The Business Litigators
The Business Litigators
The Business Litigators
The Business Litigators
Patrick Austermuehle and Andrew Murphy were selected by Super Lawyers as Rising Stars
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Super Lawyers named Illinois commercial law trial attorneys Peter Lubin and Vincent DiTommaso Super Lawyers and Illinois business dispute attorneys Patrick Austermuehle and Andrew Murphy Rising Stars in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation and Consumer Rights Litigation. DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle’s Illinois business trial lawyers have over thirty years of experience in litigating complex fraud class action, copyright, non-compete agreement, trademark and libel suits, consumer rights and many different types of business and commercial litigation disputes.  Our Aurora and Wheaton business dispute lawyers, civil litigation lawyers and copyright attorneys handle emergency business law suits involving copyrights, trademarks, injunctions, and TROS, covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud. You can contact us by calling (630) 333-0000 or our toll free number (877) 990-4990.  You can also contact us online here.

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This Article gives an excellent over view of non-compete agreement law in various states. It summarizes the law for these agreements in the following states: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri and New York. It provides a number of insightful tips on how courts are likely to view non-compete agreements depending on the facts of the case.  For instance, it concludes, in our opinion accurately, that Illinois courts will likely be more likely to enforce non-compete agreements if the employee has engaged in some sort of wrongful behavior such as misappropriating confidential information or starting the competing business using the employer’s computers and other resources.

With regard the to Illinois the article states:

Illinois courts generally disfavor employer-employee restrictive covenants.  Consequently, courts look for reasons not to enforce restrictive covenants and the fact that an employee is “low level” often creates an equitable reason for the court to refuse to enforce restrictive covenants.  However, bad conduct by a former employee, whether by taking confidential information or poaching former customers of the former employer, often will overcome a court’s reluctance to enforce a restrictive covenant against a low-level employee.

Historically, Illinois courts only enforced such restrictive covenants if the employer could demonstrate it had a legitimate protectable interest. Courts defined legitimate protectable interest to include “near permanent customer relationships” or confidential information.  In 2011, the Illinois Supreme Court revisited this issue in Reliable Fire Equipment v. Arredondo, holding that an employer must demonstrate both a legitimate protectable interest and the reasonableness of the scope (activity, time and geographic).  However, the Reliable Fire court also held that an employer could establish a legitimate protectable interest in ways other than confidential information or long-standing customer relationships, creating further confusion in the Illinois legal landscape.  This ruling required trial courts faced with a motion for temporary restraining order seeking to restrain a former employee from competing to focus on what interest an employer is seeking to protect and whether that interest is sufficiently clear at a preliminary stage such that a TRO is justified.   Generally, Illinois courts have looked to two key issues in recent years—has the former employee “taken” confidential information and is the former employee using such confidential information to pursue his former employer’s clients.  If the answer to either of these questions is yes, Illinois courts are likely to enforce a restrictive covenant.

An interesting dilemma has arisen in the last four years since the Illinois Appellate Court decided Fifield v. Premier Dealers Services.  The Fifield court held that at-will employment is inadequate consideration to support restrictive covenants until at least two years of at-will employment have passed since the agreement was put in effect.  This creates another hurdle for enforcing restrictive covenants against lower-level employees. Most low-level employees are employees at will.  Consequently, for an employer to be confident that its restrictive covenants will not fail for lack of consideration, some unrestricted consideration (e.g., a signing bonus) must be provided at the outset of the employment relationship.

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Many people have long given up the hope of having any privacy when we’re online. From cookies to tracking search results to targeted advertising, it’s pretty widely accepted that the internet is not a private place, although many users continue to insist internet companies stop tracking our every move.

Back in 2010, Facebook was storing digital cookies on consumers’ internet browsers and using those cookies to track the users’ visits to other sites that contained Facebook’s “like” button (which allows viewers to post a like of the article or website to their Facebook account without leaving the page). The tracking continued even after users had logged out of their Facebook accounts.

