Despite my father’s formal education ending at age 16, I believe he is the smartest person I have ever known. As a young man, my father drove a truck before starting a home roofing and siding installation business in Newark, New Jersey. Around the late 1940’s, a new product came on the market – aluminum roofing and siding. My father jumped in and enlarged his small warehouse to include aluminum products.
He changed his company’s name to Bake-A-Lum, and soon did exceptionally well with aluminum products produced by Alcoa, a company today that is world-renowned.
Cliff Land, the president of Alcoa, came to visit my father. The two men spent the entire day getting to know, like and trust each other and shook hands on an agreement. My father agreed to purchase a certain amount of Alcoa products each year with exclusive and sole rights to Alcoa’s aluminum roofing and siding products in all of New Jersey. My father bought a huge warehouse and both sides fulfilled their obligation.
Years later, Cliff Land died. Then, behind my father’s back, Alcoa quietly appointed five companies in New Jersey to compete with my father, with the potential of putting him out of business. Since there was no written agreement, Alcoa denied liability. As a young lawyer, my father asked me to file suit in a New Jersey court against Alcoa to enforce the agreement. At trial, amazingly, my father testified as to every detail of his agreement with Cliff Land. The judge ruled in favor of my father, except he awarded damages for only three years, as it was an oral agreement. We took an appeal to the Appellate Court, with the same result. My father said he wanted to appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court with the finest lawyer. By reputation, the very best was a very short, elderly lawyer from Jersey City named Glauberman.
Glauberman advised my father the odds were against him as the agreement was oral, his attorney’s fee was high, and no individual Justice may approve the case to be heard. My father knew that one member of the Supreme Court was previously the attorney for a national organization of roofers and said, “That Justice would want to hear the case.” He proved right.
Attorney Glauberman argued the case brilliantly. The verdict came in with every Justice ruling in complete favor of my father. The total oral agreement prevailed. My father, William Diamond, fought this case to a total win and he never backed off. For years, lawyers continually read and re-read the famous and important case of Bak-A-Lum vs. Alcoa.
And that, my friends, reminds me of what Babe Ruth once said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run!”