Articles Posted in BUSINESS LAW

In my many years as an experiencedAtlanta business attorney, I have witnessed countless business persons begin business partnerships with the best of intentions, only to find themselves in drawn out litigation or disputes. In a high profile partnership dispute case, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Atlanta Spirit co-owner Steve Belkin has until Thursday, February 25th to pay $2 million or lose his stake in the partnership. The eight-person partnership has been fighting in court since 2005 to determine how much seven of the group must pay Belkin to buy out his 30% interest.

Belkin is part of a partnership bought the Hawks, Thrashers and Phillips Arena operating rights from Turner Broadcasting System in 2004 and shared voting power equally among three subsets of owners. Like many failed business partnerships, the group almost immediately began having disagreements and losing money.

Our Georgia business dispute lawyers see partnership disputes arise all the time, between partners, shareholders and family members. This is true for all kinds of business and over a wide variety of business matters. Moreover, the poor economy has caused more and more businesses to lose money. As such, business partners are blaming each other for the company’s failure and fighting over the company’s assets and future. As a result, many partnerships all across Georgia and the nation are floundering.

If your Georgia based business is suffering from internal disputes, disagreements and financial losses, you need an experienced business lawyer in Atlanta to be on your side and help you determine several issues such as:


• Do you want to sell your company?

• Do you want to retain control over the business?

• Do you want to operate the business yourself?

• Do you want to retain your personnel?

It is crucial you have an experienced Georgia business attorney with you to determine what your options are in the case of a break up. Typical solutions include settlement, buy-out, sale or distribution of the business, and arbitration.

If your partnership or business is failing or if you are in the midst of a partnership dispute, please contact the Atlanta Business Law firm, The Libby Law Firm to help you undertake to protect your business interests.
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As an Atlanta Lawyer I have many clients that come to me to help them set up their businesses. Business entity formation, partnership and operating agreements, employment contracts and agreements, and employment law are all areas that I frequently work on for my clients. There are other times, though, when I do represent my business clients in court. In fact, according to a 1997 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court, any Georgia business that is facing litigation must hire a licensed attorney to represent the company. Thus, if you do not have a business attorney and become involved in litigation, you must retain one. What is more, many of my Atlanta, Business Law Clients who work with our Atlanta Attorneys out of our Atlanta or Marietta Offices, often comment on how glad they are to have us nearby for piece of mind, prosperity, profitability, but most of all, that they know we are there for them when something inevitably and/ suddenly arises. I have engaged in dialogue with many of my clients, on more on a few occasions, to find out what makes having a good Local Atlanta, Georgia Business Attorney essentially, on call (or on staff). Virtually all of the answers I received were statements about how a prudent businessperson cannot just go out and find a business lawyer their business can work with and trust at the last minute . . . like a Starbucks.

It is always prudent to have Atlanta Attorneys on hand who is familiar with the company and can step in if litigation arises. But, there are other very good reasons to hire a business lawyer. The first is to properly set up the business. Deciding on which type of business entity will work for the business model is important before filing the proper paperwork. A knowledgeable Georgia Business Attorney is invaluable at this stage in business formation. Personal liability issues and tax consequences need to be considered and an experienced Atlanta, Georgia business lawyer will have good insight into which options are best for the business. An hour could be all that is required to complete an initial assessment of this step, but doing it right can help you avoid future financial and legal issues and serious tax problems or lost tax benefits.

Before hiring employees at the new company, it is essential to draft solid Georgia employment contracts. Job duties, payment terms, non-disclosure agreements and non-competition clauses all need to be considered. These documents will ensure that future litigation is kept to a minimum. This is especially true given the most recent proposed changed to The Georgia Constitution wherein Judges will be allowed to “blue pencil” in changes to employer-employee agreements to make them enforceable so long as they are no less favorable to the employee. (This subject matter is a whole new set of Articles/Blogs which will be coming soon. The fact is, the fallout from this legislation has yet to be seen).

An Atlanta, Georgia business attorney and Atlanta, Georgia employment attorney can also help with the hiring and firing or the process of “laying off” employees and can assist with setting up a system to measure employee performance. The guidelines and contracts that are established early on will help protect the company if any employee ever files a lawsuit against the company. Besides paying employees, many companies purchase services from suppliers, have leases on property (for example, vehicles and commercial real estate) and sign distribution or licensing agreements. A business attorney will safeguard your company against one-sided agreements by negotiating favorable terms for the company.
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As the world economy tightens and companies strive to turn a profit, it is not only Georgia consumers who fall victim to illegal business tactics and unfair business practices. Georgia companies also can be affected by the illegal and unfair business practices of their competitors. Businesses today are operating in a cutthroat environment driven by increasing competition, changing sales goals, workforce cuts and cost reductions. So it is not surprising that companies of all sizes are vulnerable to competitors that will take any action required to get a competitive edge.

