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willbrawn's avatar

Should there be a law against being ignorant or taking advantage?

Asked by willbrawn (6588 points ) August 13th, 2009 from iPhone

I hope I worded that correctly. You hear people that sue Mcdonalds cause they got fat -there fault for choosing to eat there and not eat healthy. And people that break into someones home and gets hurt and sues the person they were robbing. These kind of things I believe make our society look shameful. To sue a company because your hot coffee spilt on your lap is nonsense.

Should there be a law preventing this kinds of law suits from happening? I believe there should be. People need to know they are responsible for there own actions, and can’t blame anyone else.

Would you vote to pass this law? Why or why not?

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22 Answers

marinelife's avatar

In a free society, ignorance and greed are not crimes. It is the price we pay for liberty.

willbrawn's avatar

@marina but there are all kinds of laws. Don’t I then have the right to try and create this law?

marinelife's avatar

You have the right to petition your legislators to promote this law. I am just not sure how your codify a) ignorance and b) greed.

That’s why we have judges. To evaluate these issues and throw the ones that are frivolous out.

PerryDolia's avatar

If we started putting stupid and ignorant people in jail, there would be…like…only 50 of us left.

although I agree the legal judgments in favor of these bozos make little sense

cyn's avatar

I can’t vote, I’m 16. :(

SuperMouse's avatar

@PerryDolia is right, our prisons are overcrowded enough already. I do think there should be some kind of tort reform to put a stop to the ridiculous frivolous lawsuits, but as long as there are folks lobbying on behalf of the American Bar Association, I’m afraid it isn’t going to happen.

Facade's avatar

I don’t know if that’s possible. But frivolous lawsuits shouldn’t be allowed.

augustlan's avatar

We need better standards of what constitutes ‘harm’. But I see no way to write laws that would counter every possible instance of stupidity.

dynamicduo's avatar

Hey @willbrawn, have you actually looked at the McDonald’s hot coffee case you cite as being stupid? Because even though it’s used all the time as a joke, in actuality it was not a stupid thing at all. Sure she shouldn’t have been holding a coffee cup between her thighs, but the coffee was at such a hot temperature (190 degrees, my boiler doesn’t get anywhere near there) that it caused severe burns to her within seconds, let alone her trying to get out of her car (and she was the passenger, not the driver). Furthermore, the only reason she sued was because McDonalds would not give her the paltry amount she asked for to cover her medical bills. By mocking her, you give the impression of supporting the opponents, in this case McDonalds, and the actions they previously took.

Now who is being ignorant? The person who asks a question about other people’s ignorance, or the person who doesn’t even look up what they are mocking?

wundayatta's avatar

If a company is negligent, then the people who have been harmed should have the right to sue. The problem with tort reform, is writing law so you can get rid of truly frivolous suits, while still allowing people to hold companies responsible for harms caused by negligence.

You can’t prejudge a suit, though. You have to let the courts decide the merits of the case. If you limit recourse, then you are starting to give up more and more power to the elites. Who is going to tell us which suits shouldn’t be allowed? The doctors and the businesses who are negligent, is who. Do you really trust them to do what’s best for the little guy? Really?

galileogirl's avatar

If manipulation and ignorance were against the law, jury duty would be a full time job.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

I remember those cases… I was amazed.

you eat a lot of food, you get fat, most of their food is deep fried or broiled in grease, use your head.

I don’t think it was a case of them just being idiots (which they still were, mind you) but I think they did it because they were either too lazy or too weak to change their habits, so they sought monetary and legal justification for their poor choices.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I remember reading somewhere that there is one lawyer for every 144 people in the US. That is more lawyers than all the European Union countries combined. Frivolous lawsuits are bankrupting our nation. Seems like every time someone is wronged in America, their first knee jerk reaction is to file a lawsuit. What a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Maybe we can export ⅔rds of our lawyers to an overseas country, like perhaps the Sudan, or the Congo. They would have a field day over there.

Reminds me of that old joke:

Q: Why does New Jersey have all the toxic waste sites and California have all the lawyers?

