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Opinion column: Common sense

Posted: Wednesday, Oct 23rd, 2013

A story made national news back in November 2012 due to the shocking nature of the event. You may remember hearing about it. Headlines read something like, “2-year-old mauled to death by African wild dogs.”

Ringing any bells? If not, here’s a refresher. Mother and 2-year-old son visit the Pittsburgh Zoo in Pennsylvania. They get to the wild dog enclosure, where visitors stand up above the dogs, looking down into the large pen.

A wooden, 4-foot railing surrounds the viewing area above and around the enclosure, and it’s built so that the top angled back toward the visitors. In other words, if a child was to jump up onto the railing, he or she would slide back to a parent or guardian.

On this particular day, the mother picked up her young son and held him over the railing to get a better look at the carnivorous pack animals. She then promptly dropped him, where he was ripped apart and eventually died.

Violent, sure, and terrifying for all of those at the zoo that day. The prosecuting attorney in that county chose not to file charges against any party, calling the entire event a “tragic accident.”

The story should’ve ended there, but it didn’t. The family of the deceased 2-year-old decided it was the zoo’s fault the child died and recently filed a lawsuit against the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

As one redneck comedian likes to say, “You can’t fix stupid.”

In a world where common sense seems to be getting less and less common, this is just the latest example of a group of greedy morons trying to capitalize on their own stupidity.

Back in 1992, a woman famously sued McDonald’s when she spilled hot coffee into her lap. A year or two later, a jury awarded $2.7 million in compensatory and punitive damages. For full disclosure, the woman took home closer to $600,000, but the point remains.

Also in 1992, a woman with a blood alcohol content of 0.17 backed her Honda Civic into Galveston Bay in Texas at about 2 a.m. Her passenger swam to safety, but the impaired woman did not and drowned. A jury, too, originally awarded her damages.

Since that time, frivolous lawsuits have become the norm, ranging from the ridiculous to the hilarious. Really, though, the court system isn’t the issue. It’s all about accountability.

Let’s look at the mom at the zoo. She justified her actions by saying her son had vision problems, so she wanted to get him closer to the animals. She picked him up and held him over the railing, and then dropped him!

Yet, the lawsuit claims the zoo is at fault because employees had seen other parents doing the same thing in the past. Unbelievable! So every time an idiot walks into the zoo, they should change every policy. At least the previous people were smart enough not to drop the kid into the actual pen filled with wild dogs.

But I digress. If there is a point to this little write-up, it would be two-fold. The first is that our world is really losing its sense of accountability and common sense. We consistently tend to blame other people when we mess up. Nowadays, every kid is taught from birth that they’re special and can do no wrong.

Sorry to pop the balloons, but it’s not true. We all mess up, and when we do, sometimes we just have to say, “My bad”, apologize and move on, NOT sue someone or blame your neighbor.

The second part would be how grateful I am to be in Wyoming. If there was ever a place where common sense still rules the day, it’s this state. I’m sure there have been frivolous lawsuits around here, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who would rather blame someone else for their problems, but, by and large, in my experience, this is a state filled with people who can still call a spade a spade.

As a sidenote, the Pittsburgh Zoo transferred the wild dogs following the accident. All things considered, maybe the zoo over in Scottsbluff or one in Wyoming can find a more permanent home for them.

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