Blog: Dave LeggettLitigation culture

Dave Leggett | 21 July 2004

Sometimes it seems that litigation culture is getting well out of hand doesn't it? It's not altogether a bad thing to have responsibilities properly assigned of course, but the danger is that everyone becomes so concerned about covering their corporate arses that the end-result is not quite what we want. If we get a highly regulated, neutered society in which we are all overly protected from ourselves, we'll only have ourselves to blame. The joke is that Karl Marx didn't do it - lawyers did. 

London buses - you know, the big red double-decker ones - used to have access at the rear on an open platform. Ancient workhorses but that was also the charm. Museum pieces in action. It was great - you could really run for the bus through the traffic and jump/climb on board. There was even a human being on it who would issue a ticket - how radical is that! Yes, there would be occasional accidents, but, in my view, you take some personal responsibility when you run for that bus. But they're being phased out on all sorts of modern criteria including the operators' fear of passenger litigation from any resultant injuries. Now I'm not saying that the open platform bus was a perfect solution in all situations, but they at least belonged in the bus fleet mix in my opinion and I'll be sorry to see them disappear. 

We live in an increasingly bonkers world and we all know of similar examples where we're prevented by fear of litigation from behaving in a manner that used to be acceptable and we were happy to take any associated risks. How far will this trend go and where do we draw the line on personal responsibility? It's becoming an increasingly complex question. 'Nanny state'; 'It's for your own good'; 'Regulated to death' - some ominous terms there. Slip over on the road and blame the tarmac itself or the maintenance people. It's always someone else's fault. And the ambulance-chaser law firm is always there to put the frighteners on someone and get you some compensation. I slipped, it was my fault. Perhaps so, but maybe someone will cough up some dough to avoid litigation or publicity. Bonkers. Run for that bus if/while you can.

What about the case of the footballer driving an SUV recklessly and not wearing a seatbelt? Are the personal harm consequences his fault when he rolls it? Sounds like they should be. But what if - safety restraint issues aside - the roof is still not able to provide reasonable protection to the driver or passengers? Perhaps it's not as clear cut as it might at first seem. A case to keep an eye on.

USA: Footballer's death following SUV crash results in lawsuit and scrutiny of vehicle roof safety standards


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