What to Do if Your Small Business is Faced with a Lawsuit

lawsuit information on paperIf your business was slapped with a lawsuit, would you know what to do? While no business owner wants to be faced in such a situation, anyone in business has to deal with the possibility of being sued. Whether you’re a small business owner or manage a large corporation, chances are that, over time, your business will have to deal with a lawsuit. What would you do if you were sued? Would you know what steps to take? Notable entrepreneur Barry LaBov provides professional advice for business owners if faced with a lawsuit.

Contact Your Attorney

As soon as you learn your business is facing a lawsuit, you should contact an attorney immediately. Even if you believe that the lawsuit has no credibility or that the accusations are false, always speak to an experienced lawyer who can provide you with the proper counsel and protect your interests. When you speak to the lawyer, provide as much detail and thorough information as possible about the lawsuit and what may have caused it. The more your lawyer knows, the better he or she can represent and defend you or settle the case.

Investigate the Claim

It’s highly recommended that you avoid discussing the matter with anyone inside or outside of your company besides your lawyer, unless it is absolutely necessary. For example, it makes sense for you to discuss the situation with your business partner. Take the time to conduct an internal investigation and collect relevant information relating to the lawsuit, such as contracts, invoices, e-mails, letters and other such materials. You should also prepare a written report of the event that sparked the lawsuit and gather statements from anyone involved.

Check Your Insurance

You should contact your insurance company immediately and inform them of the lawsuit. They will let you know if your situation is covered under their policy or not. In most cases, accidents are covered claims, whereas issues like contract disputes and fraud are not. But you should always check with your insurance company to make sure. In addition to protecting company assets, liability insurance may cover the cost of legal defense if necessary.

Create a Plan of Action

Speak with your attorney to create a plan for your defense and outline how you should respond to the matter. Should you or can you counter-sue or should you settle? Consider all the options and which is best for your specific case.

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Trump and the Business of Lawsuits

As entrepreneur Barry LaBov can tell you, business and lawsuits can go hand in hand. There will be consequences to owners’ business practices, the things they say, and the actions they take. And in the case of Donald Trump, that is doubly true. Presently, the real estate mogul is embroiled in four noteworthy suits, three of which he has brought against individuals and corporations for breach of contract and one that was brought against him for fraud.

The unifying theme of the lawsuits initiated by Trump is that they directly relate to the disparaging remarks that he made against Mexican immigrants. In his presidential announcement, as well as subsequent interviews, Trump claimed that “The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.” While these statements did not seem to do much damage to his approval ratings among republican voters, there has been a notable backlash towards his business holdings – specifically, amongst those of either Mexican or Hispanic heritage or those with ties to them.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers questions from reporters at a campaign fundraiser at the home of car dealer Ernie Boch Jr. in Norwood, Massachusetts August 28, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

(Photo courtesy of REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER)

Two of these suits are specifically aimed at individual chefs who were planning to open restaurants in hotels owned by Trump. José Andrés (a naturalized American citizen of Spanish origins) and Geoffrey Zacharian (a judge on Chopped) both pulled out of contracts with Trump’s group, claiming that they could no longer conscientiously pursue business dealings with the tycoon after his comments. Trump is claiming that he is owed the rent money for the leases that they signed, to the tune of approximately $10 million each.

In addition, Trump’s comments on Mexican immigration caused Univision, a U.S.-based Spanish language media outlet, to drop its coverage of the Miss Universe Pageant, which Trump owns. This alleged breach of contract has resulted in Trump’s group bringing a $500 million dollar suit against the company. It also has resulted in some heated comments and a Univision news anchor being thrown out of a conference after trying to interrupt Trump to ask a question.

On the defensive end, Trump is fighting a class-action suit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman concerning Trump University, a for-profit online school that promised real estate education. The charges against Trump include fraud and are backed by the testimony of over a hundred former students. They claim that they were promised certain levels of education as well as the one-on-one guidance of experts, and were instead provided teachers with no experience in exchange for the money they paid.

While these suits may or may not have an impact on Trump’s political career, they have definitely affected his business holdings and could lead to potential losses down the line if Hispanic groups and companies decide to avoid him. And his Trump University project could be seen as gross mismanagement or, worse, intentional deception. However, the thing these cases have in common is that they’re all bad for business. Barry LaBov stresses that it’s important for business owners to be mindful of what they say and choose their projects carefully to avoid backlash – even if they’re running for president.

Leaving a Bad Review Could Get You Slapped with a Lawsuit

You’ve probably heard about companies being sued by customers or past employees, whether for poor service, an injury or termination of their employment. But have you ever heard of a company suing because of a bad review on a review website? While it’s common to hear stories about businesses being sued, it’s certainly less common for the tables to turn.

Recently in Virginia, the owner of a dog obedience school sued a customer for $65,000 after the woman posted a negative review of her experience with the obedience school on Yelp. The dog owner stated that the school did not provide the services indicated and demanded a refund. However, the school’s owner stated that, in an exchange of emails with the customer, the training conditions were made clear, as was the non-refundable payment. The school did offer the woman other options.

low rating

The school owner explained that they, like so many other small to mid-sized businesses, depend heavily on word-of-mouth and positive online reviews to gain new customers. The customer, however, argues that her review should be protected by the First Amendment and she should be able to freely express herself.

