Lawsuits out of control

How many times does a judge have to say no? Apparently, quite a few.
Jan 11, 2013

Two recent lawsuits beg the question of what it will take to stop the madness. One is the second case against a minister who accidentally hit a child who darted in front of her car in the Holland Hospital parking garage.

Another is a new case against the part-time groundskeeper at Duncan Memorial Park in Grand Haven for the sledding death of a youngster three years ago.

Both are ridiculous. Both have been through the court system before — just with a different plaintiff or defendant. But the premise of both is the same — a child died, so somebody must pay.

The only people who end up getting paid monetarily are the lawyers, who continue to file appeals or additional lawsuits. But it’s the families and defendants who pay a steep emotional price.

The latest suit in the tragic sledding death — against a 71-year-old groundskeeper — essentially claims that he should have personally removed every hazardous stick and branch at Duncan Woods. He also, apparently, was supposed to work around-the-clock at the park to warn everyone about where the dangerous sledding spots might be.

Insane.

Did we mention he works 12 hours a week for $10 an hour to cut the grass and perform other routine maintenance?

Perhaps it’s desperation. As the economy took a nosedive in 2008, a lot of people lost financial security and the idea of a legal windfall is certainly enticing.

Or perhaps it’s the great need to blame somebody else for a tragic loss of a loved one. Because if someone — anyone — accepts a portion of the blame for the death of your child, it takes the burden of blame off the shoulders of the parents.

Whatever the reason, such frivolous lawsuits are clogging our court system. Perhaps it’s time to figure out a way to curb the legal enthusiasm for these kinds of lawsuits.

Legislative options should be considered to this effect.

Sledding is dangerous. Sledding on a forested path dotted with trees is incredibly dangerous. Running around in a dark parking garage is also unsafe.

Life itself is a risk. Kids in particular are fearless and don’t weigh risks before jaunting off to their next reward.

Parents also can’t protect their children from all harm that might befall them. They’d like to, but this would require youth wearing fireproof, waterproof, bulletproof and germproof bubbles until they’re 18.

It’s time to stop the appeals, stop the blame, stop the anguish — and start healing.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

Comments

papa bear

People are to dam sue happy these lawsuits are getting ridicoulous accidents happen unless it was done intentionally get over it

newspaperlawyer

Just think if all these frillish lawsuits would end... then us lawyers would need to go on unemployment then.

LessThanAmused

So if I understand you correctly, lawyers as a group are incapable of participating in honest, integrity based, employment opportunities? You either need to be stealing from the citizenry or the government to validate your existence? I suspect some of your constituents might disagree with your point of view.

Oh, and according to Merriam-Webster, frillish isn't in the dictionary. However it does seem to be some kind of Pokemon fish.

If you're a lawyer in real life then my name is Rocky Balboa, but thanks for the chuckles nevertheless.

Walking Alive

LOL, so true. "Us lawyers", I wouldn't want NPL opening his mouth to represent me in traffic court. Hahaha

Mystic Michael

I was with you all the way...until you got to "legislative options". All too often, these kinds of nuisance lawsuits have become politicized, then seized upon by conservative politicians with an agenda: As a pretext for so-called "tort reform" laws that would severely curtail the rights of ordinary citizens to seek punitive damages in court, as one of the few means available to them to keep powerful corporate interests honest.

Rather than jump the shark over a handful of frivolous suits, I would support a more nuanced, incremental approach: Let these kinds of cases serve as the basis for a policy review of state legal guidelines by which Michigan judges determine a suitable threshold of evidence, prior to proceeding to trial.

If that isn't feasible, then consider making a formal change to state administrative law. Only if these less drastic measures fail should there be a resort to a change of statute(s) - and then ONLY if a bill could be drafted & passed that narrowly addresses the real problem, and ONLY the real problem.

Unfortunately in the current political climate in Lansing, with Governor Snyder and his band of Republican right-wing ideologues running the show, there is little reason to believe that they would show any such restraint.

Lanivan

While Mystic Michael's comments present common sense, fair and balanced solutions, and he aptly describes the current political climate in Lansing, it should be noted that these kinds of solutions are targets for powerful, far-right conservative think tanks such as the Mackinaw Center for Public Policy, and the group, ALEC, that ghostwrites much of the controversial legislation coming down the pike here in Michigan, as well as other conservative state legislatures. These groups are underwritten with corporate money - big money.

Having lost a lot of money after the last election, the Republican far-right corporate and political kingpins will be more determined than ever to play catch-up. Tort reform is but another line item on the agenda of ideological warfare. http://www.alec.org/publications...

Tort Reform is basically another buzz word for the "hollowing out" of the rights of ordinary citizens for the continued success of powerful corporate interests. This approach is currently working very well for them, as seen by the late night lame duck legislation passed in November in Lansing - the successful "hollowing out" of women's rights and union rights, just to name a few.

As with gun control, the more public awareness the better. This "Our View" piece is a case in point. The apparent overreach of lawsuits in highly emotional and tragic cases that are so well described here must not be allowed to be used as ammunition by those more dispassionate ideologues to be able to cross one more line item off their agenda - in the form of far right legislation.

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