This broad category involves all civil litigation areas other than person injury and divorce. Mr. Steidley has significant experience representing individuals and companies on both sides of the litigation process. In some cases, the issue is monetary, where damages are sought or defended. In other case, the issue is injunction, where one party seeks to prevent another from acting in a particular fashion.
Some representative areas include:
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
The essence of a fiduciary duty is the obligation of the fiduciary to act not in his or her own benefit, but for the benefit of another person, because of the great confidence and trust placed in the fiduciary. A fiduciary duty is the highest duty recognized by law.
A fiduciary duty may arise informally or be created by contract or statute formally. An informal fiduciary duty may arise from a moral, social, domestic or purely personal relationship of trust and confidence. Certain legal relationships create a formal fiduciary duty, such as principal and agent, or trustee and beneficiary.
Contract disputes come in many shapes and sizes. A common complaint is where one party believes that there is a contract of some kind in place, but the other denies there was a deal at all. Some contracts have to be in writing, but some forms of oral contracts are enforceable in court.
Another common issue for the courthouse is where the parties have a contract in place, but disagree on what the contract really means. There are also cases in which a party simply disregards the contract with the idea that nothing will happen to them.
Fraud is a concept that most people understand intuitively. Basically it is a manner of being cheated. It usually involves being lied to, or conned in some way. Texas has one statute that protects consumers, called the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). This law lists specific types or acts or practices that are false, deceptive, or misleading. When a party falls victim to the illegal practices covered by the DTPA, the statute provides a civil remedy for damages, which may also include attorneys’ fees.
Intellectual Property - Patent, Trademark, & Copyright Litigation
Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights are all forms of intellectual property, but they protect different things. Patents protect inventions, but only for a prescribed period of time. Trademarks protect words, phrases, symbols, and/or designs that are unique. Copyrights protect original works such as books, songs, photographs, motion pictures, and other forms of art.
Litigation in this area focuses on two main areas. It may be that the holder of the protection believes that someone else is infringing on their intellectual property and sues to stop that conduct, and perhaps to obtain a monetary recovery. The other side of the coin is the party using an invention, design, or photograph who believes they have every right to do so. It is not always clear cut on who is right, but often both sides believe they are.
Oil & Gas Litigation
This area covers an immense array of behavior, touching upon every aspect of the oil and gas business. Some areas of active litigation include disputes involving landowners, oil and gas producers, lenders, drilling contractors, service companies, and suppliers. These disputes may involve purchase and sales contracts, lease and royalty disputes, ownership disputes, and alleged theft or misuse of trade secrets.
Partnership & Shareholder Disputes
People in businesses do not always act as they should, and the type of business involved dictates the duties owed by individuals to each other, and the duties they owe to the company. Many cases involve disputes about the manner in which the assets of the company are used or distributed, or the manner in which those in management operate the business. Conflicts of interest, where a person or company has conflicting economic interests, is another area that may generate litigation
It aint over until its over is the old saying, and that is never more true than in the divorce context. In many cases, even after the parties are finally divorced, they remain connected after a fashion due to an Agreement Incident to Divorce (“AID”). This contract governs the conduct of former spouses post-divorce and if either party fails to adhere to his or her obligations, the AID is legally enforceable in court.
In other cases, one former spouse may discover that their former spouse concealed assets during the divorce. Depending on the circumstances, this may give rise to an action at law to recover monetary damages.
Trade secrets come in a variety of forms, and it is not uncommon for there to be litigation over them. Texas and the federal government have statutes protecting trade secrets. In 2013 Texas enacted Section 134A of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA). In 2016, the U.S. Congress enacted the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA) and this statute provides uniform federal protection of trade secrets.
In addition to suits for monetary damages for violation of trade secret legislation, protection of trade secrets is often embodied in contracts with employees or contractors. Companies may sue former employees or contractors for injunctive relief, asking a court to prohibit the use of trade secrets after the employee or contractor moves on. The company and the individuals who have left often have different views on what constitutes a “trade secret”, which ultimately must be resolved in the courts.
Wills and Estate Litigation
This litigation category is also very large. On the wills side, just about every type of shenanigan one can think of has been thought of and attempted. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for relatives of “friends” to attempt to take advantage of an older person at a time when their mental faculties are diminishing due to age or disease or a combination of both. Entire wills may be changed or invented, or someone may unduly influence the creation of a codicil, which is an instrument that amends a will already in place.
Once someone dies, and an estate is put in place, the representative of the estate is charged with gathering the assets and debts of the estate, performing an accounting, and distributing the estate to the person who are supposed to receive it. Litigation may be instituted in favor of the estate against those who have harmed the estate or otherwise owe the estate money. Litigation also arises at times when the beneficiaries believe that the estate representative is not acting appropriately.