Surprise Litigation

The crazy litigation bug has migrated to this country from the US. From the Daily Telegraph:

A home owner is being threatened with legal action after a woman claimed she trapped her hand in his letterbox while delivering unwanted junk mail. Joy Goodman, a cake decorator, is seeking damages for personal injury and loss of earnings, claiming the top of her right index finger was severed when she delivered the mail. She claims she needs compensation because she is now unable to carry out her intricate job.

But the home owner vowed to fight the case. Paul O’Brien, 44, a self-employed engineer from Leeds, said: “When I received a solicitor’s letter I thought someone was having a laugh. I actually told them they had sent it early. April Fool’s Day is still six weeks away.

“I just cannot believe someone who came on to my property uninvited, to put junk mail through my door that I didn’t want, can now sue me because they hurt themselves.”

Mrs Goodman declined to comment, saying only: “It is in the hands of my solicitors.”

A law expert said that householders had limited duties of care to people who went on to their property such as delivery people or postmen.

These duties of care include not having such things as bare electricity cables sticking out, but were not likely to extend to a letterbox providing it was a standard model.

Everyone Must Pay

I feel very bad for Mrs A. She was raped 19 years ago by a despicable man, Iorworth Hoare. He went to prison and she only got £5,000 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.  The six-year statute of limitations for pursuing a civil claim for damages passed.

Then, as if just to prove the Jesus’ words that the Father “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,”Hoare won £7 million on the lottery. Mrs A saw a chance to cash in. I don’t blame her – she has a moral edge on most of those who attempt to tap lottery winners. She was wronged by him in a most terrible way. But that doesn’t mean he should have to pay.

Statutes of limitations are there for a reason. Iorworth Hoare has paid for his crime with the irreplaceable commodity of his time. Whether you agree that his sentence was sufficient, it was passed by a lawfully appointed judge of competent jurisdiction. If any other claim is not brought in a timely manner, he has the right to move on with his life.

There is also a public policy reason the contrary decision by the House of Lords is bad. Delivered in a social and political climate that sex crimes are not the same as any other crimes, it opens the floodgates for more litigation against any  possible or potential defendant at any time during the life of the plaintiff. The law lords specifically included child sex abuse claims with adult rape claims. One of the victorious co-plaintiffs in appeal is someone who was abused in 1977.  His solicitor estimated that there could be as many as 6,000 cases already underway, waiting for this favourable ruling.

This is going to have an massive impact on the public purse. Every local authority is going to be hit by claims from any former child who suffered any sort of abuse while in social care. Not only that, but they will also be hit by suits from people who start to “remember” that they were abused, even though the putative abusers may be long dead, because there is always a legal successor to any government entity and it is funded by the taxpayer. Talk about hitting the lottery.