Thursday, 11 October 2012

( An article by
Professor Hu Chi
Ku Chi )

Where to begin with this sorry tale ? The most recent events of a long drawn out saga have just been reported in the chairman’s and treasurer’s AGM report , but to say that these will be the end of the tale would , I feel , be somewhat optimistic .

Not so long ago a seemingly unpopular player was expelled from his club , following what could only be described as a petty act of misconduct. However, with a long track record of previous skirmishes with past committees concerning other minor indiscretions , this particular sabre-toothed committee had already got it firmly fixed into their minds that “ enough was enough “ ,  and that “ it was time for him to be slung out “.  

Unfortunately for club , this over zealous committee simply rushed to punishment , overlooking the legal requirement for the member to be given an initial hearing to answer the charges , if only to have the opportunity to defend himself . With the committee utterly convinced that the decision to expel the demon was right and proper , the member not surprisingly counter-claimed that the process , which led to the alleged disproportionate punishment , was both fundamentally flawed and unfair.

Clearly aware that the aggrieved member was now threatening to take the matter to court , the committee felt equally happy and confident to go there themselves and obtain the judge’s ruling that both the process and the outcome were fair,  having of course the retrospective backing of the membership .

Inevitably when the battle lines were drawn , claims , counter-claims , accusations and counter-accusations escalated to an unprecedented levels. The contaminated air was now regularly bombarded with poisonous verbal flak. Acrimony , bitterness and fanatical stubbornness completely obliterated any hope for common sense , compromise and reconciliation to prevail.

Thereafter , proceedings have continued relentlessly, and more or less continuously , as evidenced by submissions which run into hundreds of pages , countless supporting documents , witness statements , and letters to and fro between both parties ( and their respective solicitors ). In my view , a mountain of information to keep solicitors busy for years !

However , I must now limit my comments for the rest of this article to the ludicrous amount of money spent by both sides in pursuit of their goals. Money which is never likely to be fully recovered , if at all : money which has lined the pockets of some very happy and contented lawyers . Nevertheless , the judges who conducted the two case review management meetings both pointed out the financial benefits of taking the dispute to mediation , but with so much money having already been invested in pursuit of a comprehensive victory , the notion of agreeing to a compromise settlement would surely amount now to an unacceptable defeat.

So just like gamblers who foolishly believe they have to risk more money in an attempt to recoup earlier losses , both sides will ( I fear ) take their fight all the way into the boxing ring of the court house .

So the folly is there for all to see. A little incident precipitating a costly , extremely lengthy and bitter dispute . Three years in and there is still no resolution in sight . In the meantime , both parties are undergoing financial pain , stress and psychological misery . In fact , a few weeks ago  a legally trained friend of mine astutely observed :  " different stages one party or the other has clearly displayed in equal measure insouciance , arrogance , and an unbelievable disdain for straight thinking and cutting their losses “.

This case has to be one of the most instructive examples of why parties involved in a private dispute should avoid litigation rather than pursue it.  Apportioning blame at this point in time would be a pointless exercise , but I am amazed how both parties at the outset seemed unwilling to settle their differences in a more civil and expedient way , preferring instead to pursue a process which would completely exhaust their time , energy and bank balances. Litigation when it appears unnecessary becomes nothing more than an act of insanity, a form of financial suicide and self-harm .

Indeed , the folly of pursuing litigation just simply reflects the folly of the human condition : “ the willingness to cut one’s nose off to spite one’s face “.                

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