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Roger Warren Evans
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868 13 November 2003
Star brought low
When "stars" cancel contracts, they must face the commercial consequences. The prima donnas of our entertainment society are not above the law. Gary Marlow, a 57-year-old Wiltshire publican had sued Van Morrison for late cancellation of a concert-booking, which had (he claimed) destroyed his business. The High Court ordered Van Morrison to pay damages, I am delighted to say.
to accord to celebs the "right to behave badly" - and Van Morrison clearly thought he could cancel bookings with impunity. It is clear that celebs do develop delusions of their own super-humanity.... In seeking to defend the action brought by this Wiltshire publican, he went down to defeat in the Courts. But Gary Marlow must have got a nasty shock as well: he had been claiming damages of up to £400,000, the far-reaching disruption of his business, which he ascribed to the collapse of the Van Morrison concert arrangements.
The High Court Judge, Mr Justice Cresswell, would have none of it. He awarded Marlow (a) the return of the £20,000 he had paid by way of "deposit", and (b) just £20,000 by way of consequential damages. Luckily, for Mr Marlow, Van Morrison's lawyers had paid into Court only £31,500 - which meant that Van Morrison had to meet Mr Marlow's legal costs in their entirety.
The Judge knows nothing, under the Rules of Court, about any "payment in" made by a Defendant seeking to settle a claim brought against him - he does not even know whether there has indeed been any payment "into Court" at all. He hears the case from scratch, on the pleadings and the evidence. But if the eventual award falls below the level of a "payment-in", then the claimant can only recover his costs for the period up to the date of that payment. That will ordinarily exclude the full costs of the Court hearing, and may well extend to periods of months or years before the case gets to Court. Therefore a claimant ("plaintiff") who refuses to accept a payment-in must calculate very carefully - might he win less than the settlement-sum offered, if the case goes to a final judgement? If so, he could be massively out-of-pocket overall...
Marlow got through by the skin of his teeth. Van Morrison had offered to settle for £31,500 (because his lawyers realised he had a weak case), but Marlow refused to accept the offer, asking for up to £400,000. By being awarded £40,000, Marlow will be entitled to recover his legal costs as well, from the Van Morrison side. But it was a dam' close-run thing...
I argued, over two days in Westminster County Court, that the contract was an "entire contract", and that the early weekdays were effectively warm-up acts for the Big Night, on Saturday - if she missed the climax on Saturday, she had not performed her contract, and was entitled to nothing.
Too Few Cabs
The Office of Fair Trading is definitely right. All attempts to control the size of local “Hackney” fleets should be abandoned. In many cities (like Swansea and Cardiff), the fallacies of market management were rejected long ago. But in some cities, they still hold sway.
Indeed, the whole paraphernalia of local authority control should be abandoned altogether. The job of driver-licensing should be given to the DVLA. The DVLA already licenses public-service vehicle drivers, and heavy-goods vehicle drivers – why not public-service taxi-drivers? And much more local enforcement effort should be devoted to (a) ensuring that only qualified taxi-drivers do in fact do the driving (not rogue stand-ins) and (b) that all taxis are safe and well-maintained.
Opposition comes both from the TGWU and the Taxi Owners Associations in the remaining market-regulated cities and towns. And it is quite true, as they predict, that it becomes more difficult for a single driver to earn a "full living wage" simply by driving a taxi. But the "market reaction" to this is two-fold.
those seeking a "full living" quickly learn that the secret is to become an owner and to lease out the cab for half-the-day, while working the other half. Income then flows to you on a 24-hour per day basis, and you work the hours you choose - there are plenty of part-timers wanting to use a cab when it is available, and to pay you rent. Two local Swansea taxi-drivers founded a specialist finance-company, making loans to other drivers to buy their own cabs - and the finance-company thrives.
Second,the trade becomes a very attractive one for those who specifically wish to find a part-time earning-opportunity. Many of the Swansea drivers I know choose to work for (say) three-days per week, or only at weekends, to supplement a pension and to give them time for fishing (or whatever...).
While taxi-drivers, like farmers, are always complaining that trade is bad, my impression is that the sector is stimulated by the easy availability of taxis for all purposes, with built-in changes in supply to match changes in demand-levels, as part-timers enter and leave the market.