Down the Garbage Chute to the Furnace

Sometimes even experienced attorneys act like petulant, spoiled children, who just must have their way.

We represent a manufacturing company, whom I shall refer to as “The Wonka Factory” who leased equipment to a corporate Defendant, on a 10-year lease, whom I will refer to as “Henry Salt, Inc.” We filed suit in February 2020, against the business, and received a nasty letter within days of service of process, by an attorney, Veruca Salt, the daughter of the owner of the Defendant.

Veruca told us in no uncertain terms, that she would be suing us for a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) violation, because we disclosed a debt to a third party, the Defendant, Henry Salt, Inc.  Perplexed, I telephoned Veruca. I explained to her that the FDCPA simply did not apply to this case, because the purchases were made by a corporate entity, checks paid for prior lease installments, and they were the Defendant, not any third party, so her allegation made little to no sense. She tried to say that her father was the proper Defendant, not the corporation. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a case where the Defendant wanted to impute personal liability on themselves? I thought so.) I could not get through to her, amidst her cries for an immediate dismissal of the case, a letter of apology, and $10,000 paid to her. “Give it to me, now! Don’t care how, I want it now!”

 I calmly explained that she would sooner get a golden goose, than what she wanted. So, she brought a Pre-Answer Motion to Dismiss. The Motion was scheduled for March 25, 2020. (ooo, foreboding…) But faster than you can say “Oompa loompa”, I banged out opposition papers.

Her first argument was that there was no contractual privity with the Defendant. To defeat that argument, I produced a copy of the lease, signed by her father, Henry Salt, as President of Henry Salt, Inc.

Her second argument was that the Statute of Limitations expired because the lease was signed over six years prior, which is the breach of contract limitation in Gotham. I easily demonstrated that the Defendant made payments for the first seven years of the lease, and defaulted less than a year before suit was filed.

The third argument went back to the odd argument that the proper Defendant was her father, individually. In response, I stated that if it is Defendant’s allegation that the lease of equipment was for Mr. Salt’s personal use, then Plaintiff would request leave to file and serve a motion to amend the Complaint.  However, it is Plaintiff’s understanding that the contractual obligation was for the Defendant’s business activities.

Now, we all know what happened in March 2020.

Not knowing if the Courts would be open on the return date, and the impending global pandemic, we sent a request for an adjournment of the date. Veruca responded with a seven page letter accusing us of bad faith, threatening a sanctions motion, and demanding that the Court dismiss the case with prejudice.

Obviously, the Court granted our adjournment request, and further stated that if we were uncomfortable with appearing in Court, they would take the appearance telephonically. This was in the Before Times, (before we knew what was coming, before shut-downs, quarantine, and before Zoom was part of a 7 year old’s vernacular.)

Within seven days of the submission of the motion, the Court categorically denied the motion to dismiss, directing the Defendant to interpose an Answer.  We then received an Answer from Veruca, alleging payment in full as well as an accord and satisfaction; a far cry from her prior failed attempts at dismissal. So, naturally, we issued a discovery demand asking for proof of payment, and any such accord.

Veruca’s response? “All discovery must be stayed because of the global pandemic, and this matter, until the pandemic is over.” (Laughing so hard at that made me turn violet.) The Court categorically denied that request, ordered that discovery be completed, and of course, Veruca has no proof of payment, nor accord.

The matter is now set for trial. And I am looking forward to uttering “You lose! Good Day, Sir!”