Legal Humour Blog


July 2013

Comedy of Errors and Errors of Comedy

Jul 1, 2013 9:00 PM
Marcel Strigberger

The past few days have seen a couple of oddball court decisions surface.

Firstly is the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling staying the charges against Nicole Doucet of Nova Scotia after she tried to hire a hitman to put her husband away.  The "hitman" was actually an undercover RCMP officer whom she offered $25,000.00.  No, hold it. The Mountie was the second hitman she hired. Hitman #1 one took her $25k and absconded with the cash.

My concern now is that this decision will enable hitmen to come out of the closet to ply their trade. It will not be too long before hitmen start attending family law continuing legal education conferences and setting up display booths. Most sponsors dole out giveaways like pens, memory sticks and keychains. What will these guys hand out? Silencers?

I can already see the company's banner:

 "Divorce case taking too long? Give us a call.  Free estimates.  Visit us at www.werubout.com."   

There will likely be a fish bowl on the desk: “Put your business card in and win a free contract.”

Quare whether they will provide a list of satisfied clients.

The SCC does not realize the Pandora's box it has opened.

The other bizarre decision was by the B.C. Supreme Court which upheld a $15,000.00 judgment of the BC Human Rights Tribunal against comedian Guy Earle, for uttering anti Lesbian slurs in the course of his act, at a lady in the audience who allegedly heckled him.  The HR Tribunal accepted the complainant's evidence that she suffered a post traumatic stress disorder consequent to her attendance that night at the comedy club.

I have not read the details but, hey, I spent 6 years doing standup.  Sitting in the front row and heckling the comedian may just attract an unwanted response from the comic. And she even spilled a glass of water on Earle.

This being a comedy club I would have thought the comedian is immune from any civil liability claim. Throughout the centuries the court jester was always safe to do his schtick without fear of incurring the king's wrath.  While I do not at all condone improper slurs, a stand up comic's ultimate punishment for a lousy set is the audience's reaction with a deafening silence.  To borrow a theme from the late Prime Minister Trudeau, the state has no business in the nation's Yuk Yuks's.

And what about the damages? How did this PTSD display itself? I can only imagine:

She wakes up in sweats after having recurrent nightmares of being chased by a rubber chicken. She has this inexplicable urge to hit people in the face with cream pies.  She emits primal screams whenever she hears the names, Larry, Moe or Curly?

The B.C. Supreme Court has opened a Pandora's box. Caveat comedian.

Let me conclude by giving some advice to Nicole Doucet. Next time she hires a hitman, she should not give him the full contract price up front.  She should just give him a deposit. Ten % sounds reasonable.      

Please visit my website, www.striglaw.com for more info about my personal injury and family law practice.  I am an equal opportunity lawyer and humourist.

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June 2013

Meilleur Mayor

Jun 23, 2013 10:48 PM
Marcel Strigberger

This is a good time to talk about mayors.

Shannon Everett approached Mayor Rob Ford at a recent street festival and tossed a container of juice on His Worship. She was charged with assault.

Her high profile criminal lawyer tells the media that she will be "vigorously defending" the assault charge. OK, I know all about being innocent until proven guilty but this 27 year old woman Christened the mayor in front of people and cameras. What can her possible defenses be?

1. Self defense? She had reasonable and probable grounds to believe that His Worship was about to spill juice on her. She can swear that he was reaching for that Tropicana tetra-pack in his holster.

2 Consent? She closed in on Ford and coyly asked, "Your Worship, is it OK if I spill this juice on you? " The mayor, responded, "No problem madam. After all, I have only worn this suit once."

3 Charter of Rights? I can see any lawyer worth his or her salt arguing that charging Ms Everett with assault is a violation of her rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights, contravening section 2, which reads,

"Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

... 2(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression..."

No doubt spilling juice on a mayor is a fundamental freedom of expression.

This latter argument might best be made by the master of these arguments, colleague Clayton Ruby. And since Clay might have some time on his hands having lost his leave to appeal application to the Supreme Court of Canada in the conflicts case launched by his client Paul Magder against Mayor Ford, perhaps he can collaborate with defence counsel on this one.

For that matter, Mr Magder having lost his appeal, should consider a plan B attack on Mayor Ford. He can go to Loblaws, purchase a container of orange juice....

And while we are still speaking of mayors, this week was not a good one for Michael Applebaum, former mayor of Montreal who replaced the previous mayor accused of corruption. Mr Applebaum was himself arrested on corruption charges and forced to resign. Montreal, having suffered a number of scandals with mayors and other municipal officials, is at a loss to find another safe mayor. Maybe Mr Magder can consider going for this position. It appears a lot easier to become mayor of Montreal than to remove the mayor of Toronto.

I practice family  and personal injury law.  Please visit www.striglaw.com.  All mayors welcome.

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A Juicy Tale

Jun 18, 2013 9:57 PM
Marcel Strigberger

I find that American companies are overly hypersensitive to and paranoid about law suits.

