June 22, 2009

Personal Responsibility

What a quaint idea. I remember the first big 'stupid' lawsuit, from the U.S., of course, about 20 years ago now. A woman spilled hot coffee on herself from a McDonalds restaurant and sued. And won. Now, details revealed several more things - it was at a drive-thru, the coffee was scalding hot, she had third degree burns on the top of her legs, and the initial monster settlement sum was cut way down on appeal.

Still. It twigged. At what point does choosing to do stupid things - nestling a steaming cup of coffee between your legs while driving - mean you've accepted that if you insist, a third party can't be responsible for just how stupid you are driven to be?

Burglars who sue homeowners because they get hurt while breaking in, some guy who sued a stripped for giving him whiplash, prisoners who sue for everything, because they have nothing else to do - the list goes on.

But this morning I'm greeted with this: the man who lost his wife in the British Columbia back country earlier this year is suing the Search & Rescue team that failed to find them, the resort, the RCMP, and the province. Because none of them could find them. After they skied OUT OF BOUNDS. ON PURPOSE. ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGH.

I hereby propose replacing all those 'Out of Bounds' signs with new ones. These shall say 'Shit Out Of Luck'. Perhaps that will make it abundantly clear to every Scoobie Do skier and boarder and nutjob and extreme-powder-seeker (I really don't know what that means. I don't ski) that should you opt out of areas of control, you are officially in areas beyond anyone's control. Got that?

When you choose actions, you choose responsibilities, no? Every time you live for another minute on this planet, you have beaten some odd. Perhaps it's that nobody smucked you up in a car accident. Perhaps it's that your rats didn't escape their cage and eat you over night. Perhaps it's that you didn't get stabbed by your own knitting needle as you sat down on your favourite chair. Maybe it's that your secretly locked away DNA coding hasn't sprung it's latest surprise on you.

And no, I don't sit around thinking of these kinds of things. Well, I didn't until just now.

But if you bolt yourself onto a Skidoo and head to avalanche country, guess what? If you decide heli-skiing is your thing, guess what? If you decide racing a car, a boat, or even the idiot next to you at the stoplight is your thing, guess what?

Where there is negligence, sometimes money is the only thing that makes change. If this couple from Quebec had arrived at the Out of Bounds signs, and it had instead said Free Martinis, Two Miles Any Direction - Go For It!, fine.

I take chances in my life sometimes. Not huge ones, not uncalculated ones, but the fact remains that I go places and do things that could jeopardize my safety. Every chance for that is mitigated, but ultimately, I make that decision.

The Quebec couple took an extraordinarily big chance in their search of adventure. It was not calculated, it was not cautious, it was not safe. The fact they had kids and did this blows my mind.

Natasha Richardson chose to ski. She chose every precaution except a helmet, which might have saved her life. Her family is devastated. But I will be shocked if they sue anyone for decisions she made.

If we want the freedom to live our lives unfettered by all the rules we say we hate so much (especially here in McGuinty's rule-crazy Ontario), we accept the responsibility that goes along with it.


Blogger OmemeeOzzie said...

Just to be clear: Natasha Richardson chose to ski without a helmet; the Quebec couple elected to ski 'out of bounds'; and, by all accounts, the Quebec couples SOS signs were seen -- and ignored.

While this couple may, tragically find themseleves on the short-list for a "Stella" award, my inquiring mind would like to know where the responsibility of the RCMP and SAR lies, morally, putting legal issues aside, if indeed they did ignorethe SOS signs.

June 22, 2009 2:09 PM  
Blogger Lorraine said...

I've heard conflicting things. I've heard they left the area of the SOS sign. I've heard the resort had nobody reported missing or late, and so didn't initiate a search when they should have.

But where the final responsibility will lie, I don't know. When you make choices than endanger your life - and do so against every sign that you are about to do so - at what point do you accept responsibility for that choice?

June 22, 2009 2:15 PM  
Blogger OmemeeOzzie said...

The thing that gets me; as a result, organizations are now checking their insurance to see if they are covered in the event that they are sued by some litigous misguided fools who cannot accept responsibility for their actions fist and foremost. At the end of the day, many of those volunteer-based SARs will likely be disbanded since they cannot afford to help those that followed all rules and directions to the letter and found themselves in an unfortunate situation.

At the end of the day, this still comes down to right and wrong.

This couple was wrong to deliberately flaunt and disobey out of bounds rules; rules etsablished by personnel that know the area and terrain 100 times better than any tourist. They know what they are talking about.

So, like you say, they made a choice. At the end of the day, in my book at least, not only are they personally responsible, they are accountable, too.

It's too bad that this couple's apparent cavalier attitude cost a life and cost children their mother.

June 22, 2009 5:08 PM  
Blogger Chris Brown (not the felon) said...

Have you noticed that pop machines are now chained to the wall? The family of a teenager who tried to rip of a pop machine by tipping the machine over to remove all the pop sued Coke when the machine fell on him and killed him. Yet another winner of a Darwin award. So Coke was forced to ensure that no machine can fall on some felon (not related) who tries to rip off their machines.

I am a firm believer of Darwin's theory of evolution and that the genetic code of idiots will eventually be wiped off the planet. Hopefully it will not be on my watch as I can't afford to be sued for something that Darwin started. My wife worked for a Burlington garden center and left when she discovered that as a manager she was personally responsible if any of the employees under her directorship were injured in any way... and the company would not support or cover her in any way. This included faulty ladders that she had been trying to have fixed for over a month but Head Office had refused to repair. She was removed from the workplace against her will because of it and terminated without any compensation and her final work report claims she quit. The battle is just beginning but they have obviously not heard of my bad reputation. Black eyes and bruises for everyone.

June 24, 2009 10:25 PM  

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