Perseverance Doesn’t Always Pay

Submitted by patentadmin on Mon, 08/09/2010 - 12:01

The courts do not give litigants a second bite at the apple. If at first you don’t succeed, IT’S OVER. (Warren Katz v. Holland and Knight)

In 2004, Katz, an architect, retained H&K to represent him in a lawsuit alleging infringement of his copyright in certain townhouse designs. He settled the case for $10K.

In 2008, suffering from an acute case of “settler’s remorse,” he sued H&K, his former attorneys, for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty, claiming that the firm had concealed applicable precedent and misrepresented copyright law in order to induce him to settle. The suit was brought pro se (lawyerspeak for “foolish enough to represent himself”). Katz later claimed that he would have liked to retain an attorney, but was unable to do so, because “[i]t’s very difficult to find a lawyer to sue another lawyer.”

The suit was dismissed in February 2009, more than FOUR YEARS after the dismissal of the copyright suit, on the grounds that it was barred by the TWO YEAR statute of limitations. (This may explain why no lawyer was willing to take the case.) In October 2009, undaunted and no wiser than before, Katz again sued H&K, still acting pro se. This time, he claimed negligence and breach of contract and sought $25M in compensatory damages plus $350K in punitive damages. (It is interesting how damage claims increase over time in pro se cases.)

The Court dismissed the case. The second suit was barred by res judicata (Latin phrase meaning “no do-overs”). “A party cannot retry a case when there has already been a final judgment in the matter.”

Refusing to give up, Katz appealed this second dismissal – still pro se. The appellate court, determined not to waste any more judicial resources on the matter, dispensed with oral arguments and affirmed the dismissal.

THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED: If no lawyer will take your case, there may be a good reason; TAKE THE HINT!

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