When Football Gave America A Lesson In Problem Solving

footballAnother football season has come to a close and, whether we like it or not, the focus of the sport will now shift from touchdowns and goal-line stands to what can be done to prevent more concussions and, ultimately, preserve the game in America.

Violence in football is a serious issue, and changes are needed in the game for the good of the players. Much has been written about the need to reduce injuries, especially head injuries, but it’s worth noting that excessive violence is not a new issue in football. As the NFL and other levels wrestle with this issue, it would do them well to look back at how football dealt with this problem at the turn of the twentieth century.

It may come as a surprise to many, but more than a hundred years ago, football was nearly banned because of carnage on the gridiron.  I learned about this after reading an excellent article on the subject in the monthly magazine, Imprimis, published by Hillsdale College.  In “Football and the American Character,” John Miller reveals that in 1905, eighteen people died playing football.  As he put it, the deaths…

“were not freak accidents as much as the inevitable toll of a violent game. And they horrified a group of activists who crusaded against football itself—wanting not merely to remove violence from the sport, but to ban the sport altogether. At the dawn of the Progressive era, the social and political movement to prohibit football became a major cause.”

Calls for the game to be outlawed came from major newspapers like the New York Evening Post as well as leaders in higher education, including the president of Harvard.  At the time, college football was the primary game in town when it came to the sport, and Harvard was one of the powerhouses.

However, the president of the United States at that time, Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to save football. Roosevelt was such a big fan of the game that he had gone out of his way to recruit football players when he put together the Rough Riders in 1898.  He believed football helped build character and was intent on saving it for future generations.

So, at the end of the grisly 1905 season, he brought together a group of reform-minded leaders in the sport to push for new safety rules, and they did just that.  According to Miller,

“football experienced an extreme makeover: The yardage necessary for a first down increased from five to ten. Rules-makers also created a neutral zone at the line of scrimmage, limited the number of players who could line up in the backfield, made the personal foul a heavily penalized infraction, and banned the tossing of ballcarriers. These were important revisions, and each was approved with an eye toward improving the safety of players.”

Their efforts greatly reduced injuries and even led to the creation of an organization that we know today as the NCAA.

I find this story fascinating, not just because I experienced my share of concussions while playing football in high school, but because of the fact that this entire controversy took place out of a courtroom.  There were no lawsuits. There were just highly motivated and creative leaders who came together to solve a major problem without being forced to by a judge.

Of course, lawsuits are a fact of life in America today and are sometimes needed to bring about change.  However, it’s not too naïve to believe that the leaders in the game can take a page out of Teddy Roosevelt’s playbook and implement changes where changes are needed. Americans pride ourselves on being a self-governing people, and the current situation in football is a prime opportunity to show the world that we still have the ability to, pardon the pun, tackle this major issue before we are forced to by a judge.

The Stella Awards and Frivolous Lawsuits

RV Senior Man - Thumbs UpEver heard the story about the guy who sued Winnebago over its cruise control? According to the story, he set the cruise control while driving and then left his seat to brew some coffee.  Of course, he crashed.  And, as the story goes, he was mad that the instructions didn’t warn him not to do this, so he sued.

If you’ve heard about this, you’re not alone.  It’s part of a viral email note about five crazy lawsuits that received the so-called “Stella Awards.”  The names and personal information about the five “winners” change from time to time, but the circumstances always stay the same. People around the world forward this email to me many times a year.

The awards are named after the woman who spilled coffee on herself and sued McDonald’s.  Her name was Stella Liebeck, and I’m sure that whoever started this award named it after her because if there is one lawsuit that everyone in America has heard about, it’s her infamous case.

The problem is, all the stories are fake.  That’s right, they’re urban legends.  It’s easy to believe them, though, because so many real lawsuits are just as outrageous.

