Tahlequah Daily Press


March 19, 2014

Mom responsible for watching kid; restaurant’s not

TAHLEQUAH — If you allowed your child to drink a bottle of drain cleaner, would you feign surprise when he fell to the floor, twitching and foaming at the mouth? If you left your curling iron within reach of your baby and she pulled it off the vanity and burned her hand, would you plan revenge on the store that sold you the appliance?

You just might, if you’re among the litigious Americans who have abdicated parental responsibility to either sloth or the hope of a better tomorrow through a cash settlement.

It happens every day, but after the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals ruled this week against her, a certain “Ms. Stone” should perhaps give some thought to keeping a more vigilant eye on her daughter, rather than grasping to enrich herself through legal action. A year or so ago, the woman sued Whataburger on behalf of her 7-year-old daughter, who spilled a Styrofoam bowl of hot gravy on her leg. The gravy came with a meal the family had picked up at the drive-through window.

“Ms. Stone” says her daughter incurred second-degree burns on her leg, and she did what about half the population in America does under similar circumstances: She sued. This case is reminiscent of the infamous flag involving McDonald’s, a hot cup of coffee, and a elderly woman who may have been somewhat clumsy. But there’s a difference: In the latter case, the courts determined the coffee was, indeed, being served at too high a temperature.

The latest case has continued to wend its way through the legal system, but as it stands, the court says the gravy wasn’t unreasonably hot. And the key finding was this: The family has eaten that meal “many times,” and thus should have “known or expected the gravy to burn if spilled.”

Many health-minded folks would argue Ms. Stone isn’t doing her daughter any favors if her sustenance of choice “many times” is fast food. Others might question the wisdom of giving a 7-year-old a bowl of hot gravy in a moving vehicle, rather than going inside the restaurant to eat, or at least making the child wait until she got to her destination before eagerly cracking open the container of warm liquid.

Far be it from us to uphold the virtues of the fast food industry. Anyone who still considers such fare nutritious must have recently emerged from a cave in a remote desert. But we in this country are supposed to be about choice, as well as personal responsibility. When we make bad choices, we should be willing to pay the price.

If you get fat because you’ve eaten too many Whataburgers, that’s your own fault, not the company’s. If you slop hot gravy onto your crotch, your carelessness is most likely to blame. And if you try to lay the guilt on someone else by filing a frivolous lawsuit, all you’re doing is hurting employees subsisting on the modest wages the restaurant pays, or other customers down the line who may have to pay a few cents more for their triple-deck burgers. It’s a sure bet the CEO, board of directors or stockholders will pass any financial hickey on down the line.

There was a winner in this case, as there is in every one like it: the battery of lawyers lined up on both sides with their hands out. You can be sure they got far more than gravy for their troubles. And that really isn’t justice. One of these days, we’ll wise up.

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  • Tourism Council and chamber should cut the proverbial cord

    They are defined by two separate purposes and operate under two distinctive sets of bylaws, but years of conflicting opinions have left lingering questions and confusion over the relationship between the decades-old Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce and the younger Tahlequah Area Tourism Council.

    July 30, 2014

  • NSU needs to be more candid when its plans go awry

    Many area residents were disappointed to learn this week that the NSU Fitness Center, and its all-important indoor lap pool, won’t open next month, as originally announced.
    This latest delay is no surprise.

    July 28, 2014

  • Higher premiums a just reward for drunken drivers

    Over the past several years, Oklahoma has slipped in many of the polls that count. This week, we learned Tulsa is No. 4 on a list of cities with high rates of fatal DUI accidents. Is anyone really surprised?

    July 25, 2014

  • Maybe it’s time to think about having another BalloonFest

    The 18th annual BalloonFest was the last one held, in 2010. In summer 2011, when the Daily Press staff hadn’t heard anything about the much-anticipated event, we started asking questions.

    July 23, 2014

  • If you see a drunken driver, take the time to call in a report

    If you see something, say something. You’ve heard the warning, and seen it imprinted on placards at airports. In the wake of 9/11, it became a national mantra, mainly aimed at spotting potential terrorist activities. But it’s good advice anytime, and for any reason, even at the local level.

    July 14, 2014

  • City officials should stop squabbling and try to work together

    It’s bad enough that the Chamber of Commerce scandal has given Tahlequah a black eye. But if the bickering among city officials doesn’t stop, the community will have a complete set of shiners for its public face.

    July 11, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    Despite pressure from some quarters, neither the Press nor anyone else who values full disclosure will be clamming up until all the facts are known, and those who are responsible meet with justice.

    July 10, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    A few board members for the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce are saying they’ve heard nothing but positive things lately – about the chamber itself, and presumably, about themselves.

    July 9, 2014

  • Employer-sponsored insurance may now be a ‘hostage’ situation

    When the fallout settles from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, many Americans might decide they’re better off with health insurance that doesn’t come from their boss.

    July 7, 2014

  • With confidence in Congress at 7 percent, time for a new slate

    Note to Congress: We don’t like you. Not at all.
    A Gallup poll released Monday, June 30 confirmed what most of us already know: the American public is disgusted with the House and Senate. The survey recorded the lowest level of confidence since Gallup began asking the question in 1991: a whopping 7 percent. That’s not a typographical error; it’s a single digit.

    July 2, 2014


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