Re: Urban.legends.litigation?

Subject: Re: Urban.legends.litigation?
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 13:10:00 EST

>As John says, most of the ridiculous cases tend to lack case numbers
>and jurisdictions - no way to verify the facts. That tends to raise a
>in my cynical mind. Especially when the existence of rumors of this
>type is beneficial to at least four large, well networked, industries.
>While I'm sure no politician ever made up a case to grab a few votes,
>no insurance agent never made up a horror story to close a sale, no
>lawyer made one up while browsing for retainers, and no journalist
>ever made one up to meet a deadline, just about anybody who tells
>a story tends to be a little hazy on some of the details, and a
>successful storyteller errs on the side of drama.

>I'd also like to point out that the supposed victims of the horror
>stories (like McDonalds in the hot coffee case) almost always ask
>for, and get, gag orders.

Yes, and when you look deeply into these cases, there is always something
the media (or the tabloids, to be exact) didn't report. In the McDonald's
case, for example, the company had been told many times that the temperature
was too hot, and they did nothing about it. A pattern of negligence can be
incredibly damning, while a single incident might not be.

As far as warning labels, deadman switches and warning icons are concerned,
they're far cheaper than a lawsuit. There HAVE been such lawsuits; just ask
any good torts attorney. Although they're rare, they're also crushingly
expensive. It's easier to get a quick or even summary judgement if you can
prove that you took every precaution and the victim still got burned. If
only one judge out of a hundred dismisses a case or finds for the defendant
on the basis of a set of warnings, that's ROI enough for most companies to
include them.

Tim Altom
Vice President
Simply Written, Inc.
Technical Documentation and Training
Voice 317.899.5882
Fax 317.899.5987

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