Thursday, April 14, 2011

I will sue you for the heck of it

One of the few things that amused me when I first came to US was the nature of lawsuits filed in this country. People here mockingly use the words "I will sue you". But, I understood the gravity behind these words only after I heard the story behind the caution on the paper cups in which coffee is served in the American coffee shops. I was having my first cup of Starbucks coffee in the US, and could not help noticing the warning "Careful, the beverage you are about to enjoy is extremely hot". Of course it has to be, it's a cup of coffee. Who guessed, accidentally spilling coffee could lead to product liability litigation and fetch 640,000 dollars. In a country where warning signs on hair dryers read "Do not use in shower" for the fear of getting sued, it is totally sensible to have a caution on coffee cups reminding people that it's content is hot.

According to studies by the Economic Journal, Americans spend a lot more on civil litigation compared to others. In year 2002 alone, there were about 16 million civil cases filed in the courts. The fear of lawsuits has changed the way people do even the simplest of things. No longer can lives of people be the same when frivolous lawsuits are filed on a family owned restaurant for serving not so hot soup, or on a weather channel for not predicting rain, or on a school management when a kid gets hurt while playing.

Bizarre and funny lawsuits is a common case. One such instance happened in the 90s after a Michigan man watched advertisements by Budweiser beer company. In the advertisement, beautiful girls came across a man's way while he  was drinking the beer, but unfortunately for him it didn't work out. He went ahead and sued the beer company and the court dismissed the case. I wonder how the courts tolerate such junk and useless cases and waste their valuable time. There is no bound to creativity when a prisoner filed a legal litigation on himself for a few millions for the crimes he committed. Had he won the case, the government must pay him since he is in jail and not earning and could not pay himself for the legal lawsuit filed by himself. I don't really understand what exactly happens to common sense?

The sue-for-everything mantra became popular in America, when the legislators  in 1960s decided to give the people of this country a right to demand monetary compensation for any ill treatment meted out by them. Sadly, this "right" is very rarely put to use in the right way. Doctors suffer the most in this country, because a significant number of medical cases which lead to failures end up into a lawsuit - doctor getting sued, or the equipment manufacturers, medicines or even the hospital as such. This leads to a huge increase in cost of healthcare and hence costs of medical insurance.

Glad we did not have such a suing culture in India, else it would have been another source of free money people will be looking for, like lottery!


  1. Hahaha Vee so true! Infact I'm not sure how true this is but someone was telling me that you can get sued if your dog accidently bites someone. Totally crazy!!

  2. OMG! Can't imagine someone suing budweiser just because he could not get similar girls around him!!
    Definitely good India does not have such sueing culture! Psst...keep this to yourself..don't let the politicians know about it ;)

  3. Upasana -
    Ah, anything can happen in this country! They have encouraged all kinds civil cases all the years, and now it may bite any one of us. And, how different could that be if it bites a stranger in the form of a dog :P

    Vaish -
    Yeah, funny things keep happening in this country. But, we in India also have been picking up in these terms. I have been coming across a variety of cases people file against films and celebrities, but glad our judicial system is strict in dealing with these cases.


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