Why Are Innocent People Forced into Taking Responsibility for Others' Negligence?

07/03/2009

"Admit nothing. Deny as much as possible. Stall. Protect, protect, protect. Blame somebody who isn't here to protect himself."  Rick Bozich, Louisville Courier JournalMax Gilpin, The Real Loser in JCPS Report, July 1, 2009

Bozich's article was a scathing indictment of the "investigation" into the death of a 15 year old boy during football practice at a Jefferson County, Kentucky public high school.  The death, and the tragic circumstances surrounding it, have made national news.  

However, this post isn't about that.  Instead, this post is about why no one should be surprised that a defendant would refuse to accept responsibility for its actions.  

As a lawyer that represents people that have been injured as a result of someone else's negligence or misconduct, I see defendants utilize this above strategy everyday in litigation.  

Blaming the victim has long been the strongest weapon in a defense attorney's arsenal.  And it matters not what kind of case it is.  Failure to diagnose breast cancer?  The patient should have sought out a second opinion when her first doctor told her she was cancer free.  Rear-end car wreck?  Injured driver had a pre-existing condition that is unrelated to the accident.  No matter what the kind of case, the defendant always seeks to shift responsibility to the injured party.  Without fail.

And it works.  If you don't believe me, all you have to do is read any of the comments to any online newspaper article and you will see post after post blaming the victim instead of the wrongdoer (most recently in the Louisville Zoo lawsuit they blame the victims and their lawyer, too).

I find this behavior inconsistent with the oft spoken mantra of tort reformers that we need more "personal responsibility."  It seems that what people really want is for innocent injured people to take responsibility for someone else's negligence.  How else can you justify blaming injured patients when their doctor makes a mistake?  You can't.  At least you can't do so and remain intellectually honest.  Tort Reform = Tort Deform

The simple fact of the matter is that deny, delay, defend and blame is business as usual for defendants in litigation, especially corporate defendants and insurance companies.  

Sorry, Bozich.  Sadly, that's just the way it is.  And not just for poor Max Gilpin's family, but for any person that gets injured and seeks justice.  

Hans