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Whenever you pursue a commercial litigation action, you’ll need to make several choices. It is important to make your decisions carefully because there are legal rules that prevent you from taking more than “one crack” at pursuing certain requests for relief. That’s because of the legal rule of res judicata, and it is just one example of why it pays to have knowledgeable Georgia business counsel representing you.

One example of when this rule mattered and limited a plaintiff’s ability to recover damages was a dispute between a franchisor and one of its franchisees. The Atlanta-based franchisee signed a 25-year franchise agreement with the Sugar Hill-based franchisor of child daycare centers in 2006. The contract had within it terms that called for franchisees to pay to the franchisor certain royalty and advertising fees. Just six years into the relationship, the franchisee announced that it was terminating its agreement with the franchisor. It took down all signs and anything else that bore the franchisor’s name. It also stopped paying advertising and royalty fees to the franchisor.

This lack of payment of fees led the franchisor to sue for the franchisee’s failure to perform under the agreement. Specifically, the franchisor sought fees and interest for the first two months of 2015. The franchisee, however, successfully defeated the franchisor’s efforts in both the trial court and the court of appeals. The key to the franchisee’s success was the two sides’ past litigation history. Shortly after the franchisee repudiated the contract, it also sued the franchisor for negligent misrepresentation and violation of federal franchise rules. In that case, the franchisor filed a counterclaim against the franchisee for its alleged breach of the agreement.

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When you are seeking relief because your contract partner has breached your agreement, there are several ways to achieve success. Some cases require a full trial, with many days of arguments, witness examination and cross-examination, experts and presentation of other evidence, followed by a judgment by the jury (or the judge if it’s a bench trial.) In other cases, you may be able to achieve success by filing a motion for summary judgment and winning that motion, which sidesteps the need for a trial on the issue of liability. Whatever route your case requires, be sure you have legal representation from a skilled Atlanta commercial litigation attorney to guide throughout the process.

To win a motion for summary judgment in a breach of contract case under Georgia law, you need several things. You need proof of the existence of a legally valid contract, evidence that the other side breached the agreement and proof that that breach harmed your business. A failure on any one of these three areas can be fatal to your case.

A recent federal case, however, demonstrates what can happen when you do have all of these required things. The case pitted a prison management firm against its former food distributor. The two sides inked a supply agreement in 2007 and amended it in 2008. Ten years after signing the amended agreement, the distributor sent an email announcing an immediate termination of the contract, declaring that the arrangement was no longer profitable for its business.

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In any LLC, there are limits to what the managing member can do. There are also, however, limits to what an associate member can do to stop a managing member from acting in a way it opposes. Experienced Georgia business litigation counsel can help you determine what your options are when it comes to an LLC dispute.

A recent example was a case that pitted two LLCs against each other, each of whom was in the business of buying, selling, and managing commercial properties, including shopping centers, apartments, office buildings, and others. The two LLCs jointly formed a third LLC, with this one’s purpose being the purchase and ownership of an apartment complex in Columbus, Ga. The LLC that served as the managing member had a 25% ownership, while the other LLC, serving as the associate member, had a 75% stake.

After making the purchase, the managing member identified what it believed was a problem. GDOT had recently installed a median running down the center of the parkway that the complex faced. This meant that residents, as they sought to enter the parkway via the complex’s only exit, could only turn in one direction. This inconvenience allegedly had triggered a downturn in the complex’s occupancy rate.

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Whether you are litigating in federal court or Georgia state court, it is very important to ensure that your side is in total compliance with all statutory demands and procedural requirements. Failing to meet the obligations of these rules can have disastrous consequences for your case. In some situations, even slight missteps could cost you thousands of dollars (or more). Make sure that your interests are completely protected by retaining a skilled Georgia business attorney to handle your case for you.

