Couple fined $500,000 after trying to get neighbor declared insane in fight over 12" strip of land


#1

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#2

Jolly good show, what.


#3

And this is precisely why we have right-of-way covenants, to protect us from the evil lawn patchers who would extend their dominion across the stars unchecked, if not for the few, the brave old ladies who hold up their outstretched hand and pronounce a fierce, stern, "no!"


#4

A banker, no less. Greed knows no bounds and no shame.


#5

They haven't been fined at all.

They lost the case, so they have to pay their own legal costs, and they have to pay the legal costs of the winning party.

Legal costs in the UK are extortionate, so that's where you get the 500,000 number from.


#6

And it's NOT EVEN HIS YARD yet; he's just set to inherit it from his mom.


#7

So a judge has levied a pitiful fine against them and ordered them to pay the old lady's legal costs...

Does anyone really think a banker is going to let a judge have the last word?

Not the end of this story.


#8

** "You shall not pass!"**


#9

Probably. The judge does seem to be trying appeal to this banker's inner greedy, but calculating, bustard to back off. The question is whether this guy's inner arrogant, entitled, psychopath will win out.


#10

They were also ordered to pay Ms. Saxton about BP27,000 for emotional and physical distress.


#11

@nickle: the legal costs seem to be an affront to decency as well. The woman was awarded about $50,000, while the lawyers get ten times as much - that's pretty outrageous. There oughta be a rule that the lawyers cannot collect more than the plaintiffs in any case, or at least there should be a reciprocal arrangement about splitting compensation. Many lawyers (at least in the US) take 1/3rd of an award in exchange for taking a case with no up-front costs (aka contingent fee). But of course that's before "expenses" which include outrageous fees for all of the lawyer's witnesses, travel, etc. In many cases a plaintiff will end up with half or less of any award or settlement. If there were a "mutual contingency" arrangement, the lawyer could take 1/3rd of the plaintiff's award, and the plaintiff could take 1/3rd of the lawyer's fees, whichever left the plaintiff in a better position. Or something like that. I'm in a food coma right now and can't do math. You get the idea though....


#12

In a judgement made public last week, Judge Gerald added that Mr and Mrs Bayliss had, through their actions, "destroyed what had been a happy little community where neighbour's helped each other out, nipping back and forth along the rear path, sharing the window cleaner, borrowing each others' ladders and so on."

The Express destroyed what had been a happy little paragraph by using two apostrophes incorrectly.


#13

Trying to get someone sectioned to make a little bit more on their sale price, shite. Legal costs more than the market value of their property, karma.


#14

Indeed.
Great comment on the site, right on the mark. This is England, can't they still be flogged?

"You cannot blame this Banker for behaving the way he did. He and his ilk have been above the law and free from prosecution since Maggie Thatchers time. I mean to say, give him and his wife a break, be fair won't you, If you allow a parasitical banker to sail through his whole working life, feeding off the less fortunate with impunity, can you really blame him for just continuing to do so in retirement. The poor man must be in shock to find that, he no longer has Teflon coated shoulders, and can't behave the way he did, when he worked as a faceless hatchet man inside a too big to fail bank."


#15

I'm just glad it's finally someone from another country mangling English, instead of yet another U.S. resident.


#16

If someone put me through "five years of hell" and physically attacked me, I'd want a lot more than $40K compensation.

I'm thinking maybe "blood".

Moreover, given that the banker committed actual battery on this woman, to say nothing of attempting to have her deprived of her liberty, is there a reason why he isn't in jail?


#17

(Background: I'm an English barrister, with experience of boundary dispute and nuisance/harassment cases.)

I've found the full judgment; unfortunately, for now it's only available on a subscription service (Lawtel) as it's from a level of court lower than that where judgments routinely get put onto BAILII. However, I'd hope that it gets made openly available soon as it's an interesting case on the level of damages appropriate in harassment claims under English law.

