Folklaw 22 July

03 March 2012 By Lawyers Weekly

A dangerous precedentOur fabulous Romanian friends have taken the bull by the horns and are suing weathermen who have repeatedly forecast rain that hasn’t arrived. Hotel and restaurant owners…

A dangerous precedent

Our fabulous Romanian friends have taken the bull by the horns and are suing weathermen who have repeatedly forecast rain that hasn’t arrived. Hotel and restaurant owners said weekly reports that the resorts would face heavy rains had hit businesses hard and left hotels in areas such as the Black Sea coast half empty. Contrary to the forecasts, the weather had been, for the most part, sunny and bright.

Nicu Popescu, the owner of a large villa compound in the Costinesti resort, said when the weather deviated so much from the forecast it was obvious there was a problem and as the seaside season was only short, the forecasts were frustrating all attempts to attract business. The case occurred just months after Ion Poiana, head of Romania’s National Meteorology Agency, was sacked by the environment ministry after he failed to predict a cold snap that left three people dead, the Black Sea frozen and reached record temperatures of minus 36 degrees Celsius.


Judge threatens free speech

A Washington State judge has ruled that on-air comments from two radio hosts promoting an anti-gas tax initiative must be considered as in-kind campaign contributions. An editorial in The Seattle Times said the decision from Judge Christopher Wickham of Thurston County Superior Court had “trodden dangerously” on the First Amendment. Wickham ruled that Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson of KVI Radio had supported the gas tax rollback initiative so enthusiastically on air that their comments amounted to advertising. Therefore, the campaign had to report their backing as a political contribution.

The campaign estimated the value of its support at $10,000 and reported the amount to the government. The Seattle Times editorial said “The judge is following a simple syllogism: ‘All political contributions may be regulated; speech is a political contribution; therefore, speech may be regulated’”. It also stated that as there is $1,838 limit per contributor on state election campaigns, if a similar situation arose during an election campaign, the broadcaster would have violated the law. The offence would be incurred simply by allowing discussion of political topics during an election campaign. Well, it is the land of the free after all.

Whos got a bad name?

Remind us again why lawyers have a bad name … oh yes, because legal firms sometimes do things like sue the Yellow Pages for giving their advertisements an inferior placing. The Arizona Republic reported that a local firm, with the slogan “Beyond Aggressive”, had paid more than US$133,840 for a full-colour ad in the Verizon Yellow Pages. When a similar cardboard ‘tab’ ad was sold to a competing firm and given a better placing in the book, attorney David Michael Cantor filed a breach of contract suit in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Lawyers Weekly Discover

The Republic stated that Verizon had offered Cantor gifts as compensation, but he was unimpressed. “They went with the adage of forgiveness rather than permission. That doesn’t work with a law firm,” he said. To be fair, he also said he had filed the suit but not served it on Verizon, and was actually hoping it would speed up negotiations with the company. “I think ultimately we will resolve it amicably,” he said.

Lawyers assure doctors

The Johnson Law Firm, an American firm with the slogan “Providing Access to Justice for the Injured Nationwide”, has assured doctors and cardiology practice groups that they will not be sued by the firm for injuries their patients may have suffered as a result of being fitted with a defective Guidant defibrillator. The firm’s founder Steven Johnson said it believed the doctors in this case were blameless. “No doctor would have knowingly installed a defective defibrillator. Only Guidant is responsible for the damage in these cases,” he said.

However, Barry Meier wrote in the New York Times on July 2 that Guidant had neglected to tell doctors “for years” that the units had repeatedly short-circuited and continued to sell “potentially flawed units out of inventory after it had started selling an improved version”. It doesn’t seem so big hearted of the firm to leave the doctors alone after all.

