Miami Business Disputes

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Miami Attorney Tom J Manos Wins Dismissal of $60 Million Fraud Case in Miami Court Against His Client in Favor of Venezuelan Forum

Tom J. Manos, representing a Miami defendant who was doing business with a failed stock brokerage in Venezuela, won an appeal affirming the dismissal of a case in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging a $60 million fraud, civil theft and conspiracy against his client in favor of litigation in the courts of Venezuela on forum non conveniens grounds.

The doctrine of forum non conveniens permits defendants to move to dismiss cases filed in Florida where a foreign forum would be more convenient for the defendant and the court finds the alternative forum to be available and adequate to hear the case.

In this case, Manos obtained a dismissal in the trial court for his client in favor of litigating in the courts of Venezuela, arguing at an evidentiary hearing that Venezuela's court system was an adequate alternative forum for the litigation and that other factors also favored Venezuela's courts over Miami's courts. On appeal of the dismissal order, and after oral argument, the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed without opinion on February 26, 2014, and on March 31, 2014 denied a motion by the plaintiff for rehearing and rehearing en banc, or in the alternative for a written opinion. See, Vasquez-Estrella v. Camperos, Case No. 11-035080, Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Third District Court of Appeal case No. 13-2342. The appllate court's order is now final.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Non-Compete Agreements Rankle, but They Remain Enforceable in Many Instances

Non-compete agreements are among the most contested of contracts, perhaps because they are viewed both as unnecessary and as slightly un-American. Frequent comments heard by contract attorneys handling non-compete agreement disputes include “Who will gain if this agreement is enforced?” and “How can they stop me from doing my job and making a living?”

Earlier this month, a Court of Appeals in Tennessee went far in answering these questions when it resolved a Tennessee non-compete agreement case with a Florida connection.

In 2010, two executives began work at a Tennessee corporation. Each signed a contract stating that:

  • The executives would not compete with their employer anywhere their employer did business in the U.S. for two years
  • The executives would not engage in any business their employer was engaged in or [had] taken steps to be engaged in prior to the executive’s termination of employment
  • The contracts would be “construed under” and “enforced in accordance” with the … laws of the State of Florida

In 2011, both executives resigned, and then filed lawsuits in which they claimed that the non-compete contracts were void and unenforceable. Their former employer filed a counterclaim, and, eventually, the Court of Appeals decided that the non-compete agreements were:

  • Enforceable because they reasonably and necessarily protected the employer’s legitimate interests
  • Overly broad in scope: their primary purpose of preventing the formation of a competing business was not served by limiting business engagement options

The Court of Appeals also ruled that Florida law contravened Tennessee’s public policy as it pertained to this dispute therefore could not and did not apply.

This case illustrates that employers may still effectively protect their interests via non-compete agreements. However, the outcome of any dispute may be more assured with the knowledgeable and strategic counsel of an experienced contract attorney.

An attorney can determine the full range of protection that a non-compete contract can validly offer. For example, in addition to preventing the formation of a competing start-up, a non-compete agreement can protect valuable intellectual property. And by avoiding overly broad and unenforceable provisions, an attorney can help prevent conflicts and litigation. For more information regarding effective non-compete agreements, contact the law office of Manos &Alwine, P.L., at 305-341-3100.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Electronic Evidence and Business Litigation

Email, intra-office messaging and digital image transference are hardly new concepts, however few business owners realize the long-term implications of this style of free-flowing communication, particularly in light of litigation and e-discovery requests. If you are a Florida business engaged in litigation or preparing for possible conflict in the future, one of the best strategies for your company is to implement and maintain an electronic evidence policy for employees. Too often, damaging information, accidental concessions or discriminatory language is casually exchanged between two employees -- believing to be engaged in a private chat -- only to be uncovered by a sweeping e-discovery request from opposing counsel. To avoid this result and protect your business from unnecessary exposure to liability, consider meeting with a business litigation lawyer about your company’s electronic information policies.

Electronically Stored Information and Business Litigation Holds

Once a civil complaint is filed, both parties are entitled to request and receive evidence from the opponent in a process known as discovery. Requests for information need not be necessarily admissible at a subsequent trial, however any non-privileged information that may be relevant to a party’s claim or defense is discoverable. In the context of electronic discovery, it is considered routine discovery practice to require opponents to place a “litigation hold” on electronically stored information, thereby preventing companies from destroying or erasing data. These holds generally include all emails, voicemails or electronically stored documents, and various software companies have developed products to help organizations manage and store data pursuant to a litigation hold.

Disastrous Consequences for Employers

In preparation for possible litigation, it is vital for your employees to carefully consider all electronic communication, as one pejorative email could bring your case to a screeching halt. In the context of employment litigation, a plaintiff claiming workplace discrimination could prevail, thereby costing your company thousands of dollars, all due to the discovery of derogatory jokes uncovered by electronic discovery. The same is true in the context of any other area of business law wherein one employee admits wrongdoing, breach or fraud in a casual email to a colleague. Once the litigation hold is in place, there is no telling what the opponent could uncover, thereby placing your business at an increased risk of liability.

Speak with a Reputable Miami Business Litigation Attorney

Electronic evidence can be a complex area of the law. However, with the proper workplace policies, businesses like yours can work to avoid the potential consequences of the vast, boundless litigation hold and can rest assured in the notion office emails do not contain inadvertent confessions, admissions or disclosures. If you are facing upcoming litigation and are seeking counsel on these issues, contact the commercial litigation attorneys at Manos Alwine PL for a consultation.


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