Sue me if you can

Imagine you are taking a shower in the morning. The soap escapes your control, glitches into the bath tub, you slip on it and break a leg. What went wrong? Did you suffer from a hangover? Were you not awake when showering or did you even not yet open your eyes? There are a whole lot more possibilities:

Lawyers penetrate every part of American life. Remember the joke from the movie "Philadelphia" with Tom Hanks? What is thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the sea? Answer: a good start. Some lawyers, if they got to hear about you having an incident like the bath tub soap glitch, would show up right at your doorstep. They would offer you to sue the company that acted so irresponsibly, promising big money. Best of all, you don't need to take any risk at all. The lawyer would offer you to cover all expenses, but he would take half of what you get in court. Who would not take the chance to generate some additional income?
If you have an accident and spend some days in a hospital, you should not be surprised if a lawyer shows up at your bedside.

One of the cases that became well known all over the world is the McDonald's case: a lady spilled hot coffee into her lap, resulting in serious burns. She sued McDonald's for selling coffee that is simply too hot.
Here is what two law firms have to say about the McDonald's case: and

The most extreme lawsuits are probably the class action lawsuits. Lawyers would gather a large crowd of people who have incurred accidents or damages by fault of a ruthless company, and sue the company in the name of them all for a gigantic pile of money. Some of the famous cases are the lawsuits against American tobacco companies who sold tobacco to smokers who could not possibly know that smoking causes harm to your health or the lawsuit against fast food chains selling unhealthy food without telling the customer.

An interesting summary on product liability was posted on CNN. Read the article that I downloaded from

Some lawsuits pose huge risks to companies, and even big companies can go down the drain on losing such a court case. Many cases are therefore settled out of court.

The consequences can be seen in daily life.

Various people trying to get a free Coke out of a vending machine by rocking it came out flat when the vending machine tipped over. Consequence: Coke puts stickers on vending machines that read: "Warning! Vending machine design prevents dispensing free products or coins. NEVER ROCK OR TILT: Machine can fall over cuasing serious injury or death."

Coca-Cola's sticker.

Novartis vending machines. East Hanover, NJ campus, cafeteria building 419

Pepsi's sticker.

Family sues over vending machine death

AP Archive - Jul 11 8:29 PM


The family of a man who was crushed to death by a vending machine is suing Coca-Cola Co., two other companies and a Quebec university. Kevin Mackle, 21, was killed in 1998 when the machine at Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, tipped over when he shook it, trying to dislodge a drink.


[...] In response, a spokesperson for Coke said that Canadian machines are now labelled with a warning that "tipping or rocking may cause injury or death." They have also installed anti-theft devices in newer models to keep people from obtaining free drinks.


Some people have put their pets or even people into dryers, injuring them seriously. Of course it is the fault of the manufacturer of the machine if the person or animal is harmed. Consequence: washing machines and dryers have stickers reading "do not put people inside and turn on the machine". Seen myself in Salt Lake City in 2000. There are many more consequences that actually affect everyone. Companies are very careful and tell their employees to act accordingly to avoid any possibility of being held responsible in court. Here are some examples.

My car's trunk with an emergency string that you can pull if you managed to get locked in. That's probably how car companies avoid to get sued for kidnappers using their cars.

If you want to exercise in a hotel's fitness room, you are asked to read through a couple of pages and sign that you understand the risks involved and deny to hold the hotel responsible for anything that might occur to you (seen and signed myself at the Ohana Keauhou Beach Resort Hotel, Hawaii, April 2003).

Fitness centers can not just be entered either. The Novartis fitness center in East Hanover, NJ, requires you to present a certificate from your physician that you are in shape to carry out the exercising without dropping dead. Nuisance encountered myself in early 2003.

After a really long hike in the forest of volcano national park on Hawaii big island, my wife and I joined a ranger guided little tour. At the end of the tour, the ranger went into his van on his own, gearing towards the visitor center, where we had parked our car. On asking if he would take us with him he said that he is not allowed to unless it was an emergency case.

The problem has been recognized by some politicians, and some afflicted groups finally speak up. Medical malpractice is one of the most popular lawsuits. Sue your doctor and you can live on the money happily ever after. The consequence is that medical doctors pay enormous bills from their insurance companies which in turn are charged back to all patients. In March 2003, medical doctors in New Jersey went on strike for a week, treating only emergency cases, claiming that many of them are close to being unable to pay the insurance bills any further.

Make your own sense out of it. But sue someone before you are forced to admit that it was your own stupidity that caused the accident.

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