REALITY CHECK: Don’t sue me for what I say, @#$*!!

Reality Check | Mike Taylor

For some reason, I’ve always sort of believed that crazy lawsuits, and the sleazy lawyers willing to handle them, are somehow indigenous to the United States. I’m not sure why I thought this madness was limited to the U.S., but I did.

Maybe it’s because most of the cases we read about are handled in U.S. courts.

My favorite is the case in which a burglar, who fell through a skylight and broke his back while trying to break into a house, successfully sued the homeowner for having a skylight that would not adequately support the full weight of a burglar and his burglary tools. Yes, really.

Of course we’ve all heard about the lady who made a fortune spilling hot coffee on her lap at a fast food drive-through. There weren’t enough warning labels on the cup, apparently, explaining that, yes, coffee is indeed hot.

My own sister was once sued by some idiot who, during a party, climbed over the railing of her second-floor balcony and fell to the ground, breaking his arm. Alcohol, as the police say, was a factor. Still, the nitwit received a $10,000-plus settlement from the insurance company.

Finally, who can forget the guy who ran into a pole while jogging in a park, and then proceeded to utter the expletives one might expect at such a moment. A woman walking on a nearby path heard the utterances and was so unnerved that she felt compelled to sue. The jury awarded her several hundred thousand dollars.

The last time I fell out of my boat (it happens a couple times every summer; I am neither graceful nor nautically adept) I made a few comments that might have offended, for instance, Mother Theresa or Queen Elizabeth. Had either of them been present, I would have immediately regretted the comments and been a little embarrassed, but should I be sued for what is, in essence, the vocal equivalent of an involuntary muscle reaction?

Personally, I don’t think so. Apparently the law disagrees with me. It often does.

At any rate, my point (alluded to way back there in paragraph one) is that other countries are just as stupid, when it comes to lawsuits, as we are.

A court in Italy recently awarded damages to a man who had sued another man for implying he lacked two elements typically included with the male anatomy. These elements generally are found in pairs, though it is rumored Adolph Hitler had only one.

Regardless, in Italy it is now actionable to claim a man has none at all. At least two of my ex-wives have made similar claims about me, but you don’t see me calling some ambulance-chasing shyster in an effort to exact revenge in the courtroom.

Germans are equally sensitive to naughty words, apparently.  A court in Hamburg ordered a man to pay about $75,000 to another man because he had called him an “arscholch.” (You can look that up if you want, but I should warn you, it translates into something unpleasant.)

Now, I have employed the English version of that word on hundreds of occasions, and have been called that word at least twice today alone. And it’s not even noon.

It’s a good thing my co-workers and I don’t live in Germany, or a lot of money would be changing hands.

Frankly, it’s getting so I’m afraid to leave my house for fear of offending someone and ending up in court. But if I do, I’ll have a few choice words for them. In German.

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