While many companies do follow the law when competing within a given industry and limit their strategies accordingly, some take actions that are clearly in violation of Georgia business law. When disputes do arise, it seems that the large companies with deep pockets are able to protect themselves. They appear to effortlessly litigate in order to safeguard their market share, leaving smaller companies in their wake. While some smaller companies do participate in unfair business practices, it is often smaller businesses that need greater protection. Because of their size, these smaller companies often face a challenge when defending their rights against larger companies and corporations.

The upside is that Georgia business law regulates how businesses operate so that all companies have the opportunity to do business in an environment free of illegal and unfair business practices. The laws exist to discourage unfair behavior, but for some companies the temptation is too great and the law is broken. There are a host of activities that fall into the category of unfair business practices including price fixing between competitors, false advertising, monopolies and boycotting certain businesses. When laws are broken and companies become victims of these types of activities, Georgia business lawyers are there not only to defend the interests of their clients, but also to fight for compensation for losses incurred.
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As a Corporate business Lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, I am well aware the majority of the businesses in the United States are Close Corporations. Georgia Close Corporations are classified as having a maximum of fifty shareholders, no publicly traded stock, and active management by shareholders. Because Close Corporations usually employ the shareholders, these companies generally have a more relaxed management style. The downside is that this management model puts the minority shareholders in a situation where they quickly can be faced with Shareholder Oppression, also commonly referred to “squeeze out” or “freeze out” tactics. When this situation goes unchecked by the Minority Shareholders, this typically results in a negative impact on the minority shareholders and can lead to their termination of employment with the company.

When employed with a Close Corporation, income from employment and the input your Close Corporation shares allow the shareholder, is likely the most valuable stake that minority shareholders have. Shares held have no value on the open market. That, coupled with the fact that majority shareholders are unlikely to buy the minority’s shares at a fair price, leaves the minority shareholders with little or nothing upon being terminated.

The good news is that minority shareholders in Close Corporation have significant rights.
There are legal protections in place, which Close Corporation Shareholders can use to defend their rights. Many are as follows:

• Retaining an Atlanta Corporate Shareholder Attorney is the best route to protecting your Close Corporation interests.

• In the alternative, Business Law statutes in Georgia do provide protection for minority shareholders faced with this situation. Just as in ordinary corporations, all shareholders in Close Corporations have the right to inspect the documents pertaining to the company, including, but not limited to, bylaws, shareholders meeting minutes, documentation of actions taken outside of meetings and resolutions related to share classification.


• In the case of wrongdoing, documents discovered during inspection can provide the required evidence to file a lawsuit against the company.

• Georgia law states that the majority shareholders have a Fiduciary Duty to the minority shareholders, allowing minority shareholders to sue for dissolution of the Close Corporation when these duties are not fulfilled. These suits can be filed if the majority shareholders have acted are acting or are expected to act in an illegal, fraudulent, oppressive, or unfair fashion toward the minority.

• Minority shareholders also can sue for fair valuation of their shares.

Whatever the circumstance, it is critical to seek an Atlanta Corporate Business Attorney experienced in Shareholder Actions. Having a properly drafted operational agreement can prevent these types of disputes from developing, but if conflicts do arise, an Atlanta, Georgia Corporate Lawyer with experience in Corporate and Shareholder proceeding will ensure that all possible legal avenues are pursued to help Minority Shareholders receive fair treatment and compensation under Georgia Law.
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In my Atlanta, Georgia Business Law firm, I have seen many instances of business owners that have suffered because of how their businesses were initially set up. When establishing a new business, or even when re-establishing an existing business entity, it is imperative to have legal counsel review the specific needs and circumstances of the business and draft the legal documents required by Georgia law. With a clear understanding of the structure and dynamics of the organization, a Georgia business attorney is able to determine the proper Georgia legal entity that the business should operate under and will file the appropriate documents with the Georgia Secretary of State to establish the entity. Per Georgia law, legal contracts and agreements will then be drafted that outline the relationships between business partners, and licensing and taxation issues will be reviewed. Addressing these matters up front is greatly beneficial in preventing or resolving any partnership disputes or litigation in Georgia courts.

