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The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives everyone the right to speak freely about virtually everything and everyone, so long as what they say is not false or doesn’t infringe on intellectual property rights. People are free to voice opinions that do not contain factually false information. This protection includes negative reviews of companies providing products and services, but many legislators currently feel that consumers are in need of an extra layer of protection.

The internet and review sites like Yelp have made it easier than ever for customers to post public reviews of companies as soon as the transaction has been completed. While that may not sound threatening, a few bad reviews can significantly decrease a company’s overall rating and hinder future business, even when the subject of the complaint is insignificant and arbitrary.

So businesses have started retaliating by including clauses in their consumer contracts that forbid their customers from posting negative online reviews. Some companies have even acted on their threats by taking legal action against consumers who post negative reviews, usually for unreasonably large amounts of money when compared the transaction in question. For example, one hotel in New York charged $500 per negative review posted to Yelp, while another company sued a couple in Utah for thousands of dollars over a negative review pertaining to a small purchase. Continue reading

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When tragedy strikes, we are generally told not to blame the victim. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to do so, especially when the victims are women who have been sexually assaulted.

Ten different women filing similar allegations against Baylor University in Texas allege their rights were denied and/or violated under federal law. All the women allege they were sexually assaulted, either on school grounds and/or by other students, including at least one football player.

When the women reported the assaults to Baylor University officials, they’re reports were allegedly ignored and treated with indifference. Now the women have filed a total of six lawsuits against the school for allegedly violating their Title IX rights.

Baylor submitted requests for the first four lawsuits to be dismissed. It has not yet asked the court to dismiss the two lawsuits that were most recently filed, but it may still do so in the future. According to Baylor, the allegations submitted by the ten different women did not bear enough similarities to be filed jointly. Since they involved different places, victims, contexts, and alleged attackers, Baylor argued the combined cases should be dismissed and filed individually.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman disagreed, refusing all four of Baylor’s motions to dismiss. In his written decision, Pitman noted the similarities in claims brought by all the plaintiffs, namely their alleged mistreatment by Baylor officials, which allegedly resulted in deprivation of educational opportunities, either as a direct or indirect result of the trauma they suffered and the school’s refusal to properly handle the situation. Continue reading

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What’s in a name? While some claim it’s nothing more than a word (or combination of words), some people work really hard to maintain their good name. So when something comes along that might threaten that good name, they’ll do whatever it takes to put a stop to the potential harm before it gets out of hand.

Christopher Bray said he was aware of Ariel Investments at the time he created his own firm, Ariel Capital, in early 2014. But Bray claims Ariel Investments had nothing to do with the naming of his own company. Instead, he claims he drew his inspiration for his company’s name from the Bible and his daughter, who is also named Ariel.

Although a federal judge found Bray’s reasoning credible, he said it didn’t change the fact that the name of Bray’s company could cause confusion for consumers, especially given the fact that both firms are operating in the same industry. Continue reading

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Our Chicago non-compete agreement attorneys have defended high level executives in covenant not to compete and trade secret lawsuits. A case in which our firm defended a former Motorola executive was covered in Crain’s Chicago business. You can view that article by clicking here.

DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle a firm of Chicago business dispute lawyers handles litigation over non-compete clauses for individuals and businesses of all sizes, including small or closely held businesses for whom competition from an ex-employee can be a serious threat. Our Chicago business lawyers with offices near Oak Lawn, Arlington Heights, Oak Brook and Chicago have substantial experience in restrictive covenant and breach of contract cases, and we are proud of our record of strong results. We have successfully represented a number of doctors in non-compete, partnership and other business disputes.  We understand the complexities of physician partnership and non-compete agreements.

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Although our laws are meant to protect everyone, regardless of income or social status, the fact remains that filing or defending oneself from a lawsuit costs money and hiring competent attorneys costs even more money. Many people simply don’t have the funds to pursue a dispute in court, and too often, large corporations, flush with assets and a dedicated legal team, are all too aware of that fact and they take advantage of it.