Facebook had promised consumers it would delete the cookies, but the company continued to access information on the cookies until 2011, when an independent researcher brought the issue to the attention of the public. At that point, a class of plaintiffs sued Facebook for allegedly violating federal and California state privacy laws by using the cookies. The time period for the lawsuit goes from April 2010, when the company said it had stopped using cookies, to September 2011, when the tech giant actually stopped using the cookies after it had been outed.

Although a lot can change in five years, the plaintiffs are still pursuing their claims against Facebook, having revised their allegations after the judge dismissed their original claims in the fall of 2015. Continue reading

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Our Chicago automobile fraud and Lemon law attorneys near Hinsdale, Indian Head Park and Schaumburg have experience representing victims of odometer roll backs, title washing, fake or improper certifications of rebuilt wrecks and other used car scams. We bring individual and class actions suits for defective cars with common design defects and auto dealer fraud and other car dealer scams such as selling rebuilt wrecks as certified used cars or misrepresenting a car as being in good condition when it is rebuilt wreck or had the odometer rolled back. We also see cases where new car dealers conceal that the car has been in accident while in their possession or used car dealers who put duck tape in back of the check engine light to conceal serious engine or emission problems.  Super Lawyers has selected our DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, Will and Cook County Illinois auto-fraud, car dealer fraud and lemon law lawyers as among the top 5% in Illinois. We only collect our fee if we win or settle your case. For a free consultation call our Chicago class action lawyers at our toll free number (877) 990-4990 or contact us on the web by clicking here.

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They say great minds think alike, but how do we determine the difference between thinking alike and stealing ideas? Thanks to copyright and trademark laws, some ideas are given a certain level of protection in this country, although the line between stealing an idea and having the same (or a similar) idea can get very blurry. This is especially true of creative professions, such as comedy.

According to a recent lawsuit filed against Conan O’Brien and the writers of his show, at least five of the jokes used in some of O’Brien’s opening monologues were stolen from Alex Kaseberg’s blog. Kaseberg is a freelance comedy writer who claims to have written comedy for Jay Leno, as well as several publications.

According to Kaseberg, the jokes in question allegedly appeared on his blog from December 2014 to June 2015 and it wasn’t long afterwards that they started appearing in the opening monologues of O’Brien’s late-night show on TBS.

One of the examples listed in the complaint includes a joke about the University of Alabama-Birmingham cancelling its football program. Aside from changing the name of a second football team, the joke appeared almost word for word on O’Brien’s show the day after Kaseberg posted it on his blog. Both the similarity between the two jokes and the timing seem a bit too much to be taken for mere coincidence and the judge presiding over the case agreed. Continue reading

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In the onslaught of mishandled sexual assault allegations Baylor University is currently facing, it can knock one off the list.

The settled case involves a former student who alleges she was assaulted at a place called “The Rugby House,” an off-campus residence where Baylor officials had received reports of sexual assault occurring in the past. The plaintiff (who went only by Jane Doe, to protect her identity) did not name her attacker in the lawsuit, although she said he was not a member of the school’s rugby team.

The lawsuit claimed Baylor University had initially offered to help her identify the person who had drugged and kidnapped her, and told her they had received other reports of similar attacks happening at The Rugby House. But the university allegedly gave up the search and stopped contacting Jane Doe five weeks after the incident.

Jane Doe said she was too embarrassed to file a police report, but that her mother had contacted school officials about the incident to see what they were doing about it. Jane Doe dropped out in 2015 and filed her lawsuit against the school in 2016. The details of the settlement have not been released to protect her privacy. Continue reading

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No one makes accusations of sexual assault lightly. Women who come forward with claims that men (especially famous men) sexually harassed and/or assaulted them face ridicule and threats to do so without serious consideration. And yet women who do come forward to accuse men of sexual assault are often harassed and accused of making up stories to get attention.

One woman recently sued President Trump for defamation and has faced such a back lash and now the President claims he is immune from her libel suit during the term of his Presidency.

Summer Zervos, a California restaurant-owner who was on “The Apprentice” in 2006, alleged Trump sexually assaulted her when she met with him in 2007 to discuss a potential job with the Trump Organization.

