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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Life: Just the Luck Of the Draw

Back in May, Yevgeny Rusak thought all his birthdays had come at once. An impulse purchase of a ticket for a Lotto Million drawing at one of Moscow's lottery kiosks brought him the big prize, a 10-day trip to the United States to see the World Cup.


Well, here we are three months later and Rusak still has not left Mother Russia. He says the Football Fans Forum, which sponsored the Lotto Million drawing, told him about his good fortune too late for him to get a Russian passport.. The Forum says that is not their problem. Instead, they gave him $1,700 in compensation. He says this is not enough for flight, hotel and meals.


All in all, it is proof to us of one of the immutable laws of Moscow life: that anything bought at a kiosk which appears to be a bargain invariably turns out to be otherwise.


The man is now suing. Since the contractual conditions on the ticket are, surprise, surprise, a little imprecise, he is taking the Football Fans' Forum to court not for welching on the terms, but for "emotional trauma."


This is an odd choice of phrase. His feelings would probably have been shaken up a great deal more if he had actually gone to the America and seen the humiliating exit of Russia at first hand. Counselling, and possibly extensive therapy, might have been needed.


But what really attracts attention to this case is not the finer sensitivities of a Russian soccer fan, but the introduction of American-style consumer compensation litigation in a place like Russia.


In the United States, generations of lawyers have gradually perfected the art of persuading their fellow citizens that the world should not only be perfect and trouble-free but that if you do encounter any difficulties along life's adventurous highway, they will be somebody's fault and, if the presumed perpetrator has assets, a suit is in order. The sidewalk ice you slip on, for instance, is not an act of God, but the lack of an act by the property owners or the city council.


Although the system occasionally descends into farce, it is all premised on things basically working. Imagine such ideas being applied here: if you are refused a seat in a restaurant -- sue for the humiliation; if that Aeroflot internal flight is overbooked and you are bumped -- sue for the inconvenience and if they cut off your phone without warning and you miss that vital business call -- sue for loss of earnings.


It would be chaos for a while but it would introduce the novel concept of supplier responsibility. And that might just help to make life here less of a lottery.