Li-ti-gious

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Litigious has a few meaningful definitions:

– concerned with lawsuits or litigation

– suitable to become the subject of a lawsuit

and my personal favorite – unreasonably prone to go to law to settle disputes

Anyone who owns or helps to run a business is more than aware of the danger of pending lawsuits.  Restaurants are full of in-your-face warnings.  If it’s raining outside and guests are tracking in water to make for a wet floor, you’ll probably see a Wet Floor sign on your way to be seated.  More and more sushi restaurants now are putting warnings in their menu that consuming raw or undercooked food may be “hazardous to your health.”  Any random step located in a restaurant is probably colored some wonderfully bold florescent color accompanied by a sign on the overhang stating “Watch your step” along with “Watch your head” if the overhang is hung low enough.  And don’t get me started on the fast food chain’s cup of coffee who’s warnings of “Caution: Content’s Are Hot” are getting so overbearing that they soon will cover the logo of the restaurant itself.  Shocking, I know, that ordering oneself a cup of coffee may actually produce a hot beverage.  

Going back to my personally favorite definition of “litigious,” these warnings were not only created to keep guests safe; they were amplified by others who capitalize on the consequences.  For example, a woman walking back from the bathroom across a crowded bar, slips and falls.  The immediate reaction in her mind is “This is so embarrassing, what do I do?”  What comes out of her mouth is, “This floor is wet!”  Never mind that she’s been hobbling around all night in five-inch high platform Louboutin stilettos when she probably spends most of her nights in sweats and flip flops.  Never mind that she shoulder-checked a guy while bulldozing her way to the bathroom after her third glass of Chardonnay which caused him to spill some of his Jack Daniels, resulting in the wet floor.  Never mind all this because now it’s the bar’s unfortunate responsibility to document her accident, attain her information, get all possible pictures of the floor and witness statements from credible sources, which does NOT include Jack Daniels guy since he bolted two seconds after her fall opting to be anywhere other than involved.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that woman just owned up to the fact that she couldn’t walk in those shoes sober let alone tipsy?  Wouldn’t it be nice if the guy stepped forward and said “Oh wow I’m sorry.  You ran into me and made me spill my drink and that’s why you fell.  In fact, you owe me half a drink.”  No.  To save herself a heap of embarrassment, the woman pitches a fit, demands management attention, probably demands to go to a hospital to get checked out, and sues the restaurant for pain and suffering after she convinces doctors that her ankle is sprained and has to keep off of it for a few weeks.  At which point the restaurant will come to a settlement in order to keep the lawsuit from going public.  UNREASONABLY PRONE to go to law to settle disputes.  The definition could have just said “prone to…”  Adding “unreasonably” hints to the fact that cases like this have happened so consistently that the number boarders on absurd.

Who has the time for all this??  I was in a pretty bad car wreck back in 2006.  A minivan collided with my drivers side door.  EMT’s and police shut down the highway while I got pulled out of the car from the passenger side strapped to a stretcher wearing a neck brace.  I missed one day of work (because my rent wasn’t going to pay itself) and had twelve weeks of physical therapy for my shoulder.  The minivan’s insurance paid for the therapy, and although the therapist said I needed more, that’s all the insurance would cover.  The minivan drivers tried to plead to a lesser charge in court, so I had to go appear before the judge to describe my injuries and my rehab.  Since my shoulder still bothered me, I contacted a lawyer about seeking some more compensation.  The doctor (who was paid for by the minivan’s insurance) said there was a small bone spur left in my shoulder but not enough to cause lasting, permanent damage.  The first time we appeared in court, the judge awarded me $8,000.  The minivan’s lawyer appealed the verdict and it was overturned.  I got nothing.  This whole story took TWO YEARS, my shoulder still bothers me, and the only compensation I received was a grim look from my very aggravated attorney.

I am not at all taking away from sexual harassment, food poisoning, or prejudicial cases.  I am strictly speaking towards those cases that are in he insight, tedious.  I am baffled by the people in this country who do nothing but seek monetary compensation from others.  How exhausting that life must be.  Perhaps restaurants will start putting up signs that are as wonderfully blunt as those found on the highway: “Slippery When Wet” “Rough Road” “One Lane Bridge”  Perhaps they should have guests sign a “No Fault” clause upon entering the establishment where if something were to happen, they are not only reimbursed by their own insurance company without proof of fault, but they are also restricted in the right to seek recovery for losses caused by that restaurant.  Or perhaps people should just get over themselves and be able to call an accident an accident.

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