The Mountain Times

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Take two aspirin and call my attorney in the morning

We have become a society of frivolous lawsuits. The "jumping of the shark" occurred when Stella Liebeck sued McDonald's over burns that resulted from spilling hot coffee on her lap after purchasing it at the drive-thru. It was a moment when we collectively asked "Really?" and the answer was "Yep".  The flood gates were opened and like the rush to buy a hot stock, the era of making money via suing had begun.

I can't remember the first time that I knew what an attorney was or what he did. Yes, "he". Back in the day, you didn't hear of female lawyers. It was a man's profession just like nursing and teaching were female professions. Lawyers were for creating wills, representing divorces and helping people who needed to file a lawsuit - a valid lawsuit.

When I was a kid, neighbors didn't sue neighbors, friends didn't sue friends and family would never even think of suing their kinfolk. If you were hurt on the job, the company took care of you. If you slipped and fell in a store, you thumped yourself for being so clumsy. If you had a car accident, either State Farm was there or you were in good hands with Allstate. The thought of hiring a lawyer and suing anyone was simply hogwash.

But that is all different now and some people look at lawsuits as their retirement fund. One good slip, industrial accident or nasty divorce is all you need to secure yourself financially. The awards keep getting larger and the lawsuits more ridiculous.

Perhaps if times had been different when I was younger, I would have thought about jumping on the "show me the money" bandwagon. When I think about it, there was certainly enough childhood trauma that could have set me up for a cushy lifestyle with one phone call to a really good ambulance chaser.

Corporal Punishment: I attended Catholic school for ten years. Though I never personally experienced rulers across the knuckles, I was exposed to enough of it to have residual trauma and stress that could have translated into a hefty lawsuit. There was also the perpetual knot in my stomach that daily fear caused. I wonder what the statute of limitations is on this one. In my opinion, this was the real birth of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Eye Injury: I got a lollapalooza of a black eye from a thrown rock. All the neighborhood kids were in my garage playing war. We didn't have video games back then that allowed us to go through the motions of blowing up the bad guy. We enacted it live. My sister shielded me behind a door while the rock-throwing "war" was active. But when I screamed that I couldn't breathe, she opened the door to check on me just as a rock came flying and hit me square in the eye. This was but one example of the infamous, "Don't do that or you will poke someone's eye out" phrase that our parents loved to preach to us.

Child Labor Laws: I was 14 years old when I got my first job working in a dry cleaners. It was hot, it was dirty, it was tiring. But the money I earned allowed me to buy pizza, makeup and Keds. Still, I was 14 and it meant doing homework until 9 p.m., working on Saturdays when my friends were at the mall and walking home when my mom had to work overtime and couldn't pick me up. Ah, I could be a millionaire right now.

Alienation of Affection: I was a latch-key kid. I came home to an empty house because my single mother worked not only one full-time job, but a second job at night so that she could pay the mortgage, keep food in the refrigerator and put away enough money to put us through college.

Threats: Being threatened with getting yanked out of college if I lost my academic scholarship was a constant nightmare. It resulted in studying until the wee hours of the morning the night before a test. Telling me I would end up back at the dry cleaners if I didn't keep up my grades was more than traumatic. I believe the punitive damages award could have been sizeable.

Though I missed the boat on some hefty payouts on frivolous lawsuits, my daughters can still make up for lost time. I am sure there is a lawyer who would take on their pain-and-suffering cases for making them adhere to curfews, requiring them to work and save money to buy a car, not allowing them to IM on the computer and text on their phone at the same time (sometimes to the same person), finish high school, go to college, choose a career and always be the best you could be. Yup, I am waiting for the subpoena. And truth be told, I have no defense on those issues. In the meantime, I'll keep ordering coffee at the McDonald's drive-thru and hope for a brake - I mean break.