Sunday, 29 January 2012

Asbestos dust and the corporate veil… revisited

asbestos claimFrom the Metro 17/01/12:

When Korah Leah came home from his job clearing asbestos his children would fling their arms around him the minute he arrived.

As a worker in the 1930s he had no idea he was putting their lives at risk when he hugged the youngsters in his dust-caked overalls.

But now, long after his death from cancer in 1968, two of his children have died from asbestos-related illnesses and a further six have irreversible lung damage.

‘It’s a terrible thing to happen to one family,’ said Maureen McGeogh who lost sisters Marjorie, 67, and Cecelia, 77, within six months of each other.

She said her father would be ‘covered in dust’ when he came home from work as a foreman in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.

‘We’d all crawl all over him and hug him. I remember my mother shaking his overalls and dust going everywhere. We didn’t realise it was dangerous,’ added Mrs McGeogh, 73, of Luddenden, West Yorkshire.

Her only two siblings not affected by pleural plaques – which can develop into malignant mesothelioma – were born after their father left Cape Asbestos in 1958.

The family has been denied compensation for years as none of them worked directly with asbestos.

I came across this story in the Metro a couple of weeks ago which reminded me of a rather poignant article I read during my LLM. (Yes, I know: I surprised myself, too).

I remember it formed part of our rather painful and protracted analysis of the methods, means and history of piercing the corporate veil under English law. Those early weeks seemed entirely taken up with reading a shedload on the Adams v Cape Industries litigation - all that toxic tort (quote-unquote) stuff made for such cheerful reading. In fact, if memory serves, it formed the first formative assessment we had to prepare for the company law module.

The article itself was a subtle (and not-so-subtle) indictment of the way the corporate form could be legitimately abused utilised in managing the threat of multi-billion dollar lawsuits from hazardous business activities. The fact the threat was being ‘managed’ decades after the hideous risks came to the surface (which were supressed with the effectiveness with which a certain group of modern newspapers might be proud) was something of a fly in the ointment that their Lordships had to grapple with once the case reached the House of Lords. 

But what always struck me as so chilling was the fact it wasn’t just the mine and factory workers who were struck down by deadly asbestos dust  Day to day contact with the Cape workers (and the dust on their clothing) meant that their families became even more unwitting victims too.  And it wasn’t just the ‘shop floor’ workers who were affected; it was many of the Cape executives who were responsible for supressing those deadly facts for all those years.

If you fancy reading more (just in case January hadn’t depressed you enough already) here are the details:

G. Tweedale and L. Flynn, ‘Piercing the Corporate Veil: Cape Industries and Multinational Corporate Liability for a Toxic Hazard 1950-2004, (2007) 8 Enterprise and Society 268-296.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

BT pay the price for dodgy roadworks

pavement slip trip fall

From 26/01/12:

Transport for London (TfL), a UK public authority with responsibility for most aspects of London city's transport system (e.g. roads, railways etc.), have successfully prosecuted both BT and Cable & Wireless (C&W) over a string of "badly managed roadworks".

The Westminster Magistrate's Court handed down several thousand pounds worth of fines to both firms for a raft of failings that included working without a permit, breach of permitting conditions and failure to correctly notify TfL promptly of works taking place.

The TfL Infringements
* BT was prosecuted for infringements at various locations on TfL roads including: Stamford Hill, Marylebone Road, Blackwall Tunnel, Eastern Avenue and Gunnersbury Lane. They were fined a total of £3,765 and ordered to pay TfL's costs of £5,050.
* Infringements by Cable & Wireless occurred on Lambeth Palace Road and Great Eastern Street. They were fined a total of £1,000 and ordered to pay TfL costs of £2,815.

It's understood that BT pleaded guilty to six counts, while C&W pleaded guilty to two offences. TfL claims to have won £20,000 over the past 12 months in similar cases against utility companies for eight separate offences.

Well, goodness me and ‘n and half.

Personally, I’m sick of Openreach vans and trucks of all descriptions being abandoned across pavements near to where I work. A trip to Sainsbury’s at lunch time often ends up more like an assault course as I try and negotiate the never-ending array of cones, bollards, walk-boards (and those barrier ‘hurdle’ type things). Plus, I love the way they raise manhole covers here there and everywhere leaving huge swathes of telephone lines exposed to all and sundry, with no sign of an engineer anywhere. No wonder they’re always having so much copper wire nicked!

What happened to the little red and white striped tents they used to put up over roadworks in the 1990s? Perhaps they went the same way as the Maureen Lipman BT ads.

