When is it unlawful for a business to terminate an employee?

October 30, 2014 on 1:15 pm | In Business Planning, Jason Howell, Merger & Acquisition, Neal J. Robinson, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

The short answer is, rarely. Virginia is an at-will employment state. This means that an employer can discharge an employee for any reason or for no reason at all, just not for an unlawful reason. An employer who terminates an employee for an unlawful reason may be liable to the employee. The question answer in this blog post is: when is a reason unlawful?

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Attorney-Client Privilege: What is it and how do you protect it?

October 30, 2014 on 1:15 pm | In Business Planning, Common Interest Community, State & Federal Litigation, Susan B. Tarley | No Comments

The attorney-client privilege permits confidential communication between an attorney and her client.  The objective is to encourage open communication, which permits an attorney to provide thorough, competent and complete advice.  Generally speaking, only a client can waive the privilege, but as found by the Virginia Supreme Court in Walton v. Mid-Atlantic Spine Specialist, PC, et al., a client’s inadvertent disclosure of a privileged communication may operate as a waiver of the attorney-client privilege.

In this Williamsburg medical malpractice case, a defendant doctor wrote a letter to his attorney calling into question his medical diagnosis he gave to his patient. The doctor kept this letter in a separate notebook. During discovery the defendant medical practice used a third party service to copy document requests. The letter was provided inadvertently to the plaintiff.

Although the defendant claimed that he did not produce the letter or permit anyone else to produce the letter, the Court found that the defendant did not take adequate protection to protect the letter. The Court noted that the notebook in which the letter was found was not marked as confidential or privileged. Furthermore, the Court held that the client did not take prompt action following disclosure.

The Virginia Supreme Court considered five main factors in determining whether the inadvertent disclosure waived the client’s privilege.  The Court looked at:  (1) the reasonableness of the precautions to prevent inadvertent disclosures, (2) the time taken to rectify the error, (3) the scope of discovery, (4) the extent of the disclosure, and (5) whether the party asserting the claim of privilege or protection for the communication has used its unavailability for misleading or otherwise improper or overreaching purposes in the litigation making it unfair to allow the party to invoke confidentiality under the circumstances.

As a start, clients should maintain attorney-client privileged communications in a separate file or notebook and clearly mark the file or notebook and each communication as “CONFIDENTIAL-ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATION.”  Then, if an inadvertent disclosure is made, the client should contact her attorney as soon as possible to determine a plan of action to restore the attorney-client privilege.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

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Update for Limited Liability Companies: What happens to Membership Interest when a Member Dies?

October 30, 2014 on 1:15 pm | In Business Law, Business Planning, John Tarley | No Comments

We blogged about the Virginia Supreme Court case of Ott v. Monroe. In that case, the Court ruled that when a father, in his will, assigned his majority interest in a limited liability company to his daughter, he only assigned a profit interest, not a control interest. Consequently, his daughter did not have the authority to “run” the company, absent the consent of the remaining LLC members.

In its 2013 session, the General Assembly modified the relevant LLC statutes in an attempt to overturn the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision. This blog post examines the new statute, and how it may impact your limited liability company.

Business Deal
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Does your Business use Employee Noncompete Agreements?

October 30, 2014 on 1:15 pm | In Business Planning, Merger & Acquisition, Neal J. Robinson, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

The legal issues related to employee “non-competes” (also known as covenants not to compete or non-competition agreements) are often not well understood by employees subject to them, the companies insisting upon them, or the companies intending to hire persons subject to them.  That may well be especially true in the Commonwealth of Virginia where one frequently hears, “That agreement is so broad it will never be enforced and Virginia doesn’t ‘blue pencil’ these agreements, so no problema.”

Williamsburg Virginia Business Lawyers

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It’s time for your Small Business to audit its Corporate Documents

October 30, 2014 on 1:15 pm | In Business Planning, John Tarley | No Comments

Many of our New Year’s Resolutions address our personal health, but owners of small businesses should also resolve to address your corporate health. Small businesses operate with great attention to the product or service the company provides, but little energy is left to review the infrastructure of the company. Issues such as shareholder agreements, key person insurance, disability insurance, annual meetings and other corporate necessities are given short shrift because of the attention we pay to running the business.

