Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Greedy Bastards

As a general rule I try not to blindly vote along party lines. I vote for the candidate I like regardless of whether they're Democrat or Republican. That said, I'm usually more Democrat than Republican, and that's how I'm registered. But on this issue? Mr. Chick is calling me out as a flaming Republican. I guess my attitude about personal responsibility is a conservative one. Meaning, people should HAVE personal responsibility. Let me explain.

I'm talking about Big Tobacco. Recently in my state, a huge judgement against Phillip Morris was upheld to the tune of $80 million (MILLION!) in punative damages. The family of the guy that died of lung cancer sued back in 1999 and the settlement has been continuously appealed and bounced back and forth since then. Last week, the Oregon Supreme Court upheld the judgement. Does this seem ridiculous to anyone else??! $80 million for the family of a guy who was a long-time smoker? Granted, 60% of that money will be put into a fund for crime victims compensation fund, but still - ! I think it's wrong for families of people who willingly engaged in a harmful activity, like smoking, to sue for damages like this. Like the person didn't know they were doing something harmful to their health. That's total bullshit right there. And if my opinion makes me a Republican, fine. I can live with that.

Mr. Chick and I were talking about this and he brought up some good points. He pointed out that $80 million is a tiny fraction of the revenues of Philip Morris and how else are you supposed to "hurt" a big company like that if not financially? That's how it's done. I agree that if a company does something egregious, then they should be "punished", hence punitive damages. But - BUT - in the case of smoking I simply cannot believe that someone can be a life-long smoker and now know it's harmful. Sure, I might buy that when you started smoking in your youth, back in the day, you might not have known that smoking was bad for you. That the tobacco companies might have even touted smoking as not harmful at all. Go ahead - light up! It won't kill you. But there is no way in hell that you can live in society for the past 20 years and not know that things have changed and know that smoking does, in fact, cause cancer or at the very least put you at risk. Why not quit at that point? I know quitting is hard, but c'mon - ! Why keep up your pack-a-day habit and then sue for fat money? Don't you, as the smoker, have a duty to mitigate your damages?

Mr. Chick then pointed out the asbestos litigation. Didn't I agree that the asbestos manufacturers should be held accountable for manufacturing a product that caused so much harm to the people who used it all those years? And my answer? Yes, they should be held accountable. Even though they didn't know in the beginning that asbestos was bad for you - the companies didn't knowingly set out to make a harmful product - they should be held accountable for the product they made and what it did to people. The difference between that and tobacco, in my opinion? People came in contact with asbestos through their employment or in their homes - innocently. They didn't go out and make themselves a fat asbestos sandwish and eat them everyday even after knowing it would hurt you. They didn't CHOOSE to come into contact with asbestos. It's all about personal responsibility.

Then the topic of alcohol come into the discussion. As far as I know - and I may be wrong here - but there haven't been big-ass lawsuits against Jack Daniels for making a product that causes (or contributes to) alcoholism and liver disease and DUII's. Yes, we go after the bartender who served the alcohol to already intoxicated individuals, but no one seems to be going after the manufacturers like we do with tobacco. What's the difference? Alcohol is promoted favorably in society. Sexy, cool, fun, and tasty. It has an age limit the way tobacco does. People get addicted to it (rehab, anyone?) the way they do to tobacco. But somehow alcohol manufacturers remain unscathed. I don't get it. Any why isn't Ford Motor Company sued because they make cars that kill people. People die in auto accidents everyday, but no one is going after GM. It's the operator error. I think it's the same principle with tobacco. Operator error. Smokers make a choice and it's the choice that kills them.

