I read "Long Courtship" (Insider, August) with a mixture of dismay and disbelief. In light of the fact that it deals with a 23-year lawsuit that culminated in the making of new law, your coverage seemed supercilious and demeaning.
As you must know, Handgards v. Johnson & Johnson was litigated by 21 Handgards lawyers before 10 federal judges, two federal juries, and six federal appellate courts (including the United States Supreme Court). It is the longest-running case in the federal court system to date. Your statements that "Handgards may have been the real loser," and "was practically paralyzed for almost a quarter of a century" while "the battle barely affected Johnson & Johnson" are wide of the real mark, and certainly could tend to dissuade other small-business chief executive officers from exposing themselves to the awesome assets to a gigantic opponent. I would rather that other CEOs who are confronted with similar crucial decisions be able to take heart from our experience.
The focus of this story should have been that Handgards has the determination to press on with a lawsuit that the entire federal legal system ultimately found to have been litigated in bad faith by Johnson & Johnson. Further, Handgards succeeded not only in the legal, but in the business arena: Sales have grown 250%, and profits have been 500% from 1980 to 1985, with an average annual return on equity of 25% during this period.
The author replies: Handgards surely deserves a pat on the back for its persistence in fighting Johnson & Johnson, but there is more than one lesson to be drawn from the 23-year battle. It is important to point out that small businesses are at a significant disadvantage when they fight big companies in court.