• September 6, 2016
Bill Griffith's "Zippy the Pinhead"

Bill Griffith’s “Zippy the Pinhead”

I once faced a situation in which a judge ruled that adversaries had to go to trial to determine when Party A’s building, which was built partially on Party B’s land by a predecessor owner, constituted a “permanent” trespass or a “continuing” trespass. The judge believed that the distinction was important for determining the application of the statute of limitation.

None of the lawyers involved in the dispute understood how this question could be answered by a trial. I jokingly suggested we call the building to testify.

The week before the scheduled trial, the lawyers jointly asked if we could discuss with the judge what the judge imagined we would be doing at trial. What evidence did the court need? What witnesses would testify? The judge refused to discuss the upcoming trial. The parties ultimately negotiated a compromise to avoid a proceeding that made no sense to anyone involved in the dispute other than the judge.

Few people outside of our business appreciate or understand how absurd the lives of civil litigators can be at times. I was reminded of this by the most recent fracas in Unitherm v. Hormel, a case that has been the subject of several posts over the past year or two. As trial approaches, the parties seem to dispute whether this is a fight about how to cook bacon or about an oven or about nothing at all….

Bacon Meme PicScarecrow Wizard of Oz PointingOn the threshold of trial, it would seem that Hormel and Unitherm cannot agree (1) whether there is anything to go to trial about, (2) whether the trial about nothing or, alternately, about something (what precisely, to be determined), should be argued before a judge or a jury, and (3) whether lettuce or tomato are essential or even necessary ingredients in a B.L.T.

OK. I made up the last disputed item, which might be the only thing that Unitherm and Hormel would agree on. But read the linked letter from Hormel’s counsel and try to consider the challenge of preparing for trial under the circumstances. And Unitherm’s response.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *