It could happen to you...

The Madison County Record Aug. 6, 2005, 7:25pm

A gambler is sitting at an East St. Louis casino playing the slots with one knee sticking out into the aisle and a passing employee happens to bump it. Who’s at fault?

A man sits in a plastic folding chair and it collapses under his own weight. Was he ‘adequately’ informed of the chair’s weight limit?

Carrying three bags while walking in a friend’s garage, a woman trips and falls into a pile of bicycles. Is the friend to blame?

Such represent merely a handful of the pressing societal questions that confronted Metro East judges last week. Each of these wronged---the slot machine player, the over-limit lounger, and the disloyal klutz—filed a lawsuit asking our state courts to assess blame and award them at least $50,000 for their troubles.

If one can bear to read it, the legalese is often precious.

"The chair failed to perform in a manner reasonably expected, it collapsed," moaned Edgar Mareshie in his complaint against Home Depot, asking for a minimum of $150,000. "The product was in a defective, unreasonably dangerous condition.”

That the broader media around these parts flat out ignore these ‘minor’ cases says more about the condition of our state’s civil justice system. Asking our courts to award you a paltry $50,000 or $150,000 just isn’t newsworthy anymore.

We here at The Record report on such lawsuits every week and—like many of you— we cannot help but laugh and joke when the boldest of them come in over the transom. But to be sure, coming to our senses we really want to cry.

Lawsuits like these—not the major, headline-grabbing class actions—are the fuel that drives our ‘blame-first’ culture.

My fault? Never.

A harmless accident? Put your mind to it and come up with an injury.

It isn’t lost on us that fee-driven trial attorneys deserve the creative credit for the actions of guys like Edgar Mareshie. But the lawyers cannot do it alone.

So here’s a plea to all you potential plaintiffs out there. Just say ‘no.’

‘No’ to treating every accident as an opportunity to get paid. ‘No’ to taking a flyer that Home Depot will pay you to go away. ‘No’ to suing your friend because you think the insurance company will pay anyway.

Say ‘no’ because it’s the right thing to do, and because next time, it could be you in the lawsuit crosshairs.

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