Kovalenko Vs Volvo
Does a mere Ukrainian have a chance to win over a world giant? Did a motor-car corporation bribe our judges? Why the world`s safest car made a man disabled?
From time to time Ukrainian mass media remind us of a Crimean resident, 40-year old Serhiy Kovalenko, who has been having legal proceedings with Volvo. Newspapers and television inform us either about a court ruling to pay him an unprecedented in Ukraine reimbursement, or about another court’s ruling to cancel all payments to him.
This case is really unprecedented.
Never before a citizen of Ukraine has challenged such a powerful firm and never before has demanded so much – 70 million dollars. A court has never brought a verdict to reimburse such an amount – 53 million dollars. None appeal court has ever so categorically, during an hour and a half of a court sitting, nullified this noted ruling. And, finally, upon all these, the plaintiff accused the world-known concern of bribing judges, who examined the appeal, and submitted a cassation to the Supreme Court.
Unfortunately, sometimes newspaper sensations such as “the court ruled” or “the appeal court cancelled” does not give us a clear idea of this story.
Contrary to many of us, Serhiy Kovalenko found in himself forces, nerves and means to defend his consumer rights and challenged a powerful trans-national structure. In any other country this precedent would not be of any particular importance. While here, where almost all spheres of life are corrupted, it was extremely important to attract as much as possible attention to this case, and, thereby, give a chance to an unbiased consideration of the case.
Unfortunately, this did not happen.
Our mass media did not get seriously interested in the legal proceedings. None of the journalists went to Symferopol, to attend the trial on the case Kovalenko vs Volvo, no newspapers expressed any desire to follow the course of the trial. Our officials, receiving salaries for defense of Ukrainian consumer rights in relevant structures, also did not notice this suit. The juridical circles, which are due to develop and defend professional standards, also indicated a total impotence, having appeared to be absolutely incapable of any actions.
Fifty million dollars for security pillows
In the end of 1999, a lawyer of Crimean resident Serhiy Kovalenko turned to UNIAN. He told how Serhiy crashed on his Volvo car and became a disabled person. Consequently, he lost his business, family, health, and opportunity to go in for sports. The car, by which Kovalenko crashed, was advertised as the safest world car. However, Volvo did not respond to the fact that the car’s security systems failed to operate. Kovalenko was told: there were not enough conditions for security pillows to snap into action. The lawyer stressed he does not see any other way out but to turn to court.
We advised Serhiy to hold a press conference and to tell about all the troubles he suffered in this story.
Since that time the agency has been attentively watching the developments.
At a press conference, Serhiy exposed his broken car in front of the agency, so that anybody interested could make his own conclusions. It was really hard and expensive to transport the car to Kyiv. But it seems that it was worth of the efforts – journalists, who attended the press conference, could visually imagine the crash and got persuaded whether security systems must have operated in that situation or no. The reaction of the majority to the car, smashed to smithereens, was approximately the following: how should one crash for security pillows to snap into action?
Finally, the court issued an unmatched ruling, which was already mentioned above. Volvo and its Ukrainian dealer, Viking Motors firm, must have paid to the plaintiff a 53 million dollars reimbursement. Out of this amount, a third is a material indemnity, the rest is moral one. It happened in February of the last year. However, in August, the Crimean Appeal Court crossed out the hopes of Kovalenko, having cancelled the ruling on paying off this amount in the very suit.
Serhy Kovalenko immediately held a press conference, at which he announced that this ruling is corrupted, and accused “Volvo” of bribing the judges.
Why Kovalenko is convinced that the appeal court’s ruling is illegal?
First. The court considered the case, without having examined it at all. In fact, the trial lasted for an hour, another half an hour was spent to bring the verdict. To study all the materials of the case, including 10 volumes, it took judges… 24 hours. Can one believe after this that the judges were really looking for the truth?
Kovalenko says: they neglected all the evidences that were collected within frames of the investigation into the traffic accident. They disregarded all the expertises, which were carried out during the long-term legal proceedings.