During his presidential campaign, numerous women came forward to say that Trump had sexually assaulted them, especially after a video was released in which Trump bragged about women letting him grab them because he was famous. Trump has asserted that all the women accusing him of sexual assault were making up stories and spreading lies about him.

Zevos filed a lawsuit in New York State Court alleging Trump’s very loud and very public dismissal of her accusations defamed her and she is seeking the appropriate compensation as a result. Continue reading

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Imagine going into a store to buy something. A few months later, without having returned to the store, you find out the store bought one of their products on your behalf, without bothering to tell you about it or get your permission. That’s essentially what a class of consumers are alleging Wells Fargo did for more than a decade while its aggressive sales team were encouraged to do everything in their power to meet their quotas.

According to a recent class action consumer lawsuit, Wells Fargo allegedly created more than 2 million credit cards, lines of credit, checking accounts and savings accounts, without first getting approval from the customers for whom they were opening the accounts. Not only were the customers made to pay the fees to open these accounts they never wanted, but some of them suffered damage to their credit history as a result of credit cards and lines of credit that were opened for them and then never used.

After a class of consumers filed a class action lawsuit seeking claims against the bank for the sham accounts, Wells Fargo offered to settle the lawsuit for $110 million, but later raised their offer to $142 million after an investigation found that the practice of opening these sham accounts went back as far as 2002. That revelation prompted the plaintiffs’ attorneys to up their estimate of sham accounts from 2.1 million to 3.5 million, although they may not see a similar increase in the number of plaintiffs, as some plaintiffs allegedly had multiple sham accounts opened in their name.

The settlement amount is in addition to the $185 million Wells Fargo has already been made to pay to regulators after their practice of opening sham accounts on behalf of unsuspecting (and unwilling) customers was revealed. The resignation of the bank’s CEO at the time, John Stumpf, was another result of the scandal. Continue reading

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The Federal Arbitration Act was created in 1925 to provide a faster, more efficient method for businesses of equal bargaining power to settle disputes between themselves without crowding the courts. The part about the parties needing to be of equal bargaining power is vital, especially since arbitration is private and was not designed to handle class-action lawsuits.

Unfortunately for consumers, arbitration clauses have started appearing in the fine print of their contracts with almost every provider: banks, websites, merchants, car dealers, credit card companies, even their employers. This means that every dispute someone has with a company has to be settled by arbitration, which is private, offers no written opinion on the matter (i.e. no explanation for the ruling), and is often biased in favor of the large companies that bring in lots of business for the arbitrator (although there are a few arbitration companies that are known for their fairness).

The reality is that individuals very rarely, if ever, have the same bargaining power as giant corporations with a team of attorneys at their disposal. In particular, arbitration agreements cripple individuals by preventing them from combining their claims into class actions. Since most individuals have small claims against corporations, class actions are the only method they have for justifying the costs of the lawsuit. If your bank charged you $100 dollars in illegal fees and filing a lawsuit costs $2,000 to hire an attorney and pay for court costs, no reasonable person is going to pursue the matter. They’d rather let it drop, which lets the bank continue to illegally collect thousands of dollars from hundreds of customers who don’t have any way to redress the wrong. Continue reading

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If someone leaves their employer to start their own company (which then gets bought by a competitor of their former employer), can it be a coincidence when that person just happens to end up working for a competitor a few months later on the same material he had been helping his former employer develop?

What if it wasn’t a coincidence? What if it was all an elaborate plot for the competitor to poach the employee, as well as internal documents containing invaluable trade secrets from his former employer?

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is seeking a court order for documents it thinks will prove that’s exactly what happened when Anthony Levandowski left his job at Google to start his own company, Otto, which was quickly bought by Uber.

Levandowski was working on lidar technology (the technology that allows self-driving cars to navigate their environments) for Waymo, Google’s own ride-share company, before leaving to start Otto in early 2016. Otto was a company that made self-driving trucks, and just a few months after its creation, it was bought by Uber for a few million dollars and Levandowski became the head of Uber’s self-driving department. Continue reading