By William F. Pyper
(News Lansing Correspondent)
LANSING - Snickers and guffaws rather than consternation yesterday composed official reaction to news that the state is being sued for $13,000,000.
Although the suit, filed by Charles S. Abbott of Ann Arbor, in the court of claims, is a serious matter that will have to be decided by a circuit judge, the amount appears to nearly everyone in the capitol as ridiculous.
Curbstone legal opinions were to the effect that, even if plaintiff were given a judgment, the proposition would have to be placed before the legislature and that nobody could force the legislature to earmark money to pay the claim. In fact, the legislature might even get mad and abolish the court of claims which it set up in 1939 as a means by which it could be sued.
Petitioner Abbott sets forth that he was the sole owner of a process for progressive metal stamping which he made available to the prison industries in 1921. The process saved the state money and he was to get half of the saving. The $13,000,000 is what he estimates is due him. So far as can be learned, he has never received a cent.
Privately - not in his petition - he says he made the negotiations with then governor, Alex J. Groesbeck. Supposedly, whoever made the alleged promise would make claimant Abbott an excellent witness when the case goes to trial.
The state department couldn't remember Mr. Abbott or any such deal. Charles J. Deland was secretary of state at the time.
"If he gets it, the money probably will come out of state highway funds, since we deduct administrative expense from the weight tax before turning it over," joked Gus T. Hartman, deputy secretary of state.
"There of course would be the question involved as to whether anyone had the right to bind the state in such a deal," remarked Attorney-General Herbert J. Rushton somewhat dryly. "It may be sometime before he gets the money."
"We'll assign a $13,000,000 assistant to the case right away," promised R. Glen Dunn, deputy attorney-general.
It was pointed out by William T. Caughey, clerk of the court of claims, that Judge Leland W. Carr of Ingham, sitting as the claims court, had decided in favor of plaintiff a case of implied contract cited legally as Central Advertising, Inc. vs. the Michigan liquor control commission.
"The only difference," pointed out clerk Caughey, "was that the judgment in that case was $1,300 instead of $13,000,000."
By William F. Pyper