Sun | May 28, 2017

Lawsuits and tight thongs

Published:Saturday | June 13, 2015 | 6:00 AMTony Deyal

Earlier this week, I saw the Trinidad and Tobago Senate discussing the management and better legislation of gambling, and it took me back to the old days when we took a chance to play rummy under the neighbourhood street lamp and police raided.

Everybody ran, but someone I knew only as 'Broko', because he had a leg injury that forced him to hobble along on a crutch. The police grabbed him, hit him a couple blows with a 'bull pizzle', threw him into the van, and took him to the station. Next day he appeared before a magistrate, but by that time, his mother had secured a lawyer, so that when the charge was read, the lawyer objected and the case was dismissed.

The laws of Trinidad and Tobago make it clear that "all persons found at any time gambling, or assembled together for such purpose in any public or open place are liable on summary conviction to a fine of $750 or to imprisonment for six months." The police had charged Broko with 'assembling', and, as his lawyer pointed out, Broko was the only person charged, and one man by himself cannot assemble for any purpose whatsoever. They had to Lego him.

While some police charges are ridiculous, some lawsuits I have read about recently are even worse. A surfer recently sued another surfer for 'taking his wave'. The case was ultimately dismissed because the jury was unable to put a price on 'pain and suffering' endured by watching someone ride the wave that was 'intended for you'. Someone clearly swallowed or inhaled too much seawater. A man who previously changed his name to 'Jack Ass' sued media giant Viacom, saying the MTV show 'Jackass' plagiarised his name.

Organisers of an Olympic event were ordered to pay damages to a man who missed the event because of heavy traffic. In Japan, a court ordered the organisers of the Nagano Winter Olympics to pay damages for mental anguish to a spectator who was delayed by heavy traffic.

Had I known about this before, I would have sued both the Trinidad government and the organisers of a one-day match between the West Indies and Australia because both the Water Authority and the Works Department chose to dig up the road on the same morning that the match was due to start. But then the judge would have ruled that instead of compensation for me, I should have compensated for the time delay, because the road works and resulting traffic jams were, in those days, daily events in Trinidad.

Butterfly effect

When I was young, there was a calypso with the chorus, "The weatherman lying ... ." Now, even though we know that there is a 'chaos' effect, which could be triggered by a butterfly's wings somewhere in the air in Australia and cause all weather predictions to fail, a woman in Israel is suing a TV station and its weatherman for $1,000 after he predicted a sunny day and it rained. The woman claims the forecast caused her to leave home lightly dressed. As a result, she caught the flu, missed four days of work, spent $38 on medication and suffered stress. I kept wondering if that was stressful, how much she would sue Hamas for?

Even more inaccurate than a weatherman's predictions is a clumsy, visually impaired person. A minister and his wife sued a guide-dog school for $160,000 after a blind man learning to use a seeing-eye dog stepped on the woman's toe. She sought $80,000 for medical bills, pain and suffering, humiliation and disability. Her husband sought the same amount for loss of his wife's care, comfort and consortium. I particularly like the word 'consortium' since it sounds like a group thing.

The one that takes the fruitcake and the nuts is the strange case of a woman who was banned from selling plots on the sun on eBay but has now won the right to take the auction site to court. Maria Duran has been claiming ownership of part of the star since 2010 when she threatened to bill solar power users.

SKY news reported that the woman registered the star in her name at a notary office in Spain before opening an eBay account selling square-metre plots for one euro each. Two years later, eBay pulled her listings, saying they violated its intangible goods policy, and her account was blocked. She threatened to sue, and a Spanish court has recognised her claim.

Rejected settlement offer

A trial will take place next month, with Ms Duran demanding around £7,500 for payments she says she has not received. Apart from the suspicion that the judge must have been suffering from sunstroke is the news that Ms Duran has rejected an attempt by eBay to settle the case out of court. Given eBay's history (one man paid for a penis enlarger and got a magnifying glass) one would think that it would be able to stand the heat and tell her, "We'll trade it for Uranus."

Since we started with the police, we should end with them (not literally, of course). In a widely reported case, Marcy Noriega, a California police officer, decided to use her taser on a suspect who was misbehaving in the back of her car. Noriega drew her taser from her belt and fired it at the man. It turned out that the officer had drawn her gun instead and shot the man in the chest. He died. The city sued the taser company, arguing that any reasonable officer could mistakenly draw and shoot their gun instead of their taser. Some guns are more intelligent than police - they carry magazines with them that tell them why they are different from tasers.

- Tony Deyal was last seen recounting the case of a 52-year-old LA traffic cop who sued Victoria's Secret for damaging her eye. She was trying on a new thong and the tight fit caused a metal clip to fly off hitting her in the eye. Clearly, this is neither a joke nor a wisecrack.