Finger Lickin Goodness. $20 Million Worth?

A woman is reportedly demanding $20 million in compensation from KFC after claiming she found her bucket of chicken to be half-full.

 Yes, According to the Evening Standard, who tweeted its report based upon a story in the New York Post, – so,  very much at third hand at least, I bring you :-

Anna Wurtzburger, 64, accused KFC of false advertising, complaining that her $20 bucket of chicken looked nothing like the ones advertised.

She told the New York Post: “I came home and said, ‘Where’s the chicken?’ I thought I was going to have a couple of meals.

“They say it feeds the whole family….They’re showing a bucket that’s overflowing with chicken. You get half a bucket! That’s false advertising, and it doesn’t feed the whole family. They’re small pieces!”

Ms Wurtzburger who is retired and lives in New York State, said the meal was supposed to be a treat and was so disappointed that she decided to complain.

But when she phoned up KFC’s HQ they told her the chicken was shown overflowing from the bucket in the adverts “so that the public could see the chicken.”

Ms Wurtzburger replied that: “If you want to the public to look at your chicken, put it in a dish” she said. “It’s a lot of B******t – I expect to get what you’re telling me.” [What can she have said? Birdnest? Buckshot?]

Ms Wurtzburger has since hired a lawyer, demanding $20 million in damages.

Not sure what to say about this, especially since the case is in America, and anyway it’s one thing to shout numbers like $20 million to newspaper reporters, another to get a Jury to agree with you.

In England punitive damages are not so much of a thing as in USA, certainly not in contract cases.

However the concept of an award in damages as a punishment, rather than as compensation, did first appear in England, The earliest case I have identified is link here from 1763. A jobbing printer had been arrested by the King’s messenger upon a defective warrant.

Although the period of his detention was only some six hours, and he was fed with beefsteaks and beer [but no KFC] and “was used very civilly”, still the jury had awarded him to be paid £315.00.

Certainly this sum was not the amount calculated exactly to financially reimburse him for the loss of six hours of freedom. The man only earned a Guinea [One pound one shilling, now One pound and five pence] per week so three shillings and sixpence = 17 pence would have done that.

Three hundred Guineas was therefore about as much as he would expect to earn in nearly six years, a huge amount. Still under $20 million, mind.

But the appeal Judge said the action of the Bailiff in making this false arrest bore all the hallmarks of the Spanish Inquisition, “under which no Englishman would wish to live an hour” and that the Court’s respect for the Law and also Magna Carta’s repugnance to “Arbitrary Power” entirely justified the award.

So, Ms Wurtzburger has that history behind her, I suppose.

One point that it does occur to me to mention, is the sense of frustration I feel that the tale does not relate to MacDonald’s. [Other purveyors of beef patty are available]

Then the headline could have been, “That vas the vurst Burger I ever ate” – said Ms Wurtzburger.

I’ll get my coat.

A quick song – link here – and away. Do you want fries with that?

As always, whenever you require any help with Notarisations and foreign legal documents, please do not hesitate to contact me or Christopher Atkinson here at AtkinsonNotary [0113 816 0116 or notary@atkinsonnotary.com] where we shall be more than happy to assist further.

 

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House Buyers’ Blues – This Horse Won’t Stand Still.

House Buyers’ Blues – This Horse Won’t Stand Still.

The ideal to which the Law of England aspires, or used to, is to be clear and understandable. A dependable and predictable framework of rules and consequences within which we can all exist and operate.

Hmm. So last week what was going on? – As I blogged, link here , the case of “Ames” has completely turned a 360 degree spin round an earlier decision of “Ilott”.

Still, perhaps that previous case was a one-off and after all it did put us lawyers all into a bit of a flap. Because if the [now discredited?] case of Ilott -v- Mitson was really the law, it was pretty much a slap in the face for the idea that if you are an English Citizen then you are free to make the Will of your choice, even “leave it all to charity” if you want.

So now what this week? It seems to me, another 360.

I wrote a Blog in May this year about the case of PURRUNSING – link here – in which I highlighted a recent case of property theft.

As so often since the abolition of title deeds in England in 2003, this was a case where a person, who turned out to be a Crook, successfully pretended to be a genuine property owner and managed to escape with the value of a house.

In that case, the Judge heard that the “purchaser” [P] had instructed solicitors to ensure that he would become the owner of the house he was paying for, and decided that P should be reimbursed.

Clearly he [P] had placed the transaction into the hands of professionals who were charging professional fees, and yet he had received nothing for his £470,000.00. It had been stolen.

