Although litigation should always be the last option, sometimes it is necessary to enforce or defend your business interests. In those situations, SONA LEGAL APC relies on years of litigation experience in order to obtain the best possible outcome for you or your business. SONA LEGAL’s first priority is to resolve your dispute to your advantage in a time-and-cost effective manner prior to the time of trial. However, in the event these efforts are unsuccessful we tenaciously and aggressively pursue all avenues in pursuit of a favorable verdict. Below follow some brief descriptions of common business litigation and commercial real estate litigation claims for informational purposes.
BREACH OF CONTRACT
Contractual disputes are the most common form of business litigation dispute. These disputes occur when one party to a contract fails to perform a contractual duty, resulting in damage to the other party. This concept is known as a ‘material’ breach of contract. Unfortunately many contracts are drafted by attorneys with little or no litigation experience, resulting in contracts that are long and wordy but which are ambiguous in key areas and that fail to address potential litigation issues. Breach of contract issues can involve such wide ranging issues as breach of promissory note, breach of personal guarantee, breach of professional services agreement, breach of vendor contract, breach of joint venture agreement, breach of purchase agreement, and many, many more. Breach of contract disputes also arise between disputes between partners, closely held entities, LLCs, LLPs, venture capitalists and members of boards of directors. SONA LEGAL has pursued and defended numerous breach of contract claims of all types and can assist you in resolving these contract disputes through informal procedures or through litigation.
INTERFERENCE WITH CONTRACTUAL RELATIONS
Interference with contractual relations occurs when a third party interferes with another party’s existing or prospective contractual relationships. The third party interference must be negligent or intentional in order to be actionable.
Negligence is another very common cause of action. In situations where breach of contract is not an option, a negligence claim can be an effective way to seek compensation for damages. Negligence requires the existence of a duty, breach of that duty, and damages on the part of the defendant. Negligence covers a broad range of factual situations. SONA LEGAL can assist you in evaluating whether or not you have a claim for negligence and can litigate a negligence claim where appropriate.
Conversion involves situations where one party appropriates or destroys property that lawfully belongs to another. A claim for conversion has a voluntary element and is therefore distinguishable from some claims for unjust enrichment. Similarly, conversion is distinguishable from a claim for theft because not all conversions have the dishonesty element required for theft.
A claim of fraud requires an intent to deceive in order to procure an unlawful gain. Fraud is both a civil and a criminal cause of action. A claim for fraud has more stringent pleading requirements than many other causes of action and must be proved by what is known as a ‘clear and convincing’ evidence rather than a ‘more likely than not’ standard as is the rule for most civil litigation claims. As a result, it is important that a fraud claim be as detailed as possible and that the initial pleading contains sufficient facts to support this cause of action. A successful fraud cause of action allows for the imposition of ‘punitive damages’ which are damages in excess of ‘economic damages’ that are used to punish the defendant rather than compensate the plaintiff.
UNFAIR BUSINESS PRACTICES
California Business & Professions Code section 17200 et seq. contains a body of law that protects against illegal, fraudulent, and unfair business practices. Business & Professions Code section 17500 further protects against false advertising. Until 2004, any consumer could sue under section 17200, but subsequently the law’s applicability was limited to business competitors affected by the unfair business practice at issue as well as public prosecutors. Business and Professions Code section 17200 covers: (1) an unlawful business act or practice; (2) an unfair business act or practice; (3) a fraudulent business act or practice; (4) unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising; or (5) any act prohibited by sections 17500-17577.5. Both monetary damages and injunctive relief are available under these code sections.
TRADE SECRETS LITIGATION
The legal definition of a trade secret is the misappropriation of a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, commercial method, or compilation of information which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable by others, and by which a business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors or customers. Confidential information is often included in this definition. Protection of trade secrets is vital to the existence of any successful business and SONA LEGAL can assist you with these matters in both federal and state court.