Williamsburg Virginia Business Lawyers

Business Agreements

This blog post provides a few suggestions to help you overcome a problem unique to small businesses: spending too much time working in your business rather than working on your business.  Continue reading “It’s time for your Small Business to audit its Corporate Documents”

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Preserve your friendships when borrowing or lending with friends or family – Document your transactions

October 30, 2014 on 1:15 pm | In Business Law, Business Planning, General Interest | No Comments

Many small businesses rely upon loans from friends and family for startup funds, for business expansions, or to support existing operations. Many times, these loans are made upon an oral agreement. As we have written previously, although oral agreements can be enforceable, without a writing, the terms of the agreements can be difficult to prove. In this blog post, we will describe other problems with informal lending transactions between family and friends.

contract, borrow money

In a study entitled “Lenders’ Blind Trust and Borrowers’ Blind Spots: A Descriptive Investigation of Personal Loans,” researchers outlined many of the difficulties of maintaining a lender-borrower relationship  between friends and family. In many “informal” lending relationships, the borrowers and the lenders remember the transactions differently. This “self-serving bias” can lead to problems. For example, borrowers may believe that the “loan” was a “gift,” or although agreeing that the transaction was a “loan,” may believe they paid off the loan. On the other hand, the lenders may feel angry when the “loan” is not repaid, especially when the borrower never raises the issue of repayment.

The study documented these differences between borrowers and lenders:

 Many borrowers thought the idea for the loan originated with the lender, not themselves, although the lenders thought otherwise;

 Borrowers reported far fewer delinquent loans than lenders;

 Borrowers were fairly confident they would eventually repay the loan, but lenders thought even one missed payment probably meant the loan would never be paid off;

 Delinquent borrowers “are much more likely to report feeling guilty, and also strangely, relieved and happy. Lenders associated with delinquent loans, in contrast, are much more likely to report feeling angry.”

Even though banks are flush with cash to lend, you may not qualify for a loan, or the bank’s terms may be too onerous. Consequently, family and friends are natural sources of funds for startup funds or for operating capital. However, as the proverb says,”Before borrowing money from a friend, decide which you need most.” Therefore, if you must borrow from friends or family, it is a small price to pay to perserve your personal relationships to have your business attorney draft the appropriate loan documents, including a promissory note, so that everybody knows the expectations of the transaction. Taking this step at a relatively small price can save your friendships.

Tarley Robinson, PLC,  Williamsburg, VA

Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

 

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What Should You Expect From Your Attorney?

October 30, 2014 on 1:15 pm | In Business Planning, General Interest, HOA, John Tarley, Merger & Acquisition, Real Estate Strategies, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

I read a recent article in the ABA Journal that differentiated between the teaching of “issue spotting” versus “problem solving” in law schools. This article strikes at the core of the services we provide as attorneys. We believe firmly that although it is our responsibility to help identify potential issues that you may face, our legal advice is fully realized when we help you solve your problems.

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Fictitious Name filings: Make sure you file properly for your business

October 30, 2014 on 1:15 pm | In Business Planning, General Interest, John Tarley, Merger & Acquisition | No Comments

Many businesses operate under a fictitious name, otherwise referred to as “doing business as” or “d/b/a.” There are many reasons for this use, but primarily, a company can use a catchy business name, like when a franchise opens a “T.G.I.F.” or “McDonalds,” but the company’s actual corporate name is not as exciting.

According to the Virginia Supreme Court, Virginia requires a company operating under a different name to file that name with the court and the State Corporation Commission “to prevent fraud and to compel an individual or a corporation to disclose the name of the real owner of the business, in order that the person or corporation may sue in or be sued by the proper name.”

Virginia statutes set forth the process for registering your fictitious name. For restaurants or other single location businesses, the process is pretty simple. First, you file a fictitious name certificate with the court clerk in the jurisdiction where your business is located. After the certificate is recorded, you file the certified copy with the State Corporation Commission.

Problems can arise for construction companies and other types of businesses who transact business in several localities. For those companies, you must file a fictitious name certificate in each county or city where you conduct business. We have had several matters in which these types of businesses failed to properly register their fictitious names in all the jurisdictions where they conduct business. For one thing, those entities cannot bring a lawsuit to collect monies due until they rectify that problem.

“Doing business as” is just another issue to consider when you set up your company. Make sure you fully advise your lawyer so all of your filings can be completed early, and correctly.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

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Using your business’ computer to email your attorney may be a bad idea

October 30, 2014 on 1:15 pm | In Business Planning, Common Interest Community, General Interest, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Real Estate Litigation, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

Email

Well, we have written about protecting the attorney-client privilege and about safe emailing tips when emailing your attorney. Although we thought we had it pretty well covered, a recent decision from a California appellate has given us something more to think about.
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Small Business Break-Ups – The High Cost of Litigating a Forced Separation

October 30, 2014 on 1:15 pm | In Business Planning, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

A recent Virginia Supreme Court Case, Cattano v. Bragg, illustrates two points we have made time and time again: 1) Make sure your small business is prepared for an eventual “divorce” between the shareholders; and 2) Litigation is very, very expensive.

In this blog post we will review the Supreme Court’s decision and provide some tips for your small business so that you can avoid the calamity that occurred in this case, which included an attorneys’ fee award of over $260,000 for the prevailing party.

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