Sticking it to the Man or Ourselves?

I have been a plaintiff in at least three class actions suits. I didn’t join the class. I never figured out how the defendants hurt me and never got a penny for my ostensible injuries. So it worked out perfectly for the lawyers. They won. They colllected their fees. They saw their chance and they took it, and ripped us all off.

It is easier if the public is outraged. Lawyers had an easy time with tobacco. Asbestos was once an important product encouraged and even required by government regulation, but that one was laid low (even if at least on Judge managed to uncover a major fraud). Now we are looking at lead paint. You may recall we have not sold lead paint in the U.S. since 1978. What next?

This paint case is complex since no lead paint has been sold for more than a quarter century, nobody is accused of doing anything illegal and the harm from lead paint is hard to pinpoint. Ingestion of lead in paint can lower intelligence. Clearly lead paint doesn't cause all stupidity, but, these are things a good lawyer can overcome.

And the payoff could be big. Paint is everywhere. Lots of people can be made to look guilty. Clever lawyers can go after not only firms that made paint thirty years ago or firms that may have bought a firm that made paint thirty years ago, they can also go after anyone who made ingredients, sold paint, painted houses or owned buildings. Of course, most of the guys who actually used lead paint are dead or retired, but they have heirs and successors. Innocence means nothing in a legal climate like this. In other words, lawyers have their choice of victims and they will choose whoever has the most money and the least defense.

We have to do something about this legal piracy. Class action suits make some sense, but why not make the lawyers get permission of everyone who they claim to represent. Let's also modify the joint and several liability rules, which mean that if you are 5% at fault you can be responsible for all the damages. Maybe we should pay in relation to our fault. Isn't that just reasonable?

Is it right that if a drunk hurts himself hitting your parked car, and the court determines you are 5% responsible because you parked too far from the curb, the boozer can collect 100% damaged from you - if your pockets are deep enough and his are empty? Finally, we should take a little of Las Vegas out of the law by making someone pay reasonable costs if he sues you and loses.

Some people are thinking that it doesn’t matter and may even be a good think to stick it to the man. You know that we all are “the man” in this case. What products are you using now that will be in court in 2035 and how much will your kids have to pay to expurgate the “sin” you don't know you are comitting?

Some jokes

Posted by Jack at March 5, 2006 1:40 AM
Comments
Comment #131385

i can only hope these lawyers going after the lead paint group will attack the enron crowd with the same agressiveness.

i agree with this post for the most part, however i do believe someone should have some repercussions if their property owner (in the case of renters and homebuyers) unknowingly purchased or rented housing that had lead paint and that information wasn’t provided to them up front.

Posted by: tree hugger at March 5, 2006 9:01 AM
Comment #131390

Indeed. I, myself, cannot believe Roche got penalized for not telling their customers that one of drugs can cause heart attacks. The gall of those people who lost a relative because of this!!! These “Plaintiffs” are just parasites who make it harder for Roche to make a profit!!!

Posted by: Aldous at March 5, 2006 9:56 AM
Comment #131396

Jack,

A couple of the jokes are OK - liked the one about 2+2. I agree that our system is cynical. The criminal justice system is cynical as well. Prosecuters are out to get convictions - defense attorney’s are out to get acquittals. Police are out to make a case against their suspect - suspects want to get off scott free - the judge wants to enforce the letter of the law. No one is simply committed to the truth. But it is the best system that we have got and we tamper with it at our peril. The same logic applies to tampering with the civil liability aspect of the law. There are many unintended consequences. Beating up trail lawyers makes great political mileage for Repubs. It makes great sound bites, but the issue is more complicated. Opportunistic people “work” the current system. But if you change it, the rich, privileged, and powerful will have even less responsibility to the poor, weak, and disenfranchised that they unfairly exploit - when they unfairly exploit them - which they certainly sometimes do - some would say often do - some would say always do.

Posted by: Ray G. at March 5, 2006 11:09 AM
Comment #131411

And how can we ignore the lawsuit after lawsuit against doctors? … taking them for all they’re worth not because they made some intentional effort at harm, but because complications occurred with the most intricate thing on this planet, the human body. How many of us make mistakes with a mechanical machine we’ve dealing with for years? How many of us make a mistake in diplomacy or dealing with another company when we’ve been doing it for years? How many of us have made an accounting error with home or business finances?

And the most amazing thing is, the same people who bring up these mostly frivolous and over-exaggerated lawsuits, they are the ones to bitch the loudest when they have to drive an hour to see a doctor … or if there is one nearby, have to wait for hours to get into see him/her.

And why are many of these over-bearing lawsuits against doctors? Why, because they have some money!

We must get doctor’s liability from unintentional, un-neglectful complications reduced, and now! We’re only hurting our own health care system which we all supposedly care about by continuing down this same path.

Posted by: Ken Cooper at March 5, 2006 1:33 PM
Comment #131413

Jack:

Yes, we should correct some of the injustices you point out. Also, we should prevent “big pocket” corporations from winning just by dragging the judicial proceedings out for years. We should prevent “frivolous” lawsuits by multinationals suing just to keep little businesses away.

Most class action suits represent the little guy against a BIG outfit - a “big pocket” guy, as you say. We need them to maintain some kind of balance between rich and poor.

Of course, the system is not perfect. But overall, the “big pocket” guy makes out several orders of magnitude better than the little guy.

Posted by: Paul Siegel at March 5, 2006 2:03 PM
Comment #131416

Jack

Is it fair to the person who is injured to only recover 5% of the claim from the person who is 5% at fault because the person who is 95% at fault is broke? This comparative fault and joint and several liability analysis you have done is shallow and superficial. There are numerous approaches to these legal theories, and only a handful of states use the approach you are referring to. The fact is, it is the state legislature that should be able to decide how to approach these types of liability not the federal government. You should be writing on the blue side.

Ken

Do you have a clue?

Posted by: offjack at March 5, 2006 2:09 PM
Comment #131418

Jack

Also, there is a thing called indemnity. You should try looking that up.

Posted by: offjack at March 5, 2006 2:18 PM
Comment #131424

Offjack said: “Is it fair to the person who is injured to only recover 5% of the claim from the person who is 5% at fault because the person who is 95% at fault is broke? “

OK, point taken, so then…is it fair for the 1% who gets burned by hot coffee (a minor injury at best) to recover 150%+ from the company that was NOT at fault because the company is rich?

It can be twisted both ways…

Posted by: Tanya at March 5, 2006 2:45 PM
Comment #131426

All,

Just watch a few episodes of Judge Joe Brown and Judge Judy and it’s oh so obvious just how many people bring frivolous lawsuits in the hopes of getting some cash…

Being in healthcare myself, I find it sickening when people sue for something “gone wrong” that had really been tried to avoid! Just as Ken said, people that work with machines make mistakes all the time-so what’s the difference? Doctors are just that, doctors…nowhere in there do I see the letters GOD! I’m not saying there aren’t “bad” docs out there, but come on, you don’t often see the poor getting sued! Look at Micheal Jackson-whether or not he was guilty didn’t even matter, it was how much money can all of these lawsuits take from his bank account! He’s been sued dry-somehow I doubt anyone else will take him to court now that there’s no money left to potentially win.

Our health insurance system sucks, we all know that. But doesn’t it stand to reason that maybe, just maybe, the costs wouldn’t be AS outrageous if people didn’t bring forth all these ridiculous lawsuits against our doc’s? To me, this is a no-brainer.

Posted by: Tanya at March 5, 2006 3:02 PM
Comment #131428

“Just watch a few episodes of Judge Joe Brown and Judge Judy and it’s oh so obvious just how many people bring frivolous lawsuits in the hopes of getting some cash…”

And this is a good base for judgement?

Posted by: tony at March 5, 2006 3:31 PM
Comment #131429

I was in a class action law suite, The settlement was a few millon dollars, The lawyers got 1.5 millon the familys got 35000.00 each. It took over three years and 10,000 man hours. A complete waste of time and man hours.

Posted by: philipz at March 5, 2006 3:31 PM
Comment #131432

Tanya,

Have you ever read a book?

Posted by: offjack at March 5, 2006 3:38 PM
Comment #131434

a very wise man once said, ahh yes that is what the drink holder is for! ive learned the hard way myself ! doing the ali shuffle on the freeway, is not such a safe or fun thing to do!

Posted by: rodney brown at March 5, 2006 3:44 PM
Comment #131441

their should be a disclosure on lead paint. most good realtors will tell you and also like jack stated lead was banned in 1978,also look at the comps on the property if the house was built before 1978 it could have leaded paint.no the next big one is the mtbe in the groundwater.

