Saturday, September 8, 2012

People Who Know Me, Know THIS is my Pet Peeve...

I'm usually pretty restrained in letting people know when their statements or actions bother me. Although I find it ridiculous and irritating when bumped into by some oblivious person (please note the restraint I displayed by not using the term, moron, buffoon or imbecile) who is walking backwards in public. Sounds like only a prankster would do something like that, but people do it everyday in places like the mall, amusement parks, public sidewalks...I won't go on, because this is a peeve that I have overcome. Instead of railing at the offender's lack of geo-positional awareness, I just write my discomfort off to personal boundary issues and tell myself to get over it and move on (with due care and consideration for others, as always).

One thing I refuse to adapt to, though, is when people use inaccurate anecdotal tropes to illustrate some issue which defies "conventional wisdom". As an example, I submit the case of poor Stella Liebeck, the wrongfully maligned burn victim of a dangerously hot cup of McDonald's coffee. I won't rehash the particulars of the case for you, because there are numerous excellent articles out thereabout it. My peeve is that, even though the events occurred over twenty years ago, I hear, almost monthly, someone citing her successful litigation and award as an example of frivolous abuse of the American Justice System.

The third wish I would make, should I ever encounter a genie in a bottle (after restoring leadership as a priority in the mind of every politician and securing a viable population of Triceratopses), would be that the point of this much misused story would be forevermore focused on the hubris that McDonald's exhibited after being on the receiving end of the numerous lawsuits and regulatory warnings prior to Mrs. Liebeck's unfortunate accident. Instead, it is almost exclusively used to illustrate a textbook case of runaway juries and "jackpot justice".  There are many journalists and bloggers that have tried to present the actual facts and force a more accurate perspective on this issue, but the fallacy that she was just a stupid, old lady who wanted to get rich off a deep-pocketed corporate innocent persists in the majority of the minds of most people I've talked to on the subject.

My final words on this matter will be to reference the site. They provide documentation and commentary on legitimate examples of activist juries, jurists and frivolous cases. They themselves admit that the Liebeck case does not fit the category of cases that they  have built their site around. They have chosen though, to continue to name this whole category  after her only because her name has become so synonymous with frivolous cases. A weak justification, and justice denied for Stella's good name. 

Transcript of an early Wall Street Journal article on the case.

There has been some scholarly writing that refutes this point of view, but doesn't quite sway me.

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