The Judge said that the solicitors involved, both those acting for P, and those unknowingly acting for the crook, must pay half each of the lost money.

So this seemed to be a warning to all Solicitors, that the Court will view them as absolutely liable to provide the service they advertise, and the intended result of those services. By the use of the word “absolutely” I mean, regardless of fault.

Again, like Ilott, this decision was seen as a pragmatic result in so far as a victim [of a cheat – or of an “unreasonable mother”] obtained compensation. But it was also seen by many as a completely unpredictable decision of the kind described by Lawyers as a “Hard case”.

And as the saying goes, it is the hard cases which result in Bad Law.

The Judge was clearly sorry for Mr Purrunsing. Mr P was not a young man and was now faced with the loss of life savings which had been accumulated after “many years of hard work … and careful management of his limited resources” and which he was investing because “his family’s welfare was of the first importance to him”.

And Yet – And Yet.

Neither set of Solicitors had been reckless or negligent in doing what Solicitors are required to do in Conveyancing matters. Everyone involved had been tricked and conned by a crook. Why should two innocent firms of Solicitors be required to provide full indemnity at their own expense, to a victim who has suffered at the hands of a criminal?

Well why indeed? Here -link here- is the recent case of P&P Property Limited. Almost identical facts – a conman impersonates a property owner, and gets away with over a million pounds paid to him by the defrauded purchaser [P&P].

To twist the knife further, the purpose of the transaction, from P&P’s point of view, was to refurbish and improve the property for sale at a profit. So when they were told they had completed and bought the place, in they went with diggers and teams of builders. By the time the fraud was discovered, their uncompleted building work had reduced the value of the house by £34,000.00 which the true owner now wanted from P&P.

OK so we know from Purrunsing what the Court would do, don’t we? The two firms of Solicitors involved must refund everyone 50-50?

Guess what, not a bit of it.

No, we now find that this time the Purchaser must bear the financial burden of the con. In essence, the Court is saying that The Buyer and the Seller [the Thief] have done a deal and the Solicitors and Estate Agents were merely putting that deal into effect. Which is no doubt a comfort for Solicitors and Estate Agents everywhere.

But is there a thread here? Surely the Law ought to be at least a little bit predictable? If it isn’t, then in what sense is there actually “a Law”? As opposed to, let’s see whether the Judge feels sorry for our client today. [Remember, when you get into Court – let’s see some real tears please]

To recap : –

Ilott. Hardworking Daughter with five kids and a disabled husband is left out of mother’s Will. Hard Case. Result – Mother’s Will must be disregarded
OK BUT:-
Ames and Jones – Excluded Daughter has a closer relationship with late father than in Ilott, but is a “Feckless daughter for whom unemployment is a lifestyle choice”. Result – No change to Father’s Will.

And
Purrunsing. Hardworking family man cheated out of life savings. Hard Case. Result – Solicitors have to get their hands in their pockets and reimburse the poor old bloke.
OK BUT:-
P&P. Property speculators cheated out of £1 million [twice as much as Purrunsing] in pretty much a repeat of the Purrunsing scenario. Result – live with it Speculators, you’ve been cheated. You speculated and you lost.

Long term, it seems to me that the Judges need to be a bit more hardnosed if the idea of jurisprudence is to decide cases on the basis of the Law, that is to say on an analysis of the facts within a clearly understood framework of rules and precedents rather than – “who do we feel most sorry for today”. Or is it just me? Because if cases are to be decided on the basis of “who is making me cry” then surely that’s the end of Jurisprudence. What’s the use of law, if no-one knows what it is?

If there is any good news about this, perhaps it is that both the recent cases of Ames, and P&P, are correctly decided and properly in line with what most Lawyers had always understood the Law to be. Each of them have now corrected the Bad Law of their respective Hard Cases.

Let’s hope that’s the case. Because otherwise we may be better off to stop bothering the Courts for Justice, and just toss a coin instead? Do you feel lucky? – song link here

And please remember, do call me or Louise here at AtkinsonNotary whenever you have business documentation for foreign countries. Our number, 0113 8160116, and emails to notary@atkinsonnotary.com. Website http://www.atkinsonnotary.com

Right To Be Forgotten – Part One Million and Eleventy. Good news for Crooks?

Right To Be Forgotten – Part One Million and Eleventy. Good news for Crooks?

The phrase “The Right to be Forgotten” most usually refers to the European Courts’ series of decisions culminating with the May 2014 Ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The problem with the phrase is its inaccuracy. There is not any Right to be Forgotten, and the Court in Brussels has not created one.

