Friday, May 15, 2009

Today in Court We Fought a Motion for a Stay of Execution

The judge, however, granted the stay of execution.

But it was Sweeeet!

For two years we have been battling in court on two fronts, one defensive and one blind-siding, counter-punching offensive. For any familiar with Texas history, we played the Sam Houston gambit, retreating, retreating, and retreating again all the way to San Jacinto. Then we attacked and overran Santa Anna while he took a siesta.

In commenting on our case after the conclusion of the trial and preparing for the appeal, the judge made several observations. At first our case seemed a simple one, especially after being separated from the original defamation claim. It was simply homeowner vs. contractor. But we were suing by a little used law for only the third time ever in the state of Wisconsin. The last case went to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and argued by our lawyer. That gave our judge a lot of direction for several rulings in ours.

Besides testimony by the plaintiff (us) and the defendant, there were only 3 experts called to testify. The trial itself still took almost a week. The judge stated that because of our lawyers' use of a Powerpoint type of technology for presentation of documentary evidence, the trial time was cut in half.

The questions to be decided and answered by the jury had to be 'invented' by the court since there were no precedents for standardization. The jury answered those questions, found in our favor and set a monetary judgment verdict. The law used automatically doubled that verdict and requires our adversary to pay our attorneys' fees.

The ruling in one following motion upheld the verdict, the doubling, and that the fees submitted were reasonable for this case. This meant that while we were waiting for payment, specifically for the time we waited for appeal, the defendant had to include 12% interest and any additionally incurred attorney fees.

Today's motion hearing was to request the judge to stay the execution of the above rules so that the defendant would not suffer additional loss while waiting on an appellate ruling. The laws cited state that the sitting judge could use his discretion in this ruling.

After going over several Supreme Court rulings with pertinence to our case the judge ruled to grant a stay of execution and did indeed substitute a discretionary measure. (I thought to myself, "WTF!?") He ruled that our adversary must come up with double damages, attorney fees, and a years' worth of 12% interest to be placed in a trust-like situation to be held until the appellate ruling comes down.

We lost in our opposition to the motion for a stay, but won pretty big in the substitute ruling. Our attorneys thought the judge did an excellent, professional job. They told us that this situation is highly unusual; 'The planets were aligned' in a most rare manner. One oddity in our case is that our adversary was not quick to throw in the towel since he had recently settled in a portion of the defamation side of the debacle for a large, undisclosed sum; possibly 3/4 of a mill.

Unless our adversary decides to relent and cut his losses, we can expect another full year of waiting for the results of their appeal with belts tightened all the way to our backbones. But, considering all things, the situation is even better than we ever expected. With today's stay and alteration we are most assured that if we ultimately prevail, the money will be there. (The judge also stated in court that he could see no reason that their appeal could be expected to be successful.)

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