A few years ago in a coffee shop “far, far away,” there was a man who was so desperate, we’ll call him Desperado, that he decided he was going to steal the money out of the tip jar, (which contained less than $5.00 — thus, Desperado). Another man, we’ll call him Hero, saw what Desperado was trying to do and chased after him. Hero and Desperado struggled outside until Desperado was able to break free. Desperado raced to his car and tried to make a quick getaway. In doing so, he ‘accidentally’ backed over Hero. Hero was rushed to the hospital, but succumbed to his head injuries and passed away.
Now, given that this happened in “far, far away,” Hero’s estate decided it would be most appropriate to file a lawsuit claiming that the coffee shop was at fault! Only in “far, far away,” would Hero’s family sue the coffee shop (because they’re actually part of a larger corporation with oodles of money) and not Desperado. It is clear that “far, far away’s” legal system needs some adjusting.
While I have introduced this as a fictitious scenario that took place in a fictitious land, this actually happened — in the USA — recently! In 2008, a Desperado-character really did try to steal money from the tip jar and a Hero-character really did try to stop him. The Desperado-character really did “accidentally” run over the Hero-character who later succumbed to the head trauma. And, the Hero-character’s family really is suing the coffee shop (Starbucks), and some people actually think this case is not ludicrous!
I think that there are a number of noteworthy things here and I’ll try to summarize them briefly.
- How can you accidentally run someone over? I don’t mean to be funny, but if you’re engaged in criminal activity, isn’t your intent somewhat, say, criminal, so in trying to get away from the scene of the crime, wouldn’t that just be lumped in with the criminality of it all? I can understand the semantics in that the Desperado-character was maybe backing his car out of a parking space and the Hero-character just happened to be on the ground behind his car, but still — it seems a bit strange that in every article I’ve read about this, it’s bluntly stated that the running over of the Hero-character was accidental.
- I’m not going to talk about the absurdity that some lawyer actually thinks that they can make a case against Starbucks in this scenario (they’re really just doing their job, right?), but more importantly, I think it’s absurd that the legal system is set-up such that this is even a possible outcome! I’ve heard of a number of frivolous lawsuits, but this one seems to go beyond the bounds of frivolousness. Why? Because they’re not even suing the human directly responsible for the death! It’s clear that the prime directive is to gain retribution (in the form of money, of course), for the death of the Hero-character.
- Is our society in that much trouble, really? I realize that this happened in 2008 and some may attribute this happening to the financial crisis that happened later that year, but this scenario played out in March of 2008. At that point, unemployment was still only at 5.1% nationally and statistically, was similar to where it had been for the last few months. The tip jar apparently had less than $5. I suppose stealing from a tip jar at Starbucks is infinitely easier than robbing from a bank, (unless you’re interested in stealing the pen attached to the counter?), but is that really what we’re coming to as a society?