One recent federal case from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals demonstrates how damaging a lack of complete procedural compliance can be. The case began when a motel group filed a lawsuit against an insurance company, alleging that the insurance company was liable for breach of contract. The lawsuit started out in Florida state court in 2013, but, as is the case with many commercial litigation actions, the case qualified for removal to federal court, which the insurance company sought in this situation.

Ten days after the removal to federal court, the insurance company submitted to the motel group a settlement proposal that complied with the Florida statutes and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Florida Statutes Section 768.79 gives the recipient 30 days to respond. The motel group did not respond in that time-frame.

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Here in Georgia, the law gives you very broad freedom when it comes to setting up contracts. Generally, you can make your contract say whatever you want, unless it violates the law or violates public policy. This can be a major benefit to you. If you have the right representation from a skilled Atlanta commercial contracts attorney and you get an agreement that clearly protects your interests and plainly places your expectations and objectives down in “black and white,” then you can proceed with confidence that, if necessary later, you can get those terms enforced in court.

A recent contracts case before the Georgia Court of Appeals highlights this. The parties in the dispute were a Rockdale County motorsports vehicle dealership and an Atlanta-based administrator of vehicle service contracts and extended warranties. The parties’ contract called for the administrator to offer its services through vehicle dealerships, and for the dealerships and the administrator to share in the profits.

After a few years, certain sums, which previously had been paid to the administrator, were subsequently directed to a reinsurer controlled by the Rockdale County dealership’s owner. Eventually, the relationship went south, and the reinsurer initiated an arbitration action. The reinsurer argued that the administrator improperly took in fees not authorized by the contract. After the hearing, the arbitrator agreed with the reinsurer and ordered the administrator to pay $462,000 in damages.

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Legal matters can sometimes be like doing a construction job or a home renovation task. Achieving a successful result isn’t just about selecting a goal that you can achieve, but also about making sure that you are using the right tool to get the job completed correctly. In any commercial leasing situation, your lease agreement will give you certain rights. If you think that the other side has not lived up to its obligations under the lease, you may have a right to recovery in court, but, in addition to needing valid proof, you must be certain that you’ve chosen the correct avenue for seeking recovery. In other words, you have to be sure you’re using the right legal tool. If your commercial tenant sues you while using the wrong legal tool, you may be able to obtain a dismissal. A skilled Georgia commercial leasing attorney can provide invaluable advice and representation in your commercial lease-related litigation.

In June, the Georgia Supreme Court addressed such a situation in which a commercial tenant was displeased with an action taken by its landlord and sought assistance from the courts. A non-profit foundation headquartered in Glynn County rented space within a commercial property on St. Simons Island. In the fall of 2015, the landlord filed papers with the county zoning authorities, seeking rezoning of its property and requesting permission to build an addition onto the building in which the foundation rented space. The county approved both of the landlord’s requests six months later.

The foundation was not in favor of the rezoning or the addition that the landlord proposed. The foundation’s legal plan of attack to oppose the landlord’s actions was to go to court and ask the judge either to review the rezoning application and site plan, or else to issue a directive to the county to revoke its approval of the changes.

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Say you successfully filed your commercial litigation action before the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations. Subsequently, the other side did… nothing, and the deadline for filing a response has passed. So… that’s it, you win, you’re “home free” and you can get all of the damages that you were seeking, right? Not necessarily. Getting to that successful outcome requires more. Even when a defendant refuses to respond, your case still requires keen attention to detail and careful dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s in order to maximize your success. For that (and many other) reasons, having legal representation from a skilled Atlanta commercial litigation attorney from the very start can help you get the most out of your lawsuit.

There are actually several steps that you must undertake – and complete properly – in order to achieve a full success in a case where the defendant takes no action. Failing to complete any step with the precision required by the law and the rules of procedure can potentially do great damage – or completely ruin – your case.

A recent federal case from here in North Georgia is an example of a plaintiff’s case done right. The plaintiff was an Indianapolis-based staffing firm seeking substantial damages from a New York-based merchandising company following a dispute over a project in Georgia.