In today’s tough economy, many people are starting their own businesses. But with the infiltration of online legal document services, it is easy for new business owners who may be strapped for cash to bypass using the services of a Georgia business attorney. Unfortunately, by their very nature, these online legal documents can cover only the most common legal issues and cannot begin to address the individual circumstances and requirements that ultimately face any business. These “e-documents” do not address specific Georgia business requirements and provisions. Relying solely on documents found through an online service may seem cost effective and quick at first glance, but the results can be disastrous. These documents are not legal advice and are not a substitute for an experienced Georgia business lawyer. A reading of the disclaimer from any of these “e-document” sites confirms that the provider of these “e-documents” has set forth these “e-documents” for information purposes only. Further, as you might guess, these “e-document” providers take no responsibility for the serious problems these “e-documents” cause or assist you when pressing concerns arise. As an Atlanta, Georgia business attorney, I have seen the countless problems these “e-documents” create. As a proprietor of a well-established Georgia business law firm, I find the sale of these documents untenable.
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As a As an Atlanta, Georgia lawyer who both defends and files lawsuits on behalf of clients throughout GA and the US, I am writing to you today about Georgia lawsuit on contracts. At its simplest, a contract it is an offer by one party, accepted by another party, and performed, as agreed, by both parties.

Many parties entering into a new Georgia corporate business attorney-client relationship are either so eager to begin their business affairs, or so wary of delaying or derailing a Georgia business deal, that they are wary of bringing up the need for a written contract governed by Georgia Law. If a written contract is agreed to, many try to make it as simple as possible often without seeking the legal advice of an Atlanta, Georgia business contract attorney.

Our Firm has Atlanta business consulting lawyers giving advice to each business, which is custom tailored to their needs (we give such advice on an ongoing basis as needed after hours, on weekends, and more).

This is why many businesses enter agreements without a written contract, without attorney review of a contract, or without even reading a contract. This is also why so many contractual agreements that begin with such optimism and desire for speed, end up dragged down into the mire of contractual litigation, where they are finally forced to resort to the attorneys who could have prevented such a breakdown in the first place.

Protect your Georgia business with an Atlanta business lawyer’s advice and know that it is of the utmost important to have a written contract reviewed by experienced local Atlanta business contract attorney, that covers, simply but effectively, all necessary elements of the binding contract-agreement governed by Georgia law to ensure the rights and obligations of both parties are met.

A simple example of a situation where one clause can solve a great deal of time and expense is the question of jurisdiction to hear your case, the specific court (state or superior, etc.) and governing law.

Many Atlanta and Georgia businesses deal with other businesses, contractors, and customers that are outside of Georgia. So, if there is a lawsuit, where must it be filed? Many tend to believe that they can file a lawsuit in the state where they reside. This is not always the case, in fact, it is most often the very opposite.

Generally, a lawsuit must be filed in the state where the Defendant (the non-suing party) resides.

Thus, if you are a Georgia business, even one that feels it is the victim of a breach by an out-of-state company, you will still have to file in that company’s state with all the extra expenses involved in that.

If you wish to fight to have the case brought within your state and county, you will have to prove that your situation falls within the exceptions to this rule, known as the Georgia Long-Arm Statute (O.C.G.A. 9-10-91). Under the Georgia Long-Arm Statute a lawsuit can be brought in Georgia if the nonresident:

1. Transacts any business within Georgia;

2. Commits a tortious act or omission in Georgia;

3. Commits a tortious injury in this state caused by an act or omission outside this state if the tort-feasor regularly does or solicits business, or engages in any other persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered in this state; and

4. Owns, uses, or possesses any real property situated within Georgia.

This is a very high and fact-based standard and thus a time-consuming, expensive inquiry. It is also one that would have to be addressed before the merits of the case itself could even be considered.

THE BEST WAY TO AVOID THE ABOVE PROBLEMS?

A simple clause within the contract that states, “In the event a dispute arises, the parties agree that all lawsuits, claims, etc. will be brought within the state of Georgia [including county, city, and court where possible] and be interpreted and governed by and under Georgia law.”

[THIS – AND THE ABOVE AND BELOW INFORMATION – IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE – LEGAL ADVICE CAN ONLY BE GIVEN BY A GEORGIA ATTORNEY AT A PROPERLY SET CONSULTATION]
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As an Atlanta, Georgia lawyer, I have noticed that failure to disclose defects in Georgia real estate (mainly in residential homes), are on the rise. In fact, some cases of ‘failure to disclose‘ serious defects in real estate rise to the level of real estate fraud in Georgia, and even involve action on the sellers behalf to hide, cover up, and disguise defects so the buyer or inspector will not notice them.

