Jun 1 / KC

The New Client

Talking Law” N°5 : The New Client

by KC Anderson

Let’s step back into the office of our virtual lawyer, Ben Forthwright. You will recall that last time we left Ben in a staff meeting with his legal assistant, paralegal, and law clerk. During a rather long discussion about an ongoing case, Maria, Ben’s legal assistant, reminded him that he had a new client coming in at 9 AM. Ben checked his watch and quickly wrapped up the staff meeting in order to get ready for his 9 o’clock meeting.

One of the partners in Ben’s firm had referred the client to him. Ben is a young lawyer in the Litigation Department of the firm and specializes in Commercial Litigation.

He opened the file that the partner had given him and read. It seems the firm had done all the work to set up a new restaurant in town and now the chef/owner, Mr. Blaze Masterson, had a new legal problem.

The file contained some basic information about the restaurant and some newspaper clippings. Ben read that Blaze Masterson had trained and worked all over Europe with some of the finest chefs in the world. He had now come back home to the U.S. and opened his own restaurant, “Exquisite”. The critics loved the food which they described as having “all of the refined glamour and attention to detail of a real European restaurant” right here in downtown Austin, Texas. Ben wondered what had happened that would require his skills as a litigator.

The Client Interview

Blaze Masterson walked into the office at precisely 9 o’clock. He was dressed in a finely cut dark suit and had short dark hair peppered with grey. Ben introduced himself and invited the famous chef to take a seat. He looks more like an actor than a restaurateur, Ben thought.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Masterson ?” Ben asked.

“I intend to sue one of my suppliers,” he said “and you have been highly recommended”.

Ben proceeded to interview his new client in order to determine the facts of the case. Here is what he found out.

The Facts

Blaze Masterson regularly orders products from Europe for use in his restaurant “Exquisite.” His suppliers are importers of products from all over the world. Recently he planned a dinner that he called “All Around the Truffle.” He checked with his regular truffle suppliers and called on a new supplier, Gourmet Value, that was advertising truffles for up to half the price of his regular suppliers.

After planning the menu for his special evening, he realized that if he ordered all of the truffles from his regular supplier, the price of the dinner would be far more than his customers were willing to pay. So he decided to order half of the truffles from Gourmet Value on the basis of their advertisement that said “European quality truffles for less. We offer European quality truffles for up to half the price of other importers.” But the ad also included the fine print: European truffles or other truffles of equivalent quality according to availability.

When the shipment of truffles from Gourmet Value arrived only a week before the special dinner, the shipment included a letter explaining that both French and Italian truffles were “unavailable at the current time” and that they had substituted “High quality Oregon State, U.S.A. truffles.”

Masterson was shocked when he received the shipment and refused to accept it. He would not serve inferior quality truffles. He sent the shipment of Oregon truffles back to Gourmet Value telling them that his clientele demands only the best and he would not try to fool them with low quality products.

Masterson then decided to cancel the special truffle dinner because he could not get a sufficient quantity of truffles with only a week left before the scheduled dinner. He believed that he had lost thousands of dollars and suffered great embarrassment due to the cancellation.

Ben thanked his new client and told him that he would so some legal research and get back to him with the results.

Next time we will look at Masterson’s cause of action and the likelihood of success on the merits of his case.

Glossary of terms

litigation department – That section of a law firm engaged in the preparation and trying of lawsuits.

litigator – 1. A trial lawyer. 2. A lawyer who prepares cases for trial, as by conducting discovery, and preparing pre-trial motions, trying cases, and handling appeals.

to sue – To institute a lawsuit against another party.

facts – 1. Something that actually exist ; an aspect or reality. Facts include not just tangible things, actual occurrences, and relationships, but also states of mind such as intentions and opinions.

fine print – The part of an agreement, or document, usually in small, light print that is not easily noticeable, referring to disclaimers, restrictions, or limitations.

legal research – 1. The finding and assembling of authorities that bear on a question of law. 2. The field of study concerned with the effective marshalling of authorities that bear on a question of law.

cause of action – 1. A group of operative facts giving rise to one or more bases of suing ; a factual situation that entitles one person to obtain a remedy in court from another person.

merits – The elements or grounds of a claim or defense ; the substantive considerations to be taken into account in deciding a case, as opposed to extraneous or technical points. 2. A legal theory of a lawsuit.

All legal definitions are from Black’s Law Dictionary Eight Edition 2004

Just for Fun

A new client walks into a lawyer’s office. “May I ask how much you charge ?” asks the new client. “Of course,” says the lawyer. “I charge $500 for three questions.” “Wow !” the new client responds, “Don’t you think that is a little bit high ?” “Not at all.” says the lawyer, “Now what is your third question ?”

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