From the comments it's clear that some readers, especially in the USA, may find the English approach to damages and costs confusing. A few pointers:

  • Civil claims are (with a very few exceptions, such as libel cases) heard by a judge, not a jury, and the judge sets damages.
  • Damages in English law are mainly assessed as restitution for the claimant, not punishment of the defendant. This means that by US standards, English courts award very low damages in tort claims. That being said, very extreme misconduct can result in aggravated damages.
  • The relatively low damages in English courts make it usually impractical to pay lawyers out of damages. Instead, costs form a separate award.
  • The default position in English civil court cases is 'loser pays the winner's costs'.
  • This is tempered by strict rules on what costs can be claimed, and normally costs are assessed by the judge at the end of the case (or in a big claim, in a separate hearing) and usually scaled back from what is sought.
  • Very bad conduct in the running of the case itself (e.g. persisting with a hopeless defence, or rejection of reasonable offers to settle) can result in so-called 'indemnity costs' - the loser has to pay the winners costs in full, without any judicial moderation.

The full judgment sets out an appalling history of intimidation and harassment. During the case itself, the Baylisses (who were mainly representing themselves) were found to have adduced very biased and contrived evidence in an effort to bolster their claim. As a result, the judge ordered indemnity costs and also exemplary damages.

There was a long and complex history to this case, including an appeal on an interim decision. That in part explains the very high costs, which the judge clearly felt Mrs Saxton had accrued as a result of having to deal with the Baylisses' approach to defending the claim against them.

Finally, it seems that Mrs Saxton instructed her lawyers on a conditional fee basis. This is a form of 'no win, no fee' - if you lose, you don't pay your lawyers, but if you win their fee is given an uplift (typically 15-100% depending on the prospects for success). Until very recently, a successful party could recover the whole fee, including uplift, from the loser. That also explains the high costs award.

As a lawyer I often warn clients that the risk in litigation is not so much in damages (be it not getting them, or having them awarded against you) but in costs. I can't help but feel that had Mr and Mrs Bayliss instructed lawyers they would have received very firm advice to come to an agreed settlement early on, precisely because of the risk of a huge costs penalty.


#18

@waetherman - why is it outrageous? Having investigated in more detail (see my other comments) the Baylisses, in addition to their awful conduct, drew this case out into a protracted and complex dispute that they could never have hoped to succeed in. Why should Mrs Saxton not recover the costs of fighting and winning her claim, a claim the judge found to have been wholly justified in respect of terrible behaviour by the other side?

(As I explain in another comment, we don't generally do fees as a percentage of damages in England, although it is starting to come in for personal injury cases.)


#19

What is Mr Bayliss going to do? He may have difficultly getting permission to appeal as the judge's decision was based not on interpretation of the law but on a finding of fact, having heard the evidence of all involved. Our Court of Appeal has made it clear that it will rarely interfere with a judge's findings on the facts in such cases unless some serious procedural irregularity can be shown.

When you are ordered to pay damages and costs you are usually given 14-28 days to pay. If you don't pay up, the winning party can go back to court and ask for a legal charge for the amount due to be registered against any real property you own. If you still don't pay up, a few months down the road you'll be back in court facing an application from the other side for the court to order your property to be sold. That, in my experience, is usually when the other side pays!


#20

You misunderstood my comment. Mrs Saxton certainly deserves to have her legal fees paid, but it's outrageous that a lawyer collects a $500,000 fee on a $50,000 case. Fees for lawyers are often inflated specifically so they can recover these kinds of awards. At the very least, the lawyer should be forced to remit 1/3rd of their fee to Mrs Saxton as a simple matter of fairness; if they worked that many hours on this case you can be assured that Mrs Saxton spent quite a few hours of her time on the case as well, but remains uncompensated for that - and don't tell me $50k is compensation enough for "five years of living hell" while lawyers spent five years milking a case from their posh offices.

PS FWIW I am an attorney