Small Business Dispute Involving Breach of Contract?

This video features Samantha L. Pryor, Esq., a Business Law attorney based in Colorado.

Denver, Colorado Business Lawyer Samantha Pryor

Video Transcript:

Samantha Pryor: 

We often tell folks, it's really important to take the time to get the proper contracts and agreements in place before you start doing business.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So if you're a small business owner, and you're in a dispute with another business, what are your rights, and how do you get help? We're gonna find out right now, because we're going to ask on this episode of "Ask The Lawyer." My guest is Denver attorney Samantha Pryor. Remember, if you'd like to ask Samantha any questions about your situation, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button up on the top that says "Ask a Lawyer," it'll walk you right through the process, or you can always call the phone number you see on the screen during our conversation. Samantha, thank you for making some time to help us out today.

Samantha Pryor: 

Absolutely, thank you for having me. It's a pleasure.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So, we're talking small business owners, say one small business owner gets into a dispute with another small business owner, a vendor or a contractor, something like that, at what point do they need to get a lawyer like yourself involved?

Samantha Pryor: 

It would be important to get a lawyer involved in a dispute as soon as you're aware that it's not really going to come to a resolution without a lot of expense and effort on your part. Ideally, a small business owner would have a contract with a party that they're working with that would identify what the parties' understanding is about the relationship, 'cause that's the whole purpose of having a contract, is for the parties to memorialize their understanding, and if there is a dispute, they can go back to the contract to figure out, "Well, what do we agree on, and if we can't agree, then how will we... What will be be our course of action?"

Rob Rosenthal: 

Right.

Samantha Pryor: 

And so that's ideal to have the contract in place before you enter into a business relationship. But if after you enter into the business relationship, and there's a dispute, then it's important to get an attorney involved and to see what your rights and obligations are under the law, and to try to help you to get the case resolved without having to go through court.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Well that was... You just ran right into my next question. So is it possible that an attorney can help you resolve, say, a breach of contract without having to file a lawsuit or does the lawsuit have to be filed?

Samantha Pryor: 

Yes, absolutely. So at the Halliburton Law Firm, for example, that's what we do in every case before we ever file any sort of lawsuit, we always attempt to try to resolve the dispute, because it just saves the parties a lot of money, time and stress, quite frankly, to go through a lawsuit, and so we always attempt to try to identify the breakdown in the relationship, because oftentimes there's just a disagreement, and the parties just need to kind of talk about how the disagreement came about and how to just get it resolved in the best interest of the client. And so if that doesn't resolve, then of course you'll likely have to file a lawsuit or otherwise go through a legal proceeding based on the terms of the contract. Hopefully, there is a contract.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Are these situations something that could be helped with mediation and how does that work, and do you need a lawyer to engage in mediation?

Samantha Pryor: 

Yes, so mediation is a great option. In fact, courts really prefer that folks engage in some sort of alternative dispute resolution, like mediation. Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution and so does arbitration. Mediation is very helpful because you have a third party who is not interested in the dispute. They are just informed of the parties' interests, and their job is to just work with the parties to try to bridge the gap in terms of the dispute and bring the parties to a resolution, and mediations are very helpful in helping the parties to resolve those cases without incurring a lot of money in attorney's fees and costs in court, and so it is very helpful to have a lawyer who is experienced in mediations to help not only present the case in a sound and clear way to the mediator, to help the mediator understand the claims and the interests, but then also to negotiate with the other party to get a resolution.

Rob Rosenthal: 

And the mediator, do they make a final decision, and is it binding? How does that... How are things resolved there?

Samantha Pryor: 

Sure, good question. So in mediation, there is usually a mediator or there is a mediator, and that mediator is not a decision maker in the case.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Okay.

Samantha Pryor: 

That third... That party is just someone who is working with the clients or working with the parties, excuse me, to identify the interests and see if they can bring the parties together through conversation and negotiation. Whereas in arbitration, which is the other form of alternative dispute resolution, there actually is a decision maker or a panel of decision makers, and those are arbiters or arbitrators, and oftentimes business contracts do have arbitration clauses in them, so instead of having to go, or instead of being able to go and pursue a claim in court, an arbitration clause will require the parties to go through that arbitration process, and it's usually a binding proceeding and decision made by the arbitrators.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Gotcha, sounds like a lot of this might be avoided if somebody comes to you before when they're drawing up that contract and help to avoid a lot of the trouble as you go down the road. Right?

Samantha Pryor: 

Oh, that is absolutely correct. We often tell folks, it's really important to take the time to get the proper contracts and agreements in place before you start doing business. It's really easy to get involved in a business relationship. It's not that easy to get out necessarily, especially if there is a dispute. And the whole purpose of a contract is to memorialize the understanding of the parties, and so if there is a disagreement or a dispute, the parties should be able to go back to their contract and see, well, what did we agree upon? And what is happening in reality, and if they're not aligned then the contract should say exactly what the parties' rights and obligations are, if there's a breach or a dispute between the parties.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Very helpful information. Thank you so much, Samantha, for making some time and answering our questions. I do appreciate it.

Samantha Pryor: 

Yes, thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure.

Rob Rosenthal: 

And that's gonna take care of this episode of "Ask The Lawyer." My guest has been Denver attorney Samantha Pryor. I remind you again, if you'd like to ask Samantha questions about your situation, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button up at the top that says "Ask a Lawyer," and it'll walk you right through the very simple process right there. Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal for Ask The Lawyers.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.


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