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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 106
February 14, 2009

This week's issue:
Law judgement review
Law interview
Laws For everyday life
Law amusements
Law lexicon
Law event
Law Week

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Law amusements

Interesting laws…

Most lawyers are human and humans make mistakes. Then there are the other type of law error; the kind which results in real loss to a client. Good lawyers can have their confidence fatally wounded by a single typo as can the lives of a client who suffers the consequences of that error. And then there are those who simply should not be practicing law.

In February 2008, federal prosecutors in San Francisco charged baseball home-run king Barry Bonds with having failed steroid testing in November of 2001. This was a sensation as nobody had previously known about any drug test - failed or otherwise - in November 2001, a mere month after Bonds broke Major League Baseball's home run record.

But it was a typo - the proper year ought to have been 2000, not 2001. Bonds cried foul but to little avail. The mistake was quickly cleared up and the prosecution not otherwise sidetracked.

During his life and with respect to his estate, one of Andy Warhol's legal advisers was Edward Hayes, a Manhattan lawyer and a former district attorney (and, apparently, the real-life inspiration for the character Tommy Killian in the book Bonfire of the Vanities).

One of the assets in the estate was Warhol's Interview Magazine, with a circulation of 160,000 by the time of Warhol's death. The estate sold it based on a down-payment with the balance personally guaranteed by the buyer, in a promissory note, payable not to the estate, but to a company called “Andy Warhol Enterprises Inc.”

Hayes dissolved the company a week before the promissory note was signed but neglected to ensure that the personal guarantee was made payable to the estate.

In the result, it was made payable to an inexistent company.

Hayes said it was just a typing error but the court struck the promissory note which then became unenforceable with the balance owing to the estate, some $7 million, lost.

A few years later, Hayes dodged a bullet when a New York judge inexplicably dismissed the case against him by a former client for malpractice based, in part, on the allegation that Hayes slept through his former client's deposition (called on examination for discovery in Canada).
Rogers Communications Inc. and Alliant (previously New Brunswick Telecom), were Canadian telecommunication giants, the former a purveyor to the consumer, the latter owner of a network of some 100,000 telephone poles. They came to an agreement but with a sleeper typo, and as follows:

“This Agreement shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five-year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party."

Rogers' lawyers didn't notice the comma anomaly and the company took it to be a locked-up 5-year deal.

Alliant took it for a deal that could be ended on 1-year notice even before the 5th anniversary; and they did so.

In 2006, the Canadian regulator, CRTC, deferred to “rules of punctuation” and ruled in Alliant's favour, and obliging Rogers to yield to Alliant's new rates, a lawyer blooper valued at $2.3-million.

A year later, the CRTC reversed itself and relied on French version of the contract to determine that it was a 5-year locked-in contract, reversing the onus of the attorney blooper on the shoulders of an anonymous Alliant lawyer.

Source: www.duhaime.org.


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