Despite reportedly facing $135 million in liabilities stemming from numerous lawsuits filed against him, disgraced U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong recently stated in an interview:
“I’m committing to working through them,” he said of the lawsuits, “and whether it’s settling cases or whether it’s fighting some cases — because some have merit, some don’t. But I’m committed to the process and that’s probably as much as I would and could say about it. That’s a tricky area there.”
Mr. Armstrong, you are correct – it is a “tricky area”. Given the financial troubles you are now facing, I humbly offer some free legal advice: NEVER voluntarily and publicly state that any lawsuit against you has “merit.”
I don’t care if deep down inside you think it might. I don’t care if the whole world thinks it does. Even if you have been caught dead to rights, if you are not legally required to do so, do NOT voluntarily admit that a lawsuit filed against you has “merit.”
Your “merit” statement can and will be used against you. Expect to be repeatedly asked the same set of questions about your “merit” statement at your upcoming depositions, including: (1) “Which specific cases have merit, and which do not?”; (2) “Does my client’s case have merit?”; (3) “Why do you consider the other cases meritorious, but not my client’s?”; and (4) “For those cases that have merit how much are you offering to settle them for?”
Imagine then the lawyers from the various lawsuits exchanging copies of their respective deposition transcripts to see if you admitted in another deposition that their case had merit. Strap on your trusty bike helmet – it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Finally, remember that litigation, like the Tour de France, has many “stages.” As you noted, one such stage involves settlement discussions. Settlement discussions are negotiations. To negotiate successfully one must fully utilize whatever “leverage” one has. In broad strokes you telegraphed your legal strategy, and admitted some claims have merit. Some of your leverage just disappeared faster than you did down the French mountainside.
Mitchell W. Quick, Attorney/Partner
Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
100 E. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202