of the Hit and Run Donkey (A true story)
James Skinner in Spain
The doneky ran away from the scene of the accident a double dip criminal...
European Union boasts of being one of todays leading economic
and advanced areas of the world on a par with other monsters such
as the USA and Japan. Its greedy expansionist program over the next
few years will include such giants as Poland and Hungary boosting
its assertiveness in the ever-growing arena of globalisation and
competition. During the next century, who knows what the EU will
look like, should others such as Russia decide to join the elite
club encompassing this super human society.
There are however,
a few pockets of not-so-endowed communities, scattered around
this Shangri-La of a continent with residents who havent a clue
what the whole thing is about. They can hardly read or write let alone
worry about all of the wonderful gobbledegook that the politicians are
pumping out daily throughout the EU media. Such is the case of Victoria
Cerqueiro, who lives in a little village called Vilaboa in northwest Spain.
She cant read or write, lives in a dilapidated stone house and survives
off the fruits of her small plots of land inherited from her forefathers.
She doesnt have any electricity, let alone a telephone or other
succulent niceties of the twenty-first century. Her profession, as it
could appear in the Yellow Pages is that of a farmer. Instead of a tractor,
however, she owns or better said owned a donkey. A noble animal, sometimes
obstinate and stubborn, at others just plain dumb. Nevertheless a useful
and faithful pet often used as locomotion in many rural parts of Europes
harvest industry. This was how Victorias ass, or so the judges concluded
was classified when the damn animal decided to smash itself against Manuel
Posterizas car on a lonely side road on the 26th of July of 1993!
When the case was eventually brought before the court, three years later,
the judge ruled in favour of Manuel alleging that the animal was
out of (drivers?) control and had invaded the wrong side of the
road. It also ran away from the scene of the accident in other words,
a double dip criminal act. He ordered Victoria to pay out exactly 192.661
Pesetas ($1160) for sustained damages to Manuels car. Victoria had
ignored the proceedings and although she had tried to nurse the poor animals
wounds it sadly passed away a few weeks after the accident. Months went
by and nothing happened. The odd certified notification emphasising payment
would turn up at Victorias residence only to be ignored yet again
whilst the poor woman continued with her routine dull existence like most
other peasants in this forgotten corner of Europe. The nightmare started
when Victoria was eventually handed an order of embargo on all her properties.
The court had allowed them to be evaluated at officially listed
prices and subsequently ordered them to be sold at auction. The money
raised would eventually cover Manuels claim as per the originally
mandated compensation. Nearly ten years had gone by and Victoria now found
herself homeless and without a means of support for her daily survival.
Not to worry. No different to a good Hollywood script, good would eventually
win out over evil. The case hit the press and the whole story came to
To start with, when the accident happened, Victorias properties
were still in the process of being subdivided amongst her next of kin
as they formed part of an old inheritance. Although the court was unaware
at the time, the other inheritors were. In other words, they
werent legally registered in her name. Secondly, the court evaluator
conveniently catalogued them as rural land based
on historical evaluation rather than residential and completely ignored
the fact that they contained a two-story building Victorias
house. When the auction took place, there was, for some unknown reason,
only one bidder who picked up the whole lot at roughly 10% of its true
value. The new owner never even visited the place. Knowing all along about
the state of affairs of the properties, twenty in all, he rushed over
to the nearest land registration office to enter his purchase as land
under development. Thanks to her neighbours and friends, a young
pair of lawyers was approached who eventually decided to appeal against
the courts decision. In true Tom Cruise fashion, they took on the
case. Spielberg wouldve loved the script just reading on how the
plot began to thicken.
By this time, the injured party, Manuel Pastoriza could not believe the
trouble that had been caused. I received my indemnity two or three
years ago, but I never imagined that this could have reached so far,
he said. Since then, he has sold his car and has refused to drive again.
This is real skulduggery on behalf of evaluators, auctioneers and
judges allowing this sort of thing to happen. I would never have reported
the accident had I known that the poor lady would lose everything,
he concluded. The young lawyers plodded on. Their first move was to present
a lawsuit against the court evaluator as well as the auctioneer. For obvious
reasons, it was thrown out. No judge is going to auto-blame himself! Once
again the press came to the rescue. It hit the local headlines.
Second time round, Tommys legal beagles turned the wording around,
as most lawyers would and managed to annul the auction until the whole
mess could be cleared up. The truth is that cases such as these
raise the social alarm, said the lawyer. Just take a look
outside the courtroom. Victorias friends and neighbours, in
true democratic style, banners and all were campaigning for justice. Whilst
the case continues Victoria is home and carrying on with her mundane existence.
Despite the advances of the consumer world, despite the multitude of rulings
and laws that are binding Europes fifteen into a supposedly tight
and harmonious modern society, cases of extreme legal abuse take place,
specially at the lower level of the humble human spectrum. In this particular
case, who was at fault in the first place? The donkey that caused the
accident? The plaintiff? Victoria, who couldnt interpret the accusation
and hoped that the funny postman bringing letters, would go away? The
judge, whose naive interpretation of the law book overlooked the human
suffering of the defendant? Or how about the wheeler-dealers behind the
scenes such as the evaluator, auctioneer and buyer who were quick to sniff
out the profit margins in ten seconds flat. Was this a genuine legal comedy
of errors or a case of lack of human compassion and understanding? After
all, how can one take a ruling on the unfortunate accident of a hit and
run dumb animal without considering the aftermath that could and did turn
into a real human tragedy?
© James Skinner. 2002.
November 17th 2002.
*James will keep us up to date on this case it it unfolds in er timely
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