Case 24: The Broken Contract

How do you vote on this case?

  • Valerian is guilty and must pay significant compensation to Petronius.
  • Valerian is guilty but only a token compensation is to be paid to Petronius.
  • Valerian is not guilty (you think he is, but you acquit him as a political favour).
  • Valerian is not guilty. Petronius did not complete his contract.

0 voters

(CJ invited me to post a case for today, in the "Thirty Tribunal Cases for November" series. I've numbered it unsing today's date, even though some of the other cases have not been presented yet.)

Case 24: The Broken Contract

The Praeco of the Normandy Tribunal seems a bit hesitant as he introduces the next case. "A case is brought before Tribunal by a visiting magus, Master Petronius scholae Bonisagi of the Rhine Tribunal, against Valerian of Guernicus, Chief Hoplite of the Normandy Tribunal, for breach of contract and deprivation of magical power."

The plaintiff (Petronius) states that he entered a contract with Valerian to cast a number of rituals for him, in exchange for a payment of 40 pawns of Vim vis (over the vis required to cast the rituals themselves) to be paid over a period not exceeding 2 years after the last ritual has been successfully completed. He claims that, although the last of the specified rituals has been cast more than three years ago, only half of the payment has been received. He has repeatedly reminded Valerian that payment had not been completed, by letters and in person, to no avail.

The plaintiff argues that, considering the investment in time and skill required to learn such rituals, the risk inherent to the casting of rituals due to the vis requirement {{-note that this case interprets RAW so that casting a ritual is always stressful-}}, and the efforts needed to cast those rituals over many days and seasons, Valerian has deprived him of magical power by way of the unpaid vis. He requests that the remaining amount be paid in full, plus compensation for the breach of contract as well as the time and annoyance related to having to bring this case before Tribunal. Time, he reminds Tribunal, that is valuable for his research as a Bonisagus.

The defendant (Valerian) claims that although the rituals were cast as agreed, they did not provide him with the expected benefits. As such, he argues, they were not "successfully completed". The visiting magus should consider himself satisfied that half the payment was provided, despite the failure and stop pestering him about it. He notes, without much subtelty, that his own time as Chief Hoplite of the Tribunal has value as well, and that the claimant is wasting it, as well as that of his august sodales of the Normandy Tribunal.

Valerian needs to pay. The fact that he had wrong expectations on what they will provide him is not an excuse. The rituals were cast as agereed, provided the effects as agreed and were provided by Petronius in the correct amount of time. As such, petronius is just right. Valerian is effectively stealing from Petronius by not paying. The claim of both magi about wasted time is irrelevant here. They could be both lowly exmiscellaneas and the case would still be valid. the defence of Petronious is totally void of value. pretending that we will be less strict because he is a member of our tribunal is just wrong. In fact, the fact that one of our high ranking and trusted officials acts so lowly should be a source of shame for our tribunal, not of valid defence.

I suggest Valerian has to pay Petronius the whole amount in a Moon, plus 4 pawns of vis for late payment and provide 2 rooks of vis to the tribunal share in a period of 5 years. International conflicts is not something that the Normandy tribunal wants.

Are you requesting this publicly, in from of the whole Tribunal, from a magus with a lot of political power? If so, he glares at you the whole time...

((Yes this is more of a political case than a case a law. Who will dare cross the Chief Hoplite? :imp: In a Tribunal where attacks on mundane possessions of a covenant are not protected under the Peripheral Code? :smiling_imp: ))

Who said he has a lot of political power?

In a factious tribunal like Normandy I would count my votes, and if the hoplite is from another faction that has less votes, pounce for the political strike.

I just added a poll to allow people to vote on the case.

Regarding Valerian, consider (for the purpose of this case) that he has a fairly significant political power. Not immense, but not weak either. Furthermore, he is essentially a cop -- he catches the bad guys and either kills them or bring them to justice. Would you slap down your local chief of police, hard, essentially humiliate him publicly? When he would still be in office afterward? So the way you present your vote is actually as important as the vote itself.

