Derek Boogaard, Dead at the Age of 28
Update (August 28, 2014): The Rohloff complaint, discussed below, bears a resemblance to the LaCouture complaint from several months earlier filed by different law firms on behalf of different former NHL players. They are an interesting study in different styles. (Lots of pictures in the LaCouture complaint, for example.)
The point both lawsuits make is the same: the National Hockey League has made many hundreds of millions of dollars, feeding fans with the brutality of battered skulls of young and gifted athletes for about 100 years. Maybe it is time to stop. And/or maybe it is time to redistribute some of the blood money the league has raked in over the years.
These two cases, along with others, I assume, have been “MDL’d” in Minnesota and will be before U.S. District Court Judge Susan R. Nelson (D. Minn.). (This is a process in which several (sometimes thousands) of lawsuits are consolidated in a single court for pretrial proceedings rather than forcing parties and lawyers to fight very similar fights in a disorderly array of courthouses across the country.)
(If the NHL has problems, what about boxing organizers etc etc etc?)
Earlier this week, I posted notes from a lunch that I had with retired U.S. District Court Judge James M. Rosenbaum. We had the following (admittedly truncated) exchange:
Do you think lawyers, then, can predict outcomes to their clients? I am frustrated because clients want certainty and the process is extremely uncertain…
I do not agree. Good lawyers advise their clients as to the strengths and weaknesses of their clients’ claims…
The very day of that post, the Minnesota Court of Appeals released an unpublished decision reversing a jury verdict for $1.2 million, punitive damages of $500,000, and reversing an award of attorneys’ fees for the plaintiff, Weiss Capital and Lee D. Weiss (who claimed an additional $427,000 in legal fees and $110,834 in costs). So instead of winning an award totaling somewhere North of $1.7 million, Mr. Weiss would appear to now be facing the liability of the defendants’ attorneys fees (which we can assume are close to $500,000 as plaintiffs’ own fees were).
Talk about mood swings…
If a dog, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be, the owner of the dog is liable in damages to the person so attacked or injured to the full amount of the injury sustained.
BigLaw: I am talking to you. Recently, I reunited with an old lawyer friend who shared an ugly story with me. He was adverse to a junior lawyer at an excellent local law firm (a lawyer whom we will call “Fido”) in a simple dispute over a loan default.
My friend (whom we will call Creditor’s Counsel) called Fido to tell Fido that Fido’s client, the debtor, had triggered another event of default under the loan agreement. As a courtesy, Creditor’s Counsel was calling to let Fido know that the creditor, through his lawyer, would be sending a formal “Notice of Default,” as to to the latest default, as required under the loan documents.
This should have been a very short telephone call without any consequences. This was not the case.
Update (August 26, 2014): Veterinarian Terrance Rapacz does not appear to have had a very good business, but he did have a very good friend, John Sluck.
With very little documentation, Sluck agreed to help Rapacz out in Rapacz’s failing business to the tune of more than $250,000. Then, sadly, Mr. Sluck died. And then, sadly for Dr. Rapacz, Mr. Sluck’s widow sued Rapacz for repayment of Mr. Sluck’s generous loans. There was no contract, really. The question is whether the court should intervene and order Mr. Rapacz to pay up because, otherwise, he would be “unjustly enriched.”
The case is noteworthy as yet another Minnesota case in which it is clear that the law on “unjust enrichment” is unclear.
It would be unjust for Rapacz to ‘evade repayment’ if he is able to repay the funds or if he has unlawfully or immorally acted to undermine his ability to do so. But it would not be unjust for Rapacz to retain the loaned funds if he remains unable to repay them.
Is this a correct decision? On the one hand, it may appeal in that it seems fair. On the other hand, I wonder if this sets up a good rule in general. Maybe we should devise rules so that the John Slucks of the world recognize and adhere to the need for meaningful documentation of financial transactions, even between friends, or otherwise bear the risk?
Also, the Court of Appeals’ unpublished decision raises a question or two. For example, the court says, “it would not be unjust for Rapacz to retain the loaned funds if he remains unable to repay them…” What if he is able to repay them partially? What if he is able to repay them two years from now but not today?
Photo by Glenn Stubbe, Star Tribune
I had the good fortune of being able to pepper Judge James Michael Rosenbaum with questions over lunch recently. Given the depth and span of Judge Rosenbaum’s Minnesota legal career and my interest in Minnesota civil litigation, this was a Holy Grail opportunity and I am sincerely grateful to Judge Rosenbaum.
To me, maybe the most interesting comments pertain to Judge Rosenbaum’s deep faith in the jury system, which I whole-heartedly share. There are many serious problems with our legal system in my view (none more serious than the cost of civil litigation and its inaccessibility to most people) but it is easier to find fault than find answers. The jury system, on the other hand, is quite an amazing system.
Here’s my Q&A with retired U.S. District Court Judge James M. Rosenbaum (D. Minn.):
How should Minnesotans pick their lawyers? How should a person with no connection to the legal community, who finds himself sued or needing to sue, pick a civil litigation lawyer?
I sat for 25 years as a district judge. Before that I was the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota. It has been a long time since I have been involved in picking lawyers.