Posted by: rodney brown at March 5, 2006 4:58 PM
Comment #131443

Tony,

I never said it was a good base for judgement, I merely pointed it out as ONE EXAMPLE of how sue happy Americans are.

As for your comment about whether or not I’ve ever read a book….touche…

Posted by: Tanya at March 5, 2006 5:05 PM
Comment #131451

Paul

As I said, I was party to at least three lawsuits. “My” lawyers sued Charles Schwab twice and Jos Banks once. In the case of Schwab, I never was able to understand even theoretically how I was injured. But my lawyer extorted a million dollars from Schwab, who no doubt passed it onto the customer, i.e. me. In the case of Jos Banks, my lawyers said that I (and my class) had been fooled by online catalogs. I bought a nice coat and a suit over the Internet. I am happy with both. My lawyers also won big money. I didn’t get any, but I no longer get the online ads, which I used to like. So in my three experiences with class action, I feel ripped off each time. It seems to me the big guys ARE the lawyers.

Offjack

Is it fair if you are 5% responsible to pay 100% of the bill? Even if it is possible that the victim himself is more at fault than you are?


Et Al

In most parts of our life when we make an exchange we all get something of what we want. Law in a zero sum or even a negative sum proposition. In most businesses, entrepreneurs are good. In law, they are bad because they are thinking of new ways to create uncertainty. Law should be conservative (in the non-political sense) because it is negative sum and coercive by nature.

Tanya

Don’t let them bother you. I get that all the time. 90% of the people who get nasty just don’t understand what we are talking about. They are probably sophomores in college. That is the point where they know enough to be cynical, but not enough not to be.

Posted by: Jack at March 5, 2006 7:33 PM
Comment #131461

Jack,

Thanks-no worries here, I actually thought it quite comical that it was the best he could come up with. I did think of a few book titles to throw out, but thought…nah…

Like you said, not enough not to be….

Other than those few remarks, this has been a great thread thus far, just the way I like to see them-civil and adultlike! =)

Posted by: Tanya at March 5, 2006 8:24 PM
Comment #131464

Harm from lead is hard to determine?
Reconsider your position.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 5, 2006 8:44 PM
Comment #131467

stephen d the decline rome they said lead was a factor.

Posted by: rodney brown at March 5, 2006 9:20 PM
Comment #131468

pardon me decline of rome . too much lead!

Posted by: rodney brown at March 5, 2006 9:22 PM
Comment #131469

Stephen

Nobody said that lead was not a potentially dangerous problem. But is the solution to sue everyone associated with a product that was banned more than a quarter a century ago?

Responsibility is hard to determine. Maybe there is no blame to be placed at all.

Life is full of dangers. We can and we do work to make things better. We eliminated lead in gasoline and in paint more than 25 years ago.

If you buy and old house, maintain it. If you rent an old house, keep it clean. Parents should protect their kids.

Posted by: Jack at March 5, 2006 9:24 PM
Comment #131470

zeppelin!

Posted by: rodney brown at March 5, 2006 9:25 PM
Comment #131472

Jack,

Wait, you’re a strident proponent of free markets and unrestrained capitalism. Aren’t all pursuits of wealth in economics supposed to ultimately benefit society? Self-interest in fact benefits everyone? Or is that only when the “person” doing the screwing is a corporation that you can make money from by owning their stock?

If you were a principled laissez faire advocate, you’d see these attorneys for what they are: market participants that are performing a service, and charging the rate that the market will bear for said services.

Certainly, they are performing a valid and beneficial purpose. These poor-baby producers of asbestos and lead-based paint thrived economically for decades knowing full well that their products were deadly or at least enormously harmful to their unwitting victims/customers, and doing their damnedest to hide that fact from the public. Which is ultimately the reason that courts are willing to ream them in order to compensate the harm they caused, or, failing that, use punitive damages to deter them from doing similar acts in the future.

Seems to me you should have no problem with this.

Posted by: Yossarian at March 5, 2006 9:37 PM
Comment #131474

Tanya,

who gets burned by hot coffee (a minor injury at best) to recover 150%+ from the company that was NOT at fault because the company is rich?
Here are a few facts about the “minor injury” and the McDonalds coffee lawsuit.
For years, McDonald’s had known they had a problem with the way they make their coffee - that their coffee was served much hotter (at least 20 degrees more so) than at other restaurants. McDonald’s knew its coffee sometimes caused serious injuries - more than 700 incidents of scalding coffee burns in the past decade have been settled by the Corporation - and yet they never so much as consulted a burn expert regarding the issue. The woman involved in this infamous case suffered very serious injuries - third degree burns on her groin, thighs and buttocks that required skin grafts and a seven-day hospital stay. The woman, an 81-year old former department store clerk who had never before filed suit against anyone, said she wouldn’t have brought the lawsuit against McDonald’s had the Corporation not dismissed her request for compensation for medical bills. After careful deliberation, the jury found McDonald’s was liable because the facts were overwhelmingly against the company. When it came to the punitive damages, the jury found that McDonald’s had engaged in willful, reckless, malicious, or wanton conduct, and rendered a punitive damage award of 2.7 million dollars. (The equivalent of just two days of coffee sales, McDonalds Corporation generates revenues in excess of 1.3 million dollars daily from the sale of its coffee, selling 1 billion cups each year.) On appeal, a judge lowered the award to $480,000, a fact not widely publicized in the media.
If you can’t get your facts right, why should anyone listen to your opinions?

Posted by: ElliottBay at March 5, 2006 9:53 PM
Comment #131475

Yossarian

In these cases the products were made and banned many years ago. In the case of asbestos, it was often REQUIRED by building codes and regulations because it is fireproof.

But sure, go after them with these caveats:

Make sure you are going after the ones in proportion to their involvement. 1% blame should not equal 100% responsiblity.

Make sure the victims get most of the money.

Make sure they are really victims (see the article about the fraud cases)

Weed out the bad cases by sanctioning the frivolus.

If the firms were following the law or in some cases required by regulations, don’t assess any punitive damages. You should not be punished for following the law.

That would be a just system of justice. It is not the one we currently have.

Posted by: Jack at March 5, 2006 9:55 PM
Comment #131476

Great thread Jack. This point cannot be stressed enough. Behind you 100%.

Posted by: CommonSense at March 5, 2006 9:56 PM
Comment #131477

Elliott

You can feel if it is hot. Be careful. I boiled some spaghetti today. If I spilled it down my pants, it would be a problem. That is why I didn’t do it.

Of course, who could I sue? Maybe the water company (their water) or the gas company that made it so hot or Prego that made the sauce.

Our daily life is full of such dangers.

Posted by: Jack at March 5, 2006 10:01 PM
Comment #131480

Elliot: “If you can’t get your facts right, why should anyone listen to your opinions?”

First of all, I didn’t quote any facts, I merely stated my opinion on the subject and used an example that I felt pertained to the discussion. Relative to those “major” mistakes made by doctors mentioned earlier, these burns, in MY opinion, were “minor”. I don’t believe they caused her death, as some were pointing out about the negligence of docs. I still stand firm that I do NOT agree that McDonald’s was at fault, because anyone with common sense KNOWS that coffee is hot! Nobody from McDonald’s “made” her spill it, and nobody from McDonald’s “told” her it wasn’t hot! Just because the evidence couldn’t prove innocence, does not necessarily mean guilt. Sometimes the jury only has so much to work with.

My hot water heater is set at 150 degrees. If you come here and use my sink to wash your hands, you only turn on the hot tap water, not the cold, and you scald yourself, does that make it MY fault that YOU burned yourself? I’m sure you could find a lawyer that would think so, and 12 jurors that can’t prove it wasn’t..especially if I had a fat bank account…

As far as not wanting to listen to my opinions, I never “told” you to read what I post, so does that mean that it’s “my fault” that you choose to read it anyway? Gee, maybe I should be sued for coercing everyone to not only READ my “unwarranted” opinion, but for feeling compelled to respond to them as well?

Posted by: Tanya at March 5, 2006 10:15 PM
Comment #131482

Jack,
I can’t beleive I actually tend to agree with you.

My daughter is a lawyer, one of many I beleive who is truly interested in justice. Currently she is an Assitant D.A. She turned down a great job with the largest law firm in N.C. because they spend the majority of their time suing companies for things she considers to be “lawyering for self intersts”.

Even she gets angry about the mis-use of the law in many class action suits.

However many of the defendants are the wrong defendants. Case in point: the Asbestos Suit.

My husband used to work for a can plant in S.C. The owners brought an empty building from an asbestos maker. The building had been empty for almost 25 years. It had been throughly cleaned prior to emptied.

81 days after buying the empty building, the can corp.found itself being sued for the problems created by the previous owners.

