Friday, February 26, 2010

So sue me.

My dad almost died after tripping down a flight of stairs and we didn't sue.

Actually, he did die over a year later as a result of his injuries and we still didn't sue.

He tripped on the premises of his insurance company. Guess what? We still didn't sue.

You want to know why? Because he was carrying a file cabinet down the stairs like a dummy and it was his own damn fault.

So we didn't sue.

Apparently, I'm missing out on the Great American Jackpot. If my local paper is to be believed, California should probably just scrap the lottery because people are going to figure out before very long that the legal system is a much surer bet.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not mad at my dad for dying. I'm mad at him for carrying the file cabinet but he was stubborn. Even though that fall put thirteen staples in his skull and cracked his neck, I still don't think he believed carrying it was that big a deal. I think after spending the entire summer in the hospital, including weeks in ICU and a few lovely days on life support, that he finally maybe got where I was coming from. My position was essentially, "You're 59 years old. Don't carry large filing cabinets down stairs, especially if your helper is also a senior citizen. Dummy."

He ultimately conceded I was right. Don't worry, I didn't use my eulogy at his funeral as one big "I told you so." I said nice things about him because I loved him and he was. . . well, kind of amazing. Incredibly amazing. Just hardheaded. And I didn't even say that. (But every single other person who got up during his funeral did, just so you can appreciate my restraint in not joining their very truthful chorus.) And I loved him even when I had to bully him for the last month before he slipped away just to get him to eat ice cream three times a day. He would grimace, eat it, complain that I was bothering him, and then grin at Kenny when I turned my back to show how much he enjoyed my equal hardheadness.

Anyway, there was nothing wrong with the stairs he fell down. If anything, it was his common sense that was in a temporary state of disrepair. So we didn't sue.

By contrast, in the last three weeks, people have sued the city of Huntington Beach for the following reasons:

*A woman misjudged the depth of the curb, tripped, and sued the city for not having the curb be the right height.
*A couple sued the city AND state after their toddler fell into a fire ring on the public beach and got burned.
*A 13-year-old sued the city after hurting himself while doing a skateboard trick in an alley maintained by the city.
*A family sued after one of them was hit in the head with a frisbee while they were at the park. WALKING BY THE ULTIMATE FRISBEE COURSE. (It's actually disc golf but that confuses people. It's basically frisbee.)

Or at least, these people have attempted to sue by pulling the arm of the slot machine they call the City Council. I bet some of you are thinking, "Sometimes it's right to sue."

Of course it is. Just not in any of these cases. For example, I bet you're all thinking about the toddler who fell into the fire ring. Although he'll be all right, it's sad that he got burned. But it's not the city's fault. The city is responsible for maintaining the fire rings when not in use. THE PARENTS are RESPONSIBLE for supervising THEIR OWN CHILD when he is playing by a fire ring that has a live fire THAT THEY BUILT. Not the city.

And I could make the same argument in every one of these other cases. My VERY CLOSE family members (who I won't specify because I don't know if the case is still pending) were sued because their tenant in a condo they owned locked himself out one day and then climbed up the rain gutter (while drunk) to the second floor to let himself in. Guess what? The rain gutter came loose and he got hurt. It wasn't bad but I'm guessing it was more than a sprain. But to SUE? Because YOU'RE an idiot?

I'd tell you a story about how I got sued once when my car was involved in an accident while I was 2000 miles away. Some first year law student thought he'd sue me as the insurance policy holder on the car by coming after me for $2500 due to some vague "emotional distress" claim. (There were no injuries and his car had $900 damage on the bumper). The judge told my insurance to pay $200 and laughed the guy out of court. But it caused me UNTOLD stress for months until the whole thing was resolved. I'd tell you that story except I get really mad every time I do.

I always use my hallmark for Litigation Stupidity to measure a new lawsuit I hear about: the lady who burned herself with hot coffee from McDonald's.

I won't even get started on that one, but if I read about a lawsuit that makes me think, "Coffee is hot, duh" . . . I'm probably not going to be sympathetic to whoever is suing.

It makes me so mad when people treat the legal system like an ATM instead of just being responsible for what they did. That's what the system is for: to hold people responsible, not shirk your responsibility and then get a pay day for it.

I ABSOLUTELY believe there are times when suing someone is the right thing to do. That time is when THEY are not meeting their responsibilities or being accountable for their actions. Definitely let the courts hold them responsible, then. I'll cheer the plaintiff on! Go, Erin Brokovich or small business owner who's jerk clients aren't paying up or patient whose doctor's name rhymes with "Schmonrad Schmurray."

But people who sue because they lack common sense?



Lara said...

