Business Lit. Session

Litigation. Lawyers love to argue about attorney-client privilege. What could be juicier than to find out what your adversary in litigation said to his or her attorney, believing it to be covered by this privilege, a privilege that is so sacrosanct that the Supreme Court has ruled that it extends beyond the grave?

Nevertheless, the attorney-client privilege can easily be lost or waived. For example, if the communication is revealed to a non-attorney third party, it risks waiver.

The world of computer technology and email has given rise to new grist for the waiver doctrine. Most companies inform their employees (in employee manuals, for example) that communications utilizing the company’s internal email system are open to review and examination by the employer. According, it is established law that an employee who uses her employer’s email system to communicate with an attorney has waived the privilege. Most lawyers, aware of this, instruct their clients who wish to communicate from work to use an Internet-based email system, such as Google’s Gmail or Yahoo Mail.… Read the full article

It’s a bad day when your client wants you to enforce a noncompete agreement against a $10/hour Russian immigrant with “a very limited command of English,” who sends most of her earnings back to her son and elderly parents in Russia, and who, after a year of at-will employment and with no further payment of consideration, was told that unless she signed the noncompete agreement she’d be fired the next day.

Nevertheless, that’s what the plaintiff’s lawyer faced in Zabota Community Center, Inc. v. Frolova.

Not surprisingly, Judge Allan van Gestel of the Suffolk County Business Litigation Session threw the book at the plaintiff in this case, denying the motion for every reason conceivable.

You can read the case here (pdf file).… Read the full article

A New Twist on Forum Selection: The BLS

by Lee Gesmer on July 20, 2006

Business Litigation Session. The July 17, 2006 issue of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly has an article suggesting that some attorneys are agreeing in contracts that claims arising from those contracts must be filed in the Suffolk County Business Litigation Session (BLS). The article reports that Judge Allan Van Gestel, the presiding judge of the session, recently made public comments that, assuming the conditions and requirements of the session are satisfied, such clauses are likely to be enforced.

This certainly adds a new option to the forum selection issue, and, given some of the difficulties and hazards of litigating outside of the BLS, should be seriously considered by lawyers negotiating business agreements that fall within the rules permitting cases to be heard in that venue. For more details on those requirements, see here and here. … Read the full article

What Did You Say Your Trade Secrets Were?

by Lee Gesmer on March 27, 2006

Trade Secrets, Procedure. Warning: if you’re seeking discovery in a trade secret case in the Suffolk Business Litigation Session make sure that you have (a) provided the court with a detailed description of your trade secrets, and (b) filed a protective order that strictly complies with the Uniform Rules of of Impoundment.

For a recent decision making these points, written by Judge Allan Van Gestel in the Suffolk Business Litigation Session, click [here]. The decision, Tourtellotte Solutions, Inc. v. Tradestone Software, Inc., was featured on the front page of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly last October. In a nutshell, the plaintiff asked for expedited discovery (in other words, the right to take discovery on a schedule faster than allowed in the ordinary course by the rules of civil procedure), so that the plaintiff could obtain evidence necessary to bring a preliminary injunction against the defendant. The plaintiff’s basic claim was that the defendant had engaged in “software misappropriation,” a term that Judge Van Gestel stated “sounds very much like trade secret misappropriation.”

The judge denied the motion, stating: “a detailed description of what is claimed to be a trade secret must be provided and a protective order of some sort needs to be worked out.”

Neither conclusion is surprising in the least.… Read the full article