Walter E. Williams

Literally hundreds of readers informed me that in last week's column, "Some Things I Wonder About," my reference to a Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City -- who set his 32-foot Winnebago on cruise control, left the driver's seat to brew a cup of coffee, crashed, then sued Winnebago for not having a warning against the dangers of doing so and received a jury award of $1,750,000 plus a new motor home -- was an urban legend and as such totally false.

My having fallen for this "urban legend" points to more due diligence to fact-checking. Without making any excuses whatsoever for my lapse in due diligence, let's look at it.

Thirty, 40 or 50 years ago, no one in their right mind would have believed the Merv Grazinski urban legend possible, but not so today. Personal responsibility has taken a back seat in our increasingly immoral and litigious society. Consider some actual lawsuits researched at www.overlawyered.com.

The wife of a hockey fan who crashed his car after drinking too much at a Minnesota Wild game has sued the team, saying her husband who was paralyzed in the Feb. 8, 2002, auto crash shouldn't have been served so much alcohol.

According to the July 10, 2002, Akron Beacon Journal, "Two carpet installers who admit they read the label of an adhesive they used, admit they understood the adhesive was flammable and should not be used inside, used it inside anyway, caused an explosion, were burned badly, sued and won $8 million dollars."

According to the April 18, 2003, Indianapolis Star: "A convicted robber is suing the convenience store clerk who shot him as he fled after a holdup. Willie Brown, 44, claimed the clerk acted 'maliciously and sadistically' in firing five shots as Brown ran out of Zipps Deli with money from the store's cash register." Brown, who has earlier convictions for robbery and burglary, pleaded guilty to robbery and was sentenced to four years in prison.

In Galveston, Texas, a jury awarded $65 million to the parents and estate of a woman who drowned after her car rolled off a boat ramp. She couldn't disengage her seat belt. The jury found Honda of America Manufacturing Co. Inc. and Honda R & D Co. Ltd. 75 percent responsible for the death of Karen Norman, even though her blood-alcohol level measured at nearly twice the Texas legal limit (.17). Fortunately, an appeals court threw out the award, which a trial judge had previously reduced to $43 million.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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