Talk to any litigation-scarred CEO these days and you'll get a lecture on tort reform -- unless the CEO happens to be Pat Lancaster of Lantech, a $50-million manufacturer of industrial stretch-wrap machinery based in Louisville. Lancaster, who has seen his full share of litigation, says tort reform will have no effect on the greatest danger faced by litigating companies: loss of focus.
Lancaster should know. He filed his first patent-infringement suit in 1975, and he's been in court ever since. "To put this into perspective," he says, "we spend more each month on legal bills than we do on steel, and we make steel machinery." And yet, until a few years ago the biggest costs to Lantech weren't measured in dollars. "Litigation became a full-time job for me, and the consequences were devastating," says Lancaster. "I nearly lost my sanity and my company. People tried to tell me I was becoming obsessed. I just didn't hear them. Believe me, it changes you when you wake up every day for 10 years ready for warfare."
Not that he thinks companies should avoid litigating when necessary. "The real issue is who handles it. My secretary and I were, for all practical purposes, full-time lawyers. Now I delegate the handling of the litigation to a manager I really trust, and I make sure we allocate sufficient time and resources to the task."* * *