The yellow brick sidewalk

The SE Texas Record May 23, 2009, 11:34am

Perhaps Vivian Gibbs was chatting on the cell phone. Or she was sending a text message. Maybe she was simply daydreaming, pondering the damage wrought upon Southeast Texas by Hurricane Ike.

Ms. Gibbs alleges she was casually strolling down a Beaumont sidewalk last September when she suddenly tripped and fell over a downed utility pole. One fact is certain: she wasn't paying attention.

That's a prerequisite if you believe her claim, which is the subject of a lawsuit filed this week in Jefferson County Court. To be surprised by a giant, stationary, out-of-place telephone pole, visible for hundreds of feet, one has to be focused on something else.

Gibbs' lawsuit seeks money from two private companies she blames for the fall, Entergy and Hydaker-Wheatlake Co. Her attorney, Timothy Ferguson, is asking tens of thousands of dollars in damages to pay for her mental anguish from the fall and his time spent bringing the suit.

While saying his client's fall was "caused solely" by their wrongful acts, he does not allege the companies caused the hurricane.

Whether you believe Gibbs story of opportunistic klutziness or not, lawsuits like this lead to contemplation.

What would the world be like if most people acted in a like manner? What if everyone saw debris on a sidewalk as a money-making lawsuit opportunity? What if every Jefferson County resident sued for every inconvenience caused by Hurricane Ike?

We're responsible for watching where we walk. Mother Nature's wrath shouldn't be actionable. Ms. Gibbs should have taken a deep breath before putting her name on such a lawsuit. As for her lawyer--if this kind of slip-and-fall lawsuit is the best he can do, maybe it's time to look for a new profession.

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