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Judge leans toward Fox in Netflix executive poaching case

Executives in Texas and around the country often have employment contracts with provisions that are designed to deter them from pursuing positions at rival companies. The attorneys who draft these contracts walk a fine line as judges may refuse to enforce non-compete clauses if they deem their wording to be excessively harsh. This was the outcome Netflix hoped for when 20th Century Fox sued the video streaming service for unfair competition and tortious interference over the alleged poaching of two key employees.

Netflix claimed in a motion to dismiss that Fox's employment contracts were unfair and signing them subjected workers to the corporate equivalent of indentured servitude. On Nov. 25, a judge in Los Angeles was unimpressed by this argument and indicated that he would likely grant Fox's request for an injunction to prevent further executive poaching. However, the judge declined to rule on the issue of damages because he was not convinced that Fox actually suffered any financial losses after losing their executives.

The dangers of failing to update an estate plan

Texas residents should not assume that once they have created an estate plan, they do not have to think about it any longer. It can be tempting to procrastinate on creating it in the first place, and people may think they are too young to worry about revising it. However, an illness or accident can strike at any age. This was the case for director John Singleton, who died unexpectedly in April at the age of 51 and whose will had not been updated since he prepared it in 1993.

Singleton had one daughter when he created the will. When his mother filed his will in probate court, she listed four other children plus two "alleged" children. It is unclear whether the other two are Singleton's daughters or not. California law allows children to inherit equally from a parent if they are born after the creation of a will, but this may not apply to the two other children.

How employees are affected during mergers

For employees in Texas, the knowledge that their company is undergoing a merger can be a very uncertain time. They may wonder whether they are going to be allowed to remain in their job, and if not, they might want to know what kind of compensation they can expect to receive. While mergers and acquisitions are underway, it is still important to pay attention to employee morale.

Because acquisitions focus on making things more efficient, it is usually inevitable that some employees will lose their jobs. Those employees should at minimum receive a compensation package that can carry them through a period of unemployment, but it is best for companies to try to be generous. Which employees will stay depends on both the industry and the situation, but in retail, store employees are generally permitted to keep their jobs since the stores will still need on-the-ground employees.

Keys to success when starting a family business

Many people dream of starting a business with one or more family members, but some never take the leap because of the challenges and potential to ruin their personal relationship.

Starting a family business can be a straightforward process if you know the steps to take. Here are five things you should do before you open your doors:

  • Clearly define roles: With so much excitement surrounding your new business, it's often difficult to find time to take a step back and define the roles of each owner. Doing this up front avoids future confusion, while keeping everyone on the same page.
  • Clearly define compensation: Money complicates everything, so make sure you discuss it right off the bat. Will all owners earn the same amount of compensation? If not, how will you calculate it? What happens to additional profit? Clearly outline how compensation is awarded and address any questions or concerns.
  • Define who owns what: Just because you're starting a family business doesn't necessarily mean everyone has the same stake in the company. For example, if there are two of you starting the business, decide if it will be a 50/50 partnership or some other arrangement.
  • Create a contract: It's easy to believe that a contract is overkill when working with your family. However, just the same as other business partners, you can run into complications and disagreements along the way. With a contract in hand, everyone knows what's expected of them. It also helps cut back on legal costs should you face a serious disagreement.
  • Create an exit plan: You're just starting your family business, so it's not likely that you'll want to turn your attention to exiting just yet. But it's critical to think about this initially, as an exit plan for each family member improves the likelihood of a smooth transaction should one or more individuals want to move on from the company.

Kesha, Dr. Luke locked in continuing contract dispute

For businesses and artists in Texas, contract disputes can cause significant disruption to work and plans for the future. Even major celebrities may find their albums, movies or other projects delayed for years due to contract problems about production, distribution or payment. One singer, Kesha, has been involved in a legal battle since 2014 with her producer, Dr. Luke, seeking the right to independently distribute her music. However, she has run into a number of problems pursuing an end to her contractual obligations to release music with Dr. Luke. Her latest countersuit against Dr. Luke was dismissed on Sept. 26 after a judge ruled that it was insufficient.

