Litigation threatens to strangle modern society

31 Dec, 2003 10:00 PM
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WHEN I have finished writing this on my modern, but relatively cheap, computer that is so simple to use that even this ex-cocky can manage it, I will email it to its local and interstate destinations and it will arrive within seconds.

I will then drive down to the local shop to buy some stores, travelling in a fairly average vehicle that has a fuel injected, computer controlled engine and is fitted with automatic transmission, air conditioning, power steering, power windows and mirrors as well as an air bag, radio/CD and seat belts.

All of which demonstrates how sophisticated modern society has become and how fortunate we are to live in 2004 and not a hundred years earlier, when our forbears lived, by our standards, a fairly Spartan life.

Then I remembered reading in the daily paper a story about all the people who have sued someone over the most trivial offences and pocketed immense sums of money, all of which will come out of our pockets.

Our forbears were made of sterner stuff and were prepared to accept the consequences of their actions and not try and treat every misfortune and setback as the fault of others.

Reading through the list of damages awarded, it is hard to determine which is the most unbelievable, although it is becoming easier to agree with Shakespeare who wrote in Henry V1; ³Š let¹s kill all the lawyers.²

The Australian attraction to the law courts seems to be merely an extension of our love affair with gambling and Lotto, as lawyers offer a ³no win-no fee² option to encourage the punters to take their chance in the legal lottery.

The effects of all this litigation were once put very neatly to me by a country GP who noted sadly: ³The government shut my operating theatre and then my insurance broker closed my obstetrics practice.²

The public blame the lawyers for this plethora of litigation, lawyers blame the greed of the insurance companies, claiming they are making massive profits and, I guess, the insurance people blame the unworldly judges.

Everyone expects the government to fix the problem, but they seem an unlikely source of salvation as their legislation seems to do no more than encourage this pernicious habit.

For example, governments have decreed that employers must provide a safe workplace, so that if anyone is injured, then it proves that the workplace wasn¹t safe.

The result? The employer has broken the law and can be sued.

The habit of suing for every wrong - real and imagined - is one of the poorer aspects of American culture that we have imported, but we have been quick learners and embraced the concept with gusto.

Unfortunately, the law is mightily impressed with precedent, so I guess the woman who twisted her ankle on a sporting oval and was awarded compensation could be the forerunner of things to come.

I can imagine every AFL or ARL player who receives an injury during a game signalling for a lawyer to rush onto the ground to discuss the need for a statement to be obtained from someone.

It is always possible that the federal government will decide to legislate these cases out of existence, perhaps to be replaced by a 10pc tax surcharge to provide funds for a major lottery.

Every day, a certain number of people could be selected at random to receive a massive payment, with the lucky winners then being withdrawn from the list so that double dipping could be avoided.

It would cover our passion for gambling, allow everyone to have a real chance at instant riches.

Everyone could then get on with their lives, workplaces would become more efficient, sport and playgrounds would again flourish and just maybe, country people could again receive a reasonable medical service.

Seems a great idea for the start of a new year.

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