FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Victims of Bad Things

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

The endless question in America is whom to blame when bad things happen and the question is asked beginning at an early age.  Any present or past proprietor of a small child knows that when any thing bad happens the child’s first response is that someone else is responsible and that attitude accompanies the child into adulthood and helps make the legal system what it is today. (The child only learns later in life that a bad thing can be made less bad if the child receives money as a result of the event.) There are countless examples of individuals blaming others for their misfortunes.  Stella Liebeck is an example of this.  She spilled hot coffee onto her lap following its purchase from McDonalds and did not think that the fault lay with her for having spilled it but with McDonalds for having served it so hot that it burned her when she spilled it.  Her claim against McDonalds was ultimately concluded in a confidential settlement with the company.

Frequently, the victim of the bad thing tries to assert that the fault lies with a remote party rather than the person who could actually be responsible since the remote party is wealthier than the responsible party.  Mary Danielle Gann had the misfortune to be celebrating a birthday in a bar that the court said was “known for its violence.” While in the bar she was assaulted by a patron wielding a “longneck” beer bottle.  A long necked beer bottle can conveniently be converted from beer container into lethal weapon by grabbing the long neck and attacking others with the container part of the bottle.   The assaulter struck Mary in the face resulting in permanent scarring.  Being blameless, and confronted with a not particularly wealthy assaulter, she sued Anheuser Busch because it sold beer in long neck beer bottles instead of stub nosed bottles or cans that would be harder to convert into weapons.  The court concluded the plaintiff’s theory was nonsensical and, using more formal language, threw the case out.

A bad thing also happened to Elizabeth Loyd.  She sued the perpetrator of the bad thing.  She was sitting at a picnic table near a fenced-in bullpen at a Little League game and was hit in the face by a baseball thrown by an 11-year old participant.   She is suing the little boy for  $150,000 to cover medical costs and an undetermined amount for pain and suffering.  (Had she received better legal advice she would have sued the manufacturer of the ball since had the baseball been made of a squishy material she would not have sustained an injury. The baseball manufacturer might also have deeper pockets than the 11-year old.)  Another example of suing the deep pocket rather than the perpetrator comes from Colorado.

suit has been filed by two of the people injured when a crazed former university student opened fire in a darkened theater killing 12 people and injuring 5. The act was horrific and the person that one would first think of suing in such an instant would be the gunman. He, however, is penniless and a suit against him, though appropriate, would provide the victims with no compensation.  Accordingly the plaintiffs have sued the owner of the movie theater for damages.  It would not occur to someone not trained in the law, to think the owner of the theater, who had no idea the theater would become the site of a massacre, should have taken steps to prevent what was plainly unforeseeable.  Most movie theaters hire young people to sell snacks and take tickets and it is certain that they receive no instruction on what to do in case of a massacre or other act of violence within the theater (other than what is on the screen) Nonetheless, the suit faults the company for those failures as well as not having security personnel in attendance and not having first-aid and evacuation plans in place.  It also says the theater was culpable for not having an alarm on the exit door that the gunman used to go in and out of the theater and observes, in an aside, that the movie continued to play and the theater remained dark while the shooting was taking place.

If the suit is successful the response may be for theater owners to introduce into theaters some of the security measures found in airports. Off duty TSA personnel will welcome the opportunity to earn some extra money.  For the rest of us, going to the movies will become a different experience.  Whether one massacre requires such changes others can decide.  Some might conclude that, horrific as it was, it is a tragedy for whose victims recompense from the responsible party is unavailable and attempting to blame the theater owner does little more than cast a bright light on the Americans’ attitude of trying to make others pay for unforeseen terrible things that happen to them.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail