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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The Illinois Supreme Court recently adopted a new rule that allows couples going through a divorce to have lawyers work with the parties on a limited-scope to attempt a settlement while avoiding costly litigation.

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 294 (“Rule 294”) was adopted by the Court on June 8, 2018 and became effective on July 1, 2018. The new Illinois Supreme Court Rule is a result of the new Illinois law allowing for the collaborative process. 750 ILCS 90/1 Collaborative Process Act (“Collaborative Act”) became an effective law in Illinois on January 1, 2018.

The Collaborative Act creates a new way for couples that have a dispute in relation to a: marriage, divorce, dissolution, annulment, legal separation, or property distribution. Also, the Collaborative Act can be a useful tool for a dispute regarding a: significant decision making and parenting time of children; maintenance and child support; adoption; parentage; and premarital, marital, and post-marital agreements.

The Collaborative Act was put in place to allow couples that have a legitimate dispute about a family issue, to have a quicker and more cost-effective way to resolve these issues. The Collaborative Act saves couples both time and money and allows for a back-and-forth of communication between the parties to reach a better result without the ruling of a judge. The Illinois legislature passed the Collaborative Act to give couples an alternative route from the court system. The Illinois court system has been viewed as slow to resolve family law issues or in some litigant’s opinions unfair to one of the parties. Continue reading

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Not all companies are sure how to apply their business practices to the Digital Age. Since most people running some of the larger, more established companies came of age in a pre-internet era, many of them are understandably stumped by what laws and rules apply to which online situations (although admittedly a lot of younger viewers aren’t sure about the rules of social media either).

The situation has improved over the years as everyone has adjusted to the new technologies, but the early part of the new century was an especially trying time for companies and individuals alike.

Take Stephanie Lenz for example. She took a video of her infant son dancing to the song, “Let’s Go Crazy,” by Prince, and then uploaded it to the internet where anyone could see it – without asking permission or paying for the use of a song to which she did not own the rights. That seemingly harmless act resulted in a copyright lawsuit that dragged on for more than ten years.

Universal Musical Publishing Group (UMPG), which owns the rights to the recordings of Prince’s songs, issued an order under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for Lenz to take down the video.

Lenz initially complied with the order, but then she contacted the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international non-profit group that works to protect people’s rights online. The company is based in San Francisco and argued that UMPG had ignored the fair-use exception to the copyright law when it ordered Lenz to take down the video. Continue reading

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Hogs can be defined as either of these two:

  1. a domesticated pig, especially one over 120 pounds (54 kg) and reared for; or
  2. a large, heavy motorcycle, in particular, a Harley 

Recently, both have come under the scrutiny for different legal reasons. You wouldn’t think so, but they did.

Hogs Corporation Being Squeezed for Trade Reasons 

Part of the Harley Davidson Investor Relations has included Corporate Governance. It makes good corporate sense, transparency and accountability is what they want for their investors. All of this is tied to profit and branding. Good business sense has also made them consider a recent move of some of its production out of the U.S.A. as part of a strategy to overturn the likelihood of decreased economic profitability. This is since the recent tariffs that the U.S.A. has imposed on steel and aluminum. They have been rather substantial and the production decision came right after it was caught between the new steel and aluminum duties imposed by President Trump. There was no doubt that the domestic prices on Harley Davidson were bound to shoot up. Trading partners within the European Union, have retaliated with tariffs placed on American products. It has been squeezed to move production where the overall costs will be less. The cost of a bike basically added up by more than two thousand

dollars in a public filing. The stock went down by 2%. It is not known for how long the tariff based war will last and executives are looking for ways to reduce impact. A likely question is that with more and more tariffs being raised against the U.S.A., will other companies and their in-house counsel soon be considering cross-border moves as well? All sorts of considerations come into play. More specifically, it involves the re-assessing support several functions including

U.S. distribution, procurement and technology, compliance and international legal affairs. That is why scrutiny by the legal department must have been made prior to any move. All sorts of jurisdictional issues will come into play. Continue reading

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Most people associate Fuji and Xerox with an office setting involving photocopying and printing. If you go to their website at: https://www.fujixerox.com They advertise smart work innovation that liberates from Restraints with an open professional expertise.  These are work aspects that most professionals want to aspire to be a part of and probably one of the reasons why they have taken off in the US market.

