Recently in UK Category

Deflating many a future backyard birthday party: "Parents who hire bouncy castles for a child and his or her friends could be liable for damages for any injuries suffered by the children after a landmark High Court ruling yesterday." (Times Online/Telegraph).

To borrow the summary from the highly recommended Arts & Letters Daily: "The British love their trees, but across the land beautiful old trees are being chopped down in their thousands. The reason? Safety rules and hungry lawyers... " (Michael McCarthy, "Green giants: Our love affair with trees", Independent (U.K.), Apr. 25). Earlier: Dec. 3, 2006, etc. More: Scott Greenfield says don't blame the lawyers, blame the towns and other authorities for overreacting.

At Commentary's "Contentions", Ted Bromund notes the Gilbert-and-Sullivanesque nature of the Royal Navy's fear that detaining pirates off the coast of Somalia, or denying them subsequent asylum if sought, might violate their international human rights (Apr. 18). Earlier here.

"Taxpayers have footed a £1 million compensation bill after almost 200 drug-addicted prisoners sued the Government, claiming that denying them a heroin substitute breached their human rights. The prisoners claimed that their rights were infringed when they were deprived of methadone and had to go 'cold turkey'." (Richard Ford, Times Online, Apr. 18).

Titanic sinking

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A new book contends that subpar rivets and riveting might have materially contributed to the disaster. Given the erosion of statutes of limitations, might that give rise to lawsuits, even after all this time? (Childs, Apr. 15).

Not just a problem for Penzance: "The Royal Navy, once the scourge of brigands on the high seas, has been told by the Foreign Office not to detain pirates because doing so may breach their human rights. Warships patrolling pirate-infested waters, such as those off Somalia, have been warned that there is also a risk that captured pirates could claim asylum in Britain" on the grounds that if sent back to Somalia they could face cruel punishments such as beheading or hand-chopping. (Marie Woolf, Times Online, Apr. 13).

"The owner of a fashionable hair salon today denied being a racist after turning down a headscarf-wearing Muslim who applied for a stylist's job. Sarah Desrosiers, 32, told a tribunal it was vital that all her staff show off 'flamboyant' haircuts at the Wedge salon in King's Cross. And Miss Desrosiers, from Hackney, said 19-year-old Mrs Bushra Noah's headscarf was out of keeping with the 'ultra-modern, urban, edgy and funky' style of her business. ...Mrs Noah is claiming £34,000 in compensation for religious discrimination from Miss Desrosiers, who says she faces financial ruin if she loses the case." ("'Headscarf doesn't fit our funky image' says salon owner who turned down Muslim stylist", Daily Mail, Apr. 1).

"Soldiers' families reacted angrily after it emerged the Ministry of Defence awarded £202,000 to an office employee who strained his back picking up a printer. The 'disgraceful' decision left the civil servant with a larger payout than almost all the servicemen injured in Iraq and Afghanistan." (Stephen Adams, "MoD office worker gets £200,000 payout", Telegraph, Mar. 18).

Indicating perhaps that divorcing Paul McCartney is an only slightly less remunerative affair than being Bear Stearns, even if she didn't get the claimed £125 million. (David Byers, Times Online, Mar. 17). Reader Jim T. sends along this video of Mills's press statement and describes as "hilarious" the "references of how it is 'very, very sad' that her daughter was only awarded enough travel expenses to travel 'B class' even though Heather Mills was just awarded $50 million dollars." (& welcome Above the Law readers).

Suits over slips attributed to fallen produce in grocery aisles are routine, of course, and grapes are among the most commonly named food items. The distinctive aspect of this British case seems to be the plaintiff's theory that the grape might have gotten stuck to his shoe while in the store and then caused his mishap later, in the parking lot. ("Man sues M&S for £300K over grape", BBC, Mar. 11).

More: Judge rules for defendant Marks & Spencer (BBC, Mar. 12, h/t commenter David Townsend).

Paul O'Brien of Leeds, Great Britain, says the Royal Mail letterbox in his house is just like every other one in the development and that mail carriers have had no problem using it. Still, he's being sued by cake decorator Joy Goodman, who says her finger was badly hurt when the thing snapped as she was pushing a leaflet, less charitably termed junk mail, through it; she can no longer pursue her trade. Says O'Brien: "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 she hurt herself. ... It seems like we're becoming more and more like America. Everyone wants compensation." ("Homeowner sued after woman delivering junk mail claims she injured her hand in letterbox", Daily Mail, Feb. 21).

Update: U.K. man with 40 bias suits


Does this count as number 41? A grievance filed against U.K.'s Daily Mail before Press Complaints Commission claims its account of Mr. Deman's courtroom activities, which we linked the other day, was inaccurate and violated his rights in a variety of ways; a copy of the grievance was also dropped off in our comments section.

The town of Ripon in North Yorkshire has finally canceled its Shrove Tuesday pancake race, in which school children run down a street flipping pancakes. Among the reasons cited are bureaucracy and other discouragements to volunteering, child protection rules, road closure difficulties and, most prominently, a "mountain" of needed health and safety assessments demanded by insurers: “The main issue is the cobbled street, that people could slip on," says an organizer. The event dates back 600 years and is tied to a local tradition in which native women tricked Saxon invaders with liquor-soaked pancakes. [Times Online, Guardian, Daily Mail] This BBC account explains the Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras) tradition of consuming pancakes, which use up some of the rich ingredients forbidden during the following season of Lent. See Feb. 23, 2004 (near-cancellation of similar event).