In 2014, Kesha accused her producer of battery and sexual assault while Dr. Luke accused her of defamation and breaching their contract. Kesha dropped her claims in two states in 2016, but the countersuit is continuing to move forward. Several prominent musicians have come forward to support Kesha. Some of them said that they had negative experiences with the producer, who is well-known in the music industry. Several said they would not work with the producer unless he dropped his countersuit.

Walgreens files lawsuit against video game company

Retailers in Texas and around the country often order products on what is known as a guaranteed sale basis. This type of agreement allows stores to return unsold goods and obtain a refund. The pharmacy chain Walgreens has filed a lawsuit that accuses a video game company of reneging on a guaranteed sale agreement. The Illinois-based retailer is seeking about $1.62 billion for 66,500 unsold video games and microconsoles.

Walgreens claims in its breach of contract lawsuit that AtGames offered to take back unsold games for a refund and agreed to pay fees and shipping costs. The litigation does not specify the games or products involved, but it does state that Walgreens paid between $15 and $38 for them. Walgreens says that allowing AtGames to avoid its contractual obligations would give the company the opportunity to sell the same items twice and violate the basic principles of equity and justice. AtGames manufactures plug-and-play video games and microconsoles that can be used with game systems like the Sega Saturn and Atari 2600.

The different ways to resolve a contract dispute

There is a chance that a party won't be able or willing to live up to the terms of a contract it agreed to. If an entity fails to live up to its end of an agreement, it is said to have breached the contract. After a breach of a contract that is governed by Texas law, the breached party may demand that the other side abide by its obligations.

A court could also step in and order the offending party to fulfill its contractual duties. However, it may also award financial compensation or other forms of relief if this does not happen. Compensatory damages seek to make the the victim of a contract breach whole while liquidated damages are typically defined in the contract itself. Punitive damages could be awarded if a party took actions that were especially egregious.

How to tackle a dispute with your contractor

You put a lot of time into comparing contractors, as you want to choose the perfect person for your project. But even if you do your homework up front, you could still find yourself in a serious dispute at some point.

Disputes with contractors are never easy to navigate, as both parties are likely to have their own version of what's gone wrong. Fortunately, there is more than one way to tackle a dispute with your contractor. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Have an honest conversation: This is often the simplest and most cost-effective way to tackle a dispute. Share your concerns with the contractor, hear them out and do your best to reach a resolution. Sometimes this is all it takes to get back on track.
  • Review your contract together: Doing so will give both of you a clear idea of what's expected in regard to project scope, payments and other key details. It's a good idea to take on this step as soon as a dispute arises.
  • Consider mediation: You don't necessarily have to file a lawsuit right away. You may be able to go through formal mediation to find a resolution that works for both parties. In many cases, you are required to go through mediation or arbitration before taking your claim to court.

Distributing Jeffrey Epstein's large estate

Texas residents might be familiar with Jefferey Epstein after his alleged connections to sex trafficking made national news. The financier's suicide Aug. 10 is not the end of the story. The 66-year-old's estate may be worth more than $577 million, and many people are interested in what the next steps are when it comes to distributing his estate.

The legitimacy of Epstein's will could be called into question as it was created two days before his death. If a will is created quickly during stressful circumstances, this could make it easier for a mistake to occur.

Breach of contract lawsuit over "Titansgrave" series

Contract issues can be central to entertainment media beloved by many Texas fans. For example, a contract dispute has broken out over well-known actor Wil Wheaton's work on "Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana," a series produced by the company Geek & Sundry. Wheaton is perhaps best-known for his role in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." However, Wheaton is now alleging that he did not receive all of his required payments for his work on the "Titansgrave" series and has filed a lawsuit against the producers of the series, now owned by Legendary.

In 2015, the company hired Wheaton to write, create, host and produce the series. He was offered $50,000 for his work in addition to 50% of the net profit taken in from "Titansgrave." The company retained exclusive rights to distribute and promote the show, but the contract also obliged them to consult with Wheaton in the process of doing so. According to Wheaton's lawsuit, the company breached their contract by making licensing agreements with Pluto TV, Hulu and Sinclair Broadcasting without notifying Wheaton or discussing the decision with him. Wheaton alleges that these contracts may have produced significant undisclosed income that was not passed on.

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