19.8.07

Prolog

“In Dante’s Inferno the innermost Circle of Hell, the Ninth,
where the punishments are most heinous, is reserved not for murderers
and their ilk but for those who have betrayed a trust.”


In the year 2000, in Suffolk Superior Court, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a jury awarded to two elderly women damages in the amount of $11 million, which was trebled by the court to $33 million. To put this in perspective, just three years earlier, Superior Court in Santa Monica, California awarded the same sum to the victims’ estates in the wrongful death lawsuit against OJ Simpson for the brutal killings of Ronald Goldman and Nichole Brown Simpson.

The Massachusetts case represents one of the largest awards in the state’s history (bracketed by record awards of $30 million in 1992 and $40 million in 2005 for medical malpractice resulting in massive brain injuries to newborns.) Unlike the OJ case and the medical cases, however, the lawsuit of the elderly women involved no death or physical harm; it was a contract dispute between two unknown co-authors and their tiny publisher. This action, and the numerous others springing from it involving over a dozen more defendants, mired the Massachusetts courts for a decade.

This is the story of the legal system run amok. It’s about conduct incompetent at best and unethical at worst. But most of all it is a tale of betrayals of basic sanity on many levels of the judicial system that is entrusted with meting out justice in legal disputes.

To slip too deeply into the machinations of civil litigation is to become a gnat ensnared in a web; once the process begins it may be impossible to escape. As the struggle runs its course, the pitfalls of human fallibility and institutional vagary are unforeseeable and uncontrollable. For that reason, no matter how just the merits or heroic the effort, the outcome will always be a crap-shoot.
Within this narrative lies a cautionary message for those who take lightly the phrase, “I’ll see you in court.”


If ye find not justice in the courts of law,
seek it in the court of public opinion.
- Chinese proverb

1 comment:

Tom said...

One gets reminded of the Roy Pearson case,
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/06/26/america/NA-GEN-US-$54-Million-Pants.php

The poor laundry owners won. The world laughed at the plaintiff, who thought his (real) discomfort was worth $54 million, and trusted the US justice system. But I shudder had the case been brought before the court you faced. Good luck in having this ruling overturned! With elections this year, you might be lucky.