Fuji Xerox Co., Ltd., is a joint venture partnership between Fujifilm Holdings and Xerox, both being document related services.  Operating out of Tokyo, it was set to be one of the most powerful alliances held between the Japanese and Americans. Continue reading

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Elevated walkways overlooking parking lots, store entrances, and other commercial spaces can be both beautiful and functional, giving shoppers a chance to grab some fresh air and watch people coming and going below them, while also giving retailers extra space for storage, lockers, kiosks, and places for shoppers to walk, hang out, and mingle.

But according to a recent lawsuit against a Manhattan mall, such walkways can also be dangerous, posing a potential liability for both the mall and the security company charged with keeping the mall and its customers safe.

The East River Plaza Mall in East Harlem was sued for more $45 million after two boys shoved a shopping cart over the railing of the elevated walkway in October of 2011. The shopping cart hit Marion Hedges, a philanthropist, and real estate agent, on the head. She had been shopping for Halloween candy with her son, Dayton, who was 13 at the time.

Hedges collapsed immediately, stopped breathing for a time, and was rushed to the hospital. She suffered severe brain damage, which allegedly resulted in symptoms such as double vision, memory loss, diminished cognitive abilities, and incontinence. According to her attorney, Hedges continues to suffer from the effects of her head injury almost seven years after the incident.

The two boys who shoved the shopping cart over the railing were 12 and 13 years old at the time of the incident. They were both arrested and convicted as minors, although Hedges did not sue them. Instead, she sued the mall and Planned Security Service, the security company the mall had hired to secure the mall’s common areas, including the walkway in question. Continue reading

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Chalk up a victory for pro-consumer speech in Illinois. In a recent opinion, the Third District Appellate Court found that Better Business Bureau of Central Illinois (BBB) did not defame a business by giving it a “D-” reliability report on its website because the rating was protected as subjective opinion.

Perfect Choice Exteriors LLC, a home improvement company in Creve Coeur that installs windows, roofing, and siding, sued BBB in Peoria County circuit court for defamation, commercial disparagement, tortious interference with contract, and violation of the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Perfect Choice claimed BBB told inquiring customers that they should not do business with the company, resulting in a loss of contracts exceeding $50,000, as well as “injury to [its] reputation and standing within the business community in an amount exceeding $50,000.”

BBB initially gave Perfect Choice an “A” rating after it launched in 2009, but later changed that to a D- based on what it called the “complaint volume with the BBB for a business of [Perfect Choice’s] size” and Perfect Choice’s inadequate response to and resolution of customer complaints. Perfect Choice denied these claims and alleged that BBB never materially investigated the complaints to determine their validity. Continue reading

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Tensions between American citizens are higher than ever with no sign of slowing down any time soon and there’s ample evidence that the 2016 election played a significant role in widening those divides. Trump’s presidential campaign ran on a platform of anger and division as he routinely worked his rally crowds into a froth of resentment and hatred.

As he encourages his citizens to attack each other (both verbally and physically) his proponents who work in television, radio, and on the internet have likewise been encouraging their followers to participate in the same destructive behaviors. One such supporter, Alex Jones, has a radio show and website in which he publishes conspiracy theories about natural disasters. While the rest of the country was mourning the lives lost in the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, and Sandy Hook, Jones publicly and repeatedly insisted the first two were inside jobs and the last one never happened. Instead, he claims survivors and their families are “crisis actors” promoting the “gun-grabbing” agenda.

