Practice Areas & Industries: Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers LLP


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Practice/Industry Group Overview

Our attorneys excel at representation of our clients in a wide range of general business litigation. We have handled commercial, contract, corporate, health care, insurance, employment, governmental and real estate disputes, as well as general and business torts. We employ a tough-minded, business-oriented approach to the assessment and conduct of litigation and have enjoyed great success in achieving favorable results that meet the business objectives of our clients.

In a health care litigation, for example, we obtained reversal by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts of a lower court ruling that would have imposed a multi-million dollar liability upon our client; the high court's ruling simultaneously strengthened our client's bargaining position in contract dealings with health care providers. In another case, we obtained a summary judgment dismissing an employment discrimination claim filed by a terminated employee. Our trial attorneys have secured a substantial verdict on behalf of a partner in a real estate trust against his former partner, obtained significant damages awards on contract, fraud, tort and other claims, and secured jury verdicts on behalf of defendants rejecting seven-figure-plus claims for employment discrimination and patent infringement.

We apply to our general cases the same rigorous steps outlined in Our Approach to Litigation that we employ to good effect in complex intellectual property litigations. Effective litigation techniques result in settlement on favorable terms in many cases and in favorable results in cases that have to be taken to trial.


Sunstein Health Care Litigation Strategy

 Our firm offers representation before agencies and trial and appellate courts on all matters related to our health care practice. We are also active in negotiation, mediation and other alternatives for resolution of disputes in health care. However, where litigation is required, we aggressively pursue our clients' interests in court and before administrative agencies.

Our approach is informed by extensive experience representing and dealing with professional providers, hospitals, health care practices, regulatory agencies, and major health care programs. We provide effective and sophisticated assistance with professional license and disciplinary matters, professional practices management issues, provider contracts and program design disputes, complex health care employment and account benefits issues, fraud and abuse compliance, and trade practices matters. Our health care litigation strategies are directed to resolutions which advance our clients' business objectives, while preserving the fundamental principles which guide the health care profession.

If you have any questions about health care litigation or would like to discuss health care litigation in the context of your business, contact a member of our Litigation Practice Group.


Employer / Employee Litigation

Our attorneys have extensive experience in the negotiation and litigation of disputes between employers and employees. Frequently these disputes are part of a larger controversy about rights to trade secrets, confidential information, patents and other intellectual property. Our expertise in intellectual property law provides a solid foundation for handling these often complex and occasionally bitter cases.

Our business clients have a strong interest in protecting the assets that make them successful, including good employees, goodwill, confidential information and intellectual property. Where the departure of an important employee creates a risk of potential loss or damage to company assets, such as goodwill or trade secrets or other confidential information, we move aggressively to protect our client's rights. Alternatively, in representing a departing employee, we use vigorous advocacy to ensure that he or she can use their skills and experience to the fullest extent provided by law.

Employer/employee litigation may take place in either state or federal court. We have experience with the enforcement of covenants not to compete against former employees, cases involving misappropriation of trade secrets by former employees, and a wide variety of general employment issues. In general these cases follow the standard course of pleadings, paper discovery, depositions, expert reports and depositions, dispositive motions and trial. In a number of cases, however, the former employer seeks a preliminary injunction against competition and/or use of confidential information by the former employee and his new employer.

Because employee non-competition agreements typically have one to two year durations, the result of the preliminary injunction hearing will likely determine the outcome of the case. An employer who secures the injunction will have protected itself against competition by the former employee. Where the employer fails to obtain the injunction, however, the employee is free to continue with his or her new employer. Absent trade secret misappropriation issues, the cost of litigation is likely to be disproportionate to remaining issues of damages and hence the case will be in condition for settlement after the injunction ruling is handed down. On the other hand, where a serious misappropriation of a trade secret claim has been asserted, failure to obtain an injunction at an early stage may not deter the plaintiff from proceeding to litigate the case through trial, despite the expense, since the stakes may be substantial in terms of lost profits or other damage to business interests.

If you would like further information concerning employer/employee litigation issues, or would like to consult us in connection with a particular matter, please contact an attorney in our Litigation Practice Group.


Sunstein Trade Secret Litigation

We understand that a company's closely guarded ideas and data are often its most valuable assets. Trade secrets include any confidential information that has economic value or confers a competitive advantage by virtue of being kept secret. A small sampling would include processes, formulas, research data, product designs, software programs, financial data, laboratory notebooks, and lists of existing or prospective customers or suppliers-as long as they are valuable and as long as reasonable measures are in place to restrict access to individuals who have a legitimate need to know or otherwise have an obligation of confidentiality.

Trade secret cases commonly arise when an employee entrusted with confidential company information takes a job with a competitor. When someone gains unauthorized access to a trade secret, litigation is sometimes the only way to prevent use or disclosure. Time is often of the essence. Emergency relief can be essential to safeguarding the integrity of a company's trade secrets. By the same token, companies often face claims that they have come by their own products, processes or techniques through misappropriation of another's secrets.

In this context, Sunstein is particularly well equipped to be of service. We combine extensive experience in employment litigation with equally broad technical expertise. Our attorneys include mechanical engineers, aerospace engineers, electrical engineers, biochemists, physicists, and computer scientists. In the rush for relief that often occurs, these resources enable us quickly to determine our client's rights under any express or implied employment agreements. More important, we can efficiently assess the value of the asserted trade secret in the relevant industry and determine whether it is in fact unknown in the field, a critical capability for practitioners in this area of litigation.

Our representative activities include:

  • Obtaining injunctive relief against persons who had misappropriated our client's trade secrets
  • Defending against claims that our client's products or processes had been misappropriated from another company
  • Counseling companies how, through employment practices, contracts, and access restrictions, to safeguard their confidential information in order to qualify for trade secret protection
  • Advising companies how to conduct hiring to avoid facing misappropriation claims from prospective employees' former employers
  • Guiding individuals how to avoid liability for misappropriation when starting a new company or switching jobs

If you have any questions about trade secret litigation or would like to discuss trade secret litigation in the context of your business, contact a member of our Litigation Practice Group.

Group Presentations
  Steven Saunders co-chaired an MCLE program entitled "Hot Topics in Intellectual Property for the Business Lawyer" , MCLE Conference Center, Boston , September 11, 2007