You cannot have your cake and afford it

You may well have read about the recent case in Northern Ireland where a bakery refused to produce a cake with a message that they did not agree was appropriate.  This update is not about the rights and wrongs of it all.  Simply to remind everyone just how expensive and risky going to court can be.

The District Judge in the first instance found against the bakery and ordered that they pay damages (compensation) of £500.  The bakery appealed and lost again and so appealed to the highest court in the UK.  And by the time the case was decided by the Supreme Court the legal bill to the “loser” – was in the region of £450,000!  To put it into perspective, the cost of the cake – had it been baked – was just £36.50.

Oh, and the case ran for over four years…..

And the point is that sometimes in life we have to make decisions based on actual economics and not just because something is “unfair” or “wrong”.  What the writer finds unfair is that the individual* who brought the case in the first instance and who had two courts agree with him, now has to meet all the accumulated legal costs, just because the third court decided otherwise.  What it means ultimately, is, that the lower courts that made the “wrong” decisions get to carry on with doing more of the same, whilst those who initially succeeded have to now pay for those “bad” rulings.

We often get clients who want to fight every dispute and appeal every court decision that goes against them.  But it can get expensive, time consuming and ultimately not always worth the time spent – regardless of what the court finally determines.  Principles come at a considerable price.

*The individual was supported by the Equality Commission who will pay the legal costs of both parties.

 

Authors: Jason Williams

Published: 17 Oct 2018

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