No, I Wasn’t Kidding About the Wisdom of Walking Away
Just two weeks ago I posted comments on the wisdom of taking a walk-away settlement when you are a defendant with no moral high ground in a defamation action. I told the story of how the defendant in the case I prosecuted was afforded the opportunity to take down the defamatory comments and walk away without paying any damages, rejected it, and now must pay over $200,000 to my client as a result of his hubris.
You’d think that might have at least given the defendant and his counsel in a different case a moment of pause in the trial that followed two weeks later. My client sued the defendant, who then filed a frivolous cross-complaint, apparently thinking that would give him some leverage. The parties had discussed settlement throughout the year-long litigation process, but the defendant had always insisted on money coming his way, and there was no way that was going to happen.
Come the day of trial, the judge conducted one final settlement conference, and my client, knowing the defendant doesn’t have much money anyway, graciously offered to just walk away. There it was; that same moment in time discussed in my last posting, where the defendant is afforded the opportunity to avoid sending his life, or at the very least his finances, in a bad direction. But the defendant refused and demanded payment of a ridiculous amount of money on his ridiculous claim. My client declined.
With no settlement, the case proceeded to trial and I called the defendant as my first witness in a trial that both sides had estimated would last three days. Two hours into my examination, the judge spontaneously announced that he had heard all he needed to hear, and unless defendant had some “miraculous evidence” he was going to find in favor of my client. In chambers, he said to defense counsel, “Mr. Morris is very methodically cutting your client to pieces.” He suggested the parties and attorneys talk settlement again. My client said fine, and said he would dismiss the action in exchange for defendant paying the same ridiculous amount defendant had been demanding. Defendant agreed, and we set up a ten year payment schedule, non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Ouch.
If you got the tie-in between the photo above and the article, give yourself a prize. It’s from the movie The Road Warrior, and the gentleman in the photo is imploring the people at the oil refinery to “just walk away” and let him and his warriors take the gasoline. I think I may start dressing like that for settlement conferences.