Articles Posted in Lawsuit

As Chicago area business litigation lawyers this is a question we frequently are asked.

E-Signatures in Illinois

Electronic Signatures are Enforceable under Illinois Laws. 

E-Signatures are permissible and valid in Illinois under the Illinois Electronic Commerce Security Act (the ECSA).

Did someone say force majeure?

Force Majeure Clauses

COVID-19 Pandemic and Force Majeure clauses

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, force majeure is defined as “An event or effect that can be neither anticipated nor controlled.”   It is generally viewed as an unexpected event that prevents someone from doing or completing something that he or she had agreed to do.  The term is usually applied to acts of God (such as floods and hurricanes), riots, strikes and wars.  It is unclear, however, if the term includes an epidemic, such as COVID-19.   That legal term for unforeseen circumstances resulting in non-fulfillment of a contract is likely to be invoked widely this spring and summer as businesses are unable to make good on commitments due to the corona virus crisis.

The Illinois Freedom to Work Act, which prevents non-governmental employers from requiring that low-wage employees enter into non-compete agreements, has begun to impact case law in the past three years since it was enacted. Employers would be wise to take note.

Help with Business Law Issues

Chicago Business Lawyers

The act, which defines “low-wage employees” as those earning the greater of $13 per hour, or the federal, state or local minimum wage, pushes back against employers who insert such agreements into new employee packets as a matter of course.

Employers who collect fingerprints, face scans, or other biometric information such as retina or iris scans from employees or customers would be well-advised to ask permission and explain their purpose for collecting this data. If they don’t, they could be legally liable.

Biometric-Illinois-Law-300x185That’s in the wake of a relatively liberal interpretation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which regulates the handling of biometric data, from the Illinois Supreme Court. The result of the ruling is that state-level lawsuits have greater latitude than those filed in federal court—but even suits dismissed at the federal level can sometimes be refiled in state court.  The law remains in flux when it comes to what, exactly, constitutes biometric data.  Photographs are not considered biometric identifiers, for example, but a software application that collects facial scans could be—and even federal courts have allowed for relatively broad interpretations on this front, mindful of the galloping pace of technological advances.

The Illinois Supreme Court in January defined an aggrieved person as anyone whose information is collected without their consent or knowledge, even if they were not harmed in the process, in the case Rosenbach v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp. (2019 IL 123186), issued on January 25 of this year and previously detailed on this blog.   This means employers are liable for $1,000 in damages for each negligent violations and $5,000 for each intentional violations.  For example, if an employer fingerprints employees each day as they check in and out of the office, and does not notify employees of the collection and storage of these fingerprints, the business could be fined $2,000 per day per employee.  Perhaps not surprisingly, at least 90 class-action lawsuits alleging violations of BIPA have been filed since January in Illinois state courts.

An arbitration agreement is a contract, in which two or more parties agree to settle a dispute outside of court.  Usually, an arbitration agreement is a clause in a larger contract. The arbitration clauses are often subjects to hotly disputed litigation, stemming from the vague verbiage and possible inconsistencies with other parts of the contract.  One of such issues – the admissibility of the “Wholly Groundless Exception” – was decided by the Supreme Court in January in the case of Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc , 586 U.S. __ (Jan. 8, 2019).  This is a tricky issue for those in the trucking industry who include arbitration clauses in their contracts with drivers.

What Is A Wholly Groundless Exception?

A “wholly groundless exception” was born out of the “delegation clauses” ordinarily found in arbitration agreements.  A delegation clause represents an agreement between parties that an arbitrator, not the court, will determine the threshold issues of enforceability of the arbitration clause and the scope of the arbitration agreement.  In other words, it is up to an arbitrator to decide whether, according to the contract or the rule of law, an issue may be decided by arbitration or needs to be determined by a judge.  These clauses were held to be valid by the Supreme Court in 2010 in Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561 US 63 (2010). Since then, several circuits decided that this provision must be limited; thus creating a so-called “wholly groundless exception” to the delegation clause. This exception lets parties avoid compelling arbitration in cases where the claims are so obviously not within the scope of the agreement, that it would be a waste of time to go through arbitration before filing a lawsuit.

Chicago-Business-Lawyer-George-Bellas-300x177A Legal Guide to Holiday Parties

Alas, the holiday season is upon us!  It’s time to celebrate the successes of the prior year with a festive holiday party, where employees can let off steam, socialize and spread cheer.  So, who should you contact first? A caterer… or a DJ… or your friendly Chicago business lawyer?  Although it may not sound like the most fun way to kick off celebrations, calling your company’s lawyer to discuss legal guidelines and potential liability pitfalls may be a good idea.  We don’t mean to be scrooge and kill the fun, but times have changed.

To ensure that your holiday party is memorable for the right reasons, this guide may help understand some concerns are and how to avoid potentially troublesome situations.

Few would argue that President Trump engages in what could be described colloquially as “rhetorical hyperbole” when logged on to his Twitter account.   But a recent court finding that dismissed a defamation suit filed against Trump by porn star Stormy Daniels, on the grounds that a tweet by the president could legally be described in those terms, rather than as potentially factual statements—defamation cases require that a statement be factually false—could have a significant effect on how libel law applies to social media going forward.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, alleges that she and her daughter were threatened on the street in Las Vegas for agreeing to participate in an In Touch magazine article about her past relationship with the president. “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,” she was allegedly told in May 2011.

Trumps-Stormy-Tweet-wasnt-defamation-300x199After Trump’s election, Daniels commissioned a sketch artist to create a rendering of the person who had threatened her, and she released the sketch publicly on April 17, 2017.  On the next day, a tweet from @RealDonaldTrump read, “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for fools (but they know it)!”

By: Jillian Tattersall

George Bellas Business AttorneyWill the #MeToo era herald a new day in court for women who file gender discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuits against prominent people or institutions?

The 2017 deposition of a former vice president of investment banking for a major Australian bank operating in 34 countries including the U.S., illustrates what women can face.  The woman, who worked in the bank’s New York office for two years, was one of two women in her department and one of four black people in the 100-person office. She sued for race and sex discrimination in federal court in 2016, two years after being let go. Her lawsuit alleges that her male colleagues constantly commented about the size of women’s breasts and their own physical assets in addition to asking the woman about her sex life. The woman also alleges that a former manager called her a “monkey” on numerous occasions.

George Bellas business lawyerThe growth of e-commerce and the resulting physical distance between parties in various transactions, along with advances in technology more broadly, have helped lead to the rise of online dispute resolution, a digital offshoot of traditional alternative dispute resolution that provides greater efficiency and convenience to the parties involved.

While online dispute resolution does not necessarily arise from online transactions—and can be used in marital separations, property tax appeals, no-fault insurance claims and other types of cases—many believe it applies especially well to e-commerce given that it resides in the same jurisdiction, so to speak, of cyberspace.

A third-party mediator or arbitrator is still often involved in resolving such disputes, however, the process also includes a “fourth party” automated tool that can, for example, schedule meetings, organize information germane to the case, and tone down inflammatory language found in communications by blocking certain verbiage.

George Bellas Business LawyerIt’s the holiday season: time for small businesses to plan their annual parties and give employees a chance to celebrate, unwind and get to know one another better, right?

The correct answer is yes, but. But you need to make sure that employees understand they are still at a work-related function and certain behavior remains out of bounds. But if you are planning to serve alcohol, employees need to comprehend that’s no excuse for being sloppy drunk and obnoxious.

But if they are over-served, employees need to know that’s no excuse for sexual harassment–nor, in the age of #metoo, is anything else. It’s not only morally and ethically wrong but can result in a legally problematic morning after for not only the perpetrator but also your business.