Dr. Zhivago and the Valet


Dr. Zhivago and the Valet

You may remember this story — Omar Sharif slugged a valet parking attendant outside an LA restaurant a couple of years ago. The attendant sued the actor. What you may not know is that this thing has been winding its way through the courts for the past two years. It came to a head just before the trial started when Sharif decided to fire his attorneys and handle the case himself. Read about it here.

He told the court to send all communications to him care of a country club in Cairo and washed his hands of the proceedings. He didn’t appear when the trial started and the judge found for the plaintiff and awarded an amount, including attorney’s fees, in excess of half a mil.

Sharif may be a bad drunk but he is no fool. His position is that this is all ridiculous. He was happy to pay the attendant something for his pain and suffering plus his costs and apologize. However he didn’t feel that a quarter of a million in attorney’s fees plus $350,000 to the valet was appropriate so he just opted out.

Since all his assets are in Egypt, his native country, the only way anyone can get to them is to retry the case in Cairo, and no one is up for that since the valet’s attorneys haven’t been paid a cent. It all seems to be moot.

Here’s what I think. Sharif is right. OK, he’s an oaf and a bad drunk (this has happened before.) but if he had been JVH he would probably have spent a day in court, made to pay restitution, and that would have been that. However since he’s a rich actor, they went for the deep pockets.

This is what’s wrong with our justice system. That blindfolded woman with the scales is actually peeking out from under the handkerchief that is covering her eyes. If the person has some big bucks and a good attorney they can get buy with anything (can anyone say OJ) but if they are an average stiff who does the same stupid thing, they get nailed.

In this case the reverse happened. Since the "mark" was rich, he was forced to defend himself by spending over a hundred grand  — the process was strung out forever — and then when it came down to it forced to pay everyone’s attorney’s fees AND nearly $400K in awards to the poor downtrodden valet.

Unfortunately Sharif was too smart for everyone. He decided not to play. He can continue to work and travel in the states, it appears, and continue living just as he had before. Is it fair?  Probably not. The poor valet gets zip. But in the end — would a huge award and beaucoup bucks for attorneys be any more fair?

Just saying…


John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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