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Civil litigation is the term in the law used to describe the process of resolving a dispute between two or more individuals, businesses, and/or governmental agencies via the state, federal, or administrative courts. Whether you’re an individual or a business, you may find yourself in a dispute with the government or another person or business without any idea on how to proceed.
Any successful litigator is well-versed in applicable rules of civil procedure and local court rules, using that knowledge to craft a strategy to advance the client’s position. In fact, knowledge of procedure and courtroom strategy can be just as important as substantive knowledge of any subject matter in a given area. Whether you need to initiate civil litigation against someone has wronged you or defend against a civil action filed against you, KEW has both the courtroom experience and substantive knowledge to navigate clients though the most complex litigation cases.
If you have a written and signed agreement or a verbal “handshake deal,” you may have contractual rights enforceable by law. Contracts can include an agreement for the exchange of goods, services, or money, outline specific obligations as part of a business or personal relationship, or the delineation of ownership for a piece of personal or real property.
More often than not partners are on the same page when starting a business. But, after working together for some period of time, unshakable differences may appear, often with one partner not completing their fair share of the work, or at least the perception of such. Resolving such disputes between business partners and owners requires detailed analysis of the specific facts of the case, business formation paperwork, if any exists, and the laws governing the type of entity under which the business is formed. When such business ownership disputes cannot be resolved, it may be necessary to dissolve the business in what can be colloquially referred to as a “business divorce.”
Although it may not seem like it to a businessperson who holds a small percentage of ownership in an entity, minority owners have rights, often enumerated by statute, and/or business formation documents. Or sometimes the majority owners will treat minority shareholders unfairly, called shareholder oppression, by withholding information or income or through other wrongful conduct. Acting upon these rights can result in favorable results for the minority owner.
Fraud, at its most basic, involves someone knowingly misrepresenting the truth with the intent to make another person act in reliance on that intentional misrepresentation to that other person’s detriment. We have seen fraud in many forms such as swindling an elder relative out of her life savings, or convincing a business partner to act in a detrimental way.
Civil theft involves a taking of funds from another without that person’s permission or when someone, such as a contractor, refuses to return money belonging to another upon demand. We have represented clients and alleged civil theft where a business owner takes funds from the business for personal use, or an individual takes money from another outside of a business context.
Certain relationships create a fiduciary duty, requiring a person to act in the best interest of another. For example, the trustee of an estate has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries of that estate. Similarly, officers and directors of a corporation have a fiduciary duty to the corporation and its shareholders. Other times, whether a fiduciary duty exists isn’t quite as clear such as whether owners of an LLC owe a fiduciary duty to each other. In any event, KEW can evaluate a fact pattern to decipher whether a fiduciary duty might be an actionable claim.
Defamation involves providing an unprivileged false statement of fact about another to a third party that tends to affect the reputation of the person being spoken about in his or her community. Defamation can include written or spoken statements. Social media, business reviews and general increased internet presence brings increased potential for defamation actions with ease of reach to large swaths of individuals. Disgruntled customers are quick to write negative information about a business, often an extreme exaggeration of the truth, and such comments can be the basis of a defamation action.
The state of Wisconsin has strict requirements regarding advertising, and forbids untrue, deceptive or misleading advertising which applies to written statements including online representations as well as statements regarding the sale of real estate. For example, if an owner of a home indicates on a real estate condition report that the home has no foundational issues, but then later something is discovered, the new buyer could potentially have a false advertising claim against the seller.
Trademark and copyright are intellectual property rights that provide the owner certain exclusive rights. For example, a photographer that posts an image online, is the exclusive owner of that image, and no one else can use that image without permission from the photographer. Attributing the image to the owner is not the same as obtaining permission and can land a user in hot water. For more information on this, check out our KEW Tips article, The Unicorn Cat.
More information can be found on our Employment Law page.