Letter: DaimlerChrysler story was biased

By The West Virginia Record | Apr 13, 2006

Dear Editor:

In keeping with your pledge to be objective, I am concerned about the bias contained in your recent article regarding the Supreme Court's refusal to hear DaimlerChrysler's misguided petition for appeal related to my clients' recovery of $143,000 in legal fees and costs in a hard-fought consumer lawsuit in Kanawha County.

Why limit viewpoints to a one-sided and factually incorrect quote from Steve Cohen of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse? For example, both your article and Mr. Cohen indicate that DaimlerChrysler made a $10,500 offer that was more than the amount recovered by our clients at trial. This is not true (and even a cursory review of the case file would have revealed this fact).

In reality, DaimlerChrysler's offer of $10,500 was inclusive of attorney fees and costs. Our clients' $8,750 recovery, however, was exclusive of such fees and costs. Therefore, comparing these two numbers is like comparing "apples" to "oranges."

To avoid such an illogical and useless comparison, it is necessary to first adjust our clients' recovery to include attorney fees and litigation costs (as of the date of DaimlerChrysler settlement offer). This results in a comparable recovery of approximately $51,428.28. Obviously, this sum far exceeds DaimlerChrysler's offer of $10,500. Of course, DaimlerChrysler (and perhaps Mr. Cohen) are well aware of this point.

Nevertheless, they are apparently willing to ignore the real facts in pursuit of their respective agendas. The problem I have is with various media outlets that are either: (1) unwittingly manipulated; or (2) willing participants in advancing a specific (and perhaps hidden) agenda.

Why not simply report both sides, and then let the public decide? In this case, if DaimlerChrysler had simply treated its customers with some level of respect and dignity this entire lawsuit could have been avoided. Moreover, neither DaimlerChrysler nor Mr. Cohen want to mention this fact, but I desperately tried to settle the attorney fee portion of the case before incurring any time on the fee motion.

In fact, I offered to settle with DaimlerChrysler immediately after trial for $65,000 (a 20% reduction of our then-existing fees and costs). DaimlerChrysler refused to negotiate. I then renewed this offer several weeks later when I was on the brink of expending a significant amount of post-trial time preparing our fee motion and supportive memorandum.

Again, DaimlerChrysler simply refused to negotiate. We were thus forced to litigate the issue. So, as Justice Albright noted in his questioning of DaimlerChrysler's attorney, the company simply got hoisted on its own petard.

DaimlerChrysler also doesn't like to highlight another salient point about this case: its attorneys expended more time defending the case than my firm did prosecuting it! And the defense attorneys got paid regularly (and without any risk related to whether they won or lost).

My firm, on the other hand, has still not received any compensation for legal services rendered over the course of the last three years (and we incurred the risk of not receiving any compensation if we lost at trial). Again, the facts sometimes get in the way of a good sound bite.

In short, I am extremely proud of the work my firm provided to our clients, Larry and Carolyn George. Were it not for the fee-shifting provisions of West Virginia's consumer laws, Mr. and Mrs. George would not have been able to hire attorneys to represent them in such a relatively low value, but extremely important, breach of warranty case.

And if consumers are not able to enforce such laws, the "value" of such warranties would quickly vanish.

This, in turn, would hurt all consumers. As a result, there is "value" to this case that far exceeds the Georges' specific monetary recovery – i.e., that DaimlerChrysler (and other automobile manufacturers) know that they cannot renege on their consumer warranties and ignore their customer's concerns.

David Grubb
The Grubb Law Group

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