Mary Stevenson Keef never stood a chance.
She knew it. The opposing counsel knew it. Even the judge presiding over the hearing probably knew it.
After about 10 months and several out-of-court settlements, Keef, originally one of several plaintiffs suing the owners of the Velvet Cloak Inn for unfair trade practices, among other allegations, was left to fend for herself against the attorneys of David M. Smoot and his wife, Jean, in a hearing on Tuesday.
“If we had a trial, it would be an exercise in futility,” said Ronald H. Garber, one of the Smoots’ attorneys, during the calendar call Monday.
Garber was right.
Keef, a 64-year-old breast cancer survivor, didn’t have the money to hire an attorney. She hadn’t needed one. Keef had been riding on the coattails of the other plaintiffs, most of whom were represented by Raleigh attorney Henry W. Jones Jr.
One by one, the Smoots, settled out of court with all of the plaintiffs except Keef, whose two condos they are foreclosing on, pulling her legal aid out from under her.
After a painful hour and a half, during which Keef floundered helplessly against the better-prepared and obviously better trained counsel of the Smoots, Wake County Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins dismissed the suit with prejudice, preventing Keef from filing another suit of the same claim.
However, following the dismissal, no one celebrated. Nobody hugged anybody. Nobody smiled. The victory seemed shallow. But perhaps winning never truly feels good when it means the eventual eviction of an elderly woman with health problems.
“I’m not surprised,” said a disappointed Keef following the hearing. “I’ll probably end up appealing.”
Garber declined to comment about the hearing.
Following Garber’s advice, the Smoots also declined to comment. They didn’t leave the courtroom until Garber made sure Keef and her friends had left the hallway outside.