Cincinnati is home to many flourishing startups and small businesses. Even corporate giants, such as Procter & Gamble, Kroger, and Macy’s, all have chosen Cincinnati as their corporate headquarters. The city’s largest employer, Kroger, employs 17,000 locals. On the smaller scale, places like HCDC are focused on helping small businesses grow; through business incubation, business lending, and economic development services, they have been successfully developing jobs and stimulating the economy since 1983. Even with success stories such as these, Cincinnati entrepreneurs and established business people must also reconcile changes to business relationships.
Although no one doing business looks forward to entering into business lawsuit in Cincinnati, at times the situation calls for a strong legal response. A contract dispute or a broken contract can have devastating financial repercussions for any business and can result in the loss of income or interference with business by an outside party. The impact can be especially strong for the small business owner. What are some common business litigation situations? The following examples are just two of the most common situations requiring some sort of legal action. If business litigation seems inevitable, speaking to an experienced and knowledgeable Cincinnati business litigation attorney can help make the best of a challenging situation.
Breakup of a Business Partnership
One of the most common changes occurs when a business partner decides to separate from the business to start another venture or even compete with a former partner.
The breakup of a business partnership can be both devastating and costly. Many parallels exist between this type of breakup and a divorce. Although business litigation may become the only viable option, there are steps that can be taken to possibly prevent further harm. Minimizing any fight with your partners can only help resolve the possibility of future business litigation:
- Put the right documents in place. When business owners skip over setting up the business, the result can mean ambiguity. Ambiguity translates into questionable interpretation during a dispute. Every type of business entity follows a legal procedure for governing the operation of the business and the relationships between the owners. For an LLC, for example, the document is called an “operating agreement.” An operating agreement allows the partners to agree to bylaws that govern the operation of the business. Partners, shareholders, and officers of the company can all see, understand, and agree to the terms of doing business with each other. These documents are essential for the smooth operation of the business, but many businesses operate by the seat of their pants without necessary governing documents. Things may be fine for a while, but when a dispute between owners develops without a clear guide to resolving the differences, what started as a minor disagreement can end in a nasty breakup.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Like a marriage, a strong business partnership requires open communication from all the owners. Wounds can fester, leading to an unstable relationship between the owners. For example, if a partner feels like he or she is putting in all the effort and reaping none of the reward, there’s a good chance that the business is in serious trouble. Get to the heart of the matter early and you may be able to salvage the relationship.
- Get advice from an experienced business attorney. Entrepreneurs tend to have a do-it-yourself attitude, but that can be disastrous when it comes to your business’s legal matters. Making the right decisions from the beginning of a business relationship goes a long way toward keeping the relationship strong.
If you suspect that your business relationship is headed in the wrong direction, it’s important to get a Cincinnati business lawyer early. Wait too long, and your business relationships may no longer be salvageable, costing you needless time and money. A competent, experienced Cincinnati business litigation attorney can help you navigate your dispute to the best resolution possible.
If a contract has been broken to the detriment of one of the parties, business litigation may be necessary. Often, what has started out as equitable terms to an agreement can suddenly become a burden to one party of the contract. In cases where the cost of shipping, buying, or continuing the contract has financially burdened or inconvenienced one party, or when a more lucrative or attractive offer is found, the terms of the contract may no longer seem important. If you are on the receiving end of holding an unfulfilled contract, however, the cost of no longer receiving the benefits of that contract can devastate a business operation. Business litigation in these cases can sometimes be the best option where communications have broken down.
What makes an agreement an enforceable contract?
Not every business agreement is enforceable by Ohio courts. To be enforceable as a contract, an agreement needs to satisfy a few basic requirements:
- A party to the agreement must have made an offer.
- Another party must have accepted that offer.
- The agreement must include consideration.
- There must be mutual assent between the parties.
- Finally, the agreement must have a legal purpose.
Additionally, the parties to the agreement must be capable of entering into it. We’ll cover each in turn.
The first requirements are that one person made an offer to another person who in turn accepted it. The other person may make a counteroffer, but the original seller must accept the new offer for there to be a contract.
The “consideration” requirement is just the legal way of saying that something of value was exchanged by the parties. In our example of the wedding gown, if one person agrees to buy another’s gown for $2,000, one person is getting $2,000 and the other is getting a wedding dress. An agreement to do something that you’re already legally obligated to do or an agreement not to do something that you have no right to do anyway is not enforceable as a contract. The exchange of value between the parties must reasonably benefit both sides of the equation.
The mutual assent requirement ensures that both parties accept the agreement’s essential terms and both parties intend to be bound by them. If the parties don’t have a “meeting of the minds,” a valid contract can’t exist. A contract also must have a legal purpose. For instance, a contract to sell illegal drugs isn’t enforceable by the courts.
The final requirement ensures that parties have the capacity to enter into a contract. For example, someone who is legally insane or a minor is presumed not to be capable of forming a valid contract with someone else.
If you find your Cincinnati business tangled in a contract dispute, the assistance of a Cincinnati business litigation attorney will be invaluable in determining whether a contract exists and whether the contract has been breached, giving you a right to financial recovery.
No business owner wishes to enter into litigation as part of doing business. At times, knowing what legal remedies are available and the correct ways to use them can make all the difference in resolving a dispute and getting back to business as usual. At Robert A. Klingler Co., L.P.A., we have broad and deep experience resolving all kinds of business disputes through negotiated settlements and through trials when necessary.