Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Small Claims this week...

St-Pierre v. City of Pohénégamook

First off, yes, it's an actual place, and no, I don't know how to say it either.
For some reason, I seem to be developing a fondness for litigation involving municipalities.

The plaintiff is asking for $6000 worth of damages.

The dispute: August 2008, lots of rain. Inadequate drainage duct contributed to the overflowing of water. The water crossed the road and caused damages to the plaintiff's property.

The water picked itself up, and went "F*** this, I'm crossing the road". Why did the water cross the road? Well, apparently, it seemed to have malicious intentions towards the plaintiff's basement.

The defendant contests, because they weren't expecting that shitload of water to fall on their heads on August 2nd and 3rd.

Proof shows that the City has installed a drainage duct, which had a right-angle bend. The diameter was insufficient. There was an overflow, which damaged the plaintiff's property.

According to the plaintiff, the City was at fault by installing and maintaining the ducts. Moreover, the diameter was inadequate, and the overflow stopped as soon as the duct was removed.

After the events, the City conducted some major work in that area, and rearranged the draining system.

The City argued that the amount of rain received on August 2nd was exceptional (89 mm, vs 33 and 25 for the day before and after). On Aug 2nd and 3rd, the storm drains on Rue Principale overflowed. These drains belong to the Ministry of Transports. The other streets (Pignon and St-Laurent) belong to the City.

Proof has shown that the City has had problems with the drains before, and has replaced some with wider-diameter ones on certain streets. The City knew that the ducts had to be replaced.

Water that caused the damage came from higher grounds, which belongs to the City.
The duct was the cause of the water overflow, which caused damage to the plaintiff's property.

Proof shows that the formation of blockages was highly predictable. The City knew that the diameter was not wide enough.

When a municipality executes work on streets or trenches, they must avoid modification of the natural water flow, or plan an effective drainage system for the water in order to avoid floods.

The defendant has not taken reasonable measures to avoid floods. The City has not acted with prudence and diligence.

The Defendant claims Force Majeure (ss 1470 CCQ), because of the truckload of rain they received. However courts have established that rain, even by the truckload, did not constitute force majeure.

So the lesson is: you should always provide for the deluge.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What happens in the Metro...

I guess I haven't really been following the news lately, because I totally missed what is probably the biggest controversy of the week, namely, the lady getting fined for not holding the handrail in the metro.

My initial reaction upon reading the headlines ("Woman fined for not holding handrail" and the like) was, of course, What The Fuck. But upon reading the article, I have to say that I really can't see anything wrong with what the police did, and I don't particularly sympathize with the lady.

First off, she wasn't only "fined for not holding handrail". Sure, she was. But in my opinion, that fine is only incidental to the real issue, which was obstructing police, for which she got a $320 fine. People shouldn't focus on the handrail, and demonize the police officers because of that. For instance, if the police stops you for a broken headlight, and you assault the police officer because of that, I don't think it would be quite fair to report "Man arrested for broken headlight".

Then, people say that it's stupid to fine people for such a trifle, and the police should have left her off with a warning. However, according to the police, they did warn her multiple times, and he refused to comply. After which they ticketed her. What's a "warning"? No warning would be "Miss, you were not holding the handrail, here's a $100 fine." A warning is: "Miss, you should hold the handrail, please hold the handrail." Or, if you really wanna be thorough with it: "Miss, the law says you have to hold the handrail. You are not holding the handrail. Please hold the handrail (NOW) or you'll get a fine." Here's your warning. So I would say that if you don't start holding that handrail within a reasonably short time, you've had your warning and are eligible for a fine.

Many argue that the police shouldn't be telling people how to ride an escalator. Besides, nobody has ever been fined for not holding the handrail before, so this instance is definitely abusive, right? WRONG. Just because nobody every had doesn't mean nobody ever should be fined, or that it's legally OK not to hold the handrail.

Should she be fined, though? Maybe. I'm not opposed to the fine, and I certainly don't see anything wrong with the fine, given the circumstances.

What circumstances?

Obstructing police work. She yelled at them when they told her to hold the rail.

She says she didn't.

For some reason, I'm not tempted to believe that. Given the facts, I think it's reasonable to say that the police's version is more believable, and that she did obstruct the police in some way.

The only facts we have are these: she was fined for not holding the handrail, and obstruction. She was handcuffed and held in detention.

1. the police was either warning a lot of people, or only picked on her. I find the first case more believable. I don't see any reason the police would pick on her, of all people there.

2. Assuming the police was warning a lot of people, why was she the only one with a fine? Either they picked on her, or she did something to warrant it. Given that she was detained, I'd say she did something. The other option is that police has cuffed her though she didn't do anything. Why would they do that? I don't find this very likely.