Amen. I don't get the entitlement. Basically, these people are trying to blame the existence of the object, and therefore the owners of it, for their own stupid decisions. I shake my head every time I read these stories.

Kelly O. said...

I concur.

MommyJ said...

I'm absolutely with you on this one. It amazes me sometimes how generally stupid people can be. And entitlement is a great word that encompasses so many of the problems that this country faces... people that feel entitled, that think they should just get stuff for free because they exist... it's an attitude that makes me ill.

Amber Lynae said...

I agree whole heartedly. It is shameful that these people feel they should be paid for their own mistakes.

becca said...

Oh, yes. The legal system is a little, um, funny on its own, anyway (and I have a long rant about protecting the guilty, but I only give it to my brother the attorney). Really? I'm just glad you read the news so you can enlighten us cave-dwellers!

Kristina P. said...

I had something similar happen with my insurance when I was 17. I wasn't taken to court, because my insurance settled, but it was stressful.

I had pulled into a parking lot, and had slid on black ice, and put a small scrape in a company truck. I left a note, and didn't hear from them. Until 6 months later. I get a call saying their entire side of their truck is smashed in. One of their employees clearly got into an accident and tried to blame it on me.

The damage was a good six inches above my bumper, and there was orange paint. My car was white. It was ridiculous.

Kazzy said...

Wow, those lawsuits are unbelievable! Sheesh.

And, once again, I love your honesty about your personal life and struggles. I bet your dad was an amazing guy.

Stephanie Faris said...

I'm so sorry about your dad. My ex-husband's cousin is an attorney and his entire job was covering the LOCAL lawsuits against least that was his job back a few years ago. I don't know now. But apparently SO many people sue Wal-Mart, especially for falling in the store, that it requires a full-time attorney in each city (major cities, at least).

Melinda said...

Whats stupid is that people do this BECAUSE it works! Because the court will actually award them money. Its so ridiculous.
My mom was hit by a car and has had major back issues from it, her insurance is refuses to pay ANYTHING, so they've had to go in and have countless meetings and bring up why the insurance should pay (dude, thats what you have insurance for!), its sad that when you actually have a claim, you're treated like a liar, but these other people actually get heard. Not that my parents are sueing. :)

Happy Mom said...

You put my exact feelings into coherant words! The whole thing ticks me off so much that I tend to stammer when I think about it.

In my opinion one of the most far reaching problems with this country is the lack of personal responsibility.

Kimberly said...

Like MommyJ, it all makes me feel rather ill. I would like to think better of my species...

Well said!

Dedee said...

Entitlement. I hate these suits.

It reminds me (not that this is a sue-issue, but just the whole entitlement thing) of the woman who was so heartbroken when she lost her home in the recent economic downturn.

She didn't have a job when she applied for the home loan. The agent listed her as his employee and upped the amount of money she made on the application.

And she's so mad at the downturn because she lost her house.

I know there were and are people who did this all right and still lost houses. This story though, I just want to scream, "Hello? Did you not see a problem?"

Ah well.

Way to not sue!

Charlotte said...

My husband is an emergency room doctor. We live in fear of the really stupid lawsuits all the time. It sucks.

L.T. Elliot said...

I think Lara said it pretty well (in addition to your well said post) so I'm just going to say I agree. =]

DeNae said...

Today is my brother Jared's birthday. He would be 40, if he were alive. But he died four days after his birth because of medical malpractice.

And my parents didn't sue.

Needless to say, MJ, I'm with you on this one.

Heather of the EO said...

This reminds me of that time Miles and Asher fell over in a cart at IKEA because of their own antics. Then the manager and 400 yellow-shirted people came and treated me like I was the queen of the world and were shoving coupons at me for free stuff. (OK, it wasn't 400 employees, but it was a lot.) I didn't even GET IT at first, I was just confused and concerned about broken bones and stuff, not suing...but they were SURE I was going to sue. Yes, I'm going to sue IKEA because my three year old climbed up the side of the cart. I will say "your carts should be sturdier." blergh.

Amber said...

And here I am thinking about all the ways I can hit the jackpot by suing. I guess I will have to find a more decent vocation. : )

Seriously, though, I agree with you. I am saddened by the lack of honesty in tort claims. It is really disgusting and should be reviewed.

I bet your dad was one great guy!

Alison Wonderland said...

I guess I'll just throw another amen on the pile and have done with it.

*MARY* said...

Sorry about your dad.
I fall down the stairs all the time, and all I'm carrying is a handful of m&m's, I've never thought to sue the Mars co. though.

Karen said...

This is exactly why we need to do away with punitive damages and limit law suit awards strictly to the actual cost of the damage inflicted. There would be fewer lawsuits if morons weren't hoping for--and getting--multi-million dollar windfalls.