Oh, The Sweet Smell Of Victory

About eight months ago my law firm was hired to sue a restaurant chain for failing to pay its bills to one of our local clients. Our client had done work for the restaurant over a 10 year period. During most of that time the restaurant was prompt in its payments.

About a year ago the regional manager of the restaurant got into an argument with our client and refused to pay for more than $100,000 in work our client had performed. When it became clear the restaurant would not pay without litigation, our client turned the case over to us. We filed suit seeking damages for breach of a promissory note, court costs and attorney's fees pursuant to a clause in the note allowing us to recover such fees.

A Contentious Discovery Stage
From the beginning the suit was very contentious. During the first round of depositions it became clear that the two opposing parties could not be in the same room with each other (name calling, swearing, arguing, etc.). You can find out some very interesting details about a business relationship when the relationship deteriorates into hatred.

The second round of depositions were full of racial slurs (although not on the record and not by our client), allegations of fraud and other criminal activity, and more name calling and swearing.

At the conclusion of the depositions it was clear to us that the restaurant knew it owed our client the money but refused to pay because the manager hated our client. The manager admitted during a deposition that the money was owed but that he just didn't want to pay it. He indicated that he wanted to go before a jury and explain why our client was a jerk and that because of that he shouldn't have to pay our client's bills. The manager felt he could persuade a jury to let the restaurant off the hook once they saw how bad a person our client was. The legal term for this strategy is "jury nullification."

Summary Judgment
What the restaurant manager didn't know about is a legal procedure known as Summary Judgment. Summary Judgment states that if the deposition testimony shows that the money is owed and there are no valid defense for not paying the money (no, "the guy is a jerk" is not a valid defense) then the Court can rule in favor of my client without a trial.

This morning the manager received an eye opening lesson in Civil Procedure and Summary Judgment. The judge granted our Motion for Summary Judgment and awarded us the entire principal amount, plus court costs and attorney's fees. This may sound like chest beating or poor sportsmanship, and it probably is. But once you've had to deal with a defendant like that for the last eight months you might be able to see where I'm coming from.

To those of you who want to use a jury to try to defame someone's character, let this be a lesson to you. It was to the manager of this restaurant chain.
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