Posts Tagged ‘haunted houses’

Most people would not hesitate to classify legal writing as dull. Encountered probably only through a contract, a lease, a will, or some lawyer spouting jargon on a tv show, legal writing is hardly part of your everyday reading. I, on the other hand, am taking legal courses and reading write-ups of court cases is part of my daily life. I find every case can be an exciting story, however, some are so poorly written (by judges non-the-less) that it becomes a torturous exercise in just trying to uncover the most basic facts of the case. And it’s not so much that they use special vocabulary, “legalese”, to tell the story (I can always go to a law dictionary to resolve that), but the dry, uninteresting sentence structure definitely would not make the Times best seller list!

Then a gem of writing pops up unexpectedly amongst all the dullness. Not only did this judge write clearly, but he also wrote about the case with a sense of humor! A sense of humor, you say? Yes, with puns included. You see, the case was about the sale of a house and whether the buyer should be allowed to back out of the transaction (and get his down payment refunded) because he was not told that the house was “haunted”. The jist of the case is that the seller promoted her house (in Nyack, NY) for a house tour as a “haunted house”. She also had a write up in Reader’s Digest, and local press. However, both she and the real estate agent never mentioned to the buyer, who was from NYC that, allegedly poltergeists had been seen in the house. When the buyer found out, he was horrified and did not want the house.

Was the house really haunted? Well, nothing legal can prove that, but here are some of the phrases and puns that Justice Rubin used, when writing his opinion on the case ruling, that had me rolling with laughter:

“…no divination is required to conclude that it is defendant’s [seller’s] efforts in publicizing her close encounters with these spirits which fostered the home’s reputation in the community.”

“…in his pursuit of a legal remedy for fraudulent misrepresentation against the seller, plaintiff [buyer] hasn’t a ghost of a chance, I am nevertheless moved by the spirit of equity to allow the buyer to seek rescission [canceling] of the contract of sale and recovery of his down payment.”

He now even quotes William Shakespeare “ ‘Pity me not but lend they serious hearing to what I shall unfold’ (Hamlet, Act I, Scene V [Ghost]”

“…a very practical problem arises with respect to the discovery of a paranormal phenomenon: ‘Who you gonna call?’ as a title song to the movie Ghostbusters asks. Applying the strict rule of caveat emptor [buyer beware] to a contract involving a house possessed by poltergeists conjures up visions of a psychic or medium routinely accompanying the structural engineer and Terminix man on an inspection of every home subject to a contract of sale. It portends that the prudent attorney will establish an escrow account lest the subject of the transaction come back to haunt him and his client – or pray that his malpractice insurance coverage extends to supernatural disasters.”

“…it cannot be said that she [seller] has delivered the premises ‘vacant’ in accordance with her obligation under the provisions of the contract rider.”

The judge ruled in favor of the buyer.

You can find out more about this case, which by the way has become known as the “Ghostbusters” case, by doing a Google search on “Stambovsky v. Ackley”

 

 

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