- Politics and Social Issues
Where is our country going nowadays?
I’m not talking about politics, economy or any of the usual “our country is on
the wrong track” sort of thing—I’m referring to lawsuits, specifically
frivolous lawsuits. Granted, our country allows us the freedom to file lawsuits
to allot us some compensation for unethical business decisions, doctor
malpractice, negligence of employees, and other sorts of things, and amen to
that. But by taking one look at some of the lawsuits people have the nerve to
file in the United States of America, one has to wonder just how stupid and
greedy some of our fellow Americans are.
Most people are familiar with the
story of Stella Liebeck, the elderly 79-year-old woman who spilled McDonald’s
coffee on herself and proceeded to sue McDonald’s for $2.9 million in damages
in 1992. But Stella’s story doesn’t even begin to take the cake. How about Barbara
Connors, an elderly woman who went driving with her 70-year-old son-in-law when
they crashed into the Connecticut River? Connors was lucky enough to be promptly
saved by some rescue divers, albeit with some brain damage, but she had the
nerve to sue the rescue divers who saved her life anyway. Apparently, they
didn’t save her fast enough (even though they came within minutes) and
therefore the brain damage is their fault… never mind the fact that it was her
son-in-law’s own negligent driving that led to her being trapped in a car in a
lake in the first place. Consider how ridiculous this woman sounds: get
saved but live with brain damage, or die. One would think she’d be grateful that
she got saved at all.
One of my personal favorites is the
lawsuits in which people sue McDonalds or other fast food places because—unbelievably enough—the restaurant didn’t warn them that the foods would make them fat!
Caesar Barber, a morbidly obese, diabetic, heart-disease suffering 54-year-old,
ate at fast food restaurants 4 to 5 times a week, and consequently sued
McDonald’s, KFC, Wendy’s and Burger King because they didn’t tell him how
unhealthy their foods were. After a judge thankfully threw the case out of
court, Barber filed suit again, and the judge threw it out again and barred it
from being filed a third time. Tell me, are restaurants supposed to inform
their customers on basic common sense now? Did Barber not see himself getting
fatter and realize that it might be his eating habits making him this way? Please tell me Barber isn't representative of the general population.
Although the judge in the Caesar
Barber case had enough common sense to throw the case out, some judges
apparently don’t. Roy L. Pearson, Jr., an administrative law judge, accused a
dry-cleaner of losing his pants. Fair enough, that’s pretty irritating. But
rather than charging the dry-cleaning service the cost of the lost pants,
Pearson decided it’d be more appropriate to sue the dry-cleaning service $65
million. Let’s hope those pants he lost were made of gold. On a different note,
how about Rhonda Nichols, who, while standing outside a Lowe’s department
store, was “attacked” by a wild bird? She claimed she suffered head injuries
from the attack and consequently sued Lowe’s for $100,000 for allowing wild
birds to fly freely outside.
Perhaps the most wretched case of
all would be this one: a one-year-old child fell into the backyard pool and
nearly drowned. His mother found him blue in the face floating in the pool, and
of course promptly called 911. The rescue workers sent to resuscitate the child
successfully managed to revive him, but the child was left with severe brain
damage. During the process of resuscitating the child, one of the workers, Andrea
Eichhorn, reportedly slipped on a puddle in the house and broke her knee. The
injuries from the fall left her with persistent knee pain, Eichhorn claimed,
and she might even develop arthritis! In a scenario like this, what’s the
proper moral thing to do? Why, sue the family of the child, because they
certainly don’t already have enough problems. And never mind the fact that the
child is now in a nursing home with round-the-clock care and can no longer
talk, walk, swallow or see—that’s insignificant compared to being unable to
work for two months. As the topping on the cake, when the family balked at
being sued, Eichhorn’s lawyer accused the family of “playing the victim.”
In examining all of these cases, it
becomes painfully clear the rampant abuse of our legal system. Inarguably all
of these cases stem from greed and the failure to take responsibility for one’s
own actions, but that poses the question: what does behavior like this say
about our society? Is it okay to sue businesses the way Caesar Barber did?
Surprisingly, more people than one would expect agree—this exact case is quite
common, juries inevitably seem to award these sort of cases ludicrous amounts
of money, and politicians have passed a medley of laws “protecting” the
consumer from these sort of instances. But what are we “protecting” the
consumer from? You can’t protect people from their own stupidity.
Moreover, what sort of effect does it have on the sued? Cases like Barbara Connor’s are surprisingly common, and thus people don’t want to stop to help those in need anymore because of the liability of being sued. Ironically, as the renowned comedian George Carlin pointed out, people are now so reluctant to lend a hand in dire situations, lawmakers are actually considering passing laws requiring people to stop and help.
But most importantly, what does it say about our morals in the United States? Our society’s avarice, increasing tendency to blame our misfortunes on others and resistance towards taking responsibility for our actions is highlighted in frivolous lawsuits. People have gained the mentality that no matter what happens—whether it be pure bad luck or their own poor choices—it’s not their fault, and businesses and the government will clean up after them. Because of our avarice and inability to take responsibility, we’ve become a frivolous-law-suit-happy society. Although hearing about stupid lawsuits is amusing, at the same time it concerns me greatly. Stella Liebeck and her follows offer an important question: if this is how our society acts now, where are we headed?