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December 15, 2010

Family Business Wins Same Lawsuit Twice, Now Faces It For the Third Time

“Everyone deserves their day in court,” says Steve Arnold, the owner of Peachtree Pest Control in Loganville, Georgia. “But when is enough, enough?”

He’s referring to a fourteen-year long ordeal that forced his small, family owned business to endure a lawsuit, two trials, heavy legal expenses, and endless hours of wondering whether his business would survive.  Steve shares his story as part of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform’s Faces of Lawsuit Abuse campaign.

It all began in 1996, when Steve was informed of an individual claiming they got sick due to pest control work done by Steve’s company. He investigated and found that the individual worked nowhere near where his technicians had performed their work.

Despite this, Steve’s company was sued by the individual. After going through a full trial, a jury found against the plaintiff and absolved Steve’s business from liability.

The plaintiff refused to concede and appealed the verdict. Five years later, after a second trial, a jury came up with an identical verdict: Steve’s business was not liable.

But the story still isn’t over. The plaintiff is threatening to appeal the second verdict and seek a third trial, which Steve could avoid by settling with the plaintiff for $500,000, despite the fact that his business did nothing wrong.

In addition to the endless hours and numerous legal expenses associated with going through multiple trials, the uncertainty created by the lawsuit has made it hard for Steve’s business to plan for the future or contemplate expansion.

“You’re unable to do anything during that process,” Steve says. “It ties you down so much.”

And leaving aside the obvious economic costs of going through fourteen years of litigation, Steve mentions the emotional impact of having to sit through endless legal proceedings where his business’s hard-earned reputation is dragged through the mud.

“It tears me up to this day,” he says, “sitting there thinking that everything I built is on the line.”

To view other stories of lawsuit abuse victims, visit FacesOfLawsuitAbuse.org.

 

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