The Snowdon costs

May 20th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

’s husband has spoken of the heavy psychological toll of her 11-year battle against former employer , which cost the couple about $3.5 million.

“Litigation destroys people – there are no winners in litigation,” said John Hickling, a lawyer who spent years working on his wife’s long-running case.

So why did you pursue it? Radio NZ did not sue you. You sued them?

His comments come as figures released under the Official Information Act show the publicly funded state broadcaster spent more than $2m fighting the employment case after it sacked Snowdon as managing news editor in 2005, including nearly $1.3m in legal expenses.

By the time Snowdon was dismissed, she had already been on sick leave for more than two years.

That’s all taxpayer money wasted.

He said a relatively straightforward employment dispute seemed to have spiralled out of control, involving 23 preliminary hearings, and 70 formal minutes, orders and rulings even before the 47-day full hearing began last year.

It is understood RNZ is now seeking costs of about $1.1m from Snowdon.

Good. Not to be vindictive, but because we need to discourage this from happening again.

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27 Responses to “The Snowdon costs”

  1. Chris2 (775 comments) says:

    This is as much an indictment on the fees the legal profession charge.

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  2. JMS (367 comments) says:

    This is as much an indictment on the fees the legal profession charge.

    It’s an indictment on the Employment Relations Act.

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  3. queenstfarmer (782 comments) says:

    @Chris2, what are you basing that on? From the public info:

    – 12 year litigation (the longest ever employment dispute)
    – 23 preliminary hearings
    – 70 formal minutes, orders and rulings
    – Numerous appeals
    – Privacy Act complaints
    – OIA challenges
    – Attempt to recuse judge
    – Forensic experts
    – 47-day full hearing

    And no doubt much more.

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  4. Chris2 (775 comments) says:

    @queenstfarmer – $5.5 million spent by the parties over 11 years.

    That’s about what we would pay a Prime Minister over the same period, and he has to run the country, not deal with some meritless employment dispute.

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  5. lolitasbrother (774 comments) says:

    I do not want to be primitive but it is all a good lesson to keep away from lawyers.
    Sometimes you need to get your friend around and say , what is your opinion, what will I do now.
    That early advice and pain is what you have to take.
    About Hicking they say a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.
    Imagine spending that fortune on pride, its just sad all that money could have gone to good purpose.

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  6. Rich Prick (1,750 comments) says:

    It sounds as though there was a fair amount of emotional investment rather than rational thought in hanging onto the litigation. This is more common than you might think.

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  7. metcalph (1,366 comments) says:

    I do wish somebody would have whacked them with a cluebat when they announced they had evidence of numerous fraud charges which 1) counted every dollar supposedly misappropriated as a separate fraud charge and b) counted the costs of RNZ defending the Snowdon claim as an example of misappropriated money.

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  8. peterwn (3,332 comments) says:

    “It had left Snowdon emotionally bereft, with little chance of finding work anywhere in the world, because of her allegations of financial mismanagement being easily accessible on the internet.” (also in Stuff article).

    No employer is going to hire someone who foul-mouthed a former employer. The new employer is very likely to be foulmouthed in due course.

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  9. Nostalgia-NZ (5,318 comments) says:

    The employer seeking 1.1m in costs after paying out of 2 million. Big loss there. What if there had been a 150k settlement offer instead. Oh that’s right someone else’s money to waste.

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  10. BeaB (2,164 comments) says:

    Their relentless pursuit says everything that needs to be said about how she probably did her job.
    Life is rarely tidy. Often we have to just suck it up, accept someone else got the last word and move on .
    What a waste of time, money and lives.

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  11. RightNow (7,014 comments) says:

    @Nostalgia-NZ, “What if there had been a 150k settlement offer instead’

    If the government gives me $150k today I won’t do something (yet to be determined) that would cost them $3.1 million over some unspecified time period.
    And my wife wants $150k as well, also in exchange for not doing some yet unspecified act that will prove very expensive for the taxpayer.
    And my kids.
    And my friend John.
    And Kevin.
    And Tracey.

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  12. Mrs Trellis (34 comments) says:

    Jarndyce and Jarndyce anyone?

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  13. metcalph (1,366 comments) says:

    What if there had been a 150k settlement offer instead. Oh that’s right someone else’s money to waste.

    RNZ had offered a settlement several times.

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  14. peterwn (3,332 comments) says:

    Jarndyce and Jarndyce – A claim made at the time (1850’s) that there was a conspiracy between the Chancery judges and the barristers who appeared in Chancery courts to keep cases running as long as possible. The barristers would expect to be elevated to judges in due course. The UK government got sick and tired at the hopelessly inefficient and bureaucratic nature of the courts and reformed the system (in particular breaking down the rigid barrier between the Chancery and the regular courts). Dickens’ ‘Bleak house’ was one of the catalysts for reform.

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  15. peterwn (3,332 comments) says:

    The case is rather like the executioner who pulls the lever for his own execution then tries to blame the system for his demise.

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  16. queenstfarmer (782 comments) says:

    @Chris2, I agree but Radio NZ was the defendant here. They were not in this by choice. If they didn’t put up a proper legal defence, they may well have lost and then would have had to pay damages AND Mrs Snowdon’s costs.

