses in California. The “voting-shares” test is satisfied because 100% of SmallCorp’s shareholders have addresses in California.

​SmallCorp will qualify as a “quasi-California” corporation under section 2115(a) because more than 50 percent of its business is done in California and more than 50 percent of its voting shares are held by shareholders with addresses in California. As such, corporate counsel should consider the additional requirements that California will place on a corporation that is “doing business” in California pursuant to section 2115(b), including the imposition of specific sections of the California Corporations Code.[2] For that reason, this long-arm statute’s constitutionality has been called into question by courts of other jurisdictions.

gina-correia_092-2-300x200Gina Correia is a litigation associate of the Firm. Gina’s practice focuses on all stages of business litigation. Prior to joining the firm, Gina worked in-house as a business affairs law clerk for HBO. Gina’s prior experience in the entertainment industry focused on talent engagement negotiations including drafting contract request, calculating actor, producer, and writer fees for top-tier talent, and evaluating comprehensive deal points. Gina also previously worked for The Los Angeles Office of the District Attorney in the Consumer Protection Division where she researched and analyzed wire-tapping violations under Penal Code and Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

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“How to Tighten Contracts & Minimize the Expense of Litigation” by Ryan C.C. Duckett

Simple Contract Drafting and Negotiation Tips

From the inception of creating a contract to the closing prior to execution, word accuracy and term clarity helps shield contracts from that not so slim chance that, my contract won’t be litigated.  Do not be so quick to “Frankenstein” a contract with a myriad of cut and pastes. A little precaution can save your client a great deal of fortune.

Introduction of Contracts: The introductory clause of a contract is as critical as the body because it identifies the parties of an agreement. What seems so simple is easy to overlook. For instance, in a 2015 celebrity case dismissed on 9/11, and affirmed in 2016 by the California Court of Appeal, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian filed suit against Chad Hurley and AVOS Systems, Inc. for broadcasting confidential video of Kanye’s marriage proposal to Kim in violation of a confidentiality provision precluding publishing any video of Kanye’s proposal before it was published by Kim’s reality TV show Keeping Up With The Kardashians. The case was decided on whether Hurley’s tweet with a link to video of the proposal was a breach of the agreement by AVOS. Although Hurley was CEO of AVOS, he never signed the agreement on behalf of AVOS – according to him – and, whether someone is acting on behalf of a company is a question of facts, which means, it’s for a jury to decide[1]. Hurley was found liable but his company AVOS got off scot-free. Seriously? How could it be more obvious what was intended by Kanye and Kim? Simple…A quick definition defining all parties at the onset of the contract removes any question of fact, making it clear who the agreement binds.

Terms of Contracts: The terms of a contract should be as black and white as the paper it’s on. Many common words such as “material”, “full disclosure” or “efforts,” originally thought of as pinpointing the intentions, recently are vastly becoming more diluted from overuse, leaving too much room for interpretation. For example, what is material to one may not be so material to another, especially in contracts when interests are adverse and what one cares about, the other does not. Unfortunately, parties wait until the heat of litigation until clarifying what was originally intended.

By way of another example: Q. How are best efforts different from reasonable efforts?When parties enter into an exclusive distribution agreement, they like to set the tone for the distributor about the “efforts” the distributor must apply. Although California courts have yet to divulge into intricacies behind levels of effort, New York courts have and find it “murky.” Under the Uniform Commercial Code § 2-306(2), the producer may want to remain silent on the degree of effort to be expended by the distributor because it requires “best efforts…unless otherwise agreed.” In an original case defining best efforts, Falstaff Brewing Co. bought Ballantine brewing labels, trademarks, and everything else but the beer, with a promise to use “best efforts” to distribute it. Well, along came Guinness beer with an unprecedented low price. Falstaff intuitively succumbed to distributing the lower priced beer. Falstaff, however, was held in breach for failing to continue selling Ballantine, even though Falstaff was forced to incur an economic loss by doing so.[2]

Where parties have contracted to use a lesser degree of efforts, such as ”reasonable efforts” or “commercially reasonable efforts,” the courts held that such efforts are “interchangeable” with “best efforts.”[3]  Bottom line being to expressly articulate criteria intended to qualify as meeting your client’s “justifiable expectations,”[4]instead of leaving it to a precarious chance by courts’ “case by case” rulings.

