Tuesday 21st January 2020
A bloke called Graham Calvert recently attempted to sue bookmakers William Hill’s for £2 million. He didn’t trip over in one of their shops. Nor did a ceiling fall on his head. Nothing like that. No, what happened is that he lost a fortune betting with them, and he thinks they should have stopped him doing it.
Apparently they did try!
He asked for his account to be closed and they duly obliged. But then he secretly opened up another one and lost even more money. So now he’s suing them to get it back.
I think this is an excellent idea, and sets an interesting precedent…
I shall be taking out actions against the sweetie shops that sold me indecent quantities of sherbet fountains and penny chews in the late 1960s and early 70s. I shall be seeking to recover the cost of all the resultant dental work.
And when I’ve got that one under my belt, I shall be tackling all the pubs that have supplied me with too much alcohol over the past 30 years or so. I’m going for the lot with them ~ possible liver damage, pain and distress of hangovers, dry cleaning bills…everything.
And then it’s those damned car dealers’ turn. They knew I was a mug punter for God’s sake, but they still pushed their expensive shiny cars on me, knowing full well they’d be worth about half as much in two years’ time. They should have stopped me doing it, shouldn’t they?
Why the heck shouldn’t I jump on the bandwagon? It seems like everyone else is…
Tripped over a paving stone when you weren’t looking where you were going? Sue the council. They should have shaved an extra three millimetres off that paving stone. Eaten too much and got fat? Don’t blame yourself…go after the fast food restaurants and junk food manufacturers whose crap you ate ~ even though you had a free choice. On the verge of bankruptcy? Take action against the credit card companies and banks that lent you the money you asked for, even lied on your application to get. They shouldn’t have given it to you.
I’m not sure at what point we changed from taking responsibility for everything in our lives, to taking responsibility for virtually nothing, but it happened at some point in my lifetime. When I was a kid, only the certifiably insane would ever have been protected from the consequences of their own actions. Today, it seems like everything that ever happens to us is someone else’s fault.
There are no accidents ~ just culpable parties to be sued. There are no personal errors of judgement…just companies who’ve tricked us or unfairly persuaded us to do something contrary to our interests. There are just things and people to blame for everything.
Here’s why this is so important…
Because it’s only a short step, from blaming someone else when we trip up, get fat or get into debt, to blaming someone else when our business doesn’t make the profits we feel it should.
You see, the very first stage in securing the best chance of success with any project, goal or venture is to accept full responsibility for the outcome. To do otherwise is to give us an early exit strategy…an excuse for failure. It’s remarkably easy to give up when we convince ourselves it’s someone else’s fault. Not so easy when we accept that the blame lies fairly and squarely on our own shoulders.
Adversity happens to everyone. It’s how we react to the adversity that really counts. And those who accept full responsibility for what’s happened to them, almost always react best.
Following a version of this chapter appearing in my online newsletter, Mike Lee sent me an email about from something called the Stella Awards. Rather than explain, here’s the email:
It’s time again for the annual ‘Stella Awards’! For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald’s in New Mexico where she purchased the coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right?
That’s right; these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head. So keep your head-scratcher handy.
Here are the Stellas for the past year:
Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son.
Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles, California, won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbour ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn’t notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbour’s hubcaps.
Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania, was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open.
Worse, he couldn’t re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for eight, count ’em, EIGHT days on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner’s insurance company claiming undue mental anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this kind of anguish.
Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th Place in the Stellas when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next-door neighbour’s beagle ~ even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner’s fenced yard.
Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.
Third place goes to Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, because a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument. Whatever happened to people being responsible for their own actions?
Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware sued the owner of a nightclub in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies’ room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the nightclub had to pay her $12,000….oh, yeah, plus dental expenses.
This year’s runaway First Place Stella Award winner was Mrs Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home from an OU football game, having driven onto the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver’s seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner’s manual that she couldn’t actually leave the driver’s seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her ~ are you sitting down? ~ $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.
Alongside that lot, the bloke suing William Hill’s almost seems reasonable. I find it hard to comprehend the thought processes of people making decisions like these.
There’s another interesting aspect to this though…
Why are there so many cases like this in the United States? Simple. It’s because there are more lawyers in that country than the rest of the world combined. It’s important to get the causality right though…
There aren’t more lawyers because the US population is in particular ‘need’ of legal help. No, the US population is in particular ‘need’ of legal help because there is a proliferation of lawyers.
Let me explain…
For many years now, I’ve sold products and services linked to business opportunities. The one question I’ve been asked about every one of them ~ and more times than I care to remember is:
“But won’t the market become saturated?”
In almost every case the answer is no, because what happens is that the market is expanded and extended by the influx of newcomers, creating plenty of new business for everyone as a result. Markets aren’t of a fixed size. The size of any market can be increased: by bringing new customers into the market, by selling more of the product or service to existing users, or by selling ‘range extension’ products to both newcomers and existing customers.
That’s what’s happened to the legal market in the United States, and is happening to a certain extent here too.
All these qualified lawyers have to find work, and there simply isn’t enough of the traditional work to go around. So what they’ve had to do is to move into new, related areas ~ of which fleecing large corporations with seemingly ridiculous claims is just one. And they’re making a great deal of money at it.
How have they done it? By marketing themselves and the services they now offer, as hard as they possibly can.
Now if the market for services connected to the seemingly ‘cast in stone’ law isn’t fixed, it seems unlikely that the market you’re operating in is fixed either.
The bottom line is that, although it makes sense to be riding a wave rather than swimming against the tide, there’s almost always room in any market for newcomers to move in and prosper on a massive scale.