Civil Commercial and Business Litigation

Tollefsen Law focuses on complex business and commercial litigation. We know that businesses usually do not make money litigating. We know litigation usually take valuable time and resources that you would prefer to use elsewhere. Unlike some law firms that tend to find a way to create large fees before looking for a solution, TL is focused on settlement from the onset of the case. Over 95% of civil cases settle before trial. You can expect an honest assessment of your case when we open your file. You will have an opportunity to fully discuss your case and evaluate all alternatives.

Controlling litigation costs

Litigation can be very expensive. TL works hard on minimizing fees. Hourly rates are reasonable. Expensive downtown offices and marble staircases are avoided.

Litigation plans attempt to achieve maximum result with minimum cost.

Tasks are automated. Files are paperless. The most advanced legal management software is utilized. Contact Tollefsen Law for experienced affordable trial lawyers.

Understand Civil Litigation

Civil Litigation Theories

Bankruptcy Litigation Overview

Find Answers to Legal Problems

Practical difficulties with finding a fair settlement.

Regardless of your motivation to find a quick solution, there are many barriers. If you are the one bringing the action (plaintiff or claimant), the defendant is often unwilling to admit error or that your case has any merit. Plaintiffs should not go forward with litigation unless they are prepared to go to trial. Expecting a defendant to pay a significant amount of money without convincing proof of liability. Don’t expect litigation to be easy for the plaintiff.

It is often difficult to settle as a defendant even if you think you did something wrong. Plaintiffs and their lawyers can have unrealistic expectations.

Experienced civil litigation lawyers can help find a suitable resolution of the dispute while minimizing cost.

Experienced civil litigation lawyers can help find a suitable resolution of the dispute while minimizing cost.

I became a client of John’s under an emergency situation. He heard my story and took me on without a moments hesitation. My situation was bleak and the stress I was under due to it was unbelievable. John jumped in with both feet immediately and the harassment I was living with ceased almost immediately. They have stayed on my case until the end and the outcome is better than I ever expected. Not only were John and Karla professional, they cared about me as a person and I knew it from the first time we talked.

Happy Client

Failure to Reconvey: Quiet Title Without a Quiet Title Action

What do you do when a seller fails to reconvey the title to property following payment of the loan, then dies? Failure to reconvey puts a cloud on the title that must be quieted. Quiet title actions can be drawn out and expensive. Is there a way to obtain a quiet title without the quiet title action? This article explores four possible tools for obtaining a quiet title outside a traditional quiet title action.

No notice of damages sought required in Washington pleadings

Kathryn Learner Family Trust v. Wilson, 2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 2196 (Wash. Ct. App., Div. 3, Sept. 4, 2014) Decision: 140904-Learner-v-Wilson It has long been the common law rule that a plaintiff must give notice to the defendant of the type of damages it is seeking. Prior to the advent of “notice pleading” the defendant had the right to notice of the amount of damages. The rule developed that “general damages” did not need pled. General damages are those which are the “natural and necessary result of the wrongful act or omission asserted as the basis for liability. They are presumed by or implied in law to have resulted from the injury.”1Jensen v. Torr, 44 Wn. App. 207, 214, 721 P.2d 992 (1986). Attorney fees were considered “costs” but the meaning of “costs” changed over time through statutory construction and judicial decision as American courts moved from their British roots. Under federal law, attorney fees arising under a contract2If the attorney fees are from another source like a statute or are part of the cause of action, the rule probably is not applicable are special damages that must be pled under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(g).3United Indus., Inc. v. Simon-Hartley, Ltd., 91 F.3d 762, 764 (5th Cir. 1996) (citing Maidmore Realty Co., Inc. v. Maidmore Realty Co., Inc., 474 F.2d 840, 843 (3rd Cir. 1973) This court held that these rules have been altered in Washington by Civil Rule 54(c) which provides the except “as to a party against whom a judgment is entered by default, every final judgment shall grant the relief to which the party in whose...