I don’t think that the current owners should be penalize today for what another business did 25 years.

In case you are wondering what happen to the original owners - I can tell you - NOTHING. they claimed they were no longer libable for the illnesses caused by their products because they no longer owned the plant.

Posted by: Linda H. at March 5, 2006 10:31 PM
Comment #131484

Jack,

The whole sentiment of this disturbs me mightily. Have you heard the expression that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince the world that he didn’t exist? …well the second greatest was to convince otherwise ‘conservative’ Americans that LAWYERS were to blame! It’s preposterous. Take any given example from ACTUAL fact and you find the contrary: The now infamous McDonald’s hot Coffee case (Google the name ‘Stella Liebeck’ and learn something), Tobacco (don’t lose sight of the fact that tobacco companies used to hire doctors to prescribe ciggarettes for sore throats and asthma), etc. etc.

The part that boggles my mind is that it is conservatives who are undermining the very foundations of a rule-by-law democracy by attacking the Legal profession. Huh?

The example you offer is not possible. Such facts would NEVER be adjudicated that way because there is a problem with what is called, in law, PROXIMATE CAUSE. …and there we get to another problem, those who most fervently rail against our laws and lawyers have made the least effort to understand them. Jack, you are a bright fellow. I can see that in your comments. But, please, please, please, Jack. REALLY consider the positin you are taking. Just as a for instance, LAWYERS ALREADY HAVE TO GET THE APPROVAL OF THE PEOPLE IN THE CLASS THEY ARE REPRESENTING!!! Yes, Jack. That’s why we see those TV ads about lead paint or asbestos. Those are ads put on by Lawyers whose job requires that they do EVERYTHING THEY CAN to find the appropriate members of the class they are representing.

A GREAT example to illustrate my point is the misinformation used to deceive the people of Texas when “prop 12” passed in 2003. It was a law to limit punitive damages to $250,000. I have previously discussed why this law is a farce. Maybe you follwed that, or perhaps you didn’t. I’ll be breif this time…(unless you ask for more) and I’ll offer soem more facts.

The MORE legitimate the damages to an injured plaintif, the more likely it is that such a plaintif will be ECONOMICALLY injured as well. This is because these cases work on percentages. …and before you instantly jump to the conclusion that lawyers are making too great a percentage, talk to a few of them regarding the risks they take and the amount of work required for such cases. The reality will undoubtedly blow your mind.

The reason Med-Mal insurance shot up a couple of years ago, just as a for instance of how we can be deceived, is because Med-mal carriers short-term invest the proceeds from policy sales in the BOND MARKET. The rising deficeits, the war, as well as new rules on how bond interest accrues and for how long it accrues caused the Med-mal carriers to lose an immense amount of money. To cover this loss, they then sought to limit their expenses due to LEGITIMATE lawsuits. How can I assert the legitimacy of such suits? It has to do with understanding how the law works and why. I’ve explaine dit here before. Why are we back to this issue, Jack? Are you reading my posts at all?

RGF

Posted by: RGF at March 5, 2006 10:39 PM
Comment #131496

I have no problem with legitimate lawsuits.

However, If a person or company gets sued and they win the case, they should recieve full and immediate reimbursement for the expenses they incurred to protect themselves. It should not take any additional litigation and should be fully paid in 30 days.

This would greatly reduce stupid lawsuits. I know there are laws to protect people from these things, but they stay in court forever and are ineffective.

Posted by: Cliff at March 6, 2006 12:01 AM
Comment #131498

With the coffee incident, the big deal is that the difference in temperature was up to them, and they set it knowing that it made injuries from the inevitable scalds worse.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 6, 2006 12:02 AM
Comment #131502

Tanya,

You stated that the woman suffered a “minor injury”.

But the woman didn’t suffer a “minor injury”. So your statement was factually incorrect.

The woman suffered 3rd degree burns. Have you ever seen 3rd degree burns? Third degree burns are NOT “a scalding”. I have a friend who works in a burn unit and tells me that there is actual charring of the skin. It is one of the most painful things that can happen to a person.

If McDonald’s coffee was hot enough to cause 3rd degree burns, it was MUCH hotter than normal coffee.

There ARE frivolous lawsuits but this was not one of them.

Posted by: ElliottBay at March 6, 2006 12:21 AM
Comment #131514

Elliott

Liquid cannot get hotter than boiling. Some people like coffee very hot because they put in cream or they plan to take it a ways before they drink it. It is not an unreasonable thing to serve food and beverages very hot. It is unfortunate that the old lady spilled on herself. It should not be a legal case.

RGF

In the law suits I was in the lawyers identified me as a member of the class. I understand that the lawyers need to get a certain minimum then they claim to represent the class. They informed me that if I DID NOT want to be in the class I had to send registered letters to about fifteen different places within a certain time period. My only request would be to reverse this. Those who WANT to be in the class should be required to send in these letters.

I understand your point that lawyers have to lay out a lot of money in speculation since most of their attempts don’t pan out. This is what is wrong with the system. Lawyers threaten many and when they do hit, they have to make the big bucks. It is the same business model venture capitalists use. The difference is that when the investor loses money and time it is his own or that of people who want to participate and when he hits everybody makes money. Just the opposite of the lawyer results.

Arr

Sorry about your father, but you are speculating. Last month, Merck won a significant Vioxx case. There is rarely one cause for any health problem and most drugs have negative effects. It is better if you don’t have to take them, but presumably you choose the lesser of the risks.

I am sorry if you think I am being cruel, but we do have to look at law unemotionally. We live with dangers every day. We drive in cars that could kill us. Use sharp tools. All the drugs we take are dangerous. Polio vaccine saved many millions of lives, but some people were harmed.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 1:08 AM
Comment #131518

“Have you ever seen 3rd degree burns?”

Gee, let me think about this one…I’m a paramedic and have also worked volunteer fire/rescue….oh no, I’ve NEVER seen 3rd degree burns! Hell, I’ve HAD a 3rd degree burn! I never said she wasn’t hurt, but it certainly wasn’t endangering her life as the docs that the others used as examples had-which was the POINT I was trying to make….it was an EXAMPLE for pete’s sake! Since when was “I” put on trial?

Whatever, obviously it doesn’t matter WHAT I say, someone always has to try to point the “stupid” finger at me as if I’m some immature prepubescent idiot. Heaven forbid I state my opinion or use examples to justify them-that’s only for the rest of you.

Posted by: Tanya at March 6, 2006 1:22 AM
Comment #131523

Jack,

OK, but the question still remains: why are you so willing to regulate THIS market, but not others? Seems funny; and not funny “ha-ha”, but funny “logically inconsistent”. There are equally compelling reasons like compensating or preventing harm that frequently motivate the types of regulations you decry in other industries.

As for the banning of these products years ago, well, that’s somewhat true. In the case of asbestos, the companies producing it knew or should have known of the harmful effects as early as the 20s, and the products weren’t banned until the late 70s. That’s 50 years of ill-gotten profits.

And the argument that building codes required materials like asbestos is a little self-serving for those companies: THEY are the ones that withheld the fact that the products were harmful for decades, meanwhile THEY exerted all the political and pecuniary pressure they could to ramrod the very legislation you’re describing into effect. Kind of slimy to use the existence of those kind of regulations as a shield to liability now.

Posted by: Yossarian at March 6, 2006 1:47 AM
Comment #131525

RGF,

Spot on, sir (or madam). Excellent points.

Posted by: Yossarian at March 6, 2006 1:50 AM
Comment #131526

Yossarian

I regulate this “market” because it is GOVERNMENT. Government coercion is involved. You can’t just opt out of a law suit.

Market are based on free choice. Some people hate Wal-Mart. They don’t have to shop there. Wal-Mart can’t send the police to make them come to the store and force them to buy ten cases of Sam’s Cola.

The law uses the coercive power of the state, so only the state can regulate it. It is just not a market system.

If you agree that people can simply ignore subpoena if they don’t feel like “buying” the law suit, then we can let the market work.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 1:56 AM
Comment #131530

ARR-squared sorry to hear about your father.

Posted by: rodney brown at March 6, 2006 2:33 AM
Comment #131531

Jack,

You may be right. I could just be torturing the hell out of this market analogy, but I think there is something strange in the idea that you don’t want lawyers to be compensated at a rate that people clearly are willing to pay for the service of making corporations shell out for their misdeeds. And that strikes me as strange. Plaintiffs, no matter what you might think, are NOT coerced by the state into bringing lawsuits. And they pay the lawyers, pursuant to an agreement they consent to, a rate that they deem reasonable for the service provided.

