Frivolous Lawsuits

What has happened to our society? Why is it people must find someone to blame, someone to pay, whenever there's an accident or injury? What happened to personal responsibility?

I've learned of a couple of recent court filings that illustrate this problem. The first dealt with a high school senior who chose to rough-house with a fellow student in a school hallway. The "victim" had permission to leave his class early to go to another classroom and had stopped by his locker when he ran into a friend who was skipping class. The "victim" was on the wrestling team and the two started wrestling in the hall. During this 'horseplay', the "victim" fell to the floor, hitting his head and sustaining serious injury. Who was responsible for the injury? You ask me, I say it's equally shared by the two students. If you ask the "victim's" parents, it's obviously the school system. Yeah, they're suing. Big surprise, right?

The second case involved similarly aged kids. Mom and Dad are out of the country on vacation and their 18-year-old son decides to throw a party at a house the parents were in the process of re-habbing. In other words, not the family home. How many kids have thrown parties while their parents were away? And like an idiot, has tons of booze on hand for his revelers. "House party son" says only a few friends were invited, but othes started showing up. No big surprise there. One party attendee asked if "drunk 18-year-old" could join the fun. "House party son" said no, but "drunk 18-year-old shows up anyway, already a few sheets to the wind. During the evening, "drunk 18-year-old" asks about jumping off the balcony into the pool. "House party son" said no, don't do that, but "drunk 18-year-old" and several others jump do it anyway. Of course, being so inebriated, "drunk 18-year-old" blows his cannonball and somehow hits his head on the pool deck, falling into the water unconscious. "Drunk 18-year-old" is flown to the hospital and, after being in a coma for over a month, comes out of it and has a long re-hab himself. "House party son" was arrested and charged for possession of alcohol by an underaged person, but the parents, who again, were out of the country, were not charged. Of course, that hasn't stopped the parents of "drunk 18-year-old" from suing said parents, blaming them for their son's injury. Now, who was really at fault?

Well, for starters, "drunk 18-year-old" chose to drink, chose to come uninvited to a party, and chose to jump from the balcony. I see some big responsibility there. And "house party son" is responsible for having booze available for a whole passle of underage drinkers. Some may say 'house party son" should have prevented "drunk 18-year-old from taking his leap, but had he physically restrained the dufus—versus just telling him "no"—he could have been charged with assault. And had their precious been hurt by said restraint, I'm guessing these no-responsibility parents would still have been prone to sue. "House party son" is legally an adult at 18, and his parents were not there to consent to the house being used this way.

Why sue the parents? Could it be because they've got deeper pockets? Just like the school system does in the first example. This kind of thing happens all the time, all over this country. Listen up, folks. Accidents happen. And they often happen because we did something stupid. Like not looking where we're walking. If you're paying attention, you won't step into that freshly-spilled liquid on the floor, thus avoiding slipping and possible injury. No, instead, we look at accidents as winning the Lottery. Great! I can sue and make a whole lot of money. Who needs common sense? Put a cup of piping hot coffee between your legs, then sue when it spills and burns you. Yeah! Argh!!

I regularly scream for torte reform. If ambulance-chasing lawyers weren't on every street corner encouraging people to sue—making themselves a very tidy paycheck in the process—perhaps we could regain some sense of personal responsibility. Let's force personal injury lawyers to set specific fees like other lawyers do, and get rid of these huge percentage-based fees earned on contingency-based lawsuits.

Standards need to be set to assign real responsibility in injury cases. If I use a product exactly like it's meant to be used and it fails, injuring me, okay. But if I don't use the product exactly as it should, then I have responsibility! And putting a hot cup of coffee between my legs is not using it correctly! Using an iron a shirt while I'm still wearing it, is not using it correctly!

And we need something in place to penalize anyone filing a frivilous lawsuit. This would help discourage those who file ridiculous lawsuits for the specific purpose of getting the real victim—the entity being sued—to settle out of court.

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