While I’ve done my own research on this, the leading debunker of urban legends, Snopes.com, has also exposed this email as a fraud, and you can see their take on it here.  After revealing that the “Stella Awards” are pure fiction, Snopes also takes the time to point out that there is no shortage of outrageous lawsuits in the courts that are real.  Many of the real lawsuits they cite were brought to their attention by yours truly over the years.

Of course, there are a lot better places for information about how junk lawsuits are affecting America than through phony emails.  This blog is just one, and some of the ridiculous lawsuits we have highlighted include:

Some of my other favorite sources for information about ridiculous lawsuits include Overlawyered.com, AbnormalUse.com and CenterForAmericaTV.org.

The next time you see the Stella Awards email note, remember to check back here.  The lawsuits you will find us talking about on this blog and on the websites I just mentioned prove that truth is often stranger than fiction.

 

The Great Non-Debate: When George McGovern and Jack Kemp Got Together To Make A TV Ad

McGovern:Kemp TV adWith the presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton dominating headlines, let’s go back in time and take a look at a time when one of the most conservative presidential candidates of the past 50 years got together with one of the most liberal presidential candidates of the past 100 years to talk about the need to address an issue still plaguing America today.

The conservative was former Congressman Jack Kemp. The liberal was former US Senator George McGovern. They agreed on very little when it came to public policy, but that was before McGovern retired from politics and bought a country inn.

After McGovern retired and decided to run a business, he quickly learned how difficult it can be to keep up with government regulations and fend off personal injury lawyers who don’t like the way one operates. By 1992, he finally had enough and surprised his friends and foes alike by writing a column for the Wall Street Journal in which he explained all the problems he experienced. His inn eventually went bankrupt, and he blamed excessive government rules and regulations – the kind he supported in Congress – as big reasons for the failure.

He also blamed one other thing: frivolous lawsuits.  Even after the bankruptcy, he said “we are still dealing with litigation from individuals who fell in or near our restaurant.  Despite these injuries, not every misstep is the fault of someone else.  Not every incident should be viewed as a lawsuit instead of an unfortunate accident.  And while the business owner may prevail in the end, the endless exposure to frivolous claims and high legal fees is frightening.”

His friends in the trial bar were not happy with that column.  Nor were his former colleagues in Congress who relied heavily on political contributions from trial lawyers to finance their elections.  But McGovern wasn’t afraid to speak the truth, and job providers around the country rejoiced at having this unlikely ally speaking out on their behalf.

McGovern was so passionate about the harm done by excessive litigation that he also made a TV ad with Jack Kemp to urge Americans to join him in the fight against lawsuit abuse.  It’s one of my favorite political ads but was seen by relatively few Americans since it had a very limited run on the air. I obtained a copy when I became president of a Michigan-based legal reform group in the late 1990s and have posted it to YouTube here so you can see it, too.

George McGovern died shortly before before the last presidential election. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for a political leader who is willing to tackle a problem that continues to plague everyone from inn owners and other job providers to non-profit community groups to this very day: lawsuit abuse.

Annual Contest Reveals What Wacky Warning Labels Say About America

There is a scene in the new “Finding Dory” movie by Pixar that shows a baby stroller with a label that warns not to fold the stroller before removing the child from it. Funny, for sure, and very familiar.  An observant movie-goer in the Chicago area knew immediately that the warning wasn’t simply a tongue-in-cheek joke concocted by Pixar, so she wrote to tell us about it.

It’s a real warning label featured in our popular Wacky Warning Labels™ Contest several years ago, and it just so happens that the movie recently debuted on the same day the winners of our 19th annual contest were announced.

ww16_lightsaberWarning labels that caution consumers about obvious, common sense things have become as much a part of life in America as the ever-popular Disney and Pixar movies. Of course, that’s where the comparison ends, but if you look around you, an argument could be made that wacky warnings are a more ever-present part of our life than any movie by any studio.  When’s the last time you saw a movie? Now, when’s the last time you saw a warning label? How about this morning!

