FRESNO -- On the eve of trial, legendary test pilot Gen. Charles “Chuck” Yeager and his wife reached a settlement in their five-year legal battle with a Fresno law firm.
Because the terms are confidential, it is not known who blinked first – the Yeagers or Wild, Carter & Tipton.
“The parties entered into a confidential settlement and have resolved their differences and cannot speak about the matter further,” is all attorney Marshall Whitney would say on behalf of Wild, Carter & Tipton, which sued Yeager, 91, and his 55-year-old wife, Victoria Yeager, for an unpaid bill of nearly $270,000.
Because of the settlement, the Yeagers, who countersued Wild, Carter & Tipton for legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty, declined to comment.
The settlement was reached around 4:15 p.m. Tuesday – just a few hours after a jury of eight women and six men were selected to hear evidence in the trial.
Jurors learned of the settlement Wednesday morning when they arrived at Fresno Superior Court to hear opening statements.
“I was kind of excited and looking forward to the trial,” said juror Aria Dominguez, 19, of Fresno.
Dominguez said that it was her first time on a jury and she was a perfect participant: she knew nothing about the case, or Yeager and his exploits as a World War II fighter pilot and the first man to break the sound barrier.
Tuesday, Yeager said he was ready to fight, telling potential jurors: “You look like a good bunch of guys to fight a war with.”
In an attempt to defuse Yeager’s homespun appeal, Whitney reminded the gathering: “It’s not a war. It’s a search for the truth.”
Once the jury was picked around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, settlement talks became serious.
The Yeagers, who live in Penn Valley northeast of Sacramento, were up against Fresno’s oldest law firm.
Court records say Wild, Carter & Tipton represented the couple in seven lawsuits before ending their relationship in either August or September of 2008. When the Yeagers didn’t pay for legal services, Wild, Carter & Tipton sued them in January 2009 for breach of contract.