So she did something. What did she do?

1. She refused to comply, and
2. Police say she started screaming at them.

Assuming both are true. Should the police have cuffed/arrested her?


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In small claims court...

Ever since I went to visit the Small Claims Court back in January, I found a liking to these little cases. Granted, it's not Judge Judy, and reading a case is not as fun as watching the proceedings, but they nevertheless offer a glimpse into the issues of ordinary people. Had a bit of time today, so I decided to look up some of the latest cases. I just picked one that seemed interesting: Gaudreault c. Future Shop, because everyone knows Future Shop, and I wanted to see what the Gaudreault person had against the store.

Note: below is a summary of the decision, and not a complete translation.
Gaudreault v. Future Shop
Qc, Ca, Chicoutimi District
Judge: Jean-Yves Tremblay

The plaintiff demands the replacement of a 52-inch Samsung LNT TV, bought May 31, 2008, because the empolyee of the defandant has accidentally knocked the TV while loading the furniture (TV table?), thereby breaking it.

[Declaration of Gaudreault's wife, stating that the Future Shop employee was loading the TV with her husband]

[Contestation from the defendant, stating that the plaintiff was informed his car was too small, and was warned that the plaintiff would be responsible for any damages, but decided to transport the TV nevertheless. Physical damages are not covered by the Service Plan. The defendant also claims that it is impossible to determine when the damage has occurred, and the plaintiff has been warned of the risks.]

[Declaration of and employee of the defendant, stating that the TV has been wrapped in bubble wrap and then loaded in the plaintiff's car. The employee had remarked that the car was very small to transport a TV of that size.]

Proof revealed that the TV was very well wrapped. The plaintiff had also been offered the delivery service and the employees had warned the plaintiff the risks.

The Plaintiff's wife was in the car, and confirmed the loading maneuvers, but couldn't confirm that it was then the TV was broken. Moreover, the Plaintiff was part of the maneuvers, and even if that was when the damages occurred, he is the first to affirm that it was an accident.

Article 2803 states that "A person wishing to assert a right shall prove the facts on which his claim is based."


In the current case, it is impossible to determine when the damages occurred. Was it during the loading, the transport, the unloading, or the installation? Moreover, the Plaintiff had participated in the operations.


This case is quite typical, as lack of proof is one of the main reasons a claim gets dismissed. I can imagine such things can be quite frustrating. One one side, it's one of these lawsuits that happen when you do something you shouldn't. Bad things happen, and you want someone to pay for it. The guy shows up with a car that's too small, squeeze a valuable and potentially fragile article inside. It breaks, and the guy is trying to blame the store.

On the other hand, there's a guy who just spent a substantial amount of money getting a big TV, and doesn't even get to use it once. He hasn't been able to enjoy his TV, so of course he feels that the money has been wasted, and wants it back.

Well, apparently that's not gonna happen.

So the moral of the story is this: before you even start wondering whether you're right or wrong, make sure you can PROVE IT. And a busted TV doesn't prove anything.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Chinese, English, & Probabilities

I just discovered a Chinese-learning blog that looked very interesting. I read a few entries, and came up across a post about some phonetic coincidences between English words and their Chinese translation.

This is a very interesting topic, as it has some kind of mystical appeal. However, every time someone wonders whether something is just a coincidence or not, I have a strong urge to work out the math behind it, and find out exactly what the odds are. So I have done a bit of number crunching. Here goes:

According to this table: Wikipedia Pinyin Table Chinese words have a possibility of 402 different sounds (I counted). That's not including the intonations, since I'm assuming that "fee" (in English), for instance, would be deemed similar to "fei" whether it's the 1st tone or the 4th. This means that any Chinese word would have to match one of these 402 sounds.

Assuming that every english word has a corresponding chinese word, and that every english sound has a corresponding sound in Chinese that can be deemed "close enough", it means that given a random English word, and a random Chinese sound, there are 1 in 402 chances that the meaning of a chinese word matching that sound corresponds to the same definition in English.

Therefore, for every English word, there is a 1/402 chance that its Chinese equivalent has the same sound. (assuming every Chinese sound can correspond to an English one. )

If we then assume (conservative estimate) that there are 3500 single-syllable words in English (Dr. Phyllis Fisher's word list) and every word having a 1 in 402 chance of finding its correspondent in Chinese, then the odds would be that 3500 X 1/402 = 8.7 English words would sound similar in chinese.

The odds would be even more favourable if you decide that sounds like zh/z, ch/c, sh/s, an/en, ang/eng ai/ei, etc. are similar enough to be considered identical, and if you assume there are more one-syllable English words.