This fight between T-Mobile and RPC Properties has gone up to the Minnesota Supreme Court, back down to the trial court, and back up to the Court of Appeals and it would seem the entire dispute might be about no damages or, at most, substantially less than $100,000. For those who think “fee-shifting” (that is, “loser” having to pay “winner’s” attorneys’ fees) results in less litigation, a case like this should give some pause (it would seem the prospect of recovering attorneys’ fees could be the only way that this case has gone on this long (and will it go longer?)). Details after the break.
In November 2000, T-Mobile entered into a five-year rooftop lease with building owner to lease space for cell phone antenna. In spring 2004, the building owner claimed that T-Mobile caused damage to the roof during performance of an equipment upgrade. On April 29, 2005, pursuant to mediation, the parties entered into a memorandum of understanding to settle their dispute, which called for T-Mobile to remove the equipment by a particular date and which called for fee-shifting. T-Mobile apparently delayed past the deadline in removing the equipment, which, the building owner argued, caused additional damage and the building owner moved to enforce the settlement agreement.
The case went to judgment at the district court, with the district court ruling that the building owner was entitled to attorneys fees for the action to enforce the settlement agreement but the district court was silent as to the claim for consequential damages. The intermediate court of appeals held that silence equaled a denial of the claim for consequential damages. The Minnesota Supreme Court, in turn, held that the trial court could not be silent on the claim. It had to be addressed. The case was remanded to the district court, which the expressly found the building owner entitled to no consequential damages, and building owner again appealed and lost (with a cross-appeal by T-Mobile which now considered itself a “prevailing party” entitled to its attorneys fees (!?), which the Court of Appeals rejected).
On to the Minnesota Supreme Court again or is it finally time to throw in the towel? (Previous decisions: VoiceStream Minneapolis, Inc., d/b/a T-Mobile vs. RPC Properties, Inc., Minn. S. Ct. Case No. A06-394 (decided January 15, 2008), appeal from VoiceStream Minneapolis, Inc. v. RPC Properties, Inc., Ct. File No. C4-04-8028 (February 20, 2007)(on appeal from Ramsey Cty. District Court).