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Representative Cases

Some cases I have resolved as a mediator or referee:

(all parties represented by counsel except where indicated)

Contract: Attorney's fees: The plaintiff, a lawyer, sued his client for nonpayment of a fee incurred in representing the client in a federal District Court trial. The client had refused to pay because the jury had awarded the other party a money judgment. From my point of view, the amount of the verdict was so small, compared to the amount he had been sued for, that the client had actually won a victory. On the other hand, the lawyer's trial fee was so large that I doubted that he'd convince a Maine jury to award him all of it. The parties accepted my recommendations and the dispute settled.

Contract: Commercial construction: The developer of a condominium project hired a drywall contractor to install drywall in the first of several condo buildings the developer intended to construct. According to the drywaller, while that first building was under construction the developer promised the drywaller that he would be hired to drywall all the other buildings of the project. In reliance on that promise the drywaller declined other work. However, when the developer started the second building he hired a different drywall contractor. I convinced this drywaller that his evidence of the developer's "promise" was too sketchy to support a verdict or, if it did, an appeal; to settle the case, the developer decided to pay the drywaller something less than he'd have to pay his lawyer to defend the case.

Tort: Slip and fall: The plaintiff had injured herself when she slipped on some ice at the gas station where she was filling her tank. It was January, in northern Maine, and there had been a recent snow storm. Notwithstanding that the plaintiff claimed serious injury and was hoping for a large jury award, I told her that under Maine law she couldn't lay the entire blame for her injury on the gas station owner because she had had a duty to look for ice on the ground. That fact, I explained, was an invitation to a jury to reach a compromise verdict at less than what the plaintiff was hoping for. She and the gas station operator's insurance company settled.

Real Estate: Boundary/easement dispute: Neighbors with abutting lakeside lots disagreed about where their mutual boundary lay. Furthermore, Neighbor A claimed that he'd been mowing and using a large portion of property now claimed by Neighbor B for over 20 years-long enough that he had obtained the right to continue to do so under what's called the law of "prescriptive easements." Neighbor B disputed the length of time that A had been using the property that B was claiming, and argued that the actual boundary was closer to A's house than A believed. Outraged, A built a fence along what he believed was his boundary-a fence that ran directly in front of the picture window in B's living room that overlooked the lake. I convinced them to agree on a boundary and to remove the fence because the law and the facts seemed to favor A on the prescriptive use argument and B on the location of the boundary, so there was no point in spending tens of thousands on a trial and (in this case) a probable appeal just to get a predictable result.

Divorce: Spousal support and division of marital property: The parties, representing themselves, asked me to help them mediate their divorce. The issues were the division of property and spousal support; they had already agreed on custody, visitation and support for their minor children. Both parties had jobs, but the husband's salary was almost three times the wife's. The parties agreed on an arrangement that gave the wife considerably more property than the husband, and that required the husband to pay for the children's college education. The latter provision is not enforceable under Maine family law, but the settlement agreement was written as a contract, the breach of which would allow both the (ex-)wife and the children to sue for specific performance and/or money damages.

 

Lighthouse

 

John C. Sheldon
Maine Dispute Resolution
88 Starlight Way
Westbrook, ME 04092
Office 207-591-5365
Cell 207-712-9585
Click here to Contact

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