Case Study: Construction Law
January 14, 2022 by Tricia Derr
In a court of law, the richest person in the room doesn’t always win.
Take, for instance, the case we fought — and won — involving a wealthy developer from the North Carolina coast who was turning a large tract of land into a neighborhood. The project was guaranteed by his personal fortune. When the project went under, that fortune was suddenly on the line.
“He had the money. That wasn’t the problem. He flew his private jet to meet with us and try to resolve it,” said Tricia Derr, a founding partner at Lincoln Derr. “He just wanted to get out of it, and his argument was that the language in his loan documents was ‘unconscionable’ — so one-sided that it was unfair, even if he did sign the contract.”
As a legal argument, there are times when an “unconscionable” claim holds water. This wasn’t one of them.
“We made a motion for summary judgment, asking for the judge to decide that, as a matter of law, the developer owed the money,” Derr recalled. “Our argument was that this was not an ‘unconscionable’ contract. It was fair, entered into by a sophisticated man who has made millions of dollars in commercial real estate.”
Then, she had to prove it.
After taking his deposition, Derr did some research and found a lawsuit the developer filed in Raleigh over a tenant eviction he tried to execute under the terms of the lease his lawyers had drafted.
“In the lease documents his lawyers had prepared in that case, we found the exact same language he was fighting in ours. He knew what he had signed. Apparently, it was only ‘unconscionable’ when it applied to him,” Derr explained. “When I showed that to the judge, he was furious and granted immediate judgement for my client for $2.75 million.”
The victory involved the same thorough, methodical approach Lincoln Derr attorneys apply in every case — an approach rooted in the belief that the devil is in the details and that credibility is everything in the courtroom.
“Credibility always matters,” Derr said.
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