In most lawsuits, one side wins and the other loses (or there is a partial win).  But there are cases when the sides can’t settle, both of them lose.

In 2006, a contractor working on a home in Cleveland, OH discovered $182,000 in depression era cash stashed in the bathroom wall.  The contractor and home owner could not agree on how to split the found money.  The money was in envelopes marked with a return address of “P. Dunne News Agency.”  They posed for photos with the case and then sat down to figure out how to split the money.  The homeowner offered the contractor 10% but he wanted 40%.  Then things went south.

After the story was reported in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer in December 2007, the estate of Patrick Dunne (with 21 descendants) become involved, claiming the money as theirs in a lawsuit.  The homeowner testified in a deposition that she spent about $14,000 on a trip to Hawaii and had sold some of the rare late 1920s bills.  She said about $60,000 was stolen from a shoe box in her closet but testified that she never reported the theft to police.  She accused the contractor of stealing the money.

The court granted shares to each of the claimants (the estate heirs, homeowner and contractor).  Each got a few thousand dollars.

“If these two individuals had sat down and resolved their disputes and divided the money, the heirs would have had no knowledge of it,” said the attorney for the Dunne estate. “Because they were not able to sit down and divide it in a rational way, they both lost.”

Meanwhile, the contractor said he lost a lot of business because media reports on the case portrayed him as greedy.  So even though he won something in court, he really lost.  As did the homeowner.

I wonder if they ever thought about mediating the dispute before it got on the estate’s radar?