Business Litigation

Lawton & Cates has the experience to handle your business litigation. We have tried cases in state and federal courts involving contracts, non-compete agreements, patents, breach of fiduciary duty and construction disputes. Our clients are small and medium sized businesses who demand technical excellence and personal service.

 We Believe That Results Matter. Lawton & Cates Has Achieved Many Significant Victories For Our Business Clients In Madison And Throughout Wisconsin. We Have Listed Some Of Them Below:

Contract Dispute - Printing Press

Our client purchased an $18 million printing press from a manufacturer whom eventually sold the purchase/agreement loan to a bank. The press did not work according to specifications, causing our client to refuse to make payments. The suit was filed to obtain relief for our client from its contractual obligations and to obtain damages. We prevailed on the first appeal to the 7th Circuit that ruled the remedy provisions in the sales agreement failed of their essential purpose. After the ruling, we settled with the bank and our client purchased the press for approximately $6.8 million.

Products Liability - Food Additive

Plaintiff claimed defective food additive severely damaged dairy herd. Defendants denied the defect and asserted any damages were due to plaintiff’s mismanagement. Settled with one defendant and received a jury verdict against the other for a total recovery of $170,000.

Adulterated Animal Feed

Represented animal feed producer in a claim against a supplier of a food additive that was claimed to have adulterated the food. Recovered a verdict of $140,000.

Award - Designer of Women's Casual Wear

Represented the designer of a new line of women’s casual wear. The contract dispute was with partners who were to manufacture and market the clothes. No clothes were sold. The arbitrator awarded $370,000 for breach of contract for failing to adequately market the clothing. The Circuit Court of Calumet County affirmed the arbitrator’s award.

Defense of Construction Company Being Sued for Repayment of Bond Payments

A company paid bonding claims on construction projects being worked on by our client and then sued our client for repayments under the insurance contract. The company’s claim was in excess of $2 million. The defense included equitable claims based upon the company’s failures to assert our client’s payment claims and the company’s misleading conduct after original bond payments were made. Court ruled in our favor and estopped them from collecting anything other than the original $300,000 outlay.

Architectural Copyright Infringement

Represented plaintiff developer and architect in an architectural copyright infringement case against another developer and architect based upon the new architectural copyright law. The defendants copied the major architectural components of an 8-unit apartment building. After extensive discovery, the case settled favorably for the plaintiffs.


Represented defendant, an agricultural equipment manufacturer, in a suit by a Wisconsin dealer claiming that it had been improperly denied a continuing dealership. The plaintiff’s suit was dismissed on summary judgment, which was affirmed by the 7th Circuit.

Construction Lien Defense

Represented defendant company and established through a published Court of Appeals’ decision that a building contractor does not personally owe a subcontractor money under a construction lien if he has used all the money received on the project for paying expenses on that project, even though there isn't sufficient money to pay all subcontractors.

Trademark Infringement - Office Products

Represented the defendant who was sued for trademark infringement for the design used on certain office products. The case was settled without any payment due the plaintiff.

Covenant Not to Compete Defense

Represented defendant employees of the company who contracted their computer skills to the state of Wisconsin. The employees left the company, formed an independent company, and contracted their computer services to the same department at the state of Wisconsin. The employees were sued under a covenant not to compete. Established on summary judgment that the covenant not to compete was not valid. Case was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

Product Defense - Paint Additive

Represented large national paint manufacturer when was sued by a business claiming the paint additive was defective which caused the businesses products to fail. Jury verdict for paint manufacturer.

Defective Roof System

Represented school district in suit against architect for defective design of roof system on new high school. Arbitration awarded school all its damages.

Defective Lumber

Represented general contractor in suit against supplier of treated wood that was defective and had to be replaced. Settled favorably for contractor.

Fraud Prosecution

Tried complex case referred by outside lawyer six months before trial with little preparation completed. Client sold a small company to a large corporation with whom the small company had a competing product line. Significant part of sale price was to be based on royalties received from sale of a piece of equipment previously developed and sold by the smaller company. After purchase, the larger company took features from the royalty piece of equipment and added it to their equipment, which they sold instead. Case took several weeks amount of damages sought.

Business Loss

Suit against manufacturer of large motors that were integrated into client's production lines. Breakdown of those motors caused heavy business losses to client. Case settled before trial.

Defense of Defective Steel

Defended claim against steel company for manufacturing defective steel beams used in trailer manufacturing business. Preparation included learning process for making steel. Case settled favorably for the client.

Fraud Defense - Bowling Equipment

Client sold equipment to bowling alleys. Purchaser alleged fraud in the sale and installation of the equipment. Jury exonerated client.

Fidelity Bond

Tried lawsuit in federal court against bonding company that insured company for defalcation by employers. Received substantial settlement.

Conversion by Employees

Tried lawsuit against individual employees for conversion of business products, requiring several trials with appeals, resulting in a judgment on two causes of action for several million dollars.

Accountant Malpractice Defense

Defended eleven different cases by multiple plaintiffs, which totaled in excess of $100 million against a Big Eight accounting firm involving the failure of an insurance company. All cases settled after an expected six-month trial was abruptly ended in the seventh week when six of the plaintiffs decided to quit. Case involved hundreds of depositions and interrogatories, and 500,000+ documents.

Trademark Infringement - Defense

Jury verdict in favor of defendant who was sued for trademark infringement by his former employer when he started his own company and copied former employer's product.

Defense of Owner of Small Hydroelectric Plan Being Sued by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Hired shortly before a hearing to represent an owner of a small hydroelectric plant for allegedly violating the run-of-river requirements of its exemption from licensing. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with the backing of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was seeking forfeitures of $114,000. Following a three-day hearing before an Administrative Law Judge in Washington, D.C., the ALJ ruled that the government’s procedure in this case “contradicts the inherent standard of fairness and due process in our legal system.” Ultimately the case was settled for a forfeiture of $5,000.

Asbestos Abatement

Represented owner of large office building in Milwaukee against asbestos manufacturers for installing asbestos when they constructed the building. It was a suit for damages that will necessarily be incurred when the asbestos must be removed. The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the legal theory that the recovery for asbestos abatement was recoverable in tort.