PRACTICE AREA

Business Disputes And Commercial Litigation

When you’ve been ripped off, either in the workplace or in your business dealings with others, it can be hard to know where to start to make things right. Dan’s experience in litigating contracts, workplace discrimination, and fraud will provide insight into your rights, and the firepower you need to litigate your case.

Commercial litigation involves nearly every type of dispute that may arise in a business context. This includes breach of contract, disputes between partners, class actions, business torts, securities disputes, discrimination, defamation, and fraud, among others. Litigation may be requiredinState orFederal courts,in private arbitrations, or in administrative hearings, depending on the specific details of a case. Given the broad nature of commercial litigation, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney as early as possible when a dispute arises.

Dan Johnston has represented clients in commercial and complex litigation matters, including on the defense side for some of the largest insurance companies in the world, construction and restoration companies, logistics companies, and commercial landlords. Dan has also represented individual and small business plaintiffs against large and small defendants in commercial matters, including car dealerships, contractors, employers, large chain stores, and in disputes with business partners gone awry. Dan has worked on cases involving matters of fraud, employment discrimination and failure to pay wages, securities, deceptive trade practices, breach of contract, product liability, promissory note issues, and many other cases in this field of practice.

Some issues that arise in this field of practice require specialized knowledge and experience. With an extensive network of professionals working in this field, if Dan can’t help you, he can put you in touch with attorneys who may be the best fit for your case.Call us today to schedule a consultation.

Case Studies

The Uninsured Commercial Landlord

The owner of a multi-unit apartment building in NYC retained us to defend a case where a plaintiff slipped and fell on his property, suffering a tri-malleolar fracture to his left ankle – a severe, potentially 7 figure injury. This client did not have insurance, leaving him 1) having to defend the case on his own, and 2) fully exposed to any judgment which may issue on the case. Performing a thorough investigation into the lawsuit and its background, Dan Johnston found discrepancies in the location of the alleged fall between the complaint paperwork filed in the lawsuit against the landlord and the related “Notice of Claim” filed against the City of New York. Using the testimony plaintiff gave in a prior hearing with the City, publicly recorded deeds and mortgage paperwork from the neighboring property, and pictures plaintiff provided to the City in the related complaint, Dan filed a motion to dismiss for failure to properly state a claim against the landlord. The motion was granted and the case was dismissed. This not only saved the landlord from potential liability for the plaintiff’s injuries, but since the motion was filed before discovery took place in the lawsuit, saved the landlord from expending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and costs. Big win, very happy client.

The Defamed Small Business

A small business owner in a niche business which relied primarily on online reviews and directories to receive business retained us to handle a very tricky matter. A prior client, seeking to obtain additional services for free, threated to make a complaint that the owner sexually harassed her if he did not provide said services. My client balked at this and refused to provide the services. The woman followed through on her threat, spreading reviews on different websites accusing him of misconduct. A demand letter was sent to remove the defamatory reviews, which she then spread as purported evidence that he was trying to “silence her”. She was gaining a following on this distorted narrative, and my client’s business was taking a serious hit. After carefully reviewing possible strategies, we decided that using a last resort first was warranted. We filed a lawsuit, naming her individually, carefully laid out her scheme in the complaint, detailed the provable falsities in the reviews, and issued a massive demand for reimbursement of lost business. The case settled shortly thereafter with the reviews being removed.

The Terminated Employee

We represented a blue collar worker in relation to his termination. Following an issue with a customer regarding his installation of a part at their home, the business owner unlawfully deducted the cost of the part from the client’s paycheck. This is a no-no. A savvy guy, the client recorded his phone call with the owner where he asked to be reimbursed for the cost of the part. His employer terminated him on the phone call. This was now a retaliation case, as well. Again adopting a last resort first mentality, we filed a federal lawsuit, not only for retaliation and unlawful wage practices, but also sought previously unpaid overtime and wage violations, and a host of others. We also filed this as a collective action – meaning, we were seeking to recover for wage violations the owner may have committed against his other employees. The case settled prior to discovery. The cost of the part was just over $200. We recovered a mid-5 figure sum for the employee.

The Used Car

We represented a client through a program in which we provide services to those who would otherwise be unable to afford legal services. She was sold a car, which due to the high mileage, was not covered by the Lemon Law. The car, of course, immediately broke down after purchase. After back and forth with the dealership, the dealership simply stopped responding to her. We filed a claim, despite that the car was not covered by the lemon law, using a novel application of NY’s deceptive trade practices act. The dealership did not take the claim seriously until we certified we were ready for trial and intended to move forward. Just prior to the trial commencing, the dealership settled and cut my client a check.

The Medicaid Recipient

A client who, in 2012 and 2013, was a single mother receiving Medicaid for her health insurance. Six years after the fact, the state agency responsible for administering the benefits filed a lawsuit for a 5-figure sum against her, claiming she was not eligible to receive benefits in those years. After investigating the claim and the complaint, we filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. After lengthy negotiations with the agency, we reached a settlement for less than 20% of the amount sought by the agency.

The Unpaid Promissory Note

A client sold his shares in a business to his partner, with the payment for the shares self-funded by a promissory note. The partner almost immediately began a pattern of underpaying or failing to make payments at all. After sending a demand letter and negotiating with the partner, we were able to create a temporary payment plan of lowered payments, extend the duration of payments, and get the agreement back on track. Using this approach, we reached a mutually beneficial outcome, and avoided the expense of litigation.

Frequent Issues

We often assist small and medium sized businesses with their delinquent accounts receivable. Our approach is typically to induce clients and vendors to settle up without resorting to litigation (saving clients on legal spend), but are always prepared to escalate issues as far as is required at the client’s direction.

We also have represented both homeowners and contractors in relation to contract disputes, property damage issues, and other disputes that arise in this context.

We represent and advise both employees and employers in many fields on severance negotiations, non-disclosure agreements, non-compete agreements, and employment contracts.

We also want to hear from any individuals or businesses that feel they have been ripped off in just about any context. Typically, it hasn’t happened to only you (opening up class and collective action possibilities), and NY’s deceptive business practices act is a swiss-army knife statute that be applied to a tremendous variety of circumstances.

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