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Monday, February 23, 2009

Once upon a time, many years ago...

... a very stupid man tried to trim his hedge with his power lawn mower. Well, guess what? He slipped and the mower cut his leg off, or arm, or something (no, not that)... I forget. So he did the American thing. He sued. And to add insult to injury for us consumers and taxpayers, he won big, big bucks. This was, say some observers, the start of the "It can't be my fault" personal injury claim gold-rush.

A little later, a woman picked up a cup of hot coffee at her local McDonald's drive-thru window. She held the cup between her legs, so it wouldn't spill. Yeah... that always works. Serious burns resulted. So she did the American thing. She sued... and of course, won big, big bucks.

A drunken man stumbled his way onto the path of a Manhattan subway train. Whoops! Luckily, his stupid stupor only cost him a leg. So he did the American thing. He sued... and was rewarded with $2.3 million.

Another New Yorker had to close his private business office while he kept an important doctor's appointment. The doctor kept him waiting for hours. So he did the American thing and sued. His mistake was that he only sought the $120 he calculated in lost business because the doctor had kept him waiting. The doctor, a true American in the lawsuit spirit, counter-sued. Now he did it right. He demanded $3 million.

A few posts below this one, I noted an ex judge who sued his dry cleaner for $54 million because the cleaner lost his pants.

I wrote a monthly magazine column for many years in which I featured many 'stupid and dumb-sounding lawsuits' on a regular basis. The reason: there were so many... and readers loved them. Listen. I fancy myself as a 'stupid and dumb-sounding lawsuits' expert. (Don't give me the, "Oh, there may be some validity in some of these dumb-sounding lawsuits... I know that. But not most. You know that.)

My conclusion... and yours too, if you think about it, is that all these suits DO help people get rich. Those people are called lawyers. Meanwhile, as we see diving boards, roller skating rinks and other such things disappear, all the rest of us pay for increased product costs to cover manufacturers added risk and a myriad of really dumb warning labels that pander to the ridiculously stupid and well represented minority. It's called CYA in legal-speak. (Caution! Contents may be hot.)

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