"For a decade [Suresh Deman] sued universities - usually claiming racial bias over failed job applications - as he collected nearly £200,000 in payouts and cost the taxpayer an estimated £1million". After he had brought 40 actions he was declared a vexatious litigant and banned from further proceedings, but the ban did not cover Northern Ireland and he was soon there pursuing an 11-year-old claim against the Association of University Teachers and Officers (AUT). (Chris Brooke, "Race-claims lecturer beats legal ban to carry on suing after 40 discrimination claims", Daily Mail (U.K.), Nov. 19; A Tangled Web, Nov. 19; "In the news: Suresh Deman", Times Higher Education Supplement, Mar. 21, 2003).

In Great Britain, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has required the Carnon Downs drama group in Cornwall to undertake to keep plastic and wooden swords and cutlasses locked up when not in use on stage in a traditional pantomime. The group was also obliged to register an imitation gun which ejects a flag with the word BANG. (BBC, Jan. 18). Earlier on holiday pantomime regulation: Dec. 13, 2007 (no throwing candy to audience), Sept. 14, 2004 (cultural sensitivity in portrayals of characters).

In the English countryside stiles and so-called kissing gates "have been a familiar feature of the landscape for centuries, but local authorities now believe that installing them along footpaths and rights of way is a breach of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995." ("Farms kiss goodbye to stiles and gates to allow wheelchair access", Times Online, Nov. 30). According to Wikipedia, some kissing gates are designed on a large enough scale that wheelchairs can pass through.

Christmas in old England: a roundup


Organizers of a pantomime show in Norfolk say they are forbidding the bewigged Dame from throwing sweets out to kids in the audience, a cherished part of the Christmas tradition, lest someone get bonked on the noggin and sue. ("Panto stars banned from throwing sweets into the audience in case children get hit on the head", Daily Mail, Dec. 6). To avoid an increase in its insurance premiums, a club in the West Midlands has been obliged to fit out Santa's sleigh with a seat belt ("Health and safety killjoys force Santa to wear a seatbelt in his 5mph sleigh", Daily Mail, Nov. 29). And: "The 'snaps' have had to be removed from more than 650 Christmas crackers being sent to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan because of regulations on the carriage of 'explosives'. ... 'The troops will just have to go 'bang' themselves when they pull them,'" said an official. ("'Bang' goes cracker fun for troops", Daily Telegraph, Dec. 12). Earlier similarly: candles carried in cathedral, workplace decorations, torchlight processions, carolers, puddings, pantomime themes, lighting displays.

It was named the most absurd law in Great Britain, but there's a certain logic behind it:

...the reason people are banned from dying in parliament is that it is a Royal palace.

Nigel Cawthorne, author of The Strange Laws of Old England, said: "Anyone who dies there is technically entitled to a state funeral.

"If they see you looking a bit sick they carry you out quickly."

(Gary Cleland, "Don't die in parliament, it's the law", Daily Telegraph, Nov. 6).

And for readers here in America, happy Thanksgiving, and see you after the holiday.

"The Libel Tourist"


Eight-minute documentary short from Moving Picture Institute ("Indoctrinate U.", etc.) examines a Saudi billionaire's London defamation suit against American author Rachel Ehrenfeld, whose book Funding Evil (never published in the U.K.) had charged him with funding terrorism. (Sullum, Reason "Hit and Run", Nov. 19). Earlier: Oct. 26, 2003, Jun. 11, 2007. Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz "has won so many defamation claims that he publishes an anthology of apologies on his website. ... The sheikh denied being a libel tourist in England where he and his sons had for many years had substantial connections, including residences and a London-based oil company." (Dominic Kennedy, "US writer fights gagging order on al-Qaeda claims", Times Online (U.K.), Nov. 1).

In both of which cases the hospital is being targeted for blame:

About a year ago, Linda Long was attending the East London Holiness Church in London, Ky. That's one of a handful of churches in the country that practice snake handling, which is exactly what it sounds like it is -- congregation members handle venomous snakes in the belief that the faithful will not be harmed.

Long was bitten in the cheek by a rattlesnake and died -- and now her family is suing the hospital where she was brought for treatment.

In a suit filed earlier this month, Long's family alleges employees of a London, Ky. hospital ridiculed Long when she was brought there after the attack and failed to treat her in a timely manner. She later was airlifted to the University of Kentucky Medical Center, where she died.

("Family of 'snake handling' victim sues hospital", USA Today "On Deadline" blog, Nov. 9; Michelle Cottle, New Republic "The Plank", Nov. 11).

Meanwhile, in Britain, Anthony Gough, 24, says he is considering legal action in the death of his wife, Emma, following the birth of twins at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. The Goughs are members of the Jehovah's Witnesses sect which opposes blood transfusions on religious grounds and Emma had refused such a transfusion; doctors had in vain urged Gough to override his wife's wishes. Gough says a machine would have permitted self-transfusion of his wife's blood but that hospital staff did not know how to use it. (Andrew Parker, "Jehovah hubby: I blame doctors", The Sun (U.K.), Nov. 7)

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