If you counted every warning label you saw from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, the labels would certainly include warnings on bathroom products, kitchen appliances, your car, bus, train, office products, and things you find in your garage. And some of them are downright silly. Have you ever looked at the silver scooter your kids or grandkids use (or which you used as a child, depending on your age)? Right there on the handlebar between the grips is a warning that says: “This product moves when used.” Really!

The Center for America, a non-profit organization that sponsors the contest each year, does so to highlight how our lives are changing by living in the most lawsuit-happy society on earth.  Labels like these are put on things all around us because product makers and retailers know if they don’t put these warnings there, they can be sued. Even if we already know what they’re warning us about.

One year, the makers of a popular wood router were sued by a man in Texas after he decided to use a tool meant for carpenters on his teeth and didn’t like the results. Now, he obviously should have known not to use a wood router to perform dental work. And the courts should have immediately dismissed his lawsuit. But that didn’t stop his lawsuit from moving through the courts and becoming a real pain for the product maker. That’s why the product user guide provided to consumers who purchased that wood router would later feature a new warning: “This product is not intended to be used as a dental drill.” Ugh.

The wackiest warning label of 2016 was found on a toy Star Wars lightsaber.  It says: “For Accessory Use Only. Not to Be Used as a Battle Device.”  Susannah Peate of Carmel, Indiana picked up the grand prize for sending that one to us.

Behind all of this humor is a serious point.  The lawsuits that are clogging our courts are piling costs on consumers and hurting our economy.

A study that compared America’s tort system with other countries revealed that if U.S. tort costs were comparable in size with other costs in other industrialized countries, we could save $589 billion per year for investment in new jobs and consumer spending.

There is certainly a place for legitimate product liability lawsuits. But we also need judges and policymakers to give personal responsibility and common sense a place in our courts again.  Just think if all the money we’re now spending on excessive litigation was spent on job creation or innovation instead. It would give a tremendous boost to our economy. Of course, we might not need labels like the one on a fishing lure that warns, “Harmful if swallowed,” but we’ll trade jobs for laughs any day.

Please read more at EpicTimes.com

Finalists In The 19th Annual Wacky Warning Labels Contest Announced

imageThe five wackiest warning labels of 2016 have just been announced as part of the Center for America’s 19th annual Wacky Warning Labels™ Contest. They are:

“For Accessory Use Only. Not to Be Used as a Battle Device.” A label on a toy Star Wars light saber. Submitted by Susannah Peate, Carmel, Indiana.

“Blades are sharp.” A label on a common utility knife. Submitted by Debbie Kronstain, Bentleyville, Ohio.

“In California, do not release outdoors or near electric power lines as it may cause power outages.” A label on a helium party balloon. Submitted by Connor Byrne, Walled Lake, Michigan.

“Do not hold over people.” A label on a glass coffee pot. Submitted by Connor Dial, Tyrone, Georgia.

– “Cycling can be dangerous. Bicycle products should be installed and serviced by a professional mechanic…Failure to heed any of these warnings may result in serious injury or death.” A label on a bicycle bell. Submitted by Bill Childs, Austin, Texas.

We find these silly warning labels on products sold throughout America because, in this era of excessive litigation, labels must do more than protect consumers from possible injuries, they have to protect product makers from frivolous lawsuits.

Tune in to John Stossel’s show on FOX Business News Friday, June 17 at 9:00 PM EDT to see which labels earn the three cash prizes. The winners are selected by Stossel’s studio audience, and the grand prize winner receives $1,000!

Law Firm Mines Personal Info From Phone App Designed To Block Pest Calls

Cell phoneIf you are one of the thousands using a cell phone app to block pest calls and spam you may actually be unwittingly exposing yourself to further unsolicited calls. Not just any unsolicited calls, either, but calls from plaintiffs’ law firms using personal information culled from the app to drum up business.

This revelation was made recently by the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) which uncovered the startling allegation while researching abuses of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA.

