As most of you might know, the two most popular systems of law in the world are common law and civil law. Common law, which developed out of Britain as a way of implementing a law across the entire land (or maybe someone just didn’t feel like writing down all the laws and distributing them around), developed after every case established a precedent for future cases. That just means whenever someone commits a similar crime, you SHOULD be able to know or predict how the judge would rule.
But, unfortunately, the law is not THAT predictable. At least not now. It’s become a very complex hybrid of these “common law principles”, along with a fair dose of legislation, statutes, regulations, etc. Of course, no one really wants to talk about that (unless you’re a law student, which just means you no longer have a social life). So here are 3 of the most ridiculous cases that I’ve read so far in my law school career. Here’s to some more crazy stories in the future!
1. Photo Production Ltd v Securicor Transport Ltd.(  AC 827,  2 WLR 283,  1 All ER 556 (HL))
This one was one of those contracts cases that gave me a headache. First, I was trying to make sense of what HAPPENED in the facts. After re-reading the case and discussing it among friends, it seemed very simple: a security guard, who was in charge of guarding Photo Production’s factory, lit a fire using cardboard boxes. What happened after was a fire that consumed a good chunk of the building and caused £615,000 worth of damage…for no apparent reason. We can only speculate about what was going through this guard’s mind because even the judge couldn’t make sense of it. It was mostly in his luck that his company was held not liable, but you can probably bet that guy lost his job.
2. Wilkinson v Downton,  2 QB 57
As a practical joke, a man told his friend to inform his wife that he was lying badly hurt in a ditch, and she needed to go pick him up. The plaintiff suffered a violent nervous shock that resulted in vomiting and other permanent physical consequences, including having her hair turn white from the stress, and clouded judgement for weeks. There was no evidence of a previous disposition to these nervous issues.
It might be just me, but I’m pretty sure how such an extreme reaction to bad news, even ones as sad as death, is not considered ‘previous disposition’. We’ve all received bad news before, and I’m sure most of us would be distraught if we found out that a loved one died. But to go to such extremes would indicate to me that there’s some predisposed condition underlying this case, which would kick in the ‘thin skull’ analysis in most torts cases.
3. Miazga v Kvello Estate, 2009 SCC 51,  3 SCR 339
The interesting thing about this case is that the two sides involved are not really what’s at the heart of this case. This case revolved around an extreme scenario of child abuse by three boys from the Klassen family, who claimed that many members of their family were conducting extreme acts of abuse or, as some described it, ‘satanic rituals’. However, at some point, the crown prosecutor developed some doubts about the children’s stories, but still decided to continue with the prosecution, even after the children recanted their stories.
In 2003, that crown prosecutor, Miazga, was found guilty by the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatchewan for malicious prosecution. He appealed to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, arguing that the situation did not meet all the criteria needed to prove malicious prosecution. The appeal found that he was right in that he cannot be said to be malicious simply because he did not apologize to the accused Klassen family. However, the It showed that malice is a pretty high standard to prove in the court of law. As a result, Miazga’s appeal to the Supreme Court was upheld and the charges against him were dismissed.
The weirdest thing about this case is how the boys at the centre of this trial managed to come up with such a convoluted story that almost cost a crown prosecutor his job. It raises questions about the mentality that a crown prosecutor has to take when dealing with sensitive issues like abuse. As much as it’s important to get what’s fair for the victims, the prosecutor has to approach each situation with the utmost neutrality to determine what’s really going on in each case. As heartless as that process may be sometimes, I’m sure it’s a sentiment that Miazga would agree with after this case.