Published on: March 20, 2020
The first legal case ever referred to me involved a steak and tuna sub. I don’t remember the first case I ever took or generated on my own. Just the first case I never took.
The year was 1995. I was a young lawyer working in a small law office in Boston. My brother was at his second go around at Bryant College, which mostly involved playing for their golf team and shenanigans.
So one day I was sitting at my desk pouring through discovery in a dispute involving the sale of chemical blowing agents used in the making of foam rubber, when the phone rang. It was a welcome distraction, a call from my brother, who many people know goes by the nickname “Boog” (that’s another story for another day). I figured it would be a call to talk about golf or Bill Parcells and our then savior Drew Bledsoe (remember him). Instead, he said “I think I might have a case for you”. I was excited. Nobody had ever referred a case to me before. I leaned into my phone with interest, took out a pad and a pen and started scribbling notes.
Boog said: “my roommate Shorts might have a personal injury case”. “What happened and why is he called Shorts”, I replied. “He is known as shorts because he is from Bermuda, you know, like Bermuda Shorts”, said Boog.
Once we got Short’s nickname straight Boog went to explain that he Shorts and another guy known by several nicknames, including Kenny G, the “G-Bird”, the “Time-Bomb” and “Chumley”, went to a party at Boston College. They went from that party to a famous college bar and proceeded to have more than a few beverages. Towards the end of their evening of drinking, Boog, Shorts and Kenny G got hungry. They noticed that there was a sub shop across the street. The sub shop was your typical Boston Greek Pizza/sub shop. They entered. They were met by the classic old school Greek pizza proprietor, not doubt worn down and somewhat irascible from serving pizza and subs to drunk college kids.
Boog and Kenny G were simple. They got slices, sat down and started eating. Shorts had a more complex palate. “You will have a what”, said the proprietor. “A steak sub with cheese and tuna”, said Shorts. “You want tuna fish on your steaka bomb is a u a little too drunk boy?”, said the proprietor. Shorts would not relent. Shorts stood his ground. Apparently steak and tuna subs were delicacy in Bermuda. The proprietor tried to explain to Shorts that this concoction was not on the menu and that tuna fish was not a topping or a condiment or for that matter not likely a good combination with steak and cheese. Shorts demanded his steak and tuna sub so the proprietor relented and made the best-looking steak and tuna sub ever assembled.
He then presented the sub to Shorts, who began to drool over the thought of the delicious mouthwatering combination of hot steak, melted cheese and cold tuna fish. Before Shorts could get his hands on the masterpiece, the proprietor said that will be $18.00. Shorts suddenly awoke from his dream of melty steak and fish and said “what? Shorts began to negotiate. He said that the most expensive sub on the menu was $9.00 how could be charged twice that. The Proprietor got angry and said “I told you tuna fish was not a condiment, I made you two subs combined into one”. Shorts held the line and said, “I will pay you $9.00 for that sub and not a penny more”. The Proprietor tried to explain how he had combined two subs into one and that he had never done this before and that it was late and Shorts was clearly drunk so he should be thankful he made him any sub at all, let alone such a drool worthy sandwich combination of mayonnaise, canned tuna fish and grilled steak, including onions, mushrooms, cheese, pickles, hot peppers and lettuce. “Two subs equal $18.00, pay it or you will not get to eat a steakafisha bomb”, said the Proprietor.
Shorts continued to hold the line at $9.00. A battle of wits, or shall I say nitwits, ensued. Shorts delivered the first blow, when he said, “I will pay $9.00 because you know that nobody else is going to eat that sub, so you should recoup your losses”. While Shorts may have been right and may have had the negotiating leverage, he made the classic mistake of offending the Proprietor’s pride and ego. According to the Police Report, the Proprietor then threw Shorts, Boog and Kenny G out of his establishment. Shorts did not react well. He began shouting obscenities.
Shorts continued to shout obscenities from outside the establishment. The Proprietor was so angry he threw the steak and tuna sub up against his own window (people do dumb things when they are mad). In response Shorts started taunting him and was banging his hand on the strorefront plate glass window. Unfortunately, Shorts was wearing his Bermuda High School class ring. The underside of the ring caused the storefront window to crack and then shatter entirely. Boog and Kenny G thought about making a run for the car, but instead started to laugh uncontrollably. Shorts felt empowered by his mayhem and started taunting the Proprietor about his now broken storefront window. Not a smart move at 1:00 A.M.
Before Shorts knew what hit him, the Proprietor had split his head open with a heavy cast iron frying pan. Shorts was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. The Proprietor was not arrested (it was 1995, the Police threatened to arrest Boog, Shorts and Kenny G. Shorts was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he had his head stapled back together. Then the three knuckleheads went back to Bryant.
After all that Boog said, does he have a case? Will you take his case? I explained that he probably does have a personal injury case and the pizza owner probably has property damage case. However, I was not going to take a case about a steak and tuna sub as my first case. I often wonder if I had taken it, would I be known as the steak and tuna lawyer instead of a condo lawyer? I explained to Boog that a jury might not be terribly sympathetic to Shorts. In fact, I explained that both of use would likely have done the same thing or worse to him is he had broken our window. Boog reluctantly agreed. I gave Boog the names of a few lawyers and I think Shorts settled for a lifetime of steak and tuna subs.
So you might ask how does the curious case of the steak and tuna sub relate to condominium governance. Well, like I did, sometimes its best to just say no to the crazy fact pattern or the crazy case. Many a lawyer has learned that the best decision he has ever made is the case that he never took. In the world of condominiums, that advice can be heeded so as not to create the crazy fact pattern or the crazy case. In the meantime, I have to say I recently decided to give the steak and tunafish sub a try and its quite delicious.
Written by Ed Allcock