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The Sign Guy - down but not out

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois Topics:  Viking Dodge

The Sign Guy - down but not out

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
January 14, 2009

Viking Dodge Magnum

It's all over but the shouting and screaming.

Judge Michael Caldwell heard a Motion to Dismiss this morning by Viking Dodge, which asked the judge to dismiss its $500,000 lawsuit against Wayne Beto.

Wayne's the guy, you may recall, who has been parking on U.S. 14 across from Viking Dodge - the guy who owns a Dodge that he bought from Viking Dodge - the guy who has the signs taped all over his car that express his opinion of the way that Viking Dodge conducts business. (Click on the photo to enlarge it for a good view of the signs; then click Back on your browser to close the enlarged photo.)

Wayne's case was called at 9:04AM, but neither his attorney nor the attorney for Viking Dodge was in the courtroom. Where were they?! The judge let it slide and told Wayne to sit down and wait for counsel. The two lawyers showed up and the case was called again at 9:31AM.

Even though I was sitting in the front and as close as possible to the judge, it was virtually impossible to hear what was being said between the lawyers and Judge Caldwell. Lips were moving, though, so the business of the court was proceeding. As a matter of fact, the jaw of Viking Dodge's lawyer was moving even when he wasn't talking. Was he really chewing gum right in front of Judge Caldwell?

The Motion before Judge Caldwell was to dismiss the case - a case that was filed on November 3, 2006 - more than two years ago. Wayne told me that it was continued 13 times, and today Viking Dodge wants to dismiss it???

Wayne's attorney, Jim Mullally of Franks, Gerkin and McKenna of Marengo, was to object to the Motion to Dismiss. Wayne had told me that he didn't want the case dropped. Wayne wanted the case to continue. He even offered to pay the costs of the deposition they had been trying to get from Jim Samaras, owner of Viking Dodge. Wayne wanted a truthful statement from Jim Samaras to support his Complaint in Circuit Court.

Unfortunately, Wayne was never able to get Samaras deposed.

Just before Judge Caldwell ruled on the Motion, Wayne asked if he could speak, and Judge Caldwell allowed him to do so. Wayne stated that this case had been in court for two years, that he was on Social Security, and that this case had cost him $7,000 in legal fees to defend himself. Wayne was hoping that Judge Caldwell would order Jim Samaras and Viking Dodge, the plaintiffs, to reimburse him for his legal fees.

Judge Caldwell did not. So, where it stands is that Viking Dodge and Jim Samaras were able, through their lawyers, to start a case in court and then, after two years, to drop it.

Wayne's lawyer explained to Wayne after court that, had this case been heard in England, a judge probably would have ordered Viking Dodge and Jim Samaras to pay Wayne for his legal fees.

In the United States, however, you can sue somebody, cause them to incur large legal fees, refuse to comply with the requirements of the case (such a deposition) and then drop your case, and not have to pay the legal costs incurred by the defendant.

Wayne's car was in front of the courthouse this morning. Wayne has been gratified by the response of the motoring public to his parking near Viking Dodge and driving all over McHenry County with the signs on his car. Many motorists have stopped to talk with Wayne, ask about his signs and to share their own stories of sales experiences with the same dealer.

The next step is to analyze the progress of his case and determine whether it could have been conducted more efficiently and more economically. Should a case like this have dragged on for two years? Should the court have allowed it to drag on for two years?

There is a certain amount of legal maneuvering that goes on in any legal case. But, from my observations in Woodstock, judges need to put their feet down sooner and more often, and tell lawyers to stop fooling around and move forward with their cases. Any continuance needs to be for good purpose. And, when a judge says that something is to happen by a certain date, then it had better happen.

If I were a judge and told a party in a lawsuit that his deposition was to be taken by a certain date, I would not be nice to him when he came back to court and said it hadn't been done. I think I'd give him three days in jail for contempt of court and send a strong message through the legal community that, when I said something, I meant it.

And my ratings from lawyers? They'd either be really high or they'd tank.

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