Not all trials tickle the odd judicial bone.
But a Vancouver judge saw parallels this week between a woman’s proposed class action lawsuit against a handful of drug companies and a legendary British comedy skit involving an enraged customer who complains he was tricked into buying a dead parrot.
“Sometimes a consumer makes a purchase but doesn’t get what they ordered,” BC Supreme Court Justice Ward Branch wrote before citing nearly every so-called Dead Parrot Sketch from Monthy Python’s flying circus at the beginning of a long judgment certifying the class action.
The woman leading the charge – Uttra Kumari Krishnan – claimed to have spent years buying glucosamine sulfate products that apparently do not contain glucosamine sulfate.
Giving Krishnan the green light to continue, Branch likened her to “Mr. Praline” – the customer in the decades-old skit that confronts a trader with a “Norwegian blue” parrot that turns out to have been nailed to it. his perch – an “ex-parrot” in the words of Mr. Praline, “expired and gone to meet its creator!”
“A bit like poor Mr. Praline, [Krishnan] complains that he was sold a health product that did not contain what was written on the bottle, ”Branch wrote.
“[She] admits she doesn’t know for sure what’s in the bottles, but maintains that what’s important is that it was do not glucosamine sulfate. “
From dead parrots to dead seashells
The judge approved the class action lawsuit against WN Pharmaceuticals Ltd. and Natural Factors Nutritional Products Ltd. regarding products purchased after May 6, 2004 that claimed to contain glucosamine sulfate.
Glucosamine is part of human cartilage, but it is also found in the shell of seashells. Glucosamine sulfate is produced by combining glucosamine and mineral salt.
Global sales of the compound are worth billions.
If Health Canada approves a license for a glucosamine sulfate product, a manufacturer is allowed to say that it “helps relieve joint pain associated with osteoarthritis and protects against deterioration of cartilage.”
According to Branch’s ruling, the lawsuit was sparked by a 2012 academic article that cast doubt on the contents of many commercial products claiming to contain glucosamine sulfate.
Krishnan claims that a UBC professor hired to test a bottle of “Webber Naturals Glucosamine Sulfate 500mg Capsules” found that they did not contain “Glucosamine Sulfate or Sulfate. of glucosamine potassium chloride ‘.
The distinction is crucial because the experts cited by the applicant claim that only glucosamine sulfate itself is effective in the management of osteoarthritis and other forms of glucosamine are more difficult to digest.
The companies are contesting the claims. They also claim that their products meet Health Canada’s testing requirements and that the scientific tests carried out by Krishnan’s expert go beyond what is required by the government.
Branch asked for the sketch of the dead parrot again when he questioned whether Health Canada’s approval for glucosamine sulfate mattered more when it came to prosecution than whether the product actually contained glucosamine sulfate.
“To cite the opening comic excerpt, Health Canada’s testing protocols cannot change a dead parrot into a living parrot,” the judge wrote.
“Health Canada cannot establish a protocol that requires that a parrot still have only its feathers to be sold as a live parrot, and thus prevent anyone from suing after selling a parrot that has joined the choir of the bleeding ‘invisible.’ “
In approving the class action for certification, Branch did not rule on the merits of the claim, but only if it met the bar to proceed. The allegations have not been proven in court.
“Dazzling, numbing the buttocks”
A search of the Canadian Legal Information Institute’s database shows a forensic fondness for Monty Python – a British comedy troupe who created the Flying circus TV show, which aired on the BBC between 1969 and 1974.
The dead parrot sketch is a particular favorite.
In 1998, a Tax Court judge compared the behavior of Human Resources and Development Canada employees to that of the parrot seller in their handling of taxpayer claims: “They simply refused to accept the parrot. was not napping or meditating but was, in fact, extremely dead. “, wrote the judge.
The Alberta Court of Appeal also cited the sketch as a way of showing that a “dying” pipe company that had been struck off the corporate register could not file a civil action: “To borrow from the satire of Monty Python is a non-entity and denial does not change that fact, “the judges wrote.
And in a literary tour de force, an Ontario Superior Court judge compared a witness to so-called Silly Walks minister Monty Python, saying “man’s credibility was reduced to existential confetti.” when he finished testifying and “he even appeared to be physically shorter than at the start of the trial.”
The same judge called the closing arguments “freezing the eyes, numbing the buttocks” and “herniated disc”.
Not to be outdone, the British Columbia Civil Resolution Court ruled last year in a dispute involving a man who claimed he had been sold a defective parrot. In that case, the court member ruled that there was an “implied warranty” that the ex-parrot – Tiberius – would be in good health for at least six months after purchase.