The need for tort reform doesn’t necessarily arise from headline-grabbing blockbuster verdicts but rather a “death by a thousand cuts” of many small suits of questionable merit. Example: A woman sues the party host after drinking and then attempting to get on his horse as part of the party festivities. She falls, suffers injuries and files suit against the host making general allegations of negligence, including, “providing … the opportunity to participate in the ‘inherently dangerous activity of horseback’ ”.
Does the host’s behavior rise to the level of negligence? And, if so how is the woman’s negligence less than his? He may have offered the alcohol; she drank it. He may have offered the horseback ride; she accepted. Have we reached the point in America that we need to have party goers sign waivers for private festivities? But since exculpatory agreements are generally frowned upon by the courts I think I’ll just stay home alone. A lot of fun that will be. (“Suit shows you shouldn’t drink and ride horses”, The West Virginia Record, Aug. 8).
Horse example number 2: Certified Massage Therapist Mercedes Clemens is suing two state agencies because her avocation is massaging horses but the state won’t let her (at least not for a fee) because she is only licensed to massage humans. And, for once it’s really not about the money because she’s not asking for it in her lawsuit, just the right to massage animals. It’s not as if Clemens is practicing pediatric anesthesiology for kicks. So who cares, really?
I suspect it’s the veterinary board or the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure (at the behest of its members) who fear Clemens and people like her will poach their clients. And, if the state would simply step out of the way in this instance it could avoid this lawsuit. (“Woman sues for right to massage horses”, MSNBC, Aug. 11 and “Rockville therapist sues state for right to massage animals”, Gazette.Net, Jul 2).