Annoyed judge throws up hands as parties bicker over shoes, routes and costs

Amelia Flood Jul. 28, 2009, 2:29pm

"Not to be mean but..." became a judge's oft-repeated refrain during the opening of a non-jury trial involving an Edwardsville attorney's dispute with a landscaping company that worked on retaining walls at his home.

While plaintiff Leroy Horvath II continually quoted the wording of the alleged oral contract he and defendant Earl Vuagniaux entered into, an increasingly annoyed Madison County associate judge attempted to move the two men along as they sparred over topics such as the type of shoes the plaintiff wore to work on Vuagniaux's property, how to get from the defendant's son's home to a store and what "cost" meant.

"If you keep asking him the same question, you will keep getting the same answer," Madison County Associate Judge Clarence Harrison II told Vuagniaux as he cross examined Horvath.

The suit stems from work Horvath's company, Lee Services Inc., did building retaining walls for Vuagniaux. The Edwardsville attorney and his wife, Alice, are named as defendants in the suit with Horvath's company as plaintiff.

According Horvath, after Vuagniaux rejected bids he submitted to do the work on the property, the two men agreed to a time and materials contract orally. Vuagniaux allegedly agreed to pay $50 per man hour, $50 per hour of machine operation, the cost of the materials for the project and a 10 percent markup on the cost of the materials.

According to the complaint, the two men entered into the contract around April 30 of that year.

Horvath testified Tuesday that Vuagniaux did not argue with the amounts and he made payments.

However, eventually Vuagniaux demanded to see receipts, time cards and the plaintiff's tax returns, which Horvath refused to turn over.

The two men severed their contract in June of that year, he said, with Vuagniaux still owing him over $14,700.00. In August 2007, a mechanics' lien was filed by the plaintiff over the money.

The suit is asking for the roughly $14,700.00, pre-judgment interest, costs and attorneys' fees.

As Vuagniaux, who represented himself, questioned Horvath, Harrison interrupted at points asking for the relevance of certain questions as well as commenting on certain objections. Both attorneys objected several times during the plaintiff's morning testimony.

At one point, Harrison assured counsel that he understood the definition of an open-toed sandal and that he didn't need to know about that. At another point, as the two men squabbled about the route from one of the project's suppliers to Vuagniaux's son's residence, Harrison threw up his hands.

"Gentlemen, does this really matter?" he asked. "Not to be mean but … don't ask him the same question again."

Vuagniaux and Horvath were the only two witnesses set to testify at the Tuesday trial.

The other defendants in the case – who were involved due to mechanics' liens – were not part of the trial.

Horvath is represented by Todd Sivia of Edwardsville.

The case is Madison case number 08-CH-247.

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