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So Sue Me! Our Ridiculous, Litigious Society

How frivolous lawsuits are detrimental to society

Did you hear the one about the recent college graduate who’s suing her alma mater, Monroe College in New York, for $72,000 (the full cost of her tuition)? No, she wasn’t injured on campus or a victim of gross negligence. The graduate is suing because, in her words, the college’s "Office of Career Advancement did not help me with a full-time job placement. I am also suing them because of the stress I have been going through."

Yes, you read that correctly. So now, according to this young lady, a college is not only responsible for providing you with an education, it’s also responsible for getting you a job--oh, and maintaining your stress levels at an acceptable level.

If that doesn’t get your blood boiling a bit, here’s another. A woman is suing a dolphin for $50,000 (no need to rub your eyes, that's not a typo) at the Brookfield Zoo because she slipped on water that the dolphins splashed nearby. This kookoo-for-cocoa-puffs claims the zoo “recklessly and willfully trained and encouraged the dolphins to throw water at the spectators in the stands making the floor wet and slippery,” “failed to provide warnings of the slippery floor” and “failed to provide mats … when the staff knew the floor would get wet and slippery,” among other negligent acts. Other negligent acts?? Did the dolphin commit dolphin rage and body slam her UFC-style against the glass partition? Egregiously bounce a rubber ball on her head causing thousands of dollars of injury? Eat her last, best tuna fish sandwich?? (dolphin-free of course.) Doesn't this woman have at least two brain cells of common-sense to intuit that standing near a dolphin pen might, uh, get her wet?

In fact, we should consider a “common-sense litigation” law. Lawsuits could only be filed when they passed some sort of common-sense test. The test would be performed at the cost of the claimant (never the taxpayers), and would include a panel of “experts” that might include—not judges, lawyers or politicians--but farmers, grandparents, a firefighter, maybe even an intelligent, thoughtful child. Just regular everyday common-sense folk. Certainly these individuals could effectively decide whether a particular lawsuit would even be worthy of consideration. Fees from lawsuits thrown out would go straight to the taxpayers in the form of tax rebates or to pay off the national debt. Based on the number of frivolous lawsuits filed annually, the national debt could conceivably be paid off within a year or two.

There is such a thing called personal responsibility. Regrettably, these litigators, as well as thousands of others filing such opprobrious lawsuits every day, have a iniquitous view of entitlement. They believe that they are completely free and clear of personal responsibility, yet everyone else owes them. Forget working hard, accepting blame or even sharing blame; it’s everyone else’s fault. They see lawsuits as their way of bucking the system, regardless of who they hurt or how much taxpayer money they spend (not to mention clogging the court system). It’s not just a shame, it’s an outrage.

Okay, I’ll give you one more. Two sweet teenage girls from Durango, Colorado, decided to bake cookies for the neighbors. The cookie plates consisted of half a dozen chocolate-chip and sugar cookies accompanied by “big hearts cut out of red or pink construction paper with the message: Have a great night. Love, The T and L Club," code for Taylor and Lindsey. A 49-year-old woman became so upset over the knock on her door that she called the police, and she ended up visiting the emergency room for “suffering a severe anxiety attack she thought might be a heart attack” from the door knock (the girls knocked on the doors so that the recipients would get the cookies and not neighborhood animals). Subsequently, the woman sued the poor teens and a judge awarded $930 to recoup her medical bills. She received nothing for pain and suffering. "The victory wasn't sweet," the woman said. "I'm not gloating about it. I just hope the girls learned a lesson."

Yes, girls, learn your lesson. Don’t bake cookies and perform thoughtful acts, heaven forbid. You might get sued for it.

You know, then again, maybe these folks have something. Why, just yesterday I was I driving past my neighbor’s house and noticed his lawn was much greener than mine. Never mind that he spent the past few weeks working on it while I was . . . well . . . not . The point being, his beautiful lawn makes mine look much worse than if he wasn’t living next to me, rudely taking the time to care for his lawn. Hmmmm. I bet I could sue him for “Defamation of Lawn Character” or “Instigating Weed Dissention and Turf Wars Among Neighborly Ranks”. Or, maybe I’ll file a lawsuit against Angelina Jolie for "Failure to Share Lip Property and Dimension", since her lips are prettier and fuller than mine and it’s just not fair. After all, I deserve to have lips like Angelina Jolie; she can afford the payout and somebody needs to pay for her having better lips than I do. Or I might sue Mother Nature for "Reckless and Inconsiderate Weather Assignment and Distribution", since it rained yesterday while I had planned to attend a parade and thus, could not attend, and how dare it rain on my parade.

