Lawyer, there's a fly in my water!

Have you heard this joke:

Waiter, there's a fly in my soup!
Don't worry sir, the spider on the breadroll will get him!

How about this one:

Waiter, there's a fly in my soup!
Force of habit, sir. Our chef used to be a tailor.

Or maybe this one:

Waiter, why is there a bee in my soup?
Sorry, sir. It's the fly's day off.

When I was a kid, I used to be a huge fan of cheesy jokes (I grew out of the tendency sometime last week, although I acknowledge that a relapse is possible). I collected all sorts of bad puns, double-entendres, and borsht-belt groaners. I knew dozens of knock-knocks, Tom Swifties, and, yes, fly jokes. Yet, for all the jokes I remember, here's one that I never heard:

Judge, judge, there are two flies in my bottled water!
Yes sir, now here's your $343,000.

You don't think it's funny? Neither did Canada's Supreme Court, which recently overturned the ruling of a lower court in the case of Waddah Mustapha versus Culligan of Canada. Apparently, Mr. Mustapha found two flies in a bottle of Culligan water, which, he claims, caused a huge bout of vomiting, followed by a massive phobia involving water. Mr. Mustapha further claimed that he was no longer able to shower or have sex, and was plagued by visions of flies swirling around piles of feces.

How does that work out to $343,000? Did the jury pick the number based on $171,500 per fly? Maybe they went with $28,583.33 per leg or $85,750 per wing. Or maybe it's lost wages, although one wonders how Mr. Mustapha's ability to shower and have sex would affect his work performance. Clearly, this would be a real problem if he was a plumber or a gigolo.

Now, I've had enough post-traumatic stress disorder to recognize that it's a real phenomenon. That having been said, if the sight of two flies is enough to completely undermine your entire life, then maybe the problem isn't the flies. As one site noted, Canada assumes a "reasonable fortitude and robustness of its citizens and will not impose liability for the exceptional frailty of certain individuals." This stands in stark contrast to the American model, in which extensive pretrial discovery would probably have determined that Mustapha was, indeed, nuts. He would undoubtedly have ended up with a massive award, had Culligan not simply decided to settle out of court. The court costs would, of course, have gotten added into the price of all of Culligan's products.

Sometimes Canada starts to look really, really good.

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He wonders if there is a legal way of saying "Man up and stop whining." Maybe reversing a $343,000 ruling does it.
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