What it has done, most controversially, was rule that Data Controllers [of which the largest is Google] should not maintain links to websites which give information which “permits identification of data subjects for longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the data was collected ……”

So that if a newspaper in 1976 publishes that Master John Smith has been convicted of theft from the school tuck shop, it might be “unnecessary” for Google in 2016 to maintain a link to that article and thereby cause embarrassment for Mr John Smith – now a respected business man – applying for membership of a London Club, or whatever.

Above all, the directive does not require that all prints of the 1976 newspaper should be tracked down and burnt. So there will still be a copy on the newspaper’s archives. But without the Google link, it will be much harder to find.

Perhaps the Court thought its ruling would lead back to the situation before the internet; where the really important stuff would still be remembered, but where records of silly misbehaviour could gradually be allowed to fade away.

I think that the British House of Lords was to be applauded for its report link here in which it described the decision as variously “unworkable” and “wrong in principle” and also that in its subsequent treatment of the Court ruling the Council of Europe is “Profoundly in Error”. Which is to say, that the Council being faced with the Court’s clear interpretation of the Law as it then stood, should have immediately set about changing the Law to something sensible.

Hopefully after a Brexit the British Government can implement the various recommendations of the House of Lords report.

But don’t hold your breath. The likelihood is, it will not and will instead move further in the other direction, if the recent report of Companies House is any indicator.

Companies House is an arm of Government, being an Executive Agency of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills until June 2016. Now of course as we all know, it is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. [George Orwell, where are you now. Ministry of Love, anyone?]

It appears that Companies House has received around 2200 complaints since 2014 from persons whose records on the database show that they were Directors of Companies which went into Dissolution or Administration or Liquidation. Their complaint is that to maintain this information on the Database is to show them in a bad light which is not deserved.

It is of course true that Companies can fail for market reasons which do not involve any particular bad judgement, still less dishonesty.

And Companies can outlive their purpose. Sometimes the Directors just stop, and decide to do something else.

However, given that there are well over two and a half million Companies either dissolved, in dissolution or in insolvency on the present records and most of them will have had several Directors, it seems to me that 2200 complaints is a trivial number and should be too trivial for Companies House to take notice of.

And yet in its report – link here – the news is given that it will “Look Again” at the question of how data is handled, relating to dissolved Companies.

The suggestion, according to most Newspapers, is that what is being considered is a blanket cut off – deletion – of information once a Company has been in dissolution for six years.

May I ask, to what advantage? Unlike the “Right to Forget” which is about deleting the Google Links to the information, this proposal is about deleting the actual information itself. From a Public Registry. With not the slightest attempt to distinguish between the behaviour of honest Directors, and those many fraudsters and crooks and incompetents whose names certainly lurk in this data.

There is no suggestion that the names of Directors who have traded their Companies into failure and done so time after time, should be excluded from deletion.

What is the balance of benefit here? Six years on and the record is clear? Really? [Oh the war’s been over a long time, let’s forgive and forget, all friends now aren’t we]

Where is the public interest in that? And where indeed is the National Interest? If Brexit is really happening, the Country relies more than ever upon being perceived around the world as the place where honest business can be done, where everything is open, transparent, free from bribery and graft and con men and predators in business suits.

So leave the Companies House registers alone, would be my view. What do you think? There is to be a Public Consultation, apparently. Hopefully, Google will be allowed to have a link to it. Or we might just be forced to forget all about it.

Cue for a memorable song don’t you forget about me

And on the subject of not forgetting, please do remember to call me or Louise here at AtkinsonNotary whenever you have business documentation for foreign countries. Our number, 0113 8160116, and emails to notary@atkinsonnotary.com. Website http://www.atkinsonnotary.com

Please Can The Law Stop Moving, It’s Making Me Dizzy. Wills And New Cases.

Please can the Law stop moving, it’s making me dizzy. Wills and New Cases.

In many of my Blogs over the years, I have tried to emphasise the importance of making your Will.

And that was my advice in spite of the recent case of Ilott v Mitson link here – the case where a Mother left a fortune to animal charities and nothing to her Daughter.

And the Judge overturned it. Because the Mother was unreasonable, according the judge.

This was a case where Mother’s Will was properly made, prepared by her lawyers. Mother had thought about its terms and her Will accurately reflected her clear wishes. A case where Mother and Daughter had been estranged for years. The Mother had not been making any financial provision for the Daughter during her lifetime.

So I don’t think many lawyers would have predicted the outcome of the case: that the charities would lose the legacy, and the daughter would take a very substantial share of her late Mother’s wealth.

