By Jennifer McKean
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 20, 1998

In Sunshine and in Shadow; Are you beyond responsibility?


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Jennifer McKean

Imagine the gleam in a 7-year-old boy's eye when he gets his hands on his favorite flavor lollipop. It was an adventure getting it, but he is delighted with his treat. He pops it in his mouth just as his little sister starts chasing him around the yard. He trips over his own feet, jamming the lollipop into his throat and suffering the consequences.

It is sad to think that our society often refuses to accept responsibility for our actions, our children and our futures. Where were this little boy's parents when he was running around the yard with a stick in his mouth? People are so quick to blame others in the face of a tragedy. The mentality of the average, down-on-his-luck American is to sue the deep-pocketed pants off someone else, often someone not even related to the accident at all. What ever happened to learning a lesson?

There is an actual case in which a little boy did fall and jam a lollipop into his mouth, puncturing his throat, tonsil and palate. Instead of accepting responsibility for their child, a Mount Vernon, Wash. couple have sued the Ohio candy manufacturer and a national convenience store chain for producing and selling "hazardous material." The parents are insisting that the courts reward them for their own incompetence and lack of parental supervision.

The parents are asking for compensation for medical expenses, disability, disfigurement, pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of future wages. The lawsuit is as ludicrous as if the parents were arrested for child endangerment for letting their kid run around with a damn stick in his mouth.

Was the candy manufacturer or the convenience store at fault for the boy's injuries? Certainly not. It's not as if the little boy was sitting calmly beside his parents and the stick acted maliciously to injure him. Imagine trying to stick a full warning label on a tiny, white lollipop stick. Oh, and of course the manufacturers would have to include instructions in both English and Spanish. It's a joke. If lollipops are hazardous material, so is every other thing we put in our mouths. I choked on gum the other day, but I didn't call my lawyers.

I remember when my genius brother was five, he decided to ride his tricycle down the basement stairs. I don't recall my parents specifically warning him not to travel down flights of stairs on a three-wheeled vehicle. He was mildly hurt. My parents accepted the blame and Mark learned a valuable lesson. Life goes on. They didn't sue the tricycle company. They operated on a thing called common sense, something you're suppose to have before you start procreating. My parents warned us of everything from running with scissors in our hands to riding on each other's handlebars. Armed with only these warnings and the aforementioned common sense, I've managed to survive all the way into my twenties.

This isn't the first time we've seen ludicrous lawsuits because the accused party has the dough to make it worthwhile for the plaintiff. Christian Slater has been in the news lately for allegedly hitting a woman. Police arrived and Slater ended up punching one of the cops. Slater was drunk and is already facing criminal charges. One of the police officers has recently filed a civil suit against Slater for the "pain and suffering" of that punch. When a cop enters into the business of law enforcement, they have to anticipate the possibility that they might get pushed around once in a while.

Everyone remembers the woman who sued McDonald's for $2 million because the she was burned by a spilled cup of coffee? Well, don't drive with a cup of hot coffee between your legs. That's one of those common sense things. Come on people. You know better than that.

Kids don't always know better. They put themselves in potentially dangerous situations without giving it a second thought. It's the parents' responsibility to teach their children right from wrong and to protect them as long as they can. Parents have to stop passing the blame. If you aren't ready to accept your own responsibility, how are your children going to learn it for themselves? Unfortunately, kids don't come with warning labels and detailed instruction manuals.

Jennifer McKean is a junior majoring in journalism.



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