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Doing business today will often mean interactions with clients, contract partners, and others that may bring you into contact with many different states. This may sometimes bring about a situation in which you need to enforce a judgment from one state in another or defend against such a judgment. When these commercial litigation situations arise, it is important to have knowledgeable Georgia business counsel on your side who understands the law and the role the Georgia courts can play in pursuing the outcome you need. Recently, the Georgia Supreme Court entered an informative decision about using this state’s courts to oppose a judgment entered by another state.

The underlying relationship that eventually led to litigation in that recent case was a commercial contract between a telecom company and an IT services and training company. The contract called for the latter company to provide services for the former. Eventually, the relationship soured, and the services company sued in state court in St. Louis, Mo. That case was resolved when the trial court there entered a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff, awarding it $52,589. A default judgment is a final resolution of a court case in favor of one party due to the other party’s failure to take a required action to participate in the case. Often, these occur in favor of plaintiffs because defendants fail to respond or take other required actions.

Four months after securing the judgment in St. Louis, the plaintiff brought its case to Atlanta, asking a judge in Fulton County to enter an order of enforcement of foreign judgment. A foreign judgment is any judgment entered by any court outside Georgia. In order for your out-of-state judgment to be enforceable and collectible in this state, you have to get an order from a Georgia court declaring it to be recognized in this state. Georgia has something called the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgment Act (UEFJA), which indicates what’s required to make your out-of-state judgment enforceable here.

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In any commercial agreement, one enters into the agreement confident in the belief that it will be productive and beneficial to both sides. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, business relationships break down, and litigation is the result. If you find yourself in a failed business relationship that has reached (or is headed toward) litigation, it is important to have skilled Georgia business litigation counsel representing you, both to help you pursue your claims and to defend against the claims of your opposition.

One recent example of a lawsuit that resulted from a business relationship disintegration was a real estate investment LLC that was created to own and operate certain commercial real estate properties in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. The two members of the LLC established an operating agreement in 1995. Eighteen years after its creation, the LLC sold its last asset and planned to distribute its proceeds and dissolve.

A dispute arose regarding the distribution of those proceeds, and that dispute led to litigation. In the first case, a former member of the LLC sued and won a $625,000 judgment. In the case recently before the Court of Appeals, the LLC and its member had sued the former member in pursuit of a declaratory judgment from the court regarding the proper distribution of the LLC’s proceeds. The defendant countersued for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. While the plaintiffs were able to persuade the trial judge to grant a summary judgment in their favor on the defendant’s counterclaims, the appeals court concluded that the former member should be allowed to go forward with his case.

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Strategic decisions play an important role in any civil lawsuit. There are decisions regarding which claims to bring or not bring. There are decisions about which witnesses to call. There are choices regarding whether to settle or to litigate all the way to judgment. Additionally, you may find yourself in a situation in which you must decide if you prefer to resolve your case through trial or through some form of alternative dispute resolution. Regardless of the reasons why, if you and your Georgia business litigation attorney decide that litigation in court is best, it is important to fight aggressively to avoid having your case sidetracked into arbitration.

A case in which the issue of arbitration versus trial arose was a business dispute between a financial services firm and two of the advisors with whom it had contracted. The advisors involved in this case were both registered investment advisors who sold retirement plans and other investment products to the financial services company’s clients on behalf of that firm. The representatives were also licensed insurance agents, and they operated their own company, which sold property and casualty insurance.

At some point, the financial services company came to suspect that the representatives were engaging in misconduct. Specifically, the representatives’ agreement with the firm indicated that they were only allowed to market and sell the financial services company’s investment products to that company’s clients. The firm, however, believed that the representatives were using its list of potential clients as “leads” for marketing and selling property and casualty insurance on behalf of the agents’ separate entity, a practice known in the industry as “poaching.” Shortly after the representatives ended their relationship with the firm, the firm sued the representatives and their insurance agency for breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets.

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