Saturday, November 27, 2021

Harry Dunn Case: Next Hearing December 1, and the Damages $ May Be Severely Disappointing

As we last heard, a settlement of some kind was agreed to between the main parties, but the closure of the legal case has been delayed by a lien brought by the Dunn family's first set of U.S. lawyers, who would like to be compensated for their work on the case before the family gets anything. 

Exactly how much money are we talking about, you may wonder? According to unreliable and unsourced UK Twitter gossip - but which nonetheless comes from a qualified UK lawyer - the judge hearing the case in the Eastern District U.S. Federal Court, Alexandria, said during the last hearing that he will strictly apply UK law to set the amount of the monetary settlement. That is very, very, bad news for the plaintiffs, since UK law on damages in such cases is as clear as it is parsimonious. 

Under that law, the Fatal Injuries Act of 1976, families of fatal accident victims get only "reasonable funeral expenses" and a small cash payment, usually capped at £2,500. Damages for bereavement are capped at £15,000 pounds - and may be out of bounds anyway since Harry Dunn was not a minor, meaning that his parents are not permitted to make a claim - and there is no such thing as punitive damages. 

Also according to that unreliable and unsourced - but nevertheless generally accurate - UK Twitter gossip, the Dunn family is trying to pry potential lifetime earnings for their deceased son out of the U.S. driver's insurance company. That does not appear to be an option under UK law, however, it's probably the only remaining possible source for the multi-million-dollar payday that the family's horrendously bad advisor has been promising them for over two years now. 

Bear in mind that the deceased was 19, unemployed, and not in school. What kind of lifetime earnings might he have had? A UK resident has an average annual income of barely £30,000 pounds and a UK male has a life expectancy of about 82 years. You do the math. In the best case scenario, that would still fall short of the family's McDonalds-coffee-spill-lawsuit dreams. 

After all that activity in a U.S. court, will it come down to the same paltry settlement that the family could have gotten by suing in a UK court two years ago, minus whatever cut their two sets of lawyers will get? That could be the case.
If it is, the bright spot might be the long-overdue disenchantment of the Dunn family with that pied piper they have followed every day and every step of the way to this point. 

New Embassy Compound Beirut - Why Will it Take a Decade and a Billion $$$ ?

Part of me is thrilled to no end that U.S. Embassy Beirut will, sooner or later, move out of its dinky and haphazard present facilities in East Beirut and into a big, purpose-built, New Embassy Complex. That is an occasion we've been waiting for ever since the previous embassy was destroyed by a suicide truck bomb in 1983, and then the East Beirut embassy annex itself was partially destroyed by a second suicide bomber in 1984. 

1983? 1984? What a long time ago. How many current State Department employees had not yet been born in those years? That replacement embassy has been a long time coming.

Not to spoil my good mood, but what explains the insanely long time between the start of the project and its projected completion date?     


As Diplopundit noted back in 2017, the project broke ground in April 2017, after a construction contract was awarded in December 2016, with completion anticipated in 2022. The design phase of the project was initiated in 2013 when a contract was awarded to Morphosis Architects

Morphosis? The same firm that designed the roundly hated Federal building in San Francisco? The building that has been called a green nightmare? The building that came in dead last in a GSA survey of employee post-occupancy satisfaction? Yes, the same. 

I know nothing from architecture, but I can easily understand all the hate for a 15-story office building in which the elevators stop only at every third floor, where the employees can't have window shades to cut down on sun glare, where there is no heating or air conditioning (except in the manager's offices!), where there is no on-site cafe or restaurant for its 2,400 employees but there is a public plaza that attracted so much crime, trash, and drug use that it is now getting a big forbidding perimeter fence

To be fair, Morphosis' San Francisco design has also gotten some awards, however, none of them came from the poor wretches who have to work there. 

But enough said of the new embassy's architecture. I'm far more concerned about the project schedule.

Judging entirely from the embassy and Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) press releases, it appears the plan was to spend five long years in the design phase - 2013 to 2017 - followed by another five long years in the construction phase. Project delays have now pushed the anticipated completion date out yet another year into 2023. But understand this: OBO intended to spend an entire decade to get that new embassy completed.

That is outrageous. I mean no offense to my good friends in OBO - and they really are my friends, I mean that sincerely - but WHAT WERE YOU THINKING when you approved a plan to build a new embassy in Beirut that would take an entire decade to complete? I'll put aside the matter of the 1+ billion dollar cost. Whatever happened to the sense of urgency that was the entire reason for the Capital Security Construction Program? 

A plain utilitarian office and residential compound that took half as long to complete as one of Morphosis' eccentric masterpieces would have been a far better choice.