Moreover, and I can’t say this of you specifically because I don’t recall if you’ve said things like this before, but a great many proponents of the unfettered marketplace are unbothered by markets where there is no choice. For instance, when Wal-Mart or another business entity engages in market practices that effectively destroy competition, you won’t hear a peep out Smithian economists, until the government tries to regulate the marketplace so that won’t happen. But that might be a point for a different discussion.

Your opinion piece on this topic makes it seem to me, and I could be wrong, that you are always on the side of business, even when your purported pro-market principles would militate toward a different result.

Posted by: Yossarian at March 6, 2006 2:34 AM
Comment #131533

tanya, keep your chin up! and smile ok i saw the smile, it was very nice!

Posted by: rodney brown at March 6, 2006 2:53 AM
Comment #131537

Rodney,

I’m always smiling! =) Most of the time I’m even chuckling under my breath….no sweat!

Hey, have a super day!

Posted by: Tanya at March 6, 2006 7:06 AM
Comment #131542

Yossarian:

You talk about asbestos as if you know something about it, but what you think you know might just be speculation. Did companies know asbestos had harmful effects, and still sold it to make those “50 years of ill-gotten profits”? I doubt it.

By the same logic, we could say that McDonald’s knows that hot coffee can burn someone, yet they continue to sell hot coffee. The nerve!! And lawyers wouldn’t even need to confine their class action suit to the golden arches….they could go after every Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks etc because of the dangerous business practices they use in selling coffee.

With regard to asbestos, the law requires that even non-friable asbestos be removed under abatement circumstances. Millions of square feet of asbestos tile has been removed from schools, but guess what. Because the tile is non-friable (meaning that its not loose fibers as in pipe insulation), its not a danger at all. What’s more is that often the tile is not asbestos containing at all—its the glue that has asbestos fibers in it. So if you leave it in place, you don’t disturb it. Only when you are in the process of removing it is there any possible danger from the asbestos. So what do the laws mandate—-REMOVE THE TILE. See the silliness?

Imagine if you will a pile of anthrax on a table—it blows around and causes death. Dangerous stuff. Now imagine that same pile of anthrax, but covered up with a gallon of glue, so its all stuck together. Not all that dangerous anymore. Same with asbestos. But lawyers have gotten in on it and make lots of money litigating it.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at March 6, 2006 7:52 AM
Comment #131550

Yossarian

I am generally on the side of business when it is selling products that are legal and people have a choice of whether to buy or not. I am against business when it tries to set up monopoly, but usually when business does something really bad it needs the support of government and regulation.

So I often oppose government interference in the economy NOT because I trust business, but rather the opposite. Powerful businesses will be able to co-opt government. Business can persuade and cajole only government can coerce.

I also admit that I am not very enthusiastic about consumer rights. You have the right not to buy a product and you have the general protections of the Uniform Commercial Code etc. But when you misuse a legal product or do something really stupid (as in the case of the woman and the coffee) it should be your problem.

I guess I still believe in the reasonable man standard (not the average one).

BTW

I heard on the radio this morning the NPR ALL ALL THINGS CONSIDERED will cover the asbestos and silicosis fraud case on this evening’s program. This is a monumental rip off that makes the Abramoff case pale in comparison, at least in terms of money spent and taken. It has been going on for a long time and about time the MSM noticed. The hero in the case is a Clinton appointee who called the crooked lawyers on their scam. I am not sure how NPR will cover it, but I think everyone interested in these kinds of cases should listen.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 9:06 AM
Comment #131560

Joe-
There is evidence that Asbestos was killing people in the early 20th century. Workers handling the stuff were dropping like flies back in the thirties.

In the coffee matter,This is all a matter of the temperature at which the liquid was kept. They could have kept it significantly cooler, and were told to do so by regulations, I believe, but they failed to do so, and as a result this woman suffered deep and lasting burns when the coffee spilled. If they had kept it at that temperature, her cofee would have been cooler, and it wouldn’t have inflicted the harm it did.

As for the tile, it is asbestos. The fact that it’s glued together now does not mean that it can’t be torn up and become a health hazard in the process.

Frankly, I think the Republicans here are failing to grasp the truth of all this: If Asbestos, Cigarettes, and other products had been regulated sooner, and treated like the dangerou things they are, there would not be all the momentum for these lawsuits. Lawsuits like these come from years of businesses getting off easy for doing things that cause significant harm to people. In the absence of explicit government action, the courts are where people will take their greivances. Moderate, vigilant regulation is a safety valve in more ways than one on corporate behavior.

Yes, it is coercive, but its coercion that can be negotiated and worked out by people representing us, and accountable to us.

Look, all these lawsuits are creating an ad hoc burden of regulations as well, as businesses contort to dodge the torts. It’s gotten this bad because we’re dealing with complex precedent and case law, and the weaselly risk avoidance and image manipulation of modern Corporate America. We could relieve this control-freakiness far easier if there were plain laws and regulations on the books, if people knew that enforceable laws were on the book that would protect their interests.

Otherwise, their only choice is to protect those interests as individuals, with the lawyer’s kind (and well compensated) help of course.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 6, 2006 10:36 AM
Comment #131564

Stephen

Cigarettes were regulated with warnings in 1964. Nobody can reasonably claim that he thought there was no danger for more than 40 years. That is plenty of time to quit and not start.

We banned lead in paint in 1978.

Re the hot coffee, is there a regulation re how hot it can be? I boil water most days. It gets to 212 degrees. It can’t get any hotter. Be careful with hot liquids. I would assume anyone who lived an ordinary life would know that.

Sad she burned herself, but it was her fault. We can’t protect everyone from their own stupidity. Maybe we should not allow her to drink coffee. She must have burned her lips and throat at some point, since she didn’t understand the hot/cold thing.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 10:57 AM
Comment #131566

Stephen:

My point was that we know many things can kill us, but that doesn’t mean that we should restrict them all. Car accidents have killed more Americans than all the wars in the last century combined, yet we still allow cars to be sold. It would be foolish to ban cars.

You actually made my point about the asbestos tile. Its not a health hazard until its torn up. So what did government do—they MADE EVERYONE TEAR IT UP. Did you know that OSHA mandates that asbestos roofs be abated, despite that fact that there has never ever been an air monitoring test that showed dangerous asbestos levels during a roof abatement? Not even one.

Asbestos in certain forms is very dangerous—in other forms, it is not dangerous at all. Regulation allows very little for the differences.

You take a very negative view on businesses, yet there are those businesses who follow the laws to the letter. Sometimes, the law changes in the future, and companies are held then to the new standards, even though they followed the laws of the time.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at March 6, 2006 11:02 AM
Comment #131569

Joe,

As Stephen points out, it isn’t even seriously debated anymore that the asbestos industry knew about adverse health effects since the early decades of the 20th century.

Analogizing coffee with asbestos is silly. The situations are incomparable in the way you’re attempting to do it. Nobody is launching a multi-tiered attack on the coffee industry by alleging it’s inherently dangerous.

Plenty of items are dangerous only in certain forms, but when harm results from something that you made, it’s on you. It’s hardly fair to put the cost of the harm on the person harmed. In fact, products liability jurisprudence is premised not on the idea that it’s inherently fair to put the cost for harm on industry, but simply that they’re in a better position to absorb the costs of harm, so it’s fairer to put it on them than on some poor sap who’s just doing his job and happens to get mesothelioma.

Jack,

OK, I agree with some of what you said. But your views on the type of choice that is available to consumers strikes me as fine, in a perfect world where consumers and producers are equals. But they’re not.

Consumers don’t have a valid choice when corporations bombard them with advertising from everywhere, lie about the safety of their products, and use their financial influence to alter law in such a way that the protections you describe are effectively negated. I think it’s pretty naive to think that corporations don’t have an immense upper hand in the marketplace over consumers operating with inferior information. Can you say consent has really been gained from consuemrs when they are deliberately misinformed? That being the case, government needs to step in and protect us from rampant corporate greed that consumers can’t counteract alone.

Posted by: Yossarian at March 6, 2006 11:18 AM
Comment #131574

Ultimately, folks, is there some abuse of the legal process with regard to this type of litigation? Sure. But those types of abuses can be dealt with via existing law. The type of fraud currently alleged in asbestos litigation doesn’t require new law — just prosecute the offending parties.

There’s no reason to overhaul the tort system because of crimes that can be dealt with using law already on the books.

Posted by: Yossarian at March 6, 2006 11:29 AM
Comment #131581

Yossarian

Listen to NPR tonight. I am interested in the discussion and the take that liberal NPR will put on this.

Re choice - New Coke, Edsels, Round and Round Bread.

