Frivolous law suits


Lawsuits now come in all shapes and sizes. Strangely, some continue to amaze me.

According to an article in Pittsburgh’s Tribune-Review last month, reporter Rich Cholodofsky tells us that a couple is suing Wal-Mart for injuries they claim were caused by canned goods and condiments that tumbled from an overfilled plastic grocery bag.

The bag broke when the couple, Ronald and Brenda Sager, were unloading their groceries at home. Brenda suffered “cracked and damaged toenails” and also claims to have a broken foot and ligament damage from the incident.

Brenda is suing Wal-Mart for $30,000.

Ronald also decided to get in the game, and he’s suing them for an additional $30,000 because “during Brenda’s healing process, he was deprived of her comfort and her attention.”

I don’t know what’s worse: The Sager’s victim-mentality, or the fact that a lawyer actually took this case.

I wonder how the conversation went. Here’s my fictitious screenplay:

Brenda: Ouch! &%$#@*&
Ronald: What happened?
Brenda: This stuff fell out of the bag and landed on my foot! It hurts like a son-of-gun!
Ronald: We should sue the &%$#@*&
Brenda: Why?
Ronald: Because they overfilled the bag and didn’t think about what might happen. It’s ALL THEIR FAULT!
Brenda: Great idea. Besides, they’re made of money. Everybody else is suing for no good reason. We should get a piece of the action.
Ronald: Hey – you just gave me an idea. I think I’ll sue ’em, too.

Next day’s phone call:
Ronald Sager: We want to sue.
Trial Lawyer: Not a problem. Let’s go for the gusto. The worst they can say is no. We’re not out anything if we try.
According to Cholodofsky, “The Sagers contend Wal-Mart was at fault. The store, they claim, failed to properly instruct and train its employees to correctly bag products, negligently provided a defective bag, recklessly overpacked the bag by placing in it too many heavy items, failed to double- or triple-bag the purchases, and placed Brenda Sager in a ‘position of peril.’”

Sidebar question: How does one “recklessly” overpack a bag?

I need to dissect this for a moment:

1. Ronald and Brenda put the groceries in their car while at the store. They saw an overfilled bag but did nothing.
2. They got home and as they’re unloading their car, they again saw the overfilled bag and did nothing.

What if the bag tore as Ronald and Brenda were loading it in their car? What if it tore as they were unloading it from their car? How can they prove in a court of law that a tear didn't occur after the bag was in the Sager's possession? In their lawsuit, the Sagers said Wal-Mart should have “made sure their bag didn't break.” How can Wal-Mart be responsible for possible Sager ineptness?

It is amazing the lengths people will go to avoid responsibility and assign blame to others for their own careless actions. Additionally, this short-sighted self interest makes it more difficult for companies to produce and sell products competitively.

Society has become too litigious, and we are desperately in need of torte reform. This is an election year in America, and I say it’s time for business people to take action.

Up to this point all we’ve seen is businesses raising prices to cover the increasing costs of insurance and legal fees from frivolous law suits. And then there’s the ubiquitous warning label reminding us that electrical cords can cause electrical shock and coffee is a hot drink.

If you’re tired of qualifying every product you make or service you deliver with a warning label so as to avoid a lawsuit, take a moment and write your representatives. Tell them that you want torte reform so idiots – er, rather “victims” like the Sagers start realizing that a lawsuit might actually cost them money if a judge deems it frivolous.

Lawsuit “winnings” do not come from businesses – they come from higher prices passed on to consumers. Without torte reform, businesses will continue to get sapped by so-called “victims” and willing lawyers. Let’s stop the insanity before it gets more insane than it already is.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Dan Bobinski is a training specialist, author, and an accomplished keynote speaker. He's been providing management and leadership training to Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller, regional concerns for more than 20 years.

Older Comments

although this caused me to have a quiet smirk, it is so true, and sadly England is getting worse. everybody wants to get money for free, and not take the blame for being clumsy, or even worse a bad driver. hopefully, one day, a judge will throw out a ridiculous case and send the costs to the culprits, but until then things will only get worse.