One of the things I’d like to do with this blog is share little-known stories about how the threat, reality, and fear of lawsuits has changed America. I’d also like to ask you to share your stories so we can increase awareness of just how widespread this problem has become. In my experience, this is one of the most important “quality of life” issues Americans face.
As cold weather’s grip begins to put much of our country into a deep freeze, I would like share a winter-related lawsuit story from my hometown in northern Michigan that I think you’ll find interesting…and disturbing.
This story begins with an odd natural event that occurs in Cadillac, Michigan that is so unusual, it was once featured on the TV show, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. In this picturesque town of about 10,000, a canal of about a quarter mile long connects two large lakes. When snow begins to fly, the lakes freeze over, but the canal remains unfrozen all winter.
Snowmobilers who were vacationing in the area and who weren’t familiar with the canal would sometimes get injured when they rode off the ice-covered lake and plunged into the bitter cold water of the canal. To prevent any more injuries, a volunteer group built a temporary fence on the ice at each entrance to the canal, and they did this for many years.
Then, on a recent visit home, I noticed that the fence was gone, so I called the local newspaper. A reporter said that the volunteers decided to stop building the fence when were told they could be sued if the fence blew away and a snowmobiler got hurt.
Isn’t this sad statement about how broken the American civil justice system has become?! The very real threat of being sued has become so widespread and so ever-present that protecting ourselves from lawsuits has taken precedence over protecting the public from very real dangers. Ripley himself wouldn’t believe it!