Why Some NY Breach of Contract Cases Are Hard to Settle
No, it's not just your case. It happens all the time, albeit to differing degrees.
Earlier today was one such case. I was defending a client in a Nassau County breach of contract action where the plaintiff claimed that my client owed him money for services rendered. The plaintiff had one "minor" problem, however: he had lost much of his own documentation reflecting the actual services that were provided.
Fortunately, my client was, and is, a gentleman. He admitted that he owed some of the money that was being claimed, but also noted that the plaintiff's claims were terribly inflated; the plaintiff was also seeking to recover money for the materials needed for the job even though my client had gone himself and actually purchased those materials.
When we appeared before the trial judge this morning, he did exactly what I expected him to do: he took the Solomonic approach and essentially "informed" both sides of the case that the case was settled for a number that was at the midpoint between my client's settlement offer and the plaintiff's settlement demand. This didn't sit well with the plaintiff, who was literally shaking with anger because of his (wrong) belief that he was owed much more money.
None of that is surprising. Unfortunately, what happened next highlights why some cases are incredibly difficult to resolve amicably.
After the settlement agreement was finalized, the plaintiff approached me outside the courthouse cafeteria, and said the following:
"Mr. Cooper; you know your client had a heart attack [and survived]. Wish your client better luck with the next one from me."
While this gratuitous comment was highly inappropriate, it crystallizes the challenges inherent in settling cases - even those (like this one) that should never be tried to verdict. For this plaintiff, the case was extremely personal, which makes compromise very difficult to achieve - even when it is in the parties' respective best interests.
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