Saying that the situation "is way out of control," Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone on Friday ordered the parties in the latest legal skirmish stemming from a nearly 10-year-old dispute over a home entertainment system to try to work out their differences through a mediator.
Susan Hardy and a limited liability company she owns called Clay Avenue LLC, in a lawsuit filed in August, accuse attorney Thomas D. Bullock, his law firm and his clients, Lexington cardiologist Dermot Halpin and his ex-wife, Hillary Halpin, of wrongful use of civil proceedings, malicious prosecution and abuse of process.
The fight began in 2003 after the Halpins bought a home entertainment system from Susan Hardy's husband, Bill Hardy, and his home electronics business, for more than $43,000. The Halpins claimed that the system was defective and the system's TV set was not high definition, as they'd been told. The Halpins sued.
Susan Hardy, in the latest lawsuit, says she has been harassed and forced to defend herself against fraud allegations, in spite of the fact she had nothing to do with the sale of the entertainment system or the business once owned by her husband.
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Susan Hardy became a part of the legal battle after a circuit court jury reached a decision that went against her husband. After that decision, Susan and Bill Hardy, on the advice of an attorney, put Bill Hardy's assets in Susan Hardy's name or the name of the limited liability company she owns, with Susan Hardy purchasing her husband's interest in the assets.
The Halpins claimed that the transactions were fraudulent and an attempt to hide assets to avoid paying a legal judgment.
Since then, there has been a second jury trial — the judgment on the first jury trial was reversed by the state court of appeals — concerning the home entertainment system, in which Bill Hardy was also on the losing end. Parts of the fight between the Hardys and the Halpins have also gone not only to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, but the Kentucky Supreme Court, as well. The Hardys and the Halpins are also battling in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Lexington, where the Hardys have filed for bankruptcy.
Attorneys involved in the fight between the Hardys and the Halpins have sought hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees — several times the cost of the home entertainment system.
Scorsone said Friday that he didn't want any more expenses incurred, other than mediation costs.
Mediation is not binding.