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The In-House Advisor

Published by Shepard Davidson & Renee Inomata

Consider Liquidated Damages to Deter Employees From Misappropriating Company Information

Posted in Confidentiality, Contracts, Hiring, Liquidated Damages

It is not unusual for employment agreements to mandate that when an employee leaves a company, whether voluntarily or by termination, he or she must return all company information. As the employer in EventMonitor v. Leness recently learned, however, relying on the courts to enforce such an obligation is risky, at best. Continue Reading

Be Careful What You Ask for When Agreeing to Arbitration

Posted in Arbitration and Mediation, Contracts, Pre-Litigation Considerations

In 2014, I posted Carefully Craft Your Arbitration Clause if You Want Some, But not All, Disputes Arbitrated.  A decision a few months ago, Trustivo, LLC v. Anthem, Inc. is a reminder that if a contract has a broad arbitration provision, a party may have little chance of getting court intervention – even in situations  where the general validity of the contract is challenged – unless an appropriate carve-out is inserted.

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How to Ensure that an Agreement to Negotiate in Good Faith Is Enforceable

Posted in Contracts, Letters of Intent

As I discussed in a prior blog post, agreements to negotiate in good faith can be enforceable. Nevertheless, I recently was reminded when re-reading Schwanbeck v. Federal-Mogul Corp., that if you really want an agreement to negotiate in good faith to be enforceable, you have to be precise in how you describe what the parties will and will not do going forward. Continue Reading

Choose Words Carefully in Dispute-Related Contract Clauses

Posted in Contracts, Jurisdiction, Venue and Choice of Law

A couple of words here or there in a contract can make a huge difference, particularly when those words relate to what happens if there is a breach or some other dispute between the parties. This is something that the parties in Family Endowment Partners, L.P. v. Sutow recently learned – to the tune of millions of dollars. Continue Reading

Be Careful When You Decide to Breach a Contract

Posted in Contracts, Pre-Litigation Considerations

M.G.L. c. 93A (i) prohibits deceptive or unfair acts or practices in trade or business, (ii) mandates that a defendant reimburse a prevailing plaintiff for its reasonable attorneys’ fees, and (iii) allows for the recovery of at least double and up to triple damages if the defendant acted knowingly or willfully. Thus, it is one of the most potent weapons in a business litigation arsenal. As I have written previously, leveraging another to settle a dispute can violate Chapter 93A, as can exercising valid contract rights, if the motivation in doing so is ulterior. While a mere breach of contract, without more, is not a violation of the statute, a recent case from the Massachusetts Superior Court presents a stark reminder that whether conduct is viewed as a “mere breach” or part of a deceptive or unfair course of conduct can be in the eye of the beholder. Continue Reading

Give Employees a Chance to Explain Before Terminating Them

Posted in Contracts, Discipline & Performance Management, Hiring, Pre-Litigation Considerations

As regular readers of this blog know, a day that is scheduled to be filled with relatively routine and non-controversial matters can get turned upside and require immediate action without any advance notice. One such situation occurs when information comes to light that an employee is unfit to continue in his or her current position and should be terminated. Even if in-house counsel and the business decision-makers have complete confidence that the information justifies termination, however, there is a risk associated with not giving the employee a chance to at least explain his or her actions.

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Contracts Where Neither or Only One Party Signs Can be Binding

Posted in Contracts

In today’s world where circumstances can change at lightening speed, companies sometime feel compelled to act before their counsel can formalize or finalize a written contract. Similarly, there are instances where only one party to a deal has executed the written instrument. So what happens when someone seeks to enforce the terms of a written document that is not fully executed? As with many questions in the law, the answer is: “It depends….”

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Don’t Take Needless Chances When It Comes to Personal Jurisdiction, Forum Selection and Choice of Law

Posted in Contracts, Jurisdiction, Venue and Choice of Law, Letters of Intent, Pre-Litigation Considerations

Not spelling out in your agreements, even in informal agreements, where disputes can be resolved and what law will govern them can lead to some unhappy results. That is exactly the position that United Excel Corporation and its president, Ky Hornbaker, now find themselves.

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Keeping Communications With Other Parties Confidential Through the “Community of Interest Privilege”

Posted in Attorney-Client Privilege, Pre-Litigation Considerations

One of my law school classmates asked me several month ago about the merits of entering into a joint defense agreement with another party to protect communications he had with that party’s counsel in connection with a potential dispute with a third company. He was concerned that entering into such a joint defense agreement might make his client and its ally look guilty. I told him that no formal agreement was necessary; the key was whether the communications concerned a matter of common interest to the parties communicating. Last week, I happened to come across The Hilsinger Co. v. Eyeego, LLC, which put a new spin on what the judge in that case referred to as the “Community of Interest Privilege.” Continue Reading

The Devil Is in the Details of Forum Selection Clauses

Posted in Contracts, Jurisdiction, Venue and Choice of Law

While no in-house attorney drafting a business contract wants to focus on being in litigation with her business partner, as I discussed in a 2013 blog post, thinking like a litigator at the drafting stage is critical in order to avoid potential surprises. A good example of this comes in the context of crafting a forum selection clause that truly achieves your objectives. Continue Reading