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The “Go-To Guy” For Hardball Franchise Litigation.

– Multi-Unit Franchisee Owner ($3 Million case)

Inner Workings of Franchise Law

The “Go-To Guy” For Hardball Franchise Litigation.

– Multi-Unit Franchisee Owner ($3 Million case)

Franchisee Lawyer Looking Out Window

The “Go-To Guy” For Hardball Franchise Litigation.

– Multi-Unit Franchisee Owner ($3 Million case)

Planning your new franchise

The “Go-To Guy” For Hardball Franchise Litigation.

– Multi-Unit Franchisee Owner ($3 Million case)

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The “Go-To Guy” For Hardball Franchise Litigation.

– Multi-Unit Franchisee Owner ($3 Million case)

Nationally Recognized Franchise, Antitrust, and Commercial Contracts Trial Lawyers

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Testimonials

"Jeff, I am amazed that you were able to get the liquidated damages down that low, which allowed us to avoid bankruptcy. Until we retained you we had been dealing with hotel consultants who appeared to make little head-way in lowering the liquidated damages."

Multi-Unit Hotel Franchisee, Economy Segment
(value over $3 Million)

Get Legal Assistance from Franchise Lawyers Who Defend the Franchisee

The Goldstein Law Firm is a boutique national law firm that represents exclusively franchisees and dealers, not franchisors, suppliers or manufacturers. There are only a handful of franchisee lawyer specialists remaining in the country, as most have begun representing both franchisors and franchisees.

Franchise law is a multifaceted area of law that requires specialization. Any franchise attorney can tell you about a variety of cases where franchise agreements have gone south.

Here at Goldstein, our attorneys have as much as 30 years of experience handling all aspects of franchise litigation throughout the county.

We also specialize in franchise agreement assistance, bringing you the latest developments in franchise and distribution law. With the publishing of our Franchise Trends newsletter, we can help franchisees stay updated on developments concerning different legal aspects of franchising.

Dealing with the complexities and challenges of franchise law requires focus and specialization, which is why we represent dealers and franchisees exclusively. Unlike other firms, we at Goldstein are on the side of the franchisee. We can help you decipher the fine print of your franchise agreement and single out details your franchisor may not want you to know.

Without a knowledgeable and competent franchise consultant, you may be vulnerable to the pitfalls of franchise law. Simply walking away is not a viable solution if you’re looking to protect your assets and yourself from financially damaging consequences. For those who have already signed an agreement and are struggling with franchisor difficulties, our franchise law firm also provides legal assistance through its franchise attorneys.

Frequently Asked Questions on Franchise Law:

Do franchisors have an obligation to their franchisees to act competently?

In theory, it’s possible that a franchise attorney could prove that a franchisor violated a franchise agreement by poorly managing the franchise system. Inadequately capitalizing the franchise system or poorly managing advertising campaigns could potentially violate a franchise agreement.

However, there are few if any recent case findings in which a franchisor has violated the terms of a franchise agreement. And if the franchise agreement hasn’t been violated, the courts almost never support a free-standing claim of negligence against the franchisor.

In other words, courts have held that franchisors do not owe a duty of competence to their franchisees.

It’s interesting to note, however, that many franchise law firms stay busy addressing the flip side of this issue–whether the franchisee has acted negligently in operating his or her franchise

Do franchisors have a duty to provide support to their franchisees?

On paper franchisors have this duty to some degree. Most franchise agreements explicitly set forth the respective duties owed by both the franchisors and franchisees.

However, the provisions outlining those duties owed by franchisors are few and normally too ambiguous to enforce. Most franchise agreements include contractual language stating to the effect that “the franchisor doesn’t guarantee the success of the franchisee.”

In practice, this means that franchisors really don’t have a compelling duty to provide support to their franchisees.

Also, most franchise agreements require franchisees to state in their agreements that their business venture involves risks, one of the most prominent being the business knowledge of the franchisee.

This results in a double standard: The franchisor has only a few ephemeral obligations to the franchisor. But in contrast, the “whereas” provisions in the introduction of most franchise agreements indicate that the franchisor is the undisputed guru in operating franchises in that particular industry.

What are some of the most common duties imposed on franchisors under franchise agreements?

It’s important to recognize that these duties are incredibly limited in scope. That said, they include, among other things: (1) locating appropriate sites for stores, (2) managerial assistance, (3) advertising assistance, (4) providing operating manuals, (5) training, and (6) identifying third party vendors from whom necessary products and services may be sourced.

Keep in mind, these areas are so broadly defined that even the best trial attorney would have difficulty in trying to identify – never mind proving – the contours of such duties unless he or she had extensive experience within a franchise law firm.

Are franchisors permitted to modify their requirements or system standards during the term of the franchise?

Believe it or not, they usually can make these changes. Almost all courts confronted with this question have readily permitted franchisors to change the obligations owed to their franchisees during the term of the franchise.

