Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bowers v. Raymond Lucia Cos. (Cal. Ct. App. - May 30, 2012)

This opinion is absolutely right.

The parties were represented by sophisticated lawyers.  They reached a settlement agreement that they put on the record.  Justice McConnell quotes the transcript and analyzes the record, and she's exactly right.  The settlement's binding and unambiguous.

It's true that the parties agreed to a somewhat unusual -- but hardly unprecedented -- arrangement to settle the remaining portions of the case.  The arbitrator called it "med/arb baseball high/low," which accurately describes the deal.  They agreed to mediate.  If, at the end of the day, the parties failed to agree, they'd each make their final offer, and the mediator would choose between one of these two figures, and that'd be entered as the final judgment.  That's the deal they struck.  The record's crystal clear.  Both to me and the Court of Appeal.

What the defendant -- the Raymond Lucia Companies (you've probably heard their advertisements, and maybe listened to the radio show -- apparently doesn't like is how the process eventually turned out.  The agreed-upon baseball range was $10,000 to $5 million.  Plaintiff took an aggressive position and made a final offer of $5 million.  Defendant took an equally aggressive position and made a final offer of $10,000.  That's fine.  Pick the extreme ranges.  But one of you is going to lose really big.  Here, that was the defendant.  You makes your picks and you takes your chances.  You lost.

Defendant gets new lawyers and argues on appeal that they didn't really agree to that process and that the agreement was invalid anyway.  Wrong.  The trial court rejected this position, and so does the Court of Appeal.  Rightly so.

Be careful what you wish for.  'Cause sometimes you'll get it.