This case isn’t one of a bad review, but of a false one. When businesses and customers agree to terms, they are both bound to abide by them. So what can businesses and individuals learn from this lawsuit? Founder of LaBov & Beyond Marketing, Barry LaBov weighs in with these tips:

Stick with the Facts

In this particular instance, while the customer was unhappy that the school’s training did not meet her expectations, she did initially agree to a non-refundable payment. That is a fact and that cannot be ignored.  When posting a review, whether positive or negative, be honest and truthful.

There’s a Limit to Free Speech

While some people may think that they can say whatever they’d like about a business and be protected by the First Amendment, there are limits to free speech in the United States, one of which is defamation. This applies to any false statements that make someone else look bad to the public.

Try to be Objective

Everyone is free to openly express how they feel or their views on a matter. But people should be careful of what they say and how they say it. When unhappy or disappointed with a business, product or service, it’s easy to take the situation and exaggerate it. Individuals can leave reviews that are informed by their opinions and emotions, but they need to temper them with truth and accuracy in order to be better heard, and to avoid legal action.

3 Reasons that You’re Going to Lose Your Lawsuit

Let’s say that you think you have been wronged or hurt in some way. Perhaps you feel that your employer has been treating you unfairly or that a company or product misrepresented itself and made false promises. Either way, you want justice, and you are considering suing the person or company in question. After all, people file lawsuits every day for a variety of reasons, so why shouldn’t you do the same? And you’ll have to win, of course, because you’re in the right!

There’s a lot of talk about how America is a sue-happy society, but there’s rarely any discussion about how many of those lawsuits never make it to a legit trial. You may feel as though a lawsuit is the only way for you to get justice, but it could be more of a problem for you in the long run. Here are a few major reasons that you might not win your lawsuit.

You don’t have a good case

Hurt feelings and egos can be emotionally painful, but it’s unlikely that a judge would find them important in a court of law. To have a chance of winning a lawsuit, you’ll need to make sure that you have a solid case. Can you prove that the person or company you’re suing broke some kind of legally binding contract? Did they cause you physical injury? Do you have irrefutable proof that their actions caused you harm, whether emotional, physical, or financial? If you answered no to all of those questions, you probably don’t have a good case. While we’re on the topic, it’s a good time to mention . . .

 You don’t have any solid evidence

You claim that you’ve experienced severe emotional distress because of the actions of a company or person. Do you have records from a therapist or other trained mental health professional to prove that, or do you just have your memories and feelings? You say that an individual or business has caused you a significant amount of financial stress. Can you prove that their actions directly impacted your bank account, or do you just have a hunch that they must have done something? Receipts, audio and visual confessions, transcripts, documents and solid evidence win cases. Feelings and anecdotes may win arguments, but they won’t win lawsuits.

Your only goal is money – and a lot of it

You want justice, and you won’t stop until you get that seven-figure settlement! If you were offered a four or five figure settlement, would you feel that justice was served or would you want even more? If you’re “aiming for a high number,” you aren’t filing a lawsuit for the right reasons. Lawsuits are meant to help people who wouldn’t otherwise get help, for an amount appropriate to the wrong done them; they aren’t designed to give you a good payout. Countless businesses and people, from David Blane to Barry LaBov, have had to deal with lawsuits in court because people were looking for a quick payday. In just about every instance, it’s only been a waste of time for everyone involved.

Effective Ways Respond to Customer Complaints Online

There are myriad online review sites out there for consumers to use when deciding whether or not to patronize a business, product or service. Thus, it is important for businesses to be aware of what people are saying about them on these websites, as reviews can have a huge impact on their profits. Bad reviews especially.

No business owner wants to see their company’s good name dragged through the mud. Unfortunately, just about every business will have some negative reviews posted about them. As soon as you are aware of a bad review, you should act promptly, but also properly. Marketing expert Barry LaBov, founder of LaBov & Beyond Marketing, offers some tips.

complaints

Join the Conversation

If you come across a bad review online, you can join the conversation, address any issues voiced by customers, and acknowledge their concerns. Even if you don’t agree with what they say, it’s crucial to remain professional and demonstrate that you understand where they are coming from.

Hire a Customer Service Team

A customer service team will monitor bad reviews and complaints from customers on reviews sites, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. By hiring dedicated staff members, you can ensure that complaints are acknowledged promptly and that customers receive a response in a timely fashion. Believe it or not, a sincere and well-written response can save you a customer.

Ask for Customer Suggestions

Maybe you’re not sure how to respond to a complaint. Why not ask the customer what they suggest instead? This shows customers that you sincerely care about their opinions and want to find a solution. By asking customers for advice, they often feel highly valued.