Unjust enrichment is a claim that is often filed in conjunction with claims for conversion, breach of contract, and other business litigation causes of action. Unjust enrichment must be pled properly and case law surrounding this cause of action has evolved significantly in California over the last few decades. SONA LEGAL can assist you in obtaining restitution for your loss through the proper pleading of unjust enrichment.
Defamation involves the communication of a false statement about an entity or an individual. Defamation can be written, i.e. libel, or can be spoken, i.e. slander. Although public figures enjoy less protection, a private citizen is entitled to substantially more protection against defamation. Typically, a defamation plaintiff needs to show damages. However for following categories a plaintiff need merely show that the communication was made to a third party: (i) accusing someone of a crime; (ii) alleging that someone has a foul or loathsome disease; (iii) adversely reflecting on a person’s fitness to conduct their business or trade; and (iv) imputing serious sexual misconduct.
IMPROPER INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR CLASSIFICATION
California has stringent requirements regarding whether or not a worker is considered an employee for the state law purposes. A failure to properly classify a worker as an employee can lead to severe damages and penalties under the California Labor Code as well as the aforementioned Business and Professions Code. Such damages not only include back wages, federal and state payroll taxes, workers compensation insurance, social security taxes, and unemployment insurance, but, if the conduct was willful, also includes statutory penalties and attorney’s fees. The Labor and Workforce Development Agency may also choose to open an investigation and pursue claims. In such situations it is pivotal that the worker or employer is represented by counsel experienced in this niche area of the law. SONA LEGAL represents both individuals who have been improperly classified as an independent contractor as well as business defending against such claims.
BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY
Many parties involved in business dealings are under a duty in relationship to the management of finances of another party. Such duties are known as fiduciary duties, and when a party fails to adequately manage such finances or takes advantage of their position of a fiduciary they can be liable for breach of fiduciary duty.
ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENT
Prevailing in a lawsuit is only half the battle. Often, a losing party fails to pay the judgment, requiring the prevailing party to go through judgment enforcement proceedings to determine the nature and extent of the debtor’s assets and then reach the assets through appropriate collection procedures. Available options to determine the debtor’s assets include post-judgment debtor’s examinations and requests for production of documents, among others. Once the nature and location of the assets have been determined, the creditor can attach the assets to the judgment through a variety of means including a writ of execution or a writ of attachment. Judgment enforcement requires adherence to a very specific statutory procure as well as, in certain situations, cooperation with law enforcement. SONA LEGAL can help you navigate the post-judgment landscape and collect the judgment which you are owed.
BREACH OF COMMERCIAL PURCHASE AGREEMENT
Real estate litigation often arises between a buyer and a seller of real property, often in relation to the disclosure, or lack thereof, of material information about the property. SONA LEGAL can assist you in resolving such disputes.
COMMERCIAL LEASE DISPUTES
Lease disputes are a very common form of litigation.commercial lease disputes involve a very specific body of law and often involve unique legal issues relating to both real and personal property. Lease disputes are usually based in contract, i.e. the lease, but can also involve ancillary claims such as negligence or conversion.
Eviction proceedings require strict adherence to applicable statutory requirements and for that reason require the assistance of a seasoned attorney. For example, most eviction proceedings require either a reasonable belief of abandonment or an unlawful detainer action accompanied by a sheriff’s writ. Failure to adhere to even one of the requirements can result in the eviction being ruled invalid or unlawful and can result in costly consequences for the landlord. Similarly, a tenant must act in accordance with applicable laws and regulations when behind on the rent or the tenant is otherwise in violation of the lease. SONA LEGAL has extensive experience with landlord/tenant disputes and can assist you with any matters relating to landlord/tenant issues on both the residential and commercial side.
An easement is the right of another to use or enter the real property of another. Many types of easement exist, including express and implied easements, easements by necessity, prior use, or estoppel, and government easements. Some common easements include easements for utility companies or easements to properties without access to a public road. When using an easement, it is important to stay within the limits of use pertaining to that particular easement. Disputes often arise where one party’s use of the easement is inconsistent with the real property owner’s understanding of the proper use of the easement. SONA LEGAL represents both easement holders and owners of real property in relation to easement disputes.