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Police and Law Enforcement Home  >  Editorials    >    Frivolous Lawsuits


Police and
Law Enforcement News


Thursday, October 7, 2004  12:00 a.m.

It was a bit after midnight.

The Times Square ball had fallen bringing in the new year of 2001, and officers with the Ramsey Police Department were most certainly busy with noise complaints, drunk and disorderly’s, maybe even some fireworks complaints and all such calls that come with the first minutes and hours of any new year.

At about the same time, a drunken gentleman staggered out of a party he had been attending at a Ramsey Hotel. His aim was to purchase some cigarettes and get a bite to eat.


He never made it. At some point during his drunken jaunt, the gentleman passed out in a snow bank. A good Samaritan saw the man and called police. A search was conducted, but the responding officers were unable to locate the man and most likely assumed he was up and on his way. Unfounded calls like this occur every day in law enforcement.

The man was discovered the next morning in an area where officers were unable to see him. He had a body temperature of 78 degrees and frostbite in his right hand. 

After a trip to the emergency room, a trip to an attorney’s office eventually followed.

Forty-four months later, the gentleman is almost a million dollars richer for his efforts. Yes, his efforts in leaving a party drunk and falling in the snow.

A jury awarded him one million dollars but deducted 15% as they believed he owned 15% of the fault of that evening, so he must make do with just $850,000.00.

Each day similar justice (and similar jury awards) is meted out across the country.

Our society has become overrun with a class of get-rich-quickers who have found the easiest way to close the gap between the haves and the have-nots is a seat at the plaintiff's table of the courtroom.

Unfortunately, law enforcement has become one of the groups becoming all too comfortable on the other side of the courtroom at the defendant’s table.

The handcuffs applied by the officer were too tight, the bandage applied by the officer was too loose. The baton strike was too low, the bail was too high. The response time was too slow, the radio car went too fast. The officer’s response was too much, the officer’s response was not enough. Overreacted, under reacted, too little force, not enough force, should have made an arrest, shouldn’t have made an arrest, and the list goes on.

We are not even remotely suggesting that law enforcement is free of mistakes, and parties legitimately injured by one of these mistakes are not entitled to compensation for real damages.

However, the number of frivolous lawsuits filling our nation’s dockets is overwhelming. Part of the problem lies with a society trying “to get theirs.”

But, another source of this problem is the never-ending line of personal injury attorneys battling immense competition among their brethren to represent anyone and everyone who claims to be a victim.

In the daytime hours, the words “BROKEN BONES” flash in the background of television commercials featuring a sleeves-rolled-up barrister claiming he cares about you. He is concerned about you and your family and wants to take on the that dastardly company or organization which dared harm you by act or omission.

There was once a time where law was a respected and noble profession. A man of the law was a mentor to many and a source of wisdom to all.

Today, their solicitations and promises don the covers of phone books, shopping cart seats, billboards, newspapers, and just about every square inch that offers retail advertising.

With a distinguished background of law books, a flag, and the scales of justice, they fill television screens practically begging viewers to call them with anything.

In some cases when a win is not probable, suits are filed anyway with a goal of obtaining a settlement which is less costly to the party being sued even when this party knows they are on firm ground.

Still, there are those who enter and practice law with noble intentions, but their efforts and accomplishments are becoming more obscure.

The effects of frivolous lawsuits are far more reaching than what meet the eye.

They are in great part responsible for the problems with our health care system. Insurance rates, property taxes, doctor visits, job benefits all suffer due to frivolous lawsuits. We pay more for products and services so lawyers may enjoy their coveted one third.

Finally, law officers who once came on the job with intentions of ridding their communities of crime, evolve into stagnant drifting wood who do little more than respond to their calls. After all, “you can’t be sued for doing nothing” the logic reads.

Reform is needed. Real reform is needed. Groundbreaking, outside-the-box, wide-sweeping, file-a-frivolous-lawsuit-and-suffer-the-consequences reform must come and put a scare into everyone who walks out of a bar drunk and falls in the snow.

Penalties against law practitioners who lead these nonsensical actions must also be attached.

This might be difficult since most of our elected officials have a shingle hanging somewhere, but if they won’t, we need to vote in those who will.

There are many issues on the table in today’s world. This needs to be a bigger one.

Reader Comments

October 8, 2004

Amen to that. The only part that wasn't addressed that also bothers me are the frivolous lawsuits from within. When one of our own brothers in blue decides the department is at fault for his or her own stupidity. I've seen that scenario played out far too often in my department. Some moron (who everyone knows is a moron) does something like wreck a patrol car (doing 130 on a wet highway, not to a call, but just for fun) that should get them a couple days, but no, they end up triple-dipping from Worker's Comp, Aflac, and a lawsuit against the department because the cruiser didn't have anti-lock brakes. Burns up those of us who work for a living--doing things the RIGHT way.



October 8, 2004

The likelihood of prevailing in a [tort] civil lawsuit are enormous. Sure, there is always anecdotal evidence of million dollar awards, but the evidence does not back it up. Many are overturned or reduced on appeal. Insurance companies could do their part and fight these all the way to the end, instead of settling. What kind of message does That send? Juries are made up of your friends and neighbors, family members, etc. How are They arriving at these figures? When they shirk Jury Duty, they allow these things to happen. Check out the ENTIRE McDonald's "Hot Coffee" lawsuit & see what Really took place. Stay Safe Everyone.


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