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Seinfeld suit punch line: $625,000

Last Updated: June 7, 2003
Spivak & Bice

Cary Spivak and Dan Bice

Cary Spivak &
Dan Bice
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It's a whole lot less than  the $26 million that Jerold Mackenzie originally won in the celebrated Seinfeld suit.

But Mackenzie, who has since gone bankrupt, will gladly accept the $625,000 settlement that he's in line to receive from his former friend and lawyer, Gerry Boyle.

Lawyers for Boyle and Mackenzie struck an out-of-court settlement that will be filed with the courts next week, the two sides confirmed.

A pretty hefty sum, but really not all that surprising given the nature of this long-running legal brawl.

"This entire case dealt with significant sums," said Boyle's lawyer Ross Anderson.

Out of the $625,000 that Boyle's malpractice insurer has agreed to cough up, Mackenzie will probably end up pocketing between $200,000 and $250,000 after paying creditors, his lawyer said.

"That's better than a poke in the eye," said attorney John Cabaniss, who will split $208,000 in fees with a second lawyer, Christopher Hale.

Boyle made clear that he thought that his insurance company was overpaying.

"This is their decision, not mine," said Boyle, best known for representing serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and former Green Bay Packers star Mark Chmura. "I had nothing to do with it. I think you can tell from the tone in my voice that I'm not happy with it."

In 2001, Mackenzie filed suit against Boyle and co-counsel Michael Whitcomb, alleging that they kept him from settling the high-profile suit for $3 million.

The suit against Whitcomb has not been resolved, though Cabaniss said there have been some settlement talks. Whitcomb is expected to settle the case by paying less than $1,000 in expenses and dropping his counterclaim.

Mackenzie, 60, was canned by Miller Brewing in 1993, just five days after a female co-worker complained to a superior that Mackenzie offended her by discussing an episode from the TV show "Seinfeld" that included a racy gag referring to a female body part.

A jury initially awarded him $26.6 million in the employment discrimination case, but the judge lowered that sum slightly. The higher courts threw the entire award out.

In his malpractice suit, Mackenzie alleged Boyle's legal team not only gave him bad advice but screwed up a number of other times.

Specifically, the suit says Boyle was out of line for having Mackenzie put up property to secure a high-interest $400,000 loan for the two of them while the case was pending.

According to the suit, Boyle also rejected a $3 million settlement offer out of hand, saying the amount was so ridiculously low that it didn't merit a counter-offer. When the company later directly made the offer to Mackenzie, it says, the ex-exec felt he couldn't afford to accept it because nearly all of the cash would have gone to his lawyers and the loan.

The suit also detailed the heated debate between Boyle and Whitcomb over fees and work duties even as they were preparing to plead the case to the state Supreme Court.

The settlement comes after several months of negotiations and as the court was pondering a motion by Boyle to toss the lawsuit.

"It was somewhat of a game of chicken between us and them," Cabaniss said, explaining that the insurance company wanted to cap its losses while he conceded there was some chance he could lose.

Helping move matters along was Boyle's malpractice policy, which capped the insurer's total liability at $1 million, including legal fees. So, even if the matter had gone to trial and Cabaniss scored a seven-figure settlement, he would have had the chore of collecting anything over $1 million from Boyle personally.

Throughout the settlement talks, Boyle - a man used to calling the shots - was on the outside looking in, and if his mood Friday was any indication, he was not happy about it.

"Will my reputation be damaged because some lawyer found a way of producing a lawsuit and an insurance company chose to throw in the towel on it?" steamed the 67-year-old Boyle. "My reputation is going to be damaged - that's just BS."


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