Not long ago one fine Sunday morning I went to the fridge to pour myself a tall glass of refreshing Florida pure "not from concentrate" orange juice. Unfortunately due to fridge malfunction the carton was frozen solid. I removed it, let it thaw out for a while and soon a few millilitres of juice trickled out. I proceeded to consume same. It then occurred to me, was it safe to drink orange juice which went from liquid to frozen to liquid?

As I questioned my action, I thought that I started feeling funny. Lightheaded perhaps. As well I may have sensed a tickle in my throat. Maybe even an intermittent jabbing pain in my ribs. Maybe not. Actually I was quite certain that I was feeling like Rasputin after he ate those arsenic laced cakes. In Rasputin's case however it took 5 bullets, an assault from a dagger and a dip in the Volga to finish him off. In my case I felt that the latter two weapons were going to be superfluous

Not being one to panic I read the information on the carton. I noticed a 1-800 number to call for information. I dialled same and on came a message:

...We are closed on weekends but if this is a medical emergency, please leave your name and number...

I of course left my vital information including name, phone number and provisional diagnosis, citrus fruit poisoning.

Three minutes later a lady called me back, from Florida. Her name was something like Maggie Anne. I explained what had happened and how I was feeling. She assured me that there was no danger at all in drinking unfrozen-frozen-unfrozen orange juice. With those words my symptoms seemed to subside instantly. I felt reprieved. She took my address and thanked me for calling.

I forgot about the incident and went on to enjoy life and to continue to practice law.

About three weeks later I received a letter from the juice company apologizing for the unfortunate incident and asking if there was anything they could do for me.

Being a courteous person, I took two minutes to write back, on my legal letterhead, saying thank you but that there was not much more I could say at this time.

A week later I received the following letter from Tallahassee Florida from some insurance adjustor:

'Dear Mr. Strigberger:

Re Squeezed from the Sun Orange Juice - claim #AD28374-04

We are the adjustors handling this matter. This claim is presently under investigation. Do you still have some of that frozen juice or the container? Please send it to us by Fedex. We look forward to your cooperation and to sitting down to discuss this case with you. . ."

I was really a bit busy for this but once again out of an abundance of courtesy, I answered the adjustor.

"Dear sir,

I do not have anymore of the juice nor the container. In any event I have said all I have to say about the incident to Maggie Anne. . ."

I thought that ended that. Two weeks later the following letter arrived from Miami from a Sherman, Lamarre and Grant, Attorneys at law:

"Dear Attorney Strigberger

Squeezes from the Sun has decided to remove this matter from the adjustor level and to refer it to us. We are quite concerned about the allegations you have made. Our clients in the food industry take those comments seriously. Especially the one about Rasputin. Although you have 2 years to sue, my client would like to set its reserves early and to get an idea of the magnitude of the claim it might be facing. Please send us a copy of all your doctors' clinical notes and records, including the records of the hospital where you received emergency treatment. We would like to avoid litigation and resolve this mater amicably, but if need be, we shall fight your claim to the fullest.


C. Jackson Sherman Jr."

I decided to have some fun with him. I wrote back.

"Dear Attorney Sherman:

I am really besides myself since this calamity. Thanks to the quick thinking paramedics and the entire emergency department at the Toronto Hospital, my physical wounds have more or less healed.

have however been left with deep psychological and emotional damage. My psychiatrist Dr. Felix Schindler can attest to my post traumatic stress disorder. The mere sight of the colour orange makes me cringe with fear. This past Halloween season I could not leave my home for three days after a terrifying experience I underwent just looking at a pumpkin. Some days I just think about ending it all. Can you get me a booking with your electric chair? A date with Old Sparky would be merciful. What can money do for me now? . . ."

Within a day I received a fax letter from Mr. Sherman:

"Dear Colleague:

We were most sorry to hear about your debilitating experience. Without prejudice to our client's position, we are prepared to fly you and your wife down for a week's all expense paid vacation at Disney World. All you have to do is submit to an insurer's defence medical examination for one day. As you may know the State of Florida Practice Rules permit the defence to conduct such examinations and refusal by the plaintiff to submit will lead to the denial by the court of any award it might otherwise make for punitive damages.

I am enclosing a copy of the case of Smedley v Happy Sun Orange Juice where in a claim most similar to yours the jury awarded $250,000 for pain and suffering. But do note that the trial judge did not allow punitive damages of $2,000,000 as the plaintiff failed to submit to a defence medical.

I look forward to hearing from you. . ."

I am presently studying my options, as I am sipping on a vodka and orange juice. I am considering making the trip. The only problem is this is Florida. These guys take their orange juice seriously. Very seriously. I suspect that if the insurer feels I am doing something nifty or illegal, it can probably invoke some penal provisions and I could find myself getting that date with Old Sparky.

This piece was just published in the June edition of Just, the magazine of the Ontario Bar Association.

