Business Law

Hunnicutt Law Group Scholarship

Hunnicutt Law Group is proud to represent the best interest of our clients in legal situations but also in life. We are dedicated to providing knowledgeable legal counsel that makes our clients’ lives easier, more stable, and less stressful. We know that, to uphold our commitment to the highest professional standards, we must continue to bring the best and brightest legal minds into the profession. To do our part to help law students become lawyers, Hunnicutt Law Group will award a scholarship to one student who answers the question: What has made you pursue a career in the law? We want to know if there has been a life event that shaped your legal career, if your passions drew you to the law, and/or if you aspire to a specific legal pathway.  How Do I Apply For The Scholarship? To apply for the scholarship, submit an essay of no more than 500 words that answers the question: What has made you pursue a career in the law? In addition to your essay, you must submit proof of enrollment or intent to enroll in an accredited undergraduate program, or law school for the upcoming 2021-2022 academic year. How Much Money Is The Scholarship Award? We will award $1,000 to the scholarship recipient. What Else Do I Need To Know? The scholarship application deadline is January 15, 2022. We will review all applications and notify the winner soon after. To submit your application for the Hunnicutt Law Group Law Student Scholarship, click the button below.

Continue Reading
Business Law

Breach of Fiduciary Duty in Texas Overview

Ethical and legal responsibilities are the cornerstones of fiduciary duty. Texas judicial systems place severe responsibility on those with the title of fiduciary. If someone has or may allege that you have breached a fiduciary duty, you need a lawyer. There are attorneys who can help you understand all that may encompass the landscape of breach of fiduciary duty. Texas lawyers in this field stand ready to defend you if needed. When Is There a Fiduciary Duty? Texas finds a fiduciary duty for a person or organization that acts on behalf of another person. A fiduciary duty requires you to put your clients’ interests ahead of your own. There are several types of fiduciary relationships. For instance, common professional relationships are: Promoters and stock subscribers, Lawyers and clients, Investment corporations and investors, Insurance companies/agents and policyholders, Trustees and beneficiaries, Corporate board members and shareholders; and Executors and beneficiaries. There are various complexities to the services and responsibilities of each type of fiduciary duty. Every fiduciary must know and follow the expectation specific to them.  General Fiduciary Duties The law expects every fiduciary to protect their client’s best interests and consistently show a high level of ethics when making decisions on their behalf. Various Texas laws address fiduciary responsibilities. Again and again, they bind a fiduciary legally to act in the other’s best interests and follow specific rules concerning their relationship. Examples of Breach of Fiduciary Duty  Texas law allows for a wide breadth of situations to encompass a breach of fiduciary duty. It seeks to protect all manner of individuals to whom a fiduciary duty is owed. Here are two examples of conditions where a breach of fiduciary duty in Texas could exist. A Corporate Officer  Corporate officers and directors owe clear fiduciary duties to the corporation for which they work. As a result, they are bound to an honest relationship with the corporation, including being fully transparent regarding competing interests. For example, consider a situation where: A corporate officer uses their influence or power to hire contractors to work on projects for the corporation; and The corporate officer does not inform the company that the contractors they hire are tied to a company owned by their spouse’s family.  This could be a breach of fiduciary duty. It would be irrelevant whether the contractors were competent. The primary issues are that the corporate officer was not transparent and that their decision as a fiduciary was not without clear potential legal, ethical, and financial conflicts. An Executor of an Estate The office of executor is complicated and vital. An executor is tasked with many responsibilities, including: Finding and organizing documents, Taking inventory,  Identifying and notifying beneficiaries, and Managing assets. It is carrying out the last item on the above list—managing assets—which most often will lead to a claim of breach of fiduciary duty. Texas law requires executors to make sure that the assets of the estate stay secure and properly maintained. If an executor uses an estate’s income for personal use or ignores an estate’s business and allows it to deteriorate or close while taking no action, they may have violated their fiduciary duty. Many things can go wrong in estate administration, and executors who misstep may get involved in a dispute over fiduciary duty in Texas. Exact Legal Standards for Fiduciary Cases  Fiduciary duty is more than a moral, social, or personal relationship of trust. Legally, the elements of a breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim must show: The existence of a fiduciary relationship between the plaintiff and defendant;  The defendant’s breach of the fiduciary duties arising from that relationship; and  Injury to the plaintiff, or benefit to the defendant, resulting from that breach. Courts lean toward protecting those whom the fiduciary is expected to serve and can be stern toward those with the duty. Defenses to Breach of Duty in Texas You will need a lawyer skilled in fiduciary cases to analyze your situation and prepare the best defense. It is not enough to say that a breach of fiduciary duty was not intentional or that you did not understand the fiduciary duty. Texas also does not provide a loophole for powerful  professionals such as attorneys or investment bankers to avoid responsibility. However, do not lose hope if you are facing a breach of duty allegation. There are strong winning defenses, including that: You did not breach your duty; Your fiduciary duty ended; The allegation was not about fiduciary duty, but a personal grudge/issue; or  The alleged breach did not result in injury to the plaintiff or benefit to you. Whether someone has unjustly accused you of breach of fiduciary duty or you are concerned that you may have breached a duty, you need legal help. Take no action without first consulting a trusted, experienced lawyer who will start by working with you to determine what success for your case looks like and develop a plan to get you there.  The Hunnicutt Law Group: We Never Lose Sight of What It Means to Be the Client Lawyer Steve Hunnicutt founded and still leads the top-rated Hunnicutt Law Group. Mr. Hunnicutt has practiced law for 30 years. Prior to starting his firm, he served as in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 company and worked for a large law firm. The Hunnicutt Law Group will never lose sight of your best interests. We will offer you the representation that you deserve.  At The Hunnicutt Law Group, you benefit from a highly knowledgeable attorney’s experience. You will receive an in-depth look at the intricacies of your unique matter without the high fees of big downtown firms. Call us today at 214-361-6740 or contact us online or by email to arrange a time to meet in person or via video conference. 

