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Archive for November, 2013

I return to reasonably sane health after cracking my spine in a daft accident while shaving.  I tripped on a bathmat and fell backwards into the bath.  It ‘took me out’ for nigh on three months – but I do get to walk about with a hi-tech walking stick, so not all doom.

There is much to comment on – so this post may be a long one.

A commenter on my blog calling himself ‘Barrister Bill’ managed to irritate me  (Not an easy thing to do) with an inane comment on a guest blog post.

It would appear that he did / does not understand the meaning of the phrase ‘Guest Post’. I had to advise him that he may be better served by attending a UKIP rally if he wishes to vent his spleen, rather than doing so in the comments section of my blog.  It may be, however, that ‘Barrister Bill’ did not have enough work to keep him occupied – giving him time to do a bit of inane spleen venting on a law blog.

The guest post in question which ‘Barrister Bill’ objected to is in the link which follows – for his rude comment and my reply to same – here is the link:

I have found, in general, that a bit of courtesy goes a long way.  Trolling on twitter or blogs is not a good way to move forward in life?

And so to further matters surreal: 

Alex Aldridge over at Legal Cheek (always worth a read) has been on great form of late with some marvellous stuff… a selection for your delight and delectation if you do not already follow his blog…

Solicitor-at-top-corporate-firm-is-flogging-gdl-and-lpc-notes-to-hard-up-students/

Undercover-audio-oxford-uni-law-student-admits-plan-to-cheat-in-union-election/

VIDEO: USING RACISM TO PROMOTE YOUR LAW FIRM

And now to something less surreal…. arguably….

Why Chris Grayling should bury his appeal against Richard III ruling
Joshua Rozenberg

“Justice secretary has hypocritically accused Plantagenet Alliance of wasting taxpayers’ money in their fight for a consultation over late king’s reinterment site”

I enjoyed my time at Leicester.  I hope that Leicester gets to keep Richard III – finders keepers seems perfectly reasonable to me?

While I was recovering from the spinal injury, I was able to read Tweets.   It may be that I am imagining it – but has Twitter become rather nasty, at times, of late?

But..on the good side, a QC who is doing a lot of good – and he’s on t’telly.

I have been enjoying Gary Bell’s television appearances on BBC, assisting the wronged and putting across the good side of the legal world.

Gary Bell is the real rudest man in Britain – and he’s on your side

James Delingpole writes in The Spectator.  “His family were panicked about The Legalizer. You can see why. But you’ll love him…”
Back soon with another ‘Postcard From The Bunker’..maybe even later tonight, depending on how the mood takes me….
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Laying Down the Law: A Brief Look at Some Unorthodox and Outlandish Lawsuits

Unless you’ve been absent from the earth these last two decades, you’ve probably caught wind of some of the amazing and oftentimes ridiculous lawsuits that have been filed by cranky litigants.

Beyond the now infamous McDonald’s coffee spill lawsuit, there are many other tales of the legal unexpected that have come to light over the years through diligent media reporting.

Imagine suing your university because you couldn’t get employment with your degree, or suing yourself and asking the state to front your payment! Read on to find out about the lawsuits arising from coffee spills to beer ads.

1. Beer Catastrophe 

Plenty of beer ads show men enjoying themselves in stereotypically masculine ways, often on the beach and often surrounded by women.

What most people would readily concede is that these ads aren’t representative of reality, and that most male beer-drinkers do not automatically end up on a beach, flanked by women.

In 1991, Richard Overton sued company Anheuser-Busch, claiming that their ads misleadingly implied drinking beer would lead to a man having fun with multiple women.

His claim rested on the grounds that he had suffered emotional distress, mental injury and financial loss from the deceptive advertisement. Unsurprisingly, his case was dismissed.

2. Namesake Controversy

When Robert Craft changed his name to ‘Jack Ass’ in 1997 as part of an effort to raise awareness about drunk driving, you could be forgiven for questioning his sensibleness and decision-making skills.

But when, three years later, he sued Viacom for putting on the hugely successful MTV show Jackass, it seems that all his sense went flying out the window.

Claiming that he had suffered emotional injuries and defamation as a result of the show and its content, one might wonder if a lot of the defamation and injury Craft suffered occurred prior to the show and was a result of his own name change!

3. Michael Jordan Doppelganger Disaster

If you thought you’d heard it all, you certainly haven’t. In 2006 Allen Heckard sued Michael Jordan on the grounds that he had suffered emotional distress and injury from being physically reminiscent of the basketball star.

Claiming that people all around the areas he frequented accosted him, and that his basketball playing style was constantly compared to Jordan’s, Heckard demanded that Jordan pay him $416 million dollars in damages for the stress of being compared to the star.

In a bizarre dimension to the story, Heckard apparently wore Nike Air shoes, the same as the kind worn by Jordan, yet thought it was unfair that people were comparing the two.

With little prospects in the complaint and the monumental amount claimed in damages, Heckard was eventually convinced to drop the suit.

4. Finger Trouble at Wendy’s

In an unpleasant lawsuit that later turned into a fraud investigation, Anna Ayala sued fast food giant Wendy’s on the grounds that she bit into a one and a half inch finger while consuming a meal.Later tests revealed that while the object was indeed a finger, it didn’t show any trace of the litigant’s saliva and, although it appeared in a cooked meal, did not appear to have been heated in any way.

Ultimately it turned out that Ayala had planted the finger in her food, and had gotten it from a co-worker who sold it to her husband after losing it in a work accident.

So what started out as a seemingly legitimate claim turned into a criminal investigation, with Ayala sentenced to nine years prison and her husband to 12 years for his role in the scam.

5. Judge Rages at Laundromat

In what could be called a case of ‘should’ve known better’, a judge relentlessly pursued tens of millions of dollars in damages against a dry-cleaners in Washington DC for misplacing his pants.

