I missed blogging yesterday. So, let’s start with some food thought… move to the legal part of the blog (which you are probably thinking is highly unusual) … and on to some “exercise”. A real plan!!!
It takes two to tango is a phrase from a 1952 song that has become synonymous with cooperation. President Ronald Reagan used it when discussing Russian and American relations during a 1982 presidential press conference. I have heard it applied to the negotiations during lawsuits.
If one party does not want to settle, it makes it nearly impossible to resolve a case. When a client asks me early in the case whether I think their case will settle, I sometimes mention the Two to Tango analogy. However, the “want to settle” may get influenced, if the assigned judge in the case tells the parties that “you better get this settled“.
I have seen corporations like Walmart and Food Lion take the corporate approach that “you can file suit against us, but be prepared to go to court because we don’t settle cases“. Ultimately, their yearly financial data will tell them if that policy makes financial sense in handling lawsuits. And that can lead to a change in corporate policy.
There are some lawyers that will not take cases against corporations with a no settlement policy, They know that they will have to file suit. And that’s what these companies count on in coming up with that claim policy. On the flipside, not settling cases can lead to significant defense costs and large jury verdicts. That is the corporate balance to weigh.
Yesterday, USA Today had a story (here) titled Trump golf club settles suit from former members seeking refunds. President Trump has previously said that he does not like to settle lawsuits and prefers to fight them. But in this case, he has settled with former members at his golf course in Florida.
The original lawsuit had been brought by golfers who previously purchased memberships at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Course, before Trump bought it in 2012. The golfers sued, claiming that he failed to return their previously refundable deposits that ranged from $35,000 to $210,000, after the ownership change.
According to court documents, Trump National Golf Club agreed to pay nearly $5.44 million to the members who were part of a class action. After legal fees, each of the plaintiffs will end up with about 71% of the refunds they sought, according to the ruling.
When I saw this article, it reminded me of a case that I handled long ago against Food Lion. My client had received about $4000 in chiropractic care, as a result of a fall in one of their grocery stores. Because Food Lion’s strategy was to never pay (at that time), we went to trial in Norfolk Federal Court.
Magistrate William Prince (a former defense lawyer before he went on the federal bench) did not think much of my claim, and dismissed it at the end of the two day trial. He did not let the jury return a verdict after sitting for the entire case. As an energetic crazy young lawyer, I was truly ticked off with the dismissal of the case… and appealed to the 4th Circuit.
At the conclusion of the appellate argument, it was clear from the questions of the panel that the justices were going to rule for my client, and all indications seemed to point to a return of the case back to the trial level, solely on the issue of damages.
One of my great memories from of all my years of trial work includes this case. That’s because, on the way out of the appellate court room that day, the defense attorney turned to me and said, “This is one case that Food Lion should have settled long ago“.
Soon thereafter, I received a call from that lawyer that led to a very satisfying settlement for my client. We caused a change in corporate policy… at least for that day!
And finally, in the introduction I promised something about exercise. This counts… right?