Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Caution: That coffee may be hot!

Tomorrow, I am heading to the New Castle County courthouse for jury duty.  It is the civic duty of all law abiding citizens of this great country to serve on a jury.  Now, I must admit that I have never actually served on a jury before.  I have received a summons several times, but never had to appear to actually serve.  This will be a new experience for me.  

As new and exciting as this may be, I should confess that I am not all that fond of what our legal system has become over the past few decades.  More and more, it seems that, at least a portion of our legal system, has become a place where folks can come to dump their personal responsibility onto others.  I am, of course, referring to the frivolous lawsuits that have become all the rage.  No one needs to have common sense or take personal responsibility for one's own actions when you can get a lawyer to sue someone else.

I can remember the first big case that came into the public eye.  McDonald's was being sued because someone was burnt when they spilled the coffee that they had just purchased through drive-thru.  The claim was that McDonald's hadn't warned the plaintiff that the coffee was hot.  What else was the plaintiff expecting?  If they had gotten a cold cup of coffee from McDonald's, they would have been the first to complain.  Let's use some common sense here.  It is people like this who have caused us to have labels on a jar of peanuts that reads "Allergy Warning: This product may contain peanuts."  Really?

Midday and late night television is filled with ads for lawyers.  You've seen the commercials.  They start with: "Have you been in an accident?  If you have, then you deserve to sue someone, because it obviously wasn't your fault."  I love the ones that talk about a drug or medical procedure that "you or a loved one may have taken that caused death or dismemberment."  There was one that mentioned a knee replacement.  "Even though you were able to walk again, you still deserve to compensated for letting some doctor install a foreign object into your body."  It's not as if your body was made to easily accept randomly insert pieces of titanium.

Apparently, our legal system is not the only one that gets lawsuits like these.  I enjoy listening to some of the radio dramatizations from the BBC.  A recent episode of a comedy sketch show called John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme featured a sketch representing one of those lawyer commercials.  The joke was that they referred to very innocuous items like catching a cold from a friend, being bored at work, or being stuck in traffic.  I guess frivolous lawsuits are not just an american thing.

This kind of behavior rolls over into healthcare.  Studies have shown that a large part of the rising cost of healthcare is malpractice insurance.  Why?  Because if you don't get the results that you wanted, you can always sue the doctor.  "Hey doc, you amputated my leg in order to save my life.  I think I need to sue you because I, who has never had a day of medical training, think you should have been able to save my life without the loss of a limb."  Really?

When did common sense become so uncommon?  When did people stop taking responsibility for their own decisions and actions?  I wish I could pinpoint who was the first person to allow a frivolous lawsuit into our legal system.  I would be on the first time machine back in time to sue him or her into oblivion.

So, tomorrow, I'll head off to serve my jury duty.  I'm not sure what the case might be.  Hopefully, it won't be a lawsuit.  

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