Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Fly in the Ointment

As I have mentioned in posts past, we are in the middle of two lawsuits; as co-defendant in one and plaintiff in the other. One trial is scheduled to start December 8th and the other in January of 2009.

Today we were in Milwaukee trying to work through a court mandated mediation. After 11 hours of haggle, absolutely no settlements were reached.

Our plaintiff adversary in the one case was asking for $2 million. In this case, another co-defendant is a Madison television station- the 'deep pockets.' After the 11 hours, the sides got no closer than a $200,000 difference. The $2 million request was pared down to about $750,000. Apparently, the TV station was willing to offer $500,000. I was not aware that the plaintiff had those kind of legs to stand on. Although we are, for now, a co-defendant in that case, we were not involved in the (alleged) primary legal faux pas.

We were not named as co-defendant until quite a time after the original suit was filed. We are assuming that the plaintiff thought that another addition would lend credence to their claims against the station.

We also assume that we blindsided them with a counter suit. The presiding judge looked at the situation and decided to try our case first. During the mediation, we were basically offered little more than a quarter; 25 cents. We were asking for nearly $150,000. Needless to say, we didn't find a settlement. Unless something happens, we will be in court starting December 8th.

The major problem created is that the original plaintiff cannot settle with us for lack of funds and could not pay us if we win in court. (I fully expect to win and the law would allow us up to that $150,000 for attorney fees and double damages.) However, if they settle with or win in court during the January case against the TV station, there will be money to pay us.

So much for the 11th hour, last minute resolution.

At present, we remain the fly in the ointment.

UPDATE: We believe that the TV station has reached a settlement the following day with the plaintiff. In our suit the original plaintiff, now turned defendant, offered little more than before. To court we go.

UPDATE 2: The TV station and contractor are close, but not yet settled.

We are having a hard time fathoming our adversary's position on a settlement in our suit. Under the Wisconsin Home Improvement Practices Act, if we go to court and the jury awards us 1 cent in damages, the contractor will be obligated to pay us nearly $80,000.02 via double damages and attorney fees accorded under the law. The damage estimates that we are submitting are for $32,000. If the jury were to award that in full, the cost to our adversary would approach $150,000. Our attorney has argued and won a similar case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court late last year.

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