This is not quite an Oxford Story but there is at least one Oxford connection.
Once upon a time, in central North York, Ontario, Canada, when North York (despite Mel Lastman's pretensions) was really only a suburb of the City of Toronto - much like the boroughs of New York, NY are only suburbs of Manhattan - before North York amalgamated with Toronto and other suburbs of the City of Toronto, there was a small community of houses, apartment buildings and a small public school in an area bounded by Highway 401 to the south, railroad tracks to the west, and major streets on the east and north.
The area that is now the massive, upscale, Yorkdale Plaza is southeast of the community, on the other side of the 401.
It was comfortable, mostly lower to middle, middle class community. It wasn't a wealthy community by any stretch of the imagination. The public school is long closed. The children who lived in that community, in the 1950s and 1960s, if they didn't go to a parochial school, went to that public school. When they graduated from that public school, they went (by the early 1960s, at least) to a junior high school just south of Yorkdale for grades 7-9. As teenagers, most of the children who still lived in the community went to a high school about a slow 15-20 minute walk away from the eastern border of the community; a 5 minute bus ride and a quick 2.5 minute walk or jog if one timed the bus properly.
The high school, for period in the mid 1960s through mid 1970s was reasonably large in number of students. It was a "secondary school" in Ontario parlance, not just a "high school". That meant it housed more than just students in the academic streams who'd spend grades 10-13 at that school - in those days Ontario had a "grade 13" too - hoped to graduate from grade 13 to go to a good university somewhere. It also had students in 2 year courses and 4 year courses who were aimed at the work force or other post secondary training in colleges, rather than university immediately after high school.
For a time, the top students at that high school were at least as good as, if not better than, the top students at any other public high school (and probably any of the private high schools) in the Toronto area. There is more than just anecdotal proof.
Graduates from that high school moved on to every profession and occupation you can imagine and, I expect, some you ought not to, even if you can. There are some famous names attached to some students that that some of you will have heard of, even from outside the academic stream. I'd mention the names but that would give away away some of where I'm going, even though it would mislead from the rest.
Population changes and time have turned that high school into a shell of what it once was. I understand it may soon close.
That lament, however, isn't the point of this story.
The point is, instead, to show how it is inevitable that a small legal community such as Canada has will eventually toss out odd coincidences.
Since this is a law blog, let's move to the story that contains that coincidence; however, I'm going to start at the end of the story since, in a sense, I've already given you the beginning of the beginning.
In Yaiguaje v Chevron Corporation, 2017 ONSC 135, the Supreme Court of Ontario just dealt with motions in the action against the Chevron companies, in Ontario, to attempt to enforce, in Ontario, a judgement obtained in Ecuador against Chevron Corporation. The action in Ontario is against a trio of "Chevron" companies including Chevron Corporation - the US parent corporation - and Chevron Canada Limited- the Canadian subsidiary. The action against Chevron Canada was dismissed.
Lead counsel for Chevron Canada was (and remains) Benjamin Zarnett (of Goodmans, in Toronto.) Ben Zarnett is one of the now famous names - famous at least within a knowledgeable portion of the Canadian and international legal community - who grew up in that small community and, in the 1950s and 1960s went to that public school, that junior high school, that high school. Then he graduated, went to university, law school and found extraordinary success. I'm referring to his luck in finding the person who decided to marry him and to their children. He also hasn't done too badly as a lawyer-litigator.
That, finally, gets us to the Oxford connection I mentioned. One of the cases central to the decision in Yaiguaje is Kosmopoulos v. Constitution Insurance Co.,  1 SCR 2, 1987 CanLII 75. The ratio in Kosmopoulos is central to one of the plaintiffs' arguments. (See para. 53.) There is at least one other lawyer who came out of that small community as a contemporary of Ben Zarnett: same schools (other than university) then same law school for the same 3 years. You should be able to guess where I'm headed but maybe not quite how I'll do it. That other lawyer has the odd, ironic, connection to Kosmopoulos.
Kosmopoulos, of course, wouldn’t exist as the case on the issues it deals with – there’d necessarily be some other case – if it had been settled, as it ought to have been, within a year or two of the fire that was the source of the litigation. Unfortunately, it wasn't because Mr. Kosmopoulos decided to change lawyers and then asked for amount that the insurer was not willing to pay. The result was the litigation which ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada.
That gets us to the odd, coincidental, sidelight to Kosmopoulos. How do I know about that I've just written? One reason is that the electrical fire started in the basement of the store next door: my father’s store. Another reason is that, by that time, I was in private practice in Toronto. I was Mr. Kosmopoulos's first lawyer. Unfortunately for Mr. Kosmopoulos, another lawyer convinced him that he was entitled to a lottery ticket, scooped the file, and the rest is Canadian judicial history: unfortunate for Mr. Kosmopoulos, for whom the victory was pyrrhic, and not the result that the insurer wanted.
I am, of course, the "other lawyer" contemporary of Ben Zarnett. He and I have been friends since we met in early public school, all those years ago. But for the fire that started in my father's basement, but for my inability to settle the Kosmopoulos claim before the file was scooped, Ben Zarnett and Chevron Canada wouldn't have had Kosmopoulos to contend with. There'd have been, undoubtedly, a different case providing the same principles, but it wouldn't have been Kosmopoulos and there wouldn't have been this bit of odd Canadian legal history and Oxford connection.
The irony? It's in the fact that the fire that resulted in a decision that the insurance industry would have preferred otherwise started in the basement of my father's store, and in a claim against the insurer that I wasn't able to settle, since I later spent most of my legal career acting on behalf of insurers and their insureds as often as not dealing with the consequences of fire claims on insurance policies.
There must have been something in those hockey pucks that didn't miss my head. (I thought I should add a little more Canadian content.)