Exam proposal

Law student Edin Smailovic was so bored during his final year economic law exam that he stood up in the middle of the sitting and proposed to his girlfriend, Edita Bikic. Smailovic, who was sitting the exam at Bijelo Polje University in Montenegro asked permission to address the rest of the students while the exam was underway. Examiners gave the go ahead as they believed he must have a query related to the exam that was relevant to the group. Instead, he got down on one knee and popped the question. He had planned to propose after the exams while the two holidayed in Egypt, but local daily Glas Javnosti reported that Smailovic was “so bored with the paper and so excited about the prospect of getting married” he decided to ask the question immediately. Luckily, she said yes. Smailovic may have been unable to complete his exam had she refused him in front of such an audience.

Circle of life

If you are asked to wear a stack hat next time you accompany your wife into the delivery room you will know why. Steven Passalaqua fainted while his wife Jeanette was giving birth. Tragically, he fractured his skull and died two days later. The family has filed a negligence suit against the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Southern California Permanente Medical Group as a result. Folklaw thinks it is as good an excuse as any for reluctant fathers not to go into the delivery room in the first place.

Crash takes model off runway

An American federal jury recently found that aspiring model and ski instructor Sarah Walker was mostly to blame for a skiing accident that she said had “derailed her modelling career”. The Boston Globe reported that the jury refused to award her any money for her injuries. Walker had sued 16-year-old Megan Lowry for negligence after the two collided on slopes at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, New Hampshire.

Walker testified that the crash, which left her with a scar on her face and a limp, occurred when she came over a crest and collided with Lowry who was crossing the trail. She said Lowry had failed to look before crossing. However, Lowry’s brother testified that Walker had been skiing very fast and was airborne at the time of the crash. The jury found that Walker was 95 per cent at fault and Lowry was 5 per cent at fault for the incident. Folklaw gets a warm glow every time it hears of people being made accountable for their own actions!

New shoes kick start new year at Gadens

Gadens Lawyers, we have known for some time now, do things differently. For example, when giving Lawyers Weekly details of the firm’s participation in the Sydney grad fair, then staff partner Michael Bradley (now managing partner) said: “The Gadens stall will be distinctively decked out in lounge room style, designed to … remind students that the commencement of a legal career should not be (entirely) mutually exclusive with the maintenance of their former life as a couch potato. Stallholders will talk to the students provided they stay out of the way of the PlayStation screen. We promise not to detract from anyone’s enjoyment of the day by making presentations. We will only hand out showbags if we succeed in stealing them from the neighbouring stalls.”

Now managing partner Bradley seems to have maintained his quirky sense of humour, bringing it into other aspects of firm life. This month, in continuing a tradition of giving his hard-working staff a gift at the end of the financial year, he has offered a $400 voucher to spend on a new pair of shoes.

The firm’s HR department said this is the most imaginative gift to staff so far, adding that the staff would appreciate a luxurious pair of shoes. HR director Jane Skinner said she would be more than happy to offer advice to staff as to where to spend their voucher. Apparently, there are no limitations to what sort of shoes staff can buy, though it can only be one pair.

Bradley said he’d like to say the gift was symbolic, perhaps “a metaphor for the journey that staff have taken through another successful financial year. But it’s not”. No, this is just good old-fashioned materialism: “I think everyone should own at least one pair of really expensive shoes,” he said.

Londons benches calling?

While London seems to be a good place to get your legal career really going, as Lawyers Weeklys London Report revealed last week, new reforms recently outlined by the Lord Chancellor could see you able to take a place as a judge, should you fancy it.

People with as few as four GCSEs (about equivalent of our School Certificate) could become judges under reforms designed widen the judiciary net to a include a greater section of society. The reforms would create a career path “from the filing cabinet to the Bench”, The Times reported.

Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, is not impressed, and expressed immediate concern that any move to enhance judicial diversity should not threaten its quality. He accepted “increasing the pool of applicants from which the judiciary is drawn”, but argued “we must ensure that no action is taken that would undermine the high quality of the judiciary and the need for appointments to be made on the ground of merit alone,” reported The Times.

Folklaw 22 July
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