BC Supreme Court Justice Ward Branch had started a July 16 decision on a consumer complaint with quotes from UK comedy legends’ dead parrot sketch.
“‘Now that’s what I call a dead parrot,’” Branch said in a ruling prefaced with the words, “Sometimes a consumer will make a purchase, but not receive what they ordered.”
In the Monty Python sketch, a Mr. Praline has bought a dead parrot nailed to its perch. The store owner denies the bird is dead, saying the purchaser stunned it by shaking the cage.
“Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin’ up! Norwegian Blues stun easily.’”
The shopkeeper further claims the bird was nailed to the perch to prevent it escaping.
“Much like the poor Mr. Praline, the plaintiff complains that she was sold a health product that did not contain what it said on the bottle,” Branch said in his decision.
Apparently, the court did not appreciate Branch’s application of the cultural touchstone to his ruling.
When the decision was reissued July 23, all dead parrot references had been removed.
“Corrected Judgment: Paragraphs 1, 2 and 143 of the judgment was corrected on July 23, 2021,” the new version said.
To quote the sketch, the dead parrot references have “ceased to be.”
The decision was removed from legal decision databases earlier in the week.
When asked why, BC Supreme Court spokesman Bruce Cohen, a retired justice, said, “I am informed that Justice Branch decided to make some amendments to his decision.”
Vancouver comedian Mark Hughes thinks the court’s action raises censorship concerns. He wonders what else is being removed from court rulings.
“It didn’t even seem like it was controversial,” Hughes said. “It didn’t seem like it was insulting anyone. I think it’s funny.”
However, Hughes questioned why the court would be returning to rulings and changing them.
“Are they not monkeying around with court documents?” he asked. “Is this some form of censorship?”
Hughes said humour is a subjective thing. He asked if a horror movie was referenced rather than a comedy sketch, would the court rewrite that?
“If somebody gets upset about something and thinks it’s inappropriate, should it be removed? Hughes asked.
He said the judge was using the sketch as a device to communicate and suggested using something such as a horror movie reference would be no more or no less of a device.
Python John Cleese was in the sketch. Glacier Media reached out to him for comment without success
The plaintiff in the case is Uttra Kumari Krishnan. She began a class-action suit against multiple defendants, including many B.C. supermarkets and drugstores.
She had wanted glucosamine sulphate (GS) for joint pain based on a pharmacist’s recommendation.
She alleges that the defendant manufacturers – Jamieson Pharmaceuticals Ltd., WN Pharmaceuticals Ltd. and Natural Factors Nutritional Products Ltd. – manufactured supplements labelled as containing GS when, in reality, the products did not.
She said she does not know for certain what is in the bottles, but argues that what is important is that it was not GS.
The proposed class comprises those who, since May 2016, bought a product labelled as containing glucosamine sulphate, glucosamine sulfate potassium chloride, glucosamine sulfate KCL or glucosamine sulfate.
Branch July 21 approved a settlement agreement including companies’ commitment to seek relabelling of their GS Products, cooperation through the provision of documents and payment of $450,000.