As crazy as this sounds, it’s not half as crazy as some of these lawsuits. All kidding aside, let's seriously consider a new statute: for every frivolous lawsuit that gets thrown out, the crazy claimant has to do 800 hours of community service as well as fork over $1,000 dollars. Now, finally, something that makes sense.

Updates: Denver radio station KOA raised more than $1,900 from listeners to pay the court fine levied against the two girls who handed out cookies. The remainder of the money will go to a charity dedicated to victims of the Columbine High School shootings. (TheDenverChannel.com)

There is no update on the dolphin’s status, although some reports surfaced claiming it has offered a job to the Monroe College graduate as a full-time Sardine Feeder. The alumna turned down the job, claiming, “Something just smells fishy to me”. Oh, how we agree.

Sharon Cece © December 2009

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Comments (8)

A witty, yet serious reflection on a too-common travesty of justice. How about the burglar in NY who tripped running away from the police and broke his legs - he sued and won medical costs. Yup, lunacy. Now tell me, Sharon, will you judge me when I sue for the mall for my Black Friday tumble? A very good article, my friend :)

Oh man, I've heard it all now. Some of the cases that get brought to court are just ludicrous. What a great lesson to teach the two poor girls that were just trying to be nice, now they'll probably never try to be nice to anyone ever again. This is what's wrong with the world. And I know the dolphins probably did that with full intent just to watch the woman fall, they are clever like that you know. Someone should sue these people for being stupid or maybe make them wear a "stupid" sign.

I thought the depths of human stupidity, ludicrousness and pettiness can sometimes know no bounds - a dolphin???? My goodness...suing girls for bring you cookies? What next?Suing the person who made the door so easy to open...*shakes head* Thanks for this Sharon!

Sharon, I've worked in civil litigation (insurance defense) for over 12 years - with a primary focus on California and Nevada, which is known for the bulk of crazy lawsuits in the U.S. I saw things on a daily basis that are unbelievable to most. My colleagues and I always had crazy stories, pretty much on a daily basis. On a good note, there are statutes in place for frivilous lawsuits and if you can prove it, the claimants do get punished. The problem is with community service and such - that would be criminal courts - or courts that can apply injunctive relief. Most civil courts are basically just "courts of money". But, it does happen....although few and far between, some people have been slapped with heavy judgments due to frivilous litigation. The only problem is no one rarely pays. They file bankruptcy and move on with their lives. The first thing I learned years ago - anyone can file a lawsuit over anything, and it's the judicial process that determines whether there is a valid claim or not. "Good" plaintiff attorneys can find the fine print in statutes that get their clients awards, although not always justified. Sadly, I lost a lot of faith in certain aspects of the judicial system. What most people don't realize either - very few cases ever see the inside of the courtroom. After all my experience and the average 1-2 new cases I would receive on a daily basis, I only had 5 cases ever go to trial. (My last three years, I was handling an average caseload of 140-200 cases each month.) Everything else was handled privately and papers just filed, status conferences attended, etc, so you would be stunned at how many cases are actually active and in the courts, but not even really utilizing court resources. Certain states like CA enacted fast track systems to deal with the b.s. like the cases you wrote about, however, states like NV have not. One of my attorneys told me about a case he had that took 10 years to finally see the inside of the trial courtroom! I had several cases that had been handed over multiple times and were going on 5 years with no trial date in sight. There is something really wrong with the court system if it takes that long to actually have a case tried. I really believe people are looking at life now just with the intention of trying to find a way to sue for everything and anything. There is no way rational people could dream this stuff up!

I got so engrossed in reading this factoid that when I went to go have my dinner it was a few degrees less hot than I like. What is your address so I may have my lawyer file a law suit with you as the respondent. Sorry, I have to sue you for making my dinner less than satisfactory. But good article nonetheless.

Ranked #5 in General Law

Glen, I have contacted my lawyer and he said you may or may not recoup compensation for "Comestible Thermal Negligence", however the settlement would be negligible. So glad you were engrossed, however! On the counter-sue I would undoubtedly mention this fact, so we could call it a draw ;}

Ranked #5 in General Law

Clairsie, Ngozi and Amanda, thanks for your comments and I agree. Can you imagine suing someone for "Unjustifiable Stupidity" (as if stupidity was ever justifiable)? Talk about clogging the court system...Marie, if you sue the mall I want to represent you (ne'er mind that I'm no lawyer)!

Ranked #5 in General Law

Erin, unbelievable post. My husband commented, after we read it, that frivolous lawsuits today are like the lottery: filers figure, why not? If I win I get lots of money, if I lose, oh well, what the he**. Integrity and responsibility never play into it, it's a big legal crap-shoot. Extremely interesting and eye-opening to get an inside view, thank you.

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