The Cocoon Age

“Ingenius Americanus” has devised and perfected the greatest get-rich-quick scheme since the chain letter and multi-level marketing: When something bad happens to you, sue. Sue someone, anyone, even if your misfortune is plain old bad luck or the result of your own stupidity.

There’s nothing new about this game of buck-passing-buck-grabbing. It became a bigtime sport in the 1970s with the advent of product-liability suits. And it hasn’t let up.

There were some doozies in the ’70s. Item: A small machine-tool company was sued by a workman who lost three fingers while using (or misusing) its product, even though the machine had been rebuilt at least once and had changed hands four times. Item: Another machinery manufacturer lost a case involving its 33-year-old table saw, although the owner of the machine admitted he knew it was dangerous and wouldn’t have used the guard if it had had one.

Recent years have brought us the judgment in favor of a woman who burned herself with hot coffee (what did she expect it was?) dispensed by a fast-food chain, and the award of millions (millions!) of dollars to the purchaser of a new BMW who discovered that its paint job was not pristine.

Why not buy an unrestored 1930 Ford and try to keep up with traffic on the Washington Beltway? (If you haven’t tried it, don’t — unless you live for masochistic thrills.) Then, when you have suffered a severe dislocation of the cervical vertebrae (at best) because the 30-ton rig behind you had no place to go but up your tail pipe, sue the Ford Motor Company because its product wasn’t up to mission impossible.

And so the absurdities roll on in this new age — this “Cocoon Age” — when almost everyone seems to crave cradle-to-grave protection from the merest change in the weather. Even criminals who have been injured while perpetrating crimes have had the gall to sue police departments and victims.

If such nonsense continues its cancerous spread through our legal system, a court somewhere in this land will someday entertain a suit against the Almighty. The complaint? He permitted the serpent to tempt our first ancestors, thus depriving us of the benefits of life in Eden. Worse, through careful judge-shopping, there will be a summary judgment for the plaintiff because the Defendant did not deign to respond. That’ll be the end of that nonsense.