Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Little-known Law

From Gray's Law Dictionary:

"Interesting Etymologies of Idiomatic Legal Expressions:

In the year 1831, Jacob Open and Jack Shut were neighbouring landowners outside of Swaffham, England. Mr. Open, a pig farmer, had contracted to lease a portion of land from Mr. Shut, who raised flax.

The arrangement was amenable to Mr. Shut, as the land in question was prone to flooding, making it unsuitable for flax but altogether an ideal place in which pigs could wallow. Soon enough, a litter of piglets was birthed.

However, since the birth took place upon his neighbour's leased land, Mr. Open deemed the shoats Shut's and refused to make lease payments, arguing his neighbour to be a bona fide pig-chaser for value without notice.

In retaliation, Jack Shut enforced a lien on the land and seized Open's assets. Doing so, however, meant Shut ran afoul of Inland Revenue laws, as the pig profits were not flax-deductible.

To complicate matters, Mr. Shut had been carrying on a four-month affair with Mrs. Open, wife of Jacob and a notorious philanderess. Most of the late-night encounters took place on the portion of land in question. When the affairs were finally discovered, it prompted lawyers for Mr. Open to sue for "double trespass," a tort over both his farmland and his wife.

While preliminary proceedings were filed in the circuit court, the matter never went to trial as the night before the evidentiary hearing, Mrs. Open shot and killed both Jacob and Jack, absconded with the money and was never to be found. Lawyers for both parties had no need to carry on.

Hence, when lawyers find themselves overly prepared for a trial, they recall this set of events and deem it an Open v. Shut case."

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