>Personal Responsibility (Manistee News Advocate July 06)

Posted: November 19, 2004 in Columns

>Living in the land of the free has apparently made some people feel like they are free from taking responsibility for their own actions. Case in point: Sixteen year-old middle-school student Nathaniel Brazill was sentenced to 28 years in prison for fatally shooting his favorite teacher. In the subsequent civil trial, a Florida jury amazingly found Brazill innocent of any liability. Instead, the jury placed the blame on the school board, the gun’s owner, and the gun distributor. The jury said the school board was guilty for allowing Brazill on campus with a gun in his pocket, the gun distributor was guilty for not placing a safety lock on the gun to prevent Brazill from pulling the trigger, and the gun owner was guilty of leaving the gun unlocked and loaded, allowing the boy to steal it. Apparently the jury figured pulling the trigger didn’t lead to the teacher’s death. In this case, it may be okay to place some of the blame away from the boy, but not all of it. What it boils down to is that people have stopped taking responsibility for their own actions, and think that the government, big corporations, and anyone but themselves is liable for injuries received as a result of their own deliberate deeds. For instance: An 81 year-old woman spilled hot coffee on herself in the car and sued McDonalds. McDonalds subsequently lost the suit and was forced to award the woman $2.9 million. What is equitable about this settlement? Soldiers in Iraq are losing limbs to improvised explosive devices and aren’t compensated with multi-million dollar awards. It’s unfortunate the woman was burned, but everyone knows coffee is a beverage traditionally served hot, and trying to put cream and sugar in a cup of hot coffee that currently resides in one’s lap isn’t the smartest idea; but the jury gave her the money anyway. At what point are we answerable for our own mistakes? Never, as long as juries continue to award damages in these ridiculous lawsuits. Some vending machines have a warning on them asking people not to tilt them over on themselves through excessive shaking. We all know that shaking large, top heavy objects could result in having them tip over — I would think — but apparently some folks need to be reminded. The warnings are even accompanied by a wonderful graphic of the machine falling on a hapless stick figure — for those who can’t read, perhaps. You can be certain that the snack machine companies did this because some braniac with a sugar-fix squished himself trying to shake free his Twix bar, thus eliciting a lawsuit from his surviving spouse. Legitimate lawsuits do still happen. There are definitely corporations that make unsafe products from time to time. Sometimes people are hurt because of this. There are laws at the city, state, and federal levels which are outdated, and people are hurt because of this. Similarly, there are rules and procedures in the world that aren’t properly administered, and people are injured because of this. But when are people going to take responsibility for our own poor decisions? The only one to blame when we do dumb things is ourselves; lets stop putting the blame on the organization or person who has the most money to shell out in a lawsuit. My father always taught me not to worry about mistakes, but to learn from them. I never knew my mistakes could be lucrative, as well.Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

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