Dispute Resolution of Contracts:  At the negotiation stage, many parties try to rush through the dispute resolution terms in the face of a breach, hoping this will never be the case. Coincidentally, this is the best and only time to negotiate such difficult terms. In a February 18, 2016 case initiated by Allstate Insurance for an insured’s alleged breach, the Defendants successfully dismissed the action immediately when the trial court ruled that a pre-litigation demand letter adequately satisfied the terms to enter into “good-faith negotiations” before filing a lawsuit.[5] Literally, “good faith negotiations before filing a lawsuit” really means an agreement to try to agree, but requires no back and forth process. If you want more good faith interaction before someone races to file a lawsuit, the contract should explicitly state each step a party must take.

Although, only a few primary examples are discussed, there are frequent circumstances that ultimately lead to litigation resulting from contracts using common pitfalls. Taking the time to contact an attorney like those at Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP, may be the solution to tighten a contract enough to minimize the potential expense of litigation.

________________________________

151215-Stubbs-116-retouched_600x400For any further information on tips or avoiding litigation, contact Ryan C. C. Duckett at rduckett@stubbsalderton.comor 818-444-4546. Ryan Duckett is an attorney of Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP. Ryan’s practice focuses primarily on employment, commercial, intellectual property and entertainment litigation. He has successfully litigated cases for both plaintiffs and defendants with trials and appellate experience that has secured over millions of dollars in jury verdicts for his clients, to arguing California jury instructions that were created by the case he second chaired.  He manages and handles all aspects of civil actions from pre-litigation matters to law & motion to trials, post-trials & appeals.

 

[1] Pacific Concrete Products Corp. v. Dimmick (1955) 136 Cal.App.2d 834, 838.

[2] Bloor v. Falstaff Brewing Co. (1979) 601 F.2d 609, 609-613.

[3] Samson Lift Tech., LLC v. Jerr-Dan Co. (Sup. Ct. 2014)

[4] E. Allan Farnsworth, Contracts § 7.17 (3d Ed. 2004)

[5] Allstate Ins. Co. v. Berg (Cal.1st.Dist., Div. 4, Feb. 2016 – affirmed)

The contents of this article do not constitute legal advice and are not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice or opinions.

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“How to Tighten Contracts & Minimize the Expense of Litigation” by Ryan C.C. Duckett

Simple Contract Drafting and Negotiation Tips

From the inception of creating a contract to the closing prior to execution, word accuracy and term clarity helps shield contracts from that not so slim chance that, my contract won’t be litigated.  Do not be so quick to “Frankenstein” a contract with a myriad of cut and pastes. A little precaution can save your client a great deal of fortune.

Introduction of Contracts: The introductory clause of a contract is as critical as the body because it identifies the parties of an agreement. What seems so simple is easy to overlook. For instance, in a 2015 celebrity case dismissed on 9/11, and affirmed in 2016 by the California Court of Appeal, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian filed suit against Chad Hurley and AVOS Systems, Inc. for broadcasting confidential video of Kanye’s marriage proposal to Kim in violation of a confidentiality provision precluding publishing any video of Kanye’s proposal before it was published by Kim’s reality TV show Keeping Up With The Kardashians. The case was decided on whether Hurley’s tweet with a link to video of the proposal was a breach of the agreement by AVOS. Although Hurley was CEO of AVOS, he never signed the agreement on behalf of AVOS – according to him – and, whether someone is acting on behalf of a company is a question of facts, which means, it’s for a jury to decide[1]. Hurley was found liable but his company AVOS got off scot-free. Seriously? How could it be more obvious what was intended by Kanye and Kim? Simple…A quick definition defining all parties at the onset of the contract removes any question of fact, making it clear who the agreement binds.