But the families have had enough. Family members of eight of the Sandy Hook victims, plus an F.B.I. agent who was a first responder at the shooting, have filed a total of three defamation lawsuits against Jones. One lawsuit alleges Jones and his company, InfoWars, have continuously perpetuated the monstrous lie that the Sandy Hook families faked the deaths of their loved ones. Continue reading

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The sports industry is one of inflated prices. From tickets to merchandise, rabid fans are often willing to pay outrageous prices for the illusion of a connection to their favorite player and this includes the selling of equipment that was allegedly worn by star players during games. The question of whether it can be proven that a specific piece of equipment was worn during a game or not was up for debate in a recent lawsuit against Eli Manning, the Giants, two equipment managers for the NFL team, and Steiner Sports, a company that sells helmets and jerseys worn by players during games.

The lawsuit was filed by Eric Inselberg, Michael Jakab, and Sean Godown, who purchased two helmets that were supposed to have been worn by Manning during games, but the three men allege that is not actually the case. Inselberg, who filed the lawsuit in 2014, claimed photographic experts used a technique known as “photo matching” to determine if the helmets he, Jakab and Godown had bought had actually been used in NFL football games. According to the lawsuit, these experts allegedly failed to find any evidence that either helmet had, in fact, been worn during any game.

Manning and the Giants argued that photo matching isn’t reliable because helmets are routinely reconditioned after, and even during seasons. They claim photo matching fails to take this into consideration and the evidence that a particular helmet was worn during games is to be found on the inside of the helmet, rather than the outside. Continue reading

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In one of our previous blog posts, we looked into what Facebook was doing with the data of millions of users and profiting from it.  The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg, was subject to scrutiny in his testimony and angered both users and shareholders. Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has also been accused of meddling in the elections by having a Mercer backed political data firm collect information as well.

Zuckerberg later confessed that he made mistakes and that did not know how to handle a large company. This has led to the undermining of public confidence in him, including that of the shareholders.  So now a possibility of removal from a chairman position and being replaced as an independent executive is talk that is being touted.  A dual structure system of shares allows for the usurpation of power.  Too much power in his hands is now deemed unacceptable.  Activists are also calling for his removal.  The Investment company has gone so far as to file a proposal to oust him. The main changes that are most likely include the creation of a role division between a chairman and CEO.  That leads to a greater check on the power that he holds which is more than 60 percent of a voting share. A dual role weakens management of the board and is what currently is in place. This is one of the reasons cited as being a contributing factor in the mishandling of the Facebook controversies.

Separating a chair and a CEO also reduces conflict.  Shareholders are unable to check the founder’s power because he owns 60 percent of the company and occupies the two highest positions. As it stands, Facebook stock is of two types and the ones that Zuckerberg owns have 10 times a greater voting power. “When you open yourself up to more opinions, more independent voices, you’re more likely to make better decisions. It’s more likely that someone with independent governance would have spoken up about some of these things,” Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, who has $35 million invested in Facebook, told Business Insider. Continue reading

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Sick leave is the leave of absence granted in cases of illness. Current changes are being made in this realm of the paid absence of duty and coming fast.  Federal requirements have not been in place for paid sick leave.  The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does not require unpaid sick leave.  In cases of where an employee has worked for their employer for at least 12 months, and have worked for at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months, and work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles, they are eligible.  America is the only country amongst a lineup of 22 developed nations that doesn’t guarantee pay if an employee, or a close member of the employee’s family, gets an illness and needs to take a sick day.

Starting July 1, a new law will take effect and requires any business with 18 or more employees to give workers paid “sick and safe” days.  This allows for time off to deal with illness, family issues, domestic violence, and other similar circumstances. The new law provides up to three days of sick and safe leave in 2018, four in 2019 and five in 2020 and beyond. The Department of Labor and Training will post information on its website, www.dlt.ri.gov, within a couple of weeks to guide employers.  Those who have questions should call the department at (401) 462-8000. Continue reading