Friday, October 30, 2009

Penalized for settling a case?

I had an arbitration hearing scheduled this week in Waukegan. It was a breach of contract case against a Lake County home builder concerning about $30,000 in unpaid invoices. I represented a material supplier. It was a simple collections case. There were no defenses.

Someone from the Arbitration Center called me about a week before the hearing to see if we were still going. I told her that I hoped the case would settle, but at that point we were still going to hearing.

I have had other cases in the past with the opposing attorney. He is a very reasonable guy and a good lawyer. Our other cases had settled. I had already called him to see what his client was proposing. They did not even try to assert a defense in their 222 disclosures. He said he would talk to his client and get back to me.

The Arbitration Center called two more times before I heard back from him. I told them I was working on it and that I would let them know if the case settled.

Opposing counsel finally got back to me the day before hearing. His initial offer was inadequate, but my client was willing to make some minor concessions to avoid having to send a witness. We went back and forth a little bit, but by 5:30 on the day before hearing, the case had not settled.

The following morning, his client was in a meeting and unavailable by telephone. By 10:00, they had not responded to our final offer. So, I took off for Waukegan (from Aurora), but left instructions with my receptionist to forward any calls to my cell phone.

At about 11:00, opposing counsel called and we settled the case while I was driving north on 294. He said he would call the Arbitration Center to let them know. I still planned to go up there to enter the order.

When I got there, the Director of the Arb Center was upset! She said that she could move for sanctions against us!!! She said that there was a local rule requiring that settlements occur at least 24 hours prior to an arbitration hearing so that they don't have to pay the arbitrators!!

I couldn't believe it. I told her to go right ahead and move for sanctions. I told her that if I could have forced the defendant to pay us earlier, I would have done that three months ago!

She then said not to worry about the sanctions, but to keep it in mind for next time.

I have since read the 19th Circuit Local Rules. I don't see anything like the rule she described. I see where she was coming from, but sanctioning us for settling the case...that would be a little ridiculous, don't you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

sounds like the administrator is getting too wrapped up in her administration and forgetting that the purpose of these proceedings is to resolve the cases without a trial.