How many times have you heard both sides of the story and then been asked “to be the judge”? Judge Judy has made a living at doing this on her TV show. The word judge simply means to render a judgment on the issue and decide on a verdict. It usually is a win, lose or draw conclusion after weighing the evidence and in a lawsuit, applying the applicable law or rules.
In Thursday’s Tallahassee Democrat there are two stories on the same page involving the upcoming lawsuits to be decided by a judge. The first is the question of the state’s contractual obligation to pay a Tallahassee local art gallery for photographs ordered for the new court house. The state’s argument is that the state appointed contract administrator exceeded the legal limits for the purchase of art in a state building thereby nullifying the contract.
The limit is $100K and the art gallery’s invoice is for over $300K. All the art was produced and is being stored in a warehouse waiting on a decision. Bottom line is that the art gallery is out a very hefty revenue and certainly a victim of an administrative mistake. A judge has been asked to render a decision in awarding the art gallery the asking price or agreeing with the state that it was an illegal transaction and that the art gallery only receives $100K. In this case, the art gallery acted in good faith with no intent to break the law. Another solution is for the state to amend the law with a one time approval to exceed the $100K limit.
You be the judge.
The second judgment being requested is the lawsuit filed against Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University (FAMU) in the hazing death of Robert Champion. Champion’s parents are suing FAMU for pain and suffering in FAMU’s lack of control over widespread hazing within the Marching 100 Band. FAMU has requested a ruling by a judge to find that Champion was responsible for his own demise since he volunteered to be hazed.
According the parent’s lawyer, FAMU had already offered the maximum allowed monetary restitution by a state university of $300K in any litigation. The parents did not accept the offer. The amount the parents are requesting has not been made public. The parents have also filed lawsuits against the bus driver and the bus company where the hazing incident took place.
You be the judge.
Acting as an expert office water cooler judge, this examiner believes that the state will lose the lawsuit and award the art gallery the full amount for the art work. In criminal cases, intent is the key as to whether a party is innocent or guilty. In a lawsuit, it is the amount of evidence presented. In this case, the state must be held accountable for the actions of its agents. It is not the responsibility of the art gallery to determine the state’s rules on contractual limits or categories for contract expenditures. As a former US Army contract administrator, this examiner recalls the procurement class where the instructor stated that if the administrator exceeded his, or her, authority the administrator would be held accountable.
In the case of FAMU requesting relief of a lawsuit in the death of Robert Champion. This one is easy since FAMU as already made an offer to settle. This offer is an admission of their responsibility and cannot now ask for relief because a higher amount is on the table. Judge should not let FAMU walk. The lawsuits against the bus company and the driver will be dismissed since they can not be held liable for student actions on the bus.