Embassy Beirut employees have been living and working in a ramshackle collection of buildings on a hastily-secured compound for 37 years and counting. Granted the security environment in Lebanon is not so acute now as it once was, but still, Hizbollah has pretty much free run of the place so speed really ought to have been a much higher priority for OBO than whatever design excellence whim-wham it is that Morphosis is bringing so very slowly.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Speaking of Plans, Does VP Harris Have One?

Was that really a phony French accent? Yes, but, I think only indirectly in that she was mimicking the dapper French-American actor Hervé Villechaize, who played the expository character of Tattoo on the fabulous 70's TV show Fantasy Island. You know his signature line, "de plane, de plane!."

So then, it was lame humor on top of an incredibly vacuous lecture on the scientific method.

But never mind that. Clearly the VP has stepped in la merde on her trip to France, because her performance was so bad that the White House had to send out late night tweets on a weekend to tell "anyone who needs to hear it" that Harris is really kind of a "vital partner" to Joe Biden. The silent part of that tweet reads 'despite what you may have gathered from watching her poor performance and the paltry portfolio of tasks Biden has assigned her.'

Speaking of plans, DC news media is starting to express very deep concern that Harris is not fit to be the Plan B for 2024 after Biden - no matter what he claims now - will not run.

The finger-pointing has begun, and it only gets worse for Harris from here on to 2024.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

A Case Study of Indifference and Immunity

Hypocrisy makes the diplomatic and political worlds go 'round, I know. But on the subject of diplomatic immunity and fatal road traffic accidents, I submit for your approval the case of a highly successful British diplomat who not only killed a local citizen when he hit a cyclist with his car, but then scarpered off without even so much as expressing the regret that we may presume he feels. 

And the UK government likewise remained silent. Nothing about the incident in any way hindered this diplomat's long and highly successful career, both in government and on corporate boards.  

Forgive me for being cynical, but when I view the endless moralizing from UK politicians over the use of diplomatic immunity in the Harry Dunn case, I am unmoved. 
It's hard to find anything about the old incident in an internet search, but here are the bare bones of the story as recalled by the diplomat himself in a British diplomatic oral history program interview (here) in 2016:

Nigel Sheinwald [BDOHP Biographical Details and Interview Index SHEINWALD, Sir Nigel Elton (born 26 June 1953) GCMG 2011 (KCMG 2001; CMG 1999)]
CM: You were in Moscow from ‘78 to ’79. Was your posting for just one year? NS: No, it should have been two years, but I had a car accident that the Russians held me responsible for, so I didn’t go back after my summer holiday. It was thought better for me not to go back. It happened in Moscow. I think it was a genuine accident, but it appeared that the person whom I hit ran into the road and was probably drunk at the time. I don’t think to this day that it was my fault, but that was their conclusion and of course it was done at a time when the overall relationship was under some pressure and there were lots of extraneous noises off, so it fell into a pattern of difficulty of that kind. The atmospherics in the relationship had been difficult in any event. There had been visa problems and everything else. It wasn’t entirely surprising that they would take advantage of that to cause a bit of minor dislocation on our side. So I stayed in London and as a result of that, because I wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise, I got involved in the Lancaster House negotiations on Rhodesia, which were starting in the autumn of ’79.

"It was thought better for me not to go back." 

Simple as that. Official indifference on the UK's part, and on Russia's part no criminal charges, extradition request, appeal for waiver of immunity, lawsuit, insurance settlement, media circus, or years of political grandstanding.


Nearly the Last Harry Dunn Update, Maybe

I see by yesterday's court docket update that the final pretrial conference is set for November 17, in the Alexandria Federal Courthouse, before the new judge in the case, Rossie Alson, Jr., who is, by the way, a Trump appointee. 

The new judge was assigned after the old one, Judge Ellis, rather mysteriously recused himself during last Friday's hearing. That hearing was in regard to a motion filed by the Dunn family to enforce the financial settlement they'd arrived at with the American driver and/or her insurance company. A simple matter, except that the Dunn family's first set of lawyers on their case - Cohen, Milstein, Sellers, and Toll - have filed their own motion demanding to be paid for their work before the Dunns and their second set of lawyers see a cent of that settlement money. 

The American driver is now out of this matter, which has become solely a case between the Dunns and their lawyers. 

I'm anxious to see how this will play out. According to unreliable and unsourced Twitter gossip from UK parties, this conflict was caused by the Dunn's horrendously bad but all-encompassing advisor, who convinced them that their first set of lawyers are owned nothing because they opted to remove themselves from the case despite spending well over a year working for the Dunns. 

I suspect he was also the reason that CMST removed themselves from the case. They had probably negotiated a nice settlement, but one that didn't meet his thoroughly unrealistic expectation of "a significant compensation claim that will be in the region of millions of dollars" and so he convinced the family to reject that offer.

So the stage is set for a battle between that grifter and two different sets of lawyers. As Henry Kissinger once said apropos of something else, it's just too bad they all can't lose.