Archive for the ‘Litigation’ Category

Help Me . . . Help You

Most people probably think that “Show me the money!” is the Jerry McGuire quote that best describes lawyers. But that’s not true. The quote that best describes lawyers is “help me . . . help you.” And there are many things that a client can do to help his or her lawyer in a litigation case. Here are some simple, but effective, considerations for a win-win situation. Doing these four things will make your case more efficient, and success more probable.

1. Preserve Evidence. Your lawyer can only defend and prosecute your case with evidence. Also, the failure to preserve evidence can be used against you. Thus, Rule #1: Preserve Evidence. Start by identifying all the potential locations of evidence: Paper format; electronic devices; servers; cloud/online storage; and third party sources. These should be saved to ensure that evidence is preserved. After identifying the sources of documents, help your lawyer by culling and gathering the documents. It is also useful to specifically identify the documents that you think are most relevant to the case. Likewise, identify all potential witnesses and provide your attorney with the last known contact information.

2. Know you’re objective, and what you’re willing to settle for.  At the beginning of the lawsuit, clarify your objectives. Consider the best-case outcomes; consider the worst-case outcomes. And consider the outcomes that you want to achieve. It is also best to consider what you’re willing to concede (or spend), in order to achieve the desired outcome.

3. Understand Risks. Nothing is certain. Nothing is promised. Nothing is guaranteed. Litigation is unpredictable. At least one major fact or witness will turn out completely different than anticipated. The law can be murky, too. An analogy: Imagine that you own a 2007 Honda CRV with a book value of $10,000. Now, imagine that you park the 2007 Honda CRV on the street with a “For Sale Best Offer” sign. What type of offer might you get? Would it matter if your CRV is sold in Lancaster, or Camp Hill, or Gettysburg, or West Chester? The book value might be $10,000; but the reality is that it will be sold on a specific day, at a specific location, with a specific buyer. You might get $10,000 exactly, but probably not. Likewise, the legal books might say that your dispute should be determined one way or another. But the reality is that it will depend on the specific facts of your case, with a specific judge or jury, in a specific location. Just like the sale of the CRV – litigation is not an exact formula.

4. Understand Negotiated Settlement. To avoid unpredictability, and to achieve finality, settlements are wise. But, to get something, you need to give something.

What’s Happening Now . . .

7.5 % Increase

  • Through July 2016, spending on private construction is up 7.5%, compared to 2015.
  • Spending on public construction is up 0.2%.
  • Total construction spending is up 5.6%.
  • Residential construction spending is up 6.5%.
  • Non-residential private construction spending is up 5.1%.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, July 2016 Construction at $1,153.2 Billion Annual Rate (Sep. 1, 2016).

This article is authored by attorney Jeffrey C. Bright and is intended for educational purposes and to give you general information and a general understanding of the law only, not to provide specific legal advice.  Any particular questions should be directed to your legal counsel or, if you do not have one, please feel free to contact us.

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DOL Sues Employer for Unpaid Pre- and Post-Shift Work

The Department of Labor (DOL) filed a lawsuit against Five Star Automatic Fire Protection in the Western District of Texas on July 7th, alleging the company failed to properly compensate its workers for labor they performed prior to and following their standard shifts. The DOL is seeking $321,000 in back pay and damages—a sharp reminder that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to fully compensate their employees for all the work they do, including work done before and after they are on the job site.

The DOL’s attempted application of the rule is not new or even surprising, but it should grab employers’ attention, because it is a prime example of the type of wage and hour practices that put an employer on the wrong end of a costly lawsuit.

According to the DOL complaint, Five Star required its workers to begin their day at its office, where they loaded materials into a company vehicle before driving to the job site. After they were done at the jobsite for the day, Five Star required them to return the company vehicle to the office. The DOL has filed a complaint because it alleges Five Star did not compensate employees for this pre-shift and post-shift work.

