The Deep Freeze

icecream

In a case recently filed in the Business Litigation Session, Plaintiff Susan Lombardi alleges that she is a 50% owner of the Braintree Emack & Bolio’s and that her former “sugar daddy,” the Defendant Robert Rook, is freezing her out of the franchise.  Rook is the founder, franchisor and principal of the Emack & Bolio’s company.  After Lombardi allegedly met Rook on the website “sugardaddy4me,” Lombardi’s role in the Braintree store skyrocketed from a counter worker to a 50% owner, with a promise of 50% of the store’s profits and a salary of $780/week, in just a few months.  In … Continue reading

J. Geils Band: Whose Name Is It Anyway?

J. Geils Band Guitar

It’s been said that a music band is like family; unfortunately, some families do nothing but fight. So it is with members of the J. Geils Band, who are embroiled in a legal battle over who has the right to use the band’s name. On one side is guitarist John Geils (aka J. Geils), on the other is the band’s four other members, who have used the name on reunion tours without the guitarist. Last year, John Geils filed a lawsuit in federal court in Boston, seeking a judgment that would stop the other band members from using J. Geils, … Continue reading

The Price of Freezing Out a Partner

Frozen

A recent Massachusetts case provided an example at how an at-will partnership can often come to an abrupt end – with one partner escorted off the premises by an armed officer. In 2009, David Zak and Lisa Reed (a lawyer and a mortgage broker respectively) orally agreed to start a loan modification partnership in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis. The pair split the profits from the business evenly and each received a bi-weekly salary. During the first year of the business, Reed attempted to have Zak agree to a written partnership agreement, but Zak assured her that none … Continue reading

Resolve Business Divorce Disputes Without Stepping into a Courthouse

handshake

Involving the court should not be a matter of course in every business divorce.  For good reason, alternative dispute resolution is becoming increasingly popular in dissolving business relationships.  With a strong mediator, pre-litigation mediation is a powerful tool to reach a settlement and avoid the delay, expense, and emotional wrangling of drawn-out litigation. Although mediation often occurs well after the inception of a court case – either by court order or when the parties finally become comfortable with the idea of settlement – it would be smart to explore mediation prior to litigation, or at the inception of litigation.  A … Continue reading

Even Success Can Breed Failure

In a recent Suffolk Superior Court decision[1], Judge Lauriat determined that defendants, majority owners of Boylston Cypress LLC (“BC”), were not liable to plaintiffs, the minority members, for breaches of fiduciary duties and contract regarding the LLC’s accounting practices.  BC was created for the sole purpose of developing the Cypress Lofts in Brookline.  It spent $20 million acquiring the property and constructing the condominiums and parking spots.  Although the project seemed to be a success by all standards, with all condo units and parking spaces being leased or sold and both parties (and the main real estate broker) making a … Continue reading

Demoulas v. Demoulas SuperMarkets, Inc.: A Case Study in Business Ventures Going Bad

Market Basket

The Demoulas dispute started with a trusted family relationship that went bad.  Partly what made it infamous was probably a result of the parties’ wherewithal – they have been able to fund decades of litigation. As the years passed and millions in fees accrued, the animosity built. In 1917, Arthur Demoulas opened a local grocery store in Lowell.  He and his wife operated it for some 40 years and then handed it over to their sons, George and Telemachus (“Mike”).  The brothers grew the business quickly and their families were very close.  In 1964, Mike and George executed wills, stating … Continue reading