My parents both smoked when I was a kid. I'm not quite sure how many cigarettes a day they smoked, but it might have been close to a pack-a-day. My mom smoked Parliaments, my dad smoked Marlboro's. I remember my mom smoking the "blue" packs and dad was "red". It was common for a haze of smoke to hover over the kitchen table after dinner every night. Thankfully, none of us sisters ever smoked and my mom quit 10 years ago (she underwent hypnosis to quit). My dad has tried quitting many times, but it never seems to take for very long. He's under-the-radar with his smoking and I never can tell if he's quit or if he still smokes. He never smells like cigarettes and I never see him light up, yet my mother tells me he still smokes every now and then. I wish he would quit once and for all. But, even if he doesn't I would NEVER sue the Marlboro Man for millions of dollars because they killed my dad, because HE KNOWS THEY ARE HARMFUL AND YET HE SMOKES ANYWAY. It's his choice. It's not their fault that he chooses to smoke and take that risk. Back when he started smoking, in the early 1960's, he might not have known how harmful it is, or how addictive it is - on purpose addictive. He might even have believed a line fed to him by the tobacco companies that smoking is OK for you. But he sure as shit doesn't believe that now, and yet he willingly continues to smoke. And I don't think there is any way to truly determine WHEN someone did the damage that led to the cancer. Like if someone started smoking in the 1940's certain they weren't endangering themselves based on the positive promotion of the tobacco companies. But then quit 5 years later and never smoked again for the next 60 years but died of lung cancer anyway. Can you really prove that the person got the lung cancer from the few years of smoking they did 60 years ago? I'm not sure you can. And in the case of the Oregon guy who's family sued and was awarded $80 million, he was smoking up until the day he died, I believe. And yet his death is somehow the fault of the tobacco company? I think not.

I get so pissed off when I read about this type of thing. Yes, companies who knowingly produce and promote a harmful product should be held accountable for their product. But where does personal responsibility come in? No one is holding a gun to a smoker's head and forcing them to light up. They're doing that themselves. I agree, decades ago it was a different story, but if the "victim" has continued to smoke, even after knowing the risks, aren't they at fault, too? Don't they have some culpability here? They didn't quit and try to improve their health and reduce their chances of cancer. I think the families of these people are greedy bastards, plain and simple. Hiding under the premise that something needs to be done to protect the public from the big bad tobacco companies and that they need to send a strong message of financial pain to the tobacco companies is crap. You want to hurt the tobacco companies? STOP BUYING THEIR PRODUCT!

It's really that simple.

I loved the fat asbestos sandwich comment! Loved it.

And I wholeheartedly agree with you. It seems the American society today has morphed into a bunch of sheep who are unable to make decisions for themselves or be accountable for their own well-being. Come on! It's absolutely crazy. It would be like the man who has a heart attack to sue Hostess because he ate too many twinkies..... Absolutely ridiculous.

Sooooooooo true and I couldn't agree more!
And people wonder why no one can afford insurance anymore.......

What about the lawsuit against McD's for the idiot who put coffee between their legs and then sued McD's when the coffee spilled and burned their crotch? I actually fault the judges who allow these idiotic cases to stand in court. My brother is a cop and my stepfather is a lawyer. I fear I am a little judgemental about people who do stupid things and then won't take responsibility for their own actions. I can't stand it!!!!
Oh, that is EXACTLY how I feel. Kudos for saying it like it is!

And my mom died from breast cancer that was misdiagnosed. If caught originally she might be here now. HOWEVER, her doctor apologized and took wait, how do I say this, RESPONSIBILITY for his actions. That's all we ever wanted. AND we didn't ASK for an apology; he felt it necessary to make one. Personal responsibility. Besides, what the hell is sueing someone going to do for you? Decades in court? Yah, fun! No thanks! Millions? I'd rather have my soul.
AMEN! I agree with you 100%! So many silly and stupid lawsuits out there.
You know that Eagles song "Get Over It." I swear that's an ode to society today! I hate how litigious we've become -- so that eventuallyw e'll all live in padded cells so nobody hurts themselves and sues!

Jenn, I love that Eagles song! I was just thinking the other day of how I could shorten it to a vanity plate and still be understood lol. I can't tell you how many times I say that to someone, including my daughter, a day.

Sorry to highjack your comments, MP!
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