People can resist even the most aggressive ad campaigns if they don’t want to product. Firms work hard to try to figure out what people want and then develop products that serve that need, not usually the other way around.

Lots of products sold today offend me. I don’t buy them. I recognize that slick hucksters take in some people. We have good and necessary regulations to protect people from some situations where they cannot be expected to master all the details. You can buy a home with reasonable confidence, for example. But if you protect the gullible too much you take away the freedom of everyone.

The persistent threat is the fat guys against fast food. They keep on losing, but lawyers keep on coming back. I think we should preemptively ban anyone who is 10% overweight from even going into a McDonalds, Burger King, and Pizza Hut etc. We need to protect these guys from themselves.

Another useful move (and this one I actually mean seriously) would be to make parking less convenient. Let’s have central parking garages and no free parking anywhere. People who walk a lot don’t get grotesquely obese.

People make choices. Some choices will be bad. A lot of the damage is self inflicted. We need not find someone to blame; the fault is usually our own.

Like the old joke

Man - Doctor it hurts when I do this.
Doctor - Then don’t do that.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 12:05 PM
Comment #131599

All the “fat” guys are typing on this post. Everytime one of these companies are ‘punished’ by these exorbitant awards. You and I foot the bill. These cost are ultimately passed down to the consumer, which is you and I. It also lends itself to the ‘outsourcing’ of American jobs. Every employer in the supply chain from raw materials to the retailer who sells the goods produced must insure themselves from these suits. They also must spend billions of dollars to protect themselves from liability in the event someone can come up with an idea to deliberately misuse or re-engineer their product and hurt themselves in the process. Hot things are hot, sharp instruments are sharp, metal objects are going to conduct electricity despite all the warnings from the manufacturer. If an idividual sets out to do something that defies all common sense and kills or injures themselves in the process how is that the fault of anyone other than the individual?

Posted by: pige at March 6, 2006 12:53 PM
Comment #131606

Yossarian:

Analogizing coffee with asbestos is silly. The situations are incomparable in the way you’re attempting to do it. Nobody is launching a multi-tiered attack on the coffee industry by alleging it’s inherently dangerous.

How stupid is it when we have actual lawsuits about people claiming food products cause them harm? The analogy works. People knew asbestos was dangerous in certain forms, but it also had great features as well. People know that coffee tastes good when its hot, but…well, it can burn you too. People know that a Big Mac or a Whopper tastes good, but have lots of calories and fat in them.

There is solid evidence of lawsuits over good products,as evidenced by the coffee and fast food lawsuits. We also have litigation over NON dangerous things, like non-friable asbestos. For example, you know that dangerous asbestos containing tile in the schools that i’ve mentioned? Guess where it goes after removal—-yep, to the same landfill all other construction debris goes to. Same with roofing asbestos—-its considered non dangerous as soon as its in the dumpster. So…its non dangerous while in place, it becomes dangerous while you are removing it, and then is magically non-dangerous ever after that.

I’m sure you can figure out a lawyerly way to justify all that, but it defies common sense.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at March 6, 2006 1:23 PM
Comment #131613

Oh pige…I’m begging you now, READ THIS POST.

From your post:

“All the “fat” guys are typing on this post. Everytime one of these companies are ‘punished’ by these exorbitant awards. You and I foot the bill. These cost are ultimately passed down to the consumer, which is you and I.”

I’ve heard this silly formula for years. It makes no sense. We live in a free market economy, do we not? Well, more free than many anyway. The point is that if an insurer carries too many policies on bad-risk doctors, drivers, you name it…THEY DROP THE POLICY!!! Therefore they have a vested interest in safety do they not? Also, this means that insurence companies that do better job of betting on safety, helping to foster safety, etc…DON’T PASS ON COSTS AND DO A BETTER BUSINESS, DO THEY NOT? Think, for a minute, about how socialistic the formula you suggest realy is, and you will reject it as easily as I have.

Now let’s run down the McDonald’s hot Coffee case…AGAIN since you make the “hot things are hot” coment.

Stella Liebeck was awarded 2.7 million dollars after spilling coffee on her lap in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car. She never saw that amount, not even close.

There is a lot of hype about the McDonalds’ scalding coffee case. No
one is in favor of frivolous cases of outlandish results; however, it is
important to understand some points that were not reported in most of
the stories about the case. McDonalds coffee was not only hot, it was
scalding — capable of almost instantaneous destruction of skin, flesh
and muscle. Here’s the whole story.

Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was in the passenger seat of
her grandson’s car when she was severely burned by McDonalds’ coffee in
February 1992. Liebeck, 79 at the time, ordered coffee that was served
in a styrofoam cup at the drivethrough window of a local McDonalds.

After receiving the order, the grandson pulled his car forward and
stopped momentarily so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her
coffee. (Critics of civil justice, who have pounced on this case, often
charge that Liebeck was driving the car or that the vehicle was in
motion when she spilled the coffee; neither is true.) Liebeck placed
the cup between her knees and attempted to remove the plastic lid from
the cup. As she removed the lid, the entire contents of the cup spilled
into her lap.

The sweatpants Liebeck was wearing absorbed the coffee and held it next
to her skin. A vascular surgeon determined that Liebeck suffered full
thickness burns (or third-degree burns) over 6 percent of her body,
including her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and genital and groin
areas. She was hospitalized for eight days, during which time she
underwent skin grafting. Liebeck, who also underwent debridement
treatments, sought to settle her claim for $20,000, but McDonalds
refused.

During discovery, McDonalds produced documents showing more than 700
claims by people burned by its coffee between 1982 and 1992. Some claims
involved third-degree burns substantially similar to Liebecks. This
history documented McDonalds’ knowledge about the extent and nature of
this hazard.

McDonalds also said during discovery that, based on a consultants
advice, it held its coffee at between 180 and 190 degrees fahrenheit to
maintain optimum taste. He admitted that he had not evaluated the
safety ramifications at this temperature. Other establishments sell
coffee at substantially lower temperatures, and coffee served at home is
generally 135 to 140 degrees.

Further, McDonalds’ quality assurance manager testified that the company
actively enforces a requirement that coffee be held in the pot at 185
degrees, plus or minus five degrees. He also testified that a burn
hazard exists with any food substance served at 140 degrees or above,
and that McDonalds coffee, at the temperature at which it was poured
into styrofoam cups, was not fit for consumption because it would burn
the mouth and throat. The quality assurance manager admitted that burns
would occur, but testified that McDonalds had no intention of reducing
the “holding temperature” of its coffee.

Plaintiffs’ expert, a scholar in thermodynamics applied to human skin
burns, testified that liquids, at 180 degrees, will cause a full
thickness burn to human skin in two to seven seconds. Other testimony
showed that as the temperature decreases toward 155 degrees, the extent
of the burn relative to that temperature decreases exponentially. Thus,
if Liebeck’s spill had involved coffee at 155 degrees, the liquid would
have cooled and given her time to avoid a serious burn.

McDonalds asserted that customers buy coffee on their way to work or
home, intending to consume it there. However, the companys own research
showed that customers intend to consume the coffee immediately while
driving.

McDonalds also argued that consumers know coffee is hot and that its
customers want it that way. The company admitted its customers were
unaware that they could suffer thirddegree burns from the coffee and
that a statement on the side of the cup was not a “warning” but a
“reminder” since the location of the writing would not warn customers of
the hazard.

The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages. This amount
was reduced to $160,000 because the jury found Liebeck 20 percent at
fault in the spill. The jury also awarded Liebeck $2.7 million in
punitive damages, which equals about two days of McDonalds’ coffee
sales.

Post-verdict investigation found that the temperature of coffee at the
local Albuquerque McDonalds had dropped to 158 degrees fahrenheit.

The trial court subsequently reduced the punitive award to $480,000 —
or three times compensatory damages — even though the judge called
McDonalds’ conduct reckless, callous and willful.

No one will ever know the final ending to this case.

The parties eventually entered into a secret settlement which has never
been revealed to the public, despite the fact that this was a public
case, litigated in public and subjected to extensive media reporting.
Such secret settlements, after public trials, should not be condoned.
——-
excerpted from ATLA fact sheet. ©1995, 1996 by Consumer Attorneys of
California

I must add a few things to this since I once had copies of this case I obtained in law school:

1. The number of people burned previously was actually greater than 750, not 700.

2. The 2.7 million in punitives actualy amounted to an estimate of ONE day’s sale of cofee, not two.

There’s more to this as well:

Under New Mexico Usery law (That’s the amount of interest allowed to be charged on a debt), Medical creditors were able to charge 18.5 percent interest on debts. That meant that Stella Liebeck was enduring more and more financial pressure to settle as time wore on. You see, she was uninsured for medical injuries of this kind. Her lawyers lost their shirts too, since they did years worth of work with their own money and credit on the line in the form of letters of protection which lawyers generate to help get medical care going in such cases where the care is needed immediately and the case must still be argued. After her hospital stay, multiple surgeries and all that time…Ms Liebeck most assuredly LOST money on top of her injuries. So did her lawyers. No room for doubt on that one. Unless you beleive that McDonald’s somehow miraculously decided to make a settlement for greater than what was required by the judge.