Anyone has questions? There is nothing to say that my description of the case was complete, or even accurate in all points... :wink:

Siglorel, a Verditius magus of shady reputation, speaks up:

"Sodales, I for one would like to hear more details about this case. A spell has been cast, a customer is unsatisfied. Please let him explain why the ritual's caster is at fault in his opinion. Did the seller boast incorrectly on the expected effect? What rituals were purchased, and how were they used? Did the caster have any control on the reason benefit was not obtained?

Those details might help us refine our judgement."

Valerian glares at Siglorel before stating stiffly that there were multiple rituals cast for him. Some were related to his work as a Hoplite, which were satisfactory and paid for. Others were of a personal nature, but did not result in all of the benefits they were supposed to provide based on Petronius' description of them. Those are the rituals he refuses to pay extra for. The vis for the rituals themselves was provided by Valerian, it is only the fee charged by Petronius for the act of casting that he refuses to pay.

"His high lordship the sleepy head needs to pull his head off the pillow and pay for the rituals, at the agreed upon price. He requested the rituals, he determined that they would be useful, he further agreed to the price. That the results were not to his liking is not the fault of Petronius, who further put himself at grave personal risk of casting these rituals. Casting a ritual requires the handling of vis, and carries substantial risk. That risk can be mitigated with time spent mastering the ritual, and of course, that time is an intrinsic part of the price charged to cast the ritual. Pay up, sleep head. You do this Tribunal a great injustice by letting such a case be brought before it." A man with long flowing robes that appears to flow under him glides down the stairs speaking as he glides.

"Don't provoke me, Marcus! I did not simply assume that those rituals would achieve the results I was seeking, I was assured by a specialist that they would. Except that this expert refused to tr-- to cast the rituals himself for me, so I seeked another magus." Valerian fumes a bit at this, and some of the magi at Tribunal try to hide their discomfort. Some are allies of Valerian, while others have had dealings with him.

"Thanks for introducing me to the assembled Magi, I had forgotten my manners in my rush to confront you. My apologies for my behavior to all the assembled magi." Marcus grins mischievously. Marcus is from House Tytalus, and in Bibracte he was the winner of the 1221 Dimicatio event.
"So let us hear from this other magus, so that he might describe these rituals, and how much they cost, and how they differed from the rituals cast by my amicus, Petronius."

Ecelo ex Miscellanea, an itinerant Seeker, turn to Petronius and aks:

"Good Petronius, for this Tribunal to consider your case, you'll have to be more specific. What rituals are we talking about, exactly? Also, Valerian seems to suggest that for some of these rituals payment was made in full, and for some in half, whereas you seem to claim that only half the payment was received for the whole lot -- or maybe I misunderstood?"

Petronius tried, without much success, to hide a smirk as Valerian is questionned and generally put on a tight spot. When he is addressed, however, his demeanor becomes more composed.

"As I've mentioned before, the contract was for casting a number of ritual. Payment was to be disbursed in full when the last ritual had been successfully cast, not on a per-ritual basis. As for the specific list of those rituals, I cannot answer you, as the contract had a confidentiality clause. So I am not allowed to disclose it, in part of in full." He shrugs, "Which is something that I can understand, and even approve, as some of the rituals were related to Valerian's function as a Hoplite for your Tribunal."

Ah! A some things become clearer now. It was a different expert who gave Valerian his opinion that these rituals would have the outcome he desired. I disagree that we need the exact nature of the rituals to reach a judgement here - the matter is personal to Valerian and we should respect his privacy and further, for a magus as accomplished as Valerian to agree such a fee the magic must be highly specialised, I doubt that those of our members who could usefully conduct a post mortem on the spells themselves (amongst whom I surely do not number) would be quorate!

I do have some questions for Petronius. Now, without going into detail about the nature and purpose of these rituals, could you tell us:
Did you discuss with Valerian his hoped for outcome before reaching an agreement?
If you did, what advice did you give him as to the chance of success?
If you did not, did you try to discuss the matter and get rebuffed (which Valerian was entitled to do if the matter was private)?
Do you now know what the expectation not met is and do you consider it realistic?
Valerian has said that the rituals were completed as agreed but you are the expert - now that you reflect, are you satisfied with how they went?

When the questions have been answered
Valerian, does that match you recollections?

I would also like to now if the rituals failed or did they have some effect, even if it was not to the level expected?

"I cannot answer these questions significantly without encroaching upon the confidentiality clause. Valerian did not state his dissatisfaction to me about a specific ritual, just that he felt I did not deliver all the benefits promised. Thereafter," Petronius makes a dismissive hand gesture towards the glowering Guernicus, "he avoided me and did not answer my letters."

"I also do not know whom he consulted with, or why. He came to me with a list of rituals that he wanted me to cast. I named my price, we prepared a contract, which we signed. Over the next few months, I cast those rituals."

"Bah!" Valerian interjects, "He pretends not to know who reccomended him, but he lies! And the contract specifically says that the rituals must be cast 'such that they provide their full effectiveness', which they did not!"

Ecelo shakes his head.

"Without more details, it is impossible for us to pronounce judgement. Thus, I would suggest that the nature of the contract be made public.

If Valerian feels that this will damage his privacy, he can either choose to pay Petronius the two rooks Petronius claims and close the case, or name here and now what he feels is a reasonable compensation for disclosing the details.

Then, Petronius will be allowed to drop the case, if he wants. If not, all details will be disclosed.

Should we find Valerian innocent, Petronius will pay him the named compensation for the loss of his privacy.
Should we find Valerian guilty, Valerian will pay the same compensation to the Tribunal, and to Petronius the vis he'd owe."

Marcus senses an opening, "His lordship the Chief Hoplite claims that the rituals were done as part of his duty as Chief Hoplite of the Tribunal. However, I am unaware of any recent activity that would require a Chief Hoplite to equip himself with rituals. Petronius, my good friend, your case is against the Normandy Tribunal and the Chief Hoplite. Valerian has no standing to this case, as he alleges that he was doing this in an official capacity. So, the nature of that official capacity must be disclosed, or, if the Normandy Tribunal wishes to remain silent on it, they must pay Petronius."

Marcus shakes his head we have already heard that there is no disagreement over the that part of the work. In any case, as you well know, Quaesitores and Hoplites work at their own expense. At the conclusion of a case it is often appropriate to reimburse and reward them but we do not demand early disclosure nor take on debts.

Valerian, did you, at any point before the casting of the rituals, tell Petronius what you expected the "full effectiveness" to be? I am sure he would not have taken your vis and risked himself for a ritual that he did not think would satisfy you. It does sound as though you are trying to hold him to someone else's promises. If anyone has wronged you here it the person first recommended these rituals to you and even they may not have intended to mislead; but that is a matter between you and them. I don't see how that person's identity or whether Petronius knows it is material to the case.

Unless Valerian has an answer for that

Valerian, you are known to be a fair man even by the high standards of your house. You have served this Tribunal with scrupulous objectivity for decades but even the clearest sight blurs when the object is too close. It is severely irritating to pay for a service that disappoints but the law is against you on this - Petronius has done everything he agreed to and is owed the balance of his fee.

There is no need for us to impose a schedule for payment or interest because we trust you to sort it out sensibly while you are both at Tribunal.

"He was told, though not by myself. I alluded to this and he seemed to understand. If he tells the truth," he smiles tightly, "and was not precisely informed of my expectations by his own--" He stops before completing his sentence, then nods. Turning to Petronius, he states, "My apologies. You will have the rest of your payment before the end of Tribunal."

((Does the Tribunal wish to impose further penalties or compensation to Petronius?))

Ecelo nods. "Excellent. May we then consider this issue resolved?"

Under normal circumstances the answer would be yes, Valerian would also be fined. But given Valerian's political weight, I think that Petronius should be happy with having retrieved his two rooks, and leave it at that.