The TCPA was passed by Congress twenty-five years ago to eliminate unwanted telemarketing phone calls.  The law has helped cut down on some unsolicited calls, but anyone who has a cell phone knows the law hasn’t totally eliminated junk phone calls. The Federal Communications Commission receives tens of thousands of consumer complaints about unwanted – and, in many cases, illegal – phone calls and texts each year.

The TCPA has also given rise to a cottage industry of law firms that specialize in suing those who have allegedly violated the law. These lawsuits can be quite lucrative for plaintiffs’ lawyers, and unfortunately, whenever there is money to be made by filing lawsuits, there are often those who are willing to twist the law to unintended purposes to enrich themselves. As a result, the TCPA has resulted in a number of questionable high profile lawsuits in recent years, and those lawsuits have come under the microscope of the Chamber’s ILR.

One of those lawsuits was filed in 2012 against the Buffalo Bills football team. A class action lawsuit was brought against the team after it offered to send fans updates about the team if they signed up to get them. The team promised to send only five text messages a week. However, one week, the team sent six texts, and another week it sent seven. Their offense: sending three extra text messages over two weeks. As trivial as that might seem to most people, that case resulted in a settlement of $2.5 million – and the lawyers took home more than $500,000!

Spurred on by large awards like that, some firms are now scrambling to find plaintiffs who will agree to sign on as members of class action lawsuits, and some are allegedly using underhanded tactics to find their new clients. That’s where the smartphone app comes in.

While reading court filings that are part of a recent lawsuit filed against a law firm that specializes in TCPA lawsuits, the ILR found something very interesting and ironic.

A lawyer named Tammy Hussin who worked for a firm named Lemberg Law was sued by the firm for violating terms of a separation agreement. Hussin had left Lemberg in 2014 but apparently continued to represent some of the firm’s TCPA clients in California. The firm claims she failed to pay it for awards she collected under the agreement.

According to ILR, Hussin then countersued Lemberg, and that’s where things get very interesting.

She alleges that:

“the firm used information obtained through a cell phone app to file TCPA claims against businesses, without the individual’s knowledge or consent.

According to Hussin, the firm made a deal with PrivacyStar, a telephone application that identifies who is calling and why.  The PrivacyStar application allows users to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) when they receive an unwanted phone call.  The FTC handles the National Do Not Call Registry and users were providing information to potentially stop telemarketing calls.  Hussin claims that PrivacyStar was providing Lemberg with the names and numbers of individuals who used the app to file a complaint.

What the users supposedly did not know is the Lemberg firm was trolling the data to seek out potential, and often unsuspecting, clients for TCPA litigation.

Ironically enough, the lawsuit alleges that the firm—supposedly seeking restitution for individuals inundated by unwanted calls—was itself pestering these app users with more unsolicited calls” (emphasis added).

Could PrivacyStar really be providing personal information about its customers to a plaintiff lawyer? A consumer reporter in Dallas by the name of Dave Lieber decided to look into the company even before these allegations were made and found some things he believes raise red flags about PrivacyStar.

According to Lieber: “Two of the company’s top executives are former execs at Acxiom, the highly secretive data collection company that keeps zillions of bytes of data on millions of Americans and sells that information to retailers and others willing to pay for it. Both Acxiom and PrivacyStar are based in Conway, Ark. Charles Morgan was CEO of Acxiom before he left. He is now CEO of First Orion, the parent company of PrivacyStar. Jeff Stalnaker, the PrivacyStar founder and current CEO, was division president at Acxiom.”

Lieber also discovered that the terms and conditions of PrivacyStar’s app: “allow the company to collect personal information including name, address, phone, email address, credit card information, mobile device information including ‘unique device identifier,’ marketing interests and ‘demographic information such as interests and ZIP code.’” In addition, he says the company’s policy gives it permission to share this information with third parties.

If the allegations Hussin has made against Lemberg Law are true, this case indicates that a popular smartphone app used by some people to protect their privacy may actually be sharing their personal information with at least one plaintiff lawyer.  It also illustrates the extreme measures some plaintiff lawyers go to these days to drum up business.

