Monday, June 20, 2005

A Stain on His Record...Or Hers?

You've probably heard this story already, since it's been all over the Internet and the news today:
An email between a highly paid lawyer and a secretary over a tomato ketchup stain has become the talk of legal circles in London, leaving the sender distinctly red-faced.

British media reported with glee the tale of Richard Phillips who emailed the secretary to ask her to pay a four pound ($7.30) dry-cleaning bill after she accidentally spilled tomato ketchup on his trousers. (source)
The secretary, who had just returned to work after the death of her mother, became irate and forwarded it to several colleagues at the law firm.

So how would you rectify this situation if you were in the shoes of the participants?
  • Is the secretary liable for the bill because of her involvement in the accident?

  • Should the lawyer have paid the bill himself because he earns much more than his secretary?

  • Was it tacky of him to send her the email, considering her recent personal difficulties?

  • Or was it even tackier of her to forward the email to her coworkers?
Talk to me; the comments are open.

UPDATE: More details on the story from, including the fact that both the lawyer and the secretary may be leaving the firm now.

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to my buddy Stout, pioneer of the 2BC, who turns 21 today. He sent me a truly hilarious IM saying that he would be "celinebriating" his special day and hoped he could see two of me sometime soon (I had to think about that one for a second). Unfortunately, not even one of me got to cross paths with him today, but I hope to soon.


Eric Grubbs said...

Judging by the information given, the lawyer was out of line. We're talking about a bill less than $8. Now, if the secretary did something that caused a rather large bill ($30 and up), she should pay for it. This lawyer sounds like a cheapskate. Sending her the info via e-mail was very impersonal. I don't blame her for forwarding the e-mail.

Gary P. said...

I think the secretary should have offered to clean it. We try to teach our kids when they make a mess or break something that belongs to someone else, they're responsible for making things right again.

That being said, I think everything that happened subsequently was out of line. If she couldn't/wouldn't have the stain cleaned, he should have and just let it go at that.

Jazzy G said...

I don't think either party handled the situation in a stellar manner. What I wanna know is, did the secretary apologize when the incident occured (i.e. - *spill* "oops! sorry about those trousers..")? If she didn't, then the whole scenario would seem less random, and she should apologize. Otherwise, this is an overreaction to an everyday mishap.

Kev said...

It was really interesting listening to people talk about this on the Benjamin Dover show yesterday. All the male callers pretty much agreed that the guy should have been "gallant" and footed his own bill, while virtually every woman said that she should've paid up.

Steven said...

The woman, distressed or not, should have offered to pay for it, but if she didn't, I don't think the lawyer should have asked her, because it's not a matter of money here, but courtesy.