And even if Mother was indeed unreasonable in writing her Will in those terms, well, durr.

Lawyers have been making money out of old ladies bearing grudges for about as long as there have been Lawyers and old ladies. – (“Right, that’s you out of my Will – I’m off to see my Solicitor in the morning”). Perhaps it’s the only fun they get.

But anyway in Ilott, the Mother was not being capricious, she was not changing her Will every week. She had fallen out with her daughter twenty six years before her death, they had been estranged throughout that time, and Daughter had been told very clearly that nothing would be left to her in the Will when her Mother died.

So there’s that, in July 2015.

And this month? The case of Ames v Jones link here

In this case Father also left a Will which excluded his daughter from any benefit. He did not leave his estate to animal charities, but to his wife who is the step-mother of his daughter.

So we know what the Court will do, don’t we? Especially since Father and daughter were not estranged for twenty six years. Indeed, Father had been providing some financial assistance for his Daughter during his lifetime.

So, following Ilott, Daughter got a share of the Estate. Yes?

Not even a bit of it.

In the Ames case the daughter received nothing and now has to pay her own Solicitors (£47,000.00) plus her step-mother’s Solicitors (possibly some £85,000.00).

Why the difference between these two cases?

I think, if I may say so, that the Judges in the two cases felt very differently about the Daughters they were dealing with.

In Ilott, the daughter lived in “straitened circumstances”. She had brought up five children, two of whom were still dependent upon her. Her husband is disabled. She “had never had a holiday, had difficulty affording clothes for the children and was limited in the food she could buy and much of what she had was old or second-hand”.

She gave her evidence in a credible way.

The choice before the Judge was effectively, who gets the money, between her and animal charities? [Bear in mind, the Mother “had no connection with the Charities during her lifetime”.]

Contrast the Ames case – the daughter is described by the Judge:-

1. Danielle was an unsatisfactory witness whom I found to be unreliable. I have concluded that I cannot accept any of her evidence unless it is either independently corroborated or is inherently probable.
2. The aspects of her evidence which I found to be particularly unsatisfactory were that:
3. (1) She repeatedly blamed her solicitor for errors (some of them serious) in her witness statement and for the failure to produce documents which she claimed helped her case. She also blamed ….[..her partner …].. for inconsistencies between her evidence and the financial documents on which her case was based, saying that she relied on him to deal with these financial issues. However, he was not called as a witness.
4. (2) She repeatedly failed to give straightforward answers to questions. I make some allowance for the fact that some of the questions in cross-examination were very lengthy and were in substance submissions to the court, followed by a question mark, but that cannot excuse all the instances of this. I was left with the impression that her main aim in giving evidence was not to assist the court by answering the questions to the best of her ability, but to assist her case by getting across the points she wanted to make. She was not above inventing or embellishing facts if she could see no other way of sticking to her story in the face of other evidence.

Also, in this case the destination of the money was a choice between the unreliable daughter and her sympathetic stepmother, who is unwell and past retirement age.

The Judge concluded – “ [The Daughter] ..is capable of working and has failed to discharge the burden of proving that she is unable to obtain work. I conclude that her lack of employment is a lifestyle choice. That alone is sufficient to defeat her claim”.

I suspect he means – “a lifestyle choice of which I the Judge disapprove”. Per the Ilott case, is having five children not also a lifestyle choice likely to bring financial hardship? Albeit a choice more likely to meet with a Judge’s [and public] approval?

So where are we now?

One daughter, estranged from Mother for 26 years, who learned to manage for herself without any parental support, is awarded a very substantial payment and the Will terms are radically changed. Animal charity gets nothing.

One daughter, not estranged from father, who has [successfully] relied upon him during his life for occasional financial support – is awarded nothing and is faced with a truly whopping payment of legal costs. Step-mother gets the lot. Yes, she needs it, but so did the animals in the charities.

What I do think, and I have said before, is that hard cases make bad law. Ilott was a hard case. The Judge had sympathy and overwrote a perfectly clear Will. But I respectfully submit, it was Bad Law.

The solicitors acting for the daughter in Ames, have read Ilott. They may have thought – Oh Ho, so that’s what the Law is now is it? Go Ahead Daughters – pile in and fill your boots.  But – Oops.

For those of us watching from the sidelines, may I suggest that the case of Ames is a better precedent for anyone thinking of challenging their late Parent’s Will?

Here’s that song Where are we now

As ever, please do call me or Louise here at AtkinsonNotary whenever you have business documentation for foreign countries. Our number, 0113 8160116, and emails to notary@atkinsonnotary.com.