What is a “Plaintiff?”

In today’s post, we continue our series on litigation terminology, helping you to understand the various terms used when you’re involved in a lawsuit. Today’s question is, “What is a plaintiff?”

The word “plaintiff” is the title of the individual who initiates a lawsuit—someone who seeks to compel something from a Defendant via a court proceeding. They may be seeking money or “equitable” remedies, such as an injunction.

An over-simplified way of thinking about it is that he is opposite the defendant. Everyone knows what a defendant is—the one being sued. The plaintiff is the person bringing that lawsuit.

Another helpful way to understand this term is this: the existence of a “plaintiff” in a lawsuit is a tip that the matter is a Civil Suit rather than a Criminal one. In other words, no one is going to jail at the end of this trial. Rather, the litigation seeks a civil remedy of money or a court order determining a dispute between private parties. One final way of thinking about a plaintiff is that he is on the front side of the “v” in a lawsuit (Plaintiff v. Defendant).

We hope this explanation of the term plaintiff is helpful. If you have other questions related to your litigation, feel free to set up an appointment with the attorneys at the Cornerstone Law Firm for a free consultation about your case. Our litigation attorneys can explain the terminology, and more importantly, the strategy and rights you have in bringing or defending your case.

Injured on 222? We Can Help.

Pennsylvania Route 222, which runs through the heart of Berks County, is becoming not only the busiest but also the most dangerous road in the area. 222 has long been a source of economic growth to Berks County and to Reading, but in recent years, it has become more and more dangerous and has resulted in more and more accidents. If you’ve been injured on 222 in a car accident, the personal injury attorneys at the Cornerstone Law Firm can help you.

Pursuing Settlement

Car accidents can be a life-changing experience. Between the surgeries and rehabilitation required, these injuries demand an enormous amount of time and attention from the injured party. Other results of an accident, such as loss of earnings and chronic pain can create significant stress for the injured victim.

Having a personal injury attorney here in Berks County who understands your situation is important in dealing with the insurance company and any responsible party after the accident. The party responsible for your accident and the insurance companies involved—including your own insurance company in many cases—bear responsibility to ensure that you are made whole after the accident. This includes not only covering your medical bills and settling medical liens, but also putting together an appropriate settlement given the pain involved in your accident and the time you’ve lost at work and from the activities you love.

The process of pursuing settlement for your injuries doesn’t have to be as painful as a car accident. Frequently, cases can be resolved without the need of filing suit or going to trial. All the same, it’s important to have a lawyer who is able and willing to take your lawsuit to trial if necessary.

We can help.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident on 222 or elsewhere in Berks County, Pennsylvania, call the personal injury lawyers at Cornerstone Law Firm for a free consultation. We don’t get paid until you get paid. Call us for a risk-free, no-obligation consultation about your case.

What is a “Whistleblower?”

In the past 50 years, many laws have been passed to protect “whistleblowers.” In today’s world, our society is encouraging more and more people to step up and speak up when they see a problem.

So, what happens when an employee speaks up at their job and lets someone know about illegal conduct and then is subsequently fired for making such a report? That person is what we call a whistleblower, and they are entitled to protection under the law.

whistleblowers

Whistleblowers report conduct to their bosses and to others

When a whistleblower speaks up about something they believe is illegal or wrong, they typically do so internally. That is, they make a report to their boss, to a human resources director, or to someone within their company who has been designated to hear reports of such wrongdoing. This is called an internal report.

In other situations, the whistleblower, either after making an internal report that is ignored, or at the outset, makes a report to someone outside of the company. They may contact a government entity such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to let them know about insider trading. Or perhaps they contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to let them know about unsafe practices in the workplace that could harm another employee. This is called an external report. Both of these types of reports can be protected under the law depending on the circumstances.

A whistleblower should not face adverse employment action

When a whistleblower is fired, demoted, or even passed over for a promotion or a bonus because of a report or illegality or wrongdoing, they are entitled to protection under the law. There is a complex web of state and federal statutes that protect the whistleblower in these circumstances, and there are too many to list here. The advantage of the sheer number of statutes involved, however, is that whistleblowers often have a weapon to fight back with when an employer wrongs them.

