Recently, District Judge Ronald McPhillips of Toole County, Montana, ruled that James Rubow had not breached his agreement with Milan Ayers, who contended that Rubow owed him millions of dollars for improperly taking his share of a natural-gas field.
This would not be news, except that the lawsuit was filed in March 1983.
In March 1983, Ronald Reagan was president, the last episode of "M*A*S*H" had just aired, the "moonwalk" was performed for the first time (the one by Michael Jackson, not Neil Armstrong), and the big hit at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was Commodore's first portable computer, which offered buyers a full 64 kilobytes of RAM and a five-inch screen for only $995.00.
Also, Ayers v. Rubow was filed. The last entry in the clerk's register for the case was in March 1985. After that, the case languished and the court's file on it apparently disappeared.
Time passed. The Soviet Union fell. Ronald Reagan died. Michael Jackson died. People complained because the battery life of their $299 handheld phone/computer with 64 gigabytes of flash memory was not quite as long as advertised. One day, Judge McPhillips, who had retired in 1994, was doing some spring cleaning and came across an old case file. "I think he found it in an old briefcase he had at home," said his former administrative assistant, who was probably quite good but may have let things slip a bit with this particular file.
Judge McPhillips brought the file to the courthouse and asked its current occupant, District Judge Laurie McKinnon, what to do. She, in turn, asked the Montana Supreme Court what to do. The high court replied that, if the case was in "good shape," she should let Judge McPhillips go ahead and rule on it.
Was the case in good shape? Well, it was 26 years old, but luckily Judge McPhillips had taken really good notes. "He had taken very good, very copious notes on the case," said his assistant, "so it was good he was able to rule on it, and we were able to avoid a new hearing." Good for Mr. Rubow, at least, who ended up winning. Judge McPhillips ruled that he had not breached his agreement with Mr. Ayers, and the lawsuit was dismissed.
Ayers said he was not yet sure whether he would appeal. If he does, he might want to have an explanation ready as to why he forgot about a multi-million-dollar lawsuit he filed in 1983.
Link: AP via Yahoo! News