“In fact, the Appeal Court did not recognize the innocence of the plaintiff in my becoming disabled. But it adopted an absolutely contrary ruling – to refuse the indemnity, and to turn down the suit. The court merely rewrote a Volvo advertising booklet, and basing on it, said: a perfect car, it is impossible to have an accident when driving it”, Kovalenko says.
The second argument. The ruling on the appeal of Volvo was issued by a court, headed by a very close relative of the person, who, let’s say, was connected with the appeal. The situation looks approximately like this: the son appeals to the court, headed by his father.
These are, in fact, all the arguments.
However, it is hard to say anything against them. Especially, when the first argument is added to the second.
Actually, during the six years, the interests of Volvo and Viking Motors in court were defended by the most reputed and high-paid attorneys firms – “Baykers and McKenzie”, “Salans” (the latter, for instance, achieved the arrest of two Ukrainian “Ruslans” abroad, and as for the former, it is known by everybody, who reads newspapers). And suddenly, shortly before the examination of the appeal, lawyers, little known even in Crimea, appear on the field instead of these “sharks” of juridical world. Where is the logic?
It is absent. But it is… present, considering the very circumstance, mentioned above. One of the three co-founders of the Crimean Legal Company is Roman [Mykhaylovych] Tiutiunnyk, while the chairman of the appeal court is Mykhailo Tiutiunnyk. After Serhiy Kovalenko held the last press conference and accused the appeal court of corruption, the firm’s leadership publicly became indignant. As if, we are not absolutely connected with the lawyers, who defended Volvo, they work for half a salary in the firm, and no one knows what they are busy with in their spare time.
Being aware of the reality of our country, do you believe in such a coincidence? Do you believe that the trial was unbiased?
Parachute jumps on the ground
As a result we have the following.
Either Kovalenko is a large-scale adventurer, for years holding in obedience not only the Ukrainian court, but also stretching its tentacles as far as to Russia. As, grounding the amount of compensation from Volvo, he provided the court with documents about his high earnings at a Russian defense enterprise (there was a period in his life). This became one of the arguments when determining the amount of the compensation, yet unprecedented at the post-Soviet space.
Or he is right, and, consequently, the world-known concern, over bribing judges, acts a criminal way in Ukraine.
There is no third variant given.
Can Kovalenko be a swindler?
Theoretically, yes. But if we suppose that the Russian defense enterprise counterfeited financial documents about his fantastic, by an average citizen’s measure, earnings, why nobody in Russia has responded to that? In addition, Kovalenko, as it is done in the whole world, proved his high earnings with the fact that he could buy himself expensive and prestige cars, was able to maintain his family, relatives, to invest rather big funds into business. This circumstance was not taken into account by the appeal court as well.
Could he bribe judges of Zheleznodorozhny district court, to get adopted the unprecedented decision at 53 millions?
Theoretically, he could. But would the court, in this case, last for over six years? Would there be conducted numerous expertises, would the court listen to lots of experts, witnesses and specialists? Isn’t it enough, in such a case, to file in the case two-three sheets of documents and bring a verdict, as the appeal court did it?
Now lets look at the appeal court’s ruling. The absurdity of the arguments, interpreted “in favor” of Volvo and “against” Kovalenko, is just fantastic.
For instance, the following: “before the accidents, any defects concerning the faultiness of the driver security system – security pillows – were not discovered”.
Excuse me, Kovalenko says, but can one speak about any drawbacks in the car’s security system “before the accident”, if namely “the accident” tests the reliability of this system? Test it before, and the security pillow, apriori, may not ”shoot” and protect the driver in an accident. Following this logic, the quality of matches must be tested in advance long before they are used, and a parachute must be tested by jumping on the ground, yet before the flight?
Can you object anything to Kovalenko?
