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Threat of needless lawsuit trumps courtesy
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Forsyth County News

A few months ago we were out running errands and I remembered I needed olive oil. We went to my favorite warehouse store to pick up a bottle.

It almost never happens that I only need one item from the store, but that was the case. We thought it would be a quick stop and it was — sort of. But one incident really made it no ordinary shopping experience.

We used the self-checkout and were walking toward the exit when my flip flop hit a small puddle of water on the shiny, cement floor.

It all happened so fast. My feet flew right out from under me, the bottle of olive oil went sailing and then busted all over the floor. 

You can imagine where I went. Right down on my backside with a loud thump. I was stunned.

Paul, who didn’t realize what had happened, came running and asked if I was OK and could get up. It did hurt, and I knew there would be a sizeable bruise, but I could tell nothing was broken. With his help, I got up just fine.

Now here’s the kicker and the point to this story.

Not one person, customer or employee came anywhere near us. Not one. It was as if I was the invisible, clumsy lady on the floor who nobody wanted to acknowledge.

Thankfully, I was fine. As I got up and oriented, I noticed a woman with a mop and a bucket about to clean up the olive oil and broken glass.

Still nobody looked our way. Not that I think people should have been fawning over me, but really?

Paul went and got another bottle of olive oil, since nobody offered to do so. I stood there waiting, feeling awkward.

When he got the bottle, we just left, wondering why nobody had looked in our direction. I thought about reporting rudeness, but really just wanted to get out of there.

I was telling one of my friends about the whole thing and she said it was probably because they were afraid I would sue the store. What?

My friend works for one of those ambulance-chasing lawyers, so she has much more knowledge about lawsuits than the average person. She said she sees many lawsuits that are far less “believable” than what happened to me.

Could that really be the reason nobody wanted to check on me? Is that part of the training in retail establishments now?

The optimist in me just hates to believe that. I did a little research and learned that a lawsuit is filed every two seconds. That means about 15 million lawsuits are filed every year. Wow.

Do you remember back in the early 1990s when a woman sued McDonald’s because she spilled hot coffee on her lap and said it was too hot? Most of us thought that was ridiculous, thinking of course that coffee should be hot.

Then the other day I saw on the news, there is another lady who is suing McDonald’s because she says the drive-through attendant handed her hot coffee without the lid on properly, and it spilled on her lap, burning her. Interestingly, she also alleges that nobody paid her any attention when she cried out for help.

While I can’t relate to her complaint about blaming someone else for spilling hot coffee on her lap, I can understand feeling dismayed when nobody acknowledges an accident — regardless of who may be at fault.

I can solve this problem of “over-suing” really fast. How? Tort reform. Make the person who is suing have some sort of skin in the game. If the plaintiff loses, he or she should have to pay for all of those legal fees the other side accrued.

That may be a little too simplistic, but I’m guessing that would deter numerous frivolous lawsuits.

In the meantime, to all of those employees who didn’t bother checking on me to see if I was OK, I’m going to blame that on your upbringing. After all, manners are manners.


Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at