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Judge reopens contractor payment lawsuit (UPDATE)

By: Beth Kevit, [email protected]//August 9, 2012

Judge reopens contractor payment lawsuit (UPDATE)

By: Beth Kevit, [email protected]//August 9, 2012

A judge has reopened a lawsuit over payment for renovations at One Sports Lounge in Milwaukee after agreeing with the defense attorney that her client’s response was lost in the mail.

A default judgment had been granted to the contractor, Hickorybridge Construction LLC, Milwaukee, after Milwaukee County Circuit Judge John Siefert determined One Sports Lounge did not file a timely response in the case.

But Verona Swanigan, who represents One Sports Lounge, motioned to reopen the case.

On Thursday, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Daniel Noonan considered a torn, dirty envelope addressed to the circuit court and heard Swanigan’s assertion that lounge owner Eric Mahoney sent that letter to Siefert on April 12. The letter was filed by the court May 14.

Work done by a contractor at One Sports Lounge, 1007 Old World Third St., Milwaukee, is once again the subject of a lawsuit. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Christopher Nyenhuis, who represents Hickorybridge, argued the timing of the letter wasn’t as important as who sent it. Mahoney, Nyenhuis said, was not qualified to respond to the allegations against One Sports Lounge because a corporation must be represented in court by an attorney.

Nyenhuis cited Mahoney’s involvement in a different lawsuit filed by John Hinkel Building LLC, Milwaukee. In that case, a judge told Mahoney he could not appear for One Sports Lounge in court, Nyenhuis said.

“I would argue,” he said, “that a letter filed with a court isn’t really an answer.”

An answer should come in the form of a legal document from an attorney, Nyenhuis said.

That might warrant an admonishment from the court, Swanigan said, but not a default judgment.

Noonan’s acceptance of Swanigan’s explanation means the case will proceed over the payment of more than $38,000.

“It’s not such a serious mistake as to warrant a default judgment,” Noonan said. “All I need to know is he tried to answer. He did that.”

Hickorybridge asserts it is owed the money for renovations done at the lounge between Oct. 15, 2010, and Jan. 25, 2011. Mahoney and Swanigan argue that Hickorybridge’s owner, Eric Stelske, was part of an investment group assembled before the lounge opened.

“None of the other investors have been paid back,” Swanigan said after the hearing Thursday. “And none of them have demanded payment.”

Stelske and his attorneys deny that claim. Stelske said Hickorybridge performed a few other jobs for Mahoney, but the business relationship did not include investing in the lounge.

After the hearing, Swanigan said she plans to motion for summary judgment in the case.

A scheduling conference has been set for Sept. 13.


Should Justice Protasiewicz recuse herself on gerrymandering cases that go before the Wisconsin Supreme Court?

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