Understanding Civil Litigation

Civil litigation can be the modern equivalent of warfare.  It can be painful, wasteful, and often unpleasant. You will be forced to reveal everything that may possibly lead to relevant evidence. Your email and documents will be scoured for material that can be twisted to the opponents advantage. On the other hand, if you have made proper preparation by anticipating the risks, writing the appropriate contracts, and practicing good preventative legal techniques, the pain can be minimal. Planning to Start Litigation The first step in litigation is the most important and most often overlooked: proper analysis and planning. Too often, people want to “get going” because they are angry. This can be disastrous. Prudent litigation involves putting the case together thoroughly before filing the lawsuit. All applicable law should be reviewed. All known evidence should be reviewed. Witnesses should be interviewed. Proper litigation planning saves money over the long run and prevents most surprises. You should know the weaknesses in your case and the opponents likely counter attack before you file. If planning is done properly, you can evaluate the case and have a good idea what it is worth before filing. Plaintiff’s Perspective The plaintiff has the burden of proof and must keep the case moving. The Plaintiff is in the position of the person playing the white chess pieces: The plaintiff must press the case forward. This means that the plaintiff must be willing to spend money to obtain discovery and file necessary motions. It makes little sense to file a case and hope the defendant will settle. If the threat of the case does not move the...

Four Theories of Recovery for Misrepresentation

Recovery for Misrepresentations Causing Pecuniary Harm The Restatement (Second) of Torts identifies four causes of action that can be used to recover for misrepresentations causing monetary harm. The distinctions between the four theories are nuanced and are not uniformly applied by state courts. What follows is a simplified summary of some of the major differences between the four remedies. Both Fraud and Innocent Misrepresentation use scienter as an element of their causes of action. Restitution and Negligent Misrepresentation do not. Breach of warranty is also available under contract law and is subject to contract law defenses. (E.g. Restatement (Second) of Contracts (St. Paul, MN: American Law Institute Publishers, 1981), §§ 304, 306). It is outside the scope article which deals with tort and near tort remedies. In cases involving the sale of goods under Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code, most fact patterns actionable under the tort of Innocent Misrepresentation would also be actionable under the Code on the theory of breach of warranty. Unlike Innocent Misrepresentation, the measure of damages for breach of warranty includes compensation for benefit of the bargain and for consequential losses. Innocent Misrepresentation has the advantage of not being subject to Code defenses such as the parol evidence rule. 1) Restitution After the merger of courts of law and equity in most jurisdictions, some courts applied the equitable rescission remedy at law allowing a party to seek rescission of a transaction on the ground of misrepresentation, even an innocent misrepresentation.1Rescission is similarly granted for mutual mistake. See Restatement of Restitution, §§ 6, 8. The usual precondition for Restitution is the return of what...

Federal Securities Law Overview

Federal Securities Law Overview With Commentary by John  Tollefsen1The author has served and continues to serve on several securities laws committees of the American Bar Association Business Law and Litigation Sections. He has been a speaker at Continuing Legal Education seminars on securities law. He obtained his Series 27 (Financial Principal), 24 (General Principal), 7 and 63 NASD licenses and founded two securities broker dealers businesses. He also managed a Securities Exchange Commission licensed stock transfer agent. His practice included numerous private placements and several public offering registrations. He was privileged to make quasi-official visits with a team of ABA securities lawyers to ranking members of several international stock exchanges including some in China and the former Soviet Union and Soviet-Bloc countries of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. One delegation was headed by the Solicitor General of the SEC. He has been active in the SEC Small Business Forum on Small Business Capital Formation since 1982.   U.S. banking laws3The securities laws are a subset of banking regulation. Banks and broker-dealers were combined except during the Glass-Steagall regime (1933-1999). were written in response to financial crisis. The stock market first crashed in 1792. The first of thirteen major bank panics occurred in 1814.4Charles W. Calomiris, U.S. Bank Deregulation in Historical Perspective, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 200), 98. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 did not trigger a major bank panic. Id. In times of economic stress, it is politically popular to bash the “robber barons of Wall Street” creating a season of “financial reform”. Thus, the Securities Act of 1933 was passed unanimously without debate. More recently the Sarbanes Oxley...

Unjust Enrichment

Unjust Enrichment – Washington State Law The terms “restitution” and “unjust enrichment” are the modern designations for the older “quasi contracts” terminology.127 WAPRAC § 5.51 The Washington court has adopted the unjust enrichment terminology, but continues to use the quasi contractual terminology interchangeably: “Quasi contracts” are not true contracts but are obligations created by the law when money or property has been placed in one person’s possession under such circumstances that in equity and good conscience, he ought not to retain it. [Citation omitted.] Thus, the substance of an action for unjust enrichment lies in a promise, implied by law, that one will render to the person entitled thereto that which in equity and good conscience, belongs to the latter. At common law, such actions are brought under the principles of assumpsit, and where the cause of action arises from a tortious wrong, it is the general rule, whether or not there be an express contract, that the injured party may waive the tort and sue in assumpsit, in which case the law will imply a contract on the part of the tort-feasor to pay the injured party a just remuneration for the damages suffered to his property.2Bill v. Gattavara, 34 Wash. 2d 645, 209 P.2d 457 (1949), (4-1 decision). In unjust enrichment terms, two basic elements must be established in quasi-contractual actions: the person receiving a benefit (such as money) must be unjustly enriched, and the party conferring the benefit must not be a volunteer.3Lynch v. Deaconess Medical Center, 113 Wash. 2d 162, 776 P.2d 681 (1989); Trane Co. v. Randolph Plumbing & Heating, 44 Wash. App. 438,...

