This lawsuit is not dolphin safe

Travis Akin Sep. 20, 2009, 7:14am


One of the issues often ignored in the current national discussion on the future of healthcare in America is the need for lawsuit reform.

Personal injury lawyers want to pretend that the lawsuit abuse problems facing this country have absolutely no effect on the cost of healthcare. They want to lay all of the blame of rising healthcare costs at the feet of the insurance and medical industry.

The truth is our culture is inundated with the rampant abuse of our courts, and it is costing us all dearly. Not only does the cost of medical malpractice add to the overall cost of medical care, but doctors end up practicing defensive medicine as a means of insulating themselves from potential lawsuits. Over-testing is a direct result of our nation's out-of-control courts.

Anyone who doubts the severity of the lawsuit problem here in Illinois and across the country has to look no further than the recent lawsuit a woman filed in Cook County against the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago. The woman claims dolphins at one of the zoo's exhibits deliberately splashed her and forced her to slip and fall during a visit to the zoo one year ago.

Deliberately splashed by dolphins?

Dolphins jump up and do tricks. They swim through hoops. They bounce beach balls and make funny noises. They also splash a lot of water. The fact that dolphins splash around and play in their tanks is precisely why so many people come to the zoo to see them.

But somehow the dolphins and their caretakers are at fault when a grown woman slips and falls on wet pavement near the Brookfield Zoo's dolphin exhibit.

The chances of this lawsuit going very far are slim at best. But it will take time and money to fight it. In the end, it will be zoo patrons who lose out because the money spent fighting this lawsuit is money that could be better spent on new exhibits and other improvements at the zoo.

Certainly the circumstances surrounding the lawsuit are somewhat humorous, but the abuse of our courts is no laughing matter. Outrageous lawsuits like this one continue to exact a heavy price on our economy, healthcare system and our culture.

To pretend that the abuse of our courts has had no impact on the cost of healthcare is simply naïve. If people are going to hold dolphins responsible for slip and fall accidents, then is it really any surprise when they hold doctors completely responsible for their health?

We need to not only change the laws and enact meaningful lawsuit reforms, but we also need to change the culture of lawsuit abuse that is paralyzing our healthcare system.

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