For example, a state employee in Pennsylvania may be protected under the State Whistleblower Act. In addition, if the person is a mandatory reporter who reports child abuse and suffers adverse employment action for it, they may be protected under the Mandatory Reporter Act. Federal statutes include the Food Safety Modernization Act, which protects those making reports of the mishandling of food in the food service industry.

Conclusion: If you’ve been discriminated against for whistleblowing, fight back!

There are too many statutes to even list here, so if you’ve been fired or otherwise discriminated against for whistleblowing, contact the attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm today. We’ll discuss your case and your options with you in a confidential, free consultation, so you know your options and the best path forward.

My Partner Froze Me Out!: What to Do in A Shareholder Dispute

When you run a business with someone else, conflicts can arise. Most business partners should be able to work out there differences together, but unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that this isn’t always the case.

Occasionally, when things get really bad, one partner or shareholder or director will make a poor decision and “freeze out” the other owner of the company. This may happen in a physical way where the part owner changes the locks on the building, or in a less obvious way, such as where one owner tells all of the employees to stop taking direction from the other owner.

If you are the frozen-out shareholder or director, you have some important decisions to make. Here are four things that will impact how your case will develop if you’ve been frozen out of your company:

shareholder dispute

1. What type of business entity do you own?

You may not have paid much attention in the past on whether your company is a corporation, an LLC, or an unorganized partnership, but now is the time to figure that out and to pay close attention to it. The type of entity that you are a part owner of will have a dramatic impact on the type of claims that you’re going to bring and on the best strategy to pursue in litigation.

These and many other questions will influence your options. In the case of a corporation, Pennsylvania statutes provide for the proper process to follow in objecting to many corporate actions. Some actions may be governed by other rules of law, as well.

In regards to an LLC or a partnership, the rules are based more heavily on private documents between the parties, but are also governed by certain fundamental legal principals. In short, knowing what type of entity you own is an important piece to the overall puzzle.

2. What type of ownership interest do you have in the company?

More importantly, what is your ownership interest in the company? If the company is a corporation, are you a voting or non-voting shareholder? Do you have a contractual right to be on the board of directors under your corporation’s bylaws, or under some other agreement? If the company is an LLC, do you have an Operating Agreement? And is your Membership of the same class as the Member who froze you out?

What percentage owner are you? Do you own half? Less than half? If so, you are a “minority shareholder,” meaning that you own less than a controlling percentage of the company. This means the Court will have to apply certain doctrines to protect your rights if a “controlling shareholder” or controlling ownership group are acting oppressively. Of course, if you own a controlling percentage, your remedies may be even stronger if you were frozen out.

3. Do you want to return to your company? Or, do you want a payout?

An important decision that a frozen-out owner will often have to make is whether they want to return to the company as an owner, or whether they essentially want to be bought out of their interest in the company. This is a tough decision to make and may be very difficult in the bitter circumstances of an acrimonious dispute between shareholders or partners.

However, deciding whether you want to reclaim your rightful place in the company or simply accept money for the damages you’ve suffered will help to determine the course of action that you should take starting on day one.  

4. What type of freeze-out occurred?

We referenced at the beginning of this article that there are many ways to be frozen out. Not all freeze-outs are made equal. If you are frozen out by a changing of the locks, you may need to approach the litigation with an injunction from the Court requiring that you be allowed to re-enter the premises, or you may need to take other legal and aggressive action immediately. If you’re the victim of a “soft” freeze-out, where other owners are undermining you and depriving you of the control you are legally entitled to, the approach may be different.

The actions of your co-owner or partners will dictate your strategy in some respects, but if you haven’t been completely frozen-out, that may also give you the opportunity to make important and strategic decisions to protect your rights.

Conclusion: Call the Cornerstone Law Firm to discuss your case

At Cornerstone Law Firm, we handle freeze-out disputes. We have experience in negotiating, litigating and avoiding disputes between partners and owners. We have represented minority owners frozen out of LLCs, partnerships and corporations, and have handled multi-million-dollar business disputes.

Call us today for a free, confidential consultation, and we can discuss how we can help you solve your problem.