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Wow. Easy to see how sticking to your guns can escalate and land you in this bother. The law process truly is an ass sometimes (oftentimes?), and stories like this do nothing to help that image. I hope you can salvage some losses by packaging and selling
this experience in some way to as many publications as will take it. I simply don't see that if the original disputed amount was amended to your proposed number how the award of costs is valid.
As always, there's more to these cases but at face value it seems wrong.
Thanks for your supportive words. Sadly, from the perspective of any kind of faith in the system, there is no more to it than that. Clear connivance between all parties to hush-up the data loss, deny access to records, and the use the cost of the legal system
as a protection mechanism.