“fat guys” indeed, pige. Get real. Perhaps you are referring to those who EAT at McDonald’s?

RGF


Posted by: RGF at March 6, 2006 1:43 PM
Comment #131617

Jack,

You took the shot, so I now respond.

NPR goes out of their way to give equal time to commentary from both sides on anything. Time and time again.

FOX, on the other hand, rarely does unless it’s to over-talk the interviewee or misquote him. Look for it objectively. This is truth, Jack.

RGF

Posted by: RGF at March 6, 2006 1:48 PM
Comment #131619

Tanya,

It is a BRAINER when you realize the BOND market has more to do with rising health care costs than lawsuits. Read above posts of mine.

RGF

Posted by: RGF at March 6, 2006 1:54 PM
Comment #131634

I believe the facts of the case revealed the woman was holding a crushable styrofoam cup filled with a known hot liquid between her thighs in a moving vehichle. Let’s see if one were to drink gasoline and then smoke immediately after would you sue ( a.) the station owner (b.) the oil company (c.) the to bacco company or (d.) all of the above?

Posted by: pige at March 6, 2006 2:31 PM
Comment #131643

Pige,

Do you digest information? …or just ignore it.
YES she held a cup of Coffee between her KNEES, not her thighs. That is not the PROXIMATE CAUSE of her injuries.

Your gasoline example is designed to be incendiary and it accomplishes nothing else. It isn’t even information, just bile.

RGF

Posted by: RGF at March 6, 2006 3:13 PM
Comment #131656

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t make it a habit to hold hot beverages in collapsable cups between MY legs…I don’t care if I’m in a car or sitting at home-sheer stupidity, that’s what it is, plain and simple.

Posted by: Tanya at March 6, 2006 3:41 PM
Comment #131657

RGF,

I realize there are many factors that contribute to rising healthcare costs, I was merely pointing out one that could/should be eliminated. I don’t debate what you said at all-just wanted you to be clear on that.

Posted by: Tanya at March 6, 2006 3:43 PM
Comment #131658

Here’s my silly attempt to lighten things up in here….any of you that are familiar with The Blue Collar Comedy Tour will recall this quote: “I think I outta sue Hustler magazine for giving my wrist carpal tunnel”….as for all of these frivolous lawsuits “it’s like wipin’ before you poop, it don’t make sense!”

Posted by: Tanya at March 6, 2006 3:46 PM
Comment #131660

RGF

I actually was not taking a shot at NPR, which is among my favorite outlets. I was just pointing out that it is liberal so that when they come down on the trial lawyers (as I am confident they will given the facts) nobody can say that it was Fox.

Re the coffee. I don’t care if she burned her legs clean off or if McDonalds keeps the coffee at 212 degrees. It is still her fault for not handling a hot drink properly. Charging compensation damages is bad enough, but the punitive is just silly.

We won’t solve this argument with “facts”. We all agree on the facts: an old lady burned herself with coffee that was very hot. We disagree on what should be done about them.

To me the very fact she got into court is an example of the legal system screwed up. To you it is an example of justice for the little old lady.

I would add one wrinkle. What if it wasn’t McDonalds? We have a little coffee wagon run by a Middle Eastern immigrant near where I work. In her country they serve beverages literally boiling and she does it here too. What if the old lady burned her legs with this coffee. Would you still consider it justice?

The little guy isn’t always right either.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 3:54 PM
Comment #131661

I’m not sure the arguments from fat guy v. fast food is as far-fetched as you think. Granted, I have no desire to practice that kind of law, but…

Anyway, one of the most damning bits of evidence before all the anti-tobacco verdicts came down was the fact that the cigarettes were engineered to maximize delivery of an addictive chemical to ensure people kept smoking. That just didn’t sit well with most people, and most juries.

If it ever become obvious that the fast food giants have been dicking with their recipes to maximize stimulation and promote wild body sugar fluctuations to produce unnatural cravings at the expense of people’s health, and more than a few people have alleged that that has been the case, they might be in real trouble.

After those suits succeed, and I imagine they might eventually, I figure the next to go down will be soft drink companies.

Did you ever go to school for public relations? One of my best friends did, and was really bothered by some of his classes and internships, because it is apparent that PR is a science that assiduously studies cognitive responses to stimuli in order to make certain that the decisions that consumers make involve as little free, rational thinking as possible.

I can’t imagine that that’s the type of business practice you’re bending over backwards to rationalize? I mean, good products should be able to stand on their own merits, shouldn’t they? Companies shouldn’t have to devote more money to brainwashing us into wanting their products, to inculcating need (even chemical dependency) and twisting law, than they do to actually make a good product?

Hell, I’m not sure I even support the kind of arguments I’m proposing here, but they don’t seem patently invalid to me. They seem like arguable positions — good questions for a jury.

joe:

I think some of my remarks above apply to you as well. But we, good sir, have ventured beyond the bounds of what I know about the properties of asbestos. So I’ll say that, yes, that does seem silly. I’m not certain it’s the whole story, and I’d like to track the whole debate, but I can’t argue with you.

As far as I know, you’re right, if only with regard to non-friable asbestos.

Posted by: Yossarian at March 6, 2006 3:58 PM
Comment #131663

BTW, Jack, I love All Things Considered, so thanks for the heads up. I hope I can listen tonight.

And, not to start another debate, but I’m with RGF — NPR is just about as close to objective journalism as you can get these days. If you call them “liberal”, then you just have pejorative beliefs about objective fact-seeking.

I’ve long suspected that of the Reds. It’s not that the media is “liberal”, it’s that they rely on objective fact, which isn’t popular in that camp.

Posted by: Yossarian at March 6, 2006 4:05 PM
Comment #131664

Yossarian

Such things belong in front of a jury only if the loser pays the court costs.

Court cases politicize society. They waste time and money. The court should be a last resort. The fat guy can just walk a little more and eat a little less. We can’t be responsible for everyone’s character flaws and weaknesses.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 4:05 PM
Comment #131667

Jack

Obesity is arguably the biggest public health issue that faces us right now. Do you really think tens of millions of Americans are just weak and flawed? Or is it that they’ve effectively had a stunningly well-financed campaign of brainwashing and addictive chemical manipulation waged against them?

We’re going to pay for this one way or another. I think the corporations who have been living off “the fat of the land”, if you will, should be the ones footing the bill, at least if it can be proved that they were doing the things I talked about in my last comment.

Posted by: Yossarian at March 6, 2006 4:16 PM
Comment #131669

Well, this is a first, but I have to side with Jack.

Re: Coffee. People should learn to be responsible for themselves. If she was losing some finger ability to function, she should have asked the driver to fix the coffee for her, the way she liked. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, we only have their word that the car was even stopped at the time this happened.

When I buy a coffee from starbucks, I can feel from the cup that it would be a bad idea to immediatly throw back the cup and pour the contents down my throat. This is an evolutionary trait that man developed called ‘wisdom’. The driver was not wise enough to offer to fix her coffee, or stop her from putting a crushable cup between her knees, or the woman was not. In any case, yes, it was unforuntate. I would be very unhappy in her position myself, but it was still at least somewhat her fault.

I make choices to eat a salad instead of a hamburger-due to my personal lifestyle, and I am no longer overweight. Do I get rewarded for this? no. Should the company be punished if I don’t read the food ingredients and eat 6 whoppers a day and become unhealthy? absolutely NOT.

I realize I’m not really talking about the original post here, but I thought I should speak up.

Posted by: Kimberly at March 6, 2006 4:35 PM
Comment #131671

The Republican line here seems to be that we should be willingly indifferent to the fact that they were holding the coffee at a temperature not only too hot to bear instant contact with the skin, but in fact too hot to drink, and that they were indifferent to the safety considerations of giving people a liquid at near boiling temperature.

The Republican line seems to be that we should ignore the harm from years of asbestos manufacture, despite great evidence that people knew the harmful effects, and failed to tell anybody else that this was the case.

The Republican line seems to be that cigarette makers shouldn’t be held responsible for years of intensifying the addictive nature of their product, and ignoring the health problem this has caused, despite the fact that they testified that their cigarettes were not addictive, nor caused disease.

