Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

1410 Posts and Counting

Even Once-in-a-Century Events Eventually Happen.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | March 18, 2018

No. 1,442

Image: staradvertiser.com

Nobody knows what the real odds were that the University of Maryland Baltimore City, a lowly 16th seed in the NCAA basketball tournament, would defeat the number one seed Virginia Cavaliers.  The last-place teams are deliberately selected to give small schools who can’t compete for top recruits a piece of the tournament action. Once thrust into the arena, they usually go down quietly.  Usually.  But based upon the fact that a bottom-ranked team finally defeated a top-ranked team once after 138 tournaments, its a fair guess that the odds of the underdog emerging triumphant are about 100 to 1.

People think that events with long probabilities will never happen. Not so. Maybe not today. But never? If you stick around long enough, even the rarest outcome will eventually occur. And of course, the odds may have been miscalculated all along or may change.  That’s why there have been at least three 500-year storms in Western Pennsylvania in the past few decades.

There’s often a sleeper out there, too.  The presence of Napoleon on the battlefield, it was said, was worth 40,000 men.  Eventually, the opposing armies refused to engage when he was known to be in the field.  They would turn around and seek out a Napoleonic army to fight that was commanded by one of his less gifted subordinates.

Getting back to basketball, everybody knows that teams get hot and teams get cold.  Luck intervenes.  Miscalculations occur.  Time runs out.  That’s what makes basketball exciting to watch.

The same factors apply to litigation. Just as in sports, David can and sometimes does bring down Goliath. Lawyers get hot.  Lawyers get cold. Witnesses perform better than expected on one occasion and disastrously on the next. You draw the wrong judge.  The jury doesn’t get it.

But unlike in sports, litigation doesn’t have to be a fight to the bitter end.  People with disputes can settle. It makes supreme sense to do so in many cases. You can dispose of all that risk and replace it with a relative certainty.  Even the overwhelming favorite in a fight to the finish may gain unforeseen benefits.  For example, a payment plan with teeth may be worth much more than than a large uncollectible judgment.

It takes work to settle a case. It often takes imagination, timing and persistence.  The lawyer must have the vision to see the benefits of compromise when his or her client does not.

Basketball tournaments are great entertainment, but litigation is reality. Don’t get caught in a 500-year storm.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

  • Recent Posts

  • Posts You Might Like

  • Subscribe to our feed