Still, maybe we should be grateful BT are doing the work.  A lot of utility companies sub-contract their road work to third parties who really have no business operating a jackhammer.  Oh yes: there’s a wide range of cowboys out there with a profound inability to relay tarmac correctly and a rather careful attitude towards pedestrians’ safety.  I’m surprised they’re willing to run the risk of personal injury claims from the more litigious pedestrians out there.

The insurance premiums must be killing them.  They do have insurance, right?

Remember, children: where there’s a drain, there’s a claim.  Be right back

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

That’s why punctuation exists

legal grammar

Regular readers know that email is a constant (and painful) battle for me.  If you’ve forgotten, you might want to have a butchers at this and this.  I know everyone has gripes, but email gets on my proverbials in ways I can’t even describe.

My latest peeve relates to the following ‘punctuation-less’ email which I received recently. 

“Hi Mike* please see the attached would you leave them named as they are no need to put countersigned  thanks.”

* OMG – off to a VERY bad start. I simply cannot stand the name, ‘Mike’. (Seriously, it will bring on a bilious attack for me… and no one wants that).

Hmmm.  Believe it or not, they aren’t just random words.  They were meant to make sense; it’s just a pity they didn’t. 

Maybe I should focus on the positives – there was a full stop at the end.  But the fact remains I had to re-read this SEVERAL times (and ponder it overnight) before it made any sense to my email-frazzled brain. 

So, please, if you’re in the habit of sending emails such as this brarmer, here’s a bit of advice.  Just because it made sense to you when you typed it, don’t assume you can whack the send button without so much as a quick skim read.

Everyone always makes a big deal about brevity in emails.  If you’re in the ‘short and sweet’ crowd, that’s fine, but just remember you can’t cut out the punctuation and expect it still to make sense to the recipient.

So there you go: another lazy, sloppy email.  That’s this evening’s lesson over with, children.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Text-o-rama – Personal Injury Spam

personal injury text msgI was clearing out my text messages earlier today and came across this brarmer I received a while back.

“Our records indicate that you still haven’t claimed the £3750 compensation for the accident you had. To claim for free reply ‘YES’ to this message.”

Interestingly, I didn’t delete it immediately; perhaps I left it in anticipation of an accident? I’m a glass-half-empty kind of chap, after all.

While keeping it in my inbox might have brought me some comfort, it didn’t stop a little bit of me dying inside when I read it.

Does anybody have the number of Jackson LJ so I can forward this on? I think he’d be interested. Failing that, how about Anne Robinson?

Be right back

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Geeks and sexual harassment

sexual harassment claim touchpadOh I can’t believe that a chap with a bowtie would have wandering hands when the ladies are around!

I thought the IT department would be free from sexual harassment claims at least. Clearly I was wrong.

But I think if I were the woman, I’d be more concerned about bringing an medical negligence claim against the surgeon who performed my botched tummy-tuck. Or maybe the cartoonist’s hand slipped.

Found here.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Shamed Solicitor faces the SRA

law stuff
From ISP Review 16/01/12:

The notorious boss of failed solicitors firm ACS:Law UK and winner of the 2011ISPA Internet Villain award, Andrew Crossley (Solicitor ID 150435), will at 10:00am this morning face a substantive hearing in front of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

The Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) has tabled seven charges against Crossley, not least for "[attempting] to take unfair advantage of other persons" (broadband ISP customers) and that of providing "false information" to a court.

SRA Charges vs Andrew Crossley (ACS:Law)

The Tribunal has certified that there is a case to answer in respect of allegations which are or include that [Crossley] :-

1) Allowed his independence to be compromised.

2) Acted contrary to the best interests of his clients.

3) Acted in a way that was likely to diminish the trust the public places in him or in the legal profession.

4) Entered into arrangements to receive contingency fees for work done in prosecuting or defending contentious proceedings before the Courts of England and Wales except as permitted by statute or the common law.

5) Acted where there was a conflict of interest in circumstances not permitted, in particular because there was a conflict with those of his clients.

6) Used his position as a Solicitor to take or attempt to take unfair advantage of other persons being recipients of letters of claim either for his own benefit or for the benefit of his clients.

7) Acted without integrity in that he provided false information in statements made to the Court.

(AKA - taking the SRA Code of Conduct with a pinch of salt, I believe).

It might be jumping the gun, but I sense that Crossley’s career as a solicitor may have run its course.  Still, give it a few years, and I’m sure there’ll be a certain Mr Crossley providing legal consultancy services to clients out there. Particularly the ones with short memories.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Demolition brings soup tragedy closure

steam accident campbellsFrom Lynn News 15/01/12:

In an emotionally-charged atmosphere, Lynn News competition winner Sarah Griffiths, 41, performed the honours to send Campbell’s Tower on its way this morning.

(Just in case it’s not clear, it was a competition which gave the winner the chance to press the plunger to raise the tower to the ground).

