Our focus is you

We manage disputes in a way that:

  • protects your legal position;
  • adds value; and
  • enhances your commercial reputation.

Whether it’s a complex, high value dispute or a more routine matter, we are always practical, to the point and cost-effective. Over the years we have developed an industry-wide reputation for delivering impressive results to a varied commercial client base.

We deal with all types of commercial dispute. This encompasses everything from standalone contractual disagreements (where damages are straightforward to assess and enforcement is uncomplicated), to disputes that pose a wholesale threat to your business.

Our solicitors balance the nature of the dispute and what you want to get from the legal process with the bigger commercial picture and how your business will be affected in the long term by a particular result.

Your questions answered

What are our legal options when facing a business dispute?

A lot depends on what the dispute is about and how you want to deal with it. How strongly do you want to defend or pursue a commercial claim? How will a particular approach or result affect you from a business perspective?

Depending on the strategy you want to adopt you have several options:

  • You can discuss the issues informally with the other side and come to an agreement without the involvement of lawyers.
  • You might decide to instruct a solicitor to negotiate a settlement with the other party. Solutions can often be found more easily when the disputing parties don’t have to deal directly with each other.
  • You can begin Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). This includes processes like mediation, arbitration, and early neutral evaluation. These are ways of resolving disputes pragmatically and cost effectively. Several of our lawyers are qualified ADR specialists and as a firm we have invested heavily in our technical understanding and use of ADR.
  • Litigation – that is, using the court process and relying on a judge to decide the outcome of your case. Whilst specialist courts exist to deal with specific types of dispute (for example, financial) it’s an expensive and often uncertain way to resolve disputes.

Our clients often want to maintain an existing profitable relationship with the other party so an acrimonious, time-consuming court battle makes little sense in many cases. In contrast the actions of one side may be so harmful and both sides so far apart that a negotiated settlement is impossible. In these circumstances litigation may become unavoidable.

Is there a time limit for starting a commercial litigation case?

Yes. The periods are set out in the Limitation Act 1980 and vary depending on the type of claim you wish to bring. A claim for breach of contract must normally be brought within six years of the date of breach of contract. If you are starting a judicial review on the other hand the period is much shorter – the case must be brought within three months of the relevant decision or action. Because of these time limits it’s important to obtain legal advice as soon as the possibility of bringing a case arises.

How can we resolve this dispute quickly and cost effectively?

Every case is different. Whether you can resolve the issues quickly and without incurring significant expense depends on your approach and the attitude of the other party. Sometimes the threat of court action alone is enough to bring the parties to the table and negotiate an agreement at little cost, that is acceptable to both sides. At DMH Stallard we are adept at employing all forms of ADR to help clients reach constructive agreements in even the most complex commercial disputes. In addition to mediation and arbitration we use techniques and procedures like early neutral evaluation to help clients get a realistic idea of what might happen if they were to go to court. This can concentrate minds and facilitate a settlement.

Where formal court proceedings have begun you may be able to make certain applications such as an application for summary judgment or obtain speedy injunctions to dispose of a case quickly in a way that’s acceptable to you.

Is my commercial reputation and brand at risk during a dispute?

Your commercial reputation and the goodwill you have built up matters. Maintaining your brand and reputation is crucial – it’s how clients and competitors view your business. Threats come from many directions – from other businesses in the sector, from disgruntled clients and from employees. We will work with you to assess the potential reputational damage to you and or your business and discuss your appetite for a publicly fought case in court.  Many entrepreneurs and businesses want to avoid the risk of bad publicity, and this may be a strong reason not to go through the court process.  There are many routes available to manage disputes and maintain your business reputation and supply chain relationships.

How can we enforce payment under a judgment or agreed settlement?

Where a party fails to pay what is due under a court judgment or an arbitration award or fails to comply with what was agreed to settle the case various enforcement are available to you. Courts will not take any action to enforce a judgment without being asked to do so. It’s up to you to start enforcement action. Of course, taking enforcement action will involve more expense on your part and you should always approach the situation in a strategic and proportionate manner. We can advise you on the preliminary investigations you might need to make before beginning enforcement procedures and advise you on the most appropriate and cost-effective way to recover what is due.

