While working towards my degree in Business Finance, I first became aware of the plight of small business owners trying to make a profit in today’s high stakes, competitive environment. Additionally, with the ever-increasing exposure to frivolous lawsuits, the need to comply with over 3,000 new federal and state laws and regulations that are passed every year, skyrocketing taxes, not to mention employees who will sue employers at the drop of a hat for any technical violation of a labor law, a misstep in any one of these areas could be devastating!
From law school, I still recall the picture on the cover of a book depicting a business as a castle and then showing to the left and right incoming missiles headed towards it. The two missiles had the names of “TAXES” and “LAWSUITS” printed on them. This has stuck with me. I became keenly aware of the myriad of unique and conniving legal theories drummed up by slick plaintiff’s attorneys to go after business owners. Foregoing the traditional trial and litigation related elective courses in law school, I chose instead to focus on business law courses. I felt that this would build on my undergraduate business degree and put me in the best position to help business owners in the future. It was from these beginnings that I started to develop strategies to help protect business owners from the ever present litigation threat.
After entering practice years later, and while working at a former law firm, the firm was sued by an ex-employee who ran out to some Larry Parker type of attorney who convinced the person to sue the firm for allegedly not being given lunch breaks. Ultimately, the firm’s partners had to pay significant money to settle this bogus claim. This case left an enormous impression on me and helped me appreciate how labor laws are being exploited by employment law attorneys and employees every day!
I have become obsessed with helping hard working business owners. I’m committed to be that watch guard in your corner keeping the wolves at bay, whether the wolves come in the form of disgruntled customers, opportunistic third parties out to make a buck, disloyal greedy employees or financially strapped governmental tax and labor agencies.
Today’s headlines are full of stories about outrageous lawsuits. Consider, for example, the case of the person who put their Winnebago on cruise control and then sued when the vehicle crashed after they left the seat to get something to eat or the lady who spilled her McDonalds coffee on her lap and then sued for millions. What about the recent story of a suit brought against Walmart because the bagger didn’t double bag an item that fell on a customer’s foot. An aggressive attorney alleged that the bag breaking caused the customer’s death instead of improper treatment for an infection that developed while in the hospital.
We all shake our head or laugh about these frivolous lawsuits thinking that they are only problems that impact large companies like Walmart or McDonalds. However, the cold hard fact of the matter is that 1,000s of these types of crazy lawsuits are filed everyday against business owners, including, mom and pop businesses and entrepreneurs.
Today’s business owners can’t afford to have everything they work so hard for go up in smoke only because some predatory person or the government sues to take it all away from them.
Consider the problem of a restaurant owner who came to see me after he had signed a restaurant lease without legal representation. The landlord sued him for the $10,000 cost of a new air conditioning unit after the dilapidated 20 year old existing unit happened to go out during the brief one year time frame that he occupied the premises. This unforeseen cost ultimately led to the business going under. This type of hidden language in the lease would have been discovered by an attorney reviewing the lease prior to his signing it and who would have insisted that the oppressive clause be removed before the contract was signed.
This is why I am committed to assisting people like you and why the primary focus of my law practice has been helping business owners understand their risk exposure and then implement a plan to avoid or minimize that exposure. It is my hope that you will protect your business by learning about, recognizing and eliminating unnecessary business risks before they arise.
Mark D. Klein, Esq.