Update (March 7, 2018): There’s protracted litigation and then there is PROTRACTED litigation and the case of Mr. John Drewitz, described below, falls in the ALLCAPS camp.
The duration of this civil lawsuit is particularly unsettling because it is not complex or massive multi-party litigation. Even worse, it probably qualifies as a “zombie case,” which we define as a lawsuit in which there might never have been a genuine factual or legal dispute but the case, nevertheless will not die.
We have previously advocated “sanctions” as a means of reducing the needless expense of zombie cases. Plaintiff advocated for a close cousin of sanctions in the Drewitz case: punitive damages. The trial court denied Plaintiff’s motion to amend to add a claim for punitive damages, suggesting that the motion was untimely. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Minnesota Supreme Court denied Mr. Drewitz’s petition for further review.
Minnesota courts seem to really hate punitive damages. Courts often seem to deny the motions as premature or untimely. We suspect in the Drewitz case that the trial court’s conclusion boiled down to,”enough is enough.” Adding a claim for punitive damages would have prolonged what was already a ridiculously lengthy dispute, the court pointed out. But such a rationale, if it was the decisive factor, is short-sighted. What is to deter the duplicitous and determined zombie? What message does this send to other litigants who would rather litigate for 10+ years than cut a check (few though they may be)?
Update (December 6, 2017): (under the headline “Drewitz v. Motorwerks (Walser) (STILL AND AGAIN)”): Read the previous posts, below.
The duration of this litigation is staggering. Congratulations to Plaintiff, Mr. Drewitz, and his bulldog lawyer for the affirmance of their award for $340,918.66 in attorney fees and costs. We will put a tickler on the calendar for 2027 to inquire into whether Plaintiff was able to recover actual money based on the award…
Update (June 25, 2015): To quote this week’s Minnesota Court of Appeals decision in “Drewitz V” (or is this “Drewitz VI”? I can’t keep count.): this has been “incredibly protracted litigation…much of which was due to adverse district court rulings that he three times successfully appealed.” To be clear, Plaintiff Drewitz and his bulldog lawyer brought this case ELEVEN YEARS ago and over that time, the Hennepin County District Court Judge (Marilyn Brown Rosenbaum, since retired), kept ruling against plaintiff’s claims and being reversed on appeal.
The next stop, of course, will be Motorwerk’s (that is, Jack Walser’s) yet another petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court, presumably.
Call me crazy but I get the feeling that the Walsers REALLY don’t want to pay Mr. Drewitz his share as a previous part-owner of BMW Motorwerks. Congratulations to Plaintiff and his tenacious bulldog (for now)…
Update (January 31, 2013): (under the headline: Bull Dog Finally Done in 13 Year Dog-Fight?) This week the Minnesota Supreme Court denied a petition for further review in this epic struggle.
Original Post (11/21/2012): Twin Cities area litigator, Paul W. Chamberlain, owns “bulldoglaw.com” but he makes clear on his website that the qualities of the animal that he wants to evoke are “loyalty, persistence, an even temper and tenacity,” and not aggression and anger.
There can be little doubt that those qualities have been called upon in the epic saga of John Drewitz v. Motorwerks, Inc., a piece of shareholder litigation that has been on-going for 13 years, in which Drewitz’s case has been up and down the appellate courts five times. Throughout, Drewitz has lost at the trial court, had his case revived on appeal, and then lost again at the trial court.
Drewitz worked with Motorwerks and entered into two agreements in 1995 with regard to employment and a shareholder agreement. The employment agreement ran until March, 1999. That month, Motorwerk stopped making shareholder distributions to Drewitz.
But in January, 1999, Drewitz fired the first shot, bringing an action against Motorwerks for a fair-value buyout of his shares.
Last week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals decided “Drewitz V.” And, again, the Minnesota Court of Appeals breathed new life into Drewitz’s loss at the Hennepin County District Court. On the other hand, it was a mixed decision and was, for the most part, affirming Hennepin County District Court Marilyn Rosenbaum’s most recent decision.
It would seem to be impossible for the plaintiff in this case to ever end this case “net positive.” We do not know whether the loss in terms of the fees and costs for this 13-year battle is borne by the plaintiff himself or by his bulldog or by some combination of the two. But it seems clear that this dogfight will have left some scars.