Tuesday, 30 December 2003

SF Chronicle Sportsmen of the Year: two lawyers!

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle has made her picks for Sportsmen of the Year ("Finally, in Bonds ball case, someone shows some class"). Her choices: attorneys Don Tamaki and Mike Lee of Minami, Lew & Tamaki LLP.

They are the lawyers who represented Patrick Hayashi, who was sued over Barry Bonds' 73rd home-run ball of the 2001 season. The case came to define the madness and crassness of modern sports. One fan, Alex Popov, got his mitt on the ball and then lost it amid a scrum of fans. Hayashi plucked the ball from the pile, without realizing that he'd entered a whole new ballgame.
Hayashi offered to settle the case by splitting the proceeds from the ball's sale 50-50, but Popov rejected the offer. After trial, the court entered a judgment ordering essentially the same thing — but only after both sides had incurred enormous legal fees. Unfortunately, the ball sold at auction for less than half its estimated market value. Hayashi's legal bill, under his written contract with his attorneys, would have amounted to nearly his entire take from the sale — leaving him with almost nothing.
After the home-run ball sold for so little, Tamaki and Lee knew that, once they were paid, their client would gain nothing. So they waived most of the fee. "We talked it over with my partners and agreed that Patrick should walk away with something,'' Tamaki said recently.
Neither side will say exactly how much the lawyers reduced their fees, but Hayashi did keep "enough money to pay his tuition for a master's degree in business administration, plus other bills from a year and a half of living crazily." This, my brothers and sisters at the bar, is a fine example of class.

What happened to the plaintiff? "Last we heard, Popov had acrimoniously parted ways with his attorney, Martin Triano, disputing his legal fees of $473,500. Triano sued him."

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