Avoiding Personal Responsibility Okay For Editors

For some reason, it seems that liberals like to avoid responsibility for their own actions and expect other people to make up for that lack of responsibility. You see it in their continuous push for socialism instead of capitalism, and in their desire to make someone else pay for not using their brains.

Today's demonstration of this avoidance is an editorial in the Dead Fish Wrapper regarding a lawsuit against Philip Morris. For those not familiar with the story, here is a recap. In 1999, Mayola Williams won a lawsuit against Philip Morris USA for the death of her husband Jesse. Jesse had smoked two packs of cigarrettes per day for 30 years and had died of lung cancer in 1997. The jury had awarded her $821,485 in compensatory damages and $79.5 million in punitive damages. Philip Morris appealed, and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week the court remanded the case back to the Oregon Supreme Court on the grounds that the jury had not been properly instructed that it could punish Philip Morris only for the harm done to the plaintiff, not to other smokers. In other words, the punitive damage award was way too high, and needs to be scaled back.

The Fish Wrapper states their repsonsibility avoidance thesis right off the top.

Philip Morris USA should be penalized for its role in the death of former Portland school janitor Jesse Williams, but the U.S. Supreme Court is correct in resisting $79.5 million in punitive damages as simply too much.

And later on in the piece:

Nobody should say that about Mayola Williams of Portland. Her 67-year-old husband, Jesse, died of lung cancer in 1997 after decades of heavy smoking. Her lawyers argued convincingly that a large punitive damage award was justified because the tobacco company's marketing had led her husband to believe that smoking didn't pose a health threat.

In the trial, the company's behavior was shown to be truly reprehensible. Documents indicated Philip Morris officials had known for more than 50 years that smoking was deadly, had misleadingly understated the health risks and had manipulated nicotine levels to keep smokers addicted.

So the fault here lies with Philip Morris because they knew that smoking was deadly. And they were the only ones that knew? You've got to be kidding! How long has this been well known public knowledge? I can remember the warnings on cigarrette packages about it being dangerous to your health at least 30 years ago when I was growing up. If you as a smoker are going to rely only on the tobacco companies for that kind of data, then it is your own fault. It's not like this information wasn't staring you in the face wherever you looked. Why do you think cigarrette ads were banned from TV in 1972? It certainly wasn't because they were good for you.

And now that Jesse smoked for so long and killed himself, Mayola (and her lawyers) think that Philip Morris owes them money. Tell me again why he was obligated to smoke? Did he not have a choice? Did someone else hold him down and force him to smoke? No, he made a choice. That's the great thing about this country is that we have the ability to make that choice. As teh saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Jesse had the power to make his own choice, but Mayols isn't willing to accept the responsibility. Choices have consequences, as Jesse and Mayola discovered. But, instead of accepting responsibility, Mayola decided to pass the buck for Jesse's decision and try to get some money from Big Tobacco.

The Fish Wrapper makes one more point, although I don't think they realized it.

Class-action lawsuits are a different story, but in personal injury lawsuits such as the Williams case, such enormous jury awards have a corrosive effect. They undermine public respect for the justice system, creating the perception it's a legal Powerball game for avaricious plaintiffs and lawyers.

Enormous award like this aren't the only thing that have a corrosive effect; lawsuits like this that are just grabs for money where the plaintiffs are avoiding taking responsibility for their own actions are even worse. People see someone else win money like this and figure that they can do the same thing. Witness all the piling on that happened when lawsuits were initally filed against tobacco companies; more and more were filed for a while.

But hey, that's a great thing about liberalism - you don't have to take respsonsibility for your own actions.


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