Business disputes – and the procedures for resolving those disputes – can be exceedingly costly and time-consuming. If your Ontario business is involved in any type of business dispute, you must have the legal advice and services that a Toronto commercial litigation lawyer provides.

In Ontario, the parties that are involved in litigation are encouraged to resolve their differences outside of the courtroom and may even be penalized if they do not make a genuine effort at a private settlement. Thus, most business disputes are settled through a negotiation process – mediation or arbitration, for example – rather than by a court or another formal legal entity.

If your own business is involved in a commercial dispute, what steps should you take to resolve that dispute? What are your options, and what are your legal rights? When should you contact an Ontario commercial litigation lawyer? Keep reading for the answers to these questions.

What is the Definition of a Settlement?

Settlements happen when two disputing parties reach an agreement to resolve their differences. A settlement agreement does not necessarily have to be put in writing, but that is the best way to avoid related subsequent disputes.

A settlement may be documented by exchanging letters or emails between the disputing parties, but once again, a formal and detailed statement or compromise agreement in writing is strongly recommended.

It goes without saying that the longer a business dispute lasts, the more time and resources have to be spent on it. From the beginning of any commercial dispute, you should be seeking to settle it – with the assistance of a commercial litigation lawyer.

Usually, a commercial contract will include specific provisions for resolving any dispute arising from the contract. These provisions usually require the disputing parties to negotiate from the beginning of their dispute, before any formal arbitration or litigation becomes necessary.

What Should Settlement Agreements Include?

The central element of a settlement is the actual agreement or “commercial deal” itself. Usually, this is what one side pays to resolve the other side’s claim against it. Along with the commercial deal, these additional terms and conditions are usually included in settlement agreements:

  1. Consideration: The commercial deal may consist of an installment or lump sum payment agreement, but when the parties have several claims and counterclaims against each other, a mutual release of those claims and counterclaims may be sufficient consideration.
  2. Parties: When more than two businesses or other parties are involved in a commercial dispute, the settlement agreement must specify exactly which parties are bound by it.
  3. Extent: A settlement agreement should clearly describe and precisely spell out the details and the nature of the dispute that the agreement resolves.

When is an Agreement Too Wide or Too Narrow?

Parties to an agreement must consider its terms and conditions to make sure the agreement is neither too wide nor too narrow. An agreement that is too narrow may ultimately fail to settle the dispute; agreements that are too wide may bind the parties in unexpected and unwanted ways.

The parties to a settlement agreement will probably disagree about how narrow or wide the terms and conditions of that agreement should be, but a commercial litigation lawyer will ensure that your own interests and rights are fully protected in settlement negotiations and/or litigation.

You and your Ontario commercial litigation lawyer should review the language of a settlement agreement before you sign it, to ensure that the terms and conditions of the agreement are neither too wide nor too narrow and to ensure that you fully understand what you will be agreeing to.

What About Confidentiality?

Additionally, an agreement should address what may be said by the parties about the agreement. Parties often want the terms or even the existence of an agreement to be confidential (except as they need to divulge it for professional or legal reasons). An agreement may also include:

  1.  a non-disparagement clause in which the parties agree to refrain from making disparaging comments about each other
  2.  a non-admission clause which establishes that the agreement does not constitute any admission of fault or liability
  3.  a formal private or public apology from one party to another

A settlement agreement should also make it clear how the costs of the dispute and the agreement will be handled. If the parties are to pay their own legal expenses, or if one party is to pay all or part of the other party’s legal expenses, the settlement agreement should plainly say so.

What Will a Commercial Litigation Lawyer Do on Your Behalf?

A commercial litigation lawyer will represent you if your company is sued, your legal rights are violated, or if a minor conflict becomes a major business dispute. A commercial litigation lawyer can often negotiate a settlement agreement before a disagreement escalates into a legal dispute.

Your lawyer will explain your dispute resolution options and guide you through each step of the resolution process. Your lawyer will also work to reduce any disruption to your normal business operations and to protect your legal rights and your company’s public reputation.

Very few business disputes go to litigation in the Toronto area, but if no out-of-court settlement of a commercial dispute is possible, and if a courtroom trial can’t be avoided, your lawyer will protect your interests and rights in court and bring the matter to its best possible conclusion.

When Should You Contact a Commercial Litigation Lawyer?

A variety of circumstances may cause a business dispute or even trigger a lawsuit that involves your business. You may need to file a lawsuit, or your company may be targeted by a lawsuit. In either event, you should contact a commercial litigation lawyer at once.

Commercial litigation lawyers in Ontario represent clients in business and partnership disputes, breach of contract cases, collection actions, intellectual property cases, tax disputes, and almost any type of case that may arise from a business-related disagreement or dispute.

A commercial litigation lawyer will also help you prepare an employee handbook, put a business plan in place, and take the other measures necessary to prevent small problems from becoming big legal difficulties.

In Ontario, when a business dispute emerges – or if you anticipate that such a dispute is imminent – promptly schedule a consultation with a Toronto commercial litigation lawyer who will provide you with solid legal advice and help you obtain an acceptable settlement agreement.