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In The Trenches with Messina & Hankin

“. . . winning at trial depends on [a] collaborative effort between client and lawyer.”

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to reach a reasonable and amicable agreement, litigation becomes the only option—short of simply walking away.

The story I am about to tell is true; the names have been changed to protect my license to practice law.

Our client, Alex, who holds a Ph.D. in engineering, helped create a market for a unique engineering software (“UES”) now used by manufacturers throughout the world. UES makes it possible for these manufacturers to create a virtual product and test the product’s materials without having to build an actual model—saving them millions of dollars.

When Alex first became associated with UES software developers and their production company, Unique Manufacturer, Inc. (“UMI”), UES had very few users because it lacked the capability to interface with existing software typically used in the industry. Alex, a former professor and scientist, developed an interface between UES and the industry standard software. Alex’s efforts created a market for UES and a lucrative distributorship business for himself. Alex and UMI enjoyed a profitable relationship for many years under a Distributorship Agreement and all was right with the world.

As the use of UES became more and more a must-have software, used by the largest world manufacturers, UMI became a highly sought after company for larger industry software suppliers and distributors. So much so, that a large out-of-state corporation, (“EvilCo”) presented UMI with an offer to buy their company lock-stock-and-barrel. Alex was told EvilCo intended to honor the Distributorship Agreement and nothing would change with respect to his financial arrangement.

A day after the official sale was announced to the world in various trade publications, EvilCo informed Alex they were terminating his Distributorship Agreement. EvilCo claimed the legal basis for the termination, as articulated by their in-house counsel, was that several years prior, Alex had breached the agreement by failing to meet target sales numbers for seats of UES back in its infancy.

Despite the fact Alex had spent over 18 months during this period of low sales developing a market, and had even allowed UMI to defer compensation because of cash flow issues, EvilCo stood fast that they were legally entitled to terminate the agreement.

Working closely in conjunction with my client, we marshalled extensive evidence and I gathered legal precedents to convince EvilCo’s counsel that he was wrong on the law of contracts and that he was advancing an untenable argument. My efforts fell on deaf ears and we were told we had absolutely no case. All there was left to do was sue.

After a very contentious lawsuit involving numerous individuals and entities, in multiple states and countries, and involving legal issues encompassing contracts, torts, and intellectual property, the case eventually settled with a seven-figure settlement in Alex’s favor. The day was won because of Alex’s refusal to give up and his attorneys’ skill and tenacity—winning at trial depends on this collaborative effort between client and lawyer.

The moral of the story, avoid litigation whenever you can—it’s expensive and emotionally draining. But, when litigation is inevitable, choose a litigation team you can believe in, based on their track-record and reputation, and plan to commit to the battle and work closely with your trusted legal champion to protect your interests.

Written by John Messina

John Messina heads Messina & Hankin’s Temecula Valley Office and is a litigation attorney with top executive-level, hands-on experience as a broker, real estate developer, and mortgage banker. He is also a published author,

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