Tales from the Front: “Never Stop Being Meaningfully Involved”
By Timothy Wan, Esq.
As an attorney, I pride myself on being meaningfully involved in the cases that I champion for my clients. One of the most basic things, is adequately reviewing documentation.
We represented a supplier on a commercial transaction, whom I shall call, “Happy’s Mining Supply”, providing all sorts of materials, tools, and needed supplies to a contractor, whom I shall refer to as “Doc’s Mining Company”. Doc is an honest guy, but his company was seeing a strong downturn in the mining industry, so he was well behind on his payments to Happy. We commenced suit, and Doc retained Grumpy, Attorney at Law. Grumpy’s first meaningful response was his formal Answer, which used every boilerplate affirmative defense this side of the Enchanted Forest; everything from jurisdiction, to statute of frauds, you name it.
I served fairly extensive but not onerous discovery demands on Grumpy. He did not reply. I sent him a follow up letter in good faith. No response. I left him a voice mail. Nothing. So, I serve a motion to compel his response. He doesn’t respond. The Court adjourned the matter for one month to give him one more chance to appear.
On the day before the date of the motion, Grumpy calls my office, clearly from a speakerphone, clearly with at least one other voice in the background, and starts into his tirade about how Happy’s lacks standing, there is no signed contract, so on, and so forth. I explain to him that we, in fact, included the contract in the motion. Grumpy huffs, and acknowledges that he sees that it is there “now”. He then offers 10% of the principal to settle. I explain to him that we are willing to waive attorneys’ fees and interest, but want 100% of principal. (As a long standing client, I know that Happy would be Happy with even 75%!) Grumpy huffs at me again.
“That’s not much of a settlement! Besides, you have no basis for late fees and attorney fees! You’re engaging in sanctionable demands! My expert associate has read through your papers with a fine-tooth comb, and I am going to cross-move for sanctions! I am…”
As Grumpy blathered on, I merely uttered, “Paragraph 12.”
“Paragraph 12 of what?”
“If you look at paragraph 12 of the contract you have in front of you, it provides for attorney fees and interest in the event of a default in payment.”
I hear Grumpy mutter to someone else, presumably, this “expert associate”, “Give me back that contract. I thought you said you read it?”
I heard the “expert associate” meekly say, “I thought I did.”
I then read back verbatim the content of paragraph 12.
Grumpy responded with an expletive, and said “I’ll have to call you back.”
Clearly, Grumpy was not meaningfully involved in the review of this case. And instead, looked like a fool when talking to me. Maybe next time he won’t rely on Dopey.
Timothy Wan is a partner in the firm Smith Carroad Levy & Wan, in Commack, New York, and can be reached at email@example.com. Tim has clearly been reading too many fairy tales to his daughter.