Or, for instance, another argument of the appeal court: “Traffic rules stipulate that the driver must take into account the road conditions, to have an opportunity to safely drive a car”. In other words, Kovalenko violated traffic rules, consequently, Volvo bears no responsibility.
Is not this a mere laying the blame on smb.`s else?
Firstly, the court of the first instance established that Kovalenko did not violate the road rules. Late at night a dog rushed out on the street, Serhiy turned the steering wheel and collided into a tree. Secondly, Kovalenko says: what does it have in common with, actually, an eventual violation of road rules? One could violate all road rules taken together, but how it is connected with the fact that security pillows failed to operate?
Can you object anything to him?
Only “roentgen” will indicate where the bone was broken
Where is the way out?
Serhiy Kovalenko appealed to the Supreme Court of Ukraine. He turned with a request to investigate into the conditions of issuing the appeal ruling to a whole range of instances – from the Prosecutor’s General Office to the Verkhovna Rada and the President. As a result, the case is being studied in the Supreme Council of Justice. In its turn, the Crimean Juridical Company and its chief brought a suit against Kovalenko, accusing him of ruining their business reputation. It seems that it does not smell of an amicable agreement any more, as some Ukrainian editions hasted to announce in January.
But there also pluses in this case. Finally there appeared a chance to attract the proper attention to this case.
The opener becomes the process, the more difficult it will be for judges to make a biased decision. As of today, there are no guarantees of making such a decision. The Kovalenko’s cassation, despite it was submitted to the Supreme Court, may be left without examination. The Ukrainian legislation stipulates very peculiar approaches to solving such disputes. Three judges of the Supreme Court may get together and discuss whether to examine the cassation. And, consequently, they may bring a verdict not to examine. And nobody will examine. All the six years of the legal proceedings, all the ten volumes of the case, numerous expertises, conclusions of specialists, will not be studied by anyone.
That is why, to become confident of an equitable solution, the examination of this case must be rendered maximally transparent. If, in due time, we could open in the Supreme Court the legal proceedings on the presidential election, then why not to make public the case “Kovalenko versus Volvo”? Of course, the matter concerns different scales of the cases, and it is senseless to speak about live broadcasts for all the country. But let us look for other forms.
We, being a news agency, propose to use our opportunities. We are ready to carry out a press conference with assistance of both the sides – Serhiy Kovalenko and Volvo representatives, to hear both the sides, to listen to all the arguments of each of them, and to ask about anything that may bring us closer to the truth.
For your turn, our counterparts from television, show this press conference as thoroughly as possible, without restricting yourself to synchronisms, torn out of the context, and separate quotes.
Counterparts from newspapers, contrary to those from television, you are not restricted with strict frames of the air, so give an opportunity to speak to both the opponents, stating their evidence, arguing an accusation or disproval, so that readers could compare them and make their own conclusions.
Internet-media have no less opportunities. They are not restricted at all either with volumes of the information, or with limits of its spreading. Let us create a web site “Kovalenko vs Volvo”, where we will post all the materials of the legal proceedings – from demands of the plaintiff to the appeal court ruling, the results of the expertise, experts’ conclusions, medical and other documents, in short – all the arguments, provided by the sides?
Also there must be the will of both the sides, their principal consent to undergo a public “roentgen”.
Mr. Kovalenko, dear “Volvo” representatives!
Let us make the legal proceedings, important for many people, public. We realize that in this case you will not avoid uncomfortable questions and unjust suspicions. The plaintiff will have to explain how he earned his fortune, how many taxes did he pay, how he got disability, and many other things. The defendant will have to comment on all the “accidental” coincidences of relatives, to explain how many volumes of the case could have been examined in a day and night, and how an extremely complicated ruling could have been issued for minutes, and many other things.
If you are interested to find the truth, you will agree to this proposal.
If not – you will find excuses.
So, you may consider this publication to be a public address to you.
The next word is up to you.
Do we open the legal proceedings?
By Oleksander Kharchenko, Editor-in-chief of UNIAN News Agency