Gordon Thomas Honeywell LLP, November 2017
GTH Partner Dianne K. Conway was retained by local homeowners in July 2017 to represent them in a pending lawsuit regarding enforcement of a 2015 settlement agreement that resolved boundary line and invasion of privacy disputes with their neighbors. The settlement agreement and resulting judgment transferred a small strip of each party’s property to the other; the agreement also included an anti-harassment clause. When Dianne’s clients sought to refinance their property shortly after the settlement and related judgment were finalized, they learned there was a pre-existing lien on the portion of property transferred to them under the settlement agreement that would prevent any refinance or sale of their property until it was cleared. The neighbors subsequently refused to cooperate with obtaining a release of the lien from the portion of property that they had granted to Dianne’s clients.
The neighbors’ obstruction resulted in more than a year delay in the clients’ refinance and considerable attorney fees and other costs before the clients were able to get the lien removed. Thereafter, the clients sought recovery of these fees and costs from the neighbors under the settlement agreement. Dianne was able to get the neighbors to agree to mediation and, if that was not successful, binding arbitration. During and preceding mediation, it became evident that the clients were more concerned about the neighbors being held accountable in some fashion than recovering of the costs they had incurred. The neighbors, on the other hand, were very opposed to conceding anything to Dianne’s clients.
In the end, the mediator and parties came up with a decidedly unique resolution: Each party agreed to donate $5,000 to a local charity that is near and dear to Dianne’s clients. This satisfied our clients’ concern that the neighbors be held accountable for their lack of good faith cooperation yet also let the neighbors feel that they hadn’t conceded anything to Dianne’s clients. The parties also added more “teeth” to the anti-harassment provision of the settlement agreement, which will hopefully help end the ongoing harassment. Overall, this creative solution both resolved an otherwise intractable dispute and benefitted the community at large.