Generally, the focus in civil litigation of the public, of clients, and even of litigators is on “winning” or “losing” lawsuits. This is understandable. The drama of the culminating moment of the jury verdict is far too riveting not to be a focal point of the litigation process in the popular imagination.
But in a lot more civil litigation than is widely appreciated, the entry of judgment (whether on a jury verdict or otherwise) is rarely the conclusive climax it might seem to be. Instead, it is one of many mile-posts of a punishingly long and arduous campaign, the ultimate goal of which is, of course, to shift money from one side to the other. (In this pending case, between creditor and ultimate payment there now stands a bankruptcy and prison time of the alleged debtors. How deep to dig for oil before concluding the hole is dry?)
Along the way, the lawyer-mercenaries are amassing their own accounts-receivables, of course. When the combatants are finally at the end of the road, erstwhile allies may be enemies, creditors may be debtors, vice-versa, and the reckoning can be complicated.
Roers v. Pierce, Gilmore, Lindquist & Vennum, et al., was a lawsuit originally before Hennepin County Judge Lloyd B. Zimmerman that spawned multiple attorneys’ liens, and a competing garnishment from an related law suit (garnishments are post-judgment collection actions against third-party financial institutions or third-parties in the possession of a judgment debtor’s property or assets). At issue before the Minnesota Court of Appeals was Judge Zimmerman’s apportionment of “lien priority.”
Last November, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed Judge Zimmerman, with Chief Judge Terri J. Stoneburner dissenting. Judge Stoneburner would have affirmed Judge Zimmerman.
Last week, the Minnesota Supreme Court declined the petition for review of the Court of Appeals’ decision.
The complicated background was that one party won a lawsuit against the debtor, issued a garnishment summons based on that judgment, but then the judgment was reversed on appeal and remanded for a new trial. In the mean time came the Lommen Abdo attorneys’ lien and the question: would the garnishor’s interest come before or after the attorney lienor’s?
On appeal, the Lommen Abdo firm, represented by its own appellate specialist Kay Nord Hunt, went from fourth in priority to first in priority…one step closer to actually getting paid, they undoubtedly hope.