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Rhodri James
Tim Ashdown
Matt Akers
Frank Bouette
James Colvin
Keith Pearlman
Lucie Thomas
Romy Cross
Alex Dawson

Recent work

Alleged negligence – successfully defended a claim for £30m

We defended a claim on behalf of a major financial institution, where it was alleged that it had breached its duty of care to its customer by allowing cheques drawn on the customer’s accounts in favour of a director to be honoured in breach of mandate, resulting in the company’s administration and compulsory liquidation. The Claimant sought damages up to £30 million. We successfully applied to strike out the claim on limitation grounds and secured a costs order for a significant sum against the Claimant.

Complex and multi-jurisdictional – successfully defended a claim for US $27m

We acted for a private limited company specialising in retail products by mail order and online, sourcing goods manufactured in China, which were stored at the port before being transported to their destination. The Claimant, a multi-national logistics company, alleged the goods were defective and didn’t meet the specification, claiming compensation in the sum of US $27 million.

Asset protection – successfully protected the IP of our client so they could expand globally

Our client provides a turnkey franchise service for a range of international casual and fine dining restaurant brands. We defended our client against the misuse of their trademark and breaches of their franchise agreement overseas. The work of our specialist contentious intellectual property team enabled the client to regain control of their trademarks and continue their overseas expansion.

Contractual breaches – Successfully represented two Directors to achieve royalties owed of £15m

We represented two Directors in a claim relating to a substantial payment of royalties, as well as various breaches of contractual arrangements between our client and an association responsible for rights and the collection of fees in the entertainment industry.

Banking and Finance

Misrepresentation – successfully defended a £15m damages claim for deceit

A series of loan notes were issued to raise capital for a care sector business. The Claimant (the capital provider) claimed that the financial information provided by our client was false and misleading. After failing to restructure its debts, the fund went into administration in 2014 resulting in the loss of the entire value of its investment. The fund issued a claim against our client in 2017. Our team successfully argued that the Claimant had failed to undertake reasonable due diligence at the time when they made the investment and failed to commence the claim within the six year statutory time limit. The claim was therefore found by the High Court to be ‘statute-barred’ and was dismissed.

Damage mitigation – using mediation to reach a positive settlement in a high value property claim

We advised and acted for a leading international retailer of jewellery and accessories in defense of a substantial claim brought against them by a retail partner. The claim related to alleged unlawful termination of a retail agreement by our client. This was a complex matter where there were very important global reputation and potential negative PR issues at stake. We used mediation to reach a settlement. This avoided the dispute entering the public domain at a time of high sensitivity for the retail sector and we concluded this matter on excellent terms for our client.

Successful mediation – reduced a claim by over 78% in a complex and multi-jurisdictional case

We litigated against two firms of solicitors (which was then reduced to one), who made a US $2.5m claim for unpaid invoices arising out of a distribution agreement. There were a number of concerns relating to the conduct of the parties involved, as well as a separate argument that the claim may be statute barred, and through successful mediation, the claim was reduced in value by over 78% from the initial US $2.5m.

Dispute Resolution and Commercial Litigation Lawyers

Negotiated settlement for a high-net-worth family

We defended our client, a globally based family with international assets in property and art located in three different jurisdictions, against a claim for sums due under a loan agreement, which had fallen into default. Once proceedings were issued, the Claimant made an application for summary judgment and an agreement was reached prior to the determination of that application, providing an excellent and wholly successful outcome for our client.

Intellectual property dispute

Supporting a pet food manufacturer in a dispute relating to the ownership of intellectual property rights in a trademark, slogan and web domains.

Dispute resolution and debt recovery

We have a long-standing relationship with a leading surveying and real estate firm, providing a range of dispute resolution and debt recovery services. Our work for this client will often involve defending allegations of breach of contract and/or negligence (claims which are commonly brought as part of a defence to our client’s claims to recover its professional services fees).

News and insights

Penalties for breaching environmental legislation

Insights

An overview of the environmental regulator’s approach to the enforcement and prosecution of environmental offences which outlines the potential penalties and other implications for a businesses who breaches environmental legislation

25/02/2015

Enforcing possession orders – how not to do it

Insights

We explain how not to enforce possession orders, as shown in London Borough of Southwark -v- AA [2014] EWHC 500 (QB)

29/09/2015