A: New Jersey had first choice.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

yeah. i don’t think people should be able to sue for things that are common knowledge. it’s ridiculous.

mattbrowne's avatar

If people are ignorant and don’t know any law, the laws still apply. Ignorance is no excuse. Education is the best remedy, but it doesn’t always work. Sometimes warning labels do make sense, sometimes they don’t. It’s not always clear where to draw the line. In general there’s less frivolous litigation in Europe than in the US.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@mattbrowne yeah, like the warning label on the holiday lights I bought. It read For indoor or outdoor use only Umm, what else is there?

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra a black hole? you could be indoors and outdoors at the same time ;)

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

Absolutely not.The Nannystate is interfering with natural selection enough already.

Zuma's avatar

Who decides if your lawsuit is “frivolous”? Isn’t that what the legal system is supposed to do? Do you really want somebody to pre-screen your complaints to decide if your case is “worthy” of being filed—in advance of any evidence being put on?

The case you refer to about the woman who sued McDonald’s for spilling her coffee in her lap is a case in point. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liebeck_v._McDonald's_Restaurants

This example is often trotted out as a kind of poster child for frivolous lawsuits, but if you take even a minute to examine the case, instead of listening to Fox News or whatever other propaganda that has convinced you this is “frivolous” you will find that indeed there was merit to her case. The accident was ruled 80% at fault, 20% Mc Donald’s, but the water was so hot (180–185 degrees) that it was foreseeable that it would cause injury. She received 3rd degree burns over 16% of her body, lost 20% of her body weight, and it took 2 years for her to heal, because she was 79 years old. Mc Donald’s knew from scores of previous complaints that their beverages were too hot but refused to fix the problem, preferring instead to legally stonewall the cases that did come up.

So, here you have a corporation knowingly and willfully causing injury to their customers. Without the large punitive damage award (which, thanks to conservative judges, she received only a fraction) McDonald’s would have had no incentive to fix the problem. But, thanks to the lawsuit, they finally did. And the lawsuit has served as a cautionary tale for Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and everyone else who serves up hot beverages on a similar basis.

As for the case of McDonald’s being sued for obesity, that case was dismissed, effectively closing off future cases of that sort. But are we better off for it? What if the McDonald’s menu was engineered to be both physically and psychologically addictive, and then marketed to young children? Well, that’s just what the plaintiffs alleged. We recognize that people have a right to sue tobacco companies for marketing an unhealthful product to children, why not a food product that has been scientifically engineered to maximize the potential for food addiction?

Of course people are responsible for knowing that if they eat too much they get fat, but what about getting kids hooked on the food equivalent of crack before they are able to make rational dietary choices? What do you do when corporations knowingly and deliberately contribute to a national epidemic of obesity by using their marketing power to engineer both the food and the tastes of a whole population—food that is artificially cheap due to government subsidies that these corporations have gotten for themselves?

As for robbers who sue their victims, these cases seldom succeed; but when they do it usually involves some issue where the victims shot to kill instead of to stop, or they beat the guy with a metal pipe after they subdued him—or did something else a jury would find unreasonable and egregious. Just because somebody breaks into your house does not give you a license to kill, torture, or maim the person, regardless of what you might think justified under the circumstances.

Juries are not idiots. They, not somebody working with incomplete information, are your best protection from frivolous suits. If you have ever been seriously wronged and have had to sue in order to be made whole, you will soon find out soon enough that lawsuits are not the road to a quick and easy payday. Lawsuits are horrifically expensive and time-consuming. They literally take years out of your life, and there is no guarantee that even if you have a meritorious case that you will prevail. In fact, quite often you won’t because it is often the party with the best lawyer, not the best case, that wins.

So, it is in no one’s interest to make it more difficult to sue, except for the corporations who knowingly and willfully injure their clients and customers, and who bandy about misleading spin on how “frivolous” lawsuits are a big problem. They are not a problem, as you will find out if you are ever injured or wronged.

Val123's avatar

I once knew a guy who was hoping something would happened someday that would let him sue somebody so he’d get money. He actually told me that. I told him he was sick in the head.

phillis's avatar

Trying to pin down what is “stupid” is akin to trying to catch a rainbow in a butterfly net. Who decides what is stupid, and what – or who – influenced their decision? The variables are staggering. This is why a person can elect to be judged by a jury of thier peers and produce evidence to exonorate themselves. Nothing humans touch is perfect. Sometimes, it’s best to learn to live with them. C’est la Vie.

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