Give Customers a Safe Place to Voice Their Concerns

In an effort to steer customers away from review sites that are open to everyone, give them a safe place to leave their feedback or opinions, such as a form on your website. Encourage them to leave a review and let them know that they can be open with you.

Encourage Positive Reviews

People usually only take the time to write a review when they’re disappointed, not necessarily happy. Encourage satisfied customers and clients to leave positive reviews online to spread the word about your business. Also, having a lot more positive reviews than negative ones will help the bad ones look like a fluke, rather than a trend.

Work with the Review Website

While it’s one thing to be upset with a business and let it be known, some people go to the extreme when leaving reviews. They may post threatening comments or use inappropriate language. Some businesses even use shady marketing tactics, purposely posting poor reviews about their competitors using fake accounts. In both instances, you should contact the review website to let them know the situation. Remember, these sites have their own reputations to maintain and won’t want spammy comments, foul, abusive language, or slanderous statements on their site.

Consult with an Attorney

While every company will receive complaints, you may want to consult a business attorney about how to appropriately deal with them – especially if they involve any legal issues. Depending upon your specific situation and what was said or done, Barry LaBov suggests that you may want to consider filing a lawsuit.

 

 

 

 

 

The Ugly Truth about Lawsuit Abuse

lawsuit documentsIf you do a quick search online for the word “lawsuit,” you’d be surprised to see just how many results come up. American Airlines recently lost a big lawsuit against a 22 year-old that discovered a way to get very cheap tickets, and the company is currently scrambling to pick up the pieces from the embarrassing loss. Paul Brodeur, an investigative science journalist, is still upset with the makers of the 2013 movie American Hustle because in it, Jennifer Lawrence’s character says that microwaves are unsafe and take the nutrients out of food, and cited Brodeur as a source. The journalist is claiming defamation, since he never made such claims about microwaves and says that the movie has hurt his credibility and career. However, the claim is questionable, since the character in the movie is portrayed as being rather uninformed, and the movie is considered a comedy. The microwave case has been in the legal system for months and, against all odds, is actually going to go to court.

Lawsuits are supposed to be filed because somebody has suffered a terrible wrong, or because there’s no other way for them to get justice. They aren’t meant for settling petty wrongs or “he said, she said” situations, but that’s exactly what they’re being used for. It’s crazy to think that multi-billion dollar companies are willing to fight such seemingly silly cases in court but, in today’s sue-happy society, it seems that lawsuits can be issued over virtually anything.

If there’s one thing Barry LaBov knows, it’s lawsuit abuse and its disturbing prevalence in American society. According to a study done on the international comparison of litigation costs, the United States has the world’s most costly legal system as a share of its economy. According to a public opinion survey conducted by Penn Schoen Berland and Public Opinion Strategies, 87% of American voters view the number of lawsuits filed in the country as a serious problem.

A whopping one and three American voters, along with nearly half of all small business owners, report having either been threatened with or involved in a civil lawsuit. Filing or threatening a lawsuit doesn’t take a lot of time, but the toll it can take on a person is immeasurable. People often feel stressed out and scared about the potential of an ongoing legal battle: they have to waste precious time and money researching lawyers, going to court hearings, and having to explain to confused friends, relatives, and business associates why they’re fighting a lawsuit in the first place. The worst part of lawsuit abuse is that, half of the time, the suit is barely worth dealing with. Those involved could spend weeks, months, or even years fighting something that won’t matter in the long run. But since there will still be records of the suit online and in other places, they’ll still have to suffer the stigma of having a lawsuit filed against them.

Are you a victim of lawsuit abuse?

Barry LaBov Discusses What You Should Know about Defamation Lawsuits

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One of the more interesting legal aspects that have emerged from online marketing is libel and slander. Businesses and individuals alike could be subject to internet defamation, which could lead to negative publicity, lost sales and business, or just outright general embarrassment. With this in mind, marketing expert, Barry LaBov, has a few thoughts on internet defamation and what your options are if you become the victim of it. According to Barry LaBov, a lawsuit is not out of the question depending on your particular situation.  Here are some things you should know about internet defamation:

  • Bloggers are treated like the press in regard to libel, meaning they do have liability protections to a degree, but they can’t still can’t knowingly publish something they know is false or out of malice.
  • According to AdWeek, internet defamation must be false, cause harm, and be published to more than one person.
  • Anonymous internet commenters and social media posters can be subject to defamation lawsuits. ISPs can be investigated, so that the anonymous poster is found and charged.
  • It is much tougher to sue for defamation if you are a public figure.
  • Because it is the internet, defamation might come from anywhere across the globe. It’s important to read up on defamation laws per country. For example, Britain has must tougher defamation laws than the United States.
  • The statute of limitations for a defamation case could be as much as 3 years.

If you believe that you are the victim of internet defamation, it’s important to act quickly. Contact your lawyer to see if he/she can reach out directly to the other party to see if they will take it down. If you cannot convince the other party or the website it is hosted on, you might have to get a court order. Defamation can be just as damaging on the internet as it is on traditional forms of media, and you should not allow yourself to be a victim of it if it comes up.