Bizarrely, the picture of the tower reminds me of an episode of Poirot called ‘The Dream’ about a pie factory owner, mysterious goings on and, well, all sorts of things. It’s too longwinded to explain, but I’m sure Poirot lovers will see the connection.

Mrs Griffiths had been married to husband Simon for just four weeks when her 52-year-old father was fatally scalded by a blast of steam while trying to close a huge pressure cooker-type machine at Campbell’s factory in July, 1995.

Mr Locke, who lived in Burkitt Street, Lynn, and colleague Jim Tripp were working on a 10ft high retort, used to sterilise cans and jars at Campbell’s. The inquest was told the retort lid would not close properly and Mr Locke was using a closing spanner when the blast occurred.

Half-an-hour before the detonation of one of Lynn’s most iconic landmarks, nose-to-tail traffic blocked Hardwick Road as spectators’ cars filled the Tesco supermarket and Pierpoint Retail Park car parks nearest to the Campbell’s Meadow site.

Oh, and guess what: the site is being cleared for a new Tesco Extra.

An estimated 3,000 people turned out to watch the last seconds of the tower, which had stood over the town for 52 years.

Crowds stood several deep on the pavements near the B&Q car park, alongside Hardwick Road and back towards the railway bridge.

Air horns sounded a five-minute warning and then again for the start of the ten-second countdown to the detonation. As the 150ft tower fell to earth in under five seconds, one on-looker (sic) said: “It was just like wallpaper coming down.”

“When I felt the thud as it hit the ground, everything felt complete. Now my family can move on and not live in the shadow of that building any longer.”

I first read about this story in the Metro earlier in the week and, I have to say, I was dubious whether pressing the ‘fire’ button could provide sufficient ‘closure’.  Still, grief is a personal thing and I suppose anything that helps the family move on from this tragedy has got to be good.   

Oh, and the removal of one more eyesore from the skyline can’t be a bad thing either.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

A new broom sweeps clean

capture7 c

Well, that’s that then.

The Christmas decorations have been taken down at Law Actually HQ – both real and virtual. Our Christmas tree has been stripped naked and taken outside for me to operate on at a later date with a pair of secateurs and a saw.  It will eventually be fed into our garden composter – just as nature intended.

The Christmas-fied blog header, has been consigned to the dustbin. May it rot merrily in hell there. I was never overly keen on this year’s header (I think it shows). Oh well: must try harder in 11 months’ time.

I know it might be a bit early for a spring clean, but I’ve started to whittle away at some of the dead wood of blogs I linked to previously. Yes, you’re all allowed to groan at the awful mix of metaphors there.

I regard some of those blogs as dead because they’ve been removed entirely, have not been updated in ages or their authors have gone absent without official leave.  Harsh though it is, sometimes you’ve just got to have a clear out.

It would be easy to dwell on the number of blogs that I’ve removed and wax lyrical about what a dire state the blawgosphere is in. But January’s depressing enough already, so I won’t.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Lawtalk – Publication Review

Over Christmas, I spent a little downtime immersed in the forthcoming title ‘Lawtalk –The unknown stories behind familiar legal expressions’.

As titles go, Lawtalk is self-explanatory. It’s a very well researched and comprehensive book which does an excellent job of tracing the origin of certain pieces of legal terminology and explains how, from an array of unlikely beginnings, they have nestled themselves so firmly into modern parlance.

While the book runs to nearly 300 pages, I was still surprised by the considerable depth in which each of the nearly 100 phrases is examined. Sensibly, each is tackled in alphabetical order and the pages broken up with the odd photograph, illustration or print.  The vast majority of the expressions will be well known to lawyers and non-lawyers alike and so should be of universal appeal. I’m sure a few will evoke a grimace or groan from some readers, but the history behind each phrase is fascinating nonetheless.

Some of my favourites were:

Aid and abet (and the like)

Black letter law


Chancellor’s foot

Day in court

Eye for an eye

Fishing expedition


The law is an ass

Philadelphia lawyer


Thinking like a lawyer

The whole truth

While clearly being pitched at the US market, the book includes a number of legal phrases widely used (or at least heard of) in the UK. Indeed, as you might imagine, many of the phrases have their origins on this side of the Atlantic which makes the history behind the expressions all the more interesting (for British readers, at least).

Lawtalk would make an excellent gift for both newly qualified and seasoned lawyers alike, as well as law students, graduates or even an anorak-clad ‘lawspotter’ whose reading tastes, for whatever reason, run to the peculiar. It would be a treasured newcomer to any bookshelf and provides an enlightening insight into the countless pieces of ‘legalese’ to which we are all exposed daily, but have had little reason to question - until now.

Lawtalk is due to be published in the UK on 27th January 2012.