Business needs a protective doctrine of common sense in the courthouse

We’re sorry Danny Stewart was involved in a car accident in Beaumont three years ago, but we don’t see why we should have to pay for it – more than we’ve already paid, that is. 


Stewart’s car was struck by Ada Sariah, a city employee driving on her lunch break. Presumably, the employee was covered by personal or city insurance and Stewart was compensated for any injuries and damage.


If Sariah was covered by her own insurance, it didn’t cost us anything. If, on the other hand, she was covered by a municipal policy, it did cost us something, because our taxes pay for the salaries and benefits of city employees, including insurance – the cost of which typically rises following an accident.


We’ve also had to foot the bill for the city’s defense of itself against a frivolous lawsuit. You see, Stewart wasn’t satisfied with his settlement. Maybe Sariah’s status as a city employee got him thinking. Whatever his motivation, he decided -- nearly two years after the accident -- to sue the city of Beaumont in Jefferson County District Court, arguing that the city was responsible for the collision caused by its employee.


Stewart sought $171,196 for past and future medical expenses, plus compensation for “past and present physical pain, suffering and mental anguish.”


Judge Bob Wortham rejected the city’s claim that it was immune from the suit, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed his decision. “Stewart’s claim against the City is barred by the doctrine of governmental immunity,” the appeals court affirmed.


That’s a good thing. If not for governmental immunity, any greedy individual who wanted to could file a suit, however flimsy, angling for a chance to get access to the wallets of everybody in Beaumont.


That’s the situation that American businesses have to contend with every day as plaintiffs try to blame them for the acts of some of their employees or for alleged harms dreamed up by some plaintiff lawyers. . The concept of governmental immunity does not apply to corporations but business needs a lot more protection from the courts than is being handed out today.


The person who pays for this legal gamesmanship is you, the consumer and taxpayer. The more suits brought against businesses, the more you pay for the products and services provided by business. And courthouses aren’t free. You pay for them.


Finally more suits and the expense of those suits can drain corporate finances and that can mean fewer jobs available at those businesses.



More Stories