Sunday, 3 June 2012


There is an ancient expression monks in certain religious orders use  to describe the situation where multiple things go wrong.  The origin dates back to medieval times when  flocks of geese invaded  the  peaceful cloisters of the monasteries. The incessant honking disturbed vespers.  Gregorian Chants were disrupted. 

The monks called the birds a Cloister Flock.  

Today it is used to describe a chaotic situation or event where an excessive number of people are trying to accomplish a task in a complex environment.

Incidentally, in the South of France the sound of the Geese flustering the monks is called a “Fluster Cluck.”

The public gets Cloister Flocked all the time by local governments. Over the next couple of days I intend to warn you of  some of them. Let us begin with a hypothetical.

Suppose you are carefully riding your bike down a separated bike lane in Vancouver. You are wearing your helmit and are generally slathered in protective gear and moisturizers. You arrive at an intersection and come to a complete stop. Then as you proceed to pedal across the street you are hit by a car driven by a City bicycle planner travelling in the course of his employment .  Happily you are not badly hurt. You thank him for the City’s  various good works and you pedal off.

Your friend who is 10 minutes behind you arrives at the same intersection and he too is hit by a car. This car is driven by a car dealer. He hops out of his car. Unlike the City employee he is not a caring person.  He hands you his card.  He says insensitive, hurtful things about you, your bike and the environment and drives off.

You and your friend compare notes and find it curious that you had identical accidents and injuries and are grateful that you were not badly hurt.  Still you are both limping.

Three months go by and you both notice that your knees are starting to seize up.  By the 5th month you can hardly pedal. Only your sense of righteousness keeps you going. You both have a medical checkup and both of you learn that you have  suffered permanent identical disabilities.

You both decide to sue. You take the agonizing trip by bike, downtown to your lawyer's office. The  way things are going you both figure that you will receive the same damages award.   


No way.  Your friend who was hit by the car dealer will get thousands of dollars from ICBC.  You, however, having been hit by the nice City car driver will get nothing.  

You have been Cloister Flocked.

The result has nothing to do with the fact that the City driver was charming and had a socially responsible job.  Neither did the fact that the car dealer was a complete prick. I added those things to show the importance of careful analysis. That is why the legal system is so expensive and rightly so.

You are Fluster Clucked because  of section 294 of the Vancouver Charter. That section says in part (2) The city is in no case liable for damages unless notice in writing, setting forth the time, place, and manner in which such damage has been sustained, shall be left and filed with the City Clerk within two months from and after the date on which such damage was sustained; (Similar provisions apply right across Canada and the United States.)

The City lawyers raise this defence. Your lawyers tell the City lawyers that you did not decide to sue until you figured that things would not get any worse. They say to your lawyer, "Where did you get your law degree --- Canadian Tire?"

Your lawyer tells you to go to court. You take his advice. You lose. You have to pay your lawyers and the City lawyer. 

It is all part of the Cloister Flock.  You have been Fluster Clucked. By comparison your friend has been lucky.

So if you suffer damages from the City remember that you face a 60 day limitation period. The law discriminates between victims of Cities and Victims of everyone else.  It is possible but not easy to get around it.  If  you are hit by a car dealer, you have plenty of time. Get a lawyer and sue him or her. 

(Incidentally, if you are a real estate agent and the City gives you wrong zoning information the same principles apply. )

Send the City a letter telling them the whole story. Even if you don't think you have been hurt you might still get lucky.  Send the letter.  Lawyers call this showing an abundance of caution. (Latin abundantia caute) If you ultimately decide that you have been made a better person by the accident and have grown from the experience you do not have to sue. 

If you change your mind you will have two years to sue and watch them twitch under cross examination.  After judgement and after paying your lawyer I would urge you to give the money to the Engineering department to install some new safety devices at intersections.  You can even demand that as part of any settlement.

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