A perennial holiday favorite Harmless Error column. Santa Suit originally appeared in the January 2000 issue of the A.B.A. Journal. Caroline Kennedy selected it for inclusion in her anthology, A Family Christmas.
BY ANDREW J. McCLURG
Children’s rights is a popular issue these days. One reason is that it is an impossible issue to oppose. A person can not stand up and say, “I oppose children’s rights.” Such a person would be reviled, especially by children. Of course, in our society we carry everything to extremes. Holiday cheer received a jolt yesterday with the announcement of a new lawsuit:
Children of the World, Plaintiffs
Santa Claus, Defendant.
Plaintiffs, consisting of the class of all children who on or about December 24 were hanging stockings by the chimney with care in the reasonable belief that St. Nicholas soon would be there, sue defendant and allege:
1. This is an action for an accounting, damages and injunctive relief.
2. Upon information and belief, defendant is a citizen and resident of the North Pole, where he maintains his principal place of business. The court has subject matter jurisdiction of the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
3. Count I – Breach of Contract. Throughout the fall of 1999, plaintiffs met with agents of defendant at various shopping malls to negotiate the delivery of certain goods on the evening of December 24, for which plaintiffs paid valuable consideration in the form of exorbitant tie-in charges for photographs of the negotiating sessions. Plaintiffs repeatedly informed defendant, through his agents, that time was of the essence in completing such deliveries. As of this date, many of the contracted goods have not been delivered. Other goods were nonconforming and lacked batteries, rendering them of no use of plaintiffs.
4. Count II – Deceit. Defendant fraudulently induced plaintiffs to improve their conduct against their will by misrepresenting that defendant knows if plaintiffs have been bad or good, when, in fact, defendant lacks sufficient knowledge upon which to form a reasonable belief regarding such matters. In justifiable reliance upon these representations, plaintiffs invested substantial labor in not shouting, pouting or crying and at all times relevant hereto were good for goodness sakes.
5. Count III – Infliction of Emotional Distress. On the relevant night, defendant knew or should have known that plaintiffs were snug in their beds with visions of hand-held video games and name-brand athletic apparel dancing in their heads. Despite such knowledge, defendant willfully and maliciously concealed off-brand goods and inherently worthless property such as sweaters and umbrellas in packages that misrepresented their true contents. Plaintiffs suffered severe emotional shock and fright upon opening such packages.
6. Count IV – Trespass and Conversion. Defendant’s implied license to enter plaintiffs’ premises terminated upon his substantial breaches of contract, rendering all subsequent entries actionable trespasses. Once on the premises, defendant exercised substantial dominion and control over an estimated 200 tons of cookies and 44,000 gallons of milk, converting such property and depriving plaintiffs of its beneficial use.
WHEREFORE, plaintiffs demand judgment for compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive relief and an accounting.