Monday, June 16, 2014

Sue the Bastards

In this installment:  a drunken work party leads to a mishap; a too-delicious sandwich causes a dangerous distraction; and a snack customer has a cheesy encounter.

Dear STB:
My boss held a get-together for junior executives last week at his home.  I’m not clear on whether it was an “official” work event.  The invitations were only verbal, and he mentioned to a friend of mine that he was paying for it out of his own pocket.  But my peers made it clear to me that it wouldn’t look good not to go.  Drinks were flowing, and I felt pressure to participate in that, too.   I had a bit too much, and on the way home I ran my car into a tree.   The car got totaled, and I suffered some broken bones.  Can I sue?
--Tipsy in Topeka

Dear Tipsy:
Fortunately, we live in a society where average, everyday Americans are no longer held responsible for their own decisions and actions, especially if there are deep pockets around.   And there’s been plenty of case law on this one.   If you felt work pressure to attend this event, and other employees were going, there’s a strong argument to be made that this was an official work function, regardless of who bought the booze.  As such, your employer had a duty to ensure the safety of its workers, and this meant paying attention to how much alcohol was flowing.  Absolutely:  Sue the Bastards.

Dear STB:
My favorite fast food joint unveiled a new barbecue rib sandwich last week.  I ordered one at the drive through window.  After I pulled back into traffic, when I bit into the sandwich, it was so delicious that my eyes rolled up into my head.  Unfortunately, just as that happened, the driver of the car in front of me slammed on her brakes to avoid a squirrel.  My car rear-ended hers.  Both vehicles were dinged up pretty good.  I suffered burns on my arms and face from the airbag, and she wound up in a neck brace.  To make matters worse, I got a ticket, and now she’s coming after me for legal damages.   I feel the fast food company was responsible for my distraction.  Can I sue?
--Dinged in Denver

Dear Dinged:
See my comments above about the happy state of personal responsibility in our country.   The legal ground in your particular case is less certain than in the one above.   But your point is well taken.  It’s significant that the restaurant is selling this item at the drive-through window, knowing full well that customers will be pulling into traffic and driving as they sample it.  A case can be made that they knew, or should have known, that their mouth-watering new entrée, when consumed in such a fashion, could cause a major distraction.  I say, Sue the Bastards.

Dear STB:
I bought a box of cheese crackers the other day.  When I got it home and opened it, I was shocked to see that it was only half full.   I felt like I’d been ripped off.  But when I took it back to the store where I bought it and demanded a refund, the manager told me to take a hike.  Can I sue?
-- P.O.’ed in Poughkeepsie

Dear P.O.’ed:
This is a classic scenario, but unfortunately, that means this field has already been well plowed.   Because of past litigation, most boxes containing dry foods of this sort bear a disclaimer reading something like this:  “This package is sold by weight, not by volume.  If it does not appear full when opened, it is because contents have settled during shipping and handling.”  In many cases, disclaimers of this nature indicate that an issue has been previously litigated, and the disclaimer is part of the settlement.   In most cases, you can find the disclaimer written in very tiny print and tucked out of sight on the bottom of the box.  You might reasonably ask what good a warning written and hidden in that fashion might be to anyone.  And morally, you might have a point.  But not legally.  The warning is sufficient for legal purposes.  This means you’re out of luck.  Now if, after searching the box, you don’t find such a disclaimer, you may have a case.  And one other option is to weigh the contents to make sure they come up to the total promised on the front of the box.  But honestly, neither step is likely to lead to results in your favor.  Reluctantly, in your case I have to say that as good as it would feel, it would probably be a waste of your time and money to Sue the Bastards.

If you’d like to see more writing along these lines, check out my novel Messages, which shows the same degree of respect to the news industry.

The Sue the Bastards blog is offered as satire only.  The author is not a lawyer, has received no legal education, and specifically disavows that this blog constitutes legal advice or should be followed as such.  The author does state that the need to include such a disclaimer proves a point about the litigious nature of our society.  So there.


If you enjoyed this, please share with your friends.  You can find more snarkograms here.  My well-reviewed novel Messages, a TV news exposé and crime drama, is written largely in this style.  And I invite you to subscribe to this blog.

©2014 by Forrest Carr.  All rights reserved.

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