Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Canine Claims: is the law an ass? Who struck the dogs out?

Hat tip to Legal Cheek for spotting the judgment in the Moosun case that no doubt livened up an otherwise dull day in the High Court Chancery Division two weeks ago. Mrs Moosun, having evidently spotted a clear opportunity to further her quest to be declared a vexatious litigant, chose not only to add her infant children to her £5.5 million claim against HSBC and solicitors’ firm Shoosmiths, but also her two dogs, identified for the record by Mr Justice Snowden as Goldie, aged 18 months, and Diamond, aged 2 years.

In deciding the outcome of HSBC’s application to strike the claim out, Snowden J demonstrated ample reserves of patience. He observed for the record that Mrs Moosun had not appeared “and neither do any of the other persons and animals named as claimants in the proceedings”. Moving on, he dispensed with the canine claimants in succinct fashion: -

“Miss Wilmot-Smith also makes the obvious point that dogs are not capable of bringing legal proceedings. Among other things, Part 2.3(1) of the Civil Procedure Rules defines ‘claimant’ as a person who makes a claim, and a dog is not a person. I also cannot see how a dog could give instructions for a claim to be brought on its behalf or be liable for any orders made against it. There are a whole host of other reasons why proceedings by dogs must be void, and accordingly I am satisfied that in so far as the claim purports to be made on behalf of the two dogs it should also be struck out.”

The things judges have to do to make their judgments appeal proof. And to ensure that they are not seen to have dispensed ruff justice. (I will permit myself one hideous canine pun and leave it at that.)

But Mrs Moosun, and indeed Goldie and Diamond, may have missed a trick. If they had made the effort to attend court, they could have drawn the judge’s attention to the 1979 judgment* of the great Lord Denning M.R. in Grenouille v National Union of Seamen, in which he determined that a frog was a person in law and accordingly had the necessary standing to bring injunction proceedings before the courts, especially where the respondent was a wicked and irresponsible trade union. In particular: -

“The decent member of the community – frog or human – who has fallen victim to injustice at the hands of dangerous, unchristian, wicked and irresponsible conglomerations of power…..must have the right to seek help from the courts, and the courts must offer a remedy. For them to do otherwise would be to betray those revered men who, so many centuries ago, gathered in that silent meadow at Runnymede. To those who said that frogs were beyond the law, the answer was that if frogs were beyond the law, then the rule of law existed no longer. [I am] in no doubt that that could not be so, and that frogs, for all legal purposes, were persons able to sue and be sued in the courts of Her Majesty.”

Had Goldie and Diamond fallen victim to injustice? Were the bank and the law firm irresponsible conglomerations of power? We will never know…

*A piece of classic satire from the law reports section of Not Yet The Times, published when The Times was not appearing because of a strike, reflecting the distinctive literary style and content of Denning judgments. Would Mrs Moosun have realised this? Again, we will never know…

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