Terms of Contracts: The terms of a contract should be as black and white as the paper it’s on. Many common words such as “material”, “full disclosure” or “efforts,” originally thought of as pinpointing the intentions, recently are vastly becoming more diluted from overuse, leaving too much room for interpretation. For example, what is material to one may not be so material to another, especially in contracts when interests are adverse and what one cares about, the other does not. Unfortunately, parties wait until the heat of litigation until clarifying what was originally intended.

By way of another example: Q. How are best efforts different from reasonable efforts? When parties enter into an exclusive distribution agreement, they like to set the tone for the distributor about the “efforts” the distributor must apply. Although California courts have yet to divulge into intricacies behind levels of effort, New York courts have and find it “murky.” Under the Uniform Commercial Code § 2-306(2), the producer may want to remain silent on the degree of effort to be expended by the distributor because it requires “best efforts…unless otherwise agreed.” In an original case defining best efforts, Falstaff Brewing Co. bought Ballantine brewing labels, trademarks, and everything else but the beer, with a promise to use “best efforts” to distribute it. Well, along came Guinness beer with an unprecedented low price. Falstaff intuitively succumbed to distributing the lower priced beer. Falstaff, however, was held in breach for failing to continue selling Ballantine, even though Falstaff was forced to incur an economic loss by doing so.[2]

Where parties have contracted to use a lesser degree of efforts, such as ”reasonable efforts” or “commercially reasonable efforts,” the courts held that such efforts are “interchangeable” with “best efforts.”[3]  Bottom line being to expressly articulate criteria intended to qualify as meeting your client’s “justifiable expectations,”[4] instead of leaving it to a precarious chance by courts’ “case by case” rulings.

Dispute Resolution of Contracts:  At the negotiation stage, many parties try to rush through the dispute resolution terms in the face of a breach, hoping this will never be the case. Coincidentally, this is the best and only time to negotiate such difficult terms. In a February 18, 2016 case initiated by Allstate Insurance for an insured’s alleged breach, the Defendants successfully dismissed the action immediately when the trial court ruled that a pre-litigation demand letter adequately satisfied the terms to enter into “good-faith negotiations” before filing a lawsuit.[5] Literally, “good faith negotiations before filing a lawsuit” really means an agreement to try to agree, but requires no back and forth process. If you want more good faith interaction before someone races to file a lawsuit, the contract should explicitly state each step a party must take.

Although, only a few primary examples are discussed, there are frequent circumstances that ultimately lead to litigation resulting from contracts using common pitfalls. Taking the time to contact an attorney like those at Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP, may be the solution to tighten a contract enough to minimize the potential expense of litigation.

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151215-Stubbs-116-retouched_600x400For any further information on tips or avoiding litigation, contact Ryan C. C. Duckett at rduckett@stubbsalderton.com or 818-444-4546. Ryan Duckett is an attorney of Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP. Ryan’s practice focuses primarily on employment, commercial, intellectual property and entertainment litigation. He has successfully litigated cases for both plaintiffs and defendants with trials and appellate experience that has secured over millions of dollars in jury verdicts for his clients, to arguing California jury instructions that were created by the case he second chaired.  He manages and handles all aspects of civil actions from pre-litigation matters to law & motion to trials, post-trials & appeals.

 

[1] Pacific Concrete Products Corp. v. Dimmick (1955) 136 Cal.App.2d 834, 838.

[2] Bloor v. Falstaff Brewing Co. (1979) 601 F.2d 609, 609-613.

[3] Samson Lift Tech., LLC v. Jerr-Dan Co. (Sup. Ct. 2014)

[4] E. Allan Farnsworth, Contracts § 7.17 (3d Ed. 2004)

[5] Allstate Ins. Co. v. Berg (Cal.1st.Dist., Div. 4, Feb. 2016 – affirmed)

The contents of this article do not constitute legal advice and are not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice or opinions.

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