The Republican M.O., at least among the leadership, seems to be denial. If it doesn’t serve the business interests of the GOP’s favorite contributors, it’s wrong and inaccurate, or just some political horseshit from the Democrats and liberals.

Yes, life contains risks, but they should be risks taken with awareness, and the worst of them should be prohibited altogether. We don’t allow people to bungee jump off of bridges, operate cars without passing a driving test, or allow civilians to own Abrams tanks. Nor should we readily permit the use of toxic chemical in environments where people are exposed to them on a daily basis.

The point isn’t to limit the economic freedom of business. As long as it doesn’t break my leg or pick my pocket, they can do what they want, as far as I’m concerned. I just want them to act like moral human being. If they find out an ingredient in paint is poisoning their customers, they should be pro-active about taking care of it. If they find out that their product causes cancer and is addictive, the customers should know, and the product should be regulated accordingly.

In the end, big business if fighting a losing war. If people can’t trust them to behave on their own, restrictive laws and costly lawsuits will become a fact of life. Only if they demonstrate responsibility and conscientious behavior, will their social license to operate as they please remain unrevoked.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 6, 2006 4:40 PM
Comment #131672

Yossarian

When it comes down to it, all people have a choice. They have a choice to NOT buy that pack of cigarettes. They have a choice to eat something good instead of a whopper - it may be a hard choice, because whoppers taste fantastic, but no one is forcing anyone to fork over their money for any given product. Marketing makes food look better, and appear to taste better, bu that’s all they can really do. People who choose to blindly trust that everything on the menu is good for them eat at their own risk. It’s along the same lines of the large size sodas - you can read the label and see a 20 oz beverage is 2.5 servings, but you choose to buy it anyway and drink the whole thing. Can’t find anything smaller? Buy a 2-liter or stop drinking the stuff.

Yes, caffiene is addictive, but it also comes in many forms, and is always listed in a product when present. Caffiene, like cigarettes still doesn’t force to you fork over that $4 for your habit.

Yes, there is a point at which people choosing for themselves can only do so much, but sometimes it’s the best we can do.

Posted by: Kimberly at March 6, 2006 4:42 PM
Comment #131680

Yossarian

Yes. I think that most of those people are weak willed.

Fat food is only one of the problems. I lived in E. Europe, a place that makes McDonald’s fatty food look like a salad without dressing. Yet people were not as fat as we have become. Why? They have to walk. Elevators often didn’t work. You couldn’t park anywhere near your destination. The biggest cause of obesity is a sedentary lifestyle. There is a simple equation of fat. Too much in, not enough out stored as fat.

It used to be that life required the use of your muscles. No more. Now a person has to make the effort. Some do. Others get fat.

I agree that obesity is a problem. We should take the time to educate people, but we are doing nobody any favors by pretending that it is something that just happens to people. Why did the DISEASE of obesity strike me? Who is to blame? I can think of nasty answers for both questions.

I eat lots of fast food and always have. It can be addicting. If you like Big Macs, you have to like to run too. To the extent that I am fat, it is my fault.

Stephen

I think people should be free to choose. Free to choose means that some people will make poor choices. You know that a person who chooses to get really fat is actually harming the rest of us. Ever sit next to a round boy on the subway or airplane. Maybe we should make it illegal.

If you choose to smoke, you are just stupid. Maybe we should give Darwin Awards to smokers. You could argue that people started before they knew the risks. That applies to people who currently are more than sixty years old and even they had 42 years to quit. Actually we could also give out a Darwin award for spilling boiling coffee on your private parts, but I guess the old lady was past that.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 5:09 PM
Comment #131709

Jack,

You’re probably right. I’m just trying to think of plausible legal arguments, and I think I’ve demonstrated that there are ones similar to the ones that laid low Big Tobacco of which plaintiffs could avail themselves, if they can establish a few facts that I happen not to have.

That said, I think the E. European situation could involve a multiplicity of causes that you may be overlooking. I have a hard time imagining that walking is the whole story. Just too many variables there.

Posted by: Yossarian at March 6, 2006 7:24 PM
Comment #131711

Kimberly-
The choice to smoke or not smoke has been muddled by two things: The first was the secrecy and contrariness of the industry. The industry went to great lengths to assure the public that smoking wasn’t addictive (or that addictive), and that it wasn’t so dangerous to our health. The second is the addictive nature of Nicotine.

Nicotine, like many psychoactive drugs, affects the network of Dopamine producing nerves which play a major part in motivation, in the anticipation of reward. In effect, it short circuits free will, giving cigarettes a stronger hold on people’s decision making that something like food could exert.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 6, 2006 7:34 PM
Comment #131715

Yossarian

I don’t think people actually eat that much more today. My wife’s family were farmers. I don’t think you can eat more than they did. And it was all bacon, eggs and sausage. Her mother used to fry hot dogs in butter.

It is just math. Eat more than you burn, get fat. Burn more than you eat, get thin. You can work on either side of the equation, but I think it is nearly impossible to diet your way to being thin. Exercise changes your body composition for the better.

We are a nation of wimps. Kids don’t play dodge ball. Playgrounds are so tame that kids can’t have any fun. Boys and girls share gym class, which effectively eliminates rough sports. I blame all this on lawyers and law suits too. Everybody is so scared of being sued. When I was a kid, if you fell down and there was no GUSHING blood, the gym teacher would just make fun of you for laying on the ground. Your friends would kick your ass if you cryed about it. Try that now. So you might say that lawyers themselves are responsible for the fat people.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 7:47 PM
Comment #131718


How about this one? lets fight this war in the mideast like world war two?
what about the ports deal? selling us out to the muslims for nothing, face facts law mean nothing to the rich and powerful; if you don’t have the money, you don’t have any thing like rights and the end game is coming soon. if i may add, “you will all be part of this coming evil, because if you don’t act like real americans you have no rights to be here”, or on earth. sue bush for his evil acts against this nation and stop the gangs( read mexican government deals ) from getting any more guns and stop the bull fight back and live.

Posted by: Fred Dawes at March 6, 2006 8:01 PM
Comment #131740

you have to agree for a dollar they make a fine tasting cup of coffee, but watch out it is hotter than sheol

Posted by: rodney brown at March 6, 2006 10:15 PM
Comment #131741

Back to the orininal idea, asbestos has not been used in the U.S. since the early 1970s, which is funny since it is costing the U.S. about $70 billion. And 90% of American industries have been sued. Trial lawyers.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 10:18 PM
Comment #131742

Jack,

Mmm… hot dogs in butter. I’m all for that.

OK, I was with you for a while before you fell into typical anti-law mythos. I think that last paragraph was a headlong plunge into pure silliness and paranoid hyperbole. Playgrounds look pretty much the same to me, and while I did enjoy dodgeball as a kid, I don’t regard its loss, if indeed it has been lost, as emblematic of the toll renegade lawyers are taking on the traditions that you think make this nation great. My nieces and nephews seem to be having a great time as kids, and they do nothing but play sports and roughhouse.

As for people not eating that much more nowadays… I remember from Super Size Me the discussion of how the portions served at fast food chains have exploded in size in recent decades, e.g. the largest size of sodas and french fries from the 50s-60s is now the smallest size available.

Anyway, this discussion is meandering. I think you’re right that litigation against fast food chains is probably a bit silly, and people definitely need to get off their asses. I think many factors contribute to the sedentary nature of our nation’s citizens, but none of them are particularly relevant to your initial article.

I listened to NPR tonight. That shit is pretty bad, I won’t deny it. But I fear that soulless pro-corporate hacks will turn the abuse of a system, abuse that can be dealt with via the means I heard described on teh radio tonight (sanctions for the lawyers and legal action against those who perpetrate fraud or perjury), into an attempt to completely castrate tort law and allow corporations to have even more freedom than they already enjoy in terms of compromising the health and safety of the population for pecuniary gain.

Posted by: Yossarian at March 6, 2006 10:20 PM
Comment #131744

Fred,

So Bush “sold us out” to the Muslims, eh? Hmm…interesting concept. What I find more interesting, no, appalling is the word, is where you said “if you don’t have the money, you don’t have any thing like rights”. That has got to be the most utterly ridiculous, not to mention ignorant, thing I think I’ve ever heard in my 32 years of life!

So tell me sir, in reference to “if you don’t act like real americans you have no rights to be here”, how exactly is a “real American” supposed to act? And who the hell has the authority to make that decision as to who has the “right” to be here? As far as I’m concerned, the ONLY being that has that kind of ‘authority’, if you will, is our almighty God-certainly not you or I.

