This op-ed first appeared in the San Antonio Express News on July 15, 2013.
By Garry Bradford
The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights provide a solid foundation for our roles as citizens, but unfortunately, our founding fathers were a bit vague in the area of personal responsibility.
Perhaps they thought Americans had common-sense and accountability, but we could have used some guidance. All too often, people forsake their own responsibility and head straight to the courts when they suffer injury. Their actions cost all of us — with expensive verdicts and settlements that increase costs for goods and services, while driving others off the market.
Imagine this past Fourth of July without fireworks. Ridiculous? If a recent case sets a precedent, it is entirely possible. A New Jersey man sued a fireworks company, blaming it for partial blindness because he was not made aware of the potential dangers of lighting pyrotechnics. A jury found the company negligent for not providing the man a warning of the dangers involved. We do not let small children fire off displays for a reason — and here was someone over the age of 18 who needed adult supervision.
If you look at the death of high-diving boards — another summertime casualty of excessive litigation — it is not hard to imagine a July 4th celebration without fireworks.
What about the case of the hot bench? On a hot August day during the Dallas Cowboys annual scrimmage, a fan sat down on a sizzling hot bench and burned her backside. Most would say “Ouch!” and move. Instead, she filed a lawsuit.
And, speaking of cowboys, a Jefferson County man recently borrowed a horse and took off to round up a stray calf. He fell off the horse before he could corral the calf. According to him, the horse owner should have made sure he was capable of riding the animal beforehand. So he has filed suit against the horse owner and the owner of the ranch where the incident occurred.
Football and cowboys have no monopoly on ridiculous litigation. Another summer favorite — baseball — earns its share. Last year, a woman sued a 13-year-old Little League player who accidentally hit her with an errant pitch during a warm-up. She sued the boy personally, causing a sheriff to serve the boy the papers at his home. The lawsuit against the player requests $500,000, alleging the woman was “assaulted and battered by the throw.”
Instead of the pursuit of happiness, it seems too many Americans are in pursuit of the “fast-cash lawsuit” these days.
People will sue for almost anything, and it seems they will avoid, at all costs, taking any responsibility for their own actions.
Garry Bradford is chairman of Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.