Friday, February 20, 2009

Court Summons Are a Dish Best Served AWESOME

Studying law, you're gonna come across a few cases that make you step out and say "Holy shit, really?" For instance, the "slip-on-banana-peel" motif? There's an entire barrage of tort case-law centering around people who slip on banana peels in public places and try to sue whatever respective train station/grocery store where the slip-and-fall happened . These cases are appropriately called "The Banana Peel Cases" and serve to suss out how much responsibility business owners have to keep their establishments clean and safe. In Civil Procedure, you don't usually get the same level of hilarity. Well, until you get to Civil Process Serving.

Allow me to introduce Harry Grossman:

Grossman was, to quote my text book, "the champion process server of his day. He [was] an instrument of justice and his profession [was] a corner stone of  civil law, but not many of the people he serve[d] appreciate[d] that" (See Thomson and West's Civil Procedure). Cursed by hundreds of defendants, beaten down, thrown off porches and down stairs, slapped, kicked, punched, and then mauled by a seven-member family - Grossman was the go to guy when certain defendants required a little ingenuity to serve. 

When an elderly shut in refuses to answer the door for anyone, Grossman is there to fake the fire that'll make her come out screaming. In one particular case, Grossman spent an entire day rolling papers into balls and throwing them into salad bowls so that, when a resistant defendant would come onto her porch to peel potatoes the next day, he'd be able to make a subpoena into her bowl in one shot. He was the man private detective agencies hired when their own shenanigans couldn't get the work done. He practically invented "flower misdirection" - buying flowers as a distraction for one lady, whose response was, typically, "Oh! Are these flowers really for me!?" and, as she reached for them, he pulled them away only to hand her a subpoena, while simply stating, "No. But, this is." By the way, she didn't get to keep the flowers - he sold them back to the florist. One of my favorites, Grossman calls up a defendant (William Fox, owner of the Fox Film Corporation), convinces him that they've made an imaginary, multi-million dollar "theater deal," and, when he shows up to serve, he chastises the man in his own office. "Fox started up from his desk indignantly, but Grossman's indignation expressed itself first. 'You, a multi-millionare!' Grossman shouted. 'Is it decent, is it nice, for a multi-millionaire who can be sued for fifteen million dollars to hide from me? Why don't you take the papers like a man?' This so flabbergasted Fox that he sank back in his chair, and Grossman went through the corporation's offices unimpeded and served papers on [William] Sheehan, two vice-presidents, the secretary, and the treasurer." Grossman's unique ability to become far more indignant than anyone he served frequently saved him from physical harm. Particularly, when Grossman barged his way into a sculptor's home to deliver a subpoena, the sculptor stopped working on his nearly completed nude and began to say, "You [expletive] you [expletive] you ought to be-" when Grossman cut him off by yelling, "How about you!? Should you maybe be ashamed of yourself!? You and your naked women!" and then left the man speechless and with nothing, but his subpoena for tissues. Holy shit.

Apparently, Grossman had a reputation for being an "androit private detective" before he was even eighteen. And, when he was finally of age to serve papers, it seemed like his perfect job. I have no clue if Harry Grossman is still alive, as his hay day centered around 1935, but damn if he is would I like to shake his hand. Pineapple Express made this concept cool and chuckle worthy. Harry Grossman was the man who single-handedly made it legendary.


Max Nova said...

Clearly this man is a master Gentleman. If only he was still alive to serve the creative team behind You Got Served. Then the universe would be complete.

Ozkirbas said...

If only, Mr. Nova. If only.

David Pratt said...

Perhaps we should nominate Mr. Grossman for honorary Gentleman status.

B.Graham said...

I'll second that, David.

Anonymous said...

Please properly cite your information. This was written in The New Yorker. Here's a start:

St. Clair McKelway, Profiles, “PLACE AND LEAVE WITH~II,” The New Yorker, August 31, 1935, p. 21

Ozkirbas said...

@Anonymous - I apologize for failing to properly cite Harry Grossman's story. In an informal article. On a blog. On the internet. I did see-cite the text book from which I read the excerpt. It's properly cited there. Because it's a text book.

Oh, and you posted anonymously. Refrain from doing that in the future