Bankruptcy Litigation

Bankruptcy litigation can include routine commercial matters, disputes over title and security, as well as attempts to prevent discharge. Even though the nondischarged claims may be pursued in other courts, it is often helpful to have bankruptcy judges who know bankruptcy law make the decision. Tollefsen law has years of experience in bankruptcy litigation. Preventing Discharge for Fraud If the perpetrator or participant in a fraud is pursued civilly, he or she often files for protection in the bankruptcy courts. If Chapter 13 is available, intentional fraud cannot be discharged but other types of fraudulent acts can be. Often the victim wants to teach the perpetrator a lesson and appears in the bankruptcy court even though the chance of recovery is small. The victim hopes either to eject the perpetrator from the protection of the bankruptcy court protection, obtain a exception from discharge, or win a nondischargeable judgment. There are several possible courses of action against the perpetrator in bankruptcy but often there is little guarantee of success. “Success” usually means obtaining a nondischargeable judgment which can last a total of 20 years in the states of Oregon and Washington. The victim has 20 years to keep track of the perpetrator and attempt to collect the judgment. Collection costs can be expensive and rarely are recovered from the perpetrator. Under 523(a)(2) the victim must prove that the perpetrator committed the fraud “intentionally” with knowledge that his conduct was fraudulent.  523(a)(4) disallows certain fiduciaries from discharging the debt. In securities fraud cases, the perpetrator generally claims to have been also fooled by the fraud and points to the fact that...

Churning Legal Fees

Major law firm was caught churning legal fees probably to make mandatory minimum billable hours. ‘Churn that bill, baby!’ email surfaces in fee dispute with DLA Piper Posted Mar 25, 2013 3:54 PM CDT By Martha Neil It all began with a corporate bankruptcy case. Retained by energy entrepreneur Adam H. Victor in April 2010 to prepare the Chapter 11 filing for one of his companies, DLA Piper ran up a hefty bill. And when Victor refused to pay it, the law firm sued him for $675,000. Victor defended aggressively, not only filing a counterclaim over what he alleged was a “sweeping practice of overbilling” on the megafirm’s part but discovering some 250,000 pages of documents, according to the DealBook page of the New York Times. Among the documents were copies of email in which lawyers, a number of whom no longer work for DLA Piper, lightheartedly discuss the rapidly growing bill for Victor’s company, Project Orange Associates, which operated a Syracuse, N.Y., power plant, the article recounts. The emails are included in a copy of an affidavit filed Thursday in the Manhattan Supreme Court case, to which a link is provided by the New York Times (reg. req.). “I hear we are already 200k over our estimate—that’s Team DLA Piper!” wrote then-DLA Piper partner Erich P. Eisenegger in one email. After another lawyer responded, noting that an attorney colleague, whose first name is Vince, had been added to the group working on the bankruptcy matter, then-DLA Piper attorney Christopher Thomson added his thoughts: “Now Vince has random people working full time on random research projects in standard ‘churn...

Cost versus Collectability

Should I sue? Cost versus Collectability It is very common to have an open-and-shut fraud case but no realistic remedies. Unless you want to waste money or just make a point for principle, the defendant must be solvent. Most defendants are not solvent. If they were, they would not have cheated you out of your money. If the case is to make financial sense, there must be a defendant who is a “deep pocket”. Usually this defendant is not the perpetrator but a mostly innocent fellow-traveler. Examples include directors of companies, professionals, and employers who fail to keep a watch over the perpetrator. A simple fraud case will cost over $25,000 in legal fees. If a vigorous defense is asserted the fees can easily exceed $75,000. It is not uncommon to spend over $200,000 to prosecute a fraud case. Often a clearly liable defendant will spend large sums in a non-meritorious defense. The plaintiff must also spend to respond to each defense motion and to each defense trial witness. Small Claims Court More on litigation For smaller cases, you should consider small claims courts to solve a cost versus collectability problem. They are limited in damages ($5,000 in Oregon and Washington) in damages. One advantage is that attorneys are not generally allowed. It is often wise to reduce your damage claims so you can use the small claims...