There has always been some sort of peril starting a new business as well as preserving established enterprises. Government interference, correct location, mechanical breakdowns, bills, taxes, quantity and quality of the product or service and employees are key factors for entrepreneurs new and old if they desire to maintain a successful operation. One of the worst nightmares a business owner wants to experience is to be slapped with a major law suit...however it does occur, a lot of times with devastating results.
I read an article in the National Post on March 12/17 titled "Ontario garage owner gets chance to fight liability for teen injured in stolen car." I will paraphrase the write-up. In July 2006 two teen boys (15 and 16 years old) stole a car from a garage owners' lot in Paisley, Ontario...Paisley is 94 miles west of Barrie. Their joy ride turned out to be absolutely horrendous with traumatic consequences. The 16 year old who drove the vehicle (he had never driven before) crashed the auto and his 15 year old friend received, as the National Post stated, "catastrophic brain injuries."
Prior to the accident both boys had indulged in drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. For some bizarre reason the shop's owner would always have his customers' vehicles unlocked, with their keys inside the ash trays. He also took no action to keep people from trespassing on to his property when it was closed...there was a previous auto theft.
The injured teen sued the driver and the driver's mother. He also sued the business owner and the jury found him responsible for the majority of the blame...37% negligent. The owner will have his chance to dispute before the Supreme Court of Canada in the near future. He believes he shouldn't be held accountable for the severe and agonizing injuries the teen suffered.
I would usually say when are individuals going to start taking full responsibility for their behaviour...the two boys were old enough to realize, stealing a car is a criminal offence, case closed. However, this story is mind boggling...I think the garage owner was also partaking in booze and pot. I find it extremely weird and highly unusual he would leave his customers' vehicles unlocked and the keys in the ash trays...talk about an unwritten invitation for auto theft...it completely blows me away...I almost find it fake news and impossible to believe that this was his ongoing practice. I wonder if his customers knew about his total lack of security for their automobiles.
I think most of us, at one time in our lives, had to leave our vehicles overnight at the garage. How many lot owners park their customers' cars outside, unlocked with the keys in the ash trays...five will get you ten, not one. The "normal" proprietor would at least lock the cars and store the keys inside his shop...it's simple fucking common sense. If this was the owner's regular routine (it sounds like it was) he is an idiot and a very stupid man...maybe that's how the jury viewed him as well as being supremely irresponsible.
Getting back to the brain injured teen, stories such as his bring a tear to my eye and must rip the parents' hearts in to pieces...it's a crying shame, so tragic and sad. The boy never had the opportunity to enjoy his remaining teen years and take pleasure in his years of a young man and we can't forget the endless heartache and excruciating suffering the parents will always experience. We could only imagine if the car was locked and the keys were inside the shop's office on that night in July 2006 life would've been different for the boy and his parents.
Then there was Stella Liebeck. Her name probably doesn't ring a bell but she was the woman who made headlines when she spilled a cup of coffee on herself while she was at a MacDonald's drive through in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1992...it's hard to believe that was 25 years ago.
She was a passenger sitting in her son's car...the vehicle was idle. She had just purchased the coffee and placed it between her legs to mix the cream and sugar when it tipped scalding her thighs, buttocks and groin...she received skin grafts for third degree burns. A jury awarded her $2.7 million because MacDonald's coffee was TOO hot. It's very unfortunate that she received a critical injury but was that case the birth of what may sound like ridiculous and preposterous law suits to permeate the court system in the near future? A good possibility.
When I was working towards my Recreation Leadership diploma at Mohawk College (Hamilton, Ontario) in 1988 I recall a lesson on Risk Management and Liability. The instructor mentioned a story to the class. I will paraphrase what she said. A teenage boy was climbing a tall fence that surrounded a high voltage unit. There were many signs posted on the fence...Danger, No Trespassing...sadly they didn't discourage the youngster. Somehow he made his way into the restricted area and being curious he touched a component and was instantly electrocuted. Again, another devastating case of a wasted young life and massive sorrow for the parents. The utility company was sued and found negligent. The point my teacher was conveying, you can never have enough safeguards in place and signage just isn't good enough.
Lawyers represent their clients in a court of law. Certain lawyers will grab what seems to be the most asinine and ludicrous cases. Which brings me to one of my favourite sitcoms, Sienfeld 1989-1998. The program is entirely fictitious but in many ways it's true to life...a lot of daily realism. I honestly believe that's why it was so popular and still is today...dealing with simple every day activities of peoples' lives.
The following three episodes come to mind with respect to this rant. "The Postponement," 1995, Season 7, Episode 2, "Kramer" has burned himself with hot coffee and sues the coffee shop. In "The Caddy," 1996, Season 7, Episode 12, "Kramer's" face is disfigured because he is smoking and sues the tobacco companies, and in "The Abstinence," 1996, Season 8, Episode 9, "Kramer" is injured in a car accident because his driving was distracted looking at a beautiful lady wearing just a bra on her upper body and sues the woman. Of course, he hasn't any difficulty finding a lawyer, the extraordinary "Jackie Chiles." Could those episodes have been the start of crack pot and absurd law suits or at least enhancing the idea of suing anyone for anything?
We've always heard about the loser burglar who injures himself after a robbery and sues the homeowner. Or about Richard Overton. In 1991 he sued (he must have been ahead of his time) Anheuser-Busch for misleading advertising and deceptive marketing for emotional and psychological stress. He declared beautiful women didn't come to life on a beach after drinking six beers as the commercial stated...the case was thrown out of course...I would hope so.
Then we had Allen Heckard. In 2006 he sued Michael Jorden and Nike owner Paul Knight for $832 million. He claimed to suffer emotional pain and suffering because people often mistook him for the basketball superstar...he finally dropped his law suit. Maybe Allen should've taken up drinking. I wonder if some lawyers who represent their clients with zany law suits are having financial dilemmas. It also sounds like there are a lot of Lionel Hutz's in the law profession.
Law suits will never cease. Sadly accidents will always happen, just not on our roads and highways but in every day life. People may be sued because someone fell and injured themselves on an icy sidewalk or customer fell and seriously hurt themselves while tripping on a torn piece of carpet in a restaurant...it's like Murphy's Law...if it can happen it will. There is certainly a high risk for business owners. Whatever their product or service they're selling the consumer, they must maintain and insist at all times, everything is top quality and to provide a safe environment to their clientele and employees. The expression "cover you ass" has been installed into everyone's minds...it's here forever, never to be abolished.
The Harvenut Puritan Project
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