How Much is this Going to Cost?

hagenow2That question is one that attorneys often hear from existing and new clients who are involved in matters for which they are seeing the attorney.  While some projects are capable of being estimated in terms of the cost, in litigation, where at least two parties are arguing over something that is important to each of them, because no one party has control over what the other one will do, it is often nearly impossible to estimate “How much it is going to cost.”

A perfect example of this was recently reported here.  While the particulars of the case are not necessarily important for today’s purposes, the significance is that there was a legal fight that lasted approximately 38 years concerning some property in Madison County, Indiana.  Imagine in 1978 trying to answer the client’s question of “How much is this going to cost?”  Thirty eight years later, the real estate is going to be sold at an auction.

In another relatively recent case, two landowners fought over a strip of land 35’ X 100’, which had been valued at $890.  That litigation lasted 3 years and involved 2 separate appeals.  It is fair to say that each party incurred far more than $890 in fees, not to mention the value of their own time invested in the fight.

We have written extensively before about how slow litigation can proceed; the true cost of that litigation; and the toll it can take on the parties involved.  These cases are yet further examples of how unpredictable, time consuming, and undoubtedly expensive litigation can be.  Attorneys seek the most efficient and thereby cost effective way to resolve disputes for clients, but sometimes these types of disputes still last for decades.   While these cases certainly are anomalies, they do serve as good examples of what can happen when two parties dig in and for whatever reasons are unable to resolve their differences or otherwise continue to fight.