FLSA requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked. Generally, any activity performed for an employer, whether it is done on the job site, at the office, or even off work premises, counts as time worked if the employer knows or has reason to believe work is being done. Activities such as preparing materials integral for work—the kind of pre-shift and post-shift work performed in this case—must be compensated as work. Even if Five Star did not intend to purposefully shortchange its workers, that fact alone will not shield it from liability. Remember: An employer must pay workers for all hours the employer knew or “should have known” the employee worked, and for hours that exceed 40 in a workweek, the employer must pay time-and –a-half. The unpaid pre-shift and post-shift hours, if properly counted, most likely cause the employees’ hours worked to exceed 40, and therefore the failure to pay for both the hours and overtime hours worked may be deemed a significant violation.

Employers can avoid placing themselves in Five Star’s position by ensuring that all hours are recorded accurately and that employees are not performing work outside of the time they are clocked in. Contractors can give their employees an option of riding to the jobsite in a company vehicle but employees cannot be allowed to perform any work before they arrive at the jobsite—or they will be in the same position as Fivestar is in this case.  If you have any questions about travel policies or any other FLSA issues, please contact us at Harmon & Davies, P.C.

This article is intended to provide general information, not a specific legal opinion or advice. Any particular questions should be directed to your legal counsel. If you do not have legal counsel, please feel free to contact Harmon & Davies, P.C.

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Construction Law Newsletter January 2016

What’s Happening Now . . .


  • Unemployment rate for December 2015.
  • Construction gained 45,000 jobs in December; a third straight month of job gains.
  • 263,000 construction jobs were gained in 2015.

Source: U.S. BLS, News Release: The Employment Situation – December 2015 (Jan. 8, 2016).


So You Want to Litigate – What Happens Next?

Going into a lawsuit, it is important to understand the process. Some clients think that once a lawsuit is filed, it is only a matter of time—perhaps days, or weeks—before the claim is resolved.

That happens sometimes. But not always.

Lawsuits generally have three phases: Pleadings; Discovery; and Trial. Each phase is distinct, but the timing of Pleadings and Discovery sometimes overlap.

In the Pleadings phase, the parties file written statements setting forth their narratives of the case. Each side files with the court a signed statement setting forth the facts upon which they claim to be entitled to a remedy (or defense).

In the Discovery phase of the lawsuit, parties develop the evidence to support their case. Parties can send written questions (interrogatories) and may request documents to be produced. Parties can also depose witnesses. While objections can be lodged to the discovery requests, parties should know that, generally, any documents, including emails, letters of correspondence, internal communications, and notes are likely to be discoverable and will be produced in the lawsuit. Communications between client and attorney, however, are confidential and privileged.

Once the parties have gathered sufficient evidence, the case is listed for trial. Leading up to trial, parties will identify the exhibits they intend to use and the witnesses they intend to call. The attorneys will write briefs setting forth summaries of their client’s positions. At trial, the parties use the written discovery responses, deposition transcripts, and documents to argue their case to the judge or jury. Cases usually take at least one year to resolve, and they often take several years

During each phase of the suit, there are natural points for settlement discussions. It is common to raise settlement negotiation after the close of Pleadings, or after an important deposition. Sometimes, an upcoming, expensive aspect of the lawsuit—such as a motion, or trial itself—will cause parties to negotiate a settlement in order to avoid the expense of the upcoming task.

As a general rule of thumb, settlements are most efficient early. The purpose of settlement is to avoid the costs of litigation and to limit the exposure to a potentially bad verdict. If the lawsuit has already been litigated through Pleadings and Discovery, many of the litigation costs have already been incurred; thus, settling the matter at that point cannot avoid the costs. When a lawsuit is pending, it is important to seek legal advice immediately to determine the best legal arguments and proper management of the case.

Newsletter written by Jeffrey C. Bright, Esq. , an attorney licensed in Pennsylvania and Maryland. For more information, contact an attorney at Harmon & Davies, P.C.

Employment          Construction           Business

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