One last question, how pre-tell do you propose we stop the gangs from getting their hands on guns? Perhaps try it the Aussie way? According to my relatives in Sydney, that was the worst mistake their Government EVER made. So enlighten us, will you? Since you seem to have all the answers, I’d like to hear more of them….

Posted by: Tanya at March 6, 2006 10:23 PM
Comment #131746

I’ve got a chuckle for you all…true story too! *grins* While taking dinner out of the oven tonight I burned my arm..2nd degree burn (yes, I have the medical expertise to classify the degree of my burn, so don’t bother…) in a literal instant of contact with the inside top surface. Hmm, shall I sue GE? I see no warning labels anywhere saying that when the oven is set at 350 degrees it’s going to hurt like hell if I touch it! (humerous sarcasm folks, not argumentative in nature) I figured since we’ve been doing all the hot coffee conversation (which I think I started, sorry! LOL), it was rather ironic timing. Maybe it’s a sign?? *giggles*

Posted by: Tanya at March 6, 2006 10:29 PM
Comment #131905

I am amazed here at the amount of IRRESPONSIBILITY I am seeing.

It seems to be a trend. Lawyers are advocates, not judges. Legal cases are not decided by lawyers, they are decided by JURIES.

If you can on the one hand say, “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” Why can you not on the other hand an even more obvious and relevent truth: Lawyers don’t create lawsuits people (in the form of plaintiffs) do!

This looks like the all to familier trend I see in Modern conservatism to CLAIM to be about people taking greater responsibility for themselves but when push comes shove the misunderstandings that seem inherent among NEO-CONS actually causes them to push for the reverse without recognizing it.

You see, it is a lawyers JOB to zealously represent his/her client. That’s how and why our great system of law and government works. Further, because no lawyer ever HAS to take a specific case, they are free to refuse to represent clients who want to pursue cases that are weak or meritless. What this mechanism means is that it MORE likely that a sensational media case might have legitiamte merit rather than less since no lawyer wants to risk their own economic health and/or their license on an obvious frivolous lawsuit.

…and yet the tirade against lawyers from the legally uneducated persists. The ultimate outcome is the ultimate destruction of our country and all it stands on.

The trend I see is that NEO-CONS are pushing for greater personnal IRRESPONSIBILITY.

NEO-CONS want to blame lawyers for lawsuiuts yet don’t understand our advocacy system or take responsibility to learn about it as Americans.

NEO-CONS Think we need to change laws to limit lawsuits or legal awards and yet do nothing to help the obvious BEST solution, juries. NEO-CONS do all they can to AVOID jury duty. How many times have you served?

NEO-CONS want to hold individual people responsible for their own actions but discount liability of companies like McDonald’s who take actions that are egregious and dangerous.

NEO-CONS make the ASSUMPTION that people like Stella Liebeck are irresponsible idiots who hurt themselves by their own stupidity and yet discount that her actions were not unlike their own and were not unreasonable. If any NEO-CON were to endure the same series of experiences as Stella Liebeck, they would think differently ONLY about the specific instance and continue to irresponibly ‘BUY’ the company line regarding any other injurious actions by others.

It’s tiresome, isn’t it? Please just stop it and get real.

RGF

Posted by: RGF at March 7, 2006 1:10 PM
Comment #131908

Tanya,

DO you REALLY want to know the source of frivolous lawsuits?

YOU. It was you who thought of the possibility to sue GE. Reality is, that was born out of your own paranoia absent any understanding of law. A real lawyer would see instantaneously that such a suit is meritless because you are ALREADY on notice that the oven is hot and you even KNOW how hot. YOU TURNED IT ON.

In the McDonald’s hot coffee case, the jury awarded the verdict (that Stella never got) NOT because she didn’t know the coffee was hot, but McDonald’s was serving coffee, in violation of health code I might add, that was so UNUSUALLY hot it was dangerous and HAD ACTUALLY caused over 750 injuries previously which showed that it was beyond the reasonable person excerising reasonable prudence standard. It also made the jury mad my saying that 750 people were not enough for them to notice. SHOULD THAT NOT HAVE THE JURY MAD IN YOUR ESTIMATION?

RGF

Posted by: RGF at March 7, 2006 1:22 PM
Comment #131940

lets say for an example,your leaving your work place, and before you get to your car and some nutball steps in front of you swinging a 2 ft long sword,and says you are a dirty no good …. something about your heritage and you deserve to die.. because of what you did or happend thousands of years ago, you were lucky enough to kick the weapon away because of some defensive training you had thirty years ago .you run back to the store lock the door call the police , then the police officer comes in and the first thing he says to you, you need to quit your job! your shaking like a leaf and he is playing with your head! what nice person, you say officer iv’e been here many years and have thousands of customers that i help and i know most of them by first name , then you get your nerve back up and say officer i was the one that was assaulted you need to do your job and find that person and by the way i wont quit my job! ,you come back to work after taking a couple of days off and nobody will look at you except one very sweet person. (she said i am so sorry to hear about what happend to you) bless her heart but the other 4 people working their treat you like dirty garbage hmmm. what’s up with this story? you walk in to the owners office ,and before you can say anything he says iv’e spoken to the the officer and we think the person was just joking with you!(some joke)(justice dont you just love it!) your nerves are shot they start to screw with your hours and days off then you get sick ,wonder why? you call in to report that your sick, the person you need to talk to wont talk to you because their too busy you get a message that they will call you back , they never call you back, you call again three hours later the person comes on the line and says if you dont get to work by such and such a time today dont bother to come back at all!it is a saturday your not dressed, or showered and the work place is 55 miles away and they close in two hours!!! impossible! unless you were superman! so you say ,that is it after all these years? they hang up on you. you think i am going to call that police officer oh yes he gave me his card great! you look at the card and the card says that he works in a small office in that vast complex that you work at excuse used to work at! what do you do? be a victim or be a man! you never used a attorney before, thank god , their there when you need one!! by the way you find out the person who tried to kill you was off his MEDS and is back on them and is doing just fine! he is remorseful and begs for you to forgive him you do the attorney says you can bury that place or do whatever you want to. by the way he was a great person, the end results is you decide not to sue and go on with your life( a choice you make) you go on find another job. now a happy ending!!! a year later you find out (small world) they missed your $150,000 a month sales ,the ass owner fired the ass who fired ME and the ass owner had to close his doors in a place where he had been for 25 years! and move down the street to a office where the rent was 65% less and he is hurting!!! justice after all . sorry this is not about coffee but when you need a counselor thank god you can find one!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: rodney brown at March 7, 2006 3:55 PM
Comment #131954

RGF,

For clarification, where exactly did I say that it’s the fault of LAWYERS that we have such an excess of nonsense lawsuits? I realize they are doing their job and that it’s the people that bring these cases to them-I never said or felt otherwise.

As far as my comment about suing GE, it was sarcasm, I’m sure you’ve heard of it…

I turned the oven on, yes…and she put the hot coffee between her legs-I don’t care what the temperature was, it was still HOT and doesn’t belong between ones legs. The same fault applies to her as it does with me when I burned my arm on my oven.

I am getting “real”, and it seems to me that the only one that’s “mad” here, is YOU.

I don’t know about you, but I think we’ve beat this one to death and I have nothing more to say on the matter…on to the next topic please.

Horses and water….

Posted by: Tanya at March 7, 2006 5:24 PM
Comment #131978

Tanya,

chalk it up to my stuborness…and remember who at wha I am.

…but she put the coffee between her knees and it was the spill, for which she was held 20% liable, not the placement that resulted in the burn. She didn’t burn her knees. She burned her genitalia.

RGF

Posted by: RGF at March 7, 2006 6:50 PM
Comment #132019

Tanya,
I never said you were stupid. I said you were factually incorrect.

Posted by: ElliottBay at March 7, 2006 11:52 PM
Comment #132382

Elliott, you wrote: “Tanya,
I never said you were stupid. I said you were factually incorrect.”

If I stated that you had called me stupid, I apologize. It’s more that sometimes I get the impression that some ‘think’ I am, is what I guess I was trying to say.

As far as being factually incorrect, I won’t deny that’s possible on a lot of things, but here, I have to disagree.

I do thank you for taking the time to clarify though. And even though I tend to disagree with you at times, I want you to know that I do respect your opinions and even when I’m being particularly stubborn (which I admit that I can be, more often than not), I do absorb everything you say and even many times use what you say in researching further on that particular issue.

I don’t profess to know everything, and as I’ve said before, I came here in hopes of learning about issues and wanting to understand the viewpoints of others. So when you feel that I’m factually incorrect, I do appreciate you letting me know that and backing it up with facts that support your own opinions. Thank you for that.

Tanya

Posted by: Tanya at March 9, 2006 9:41 AM
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