    The fault here is with Ms Snowdon running a silly case for 12 years, at massive expense to all.

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  17. alex Masterley (1,535 comments) says:

    Peterwn,

    Jarndyce v Jarndyce was a fictional court case that was a recurring theme in Charles Dicken’s novel “Bleak House”.

    I should add that Dickens view of the law was coloured by his dislike of the legal profession.

    Whether it affected the reform of the English legal system at the time is open for debate.

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  18. tvb (4,553 comments) says:

    She is a dumb stupid cow. I hope she is broke. She could have stopped this any day she liked by filing a notice of discontinuance. The defendant RNZ could not do that. That ball was always in her court.

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  19. Tinshed (170 comments) says:

    This is a good lesson in learning that it is not so much what happens to you, but how you deal with “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that really determines the outcome of the bad stuff that sometimes happens to us. Chasing the snake that bit you is usually what kills you – the poison spreads more easily that way.

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  20. peterwn (3,332 comments) says:

    alex – my apologies. I nearly clarified that aspect but considered the average Kiwiblog commenter was sufficiently versed in English literature to know Jarndyce v Jarndyce was a fictional case, but one that nicely lampooned the state of the London courts and legal profession at the time, complete with fog.

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  21. itstricky (2,020 comments) says:

    She is a dumb stupid cow.

    Such empathy. Let’s hope you never have an employment dispute.

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  22. Nostalgia-NZ (5,318 comments) says:

    RightNow. Surely paying out 150k compared to over 1.5m more is simply pragmatic, even to pointing out the offer to The Court as a solution. As ridiculous as the claim appears to have been, better to have argued for the Court to give ‘advice’ on the most pragmatic outcome rather than defend the countless amendments to the Statement Of Claim – even if the whole case, as it is proven, was misconceived. In other words advance the ‘defence’ of being a willing party to a reasonable settlement, it’s pretty clear that a lot of people got hot under the collar over this case and everyone loses.

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  23. David Garrett (7,698 comments) says:

    A very good decision by the former Chief Justice of Tonga…and the fact that they gave it to Judge Ford indicates the high esteem in which His Honour is held by the Chief Judge…

    PS This middle aged lawyer had no idea what Jarndyce v. Jarndyce was…I thought it might have been a reference to Ms Snowdon’s complexion!!

    Never was any good at English bloody lit…

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  24. metcalph (1,366 comments) says:

    Surely paying out 150k compared to over 1.5m more is simply pragmatic, even to pointing out the offer to The Court as a solution.

    The offer of a settlement was made known to the court. It is even referenced in the court’s judgement. But _Snowdon_ turned it down.

    33 […] On 5 August 2003, Mr Quigg wrote to Mr O’Sullivan offering to settle the dispute for a monetary sum plus certain entitlements. Ms Snowdon said in evidence that she was “disgusted” and “repulsed” by Mr Quigg’s letter because el 7 of the offer required her to withdraw the allegations made in her protected disclosures and not to make any further complaints about the RNZ officials named in her documentation […].

    34 […] On 17 November 2003, the Chief Legal Adviser to the Police advised Ms Snowdon that they did not consider it necessary or appropriate to commence an inquiry into her allegation that there had been an attempt on the part of RNZ to pervert the course of justice, and that it was commonplace in settlement agreements drafted by lawyers to include clauses such as cl 7 of the settlement offer letter.[…]

    https://my.lawsociety.org.nz/in-practice/the-changing-law/case-commentary/snowdon-v-radio-new-zealand-ltd/Snowdon.pdf

    RNZ offered to settle the dispute in 2003 when Snowdon was still on sick leave. They underwent five further mediation meetings before her employment was finally terminated in 2005. RNZ is not at fault.

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  25. Nostalgia-NZ (5,318 comments) says:

    Offering to settle doesn’t have to acknowledge fault, nor does sticking to the plan and advancing that a ‘reasonable sum’, taking into account the issues, is actually the issue before The Court. That it took 11 years to reach this point gives none of the parties credit – they dug in when there was a way out.

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  26. metcalph (1,366 comments) says:

    Nost

    Don’t be so fucking ridiculous. RNZ did nothing wrong while Snowdon continued to level outrageous accusation after outrageous accusation. RNZ offered to settle – Snowdon refused. The blame lies wholly upon her, not RNZ. The only way that RNZ could have produced a settlement was to agree in public with Snowdon’s bullshit accusations.

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  27. Nostalgia-NZ (5,318 comments) says:

    metcalph they toasted over 3m. They should have stuck with the single point that they wanted directions from the Court on a settlement sum. They didn’t have to agree in public with the bs allegations, they could have insisted the settlement agreement was confidential – they fed a troll and got burnt. You seem to be mistaken that I’m saying the plaintiff was in the right, I’m not. However, despite that RNZ were clearly in the right, they spent 3m ‘proving it,’ and that was wrong. The plaintiff is a person RNZ is not. Difficult not to think that some of those involved saw RNZ as a gravy train.

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