When someone files a lawsuit against a person or entity with the goal of silencing the defending party, it’s known as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP). Because SLAPPs tend to be aimed at those with fewer resources, corporations generally count on the defendant giving up the case and/or settling outside of court. But if a defendant decides to continue with the lawsuit, the plaintiff could be the one made to pay up in court.

Legislators know SLAPPs are unfair and harmful to our democracy, which is why many states have anti-SLAPP laws that punish people and organizations for filing a lawsuit purely with the intention of shutting someone up. Continue reading

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Super Lawyers named Illinois partner dispute attorneys Peter Lubin, Vincent DiTommaso and Patrick Austermuehle Super Lawyers or Rising Stars in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation and Consumer Rights Litigation. DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle’s Illinois business trial lawyers have over a quarter of century of experience in litigating complex class action, copyright, non-compete agreement, trademark and libel suits, consumer rights and many different types of business and commercial litigation disputes including lawsuits between businesses or between shareholders and owners of the same business.  Our Chicago and Naperville partnership dispute lawyers 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, LLC members, 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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There’s no doubt that self-driving cars will be the next big thing in the automobile industry, which is why Google got so upset when a former employee allegedly took trade secrets regarding their self-driving technology to a competitor.

Anthony Levandowski claims he has been working on technology for driverless automobiles since he was in college. He entered a self-driving motorcycle into the Pentagon’s first competition for driverless vehicles in 2004, when he was still a graduate student at the University of California in Berkeley.

In 2007, Levandowski started working for Google on their maps program. When Google gave the go-ahead to start experimenting with self-driving automobiles, Levandowski was one of the first people chosen for the team.

Levandowski left Google early in 2016 to start his own business, a driverless truck company named Otto. That company was bought by Uber, at which point Levandowski became the vice president in charge of Uber’s driverless vehicle project. Continue reading

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Super Lawyers named Illinois commercial law trial attorneys Peter Lubin and Vincent DiTommaso Super Lawyers in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation and Consumer Rights Litigation. DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle’s Illinois business trial lawyers have over a quarter of century of experience in litigating complex class action, copyright, non-compete agreement, trademark and libel suits, consumer rights and many different types of business and commercial litigation disputes.  Our Elmhurst and Naperville 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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A recent shareholder suit challenging the sale of a Chicago-based company to IBM was dismissed by a Delaware chancery court because the merger was supported by an informed and uncoerced vote of 80% of stockholders. When IBM acquired healthcare software developer Merge Healthcare, Inc., in 2015 for $1 billion, a group of Merge stockholders brought a class action complaint against Merge for what they charged was an improper sale process. The plaintiffs alleged the directors breached their fiduciary duties of loyalty and care due to self-interest in the transaction. (In Re Merge Healthcare Inc. Stockholder Litigation, Consol. C.A. No. 11388-VCG, Del. Chancery Court, 2017.)

The class action sought damages resulting from IBM’s acquisition of Merge’s publicly owned shares, which was supported by nearly 80% of Merge stockholders. On August 6, 2015, Merge’s board entered into an agreement granting the company’s common stockholders $7.13 in cash for each of their shares, a 31.8% premium to the market price. Preferred stockholders received $1,500 cash per share. The merger was completed on October 13, 2015, at an approximate value of $1 billion.

As part of the merger, certain Merge managers, including one of the defendant board members, entered into employment or transition arrangements with IBM. Continue reading

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Under a federal law that requires employers to inform job applicants that they may obtain their credit reports as part of the application process, an employer cannot make applicants sign a release from liability before procuring the report. (Sarmad Syed v. M-I, LLC, No. 14-17186 (9th Cir. 2017).  In a case of first impression in the federal circuit, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a prospective employer violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when it procures a job applicant’s consumer report after including a liability waiver in the same document as the disclosure to the applicant.

In amending FCRA in 1996 to require employer disclosure, “Congress was specifically concerned that … employers were obtaining and using consumer reports in a manner that violated job applicants’ privacy rights,” the panel wrote, especially in light of inaccurate information often contained in reports.  The law requires an employer to disclose that it may obtain an applicant’s credit report and enables the applicant to withhold authorization, or to warn the employer that the report might contain errors. Continue reading