Bluebird Legal Case

“The law is violated only if the main purpose of the purchase or acquisition of control by assignment of the object in action is to enable the lawyer to bring an action against it.   The law does not include a case in which another purpose caused the purchase and the intention to pursue was only accidental and contingent” (Sprung v. Jaffe, loc. cit., 544, 169 N.Y.S.2d 456, 147 N.E.2d 6, citing Moses v. McDivitt, 88 N.Y. 62, loc. cit.). A museum has filed a lawsuit seeking the return of Donald Campbell`s restored blue bird, which sank into the depths of Coniston Water 54 years ago. The case-law of that court shows that, although that court has been prepared to rule that an action is not legally open *735 (see Fairchild Hiller Corp. v.

McDonnell Douglas Corp., 28 NY2d 325; see also Avalon, L.L.C. v. Coronet Props. Co., 248 AD2d 311), was reluctant to declare that a legal action is legally champertous (see Sprung v Jaffe, 3 NY2d 539 [1957]; see also Moses v McDivitt, 88 NY 62 [1882]). This cautious approach is consistent with the limited scope of the Champerty doctrine as it originally appeared and developed in the Anglo-American legal system. Smith told us, “We promised our sponsors and donors a boat that works, and our volunteers sweated blood and tears in the process. We built the difficult half, a very complex assembly, but if we have to disassemble it, we will remove all our parts and return theirs. We will put it back in place as soon as it falls. We would be happy to take legal action to bring us to the table.

Let them move forward.  Contrary to the Appeals Division`s conclusion, neither the plain language nor the legislative history of the General Bail Act § 13-107 requires a purchaser to prove his own damage in order to assert a claim for damages.   First, as in all cases requiring legal interpretation, we begin by examining the clear meaning of the law (see Palmer v. Van Santvoord, 153 N.Y. 612, 615-616, 47 N.E. 915,1897;  see also Majewski v. Broadalbin-Perth Cent. School Dist., 91 N.Y.2d 577, 583, 673 N.Y.S.2d 966, 696 N.E.2d 978 [1998] ).   Article 13-107 of the General Law on Debt Securities states in a relevant section: “Unless expressly reserved in writing, the transfer of an obligation to the purchaser transfers all claims or claims of the assignor [sic], whether or not such claims or claims are known, * * * (b) for damages against the trustee or depositary on the basis of an obligation under which such a bond was issued or pending.  (Subd. [1].) In Fairchild Hiller Corp. v.

McDonnell Douglas Corp. (loc. cit.), we first examined the actions of a non-lawyer under the Champerty Act of *736 at issue in this case. Fairchild noted that the acquisition of the receivable was a random part of the transaction, where the primary objective was to acquire the business assets of another company. That court found that Champerty`s defense was properly dismissed because “the undisputed facts ***, as they result from the extensive discovery prior to the trial, prove that Fairchild did not receive the assignment of the claim for the sole and primary purpose of bringing an action for assignment” (Fairchild Hiller Corp. v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 28 NY2d, at 330, above [emphasis added]). Therefore, Fairchild appears to have sparked the debate about the “sole purpose” rather than the “main purpose” that fuels the legal issue in this case. The museum has now requested the return of the boat after their relationship “collapsed” and a bitter legal battle broke out between the two sides.

“Champerty” as an art concept emerged from this practice to describe the medieval situation in which someone acquired a stake in a lawsuit as part of a legal dispute and agreed to bear the costs, but also to share the benefits if the lawsuit was successful. The most important legal battle of that time was over land, and a person who bought lawsuits could acquire a partial stake in land ownership, a cherished power game. The stain on the process arose because the purchase price was usually well below the value of the potential land acquisition, a transaction steeped in speculation related to the “sin” of usury and the associated legal prohibitions. However, the champerty transaction circumvented strict prohibitive laws regarding usury (see id., pp. 60-61, 67). We conclude that the fundamental intention to bring legal proceedings in respect of that claim had to be, at least, the main objective, if not the only motivation, of the completion of the transaction in order to establish a continuation in the acquisition of rights, which would then be annulled, and the resolution of the issue at issue. The words “sole” and “primary” are not synonymous in general or in law. A goal that is the only goal is necessarily the main goal. However, a goal that is primary is not necessarily the only goal (see People v Lopez, 73 NY2d 214, 219 [“two main objectives”]). However, the distinction is without legal difference if the “primary” element is present.