Business Practices & Contract Law

This is a general area of law that covers diverse situations, such as disputes between businesses, disputes between members of a business, and breach of contract or contract interpretation issues.  Our firm has experience litigating cases in all three of those categories.

Disputes Between Businesses

Disputes between businesses can arise in various circumstances.  Common business vs. business claims include anti-competitive behavior (like antitrust actions), unfair competition, business interference, and hiring an employee in violation of that employee's noncompete agreement with another employer.  We are particularly experienced in business interference and noncompete matters. 

Business interference (officially known as "intentional interference with prospective business advantage") is a type of legal claim that allows a business to sue another business or person for unfairly taking business away from the suing business.  Iowa law recognizes that your business can be harmed just like your physical property can be.  A business or person who improperly interferes with someone else's business can be liable for lost profits and punitive damages, numbers that can be quite significant in business interference cases.

Noncompete agreements are generally valid and enforceable under Iowa law.  Employees often incorrectly assume that noncompete agreements are never enforceable.  So do the employers who hire them even though they know that the employee is governed by a noncompete agreement.  That's a dangerous misconception because breaching a noncompete agreement can result in the entry of court injunctions and money damage awards against the employee.  If the employee has gone to work for a competitor in violation of a noncompete agreement, that new employer might get sued by the former employer too.  So businesses that are considering hiring an employee who they know is subject to a noncompete agreement should take caution when deciding how to handle that situation.

For more information about business interference and noncompete agreements, we invite you to take a look at the following posts on our blog:

When Fair Competition Crosses The Line — The Tort Of Business Interference

Enforceability Of Noncompete Agreements

It's Time For A Serious Discussion About Noncompete Agreements

Disputes Among Members Of A Business

Business disputes can arise among the participants in a corporation, limited liability company, or partnership.  Relations among the directors, officers, and shareholders of a corporation are governed under Chapter 490 of the Iowa Code.  Relations among the members of a limited liability company are governed by Chapter 489 of the Iowa Code.  Partnerships are governed by Chapter 488 and 486A of the Iowa Code.  Each of those statutes contains detailed standards for the conduct of the participants in the business in relation to each other and people and other businesses outside the entity.

For more information about partnership disputes, please spend a few minutes reviewing the following posts on our blog:

Partnership Liability Under Iowa Law

A Partnership Agreement Can Help Prevent Partnership Disputes

Remedies For Partnership Disputes

Breach Of Contract Cases

The possible disputes that can arise over a contractual relationship are many and varied.  Perhaps one party to the contract is just not complying with it.  Or maybe there's only partial performance under the contract.  Sometimes the parties to a contract disagree on what it means or what the parties are obligated to do under the contract.  On other occasions one party may argue that the contract has been voided, rescinded, modified, substituted, waived, or any of countless other arguments that boil down to a simple assertion that the agreement no longer exists or that it's been changed in some manner.

A party that has breached a contract may make numerous arguments in defense of the breach.  The breaching party may make an argument along the lines of those summarized in the previous paragraph.  Or the party may contend that the breach is excused in some manner, such as through the defenses of impossibility, impracticability, mutual mistake of fact, frustration of purpose, the other party's breach excusing the breach, or other various contract defenses and breach excuses.

One way to decrease the amount of disputes over a contract and to strengthen your chances of success should a dispute arise is to put your agreement in writing.  We believe that written contracts are so important for your business relationships that we wrote a special blog post on this topic:

The Importance Of Written Contracts

For a general discussion of the damages recoverable in a breach of contract case, please review our blog post on contract damages: Damages For Breach Of Contract.

Other Types Of Business Wrongs That We Can Assist With

Defamation:  Defamation concerns damage to your character or reputation through published or spoken communication.  A defamed party can recover money damages for harm to reputation and any financial losses that result. 

Fraudulent Misrepresentation:  Fraudulent misrepresentation occurs when a seller lies or misleads a buyer about something important that affects a product or service.  Fraudulent concealment or nondisclosure is a subset of fraudulent misrepresentation that concerns the omission of important facts about a product or service.

Negligent Misrepresentation:  In certain circumstances for some types of occupations, there can be liability for misrepresenting or omitting important information about a product or service even if that occurred accidentally or negligently, rather than intentionally.

Interference With Contractual Relations:  This can happen when you have a contractual agreement with another person or company and a third party attempts to interfere or actually succeeds in interfering with that contract. 

Trade Secrets:  We can assist with seeking injunctive relief and money damages if you believe that someone's stolen and is using your trade secrets.

We also offer you additional information on these topics through posts on our blog:

The Basics Of Iowa’s Private Consumer Fraud Statute

Can You Be Defamed At Work By Your Managers Or Co-Workers?

Liability For Accidental Lies — The Law Of Negligent Misrepresentation In Iowa

Iowa's Uniform Trade Secrets Act

Revisiting Iowa's Uniform Trade Secrets Act -- A Deeper Look At What Constitutes A "Trade Secret"

Ready To Fight For You

Our firm has tried cases involving business disputes, contracts, noncompete agreements, and allegations of tortious interference, including a trial judgment of over $950,000 in a business dispute case.  If you have questions about a business dispute or contract situation, please take a moment to learn about your rights by reviewing the information provided on this site.  We also offer additional, more specific information about various topics at our on-site and off-site blogs that we hope you'll find helpful.  If, after reviewing this information, you'd like to speak with us about your business dispute or contract situation, please reach out to us through the Web Contact Form by using the "Contact Us" button or by calling (515) 281-1460. We make every effort to provide a same-day response to all communications received during weekday business hours.  Initial telephone calls are always free. If it looks like we can help, it'll be our pleasure to meet with you, learn more about your situation, and lend you a hand.

Please Contact Us If We Can Help Out

Erbe Law Firm

2501 Grand Avenue

Des Moines, Iowa 50312

(515) 281-1460

Erbe Law Firm has proudly served clients throughout Iowa since 2005.  We look forward to hearing from you to see whether we can do the same for you.

Standing Photo (Close Up)

Harley C. Erbe

Founder