Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Be?
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”
I can quote from Shakespeare with the best of you – provided I have a wi-fi link of course.
Leaving aside the final phrase, in line with the behaviour of governments and car purchasers everywhere, the first two lines sing to us loud and clear from four hundred years ago.
But as the case of Lejonvarn discussed below reminds us, never mind merely not lending. Also, giving gifts can result in a nasty bite.
In these frightening virus times we are mindful of others, and property adjusted people are wanting to help. Far be it from me to dissuade you. But just be aware that the true rewards for generous benefactors are more often found in heaven than in this life.
Tricky business though, being a good person. As the blessed Vinnie Jones showed us, Hands-Only CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) can save lives. But he didn’t mention that it can and probably will break ribs. There are USA documented cases of folk having their lives saved, then suing their kind lifesaver.
“In case of cardiac arrest resuscitation attempts should continue until adequate spontaneous circulation is achieved or until the death of the patient is ascertained. Nevertheless, these attempts may cause considerable injuries to patients, thus increasing rescuer’s exposure to legal risk.”
So you can opt to save a life, or worry about being sued for causing bodily harm. Your call.
The case of Lejonvarn is that of a generous person who gave of her knowledge and expertise, and presumably now bitterly regrets it.
It has been described as the case that just keeps on giving, at least to those like me who write Blogs.
Eight years ago – eight long and worrying years for Mrs Lejonvarn, an Architect, since her neighbours asked her for a favour. Perhaps they asked for a “little favour”. It’s usually a little favour. The most valuable lesson a professional can learn is, it’s never little.
When you hear the phrase, run. Run as though the Devil is at your heels.
Mrs Lejonvarn was too kind, or naive, to run away when her (then) friends Mr and Mrs Burgess asked for the little favour of assisting with proposed landscaping works to their large garden and grounds.
She did some preparatory work for them, free of charge. Works continued after she had left the project to the contractors and workmen on site.
The original case of Lejonvarn was the subject of a blog I wrote in 2016 – link here-
And the 2016 case report is – link here-
But in 2016 all that was decided was a question of law – whether Mrs L, who was not being paid, could be negligent in performing tasks out of the goodness of her heart, so that she could be made to pay compensation if things went wrong.
Well I think, I could have told her the answer to that. It is “Yes”. Of course, you have to be just as careful when you are working for nothing as when you are getting well paid. Next question? So round one to the Burgesses. But all that Court hearing decided was that it is possible to sue someone for bad work, whether or not you are paying them. It did not actually look at the quality of the work.
The case then moved to a final decision on the work itself, and I blogged about that in 2019 – link here-
And the Law Report of that second and deciding 2019 case is – link here-
The Judges found that Mrs Lejonvarn had no contract with the Burgesses, so she was not contractually responsible for their losses nor under any contract liable to compensate them for what appears to be little more than rage at a disappointing outcome to their garden plans.
Not on a contractual basis.
And not on a Tort basis (negligence) either, since the Court decided that the evidence before it actually was that what Mrs Lejonvarn had done, was done well, and there was no reason for any complaint about it. If she had fallen out with the Burgesses and walked away before the work was finished, that was entirely her right, and if the works went to hell after that, it was nothing to do with her.
As I wrote in that blog, “Of course the next argy bargy will be – who pays the extremely substantial Court costs?”
Well now we know, and the decision looks at first glance to be a massive win for Mrs Lejonvarn. So hurrah for that, and you might need a heart of stone not to feel cheered up by a judgment which means that Mr and Mrs Burgess will now not only have to pay their own lawyers, but also the full amount of the fees of the lawyers for Mrs Lejonvarn – which will be around £725,000.00.
Say it quickly, but it still doesn’t help does it, it’s a fortune.
I say at first glance – because of course Mrs Lejonvarn has really won nothing except, at last, peace of mind. In order to defend herself from the outrageous claims her erstwhile friends have blighted her life with, she has incurred lawyers’ fees of £725,000.00. So of course this judgement won’t even put a penny in her own pocket, it won’t provide her with any financial compensation for years of worry: – it just means that her lawyers will get paid by the Burgesses.
However, at least it does mean that. It is an award of costs on the “indemnity basis”.
And if you are not a lawyer, you may be thinking well, that’s how it goes. There is a Court case, and the loser pays all the bills. It’s only fair.
As the lawyers know, that is not how it usually goes at all.
Usually the loser will be ordered to pay the winner’s costs – yes – but calculated according to something called the “standard basis”. Which typically means only about 60% to 75% of the actual bill if that.
A case has to be considered by the Judge to be “out of the norm” before the winner will get every penny. I suppose the idea is that rich defendants should not be able to scare away a claimant by using the most expensive lawyers and barristers and expert witnesses without themselves taking the risk of paying a substantial amount of those fees incurred even if they win.
So in the 2020 case just now decided, the issue was only -”Who should pay the Costs, And what percentage of the costs?”.
So, here is -the link- to the Law report on this year’s hearing, the one about costs
Was this case “out of the norm” so that Mr Lejonvarn should get all of her costs paid? Yes indeed. The Judge said that the Burgesses had pursued their litigation well beyond the point of any reasonable justification.
He approved the decision of the earlier Judge, that the Burgesses were not being rational, they had lost all sense of proportion, and they were blaming Mrs Lejonvarn for stuff that had “gang agley” long after she had walked away from their troublesome garden.
And this, being a case resulting from “an irrational desire for punishment”, which was unlinked to the merits of the claims themselves, “is precisely the sort of conduct which the court is likely to conclude is out of the norm”.
So the case that just keeps on giving, has given me scope to write three blogs. Surely it’s over now? And each time I have looked at it the motto has been the same – don’t do favours. No good deed goes unpunished.
That of course, is strictly legal advice. Your good heart may tell you different.
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