Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some Like it Hot

Throughout the history, and in this great country specifically, there have always been unofficial labels for a period of time known as eras. There is typically an event or an occurrence which is most often associated with kicking off an era be it reality or just popular opinion. Some significant eras in United States history and the events that are popularly associated with kicking them off would be The Great Depression kicking off with the Crash of 1929 (Black Tuesday), The Space Age kicked off by the launch of Sputnik, or The Summer of Love kicked off by the Monterey Pop Music Festival (really the Human-Be-In earlier that spring but no one remembers that). I've been trying to come up with a suitable name for the age we're currently in. I know the event that kicked it off but we'll get to that

So, to start a new era you need an event to kick it off. Well, here are some examples of potential era defining events:

  • 2005 Administrative law judge Roy Pearson sues a dry cleaner for $67,000,000 for losing his pair of pants (popularly known as the Great American Pants Suit)
  • 2005 Kurt Prohaska files suit against a homeowner who's house he was attempting to rob as he fell through the skylight and was later shot by the owner
  • Caesar Barber seeks a class action suit against the Big 4 fast food chains for his being overweight
  • 2000 Cleanthi Peters sued Universal Studios for $15,000. She claimed to have suffered extreme fear, mental anguish, and emotional distress due to visiting Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights haunted house, which she said was too scary
  • 2006 Allen Heckard sued Michael Jordan and Nike founder Phil Knight for $832 million. He claimed to suffer defamation, permanent injury, and emotional pain and suffering because people often mistook him for the basketball star
Are we seeing a theme here? When did we lose our collective minds? What was the jumping off point of this litigious madness? When was it decided that we are not ever wrong, stupid, or at fault and there is always someone else to blame? I contend it was the 1994 McDonald's coffee case. For those that don't remember this landmark case in foolishness here is a quick and dirty summary. In 1992, 79 year old Stella Liebeck received 3rd degree burns on her legs, buttocks, and groin from coffee spilled while holding the cup between her knees in the passenger seat while trying to add cream and sugar. The contention was the coffee was "too hot". Long story short she was eventually awarded a 6-figure settlement somewhere between $160,000-$600,000 depending on what you read. As a result you can no longer get a cup of anything containing a hot beverage with less then 10,000 warnings about the fact that, hey, the liquid contained herein is f'n hot!

Now, I'm not heartless and I do feel bad she was hurt. Having said that, anyone who can blame anyone but themselves or anything but stupidity and ignorance for holding a cup of hot coffee between their knees is the one who should be sued for sub-human intelligence. I mean, hot liquids burn, they always have. Drinking and smoking are bad for you, people, not guns, kill people, please don't feed the animals means please don't feed the damned animals. I'm sorry, fully grown adults of even marginal intelligence should, no, MUST, know these things. There is no excuse and it's really nobodies fault but your own

This diatribe really hits 2 major issues. The first is the legal end. There are unfortunately tons and tons of loopholes in local, national, and international laws. These loopholes are exploited all the time and then effectively closed once precedence has taken place. I don't blame the lawmakers or lawyers as with the former it is impossible to cover ever possible contingency and in the latter it is their job to find these things and in many legit, on the up and up cases the world has become a better place because of the outcome. There has to be a person willing to pursue litigation in cases for personal gain above and beyond logic (ok, they can be eked along by an interested party) in order for this to take place. And more often then not the lawsuits are brought against entities they know they can get money out of. If it had been Mary's Donut shop coffee that Stella had burnt herself with, would she have attempted to sue for damages? Maybe, maybe not but the odds are against it. The biggest issue is a lot of these cases of what could be considered "frivolous litigation" cause a logjam of legit cases of negligence wrongful injury that can takes years to be heard and costs us millions of dollars

The second issue is people's growing inability to take responsibility for their own actions. You spilled your coffee and burned yourself. I'm so sorry you got hurt but how can that be anyone's fault but your own? You drank, you drove, you crashed and hurt yourself or someone else. It's YOUR fault. Not the beer company, not the car company, not the company that made the traffic light that your ran. Your weight, blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure are off the charts unhealthy because you showed no restraint, not because some fast food joint tempted you with commercials claiming they are healthy. No, ultimately we're each responsible for our own actions be they beneficial or detrimental and trying to pin blame on someone else because they have more money then you is wrong on every level (ok, the Pants case was hardly suing a wealthy person but the man was in financial dire straits at the time).

Obviously this is all personal opinion based on things I've heard and "researched" on the internet (and if it's on the internet you know it's true) and, to paraphrase The Town, "everything I know about law I learned from watching Law & Order". Anyone with even a working knowledge of law can rip my story to shreds and that's why it's "opinion". Look, thank god there are laws that protect us against those that are often in a better position of power then we are. My point is it's a crazy world we're now living in where logic seems to no longer exist, up is down and black is white. Come on people, let's get our collective heads out of our collective asses and stand up and take responsibly for our own actions. Nope, easier to find someone else to blame for our shortcomings and maybe make a few bucks while we're at it. Thank you Stella, and Welcome to Generation Litigation!

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