"Ergo, weighing up the evidence, on the balance of probabilities...BE GONE CASE! BE GONE!"
An Australian judge delivered his judgment on a 25-year-long litigation case in the form of eulogy, praying that the matter would not rise "zombie-like from the grave".
Master Sanderson was presiding over the winding up of Bell Group (UK) Holdings in the West Australian Supreme Court, following the longest and most expensive civil litigation matter in Western Australia.
The dispute commenced in 1995 after the collapse of Bell Group, when liquidators brought claims against the organisation's banks for various breaches of duty. The courts found the banks liable, but the banks appealed and the litigation rumbled on for many years.
In 2013, the banks agreed a settlement with the creditors for a whopping AUD1.7 billion. However, the matter was not resolved as "the plaintiffs then set to squabbling among themselves", over "the prospect of vast riches," as Master Sanderson noted in his judgment. It wan't until December 2019 that the creditors finally agreed on the terms of the distribution.
Following the lengthy legal saga, Master Sanderson has now delivered his judgment in the Western Australia Supreme Court over the winding up of Bell Group.
In his decision, which he headed an "Ode to a dying corporation", the exasperated judge referred to Bell Group as finally "buried", stating "these reasons are not so much a judgment as a requiem." He penned:
"Thousands of people worked on this case. Most have put the experience behind them and moved on; many, shattered by the experience, have retired; more than a few have gone mad."
Including perhaps Master Sanderson himself, who then channelled the spirit of Wilfred Owen:
"Now the guns have fallen silent. The smell of cordite, gun powder and napalm no longer fills the air. The dead and wounded have been removed from the battle field. The victors have divided the spoils and departed."
The judge referred to how the lawyers were affected by the ongoing litigation, saying that "even the bare knuckled litigators were exhausted". He also noted the animosity between the parties that had festered during the marathon case:
"Over the years, I dealt with the case on more than a dozen occasions...it was clear there existed between counsel a mutual loathing. That was probably due to frustration – not only frustration with the glacial progress of the case, but frustration with the clients."
Master Sanderson said that now the matter had settled he wanted to give the Bell Group "a decent burial", but also a final one:
"It was tempting to drive a wooden stake through the heart of the company to ensure it does not rise zombie-like from the grave. As an alternative, I considered ordering the files be removed to a secure facility in Roswell and marked: 'Never to be opened'."
He signed off the judgment with an "Amen". Sanderson's diatribe can be read in full here.