Success Story: How To “Win” Contract Disputes Even When The Contract Says You “Lose”

by | Sep 23, 2012 | Firm News

Contract disputes are one of the
most common business conflicts that can lead to potentially expensive
litigation.  With the stakes so high, you
must have a lawyer help you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your position
and that of your opponent. 

It is
virtually impossible for a non-lawyer to understand fully: (i) the legal
implications of contract language; (ii) the applicable law; (iii) how a court
would apply that law to the specific language, (iv) what facts are relevant to
your dispute; (v) when you can go outside the contract to pull in other facts
to help your case, and; (vi) how to assemble those facts, law, and contract
language to make the strongest, most compelling argument to get you the best
bottom-line outcome.  Indeed, anybody who
has ever seen the classic law school film “The Paper Chase” will recall the famous
line of Contract Law Professor Kingsfield when he announces to the class “You come in here with a skull full of mush and you leave thinking like a lawyer.”  Dramatic
license aside, the ability to “think like a lawyer” when it comes to getting
you the best result is truly priceless.
It can make the difference between success and failure; it can translate
into an economic result that may be thousands, hundreds of thousands, or
millions of dollars better for you.  And,
even when it looks like your contract says “you lose”, the right lawyer may be
able to find a way to turn that loss into a “win”, or at least keep your losses
to an acceptable minimum. 


Here’s how we recently helped our
clients deal with just such a situation…


Problem:  Our client hired a
reputable, major brokerage company to sell his home.  After more than two years and multiple price
reductions, the broker had failed to sell the home.  The brokerage company, in a transparent
last-ditch effort to extract a commission from the failed listing, had its
lawyer draft a letter demanding payment of the full six-figure commission under
a narrow interpretation of certain language in the listing agreement.  On its face, that language, appearing in the
“standard” form listing agreement, indeed appeared to support the broker’s
commission demand, even though the broker had failed to sell the property.  Since the listing agreement included an
attorney’s fees clause, my client was faced with the prospect of not only
having to pay a hefty commission for a sale that never happened, but also the
broker’s attorney’s fees.


Solution:  We started by not
buying into the erroneous, but common, misconception that just because a
dispute involves a “standard” form contract, published by a “neutral” trade
association such as the California Association of Realtors, that language is
clear and unambiguous.  The casebooks are
filled with published decisions where the court is asked to decide between two
or more different interpretations of form contract language.  We placed the language relied upon by the
broker under the microscope and came up
with an alternative interpretation that favored our client

We next pored through the
evidence, including all of the e-mails between our client and the broker, and found enough “needles” in that haystack of
correspondence to construct a defense
we believed in so strongly that we
were absolutely prepared to “go the distance” all the way to trial, if
necessary, to fight for our client.

With such high confidence in our
ability to win, we pushed for an
immediate mediation to try to secure the fastest, least expensive solution
our clients and make sure we could communicate the strength and force of our position directly
to the broker,
unfiltered by
his lawyer, and with the assistance of the retired judge mediator.
  We crafted a detailed, thorough mediation
brief laying out all the reasons we would win if this case proceeded to trial,
making sure to give the mediator as much
ammunition as possible
to help get our client the result he deserved.

Within a matter of hours—instead of the months a trial would have
required—we successfully settled the
case with an outcome that was very acceptable to our client
.  Click here to see what the client had to say (it’s the most recent testimonial at the top of the page, from Ning Lim).

Lessons:  Contracts are
intimidating.  Lawyers are
intimidating.  Demand letters from
lawyers citing form language from a contract you signed are intimidating.  Whenever you find yourself in a dispute
involving a contract, whether you’re claiming money is owed to you or
responding to such a claim, you must,
must, must
hire a lawyer to help you get the result you want as quickly,
aggressively and inexpensively as possible.
Do not be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
This is not something you should try to handle on your own or with the cheapest
lawyer you can find.  Often, the lawyer
with the lowest billing rate can end up costing you the most money.  We don’t have the lowest or highest billing
rate; but we do believe you can’t find a lawyer who will get you a better
economic “bottom line” result.

we promise this result in every case? No.



Can we promise
the same kind of tough, aggressive, swift, and creative approach to try to make
you whole as quickly and inexpensively as possible? Absolutely.


you’re involved in a dispute, come to our Firm. You’ll get the special
attention of me and our dedicated staff. We’ll go the extra mile to see that
you receive the result you want and the full justice you deserve. Every one of
our clients is like family. They’re close to us. They know what’s going on. We
firmly believe that you can’t do any better than having our firm represent you.
Let us prove it to you.



If you have a dispute you’d
like to discuss, please mention this blog post when you contact us and you’ll
receive a free consultation (a $100 minimum value). Call 800-553-7626 or e-mail [email protected].

Lerman Law Partners, LLP Logo



You have Successfully Subscribed!