Settlement Perspectives

Thoughts on how to resolve disputes and get your deal done.


Add Your PerspectiveSeptember 5, 2008

The Power to Walk Away: Do You Really Know Your Downside?

I wrote recently on The Sid Hill Rule, where “the power to negotiate is the power to walk away.”  While others may disagree, I believe there is no more important rule for any negotiator.  A corollary of this rule is that, before you decide to walk away from the negotiating table, you had better know what your downside is.  My recent search for a beach house reminded me just how hard that analysis can be.

Surfing to

One of my favorite places growing up was a tiny spot on the Florida Panhandle near Grayton Beach.  Then a destination virtually unknown, I watched a nearby idea called “Seaside” take hold and grow – by all appearances into a quaint, family-oriented community that would serve as the ideal backdrop for any American’s Fourth of July photo.

When a recent urge to take a vacation hit me I typed the logical guess “” into my browser.  I was surprised to see an In Memoriam website for one Richard I. Clayton.  Assuming I had misspelled “Seaside,” I tried to fix my error and soon discovered Mr. Clayton’s connection with the Seaside I actually wanted.

A Downside I’ll Bet No One Anticipated

The late Mr. Clayton’s former law firm maintains the site, and explains why:

We knew Rick as the owner of the Internet domain name, which he used for a web site to show his art work and to allow web site visitors to hear his musical compositions. Rick was the target of years of litigation by the Seaside Community Development Corporation, which coveted his domain name. They misused the legal system to try to take the domain name away from him, despite having no legal claim to it.

When the case ended, the Federal District Court in Florida sanctioned the Seaside Community Development Corporation for its conduct in the case. While the sanction, of many thousands of dollars, came nowhere close to compensating Rick for all that the Seaside Community Development Corporation had done to him, it represented one of the few times that a company has been sanctioned in a case of this type.

I will admit that I have no idea how this fight started, but that’s irrelevant.  The point is that I know how it ended, and everyone else who ever surfs to will, too.  Do you think anyone at my favorite beach town anticipated this downside as their fight with Mr. Clayton wore on?

By the way, if you need to get to the Seaside community’s web page, try  Just try not to think of Mr. Clayton when you do.

[February 2009 UPDATE:  The in memoriam quote above was from the website when I uploaded this post in September of 2008; a quick search in February of 2009 revealed that Mr. Clayton's site has now been replaced by a generic link site.  The only evidence I could find relating to this dispute, besides the quote above, was on Domain Name Handbook.  Hopefully Mr. Clayton's family, or the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (to whom he wanted the proceeds to go), is making plenty of money from the new site.]

Categories: Fundamentals,Negotiation,Settlement,Theory,Walk Away

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Settlement Perspectives
is the professional weblog
of John DeGroote.

I created this site to help clients and their counsel navigate the challenges that inevitably result from disputes, settlement efforts, impasse, and negotiation in general. The perspectives I bring are based on my experience, summarized in this abbreviated bio. If you have any questions or thoughts about this site, or an issue you’d like to see addressed, please email me at:


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