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Houston Business & Commercial Law Blog

How can I protect my business from product liability claims?

If you are a business owner in Houston, you know just how damaging litigation can be. This is especially true when it comes to product liability claims, which can serve to impair a business’s potential for success for many years to come. While you can’t completely stop such claims from occurring, there are a number of important steps you can take to greatly mitigate risk and preserve your business.

According to Business.com, it’s essential that you fully comprehend the difference between product defects, which commonly factor into product liability suits. Warning against all potential risks is paramount when advertising a product for consumer use, and failure to do so is considered a marketing defect. Design defects can also play a role, and this entails flaws within the design itself that leads to an unsafe product upon creation. Additionally, defects can occur within the manufacturing phase, which results in a faulty product that may prove harmful during use.

How can I prevent contract disputes from occurring?

As a Houston business owner, you know that contracts are at the center of many vital processes. Accordingly, contract disputes can be highly damaging to your current and future business endeavors, and may even result in exorbitant fees to cover legal needs. Fortunately, there are methods you can utilize to ensure the contracts you devise remain legally sound.

Inc. offers a few helpful tips on preventing contracts from being disputed, such as having all binding documents notarized by a professional. If your contract is called into question in a court of law, signees may attempt to dispute their involvement by alleging that they never signed the contract in the first place. This defense will not work for notarized contracts, as a representative will be present to validate that a contract has actually been signed by an individual.

Challenges to the DOL overtime rule

Employers in Houston may need their workers to work more than 40 hours per week for a number of reasons. According to the National Law Review, after a new overtime rule from the U.S. Department of Labor goes into effect, this will cost a business more when it comes to the employee’s wages. It would require most employers to pay overtime pay to employees who make up to $913 per week, and this law is now the focus of a lawsuit filed by Texas and 22 other states.

Dallas News states that the lawsuit includes the claim that it does not make sense to base the overtime rule so much on salary, and further, that the law’s other requirements become more complicated to interpret as a result. The current raise is slated for automatic increase by one of the new law’s provisions, and the suit notes that lawmakers should have the ability to evaluate the effects of the change before any further adjustments are made to the minimum placed on the salary base.

Unfair competition and the law

Competition is supposed to be good for the marketplace and the consumer, as well as for Texas business owners. When a company engages in unfair competition, though, it often harms other businesses, and the economy, as well. To discourage this activity, federal and state laws address many types of unfair trade practices.

According to the Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute, federal law typically applies to infringement of trademarks and copyrights. False advertising that hurts consumers may also be handled by federal government agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission. The laws that regulate companies to prevent monopolies are not typically related to unfair competition.

Types of commercial real estate leases

When looking for a location, a business owner in Texas may see a variety of commercial real estate leases for different properties. The differences between these have the potential to cause extreme financial hardship or to benefit the company in the long-term. Choosing the type that will best suit the business is typically not a decision that should be made before reviewing the properties available.

According to TheBalance.com, a retail business may be offered a commercial real estate lease known as a percentage lease, which includes an additional payment that is figured using the company’s sales for the month, as well as the set monthly rent payment. This has the potential to raise the amount paid significantly, depending on the type of business.

Protecting your company from embezzlement

The assets of your company in Houston, Texas, depend on internal as well as external factors if you have employees who participate in accounting, investments, allocation of funds or other financial duties. It may be necessary for you to place a high level of trust in those who work for you. However, at The Jackson Law Firm, we often assist business owners who want to prevent the potential for employee theft by providing tactics for inhibiting embezzlement in a company.

The Houston Chronicle points out that the results of embezzlement may cause permanent damage to the morale of your company, and could even destroy your business, depending on the location, amount and intended use of the funds stolen. But, you may be able to take proactive steps to obstruct the misuse of company funds through careful drafting of your policies and procedures.

Can performance evaluations reduce employer liability?

There are many federal and state laws that govern employment in Houston, and ensuring that your company is in compliance requires attention to detail. One tactic that may be useful in avoiding employment litigation is the use of performance evaluations. However, according to the Houston Chronicle, these must meet certain criteria to be effective in preventing lawsuits and improving productivity in the workplace.

It is important to inform your employees of what will be expected of them before implementing an evaluation program, and a process for appealing a negative review should be established from the beginning. Each assessment should be tailored to the job, but with a performance rating scale that is common to all employee titles so that, for example, a clerk and a supervisor may both receive “exceptional” ratings. Education should be provided for those who will be conducting evaluations.

Employee contracts and the SEC

When drafting confidentiality agreements and other documents for an employee contract, employers must be careful to ensure that the language is legally sound and does not violate federal or state law. The Securities and Exchange Commission warns that this must include avoiding any clauses or phrases that would cause employees to decide not to report potential violations to the SEC out of concern over possible retaliatory actions.

The confidentiality agreement may not be the only section of an employee contract that may have such a prohibitive effect. Employers are encouraged to review all employee agreements, including those in severance clauses, employment offers and others, and eliminate any words or phrases that could be taken as a warning that actions may be taken against whistleblowers.

When breach of contract leads to financial loss

After signing a contract for services with any type of company, a person in Houston should be able to count on that business to fulfill the terms of the contract. Failure to do so results in a breach of contract, and the person who is wronged may be able to file litigation and win if he or she can prove that the contract and the damages are valid, and that there was a failure to perform the services as promised.

A couple in Houston have filed a lawsuit to cover the costs of damages to their home sustained by inclement weather, as well as expenses related to the case. They claim that those responsible for inspecting, adjusting and paying insurance claims did not fulfill their duty as defined by the contract, which led to further destruction of the residence.

Personal property, past-due rent and liens

A commercial real estate owner in Houston who leases the property to a local company may find that being a landlord is a profitable business in itself. However, the stream of income depends on the integrity of the renter. Therefore, when he or she fails to meet the obligations of the lease, the situation has the potential to create a financial hardship for the property owner, particularly when there is still a balance owed on a mortgage for the property. Landlords in Texas do have legal recourse, but if the situation is not handled correctly, it may create circumstances that allow the tenant to file a lawsuit and win.

The Houston Chronicle notes that a commercial landlord must provide formal notification to the tenant before beginning the eviction process in the court system. In some states, the landlord may remove personal property left in the building after the property is abandoned, but this must be returned to its owner whenever he or she comes to claim it. In Texas, though, the lessee’s personal property may be confiscated and kept until the debt is paid because the state allows liens to be included in the lease agreement.

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