Thursday, September 18, 2008

Judges don’t like frivolous lawsuits…

From the news:
NEW YORK (AP) - It's a rainy day for the Manhattan restaurateur who sued a supermodel claiming she intentionally damaged his designer umbrella, said to be worth $5,000.

State Supreme Court Justice Joan A. Madden threw out Nello Balan's lawsuit Friday. She also fined Balan's attorney $500 for filing a frivolous claim and said motions the attorney filed were a "waste of judicial resources."

Balan claimed he lent supermodel Le Call his limited-edition leather umbrella designed by Jean-Paul (ZHON'-Pawl) Gaultier (GOL'-tee-yay) and she belatedly returned it to him in two pieces.

Balan, owner of the celeb magnet Nello's, sought $1 million in the lawsuit and claimed emotional distress over the damaged umbrella.

Attorneys for both sides have declined to comment.

So, what was frivolous about this lawsuit? If the umbrella was, indeed, a limited edition and worth $5000 and the woman returned it in pieces, is the suit not legitimate? I mean, she damaged something of value…shouldn’t she be required to compensate the owner?

Ohhhhh…I see…a million bucks in damages for emotional distress over a damaged umbrella…is that the frivolous part of the suit? This guy must have been terribly attached to the umbrella to have suffered a million bucks worth of anguish over its dismemberment, ya know?

Maybe a little research is in order here…

So our favorite douche bag restuaurantuer [sic]
Nello Balan is such a publicity wh**e that he now is suing a model for returning his $1,000 limited edition Jean Paul Gaultier leather umbrella with a broken shaft, the Post reported yesterday. The media outlets obviously had some fun with this story, but what they all failed to bring up was what was the most bizarre thing about this whole story: WHO THE F*** BUYS A LEATHER UMBRELLA? We are serious here guys….doesn’t anyone in their right mind KNOW that leather is the worst material to come into contact with water!? Wouldn’t it smell like a rotten cow hide after 2 minutes in the rain?! We already knew Nello is off his rocker, not to mention a cheap bastard, but this makes us start to question the sanity of Jean Paul Gaultier who actually designed such an atrocity. For a recap of the email exchanges between Nello and the model known as Le Call go here.

Here is what we picked up:
-Nat Rothschild’s driver needs a bonus
-Nello is anything but a gentleman.

-Le Call is as ungroomed and lazy as she claimed in
NY Mag’s look book this summer….we still think she is the least crazy of this bunch and should stick to free bikes…at least those make sense to us.
-Even top earning models aren’t making enough money to dine at Nello’s…which reconfirms to us that we aren’t the only ones that think his pricing rationale is completely retarded.
-The actual lawsuit in Nello’s lawyer’s words will be for “an act of disinterested malevolence, intentional infliction of mental distress, willful destruction of property, and whatever else I can think of.”
-Le Call’s response is to simply state the obvious, that “Nello is desperate for attention”, which leads us to believe models aren’t as dumb as they look.

Well, this guy doesn’t seem to get it himself…the issue isn’t whether the restaurateur overprices his meals, has frightful taste, or is an attention hound…the issue is personal property and the responsibility for damage thereto. Seems to me that if the model broke it, she should have apologized and had it professionally repaired and returned in a timely manner.

The restaurateur, by the same token, should have been a gentleman about it (although I can appreciate his being peeved that she didn't return it). Retaliation is unbecoming, however, and once he had it back, he should have had it fixed, sent her the bill, and if she didn't pay, take her to small claims court. No need to make a mountain out of a molehill!

But there was a discrepancy between the two stories…the value of the umbrella: $5000 vs $1000---a significant difference. So, I continued my search for information by clicking the “here” link and found this:

November 12, 2007 -- RESTAURATEUR Nello Balan is at war with a stunning model he says borrowed his $1,000 umbrella to stay dry, then got mad when he wanted it back and had a pal return it with a vengeance - broken in two.

It all started when Nello lent his leather, limited-edition Jean Paul Gaultier umbrella to blond catwalker Le Call at his Madison Avenue eatery last summer, then e-mailed her when it wasn't returned.

"I am an [--]hole. I will bring it in this weekend," promised the 5-foot-10 stunner, who then complained about Nello's menu prices. "Our last lunch there was ridiculously expensive. We were so psyched before, then kinda sick after. So we gotta wait until there are boys in town to take us, and Saturday I think there is a couple of out-of-towners who offered. See you then!"

Weeks passed, but, still, no umbrella, prompting Nello to rage: "Can you FedEx that umbrella? Or you decided to keep it?"

Le Call shot back: "Listen to me. I am in Los Angeles. I did not ask U for that umbrella and honestly forgot about it. I gave it to [banking heir] Nat Rothschild's driver to give back . . . I don't want to see, hear or think about that stupid umbrella again."

Nello replied: "I offered it to you because it was raining because I am a gentleman and I thought you are a lady. You called yourself an [--]hole! . . . it may be true . . . Stop behaving like a boulevardier [street person] and a petite voleuse [petty thief]. You don't give me the umbrella, I sue you."

Nello's lawyer, Bill Beslow, says that Rothschild's driver tried to drop the umbrella off last Tuesday but that Nello refused to take it because the shaft was snapped in two. A messenger tried to redeliver it, haphazardly glued together, on Friday. Beslow said he'd be in court today to sue for "an act of disinterested malevolence, intentional infliction of mental distress, willful destruction of property, and whatever else I can think of."

A miffed Le Call told Page Six: "How ridiculous is this? . . . It accidentally got sat on in a car . . . It is pretty funny, though. An umbrella that I didn't ask for or want and refused to take two or three times from a man who if he is so ridiculously upset about an overpriced, ostentatious umbrella, he probably shouldn't own one that expensive . . . Nello is desperate for attention, I guess."

Well, for the most part, this seems like a case of “no good deed goes unpunished.” The man presses an expensive umbrella on a young woman on a rainy day and she thanks him by breaking it, failing to return it, and then casts aspersions on his character when he gets upset about it?

Unfortunately, it seems that he let his wrath override his rationale because the lawsuit he filed was all out of proportion to the offence. Even if the umbrella was worth as much as $5000, I cannot imagine anyone suffering a million dollars worth of emotional distress over an umbrella…unless maybe it was made of solid gold, encrusted with diamonds and a family heirloom of many generations.

And that is probably what went through the mind of that judge…the sheer excess of the demand, so ludicrously out of proportion to the actual damages. There’s nothing to indicate malice on the part of Le Call, although she does come across as very cavalier, lacking in the most basic knowledge of common courtesy and exceedingly self-absorbed. I would guess that her haughty disregard was a large part of Nello’s own aggravation, but allowing his choler to trump his brain was a serious tactical error.

If I was the judge I’d probably be peeved at the lawyer, too. He should have advised his client that asking for a million dollars damages for an item worth less than one percent of that amount would not be entertained favourably by the court…that’s his job, to counsel people with regard to the law.

Too bad the lawyer didn’t convince his client to sue for the value of the umbrella and costs…that’s not frivolous and he probably would have won.

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