How can I protect my small business from lawsuits?—Compliance (Part I).

By Eduardo A. Maura.

I’ve represented dozens of small businesses throughout the years. The main concern or question I am asked is still: How do I protect my business from lawsuits?

The first thing that comes to mind is compliance. It is extremely important that businesses comply with all laws, regulations, and codes. Oftentimes, during litigation, litigants will use any violations of the law, ordinance, local code or the like, to their advantage. They will try to paint you as the most non-compliant business in the world, the most “law breaking” entity. They will argue that they breached their contract with you because you breached first by “breaking the law.” It will not matter how small this violation was, they will skillfully paint you as a law-breaker, argue that violations of the law are not “curable,” and that they were right to breach the contract first. This in turn could result in a tremendous unfairness for a small business that was legitimate defrauded and incurred hundreds of thousands in damages from an unscrupulous defendants. As a small business owner, you do not want to be in a position where your meritorious cause of action (or defense) is jeopardized because of a minor violation that can be cured simply by paying a small fee to the city.

It is extremely important that you protect your business by complying with all the requirements to operate legally in the city or county you operate. Typical requirements for businesses in Florida are: (1) a Business Tax Receipt (city and county), (2) tangible personal property taxes, (3) a certificate of occupancy or use, (4) annual reports with the Florida Department of State, (5) Florida income tax reports, (6) payment of payroll taxes, (7) federal tax returns, (8) real estate taxes, (9) paying overtime to employees, and (10) specific permits for your industry.

All of these are simple things that required essentially, payments. In the aggregate though, they can be burdensome and expensive. But as a litigator, I can assure you that it is extremely important that you take care of them, so you can protect bigger assets and rights down the road. You do not want to be in a lawsuit with your landlord, vendor, provider, business partner, or the like, and have his/her skillful lawyer use these non compliant instances against you, damage your otherwise meritorious case, and ultimately negatively affect your business.

For more information about compliance for small businesses call us at 305-570-2208 or email me at eayala@ayalalawpa.com.

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