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.