10
Jul

In a prior post, this blog explored a range of defenses to contract claims brought in the wake of nonperformance caused by the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  This post examines one such defense in detail—the force majeure defense—and how the unique circumstances of the pandemic may impact attempts to assert or defeat such a defense. So-called “force majeure” clauses are commonplace in business contracts.  A typical force-majeure clause has three main features: (1) a list of enumerated events, (2) ...

06
May

The impact of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been felt across all industries.  Government-ordered shutdowns of non-essential work closed many businesses.  Those that continue (and perhaps even grow) nonetheless suffer from COVID-19 related disruptions.  As a result, many companies and individuals are struggling or unable to fulfill their contractual obligations. Lawyers have written extensively about the force majeure provisions in some contracts that explicitly excuse performance when extraordinary events within their scope preclude performance.[1]  Depending on the ...

05
Feb

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington has revised its Local Civil Rules effective January 1, 2020.  The changes to the rules themselves are modest; perhaps more important to the Western District bar are the changes to the District’s Model Agreement Regarding Discovery of Electronically Stored Information and Proposed Order (the “Model Order”).  In many federal cases involving discovery of electronically stored information (“ESI”), the Model Order is the starting point for the parties’ negotiation of the ...

23
Jan

Ordinarily, in a dispute over the breach or performance of a contract where the aggrieved party is seeking a monetary award as compensation, the measure of those damages is the party’s “actual damages.”  Actual damages are just that—the measure of the aggrieved party’s actual loss, measured as the difference between the current circumstances and the circumstances that would have obtained had the contract not been breached.  The idea is to give the aggrieved party the “benefit of the bargain.” In litigation, ...

02
Dec

Part Two (read Part One here) (This is the second of two articles based on David Bruce’s presentation to the 2018 Annual Meeting of the League of California Cities.  Mr. Bruce is the co-founding partner of Savitt Bruce & Willey LLP and served as a Senior Assistant City Attorney for the City of Seattle.) As discussed in the prior post in this series, although Government entities generally have important legal defenses in cases involving natural disasters and disaster relief, the more ...

20
Nov

A handshake and a promise may be an amicable and honorable way to make an agreement, but is it legally binding? In Washington, the answer is:  sometimes.  Whether an oral contract is enforceable in Washington depends upon the circumstances surrounding the terms of the agreement—most notably, whether the agreement falls under the provisions of the so-called “Statute of Frauds,” requiring that certain types of contracts must always be in writing and signed by the parties to the agreement (or at least, ...

30
Oct

Part One (This is the first of two articles based on David Bruce’s presentation to the 2018 Annual Meeting of the League of California Cities.  Mr. Bruce is the co-founding partner of Savitt Bruce & Willey LLP and served as a Senior Assistant City Attorney for the City of Seattle.) Landslides, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis.  Natural disasters happen—and by all accounts are occurring more frequently and causing devastation and the loss of human life and property. The National Oceanic ...

21
Oct

The attorney-client privilege protects communications sent between a lawyer and client.  But not all attorney-client communications are protected.  There are at least two common misunderstandings about when the privilege applies. First, the purpose of the communication must be to seek or obtain legal advice.  Thus, for example, an email is not privileged merely because counsel is copied on an email.  This is especially true when communicating with in-house counsel.  An email discussing a business decision may copy counsel to keep him ...

05
Sep

You just received a summons and complaint filed against your company by an employee, vendor or supplier, client, or customer.   What you do in immediate response may have a profound effect on what follows.  To position your company for the best possible outcome, here are five things to keep in mind in every case. 1.  Do Not Communicate or Reach Out in Your Own Your first instinct may be to try to communicate with the plaintiff—the person who brought the suit.  You ...

25
Jul

This is the third post in a series examining Washington law on noncompete agreements. In the first, we provided an overview of the major changes to Washington law regarding noncompete agreements under new legislation that Governor Inslee signed into law on May 8, 2019. In the second, we discussed how Washington courts evaluate the reasonableness of a noncompete agreement to determine its enforceability. In this post, we take a closer look at the key elements of the new statutory scheme ...