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LITIGATION TIMES

Escrito el 15 enero 2008 por Juan Carlos Olarra en Derecho y RSC

I was once given a good piece of advice by an excellent friend who has been practising at a Wall Street firm for more than forty years: whenever you confront a blank sheet and a dead line at the same time, have quick scanning throught the UK Times and the subject for your writing will come. I have to admit I was forced to follow that advice today and it must be said that my friend was right. I found a couple of oddities related to court cases but also an interesting situation involving litigation that points at relevant matters that should be considered in depth.


To start with the bizarre chapter, the English newspaper reported yesterday January 14th about an American young citizen aged 30 who sued the New York Yankees based on the recently spread information of alleged cases of use of drugs in order to enhance performance by the members of that emblematic base ball team. The plaintiff asked for the reimbursement of the tickets paid to attend the matches and for the team to be forced to admit misbehaviour.
The same journal referred to the case initiated by the widow of Buddy Holly against ‘Peggy Sue’. As it is explained in the paper, Peggy Sue was in fact the given name of the girl who married another member of the Crickets (the band of Buddy Holly). Taking advantage of that fact, Peggy Sue suggested in her recently published biography that Buddy Holly was actually in love with her and that both had planned to divorce from their respective spouses and star in a typical lovers runaway story, just before the rock star died in a dramatic airplane crash in 1959. As incidental evidences of her statement, she claimed she featured two hits of Buddy Holly: Peggy Sue and Peggy Sue got married. To say that Buddy Holly’s widow is deeply upset or highly disappointed would not even be half the truth.
But going to more serious matters, The Times showed yesterday a leading article in its Comment dealing with the position adopted by the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission when he recently withdraw his support to the legal case of thousands of women employed at different town councils who demanded equality of salary at the Royal Courts of Justice. The newspaper clearly backed Trevor Phillips in what was described as a more clever approach to the case on women’s final benefit, on what I agree. At this stage I suppose most of my female colleagues are debating between astonishment and anger. Can it seriously be sustained that the EHRC is actually making the case of equality of payment? It can, if we consider for a moment the most likely outcome of a plain success of the controversy as it was set up. This is about a class action that, for being the first in this field, is clearly playing the guinea pig role in this experiment. Therefore an eventual resolution forcing the employers to pay all the women involved the corresponding compensation would lead to thousands of new cases put up on the same base with similar end. At the end of the process and this does not mean in a remote future, and provided the employment courts survived the tsunami of claims, the town councils will undoubtfully face sudden financial difficulties that would be solved either by tax raises or job cuts. Or even worse, by an evil combination of both. Apparently Mr. Phillips thought it would be wiser to play the game from his position as watchdog in the sense of promoting a transitional agreement that would finnaly apply to all town councils, not only those involved in the case, so as to guarantee the observance of the Equal Pay Act within a certain period. With exception of a couple of disparaging comments about lawyers and their fees I tend to share the view of The Times and to support the action taken by the chair of EHRC. And what seems more interesting to me at the end of the day, this comment can help us to think about the advantages of alternatives to the ‘winner takes all’ approach that some lawyers tend to give more often that they should.

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