A GENERATION ago, the story of a young man successfully suingan amusement park for a drunken accident on a ride wouldhave belonged to the realm of fantasy.
But in 21st century Australia, where personal responsibility is being redefined by greedy litigants and opportunistic lawyers, it takes a lotto shock.
We’ve heard them all: cigarette smoker slapping a lawsuit on atobacco company; morbidly obese woman suing a fast food outlet for “allowing” her to eat there; even aman suing Apple for his porn addiction.
They are, of course, all patently absurd propositions to anyfair-minded person. But not to ourlegal system.
The extraordinary $4.6 millionpayout to former UNE student Benjamin Ackland last week again highlights the yawning chasmbetween the community’s definitionof personal responsibility and the court’s.
Mr Ackland and a group of uni mates were boozing at Green Valley Farm in October 2009 when they decided to ignore warnings from managementand skylark on the “jumping pillow” ride.
The tragic event that followedwould leave Mr Ackland a quadriplegic.
Almost five years later and he has been awarded $4.6 million by the ACT Supreme Court, which found Green Valley Farm failed in its duty of care.
This despite the fact Mr Acklandwas intoxicated at the time of the accident, expressly warned not to use the equipment and performed a highly risky manoeuvre.
It begs the question, how could he possibly have been any more irresponsible?
Mr Ackland’s life has beenprofoundly changed by the accident and he deserves both sympathy and support.
But there are other victims too, and not just the business affected.
The legal system is being bastardised by the mindset that just because somebody is injured, there must be financial damages in it for the victim.
Such lawsuits take a collective toll on our society and our economy.
And until we resolve to make lawsuits a last resort, rather than a first reaction, we will keep sinking into the same cesspit.
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