Franchisors gain this fluidity by lacing their franchise agreements with language that “the franchisor is permitted to modify or change the Operations Manual.” They can then “incorporate by reference” the Operations Manual into the franchise agreement.

The franchisor’s unbridled discretion is further bolstered by language in the franchise agreement that “the franchisor may modify the Operations Manual in its ‘sole discretion.'”

Everybody knows that people and businesses are subject to liability for “negligence.” Can't franchisors be held liable for negligence to their franchisees as well?

The short answer is no, not under the common law of almost every state.

When the franchisee is only claiming economic loss – which is almost always the case -the franchisee must seek its damages through a breach of contract action.

The franchisee would have to prove that the franchisor violated the franchise agreement. This is very difficult to prove, as the franchisor’s duties are usually few, ephemeral, and deliberately vague.

It’s possible a franchisor could be found liable if he or she failed to work in good faith and with fair dealing, but this is a long shot.

Note, however, that courts have found franchisors liable for negligence in certain
cases where personal injuries were involved.

Read more FAQs

Recent Litigation Issues on Franchising, Distribution and Antitrust Law

Franchisee Bill of Rights Doesn’t Ensure Franchisor Competency

August 3, 2017

Franchisee Bill of Rights Doesn’t Ensure Franchisor Competency By: Jeffrey M. Goldstein A recent suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York resulted in the denial of a franchisee’s motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent the franchisor from requiring the franchisee to install a new computer system. JDS Grp. Ltd. v. Metal Supermarkets Franchising Am., Inc., No. 17-CV-6293 (MAT), 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94779 (W.D.N.Y. 2017). In JDS, the franchisee JDS brought a suit against its franchisor Metal Supermarkets Franchising America (MSFA) for violation of the Washington State Franchise Investment Protection Act (FIPA), which includes a Franchisee Bill of Rights, as well as for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The facts as found by the Court include the following. JDS owned two retail stores that sold metal components used in various industries. The stores were in Kent, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. JDS had been a franchisee of MSFA for approximately ten years. JDS used a software system called “Metal Magic,” that was provided by MSFA. In 2012, MSFA determined that Metal Magic was outdated, inefficient, and unable to accommodate anticipated growth and functionality changes. As a result, MSFA undertook development of a new, modern software system, called “MetalTech,” which cost over $1,000,000 and took three years to develop. In 2015, MSFA began installing MetalTech at its franchisee locations. JDS did not want to use MetalTech in its stores, but instead wanted to keep using Metal Magic. Plaintiff […]


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Key Considerations for Evaluating Territory Rights in Franchise Opportunities

July 31, 2017

You are planning to buy a franchise, and one of the benefits you are most looking forward to is the fact that you will have an exclusive territory. Once you sign your franchise agreement and pay the initial franchise fee, you will be the only one operating under your franchisor’s trusted brand and proven business system for miles around. But, is your territory really exclusive? Not all franchisors offer exclusive rights, and those that do not are not necessarily forthcoming about the limited protections they offer (if they offer any at all). Here are some important considerations to keep in mind when trying to interpret the territory provision of your franchise agreement: 4 Ways Territory Rights Not Be What They Seem 1. Your Territory is Protected but Not Exclusive. Many franchisors offer territory rights that are protected but fall short of being truly exclusive. The most common example of this is a reservation of rights for the franchisor to sell, “through alternate channels of distribution.” The territory may even be labeled as “exclusive,” and then have this carved out as an exception. 2. Your Territory is Not Protected at All. Some territory provisions are written to exclusively protect the franchisor. Consider this: “Franchisee’s territory (the ‘Territory’) is the geographic area within a two-mile radius of the franchised outlet. Franchisee may not sell outside of the Territory without Franchisor’s express written consent.” This provision “grants” a territory, but what does it really say? There is no protection, and all it really […]


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How to Gather Information from New and Existing Franchisees During Your Due Diligence

July 21, 2017

In a previous article, we highlighted the importance of asking questions during the due diligence process, and we discussed four types of issues that demonstrate why franchisees should not rely on franchisors’ Franchise Disclosure Documents (FDDs) and marketing materials alone. We also mentioned the importance of talking to both current and former franchisees. This article covers some basic tips and questions to ask when contacting current and former franchise owners. How to Find Current and Former Franchisees But, before we get ahead of ourselves, how do you contact current and former franchisees? Fortunately, the requirements of Item 20 of the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) make this simple. In Item 20, franchisors must disclose contact information for: Current franchisees, Franchisees who have left the system within the past year, and Franchisees who have not communicated with the franchisor within the past 10 weeks. When contacting these individuals, keep in mind that they may have additional references as well. They may have an older version of the FDD that they are willing to share; or, they may know of other current or former franchisees who can impart particularly-valuable information. Questions to Ask Current and Former Franchisees During Due Diligence Once you start reaching out to current and former franchisees, what types of questions should you ask them? Here are some general recommendations: 10 Questions for Current Franchisees Has the franchise opportunity met your expectations? In what ways is operating your franchise different from what you expected? Are you consistently able to meet […]


