There is a plague in modern society that seems to go largely unnoticed.

For once, I’m not on about the Nanny State or the Prohibitionists.

I refer to the plague of litigation.

There was a time when people would sue their employer if they lost an arm or a leg in an avoidable industrial accident.  That’s fair enough – if an employer is cutting corners and being negligent then a certain amount of compensation is due.  In the last couple of decades though this “compensation culture” has crept into our every day lives and like it or not, we all suffer because of it.  People are now suing for just about anything and everything.  You only have to trip and fall these days and you can sue someone, whether it’s the council, your shoe manufacturer or the pub that sold you too much drink.

Virtually every aspect of our lives now has to be insured just in case we are deemed responsible for some imaginary hurt.  A branch falls off one of my trees and scratches someone’s arm – I can be sued.  Someone trespasses on my property and falls in the lake, or scratches themselves on a bramble – I can be sued.  People are suing for the most incredibly banal and trivial reasons and there seems to be no end to it.

There is a case in the courts at the moment.

A ten year old was on a flight to America.  She was asked what she wanted to drink and she asked for tea.  Fair enough.  The girl then spills the tea on herself and sues the airline because the tea was hot!

Naturally the kid is “going to be scarred for life”.  Naturally she suffered “mental anguish and embarrassment”.  And for this, she is demanding $75,000.  What the fuck?

She claims she was not warned that the tea was hot.  It was tea, for fuck’s sake and any twat will tell you that the water has to be boiling to make tea.  Not tepid, not simmering, but boiling.  If the water is anything less than boiling it isn’t a proper cup of tea, but Idiot Child seems to think it necessary to be told this every time she is served with a cup.

Naturally our kid has to be highly successful at something as she has to have a future career that is now ruined forever.  In this case she is “a successful amateur competitive surfer”.  God give me strength!  That makes me a successful amateur competitive tin can kicker I suppose?

The flight attendant placed the cup of tea in a cup holder on the girls tray.  Next thing, suddenly and mysteriously this cup jumps out of the tray and deposits its contents on the girls lap.  Was the cup spring loaded?  Did it have wondrous anti-gravity properties that no one noticed? Or could it just be that the kid was clumsy and knocked it over herself?  Surely that couldn’t be the case, otherwise she’d have to sue herself, and bang goes her dream of $75,000.

You may think this is a trivial case that should be thrown out of court, and you’d be right, but it has consequences.

Firstly it has to go to court in the first place and that incurs costs, ultimately paid for by taxes and higher air fares.

The most important consequence though is that all industry is now running scared in case some trivial case is brought against them, and as a result we have soaring insurance costs.  Also, just to be on the safe side we have all these irritating little signs warning us that knives are sharp and that we shouldn’t play with chainsaws.  Buy anything these days and there is a list of potential and often ridiculous dangers attached to it.

I suppose next we’ll have signs on the sides of kettles?

“Danger!  Boiling water may be hot.”



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Lukewarm boiling water — 12 Comments

  1. Just the other day we had this in Sweden: a company was looking for an employee; the job required travelling all over Sweden. He did not get the job because he could not travell to places that did not have a mosque and he had to pray five times a day. No big deal really, we have freedom of religion in our country. The applicant must find an other job.

    But, he sued the company for €15.000. The outcome is not in place yet but this kind of summons use to be approved.

    We live in an expensive world.

    • Crazy! 
      Whatever happened to the good old days when an employer could hire whoever he [or she] wanted?  If that company only wanted to hire Buddhist Eskimos under four feet tall, then that should be their business.  They won't get many applicants but that's their buiness.  Similarly if a prospective employee says he can't travel [which is part of the job] then he should rightly be refused that job.

  2. I trust you've litigation insurance? 'cause I found this whole post offensive and have instructed my solicitor to come round your place with a suit for "malice aforethought." I'm seeking half a million sterling in restitution.

    I know how you are: don't shoot him or put the dogs on him – he's all I can afford…

    (The hot tea incident reminds me of a classic over here a few years ago. I don't know if we've infected the rest of the world with McDOnalds, but one day a lady walked in one, ordered and received a hot cup of coffee, then promptly spilled it on herself, right after the counter person warned her – "Be careful, it's hot." The "victim" sued and was awarded $500,000. There have been innumerable like suits since. I feel like such an ass for holding a job, you know?)

    • I have to say that your threat of litigation has caused me considerable mental stress, and as a result, I shall be countersuing for a full million.

      Litigation is becoming quite a way of life for some.  There's the DIY industry where you spill yourelf a little puddle of water on a supermarket floor and then "accidentally" slip on it.  CCTV cameras catch quite a few of those.  Then there are the blokes you can hire who will "accidentally" ram you with their car causing untold whiplash and back injuries.

  3. Quite how silly this gets will largely depend, over the next few years, on our judges, and how sensible (or otherwise) they are.  I understand that over in the States it’s different – the jury decides the actual amount of compensation, and juries – being a collection of Mr & Mrs Publics – are notoriously vulnerable to a sweet kiddie’s sob-story and notoriously biased against Wicked Businesses who “hurt” them.  Just take a look at the results of any of those X-Factor-style competitions for proof; a between-scenes interview with a contestant who can squeeze out a tear or two and say: “I’m doing it for my Grandma, who died last year [sigh]. I just wish she could be here to watch my performance [sob]” – and watch the votes come rolling in.  Over here in the UK the level of compensation is decided by the presiding judge who (one assumes) has the benefit of having heard at least a few of these claims during his/her career, including a few spurious chancers trying their luck, and will, hopefully therefore, be able to make a reasonable judgement as to whether or not a claim is valid when compared to past cases.

    That’s assuming, of course, that the standard of judgement of our judges remains as sensible as (by and large) they have been in the past.  And with new judges pushed to the fore these days by politicians eager for their own political hobby-horses to be supported in the courts, that’s actually not guaranteed.

    I personally would like to see a claims system whereby claimants are made to state from the outset whether they are claiming for hard cash compensation, or whether – as so many of them say, to conceal their real greedy motives – they want some form of “action” (e.g. a regulation change or a company policy change) to prevent this “terrible” scenario from happening again.  With the option being one or the other – not both, i.e. not compensation masquerading as some kind of future protection “for the good of others.”  With that false “excuse” removed, there’d be a lot fewer people willing to make a claim for trifling matters like these, because it would show them up for what they are – self-interested graspers out to make a fast buck.

    • Maybe if they did away with monetary compensation and substituted something else?  So our darling little child would get free tea for a month, or a free flight?  It's the prospect of financial reward [or "punitive damages" as they love to call it] that is driving the whole business and that's where the problem lies.  I have made a few claims in the past, and each time I looked for [and got] the cost of reinstatement of the damaged goods and nothing more.  I never made a cent out of "compensation" and that's the way it should be.

  4. Behind every successful child (aka Mom and Dad's special project) there is a greedy Mom and Dad. I'm sure you can't sue when you're only 10 years old? But Mom and Dad can.

    Thanks – enjoyed this post. 

    • Isn't it amazing how every "innocent victim" is about to embark on an incredible career or something?  Maybe if parents had lesser ambitions for their kids then accidents just wouldn't happen.

  5. A few years back I was talking to the proprietor of a local chip shop about this sort of lunacy. He said "Let me show you something", and disappeared into the back of the shop. He returned with a carboard box, clearly labeled "North Atlantic Cod, contents 5kg". He then pointed to some smaller print on the side,, which said: "Warning, contains fish".

    I kid you not!

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