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Austin Business Litigation Blog

How is the proper use of public funds in Texas schools assessed?

As a public school official, you understand the responsibilities you have to the residents of Texas. These include both the charge you have to ensure their children have the best possible education, and the appropriate expenditures of the public's tax dollars. Because the former is so dependent on the latter, state laws provide careful definitions and regulations on the proper use of public funds.

The Texas Association of School Boards describes public funds as moneys controlled by a governmental entity, including those raised through taxes or fees. It could also include any money your district collects through fund raisers and other means.

Bump-stock maker sued by mass shooting victims

When one in Austin thinks of a product liability case, he or she might automatically assume that it must involve a product whose defect contributed to a user being harmed. One certainly might not think that having its products perform their intended functions would open up a company to liability. Yet what about cases where an unintended consequence of a products use resulted in injuries to others? 

Such is the basis for separate claims filed against the manufacturer of the bump-stock used by the man who recently perpetrated the horrific mass shooting at a music festival in Nevada. Three of the festival's attendees have already come together to file a class-action lawsuit against the company, whose products allowed the shooter to modify the weapons used in the attack to produce automatic fire. A separate lawsuit filed by a woman injured in the shooting also levels a product liability claim at the manufacturer. 

Alternatives to going to trial

Companies and individuals in Texas who are looking for alternatives to trial have a couple of options to consider. There are times when arguing a case in a courtroom is a viable option, but it is sometimes unnecessary and results in stress and financial burden.

According to FindLaw, two of the types of alternative dispute resolutions are mediation and arbitration. In mediation, a neutral third party assists the two sides in coming to a mutual agreement. The mediator uses their expertise to help the opposing parties and discuss their liabilities and legal rights. Although a mediator helps negotiate an agreement, he or she cannot express opinions or give advice. In certain matters dealing with real estate or accounting, another professional may be brought in to help advise the two sides.

Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace

One of the most alarming accusations you could face within your company in Texas involves sexual harassment. Here at Wright and Greenhill P.C., we understand the devastating effects that sexual harassment allegations can have on the workplace, and we actively seek truth and justice. According to IntegrityHR, up to one fifth of all men, and up to two thirds of all women, have been the victims of unsolicited sexual behavior at work. Therefore, in order to protect yourself and your employees, it is important to take some proactive steps.

First, training is essential. The leaders within your company should attend seminars about how to act appropriately at work, as well as how to prevent misconduct among subordinates. Additionally, you should clearly inform all of your employees about the company's policies regarding interpersonal contact and the level of professionalism you expect at work.

Protecting intellectual property

Stolen property is typically an obvious crime to identify. However, intellectual property can be a bit more complicated to recognize and enforce in Texas. According to Cornell Law School, intellectual property encompasses the intangible products of the human mind, including the communication of ideas, inventions, concepts and artistic creations. In most cases, this type of property is protected by copyrights, trademarks, patents and, less commonly, trade secrets.

Entrepreneur explores the various means of intellectual property protection. Trademarks, for instance, protect a company's distinctive symbol, word or phrase. They may last indefinitely. The only stipulation is that the mark be used continuously, or for no more than a 10-year lapse. If a lapse of longer than 10 years does occur, the company must reapply for the trademark status. Trademarks may be granted before the unique feature is used, or it could be requested after a company has already started using it. A patent grants the creator of a product or idea a temporary monopoly. It requires that a particular creation be relevant as well as unique. It must not exist in a similar form already, and it should be useful in current culture. A patent application must disclose all the ingredients, processes or materials involved in the creation. Unlike trademarks, patents generally only last for 20 years.

6 costly legal mistakes that startup businesses make

When launching a business, owners have a host of things on their "to do" list. There's product development, marketing, sales, computer equipment and a host of other concerns. Legal issues seldom make the list, and if they do, they're not at the top. It's no surprise, then, that small-business owners often make legal mistakes.

Here's a list of mistakes people make when starting a business.

Breach of fiduciary duty

Many companies in Texas rely upon external sources to provide counsel and help grow their business. These people, called fiduciaries, have a duty to the company to act in its best interests and assist in its success as much as possible. According to Cornell Law School, there are several areas in which a fiduciary is accountable to its beneficiary (the company whose well-being is entrusted to him or her). One duty is confidentiality. The fiduciary should be reasonably expected not to reveal sensitive information publicly. On the other hand, the duty of disclosure requires that the fiduciary share pertinent information with interested parties when appropriate, rather than attempting to hide certain facets of the company. Prudence and good faith dictate that the fiduciary act with the necessary attention to detail and upstanding ethics to promote the company's overall healthy and growth.

Two of the most prominent aspects of fiduciary duty are loyalty and care. Duty of loyalty requires the fiduciary to further the company rather than pursue personal gain. A break of the duty of loyalty could involve embezzling from the company, or acting in such a way that deprives the company of potential earnings. The duty of care could have a broader spectrum of responsibility. According to this duty, the fiduciary must devote the necessary attention to the company in order to make wise decisions. This may involve extensive research and careful planning before decisions are made on the company's behalf. Failure to research an option before pursuing it, resulting in harm to the company, could constitute a breach of the duty of care.

The illegality of price fixing agreements

Price fixing agreements are generally illegal as violating anti-trust laws in Texas and elsewhere in the United States. These illegal arrangements occur when two or more companies collude to increase or decrease product prices to bring about a particular effect. It can also occur by manipulating prices to be unnaturally stable when they should otherwise fluctuate because of other influences.

Another form of this illegal practice is to agree with a competitor on what competitive terms will be allowed to the consumers of the product or service both companies sell. The law directs that each company design its own prices and contract terms based on supply and demand, not based on an accord between competitors. For example if two companies agree to limit the amount of supply they will sell, higher prices for the resulting more limited supply to consumers will result. This price fixing is a major government concern and violation of law.

The ins and outs of construction disputes

Disputes related to construction projects are very common, and it is important that construction contractors and owners in Texas understand some typical causes of these disputes so they can be avoided or mitigated. Knowing the best ways to deal with disputes when they do occur is also an important aspect in the industry.

According to the American Bar Association, there are numerous reasons why construction disputes occur. Common reasons include improper contract administration, incomplete owner requirements or design information, contract ambiguities and the failure to deal with delay claims during a current project. When asked about other issues, contractors list lost labor productivity, project changes and conflicting site conditions as additional causes of disputes and claims.

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