Civil Litigation and Business Litigation

Applying Contingent Fees to Empower Individuals, Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

In addition to our personal injury practice, we also represent individuals, entrepreneurs, and small businesses in civil litigation and business litigation, offering our clients the option of a contingency fee agreement as opposed to customary hourly billings.

Many small businesses cannot, or prefer not to pay an attorney on an hourly basis, regardless of the outcome. To this extent, the contingent fee system provides the small business, entrepreneur or individual with the keys to the courthouse, and the ability to exercise their rights instead of surrendering a claim.

Contingent fee agreements typically provide that the attorney is entitled to a fee only upon the condition or “contingency” that money or something of value is recovered for the client. The attorney will generally receive a percentage of the client’s award or settlement, in addition to case expenses.

Contingent fees eliminate any question of unaligned interests. Both the client and the attorney have the incentive to keep expenses low, consistent with properly preparing the case, and to resolve the case as quickly as possible, consistent with a fair result and business considerations. The client is assured that the attorney will not invest his time unless he believes the case has merit and is economically feasible. The attorney has no incentive to conduct wasteful discovery or depositions, retain unnecessary experts or consultants, drive up litigation costs, or otherwise prolong the case. To the contrary, the attorney has every incentive to work efficiently and recover as much as possible for the client, as quickly as possible.

Contingent fees work well for both parties in a variety of cases:

  • Breach of contract, such as unpaid real-estate brokerage fees
  • Breach of insurance contracts where an insurance company refuses to pay disability, medical or death benefits
  • Breach of employment contracts
  • Property damage claims
  • Sub-standard construction of houses or commercial buildings
  • Environmental damage from oil or gas contamination by abutters
  • Copyright or trademark infringement
  • Claims for defective software or inadequate IT services
  • Investment, financial planning and brokerage malpractice. See Medical Malpractice and Other Professional Malpractice.

Recovering Damages in Commercial Disputes

Commercial losses may include many elements of damages, such as:

  • Lost sales and commissions
  • Lost income
  • Diminished value of property
  • Multiple damages and attorneys fees in cases of unfair and deceptive acts and practices under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A, the so-called “Consumer Protection Act” or “Fair Businessmen’s Practices Act”

Statute of Limitations. Generally, Massachusetts allows three years for you to file a lawsuit for tort damages, four years for breach of Chapter 93A, and six years for breach of contract, but the facts of your particular case may result in less time or special notice requirements. Due to the time necessary to properly gather evidence and investigate a case before filing suit, and the need to preserve evidence, you should retain an attorney immediately upon suspecting the basis for a commercial claim.

How We Use Evidence to Win Business Litigation Cases

In our personal injury practice, we must be creative in using demonstrative evidence to prove negligence and human damages. See How Evidence Wins Cases. Applying the same principles in business litigation, we use business documents to create demonstrative evidence to establish unfair business practices and damages that result from them:

  • Contracts, letters, emails, notes and similar documents, highlighted to emphasize key points in a business dispute
  • Timelines and calendars to trace business transactions, and breaches of contract
  • Charts, graphs, and diagrams to detail business damages
  • Videotapes, models, and still photography to explain defective goods or services at the heart of a business dispute

Contact Steven H. Schafer & Associates today to determine if a contingent fee could apply to your civil case or business dispute.