• September 25, 2015
"Pyrrhus" by Catalaon - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org

“Pyrrhus” by Catalaon – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org

A pyrrhic victory is simply a victory in which the costs of the war exceed the spoils of the war. To use a term that was popular in the subprime mortgage lending meltdown, in a pyrrhic victory, the winner ends up “upside down” (having paid lawyers as much or more than the plaintiff recovered).

This is a deeply frustrating aspect of our civil justice system.

So I am sympathetic to Plaintiffs David and Hiba Stemm, et al., who brought a lawsuit against TempWorks Management Services, Inc. and won in a bench trial before Hennepin County District Court Judge Kristin A. Siegesmund.

Judge Siegesmund’s Finding of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order for Judgment are quite solidly in favor of the Plaintiff in the lawsuit. Although the story will not be made into a major motion picture ever and the facts make for dry reading, one can also feel the sense of drama and excitement over Plaintiffs’ new business venture which appears to have been derailed by the defendant, TempWorks, just three days before launch.

TempWorks appears to have agreed to provide Plaintiffs with required workers compensation insurance to get the new business off the ground, then realized that this would be more work that TempWorks wanted to deal with, so it abruptly terminated its agreement with Plaintiff (see Conclusion of Law, Para. 62). Then, to flesh out the unsavory portrait of the Defendant, Judge Siegesmund goes on to find that TempWorks had no evidence for its alternative explanation for its eleventh hour bail-out (Conclusion of Law, Para. 63).

The kicker, though, is that Judge Siegesmund substantially lowered Plaintiffs’ damage claim, finding it to have been “speculative,” and awarded the Plaintiffs only $74,300. Plaintiffs’ counsel, George Antrim III, is a deeply experienced Minnesota trial lawyer who enjoys an excellent reputation. But could he possibly have cost much less than $74,000 to take this case to through trial? Or perhaps it cost more?

P.S. Thanks to an anonymous tipster for passing on this decision, which is a bit stale, having been decided in February of this year. This, yet again, highlights the importance to open, on-line, remote access to Minnesota civil court filings. Cases like the Stemm case are important public events but the public has almost no access as a practical matter to trial court decisions, which they might find extremely informative and useful.

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