The judge claimed that since the pants were missing, the store failed to fulfill its contractual undertaking to provide ‘same day service’ and its guarantee of ‘customer satisfaction’, meaning that it was liable for breach of contract.

Ultimately the case was thrown out of court, but not before the judge lost his job for acting in a manner not befitting his role, and the laundry storeowners had to close two of their three shops to cover their legal costs.

6. Suing Yourself

In 1995 a prison inmate in Virginia sued himself for having consumed alcohol and therefore abrogated his own religious obligations. Since he was penniless, the inmate requested that the state go as his guarantor and pay him five million dollars on behalf of himself for ‘violation’ of his religious beliefs’.

Of course as you could guess the case was thrown out, but the judge in court seemed impressed with his unorthodox approach to the concept of suing in general, and gave him written kudos for this.

7. Stella Liebeck

Last but not least, we have Stella Liebeck and the case of the spilled boiling coffee.

In 1992 Liebeck was driving in her car when she spilled a cup of McDonald’s coffee on herself, causing third degree burns to her body that requires skin grafts to fix. Successful in her claim, Liebeck is often considered the pioneer of ludicrous lawsuits, since she ultimately received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the court.

However, the ludicrousness of her claim is subject to some debate, as McDonald’s was clearly offering potentially dangerous items to people in selling boiling coffee.

Fair or otherwise, it’s hard to say, but Stella Leibeck certainly seems to be the most justified litigant of all those we’ve just seen!

This post was done in partnership with Firths Compensation Lawyers.

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It would not surprise me if this man was, in fact, the next Dr Who… we shall, no doubt, see …..in time – if you will forgive a truly appalling pun

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I often listen to The Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 before heading for sleep.  Here is my Drinking Forecast, complete with ‘Drinking By’

listen (3-4 mins)

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Dexter Dias QC talks to me about the legal and moral issues involved in female genital mutilation and the increasing prison population in the USA and UK.

Dexter Dias QC is a member of Garden Court Chambers 

Podcast 224:  Dexter Dias QC on female genital mutilation and human rights.

Justice Brief

 

 

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PENSION SAVERS WARNED OVER INHERITANCE DISPUTES
Chorus Law

When was the last time you updated your pension documents? Have your circumstances changed since? Millions of people are being advised to regularly update the documents that contain their wishes regarding their pension.

The warning comes as it’s found that there has been a recent rise in families challenging decisions made by pension scheme trustees following a member’s death. Trustees of the scheme make the decisions, but if the savers’ intentions are not clear, it is easy to begin a dispute over who should receive assets.

This primarily involves those belonging to company pension schemes where benefits are linked to salaries. Workers in these schemes are advised to fill in an ‘expression of wish’ form to indicate who would receive the benefits if they die. This form is often filled in when people join the scheme and is often not updated if their circumstances change.

The Association of Member Nominated Trustees (AMNT) said that families are increasingly starting disputes over payments. Although trustees must take members’ wishes into account, they have no obligation to carry them out.

Barry Parr, the co-chairman of the AMNT, said: “Trustees do take into account a member’s wishes, but they have a duty to consider other potential beneficiaries, especially if the paperwork seems out-dated. Common complexities arise when pension savers remarry and fail to update their wishes – especially where children are involved in one or both of the relationships.

“It is important that members keep their wishes updated and have a current will to reduce the likelihood that decisions will be open to challenge.”

If you specifically don’t want a spouse to receive death benefits, it is advised to reinforce this clearly in a legal Will and stipulate your reasons why.

Chorus Law suggests that you consider having a Will in place in addition to your expression of wish form. For more information on Chorus Law’s services, visit www.choruslaw.co.uk.

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Is Mediation Worth Trying to Tackle a Difficult Divorce?

 Even the most amicable of splits can start to become difficult when it comes to apportioning assets and, if you have children, agreeing on access and contact. Mediation has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way of avoiding acrimonious legal proceedings. But what exactly is it and how does it work?

 The role of a mediator is to help you and your partner identify your issues of conflict and help you identify how best you can resolve them. There may be many areas of conflict where agreement needs to be reached, or disagreement could be on specific issues such as the future living arrangements for your children.

 The mediator’s role in the process is impartial. They are not able to take sides with one party against the other. Their overall purpose is to provide a framework that enables you to identify the key issues and come to a mutually acceptable solution. QualitySolicitors have really good family solicitors who can provide a mediation service and, if being in the same room is too difficult, can even offer separate sessions.

 Who is mediation suitable for?

It is now a requirement that anyone (with some exceptions) wishing to go to a family court should attend a meeting with a qualified mediator to establish whether there are any alternatives to going to court. This is because court should be used as the last resort. Agreements that come about because of court decisions do not generally work as well as those that have been made jointly and where both parties are satisfied with the decision. It is also beneficial for any children involved to see their parents cooperating with each other.

Mediation information and assessment meeting

 At this first meeting the mediator will explain to you how mediation works and whether there are other types of dispute resolution other than court that may be helpful to you. They will explain the costs of mediations vs. the cost of litigation, assess whether mediation is appropriate for your case and, if so, whether you will qualify for Legal Aid. They will then contact your partner and have the same discussion with them.

If mediation is appropriate and you decide to go ahead with it, future meetings will take place where you will work on communication, agree the arrangements for children and deal with financial disagreements. Once you have are both happy with the proposals, the mediator will draw up an agreement that you should take legal advice on and, once signed, it will become legally binding.

It is important to remember that mediation is voluntary and there can be circumstances where it is not appropriate, for example, in situations where there has been serious domestic violence or inequality of power within a relationship. In most other circumstances however, the Court does expect you to find out about mediation before applying to them and, if you don’t, they can put your case on hold until you do so.

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