I was sued, and I didn’t like it. My personal experience.

At dinner parties when people would ask what I do for a living and I would respond in a joking way, “I make people’s lives miserable.” They would quickly come back with, “ah, you must be an attorney.”

As a practicing attorney for 2 ½ decades, I never understood just how accurate my description was. I didn’t try to make lives miserable, it’s just the result of being in a lawsuit over a long period of time.

Then it happened, my wife and I were sued over the remodel of our home. I was about to experience what “miserable” really means.

During construction, I was too busy to inspect the work. I was not too concerned because I had hired someone that was highly recommended. Near the end of my remodel, I hired a different builder to come in and inspect the home. The list of defects he found left me shell-shocked.

I provided the list to my builder and withheld further payment. Two weeks later (just before the start of the rainy season and without a roof) the builder left the job, filed a mechanics lien and sued my wife and me.

Initially, I knew we were going to cream this guy so I shrugged it off. After all, I am an attorney and have represented hundreds of parties over the years. Nevertheless, as time passed, doubt began to creep in.

My wife did not like the idea of being sued. Not one bit. Although I tried to convince her the contractor did not stand a chance, I was surprised how the lawsuit affected our relationship. If we lost, the total bill could be over $150,000 (his claim, his attorney’s fees and my attorney’s fees) and I would still have to repair the defective work on my own. When I explained the cost if we lost to my wife, our relationship further soured. Over the next two years, doubt continued to build as the builder went through three different attorneys; each one seemingly starting over with new and different demands.

Although I was sure of the outcome, the possibility of losing $150,000 and how that might affect my wife, my kids college education accounts and countless other possibilities never left my mind. I was surprised how much I thought about the matter. I was distracted at work and my stress level climbed as trial approached. When I had free time, the lawsuit was the only thing on my mind. Dreams about the dispute woke me up in the middle of the night. I remember thinking, why is this lawsuit affecting me like this? I do this for a living. For the first time I understood what my response “I make people’s lives miserable” really meant.

A week before trial, a mediation resolved the dispute when the builders insurance company wrote a check. Although the lawsuit was over, the stress on the relationship between me and my wife was not. It took a while before things returned to normal. The emotional turmoil for two years was not worth the impact on my family. The lost time and costs will never be recovered. There must be other options.

In hindsight, I saw that before the lawsuit was filed, I had everything I needed to mediate. My second builder provided a report and an estimate for repair. I took some pictures. The builder was there every day. He knew what transpired and what it would cost to fix it. Two years of discovery, motions and trial preparation did not change the outcome that early mediation may have obtained. Because Early Mediation was new and few were aware of it, no one recognized that my case was ripe for early mediation.

It only takes two things to make early mediation happen. The two attorneys (or parties) whom see the benefits of early mediation. Without their vision, the parties may be doomed to draining their bank account, endless months of emotional turmoil and destroyed relationships.

Every attorney should experience being sued. They will discover what the word “miserable” really means, counsel their clients accordingly and look for the possibilities of early mediation in every case.

You may qualify for a free mediation. Click HERE to find out more information.

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I have had the pleasure of working with Sherman Knight in mediation of several complex multiparty construction related disputes. Sherman works hard, is always well prepared and has a phenomenal ability to quickly grasp the salient issues and bring the parties together to a successful resolution. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table, and presents himself in a calm and gracious manner that immediately puts the parties at ease. I can heartily recommend Sherman Knight to you, as I have to many of my colleagues.

~ Rock Sorenson - Attorney

Knight Dispute Resolution