Grassroot Perspective – Feb. 13, 2003-Car Not Guilty of Fireworks Explosion; Lawyer Fees Reduced for Tobacco Litigation

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”Shoots (News, Views and Quotes)”


Today is a law day for shoots. Read and weep, laugh or just scratch your head.

– Car Not Guilty of Fireworks Explosion

The search for deep pockets in litigation is never-ending. On a recent Fourth of July, six young people rented a car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car and drove through a neighborhood in Des Moines, Iowa, shooting bottle rockets at pedestrians. One of the bottle rockets exploded prematurely, setting off Roman candles and other fireworks inside the car. Two of the passengers were severely burned and a third died. Since the young man who was actually firing the rockets ended up in jail on an unrelated matter and was effectively judgment-proof, the injured passengers sued Enterprise instead on the legal theory that the owner of a car is responsible for any damages it causes. The jury would have none of it, however, and in October completely exonerated the rent-a-car company. From The National Law Journal

– Lawyer Fees Reduced for Tobacco Litigation

Like Attorneys General in many other states, Illinois’ AG Jim Ryan signed a poorly thought out agreement with private law firms to sue tobacco companies on the state’s behalf. When the tobacco companies settled, Illinois was left looking at a $910 million bill — 10 percent of the state’s share of the Master Settlement Agreement — for hardly any legal work. On Dec. 17, the Cook County Circuit Court approved a settlement between the lawyers and the State of Illinois reducing the fee to the still-princely sum of $121 million. From The Chicago Sun-Times

Above articles are quoted from the Heartland Institute Lawsuit Abuse Fortnighty January 2003.

”Roots (Food for Thought)”

Here is another thoughtful essay from our friend, Bill Hastings, an attorney on the Big Island.

Jan. 12, 2003

Dear Editor:

The several responses to Lisa Vail’s letter regarding seatbelt laws and checkpoints have been enlightening. I am amazed at how little value is attached to individual liberty. Leetha Paogofie tells us that the police don’t make the laws, they only enforce them. Fair enough. But someone in the police departments or their superiors elsewhere in government decides where to expend our limited police resources. That someone decided that it was more important to have “click it or ticket” programs than to focus those resources on “ice” or other law enforcement needs in our community. (By the way, I believe in seatbelts; I’m alive today because I have always used one.)

An earlier writer suggested that such laws are good, because we know that buckling up is the right and safe thing to do. Moreover, if we are injured or killed as a result of our foolishness, then we or our families may become a burden on society. Therefore, it is appropriate that we be required to act in a way that will protect us from harm.

By this logic, there are many more significant things that “the Law” ought to require. Why are we wasting time worrying about such a little thing as seatbelt use? We have read recently of the major health problems caused by over-eating. Certainly the cost and suffering in our society flowing from improperly seatbelt use is minuscule compared to that resulting from obesity. Shouldn’t there be a law requiring people to eat properly? Shouldn’t parents be fined or sent to jail if they allow their children to get fat? In fact, shouldn’t the government mandate a well-balance diet: lots of fruits and vegetables, not too much starch or sugar, plenty of protein. Look at the cost and suffering in our community caused by diabetes. Luaus ought to be outlawed; McDonalds should be closed. They create temptations to overeating that few can resist. Restaurants should be required to serve smaller portions. Alcohol use is well known to cause many health problems, which in turn place a major financial burdens on our society. It’s certainly a bigger problem than seatbelts. Prohibition should be brought back.

WHT recently reported that over 70,000 people die in America each year from the flu. Shouldn’t there be a law against going to work or church or the mall or school when you are sick? Clearly the suffering caused to those innocents who catch the bug from you justifies a fine. (On the other hand, the report said most of the flu victims are elderly, so perhaps removing them from Social Security and Medicare is, on balance, a good thing.)

Look at divorce: the negative impact on children from a broken home is well documented. They are much more likely to end up dropping out of school, pregnant, on welfare, on drugs, in gangs or otherwise in trouble with the law. The costs to society resulting from divorce are enormous. Surely, divorce should be illegal. (Of course, unhappy marriages aren’t good either; they should be outlawed.)

Life is full of risks. Surfing is risky; people drown. Jogging and walking are risky; people have heart attacks or get hit by inattentive drivers. Hiking is risky; people get lost or injured. Of course, we all know that driving is very risky. In fact, we should probably all stay in bed all day.

So, no, I don’t think our lawmakers have a right to outlaw risky behaviors. There shouldn’t be seatbelt laws or helmet laws or laws against riding in the back of pickups or using cell phones while driving. Slippery slides and swings shouldn’t have been removed from our parks and schools. I shouldn’t be required to buy an air bag in my new car.

I don’t want to live in an antiseptic society where I am only allowed to make “right” choices. (Besides, occasionally what everyone knows is “right” turns out not be right at all.) I don’t want to be fined because my action just might increase my risk of injury. Liberty means nothing if it does not mean the right to make choices considered by some to be stupid or foolish. (Of course, I must accept the consequences of my foolishness.) Only if I directly threaten the person or property of another does my government have the legitimate right to tell me, “No.” Let government warn me of the risks, but please, leave me free to choose.

Bill Hastings, Kamuela P.O. Box 628 Kamuela, HI 06743.

”Evergreen (Today’s Quotes)”

“Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” — Thomas Paine, Common Sense [1776]

“Our country has stumbled into socialism during the past half century; by now — 1958 — we have adopted nearly all the things socialists stand for. Those of us who are aware of socialism’s built-in destructiveness have watched this process with apprehension and are forever predicting, or warning against, the impending catastrophe which we think we see hanging over our society. Under socialism, some men are put at the disposal of other men, deliberately, legally, and on principle. Socialism, in other words, is premised in an immoral extension of political power.” — Leonard E. Read, Essays on Liberty, Volume VI [1959]

”’See Web site”’ ”’for further information. Join its efforts at “Nurturing the rights and responsibilities of the individual in a civil society. …” or email or call Grassroot of Hawaii Institute President Richard O. Rowland at or (808) 487-4959.”’