Continue Reading
Business Law

Statute of Limitations for Breach of Contract in Texas Overview

When you are counting on someone to do something they are legally obligated to do and they fail to execute, you may have a claim for breach of contract. There are consequences when someone does not uphold their end of the bargain. But the window of opportunity for relief is limited. The Texas statute of limitations for breach of contract extends for four years past the date of the breach.  What Are Statutes of Limitations? A statute of limitations is a fixed period during which a legal proceeding can be brought. These usually start on the date that the event in question occurred. The purpose of the statute of limitations in Texas for breach of contract is to make sure that the case is still relevant. Evidence can be lost, and witnesses become difficult to locate as time passes. That is why it is important to bring your cause of action within the four-year Texas statute of limitations for contract disputes.  Exceptions to Texas Statute of Limitations for Breach of Contract In most cases, if you do not file your claim in court before the statute of limitations expires, your claim will be barred. However, there are two primary exceptions to the breach of contract statute of limitations in Texas. Fraudulent Concealment This type of defense applies to the statute of limitations for a Texas contract when the defendant has concealed information about the breach in such a way that you could not have known it had occurred. The statute of limitations for breach of contract will not begin until this information was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.  Discovery Rule This rule is similar to fraudulent concealment and pertains to situations where the plaintiff was unaware the breach had occurred or that they had sustained an injury because of the breach of contract. Under these circumstances, the statute of limitations in Texas for breach of contract will not begin until the breach, or injury caused by the breach, is discovered.  When Can You Claim Breach of Contract in Texas? To prevail on  a valid claim for breach of contract in Texas, you must first prove that there was a valid contract. Once this fact has been proven, you can claim that the obligations stated in the contract were not met.  Proving a Valid Contract A legally binding contract in Texas must satisfy several conditions: An offer was made; Offer terms were accepted; Written or verbal communication existed to demonstrate consent to the terms; The contract was intended to be mutual and binding to both parties; and There was consideration on both sides of the contract. Consideration is a legal term that means that both parties were benefiting from the contract. These requirements for a valid contract apply to both written and verbal contracts.  Verbal Contracts in Texas Verbal contracts are more difficult to prove, and the actions of both parties can play a big role in determining whether a contract existed. Some types of contracts fall under the statute of frauds, which is a law requiring certain agreements to be in writing, including: Contracts relating to real property; Contracts for the sale of goods for over $500; A will or trust; Marriage contracts (with the exception of common-law marriages); Sale of securities; Contracts that cannot be completed within one year; and Contracts to answer for the duty of another (guarantee/suretyship). It is always a better idea to put everything in writing when possible.  What Constitutes a Breach of Contract in Texas? Establishing that there was a valid contract is the first step of proving breach of contract. There is no breach without a valid contract. Additionally, the elements of a Texas breach of contract include: The plaintiff performed their end of the contract; The defendant breached the contract; and The breach caused damage to the non-breaching party.  If all these elements exist, you can bring a cause of action for breach of contract in Texas within the statute of limitations for breach of contract.  What Damages Are Available for Breach of Contract? The damage from a breach of contract is often financial. The non-breaching party is generally entitled to compensation, which should restore them to the position they would have been in had the contract been performed as planned.  The non-breaching party will be responsible for proving the extent of their damages due to the breach. Because important documents and conversations may be less accessible with time, it is important to start legal proceedings as soon as possible despite the four-year Texas statute of limitations for contract disputes. There are multiple types of damages available depending on the circumstances of your case.  General Damages Compensatory damages are a part of general damages and include the foreseeable losses suffered by the non-breaching party. Compensatory damages include things like reimbursement of costs for the breach and other basic financial losses. Special Damages Texas courts may grant special or consequential damages caused indirectly by the breach. Loss of profits would constitute special damages. These could be due to delays, tarnished business reputation, or loss of business opportunities  Equitable Relief In some cases, the Texas court may order non-monetary relief. Some examples include specific performance of the contract, which requires the breaching party to fulfill their obligations under the contract. A court-issued injunction, revision, or recession of the contract agreement are also available as equitable remedies.  Defenses to Breach of Contract There are several valid defenses to breach a contract that a court may honor: A mistake was made during contract formation; The contract was made under duress; The contract is unconscionable or grossly unfair; The contract is illegal—for example, it includes unlawful dealings, violates tax law, or requires the destruction of records; or It becomes impossible for one of the parties to fulfill their end of the bargain. The court will review the circumstances of each contract to determine if there is a valid defense.  Should You Hire a Contract Attorney? The first step toward protecting your best interest in your […]