It sounds like what we really need is an app that can protect American consumers from overzealous plaintiff lawyers!

Please read more at EpicTimes.com.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Website Owners Losing ADA Lawsuits As DoJ Fiddles

InternetA Colorado-based retailer of travel goods is one of the latest businesses to be sued over its website under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a federal judge’s recent summary judgment against the company is sending shock waves across the Internet.

Colorado Bag’n Baggage has been ordered to change its website and pay $4,000 to a blind man who sued them under the ADA arguing they didn’t provide special tools like screen-reading software to help the man use the website. Judge Bryan F. Foster granted summary judgment to the plaintiff in March – reportedly the first time a court has done so in this type of case — and also ordered the business to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees which are expected to exceed $100,000.

Businesses, schools and other organizations that don’t construct their websites in a way that makes it possible for the blind, deaf and others with disabilities to use them are becoming more vulnerable to expensive lawsuits. Defendants have been arguing that a lack of clarity on how and if their websites must comply with the ADA means the lawsuits should be dismissed or delayed, but judges are increasingly willing to let the cases proceed.

The problem for website owners is that the ADA is not clear on which websites must comply with the law.  Does Title III of the ADA, which applies to places of public accommodations, apply to a business with a website that doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar store? And does it apply to non-businesses, as well? Remember, the ADA was enacted in 1990, years before the Internet became a daily part of American life.

The Department of Justice has forced website owners to wait for clarification on those critical questions as it writes formal regulations. Despite promising regulations on Title III web accessibility in 2010, the DOJ has said it doesn’t plan to publish them until 2018 according to Amanda Robert writing for Forbes.

In the meantime, it’s not just businesses that are being sued.  Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were sued in federal court by the National Association of the Deaf last year for not providing captions and other aids for its online programming. The judge in those cases rejected arguments by the universities that the court should dismiss or stay the case while the DOJ works on its regulations.

In her decision, Judge Katherine Robertson stated: “there is no reason that this case and the administrative process cannot proceed simultaneously on separate tracks. Should DOJ issue either set of proposed rules while this case is still pending, the parties can bring them to the attention of the court so that the court can have the benefit of whatever aid they may offer.”

Seriously?!

Imagine going to a baseball game and not knowing if a batter will be called out after three, four or five strikes. Or going to a football game and not knowing if a holding penalty would result in a 10-yard or 20-yard penalty. Forcing businesses and other entities to defend themselves in court against ADA lawsuits when the federal government hasn’t established rules for them to play by is the kind of thing that is leading the public to lose faith in the justice system.

When you have such diverse defendants as Harvard and a travel goods retailer crying foul, something is terribly wrong. In the meantime, the only ones who are thriving on this uncertainly, of course, are the plaintiff attorneys and their clients.

Why has the DOJ delayed providing the needed rules and allowed the situation to get so bad?  Is it indifference? As Walter Olson says on Overlawyered.com: “More likely, it shows that even an administration that has launched many audacious and super-costly initiatives in regulation has figured out that this one is so audacious and super-costly that it should be – well, not dropped, but left as a problem for a successor administration.”

Please read more at EpicTimes.com.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lowering Health Care Costs By Eliminating Defensive Medicine

doctor holding xrayAccording to a nationwide survey of doctors conducted by Gallup, as much as one quarter of all the money spent on health care in the United States can be attributed to defensive medicine.

Defensive medicine happens when doctors order tests not to diagnose a medical problem but to protect themselves from lawsuits. So, when doctors say 25% of the money Americans spend on health care is spent on tests that are only needed because of litigation concerns, we should pay attention.

Bioscience Valuation, a Heath care economics firm, reports that all of that spending on defensive medicine amounted to $487 billion in the United States in 2015.  That’s billion with a B.  It’s no surprise that the dean of one of the largest medical schools in the country once said that the most expensive tool a physician uses is a pen…because of all the unneeded tests they order.

