Charles Dickens wrote Bleak House, a novel satirizing the British legal system, portraying an endless lawsuit over contested wills, Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
Many lawsuits that I follow are real-life bleak houses. They include characters. And by that, I mean characters (as in, “You’ve never met Mary’s husband? He’s a character….”). (If you don’t know what I mean, then you are one.) The characters often include the litigants themselves, of course, but also, as in any good courtroom yarn, they include the lawyers, the judge, experts, witnesses, jurors, and others drawn into the particular legal swamp, bog, muskeg, and mire. And bleak houses are always drawn-out legal disputes.
Isaaenko v. Bazzaro, et al., has all the indications of being an academic subspecies of the genus. (Original complaint is here.)
In December, 2013, plaintiff Olga Issaenko, represented by attorney, Damon Ward, brought a rather voluminous complaint against U of Minnesota scientist/professor Martina Bazzaro and others. The basic accusation would seem to be an alleged misappropriation of intellectual property. That is, as I read the rambling complaint, Plaintiff accused defendant of claiming authorship over Plaintiff’s scholarship.
The case has never gone well from the Plaintiff. The best one can say of Plaintiff’s lawsuit (or, from the perspective of the defendants, I am sure, the worst) is that it has not been thrown out of court yet.
In August of 2015, after a contentious separation, Attorney Ward exited the story. Plaintiff could not find another lawyer to replace Mr. Ward and, since then, she has been waging this seemingly misguided and self-destructive war by herself.
This past week, Plaintiff suffered yet another blow, with U.S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim (D. Minn.) granting some defendants’ motions for summary judgment but some of her claim against Prof. Bazzaro still survives.
The great news (if one could call it that) for the defendants in this case is that it appears they have not had to pay lawyers to defend them in this almost endless siege. Since the lawsuit involves the University of Minnesota and its officers and employees, all us tax-paying Minnesotans have had the privilege of paying for defendants’ lawyers! Congratulations to the U of M lawyer, Brian Slovut, for hanging in there and hanging tough. It seems we’re getting our money’s worth….