Please visit my practice site, www.striglaw.com   If you accidentally drank a similar potion or your spouse served you one, I can help you.

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Mailmen, Monkeys and Muddle-heads

Jun 16, 2013 2:29 PM
Marcel Strigberger

      This past week, Jiroemon Kimura, the world’s oldest person, died in Japan, at age 116. He attributed his longevity to eating light and healthy meals and to laughter.

      Kimura spent most of his life working for the post office. I can now understand the laughter part. Most likely he had numerous hardy laughs every day figuring out how he could misdeliver the mail. If a letter was addressed to a street in Tokyo, he would have a belly laugh changing the name of the city to “Toronto”.

      And if he would hear a customer complain why it took 34 days to get a letter from a sender 3 blocks away, he would not be able to contain himself, busting a gut rolling in the recipient’s driveway.

      I have yet to see a lawyer making the oldest person list. Who ever said going postal wasn’t fun?

      And speaking of waiting for news, the eyes of the world are riveted on Oshawa as we all await judgment in the case of the year. This case has attracted more attention than the O.J. Simpson trial. The number one question globally is, “What will happen with Darwin?

      The trial judge has reserved her decision on who gets the monkey. Owner Yasmin Nakhuda says Darwin is her domesticated pet, almost a child to her. The Respondent animal sanctuary claims Darwin is a wild animal and once he left her car and wandered onto the IKEA parking lot, Nakhuda lost possession and he was no longer hers.

      Actually I think her lawyer Ted Charney should have enlisted the help of IKEA. IKEA could have claimed possession of the primate, confirming that Darwin actually came to IKEA to purchase a new coffee table. IKEA then could have assigned its right of action to the Applicant, upon Mr Charney’s undertaking to purchase the said coffee table. How’s that for a win win deal?

      Speaking of justice, the Quebec Soccer Federation has now reversed its ban on Sikh players from wearing their turbans. The QSF cited “safety” reasons for originally imposing the ban. Right. When is the last time you ever heard of someone getting crushed by a runaway turban?

      Unfortunately the Quebec government throughout, supported the QSF’s ban. La Belle Province should now focus on its real sport problem, ie. the need to once again have a National Hockey League team in Montreal... that plays hockey.

Please also visit  www.striglaw.com.  I practice personal injury/insurance and family law.  Laugther in the office is highly encouraged.

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No Nude Gargoyles Please, We're Arizonian.

Jun 9, 2013 6:21 PM
Marcel Strigberger

        Ever hear of Paulden, Arizona? You will now. This is a small town that does not like gargoyles. At least it does not like artist David Smith's nude 9 foot tall male gargoyle and it is threatening to fine the artist if he does not remove it. Operative word is "it".

        I watched the story on CNN and not surprisingly, they do not say specifically what the problem is nor, perish the thought, do they show the gargoyle from below the waist. The CNN female commentator only says that the offensive part is proportional to a 9 foot tall male. My first question is, how does she know what that unmentionable part on a 9 foot male looks like? I'm very tempted to check out her Facebook page.

        A local Arizona county official was interviewed about the naughty gargoyle and as expected, he said something like, "Hey, children might see it". I guess children must not see these things, especially on 9 foot tall males.

        Interestingly, Arizona has some hot history. We are talking about a state which in the 1870s had towns like Tombstone, which was the most dangerous town in the wild west. This is the place which had that most infamous gunfight at the OK Corral, with Wyatt Earp and brothers doing clean up, sending members of the Clanton gang to Boot Hill. And in addition to harbouring more saloons and gaming parlours in them parts than most towns, Tombstone boasted the largest red light district.

        Arizona is also the state that bought London Bridge, where it was relocated from the Thames, to Lake Havasu City, Az.. London Bridge is Arizona's second major attraction, next to the Grand Canyon. This is a bridge which from the 1300s to 1500s was often decorated by the authorities with rows of pikes holding the heads of executed prisoners. But the song today for the children is not London Bridge is Falling Down but no doubt, No Nude Gargoyles Please, We're Arizonian.

        I have an idea. Just like London Bridge was relocated, I think David Smith should consider relocating his work of art. He would have no problem displaying the gargoyle in Toronto. I believe we are much more comfortable here with what children might see than the Americans are. I think the statue would fit perfectly in the Toronto harbour. It could welcome incoming ships, sort of like the ancient Colossus of Rhodes. It would certainly attract tourists, in my view being at least as exciting as Copenhagen's Little Mermaid. That's as far as I'll go in that direction.

        Perhaps Mayor Rob Ford can extend an invitation to David Smith to bring it here. After all, His Worship has not done anything controversial yet this week.

       I practice family and personal injury and insurance law out of a heritage house in Thornhill, just north of Toronto. (www.striglaw.com)  The place is quaint but there are no gargoyles greeting visitors.

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The Midwest Book Review has referred to Marcel Strigberger as "an irrepressible humorist with a story teller’s flair for spinning a yarn with true (and hysterically funny) insights into the basics of human nature".

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