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August 2014 - Miss Fortune

by Richard W. Millar, Jr.

I confess that I have never been to a fortune teller unless reading Fortune magazine counts. The closest thing that I can remember is having one of the round black balls that looked like a large Magic Eight Ball with a window in it. You could ask it a question and an answer would float up to the window. It was amazing until I realized that there were a relatively few stock answers that would surface no matter what the question. Would that life were so simple.

I always thought that the law would be a lucrative field for a fortune teller. One who could foresee tentative rulings or even verdicts could make a fortune, for lack of a better word.

I have always wondered just who goes to fortune tellers. Somebody must, because they are still around, including one whose house I can see from the 5 freeway leaving downtown Los Angeles. The answer, I have learned, is lawyers. Or, at least one lawyer.

Michael Busby is a lawyer in Houston. He specializes, I note with some irony, in Bankruptcy.

In any event, Mr. Busby consulted (if that’s the right word; I am a little out of my league here) a fortune teller named Malena Thorn at the, and I am not making this up, Psychic Love Spell Center. He paid her $30 for a tarot card reading. Then, at her suggestion, he paid her $500 for something called a ritual to unite husband and wife. Part of that involved something called “chakras.” (Don’t ask; I have no idea except that it has something to do with centers of spiritual power in the body and, even though I just wrote that, I have no idea what that means either.)

Chakras, in turn, require special lights, which, as you might guess, ups the price. (This sounds like buying a car where, if you want the leather seats, you also have to buy the navigation system, but I digress.) At any rate, to balance the chakras (stay with me here, you have to take some things on faith), Mr. Busby had to place $2,700 in a box and give it to Ms. Thorn who would then cleanse the money within four hours (an expedited cleansing probably cost more, or four hours may be the minimum time needed to secure a getaway) and return it to him with some dolls representing a man and woman. He was then to place the box under the marital bed and say some prayers.

Well, as you can guess by the fact that I am writing about it, neither the box nor the $2,700 was given back within the four hours or, more accurately, ever. Rather than the money being cleansed, it was Mr. Busby who was cleaned out.

What happened next was not completely predictable, at least to Ms. Thorn who didn’t see a summons and complaint in her crystal ball. Mr. Busby did what any red-blooded American lawyer would do: he sued. For breach of an oral contract and fraud. In a class action on behalf of all others similarly situated. He is also seeking a million dollars in damages and an injunction prohibiting Ms. Thorn (and I’m sticking with that name even though she allegedly has more than one) from telling fortunes in the future.

I am sensing a problem with the class action concept. I have a hard time wrapping my arms around the idea that a bunch of guys are going to jump up and say “I got chakrad (assuming the word is also available in verb form) too.” Unless they do, Mr. Busby will probably have to subpoena her crystal ball to get at her customer list, which will present an interesting test of the electronic discovery rules.

I can also foresee some proof problems with the oral contract theory and with at least the reliance requirement for fraud. In fact, I think Mr. Busby missed his golden pleading opportunity.

He should have sued for money laundering.

Richard W. Millar, Jr. is a member of the firm of Millar, Hodges & Bemis in Newport Beach. He can be reached at millar@mhblaw.net.

 
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