• March 18, 2016

1210-1242160343u74VDuane and Joe were in business together for a long time. Duane decided to cash out, essentially selling 50% of the business to Joe in return for 50% of the profits. Presumably, Joe would continue to work for the successor business and would get salary and benefits, the normal benefits of employment, on top of his 50% share of the profits.

What could be simpler?

Unfortunately for Duane and Joe, “simple” is not the word anyone would use to describe the disagreement that has arisen from their alleged arrangement. (Duane, at least, thinks that’s the deal they had. Not so sure Joe sees it the same way.)

Do you think long-time business partners, Duane and Joe, are now slugging it out in (a) 1 lawsuit, (b) 2 lawsuits, or (3) 3 lawsuits? How many fora would you like to fight with your long-time business partner in?

Duane and Joe are involved in three separate lawsuits in three different courthouses.

First, Duane sued Joe in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Joe allegedly “retaliated” by filing a separate lawsuit in Wisconsin state court. Duane fired back with a lawsuit against Joe (or entities he owns or controls, anyhow) in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis. That lawsuit, according to Duane’s lawyers does not have “anything to do with the property management business at issue in the action before” the federal district court in Minneapolis. (Yeah, right. NOTHING to do with it? Really?)

Then Joe (who, remember, already sued Duane in Wisconsin) decided to seek to raise counterclaims against Duane in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (that is, where Duane started the first lawsuit by suing Joe). Maybe Joe’s lawyers thought their last move would be uncontroversial. After all, they’re trying to roll Joe’s claims into the forum court that Duane picked in the first place. Joe’s lawyers did not even bother to provide any legal analysis with their motion to amend to add counterclaims against Duane in the Minnesota federal court case. Joe just filed a bare bones motion.

So maybe it came as a surprise that Duane responded with 43 pages of analysis in opposition to Joe’s motion, leading U.S. Mag. Judge Hildy Bowbeer to issue an order this week to Joe’s lawyers asking them to file something in reply to Duane’s lawyers’ opposition.

Who benefits from this splintered three-ring circus? Is it possible that there are, in fact, three distinct segregable legal disputes between these two men and that it is most practical (or legally required) to have them resolved separately?Trapeze_Artists_in_Circus

I won’t venture to answer these questions aside from pointing out the obvious: it costs more money to host three separate legal fights in three separate jurisdictions between the same two men than to untangle what appears to be overwhelmingly knotty accounting issues, but just two combatants, in a single proceeding.

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