Friday, January 3, 2014

Responsibility Takes a Holiday

Our holidays are over and most of us are back to work, but responsibility is always ready to take a holiday.  It happens when people want to blame others for their mistakes and then take it even further.  It goes beyond the claim that it’s not my fault.  They hire an attorney – easy enough to do when they will take the work on a contingency basis – and go to court to profit from their own irresponsibility.  It’s the American way! 

Here is a recent case of a man who celebrated too much after a softball game.  When he thought he had enough, a female bartender continued to serve him, saying she would drive him home.  He didn’t turn down the offer.  Later they went to another bar together and he was abandoned.  At that point he “saw his keys sitting on a table, and decided to drive himself home.”  Three poor decisions, though made under the influence of alcohol, were still his decisions.

On the way home he drove his car into a tree and is now a quadriplegic.  Lawyers and the two bars settled the case for $6.6 million based on the assumption that “the two bars violated Pennsylvania laws by allowing him to continue drinking when visibly intoxicated and allowing him to drive home.”  (The lawyers kept about half.)

These types of cases are usually settled either because the settlement is preferable to the expenses and trouble of going to trial or, as in this case, the probability of winning is in doubt.  When there is a jury the probability of winning goes up as most Americans, when considering a dispute between a business and individual, are enculturated to assume that the person is the victim and that some faceless insurance company will pay damages with no ramifications for the rest of us.

This is not an isolated case.  Lawmakers decide that individuals are not responsible and pass laws putting businesses on the hook.  We see examples almost daily.  At what point do we require people to be accountable for their choices no matter how devastating the consequences?  

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