Everyone knows I like a drink!

Even my mother knows, although I’m sure she believes I exaggerate my drinking exploits – thank goodness she doesn’t read this blog!

You probably also know how much I like a good legal argument – I don’t mean an argument that is legal, but an argument over the legalities of a real life situation. What would you do if……!

So last night I got to combine two of my loves in life – drinking and a good legal argument!

We were at a very high class restaurant in Mayfair which I won’t name to save them the embarrassment.

In the least surprising move of the night, we went for the full tasting menu with the full wine pairing.

The food was lovely and the wine was fine, although a little stingy on the servings. Our wine waiter was very sweet, but very softly spoken in a very noisy restaurant which meant I couldn’t really hear what he was saying. However, I have no doubt that our minds are pre-programmed to pick up on certain words because when he served our last round, and used the phrase “alcohol free wine”, I heard him loud and clear. I queried it with him, and he confirmed that I’d heard him correctly.

There then followed a round table discussion about whether, having ordered a “wine pairing”, and given that the definition of “wine” is “the alcoholic fermented juice of fresh grapes used as a beverage”, did serving an alcohol free drink amount to a breach of contract. Alcohol free wine, in my opinion, is just another word for fruit juice!

In typical legal fashion I gave an instant and well thought out response. It depends!

I know that at the outset of ordering the wine pairing we were offered to review what was included. I didn’t read it (I’d say it was because I’d already had a few cocktails at the bar but it was really because I’m too vain to carry my glasses around with me!) but even if it was included, I could argue that there was a conflict between title “wine pairing” and the relevant entry “alcohol free wine”. That might invalidate any argument you want to run about breach of contract or misrepresentation.  Nevertheless it will depend on the context such as how clear the wording was, how much time you were given to read it, how much effort the staff made to make sure you’d read it all the way to the end etc etc etc.

So part of the lesson learned here is to always read the small print. On the other hand, if you’re the one writing the small print, you have to take your client into account.  You won’t always be able to hide behind your ‘ts and cs’. If you are the one doing the drafting, then there is an obligation on you to make sure your wording is clear and unambiguous as any conflicts will be decided in favour of the person who didn’t put the wording together.

Alternatively, make sure you always have your solicitor to hand, as my group did last night.  Apparently my ability to get a reduction in the bill made me good value for money, even if I hadn’t also been sparkling entertainment!

Kleyman & Co Solicitors.  The full service law firm.  We’re the real thing.