Unanimous Jury Verdict for Blake & Pulsifer

Overview

Attorneys Dale B. Rycraft Jr. and Paul A. Liberatore successfully defended a breach of contract action in a 3 day jury trial in the Maricopa County Superior Court. Plaintiff alleged a breach of contract in connection with the repayment of a loan secured by real property.  Plaintiff also alleged that Blake & Pulsifer’s client was not entitled to credit for services he provided in connection with the transaction.  Throughout the three-day jury trial, Dale and Paul argued and proved that the loan had been paid in full . In less than one hour of deliberations, the Jury returned a unanimous verdict for the Defendant.  The Court awarded attorney’s fees to the client.  This article was originally published in The TRIAL REPORTER of Central and Northern Arizona.

Prologue

Prior to May 2009, the Defendant (“Blake & Pulsifer’s Client”) had performed construction work on several homes that Plaintiff owned, for which he was paid. The Plaintiff had previously extended several loans to the Defendant, which Defendant repaid on time and pursuant to the parties’ agreements. On October 8, 2009, the Defendant signed a promissory to Plaintiff for $65,000 and provided a deed of trust. On January 10, 2010, the Defendant signed a second promissory note to Plaintiff for $45,000. On September 8, 2010, the Defendant signed a third promissory note to Plaintiff for $20,000.

Trial

The Plaintiff had alleged that the Defendant breached the contract when he failed an refused to repay the funds loaned to him. The Defendant denied liability, advancing the defense that Plaintiff had been fully paid from the sale of the four properties. Defendant alleged that he agreed to provide the labor and materials necessary to prepare Plaintiff’s four properties for resale, in exchange for a 50/50 split of the profits realized upon resale of each property. Defendant also alleged that because the real estate market in 2009 and 2010 was in a severe downturn, Plaintiff’s four properties were not selling quickly. Additionally, Defendant alleged that instead of waiting for his share of the profits from each property, the Plaintiff agreed to “front” defendant a fixed amount for each property, in exchange for a promissory note, to be offset by the proceeds from the sales of each property as they were sold. Defendant argued that Plaintiff had paid $172,000 for the four properties, and the total sales proceeds from the four properties were $465,000. Defendant also argued that Plaintiff received $119,000 from his fire insurance policy on one property to rebuild after it burned down. Additionally, Defendant argued Plaintiff realized a total gross profit, before the cost of labor and materials provided by Defendant, of $293,000, plus $119,000 received to repair the fire damage.

Verdict

By stipulation, nine jurors deliberated for little more than one hour. The jury found for Defendant unanimously.

Which Lawyer Would You Trust :: The Explanation

Can’t I just go online and get a form?” Smart clients like ours would never ask this question! Right…? Of course they would! Even our smart clients are tempted by the allure of seemingly quick, easy, and affordable solutions. Everybody likes a deal, and technology and marketing are so sophisticated it’s easy to imagine that “formbotzoom.com” might be the answer. Just look at the legalzoom reviews. But let’s draw back the façade just a bit and take a closer look.

LegalZoom and other “document preparers” want you to believe that the process of drafting legal documents is as easy as filling in the blanks on a standardized form. However, our experience tells us that this is a fallacy. Generally, non-lawyers do not have the knowledge or experience to correctly fill out even the very best forms. Interestingly, LegalZoom seems to already know this. On its input page, there is a warning: “80 percent of people who fill in blank forms to create legal documents do so incorrectly.”

Moreover, when issues or questions arise, who are you going to turn to for help? LegalZoom? Let’s take a look at some disclaimers taken directly from LegalZoom.com.

“LegalZoom is not a law firm, and the employees of LegalZoom are not acting as your attorney. LegalZoom’s legal document service is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.”

“LegalZoom is prohibited from providing any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation to a consumer about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies.”

“At no time do we review your answers for legal sufficiency, draw legal conclusions, provide legal advice or apply the law to the facts of your particular situation. LegalZoom and its services are not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.”

“…the legal information on this site is not legal advice and is not guaranteed to be correct, complete or up-to-date.”

“LegalZoom is not responsible for any loss, injury, claim, liability, or damage related to your use of this site or any site linked to this site, whether from errors or omissions in the content of our site or any other linked sites, from the site being down or from any other use of the site. In short, your use of the site is at your own risk.

Experience also tells us that canned forms are generally far from ideal. Consider Greg’s story:

Greg is married and has two children: one from a previous marriage and the other from his current marriage. Greg is also a licensed attorney, and the Practice Development Director at the Minnesota State Bar. Greg is not an estate planning attorney, but as an experiment, he decided to purchase a $69.00 Will from LegalZoom. Greg posted a copy of the Will on his law blog so that his lawyer buddies could give him their input. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of problems. For instance:

  • It failed to include a self-proving affidavit, which means that witnesses would have to be tracked down in the event of his death to testify to the validity of the will.
  • It failed to provide guidance about beneficiary designations on non-probate assets, which pass outside the will.
  • It failed to include a provision that would allow him to direct the disposition of personal property in a separate document.
  • It failed to address the possibility that his children might predecease him.
  • It failed to address the possibility of the birth or adoption of additional children.

Truth: If we did this, our malpractice rates would skyrocket.

Do it yourself legal forms are not the worth the risk. Anecdotally, we estimate that approximately 50% of the fees we earn in estate administration matters are the result of well intended but misguided DIY planning. It’s a pay now or pay more later scenario. Perhaps we should send LegalZoom a thank you note!

As attorneys, we do more than just fill out a form; we draft a document that is right for you. We give you our best personalized advice based on years of experience and your unique circumstances. We stand behind our work—no disclaimers. Most importantly, we will be here when the chips are down. Yes, we cost more than formbotzoom.com. Why? Because you and your family are worth it.

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