From time to time, our legal system produces dull business cases whose only allure is that they seem convoluted to the point of being almost comic.
For example, in Elsenpeter v. St. Michael Mall, a Wright County case (Judge Dale E. Mossey) recently decided by the Minnesota Court of Appeals (Schellhas, Hudson, Ross), plaintiff Tenant brought a lawsuit to compel an arbitration where the contract the defendant Landlord drafted provided for…arbitration.
Landlord fought and opposed arbitration, required by Landlord’s own contract.
Tenant won in his effort to compel arbitration and then lost the arbitration. He then sought his attorneys’ fees as a prevailing party in the action to compel arbitration. The district court awarded Tenant $27,167. (Tenant did, after all, win the right to lose. Congratulations are in order?)
Landlord, having won in the arbitration and having been awarded $4,000 in legal fees and costs in the arbitration, appealed the district court’s order compelling arbitration. Why should the landlord be forced to adhere to its own arbitration clause and be forced to win against plaintiff’s claims in arbitration? Landlord should have the right to its day in court and lose fair and square?
Careful readers of Elsenpeter will note nuances and complications in the actual contract and in the case (pointing out, for example, that Judge Hudson dissented and the arguments are really not so one-sided). The careful reader might find Minnesota Litigator’s analysis superficial, glib, and incomplete. But it is Friday, the end of the week, when judgment gets clouded and thinking getsssloppy.
Enjoy the weekend