LAW REPORT : GILBERT and others v BIGOT-JOHNSON and others ( 2015 )
( In this landmark case a group action claim for negligence against Bigot-Johnson and his fellow committee members came up before High Court judge. Having lost their previous case, Bigot and the committee were obliged to pay an unbelievably high legal bill , which was to be paid out of club funds. Some of the ordinary members now reeling under this financial burden wanted to refinance the club from the personal damages obtained against the committee members for their negligent mismanagement of club finances. Bigot as usual elected to act as defence counsel , and this short extract from the trial's transcript covered a critical stage of the trial . )
Counsel for the plaintiffs ( CP ) : Might I point out Bigot that in any club the contractual relationship between the members imposes a duty upon the elected committee to manage the affairs of the club in a competent way. Such a contract will contain an implied term that financial decisions are carried out with reasonable skill , care and diligence. This action could be framed as a claim in contract , or alternatively .....as in this case.....as a free standing claim in negligence against each and every committee member. Your conduct would be measured by the standards which it would be reasonable to expect of a comparable and competent committee in all the circumstances of this case.
B-J : There is no case to answer. We always carried out all our duties with the club's best interests in mind , and decisions we took were supported and endorsed by the membership.
CP : Who of course voted on issues regarding a previous legal battle without never knowing the full facts...... or their long term financial implications. The club and all its members suffered a great financial loss because of the committee's refusal to admit liability for the damage to a member's car. The committee in fact allowed the dispute to go all the way to court....as in this case....with no guarantee of winning.
B-J : Well....we didn't lose that case as I recall
CP : Yes that's true .....but quite rightly the judge ordered that both parties should meet their own legal costs ......which for your side amounted to nearly £200,000
B-J : We couldn't let that bastard hold us to ransom for criminal damage caused by an unknown third party
CP : Sometimes choosing the lesser of two financial evils makes really good sense
B-J : Might I remind you that I and my fellow committee members have always gone about our business in a very efficient and effective way. We are all principled people totally committed to stand up for what we consider as " doing the right thing " no matter what the cost
CP : But it wasn't your money which was at stake.....you made sure you had nothing to lose....it was the club and all its members who had to face and finance the legal costs incurred. Costs that I might add represent fruitless and wasteful expenditure , which was made in vain and could have been avoided had reasonable care been exercised
B-J : Rubbish.....we did what any committee would have done
CP : I think not. Would average men in your position chosen to incur such expenditure knowing that the club's whole future could be put at risk ? Funding a dispute all the way to court is absolutely unnecessary , especially when cheaper options , like mediation , were readily available.
B-J : But we went to mediation...
CP : But only after after two years of stubborn resistance and refusal , and only then when ordered to do so by a judge..... you scuppered the process by turning up to the mediation hearing with a rigid set of non-negotiable preconditions
B-J : Oh.....
CP : Negligence as you well know involves establishing a duty of care based on a reasonably foreseeable risk of loss or financial damage. And any numpty can foresee that litigation involves heavy costs which are never likely to be recovered. Your task as a committee was to look at the most cost effective options , and/or employ damage limitation strategies , which you failed to do. This unfortunate omission on your part amounts to gross negligence. This " bring it on " attitude of yours was both reckless and regrettable
B-J : So what does one do when being sued by a member who claimed we were at fault for the damage to his car ?
CP : Acknowledge that you knew " someone " had already damaged other members' cars in previous weeks but then failed to take steps to avoid further incidents . Acknowledge that he had a justifiable claim given your refusal to employ a car park attendant , which would have cost so little. Acknowledge the fact that paying the member £2,000 for his car repairs was small change in comparison to the cost of fighting his claim in court.
Judge : I've heard enough .....Bigot .....you are someone who will never learn....and as such I have no choice but to find the plaintiffs. Damages with be set to the level of the legal bill incurred by the club in the previous case , which will be used to refinance the club .....and in addition to that.... all costs in this case with will met by you and your foolhardy committee members
B-J : Bugger....bugger.....bugger