Let Us Kill The Lawyers…Unusual Court Cases in Europe

Not all business that courts deal with is as serious as one would think. Below are three unusual cases from England, Italy and the Czech Republic. After reading them, one is less shocked that Shakespeare once wrote: ‘The first thing we do, we kill all the lawyers.

“Existential Harm”

Exasperated by the perennial delays of the State-owned train operator, an Italian teacher living in Genova has sued Trenitalia, claiming that he has suffered “existential harm”. In simple words, the lawsuit says the ongoing problems have made his life a misery, although he could not show any quantifiable damage. This extravagantly-named Italian legal theory has been cited in a range of dubious disputes, including one won by an angered bride against her hairdresser over a wrong cut executed days before the wedding, and another concerning a Milan A.C. football fan who sued a TV broadcaster because of the “existential loss” sustained by the “obnoxious, non-stop” advertisements voiced by the commentator throughout the derby match with Inter.

R v. Collins (1973)

The “technical” aspects of this case relate to serious topics such as rape, burglary and trespass. The judge, on the other hand, has referred to the facts “as verging at times on farce.”  According to the Courts of Appeals, the following happened: “At about 2 o’clock in the early morning of Saturday, July 24, 1971, a young lady of 18 went to bed at her mother’s home in Colchester. She had spent the evening with her boyfriend. She had taken a certain amount of drink, and it may be that this fact affords some explanation of her inability to answer satisfactorily certain crucial questions put to her at the trial. She has the habit of sleeping without wearing night apparel in a bed which is very near the lattice-type window of her room. (…)At about 3.30 or 4 o’clock she awoke and she then saw in the moonlight a vague form crouched in the open window. She was unable to remember, and this is important, whether the form was on the outside of the window sill or on that part of the sill which was inside the room, and for reasons which will later become clear, that seemingly narrow point is of crucial importance. The young lady then realised several things: first of all that the form in the window was that of a male; secondly that he was a naked male, and thirdly that he was a naked male with an erect penis. She also saw in the moonlight that his hair was blond. She thereupon leapt to the conclusion that her boyfriend, with whom for some time she had been on terms of regular and frequent sexual intimacy, was paying her an ardent nocturnal visit. She promptly sat up in bed, and the man descended from the sill and joined her in bed and they had full sexual intercourse. But there was something about him which made her think that things were not as they usually were between her and her boyfriend. The length of his hair, his voice as they had exchanged what was described as “love talk,” and other features led her to the conclusion that somehow there was something different. So she turned on the bed-side light, saw that her companion was not her boyfriend and slapped the face of the intruder, who was none other than the defendant. He said to her, “Give me a good time tonight,” and got hold of her arm, but she bit him and told him to go. She then went into the bathroom and he promptly vanished.” The intruder, a 19 years old boy named Collins, was convicted of burglary with intent to commit rape. The conviction was later quashed by the Courts of Appeal.

A Ford Transit for 0 CZK

In 1994, a Czech man tried to get a Ford Transit for free by collecting 71 discount coupons found in a magazine. The coupon said: “The holder of this coupon is entitled to a 10, 000 Czech crown discount on a new Ford. Valid until May 1994. Ford R. Mělník, full service main dealer.” Nowhere did it say that the coupons could not be combined. The man amassed enough coupons to claim the entire purchase price of the Transit van. The court ordered the dealer to deliver the car to the plaintiff and to pay his legal cost. (Later, the High Court in Prague reversed the decision.)

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