Unfortunately, Congress hasn’t provided a remedy to this problem. The Affordable Care Act did nothing to address defensive medicine.

Over the past 20-25 years, many states have attempted to reduce medical malpractice insurance rates doctors pay by enacting various tort reform measures, but these reforms have had little impact on the primary reason physicians practice wasteful defensive medicine: the constant fear that they can be sued for virtually any reason.

It’s time for a new approach.

Five states are leading the way by developing legislation that would create a new patient compensation system.  Florida, Georgia, Maine, Montana and Tennessee are considering a proposal that would create a no-blame administrative model and eliminate the broken medical malpractice litigation system which has been scaring physicians into practicing defensive medicine.

Under the proposal, an injured patient would file a claim with a panel of health care experts instead of filing a lawsuit which takes years to litigate with uncertain outcomes. If the panel of health care experts determine that a patients suffered a medical injury, the patient would be fairly, appropriately and quickly compensated. The principle is very similar to the one used to create the workers’ compensation systems used successfully throughout the United States for the past one hundred years.

With no need to fear lawsuits, doctors would no longer need to practice defensive medicine.  Health care costs would start to decrease as would health insurance premiums.

At the same time, patients would fare better, too.  Surveys have found that the vast number of injuries resulting from medical negligence go uncompensated. Many victims simply don’t want to drag their doctor into court to litigate a bad outcome. Despite all of the lawsuits that are filed, the adversarial system actually discourages many people from getting the justice – and the compensation – they deserve.

It’s time to try a new patient compensation system based on an administrative model that puts the patient first and removes the blame that doctors fear can ruin their reputation. A nonpartisan group based in Georgia called Patients for Fair Compensation is leading the charge for this sensible plan, and it’s working with leaders in the five states mentioned above.

Any significant reform like this is going to have opponents, and as could be expected, plaintiffs’ lawyers who make millions off the current system are leading the fight against it. However, America simply can’t afford to keep a system that is bad for doctors, bad for victims and and bad for taxpayers.

Please read more at EpicTimes.com

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Woman Walks Into Ladder, Sues, Wins Huge Jury Verdict

AmbulanceChasersA six-figure jury verdict awarded to a woman who walked into a ladder while texting on her cell phone could be the new poster child for the dysfunction happening in America’s courts today.

If only the woman had listened to one of the myriad of public service announcements imploring cell phone users that when it comes to texting, “It can wait!”

Perhaps then our court system would not have been required to impanel a jury to hear this ridiculous case. But no, DeToya Moody of Georgia walked into a ladder that was clearly visible to everyone around her – and which even had the familiar orange warning cones around it.

So, of course, she did what too many Americans do these days. She sued.  She may have missed or ignored the type of public service announcements mentioned above, but she likely hasn’t missed the countless ads for personal injury lawyers that seem to air nonstop on television today.

A summary of the case was recently published in a Georgia legal publication. As you can read there, the woman hit her head on the bright orange ladder of a bucket-truck lift that had been lowered across a sidewalk by a crew doing some work in the area. She hit her head because her eyes were glued to her cell phone.

In court, the jury had to decide how much responsibility the woman had for her injury considering the fact that she wasn’t looking where she was going.  Surprisingly, the jury wound up saying she was only 8 percent responsible and awarded her one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars.

It’s a wonder that the jury didn’t assign a portion of the blame to the cell phone service provider, too. Certainly, if she hadn’t had the ability to conveniently send and receive texts while she was walking, she wouldn’t have walked into the ladder. Or how about the cell phone manufacturer? No cell phone, no distraction, and the woman avoids the ladder.

The list of those who are potentially responsible for the woman’s injury — other than the woman herself — could go on and on, but we wouldn’t want to put any ideas into the head of the lawyer who sued on behalf of Ms. Moody.

Speaking of the lawyer, he is quoted as saying he had “no idea where the 8 percent figure came from.” Join the club, counselor.

