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Declaratory Judgments

An action for a declaratory judgment provides a forum for parties to a controversy to determine rights, duties, obligations or status. It is a judgment issued by the court that defines the legal relationship between the parties and their rights with respect to the particular issue before the court. In a declaratory judgment action a court is asked to declare what rights each party in a dispute should have. The court may also be requested to establish the legal status or interpretation of a law or instrument, without awarding damages.

Unlike most court cases, where the plaintiff asks for damages or other court orders, the plaintiff in a declaratory judgment case simply wants the court to resolve an uncertainty so that it can avoid future legal consequences. Courts are usually reluctant to hear declaratory judgment cases, but in recent years New York State courts and courts of other states have permitted declaratory judgment actions to determine whether a private road is or has become a public street; to determine the meaning and validity of a "living will", even though the person making the will had not yet entered a specific hospital and was not denied her choice of medical treatment in the past; to determine a car buyer’s request to determine liability for certain taxes that the dealer added to the price of the car; to determine whether a pharmacy was exempt from pharmacist-ownership statutory requirements. The courts have ruled that a declaratory judgment is appropriate when it affords relief from uncertainty and insecurity with respect to rights, status and other legal relations between parties.

Business litigation emergencies that might be appropriate for declaratory judgments include:

  • Any threat to sue you
  • Claims that you are infringing someone else’s intellectual property
  • You have already been sued, but a different cause of action was left out of the claim and you wish to avoid litigating the same issue
  • Any situation where there is clear evidence that someone intends to break a contract
  • Adverse actions by government agencies
  • Insurance coverage disputes

In cases where you are seeking to stop someone from taking an action, such as stopping a former employee from sharing confidential client lists, you may also want to file for a temporary restraining order or injunction at the same time.

If you have a business litigation emergency, Holman Law can help right away. When necessary, Holman Law can file on clients’ behalf for a declaratory judgment on the next court day. Our experience in New York business law spans almost four decades, so you can rest assured that we understand the rights and obligations of your business and its chances in court. Holman Law has extensive business law experience with issues likely to give rise to legal emergencies, such as trademark infringement, trade libel and restrictive covenants in employment.

If you’d like to learn more or get help right away, call us today at (866) 204-1020 or (212) 481-1336 or send us an email explaining your situation and needs.

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