Continue Reading
Business Law

Can an Employer Sue an Employee?

What are an employer’s rights to legal remedies when it comes to the employment relationship? There are many circumstances under which an employee can sue an employer or file a complaint, but legal resources speak less frequently about employers suing employees.  If you are wondering whether an employer suing an employee is an option, know that the answer is yes. While the opportunities for suing an employee aren’t as numerous, there are multiple scenarios in which an employer can seek legal recourse against an employee.  Can an Employer Sue an Employee for Negligence? When you have employees, there is a likelihood that an employee will damage your business or its patrons. The possibility exists that your employee’s actions could invite a lawsuit, and a lawsuit against your employee could mean a lawsuit against you. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior or vicarious liability, a victim of your employee’s negligence can sue you for damages. With this kind of exposure to liability, you may be asking, Can an employer sue an employee for poor performance? Or, Can an employer sue an employee for a mistake? In certain circumstances, the answer is yes.  In St. Anthony’s Hospital v. Whitfield, 946 S.W.2d 174, the Texas Court of Appeals ruled that if an employer was sued and made to pay for damages caused by an employee’s negligence, the employer could then sue the employee. When an employer sues an employee for negligence under these circumstances, what the employer is seeking is called indemnity. If the employer wins its indemnity case, the employee must pay the employer back for the money it had to pay in the original negligence case. The employer can only recover damages in this kind of indemnity case if its liability is wholly vicarious. An employer cannot recover in an indemnity case if it has any direct fault for the original negligence, such as fault for an equipment failure or negligent hiring.  An Employer Can Sue an Employee for Theft Unfortunately, an employee could betray you by diverting company funds for their personal use, or by taking company property. Under those circumstances, you can sue the employee for theft and recover the value of what was stolen. If a high-level employee stole funds, property, or opportunities from you, you can sue for breach of fiduciary duty.  An Employer Can Sue an Employee for Misappropriation of Trade Secrets If your employee improperly uses any of your business formulas, devices, or information not known to the public, you can sue them for misappropriation of trade secrets. When determining whether an employee misappropriated your trade secrets, Texas courts consider: The extent to which the information is known outside your business; The extent to which others involved in your business know the information; The measures you took to keep the information secret;  The value of the information to you and your competitors; The money and effort you put into developing the information; and The difficulty with which the information could be acquired or duplicated by others. If a court finds an employee liable for misappropriation of your trade secrets, you can receive relief. Relief can be damages for your financial loss, damages for the employee’s unjust enrichment, and injunctive relief.  An Employer Can Sue an Employee for Defamation You can sue an employee for making false, damaging statements about your business. In this age of social media, an employee’s false and damaging post against your business could be subject to damages in a libel suit. Libel is the written form of defamation. Under Texas law, you can only maintain a defamation suit if you timely asked your employee to correct or retract their false statement, or if your employee already corrected or retracted their statement.  Employers Can File Many Kinds of Lawsuits Against Employees for Breach of Contract In some circumstances, a relationship between an employee and employer is based on a contract. If an employment contract was the basis of the relationship between you and your employee, you can sue them for breaching the contract terms. Common employment contract terms include: Confidentiality agreements, Non-compete clauses, Non-solicitation clauses, and  Other terms of employment. Employment contract terms should be very clear regarding your expectations of the employee and what they can expect from you.  Can an Employer Sue an Employee for Quitting? Your right to sue an employee for quitting depends on the circumstances of the employment. Texas is generally a right-to-work state. This means employers and employees can end the employment relationship at any time and for almost any reason without liability. While general Texas rules do not allow an employer to sue an employee for quitting, an employer can sue an employee who quits in violation of an employment contract. If an employee agrees by contract to stay with an employer for a specific period of time, or if they agree to give adequate notice before leaving, an employer can sue the employee for their failure to fulfill the agreement.  Are Non-Compete Clauses Enforceable? Yes, non-compete clauses are enforceable in a lawsuit. But the clause terms must be reasonable if you want to prevent your former employee from working for a competitor. Your non-compete clause must be reasonable in its duration, geographical area, and scope of activity. Your non-compete clause cannot eliminate all possibilities for a former employee to work in their field. You must also show how you would be harmed without enforcement of the clause and how the clause is not an unreasonable burden on an employee’s ability to work.  An experienced business attorney can help you determine if you have the right to sue an employee under the terms of an employment contract.   Protect Your Business Rights by Contacting an Attorney You have rights if a current or former employee mistreats you. Legal action against an employee’s mistreatment may be your best option to protect your business, but it isn’t always easy. The lawyers at The Hunnicutt Law Group have decades of business law experience and are focused on helping you […]

