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Home Sweet Home…Broken

By the end of the first day and into the second day of jury duty, we learned a lot about the prior case that brought us to this dispute of claimed “attorney negligence.” A home owner couple sought financial relief from the home builder after finding some decently significant problems with their newly built home. They went to trial rather than through arbitration. However, the contract they signed with the home builder stated they were to go to arbitration, and it named the arbitrator as well. The goal of this contract clause was to keep costs down for both parties. Obviously, it seemed like it was meant to keep costs down for the home builder primarily.

Both sets of attorneys had time to narrate the events from building the home through to the end of the initial dispute. Events started in 2001 and ended six years later in 2005. Very little differed between the two sets of timelines each party presented. Nevertheless, it was daunting. They called out every detail from when the contract was signed to appeals made after the arbitration finished. It felt odd hearing all the details of this other case that was a layer beneath what we were there to do, which was to decide if the attorneys had handled things negligently.

The main point was the clause about arbitration. The home owners argued they never would have agreed to the contract had they known clearly what that clause meant. Also, some of the language seemed vague about the conditions of arbitration. It was a point they made in the prior case. Not only that, but they filed their case as a “breach of contract” case, so that complicated things. However, the home builders felt arbitration was clearly required. They signed the agreement, and that should have bound everyone to arbitration. Thus, the attorneys representing the home builders ended up in court themselves with a ticked off former client. Yes, people even sue lawyers.

All in all, this felt like a real mess, and I wasn’t sure how I liked being on the clean up crew. Nevertheless, the “show” went on with a surprising witness choice. Find out why in the next post!

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