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Subterfuge, Prevarication and Deception – Another Inefficient Franchise Territorial Dispute

July 16, 2017

Subterfuge, Prevarication and Deception – Another Inefficient Franchise Territorial Dispute By: Jeffrey M. Goldstein, Esq. In a recent automobile dealer territorial dispute case, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado dismissed several claims against the manufacturer and allowed one claim to proceed. European Motorcars of Littleton, Inc. v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93857. The practice of dual assignment, or the appointment of competing dealers near existing auto dealers, seems to be getting more prevalent. Plaintiff Mercedes-Benz of Littleton (MBOL) has been a franchised Mercedes-Benz automobile dealership since 1996. Defendant Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is the North American distributor and manufacturer representative for the Mercedes-Benz brand of vehicles. In 2015, MBUSA invited Defendant Bobby Rahal Motorcar Company (BRMC) to establish a new Mercedes-Benz dealership less than nine miles from MBOL’s facility. MBUSA did not inform MBOL of its intent to establish a new dealership until July 2016, when an MBUSA employee traveled to Colorado and informally notified MBOL’s management of MBUSA’s plan. In October 2016, MBUSA sent MBOL a formal notice pursuant to Colo. Rev. Stat. § 12-6-120.3 (the Statute), which stated the exact location of the new dealership. The address for the new dealership is nine miles and two freeway exits north of MBOL’s dealership. The notice also identified the new dealer operator as BRMC. MBUSA and BRMC had taken material steps towards establishing the new dealership, such as executing a letter of intent. When MBUSA establishes a dealership, it enters into an agreement with the […]


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Convinced You’ve Found the Right Franchise? Ask These Questions Before You Sign

July 14, 2017

When exploring franchise opportunities, it is easy to become committed to a particular brand and system early in the process. When this happens, for many people the due diligence process becomes a formality – a way to find affirmations that you have already made the right decisions. But, this can be a mistake. Many franchisors rely on their ability to make a good first impression, and they do not want prospective franchisees to dig deeper into the system. They do not want prospects to ask about things like carve-outs from their territorial rights, and they do not want them to have the insights of existing and former franchisees. Yet, these are precisely the types of information that are required in order to make an informed decision during the franchise buying process. If you are preparing to buy a franchise but have not yet performed your due diligence, here are some key questions you will want to ask before you sign: Questions for the Franchisor 1. What are my territory rights? Some franchisors offer exclusive territories, some offer protected territories, and some offer territories with no protection at all. Even “exclusive” territories will often be subject to exceptions. If your franchise agreement is not crystal clear on the definition of your territory, this is something that you will almost certainly want to have addressed before you pay your initial franchise fee. 2. How often do you make system-wide changes? Many franchisors – especially newer ones – make constant changes to their […]


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Recent Blogs on Franchise, Dealership and Antitrust Law

Key Considerations for Evaluating Territory Rights in Franchise Opportunities

Jul 31, 2017

You are planning to buy a franchise, and one of the benefits you are most...


Read More

How to Gather Information from New and Existing Franchisees During Your Due Diligence

Jul 21, 2017

In a previous article, we highlighted the importance of asking questions...


Read More

Convinced You’ve Found the Right Franchise? Ask These Questions Before You Sign

Jul 14, 2017

When exploring franchise opportunities, it is easy to become committed to a...


Read More

5 Warning Signs Your Franchisor May Be Planning to Terminate Your Franchise

Jul 7, 2017

If your experience as a franchisee has not gone as you hoped, you may be...


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Solutions franchise blog image

Reformist Thoughts on Franchise, Dealership, Distribution and Antitrust Law

Seattle Hempfest and Las Vegas Hemp Festival End Franchise Agreement

February 27, 2017

It appears that no post-termination restrictions on smoking pot will be imposed on terminated former licensee. It would have been interesting to see how a court might have applied the doctrine of unclean hands in any injunctive action. What is also notable in this dispute is that the business...


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Franchise Lawyer, Jeff Goldstein, of Goldstein Law Firm

Choosing a Franchise Law Firm to Represent You

My Franchise Agreement is Expiring, Now What? (Part I of II)

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Goldstein Law Firm, PLLC

1629 K St. NW, Suite 300,
Washington, DC 20006

Phone: 202-293-3947
Fax: 202-315-2514

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Recommended Firm in Franchise Litigation

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Superior Attorney in Franchising

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Superior Attorney in Antitrust

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Franchise Law Firm of the Year

Lead Counsel logo

Chosen Law Firm for Commercial Litigation

BBB of Washington DC

A+ Rated

Washington DC Chamber of Commerce

Verified Member

Lawyers of Distinction logo

Franchise Law Firm of the Year

ISSUU

Best Law Firm for Franchise Disputes in 2017

Law Awards Finanace Monthly

Franchise Law Firm of the Year