Published on:

Why Can’t All Lawsuits be Settled so Easily? – Addendum to #27

Written by: Patricia I. James**

This post starts where Post 27 left off.

Ms. Rowling did in fact file suit, not against Russell Solicitors but rather against the lawyer, Chris Gossage, and his wife’s (former?) best friend, Judith Callegari. However, it was settled out of court. Russell Solicitors “agreed to reimburse Rowling’s legal costs and to make a “substantial” donation to The Soldiers’ Charity, which helps former military personnel and their families.” (http://www.theweek.co.uk/uk-news/54397/jk-rowling-wins-big-charity-donation-after-pen-name-leak).

It, along with Gossage and Callegari, also made a public apology, which was accepted by Ms. Rowling, wherein they stated that “[a]s a reflection of their regret for breach of the claimant’s confidence, including frustrating the ability to continue to write anonymously under the name of Robert Galbraith, the defendants are here today to apologize publicly to the claimant.”

Assuming that their website is up to date, Chris Gossage is (amazingly) still working for Russell Solicitors.

As for Judith Callegari, what did this so-called best friend get out of all of this? I guess she got the thrill of tweeting the secret to a Sunday Times columnist. However, I would surmise that she lost the friendship she had with Mr. Gossage’s wife. I would not say that she incurred the wrath of Ms. Rowling’s readers since we have the benefit of reading the latest book written by her. However, I think that she probably lost the respect of many. Who would ever trust this woman with any private information?

All in all, I think that this worked out well for everyone. Although Ms. Rowling does not get to continue writing anonymously under that pseudonym, she did get the benefit of the “substantial” donation to a charity that means so much to her as well as an apology. Russell Solicitors should be admired since it readily admitted the blame and apparently shouldered the donation rather than Gossage and Callegari. Gossage got to keep his job and Callegari will fade into history, perhaps with a footnote somewhere.

Wouldn’t it be great if all lawsuits could be wrapped up so easily and tied with a bow? Unfortunately, in my experience, this is an exception.

It might cross your mind that, if a potential defendant admitted liability, why wouldn’t it resolve quickly, as in this case? Answer: Damages.

Obviously, Russell Solicitors took the high road, decided not to quibble and paid a sum that was acceptable to Ms. Rowling.

However, I have had cases where, after the defendant admitted liability and all that was left was to determine damages, it still took approximately ONE YEAR to resolve. Why? Let the games begin (also known as the battle of the experts)!

For example, plaintiff’s expert says that the little girl, who suffered traumatic brain injury, will always have special needs. Therefore, she requires $$$$. The defense expert says that, by the time she is 12, she will run, jump and play just like everyone else so she will need $.

Or the plaintiff’s expert says that, since the plaintiff had to have his arm amputated due to medical negligence, he will need (insert sum here) in special damages to take care of him throughout his life. The defense expert then says that the amputation will have little impact on plaintiff’s life so needs (insert zero sum here).

Or plaintiffs’ expert says that, since the husband died of medical malpractice, the wife and five children are deserving of x amount of money for their loss. The defense expert says, (and this is my personal favorite), we have to deduct his consumption costs, i.e., since he is no longer around to need clothing, eat, drive the car, etc., plaintiffs do not need to be compensated for that. Now, I understand the rationale for this. However, it sounds as if the defendant should be congratulated for saving plaintiffs that money, doesn’t it?

Anyway, when you have parties that are so far apart as to what is adequate and fair compensation for the negligence, it usually takes a while to sort it out.

**No portion of this Post is intended to constitute legal advice. The views expressed are solely those of the author.