Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Stella Awards (dumbest lawsuit awards in the USA this year)

It's time again for the annual 'Stella Awards'! For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald's in New Mexico where she purchased the coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Here are the Stella's for the past year:

7TH PLACE : Kathleen Robertson of Austin , Texas was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son.

6TH PLACE: Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles , California won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps. Go ahead, grab your head scratcher.

5TH PLACE: Terrence Dickson, of Bristol , Pennsylvania , who was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. Worse, he couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for eight, count 'em, EIGHT, days on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner's insurance company claiming undue mental anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this kind of anguish. Keep scratching. There are more...

4TH PLACE : Jerry Williams, of Little Rock , Arkansas , garnered 4th Place in the Stella's when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbor's beagle - even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun. Grrrrr. Scratch, scratch.

3RD PLACE: Amber Carson of Lancaster , Pennsylvania because a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tail bone The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument. Whatever happened to people being responsible for their own actions? Scratch, scratch, scratch. Hang in there; there are only two more Stellas to go...

2ND PLACE: Kara Walton, of Claymont , Delaware sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000....oh, yeah, plus dental expenses. Go figure.

1ST PLACE : (May I have a fanfare played on 50 kazoos please) This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City , Oklahoma , who purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her, are you sitting down, $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home. Are we, as a society, getting more stupid...? Ya think??!! More than a few of our judge's elevators don't go to the top floor either!
editor's note: For something related, visit The Death of Common Sense a great little article that makes way too much sense for the world today.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What is Marriage?

I am conflicted when it comes to marriage these days. I must confess to being somewhat bewildered and not finding easy answers. I am told that if I do not support gay marriage then I am either a bigot or a neanderthal or both. That is not a fun thought to dwell upon.

My general tolerance and respect for all individuals leads me to want to support marriage regardless of gender these days, but I am troubled by certain questions.

Center in my mind is the question, "What is Marriage?" followed closely by "How do we best support unions between people that maximize the benefits to the society as a whole?" Finally, what is appropriate for the State to support that both respects our religious traditions and respects evolving technology and culture?

How do we best support unions between people that maximize the benefits to the society as a whole?

I begin in the middle. As a society, we have built one of the principle foundations of our society around the notion of "Family Law". In fact much of our legal codes center around "Marriage and Family" Law. Historically we have passed legislation with the intent of supporting the family structure as foundational to a vibrant, healthy society. In Paul Smith's excellent piece entitled, Traditional Marriage is Best for Rearing Children, Mr. Smith lays out several excellent studies that support the position that children are most likely best served in a home where there is a biological mother and father married to each other.

An excerpt from his Blog entry is as follows: Studies also provide direct evidence that traditional marriage relationships are better for the rearing of children than either single-parents or cohabiting adults, including same-sex couples. Dr. A. Dean Byrd states that “Mothers and fathers contribute in gender-specific and in gender-complementary ways to the healthy development of children. In support of this, Dr. Byrd referred to the following summary of Child Trends research:Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage…. There is thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents.

Now I have heard the arguments that a child would be better off with two loving people of the same gender than in a family where the couple were abusive to each other. While that may be true, it would also be true that a child raised by loving grandparents would be better off than in a family where one of the parents was an alcoholic and missing most of the time. Nonetheless, our society has codified a system that supports traditional parents over other forms of parenting because, generally speaking, it is what is best for the children. Society is well served by this position.

What is Marriage?

Our society has a long tradition of denying marriage to certain unions regardless of how they feel toward one another. I love my sisters absolutely. Nothing the state can do or not do would have an impact of the degree of love that I have for each of them. Still, it is appropriate that the state not confer the option of marriage on our relationship, regardless of our desires for each other (and to be clear here, NO, I do not have inappropriate desires for either of my sisters, yuck!). Still, there is a legitimate health concern here. Marriages between brothers and sisters (or even cousins) are prohibited because any children that might be produced would be at a very high risk of genetic issues that would impact their lives. Now some would say that this is not an issue in a same gender relationship because there is no possibility of children. That is true, but the point here is that there is a societal standard for prohibiting certain relationships from being conferred marital status.

So, this gets to the heart of my question; "What is Marriage". If you take the position that marriage should be between any two loving people, my question becomes.... OK, then why not a brother and sister? or how about a mother and son? a father and a daughter? Why just two? Why not a woman and three men? Three men and two women? What is the justification for having it be "two people" and how do we then continue to deny marital status to the other examples I just stated.

One argument I have heard that supports same sex marriage is that a person can not help themselves in their sexual orientation and therefore they should be entitled to marry the person of their choosing. OK, by this logic, anyone, who is born with any orientation that is non-traditional should be allowed to marry consistent with their orientation, whatever that is. The problem here is that this opens up Marriage as to be so poorly defined that it becomes meaningless as a distinction and unworthy of support by society and the state.

I want to be clear here. I am willing to be tolerant of any two or more people choosing to engage in whatever relationship behavior they want, especially in privacy. While I do not condone or knowingly encourage it, I am willing to be respectful of those individuals in their behavioral choices so long as it does not infringe or harm me or my family. I further want to be clear that I will not tolerate others being disrespectful to them as human beings or discriminating against them in a workplace environment.

Nonetheless, I say that our goal here should be to reserve marriage for those relationships that best support a family structure that benefits society as a whole. For me, a traditional marriage between one man and one woman, provides the best structure to benefit society. As such, it should remain the societal standard for "What is a Marriage".

My final argument is one that my son offered several years ago when I was engaged in a spirited discussion about this subject with a family member. After much heated conversation, my son stated his concern "OK in a gay marriage who gets to go to the bachelor party?" There is some wisdom here.

I invite your comments back.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Career Announcement


I am pleased to inform you that I have accepted a new position within AT&T. I will be working within the Business Sales Operations group. Specifically our focus will be to support sales leaders who support direct sellers and their team leadership. In support of their Sales Leadership Development, I will be working to develop a "Coaching Web Community" on an internal website that is designed to encourage excellence in sales management. This will trade on my experience in sales management and developing cutting edge applications that serve the needs of these leaders of people.

The mission of our organization is to help realize the vision of an AT&T that is The "World Class" sales organization with the greatest respect in this global economy.

This opportunity is one I am truly excited about and am already engaged in supporting.

This role allows for me to remain here in northern Virginia. My wife and I will continue to make our residence in Alexandria, VA.

Thank you for your support and encouragement.