There's a lesson here for all of us

The SE Texas Record Feb. 26, 2011, 7:39am

Most people think of the Bible as a book for believers – which, of course, it is. But it also offers a a trove of wisdom for businessmen and lawyers.

The parable of the day laborer, for instance, is one of the most succinct presentations of property rights and contract law ever recorded. And then there's this gem from the Sermon on the Mount: "Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him."

How different our courts and our society would be if we kept this adage in mind.

As reported by The Record's David Yates, principals at M&M Resources and DSTJ Corp. could have saved a lot of time and money, had they taken it to heart. Instead, they wasted five years in a Jefferson County court and have nothing to show for it.

M&M's attorneys, however, walked away with half a million dollars in fees.

The two companies were squabbling over royalties from an oil and gas lease, with M&M suing and DSTJ countersuing. Their first trial ended in a hung jury. A second trial ended in only five days, with jurors declining to award damages to either party.

The jury did, however, award M&M's attorneys $446,580 for services rendered and $53,700 for court costs.

M&M and DSTJ would have been better off settling quickly on the way to court. The judges and the jurors who heard the cases -- and the taxpayers that financed them -- would have been better off, too.

No amount of legal reform, no matter how well designed and implemented, is ever going to eliminate the problem of litigiousness. Reforms should discourage seeking hasty and frequent judicial solutions.

But the quest for jackpot justice will persist until society overwhelmingly expresses contempt for it, and those who insist on pursuing it are stigmatized.

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