As an Atlanta Property Attorney who advises clients on the purchase and sale of real estate, I make sure and advise the sellers of real estate it is illegal to fail to disclose to potential buyers, major and/or material construction defects, in the ‘home for sale’. While sellers may view these disclosures as a burden, these laws exist to protect sellers and homebuyers.

By being upfront about your home’s defects in Georgia, a home seller can avoid serious lawsuits and legal liabilities in Georgia for failure to disclose defects. Your seller’s disclosure form shows both parties exactly what the defects are, so you can be exempt from future problems.

As an Atlanta, business lawyer, I deal with non-competition (non-compete) and Non-Solicitation laws on a regular basis. The Atlanta Small Business Lawyers at The Libby Law Firm specialize in Georgia Contract Law for small to medium sized businesses. The Libby Law Firm is a well-known and well-respected Atlanta Law Firm. Our Firm represents a numerous small and medium sized businesses in an abundance of capacities. In this Blog, I analyze the “Georgia Restrictive Covenants Act”, which I believe will significantly change relationships between employers and employee in small and medium sized businesses. I believe this will be especially true in small to medium sized businesses and businesses that employ in specialty areas.

THE “GEORGIA RESTRICTIVE COVENANTS ACT” – THE “BLUE PENCIL” COMES OUT

I write this Blog as an Atlanta Attorney, to let you know a most recent change in Georgia Contract Law, which is bound to have a profound affect on Atlanta Small Business Employer – Employee relations. Georgia voters have favored a constitutional amendment on November 2nd, 2010, which speculated on stringent trade laws; thereby setting constraints on trade and its laws for workers in Georgia. The newly enabled law allows Georgia Courts to repair Restrictive (Non-Compete) Covenants in Georgia Contracts, which bind the employee. In the past, any illegality in the Georgia Restrictive Non-Compete Covenants would have caused the whole contract to fail.


To put it plainly, a fatally drafted Georgia Non-Compete clause or Non-Solicitation Clause drafted by an employer will be given effect as if it were drafted within the limits of the law. Thus, it alters already existing law, which previously rendered the entire restrictive covenant ineffective. This means if any of the restrictive covenants in the contract were unenforceable, whether because of geographical restrictions, scope of work restrictions, or time constraints, the whole contract will be held void ab initio. Now, the Judge can write in the restrictive covenants so that they are enforceable. This action is referred to as “blue penciling” and is tantamount to the judge correcting the contract so that the restrictive covenants are enforceable.

The new law is viewed as dubious, given the incongruity/discrepancy in the date of it being effective. While those who drafted the Georgia House Bill 173 declared that it would be enforced from November 3rd, 2010, the Georgia Constitution asserts that new laws should come into effect from the beginning of the coming year, January 1st. How this drafting error will affect anyone legally is uncertain and chances are that it may have to do the rounds of the courts to determine how it will be applied.

In its most practical aspect, what concerns those employees who intend to start a new business venture, is that; (a) An employment contract implemented before November 3rd, 2010, consisting of a restrictive covenant (a Georgia Non-Compete or Non-Solicitation Clause) will not be qualified for the new law; and, (b) Conversely, any employment contract implemented after November 3rd, 2010, with restrictive covenants; in particular, the restrictive covenants referred to as Non-Compete or Non-Solicitation Clauses, will fall under the new law. However, given the discrepancy in the dates, employment contracts may not be carry the power of this law as the date of commencement, or the new law may be held unconstitutional. This grey area in Georgia Contract Law may be of great concern to those workers aspiring to compete with their previous employers. This is particularly true in a densely populated competitive area such as Atlanta.
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Construction defects can be costly to rectify and can negatively affect the value of a home and the ability to resell it (this is often called a diminution in value). Some of the more serious and difficult to fix issues stem from a defective home foundation. A home’s foundation can withstand hundreds of years of use if correctly constructed and usually can outlast the home built on top of it. However, if built poorly, a foundation can be the source of problems that threaten the stability of the home and, ultimately, the homeowner’s investment.

It is sad to know, that whether I am working in Sandy Springs as a “Sandy Springs Construction Home Defect Attorney,” the Buckhead Area as a “Buckhead Construction Home Defect Attorney,” in Fulton County as an Atlanta Construction Home Defect Attorney, in Gwinnett County as a Duluth or Lawrenceville Construction Home Defect Attorney, in Forsyth County as a Cumming Construction Home Defect Attorney, in Cobb County as an Acworth, Kennesaw or Marietta Construction Home Defect Attorney, and/or last but not least, in DeKalb County as a Decatur Construction Home Defect Attorney, the critical foundation problems I see in my Atlanta-Based Home Construction Defect Law Practice all stem from common defective construction that could have been prevented had the builder, contractor, or sub-contractor taken care in the construction of the home, and in particular, the foundation.

