Rushing To Play The Blame Game

Larry Price
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Wednesday - March 30, 2005
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As I was thinking about the tree that fell in Manoa and the tragedy that occurred, I was struck by how quickly people were trying to place the blame on someone or something.

There were other things that fell down, but that blame was placed on the wind and you can’t sue the wind — not yet anyway. It’s a sobering reminder that there is no such thing these days as an accident.

I’m not sure when the possibility of an accident occurring became an impossibility. Almost every accident reported by the media ends up with someone or something being sued for damages.

Placing blame has become a real science in the legal arena. The “Blame Game” didn’t originate in Hawaii, it’s not part of the Aloha Spirit. It was perfected by copying successful litigation in other states.

It’s learned behavior and now part of our culture forever more.

The so-called “shotgun” lawsuit is particularly worthy of recognition. This kind of lawsuit places blame by percentage points.

If the correct placement of the blame is not definite, then the blame will be placed on all of the parties involved. It will be up to a judge and maybe a jury to decided on the actual percentages. If an individual or group is bankrupt or without assets to pay their share, the next person in line is still libel for their share. In this way the injured party is assured of receiving some money from someone.

Example. In the recent tragedy in Manoa, the City and County of Honolulu is named in the lawsuit as well as the landscaping company hired by the C&C of Honolulu to inspect the trees periodically.

That all seems fair enough to me, but then I read the C&C of Honolulu is responsible for at least 225,000 trees.

That’s a lot of trees.

Maybe the C&C of Honolulu should consider an “Adopt a Tree” programs like they do with highways. It’s almost guaranteed that another tree will fall, but hopefully not on a human being.

It’s not like the old question, “If a tree falls in a forest, does anyone hear it?” It doesn’t matter. In our society the answer would probably be yes, and if you own the tree, you will be sued.

What this means is there has to be a item in the budget for litigation labeled possible negligent behavior awards. The subsection would include those 225,000 trees, sidewalks, oceans fronts, parks (include equipment), restrooms and very possibly a list of every service the C&C provides for the taxpayers of Oahu.

It might be a good idea for businesses in Hawaii and the government to budget for payment for their percentage of accidents where negligence is possible.

It’s kind of sad, because considering something an accident was a pretty good alibi a long time ago, but not anymore. Accidents are a thing of the past; lawsuits are for sure.

Here’s hoping our governmental leaders carry the responsibility well.

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