Monday, July 13, 2009

Ghostbusters' Legal Arm: Taking a Genie to Task

It was reported over the weekend that a Saudi Arabian family is pursuing litigation in a Shari'ah court against an unnamed genie. The complaint alleges theft and harassment (including throwing objects). The family has relocated their residence pending the outcome of the suit. Genies are represented in Western culture as generous, amicable beings. Islamic theology, however, describes genies as capable of being either good or evil.

The family is getting a pretty hard shake in this morning's news, but this sounds remarkably like a Western poltergeist or haunting action. Yes - we have them in the U.S., too.

In Stambovksy v. Ackley, the Court granted an equitable recission, relieving plaintiff from performance under a contract to purchase real estate. The Court found plaintiff, an out-of-town buyer, had no means to discover the house's haunted reputation. A reputation and condition, the Court felt, the defendant had created over time. And that whether the haunting was "parapsychic or psychogenic," the defendant was estopped from contesting the ghosts; "as a matter of law, the house [was] haunted." This reputation caused a dimunition in the house's value, and went to the heart of the contract. The Court returned plaintiff's down payment.

In Hansen v. Wis. Dep't of Revenue (n. 1), plaintiffs sought tax relief, arguing their First Amendment Establishment rights were violated by a "demonic" government computer system acting within Biblical prophecies. Procedurally, the complaint failed, because the plaintiffs named non-governmental parties as defendants, and separately, because the Eleventh Amendment bars federal suit seeking money damages against a state. In dicta, the Court addressed the substance of plaintiff's complaint, assuring plaintiffs the computer system named "Lucifer" did not constitute government endorsement of a particular religion.

And "the" fallen angel himself has been named as defendant in a suit. In U.S. ex rel. Mayo v. Satan & His Staff, plaintiff alleged a violation of his civil rights; that the defendant had caused him "misery" and his ultimate "downfall." The Court denied the in forma pauperis request, and indicated the action was not one upon which relief could be granted. The Court reasoned that personal jurisdiction over the defendant was questionable, and further, was not plead in the complaint. The Court also wondered whether it was more appropriate to proceed with the litigation as a class action.

FWIW: How's that for light discourse on a Monday afternoon?

(n. 1) Hansen v. Wis. Dep't of Revenue, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37936 (W.D. Wis. 2006).

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  1. It's kind of like the guy who sued God...(yes, there really was a case where a guy sued God)

  2. Hi Anon at 326a,

    That's great! I didn't Lexis search "God," but probably should had ... I do not have access today, but wonder >> do you have the cite, offhand? Is it this case:

    Thanks for the comment - Sls.


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