Thursday, July 06, 2006

In the, "You've Got To Be Kidding" Category

As I alluded to yesterday, I have taken an unlwaful detainer case from the VLSP. The unlawful detainer is based on a Three Day Notice for non-payment of rent. My client alleges some retaliation and some habitability issues.

All in in all, its pretty much a standard non-payment case.

Now, when I deal with the usual rogues gallery of landlord attorneys, this case would have proceeded to its trial date with some written discovery and some negotiations, most likely resulting in a deal at the mandatory settlement conference.

Instead, both sides (prior to my involvement) have gotten their hackles up. Its as if both sides are saying, "I don't care how much it costs, I want to win." Unfortunately for my client, he is short on the money end of things.

The result is that in the past two days, opposing counsel and myself have been shooting letters back and forth over discovery. Then today, there was a six and half hour deposition followed by an hour and half of site inspection.

Now, from prior experience, and talks with landlord attorneys, the usual landlord attorney charges somewhere around $1000 to $1500. This will take the landlord from notice through to the trial call, at which point the meter starts. In just taking the last two days, the landlord's attorney has spent, conservatively, approximately 12 hours. So, before the cost of the deposition is factored in, his rate has already dropped to $125 per hour.

This is before you realize that he has had to draft both the notice and complaint, and then pay for it to be served, had to survive a motion to quash, and answer a number of discovery requests. So assigning arbitrary estimates to these tasks, the attorney is working at about $89.00/hour. And judging by his office, which I saw at the deposition today, that just is not going to cover his overhead. Which leads me to think that one of two things is going on in this situation. First, he is on an hour retainer fee. Second, he thinks that they will really be able to recover all their expenses from my client (good luck, since they also know he is on public assistance).

I can understand in some cases wanting to take a deposition (in UD land). But in this case, with all written evidence (there is a pile of letters), it seems that it is superfulous, costly, and unnecessary. Especially when one considers the amount of money involved is probably less than what the plaintiff has already spent on this case, or would have spent on this case if they had done (at least in my opinion) what they should have done back in January.

So with everyone dug in, throwing good money after bad, neither side wants to talk a reasonable settlement. And neither side seems to have a good word about the other. Trial is on Monday. And its going to be interesting.

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