Here's my most recent article, published in the SDSU Collegian:
Personal responsibility. I’m not sure anybody knows what that means anymore. Placing blame on others when bad things happen seems to be the norm. We see it every day on TV: when something happens, everyone freaks out, looking for someone to blame, regardless if someone is at fault or not. Lawsuits are a multi-billion dollar industry in our country, and it gets worse every day. Each time a suit is settled, precedent is set that creates fodder for lawyers to make even more ridiculous arguments in the future, which prompts organizations, individuals, companies, etc. to conjure up liability forms. These liability forms essentially boil down to “hey, if you hurt yourself it’s your fault, not ours.”
The promise of a monetary settlement is very tempting for some people, when in reality no one can really be blamed but the person filing the suit. We’ve all heard the story of the woman who dropped hot coffee on her lap at McDonald’s. Whose fault is that? It’s common sense that coffee is hot, so be careful! It’s not McDonald’s fault, but because of the suit, now companies everywhere put disclaimers on everything, letting us know that the hot coffee is HOT.
Here are some other examples:
-A lady in Detroit sued her employer because her coworker’s perfume was too overpowering. A federal judge allowed this suit to go forward. Where’s the personal responsibility? Take the initiative and talk with the person whose perfume is bothering you. How is that the employer’s fault?
-When you throw your Wii remote into your new plasma TV, ask yourself: is this Nintendo’s fault, or should I just be more careful next time? Nintendo was sued by a few people who felt it was Nintendo’s fault and did not take personal responsibility for their actions.
-A kid sued his teacher for waking him up in class, citing “hearing problems” due to the noise that woke him up.
As crazy as some of these lawsuits are, the mere fact that some of them were allowed in court gives organizations pause, as the possibility of going to court for something stupid is still a court appearance and will cost money, so organizations have to take steps to protect themselves from these things. Some activities may not even take place, because they are deemed too much of a liability risk, eliminating the possibility of participating in fun things that we were once able to.
The worst cases are those that emerge from a situation where no one is at fault. For example, look at the U.S. Airways flight that went down in the Hudson River. The pilot performed magnificently: he successfully landed the plane in the water and everyone survived. All this was the fault of some geese that flew into both engines, something that was out of everyone’s control. Already there are some lawsuits against U.S. Airways, citing emotional damages and nervousness during flying after the accident. The plane going down was no fault of U.S. Airways. In fact, if they hadn’t trained their pilots so well and communicated with the harbor rescue perfectly, most likely everyone on that flight would have died in a crash or of hypothermia in the river.
Suing should be reserved for when someone has truly wronged you, not serve as compensation for something that is either someone’s own personal fault or the result of something out of everyone’s control. Accidents happen, that’s just a reality of life, and closure should not come about through use of a lawsuit against someone who is not truly at fault.
You want to talk about change? Let’s reform our legal system so that it punishes legitimate wrongdoers, rather than creating a society of victimization and blame for monetary gain.