Continue Reading
Business Law

How Much Can You Sue for Breach of Contract?

When a party to a contract fails to fulfill their obligations, it can be financially detrimental. You may consider filing a lawsuit and wonder, How much can you sue for breach of contract? The law does not provide a formula for contract damages, but there are several important considerations that factor into calculating the appropriate amount of damages. Can I Sue for Breach of Contract? Before diving into how much you can sue for breach of contract, first determine if you have a viable claim. A valid breach of contract claim must include the following four elements:  There is a legally binding contract between the parties; The plaintiff fulfilled their contractual obligations; The defendant breached their contractual obligations; and The plaintiff suffered losses as a result of the defendant’s breach.  As the plaintiff, you must be able to prove you suffered harm due to the breach. Our breach of contract attorneys at Hunnicutt Law Group will walk through each element to help you determine whether you have a strong case.  What Type of Damages May You Seek? When suing for breach of contract, you may ask for compensatory, consequential, incidental, and liquidated damages. Punitive damages, which are meant to punish the breaching party for their behavior, are available only for breaches of contract that also involve a tort, such as embezzlement or fraud.  Compensatory Damages The purpose of compensatory damages (also known as “actual damages”) is to compensate the nonbreaching party. These damages cover the losses that directly stem from the breach and make the nonbreaching party whole again. Courts typically award compensatory damages in breach of contract claims.  Consequential Damages Consequential damages (or “special damages”) are damages that occur as an indirect, but reasonably foreseeable, result of the breach. Loss of profits is an example of consequential damages.  Incidental Damages Incidental damages are expenditures that the nonbreaching party incurs when trying to minimize the losses from the breach. For example, if the nonbreaching party needs to buy substitute goods or services and has to pay a premium for the last-minute purchase, those are incidental losses. Liquidated Damages Some contracts include a liquidated damages provision, which specifies an agreed-upon amount in the event of a breach. This provision kicks in when the computation of damages is too difficult to calculate. What Was the Extent of the Breach? The extent of the breach factors into the amount you can sue for because it will impact how much you lost. Consider the following severity levels of breach: Minor or impartial breach: a portion of the contract was fulfilled, but not the entire contract. Material or total breach: either the entire contract is unfulfilled or the unfulfilled portion is substantial enough that it prohibits the parties from continuing to perform under the contract.  Anticipatory breach: one party informs the other that they will not be able to perform. Remember, the breach must have caused you losses for you to seek damages.   How to Calculate Damages As the nonbreaching party to a contract, you have legal rights to damages for your losses. When calculating damages, the following considerations apply: Damages must compensate the nonbreaching party for the harm directly caused by the breach (i.e. compensatory damages); Damages must have been reasonably foreseeable or anticipated by the parties at the time of contract (i.e. consequential damages); Damages must be proven through ascertainable measures; and Plaintiffs cannot recover more than they lost, meaning the damages may only restore the plaintiff to the position they would have been in had the contract been fulfilled. At The Hunnicutt Law Group, we can help you navigate these factors to determine an amount that will recoup your losses.  Limitations on Award of Damages Most states, including Texas, do not have a general cap on compensatory damage awards. However, the nonbreaching party has a duty to mitigate damages, meaning they must minimize the amount of damages to the extent reasonable. The nonbreaching party will not be able to recover losses that they could have avoided.  Contact The Hunnicutt Law Group  At Hunnicutt Law Group, we represent clients in a wide variety of contract matters. Our founding attorney, Steve Hunnicutt, has 30 years of experience achieving success for his clients. He and his team focus their practice on litigation and disputes, and we have helped countless clients navigate their contract litigation disputes. Call us at 214-361-6740 or fill out our online form to schedule an initial consultation either in our office or by remote video conferencing.

Continue Reading