It is not uncommon for individuals or businesses to find themselves involved in a legal dispute with another party. Disputes of this nature, such as a breach of contract, typically fall under what is known as civil litigation which entails the use of courts or arbitrators for adjudication.
The term civil litigation is a formal way of describing a lawsuit between two or more private parties where one is looking to recover money damages from the other, or to force the other party to perform as expected under a contract. Civil litigation encompasses a broad range of disputes but the most common types of litigation involving the restaurant industry include:
Partnership and Shareholder Disputes;
Employment Discrimination & Sexual Harassment Claims; and
Real Estate Litigation (including commerical evictions)
Resolving a lawsuit is rarely a quick process and typically takes between several months to several years to conclude. Complex cases can take several years just to get through the investigation and discovery phase of the case, let alone trial. In New York, the New York City Civil Court has small claims jurisdiction over cases between individuals with a value capped at $5,000. The rules of evidence are relaxed in the Small Claims Part so as to allow parties to proceed without attorneys. The City Court also has jurisdiction over civil matters with values up to $25,000 but the filings and proceedings in those cases are more formal and require attorney involvement. All cases where damages exceed $25,000 are filed in the Supreme Court.
Partnership and shareholder disputes are the most concerning for restaurant owners as they impact every aspect of your business and can destroy a restaurant leaving it in financial ruin. Most partnership and shareholder agreements are entered into with the shake of a hand and little to no additional formality. Partners and shareholders expect that their colleagues will act appropriately and perform as agreed but rarely is that the case. As discussed above, there are several potential issues that can arise between partners and shareholders and lawsuits filed to enforce the rights of one party can be highly complex. Most lawsuits involve claims of: breach of fiduciary duty; breach of contract; fraud, theft, defamation of character, compensation and monetary distributions; dissolution payments; embezzlement and abandonment.
Vendor and Real Estate Litigation is case by case specific but almost always involves a breach of contract by one party or the other. The restaurant industry relies on vendors for many aspects of their business, from construction and alteration of their leased space to vendor supply agreements for their product. Most lawsuits of this nature revolve around: franchise agreements; employment contracts; manufacturing and distribution agreements; non-compete agreements; confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements; licensing contracts; construction contracts; intellectual property rights; stock option rights; purchase and sale agreements pertaining to real property; joint venture agreements; bulk asset purchase agreements; promissory notes; vendor supply contracts and investor distribution agreements.
We work closely with clients to evaluate their potential claims or defenses related to the commercial, professional, employment, or personal dispute that is the subject of litigation. We represent clients before administrative agencies, alternative dispute resolution proceedings such as mediation or arbitration, jury or court trials in state and federal court as well as proceedings before appellate courts. We help clients prepare their case and counsel them on steps and procedures involved. A skilled civil litigation attorney can help clients leverage their negotiating position to reach a beneficial settlement which may be the most appropriate and economical manner of handing certain cases. However, when a dispute cannot be resolved satisfactorily, taking a case to court may be the best or only option.
When required, we will engage and work closely with experts including investigators, accountants, economic impact analysts, and other relevant professionals. If your legal dispute has risen to the level of civil litigation, we are ready to help.
Call Attorney James D. DiPasquale today for Free Consultation