Unfortunately, these issues may not become known until several years after the building is complete. The result can be a nightmare scenario that leaves the homeowner unsure of what recourse is available under Georgia law. In many cases, by the time the defect is noticed, the builder or contractor responsible for the poor work usually denies that the foundation defects are their responsibility. For this reason, we also may engage various insurance companies to seek a remedy and relief for the homeowner in addition to pursuing the builder and contractor.

The foundation is especially critical because not only does it support the house, it also provides a moisture barrier that keeps the home dry and mold free. A solid foundation also insulates the home from cold and protects the home from damage caused by the ground shifting. Poured concrete reinforced by steel is thought by some experts to be a stronger material for foundations than concrete block or stone, and foundations can be built below ground on footings to provide a basement, or built as a slab. Regardless of the materials used to build the foundation, or its type of construction, all foundation types can fail for a variety of common reasons.

Improper initial site evaluation by the builder is one common cause of foundation issues. The first thing a builder must do when planning new construction is to evaluate the property’s soil type, water table, and grade. This will allow the builder to determine where to place the home on the property and what materials to use. Once that decision has been made, the soil preparation, process of laying the concrete and backfill used around the foundation all will affect the integrity of the foundation.

The foundation must be poured over solid ground that is prepared correctly, and compacted, so it does not settle and cause the foundation to crack. Properly leveling and packing crushed stone before pouring a slab, for example, will help prevent the slab from cracking. If the property contains any landfill material that may decompose over time, the soil must be reengineered to withstand the force of the foundation and the building. Additionally, concrete should be poured in one day to avoid creating a “cold joint” between fresh and semi-cured or cured concrete. This condition usually results in a cracked foundation that will leak. Concrete must also be allowed to cure slowly. Only by curing slowly will the concrete reach a strength that will support the weight of the house (around 3,000 pounds per square inch). Finally, the material used to backfill around the foundation will affect the longevity of the structure. Soils with a high clay or organic content absorb and hold water and can cause cracks in the foundation during freeze/thaw cycles when used as backfill.
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Yes, partnership nightmares are common. . . How common? Read on . . .

I have noticed many individuals are stepping away from their employment with large companies to start their own Georgia businesses. Some feel that the current economic situation has provided a golden opportunity that should be seized and others are forced to move on after being downsized by their companies. Often, these businesses are Georgia partnerships formed with friend, family and/or former work colleagues. Unfortunately, a great percentage of people begin these Georgia partnerships without the proper legal guidance or documentation based on Georgia’s partnership laws. Unwittingly, these would be business partners believe that long time personal relationships between partners, their own personal business knowledge, or other such reasons, will sufficiently protect their Georgia business partnership from internal strife, power struggles, and/or economic failure.

The fact is, even under ideal circumstances, Georgia partnerships are complex and should not be left unchecked. While partnership agreements do keep the “honest people honest,” they also stop abuse by others with less than honorable intentions. As an Atlanta Business Partnership Lawyer, I have handled many cases where even the best intentions between business partners could not stop Georgia partnership litigation from arising. In cases when the business entity does survive, the resulting chaos usually proves to be costly and detrimental to the business.

Thus, preventing Georgia partnership disputes is paramount. This involves retaining an experienced Georgia partnership attorney at the beginning of the partnership to construct a fair and manageable business relationship between partners. The next best thing to beginning a business relationship, in which a Georgia partnership lawyer skillfully guides you, is to catch a Georgia business partnership dispute before it gets serious in order to protect your interests. Usually, the first partner who realizes this and seeks legal guidance has the upper hand in the outcome of any Georgia partnership dispute, litigation, or dissolution.

Georgia partnership disputes can surface between and among anyone with an interest or influence on the company, including Georgia partnership shareholders and family members. Once disputes do arise, business partners are inclined to blame one another for any business failures. Common issues to address when a business is failing include whether or not to sell the company, employee retention, and company management. An experienced Georgia Business Partnership Attorney can help sort out these issues and provide the most beneficial solution to all involved.

The Georgia business partnership attorneys at The Libby Law Firm can assist you in determining and implementing solutions to resolve disagreements between partners, protect Georgia partnership interests, or effectuate partnership dissolutions. While litigation is the most common way Georgia partnership disputes are resolved, mediation or arbitration are also wise dispute resolution options. Other alternatives include buy-outs, settlements and distribution or sale of the business entity.
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