Madison - St. Clair Record

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Avocet lesson - first out of the foxhole

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By The Madison County Record | Oct 31, 2019

Anyone who’s ever been bullied knows that the victim’s first inclination is to run or capitulate. That only emboldens the bully, however, and invites more abuse.

Some victims never figure that out. Others finally get fed up and retaliate (or find themselves backed into a corner, forced to defend themselves). To their surprise, they discover that fighting back was the way to go all along.

Win or lose, they get some blows in, develop some self-respect, and win the respect of the bully as well, who shifts his focus to more easily intimidated targets.

The lessons learned on school playgrounds apply to adult life, too, where bullies abound and need to be stood up to.

After being named as a defendant without merit in hundreds of asbestos lawsuits filed in Madison County by Randy Gori, Chicago-based Avocet Enterprises fought back. Two years ago, the company’s attorney asked Madison County Associate Judge Stephen Stobbs to sanction Gori for knowingly making an evidence-free case against it. When Gori dropped the claims against Avocet and Stobbs professed to find the motion for sanctions moot, Avocet’s attorney appealed.

“The closing of a case does not have any bearing on whether sanctions should be awarded,” Avocet attorney David Chizewer wrote in his appeal brief.

“Plaintiff named Avocet without any good faith basis, intending only to harass Avocet into a decision to settle the case rather than incurring the fees and costs to defend.

“Plaintiff completely failed to provide any facts whatsoever from which one could infer that Avocet was responsible for plaintiff’s asbestos exposure.

“This failure was not an innocent oversight.”

Chizewer noted that Gori “has sued Avocet in more than 400 similar cases and … all but four of those cases resulted in dismissal without liability and without a single dollar in settlement payments.”

Avocet found that fighting back is the way to deal with bullies. In 2018, Gori named Avocet as a defendant in Madison County only once, but quickly dismissed. This year, not once.

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