As if that wasn’t enough, the jury even awarded his client more than he requested, too. In fact, it was 7 times more than the cost of her medical expenses!  All for walking into something that was in plain sight.

Jury verdicts like this are distressing because there seems to be no rhyme or reason to them. Why didn’t the jury award the woman a million dollars? Or ten million dollars? The courts have become a type of lottery. Pull the lever on a lawsuit and see how much you can win.

In the meantime, those who are sued have to ante up thousands of dollars to defend themselves, even if they’ve done nothing wrong. If they lose, they have to bite the bullet and pay up, or they roll the dice – we might as well stick with the gambling theme – and appeal the verdict to a higher court.

So that’s the point we’ve reached in America. A system of jackpot justice that seems to determine prizes based on where a lawsuit is filed and what kind of jury a plaintiff is “lucky” enough to draw.

Unfortunately, for anyone who’s looking for personal responsibility in the court system today, the odds seem stacked against you.

Please read more at EpicTimes.com 

Lawsuit Prompts Name Changes At Historic Sites In Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Tunnel ViewAn ongoing legal dispute between the National Park Service and one of its vendors is prompting the federal agency to rename some venerable landmarks in the park effective March 1. As unbelievable as it may seem, the name “Yosemite” is even at risk of being changed if the two sides can’t come to an agreement.

So far, the famous sites that will be receiving new names include the historic Ahwahnee Hotel, which will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, and the Wawona Hotel, which will become Big Trees Lodge.

The Ahwahnee Hotel opened in 1927, and guests have included Queen Elizabeth II, John F. Kennedy and Steve Jobs. One of its early employees was an aspiring photographer named Ansel Adams.

History oozes from every corner of the grand old lodge, and that is why the name change is almost incomprehensible to anyone who has been to Yosemite. So why the changes?

Delaware North Corp., the company hired by the federal government to run the hotels and all concessions in the park twenty-three years ago lost its contract when the NPS let it out for bids in 2014. According to a report in the Washington Post, “its contract with NPS had a provision under which NPS promised to ensure that any successor concessionaire, in the event of a re-procurement, would compensate DNC for the buildings, facilities and ‘other property’ that it owned in connection with the concession contract.”

DNC says that “other property” includes trademarks it claims to have on the names Ahwahnee, Wawona and even Yosemite, so it has filed a lawsuit saying it should be paid $50 million for the trademarks. The NPS says the trademarks were never part of the deal when DNC took over concessions at Yosemite and that the new concessionaire, Aramark, should not have to pay to use the names.

However, with Aramark scheduled to take over at Yosemite March 1, the NPS may be concerned that the federal government could ultimately be held liable if the courts rule in favor of DNC. Even though DNC reportedly offered to lend the names for free until its court claim is resolved, the NPS is taking no chances and is changing the names of the two hotels, a ski area and another lodge. So far, the NPS has not proposed changing the name of Yosemite to something else.

IMG_0011The Ahwahnee Hotel has graced the Yosemite Valley for almost one hundred years because its builder did something revolutionary at the time. Previous hotels made of wood had burned to the ground during raging forest fires, so the architects decided to make the exterior of something resistant to fire. What appears to be wood siding and structural timber is actually stained concrete that was poured into molds to simulate a wood pattern.

It was an ingenious move. Yet even though the architects were able to protect the Ahwahnee from natural disasters, they weren’t able to protect it from man-made disasters, and that is what this legal mess has become. So, the name Ahwahnee is sadly gone for now.

By the way, before it was named Yosemite, native Americans called the place, Ahwahnee, because it means “place of the gaping mouth.” It’s easy to understand why their mouths were agape if you look at the massive granite walls that reach thousands of feet into the sky, if you listen to the thundering waterfalls or stand beneath the giant sequoia trees in this amazing area. Unfortunately, the mouths of many park lovers today are gaping for a much different reason – a visceral response to the preposterous idea that anyone could own the names of national treasures.

Please read more at EpicTimes.com