Flipping through the news the other day I came across a piece on the Christian Science Montior’s website about a girl who was injured while bungee jumping in Africa.   Its a fascinating story of a girl that was bungee jumping near Victoria Falls when her cord snapped sending her plunging into the crocodile infested waters.  They even have video of the incident!  But, you might be thinking, what does this have to do with the law?

Well, this quote piqued my interest:

“Tourists who come from litigious societies such as the United States may have an assumption that an activity is safe, because it is allowed to exist. Such an attitude may be reasonable in the US or Australia, but it doesn’t necessarily work in a country such as Zambia, where civil court cases can take decades to resolve.”

This quote raises a few good points about the U.S. Court System, and how it may be protecting you everyday without you even thinking about it.  What I take out of this quote is that there are instances where the “sue happy” system in the United States really does lead to a good result.

I think some people take for granted that if they show up to a place of business that it will be safe.  We assume that the ride at the amusement park is operated as safely as possible.  We assume that the parking lot of a local business will be free of dangers and will have snow removed properly.  We assume that a product that we purchase will not be defective or dangerous or that prescription drugs that we take will not cause another disease worse than the one it treats.  And yes, we even assume that the coffee we receive at a fast food chain will not be put in a faulty cup and be hot enough to cause third degree burns.

Why are we able to make these assumptions?  In no small part, we owe this to the U.S. Court System and its ability to grant civil justice.  In the United States, when a person is injured by the negligence of a corporation or another person, the injured party is able to sue those causing the injuries in court to recover damages for such injuries.  This means that a business that decides to put out a ride, a product, a drug, or serve coffee, must look at the ramifications of doing so in a negligent fashion.  If that corporation or business decides to be lax in its protection of consumers it can face jury awards in the thousands or even millions of dollars.  This creates a large incentive for businesses to make sure that they follow proper safety procedures and keep from harming consumers or they must face the consequences.

So remember, before you bemoan the overly judicious society, the person filing a lawsuit to recover from their injuries today may be helping to create a safer environment for you tomorrow.