Quotulatiousness

February 4, 2013

A legal spectre is haunting the NFL

Filed under: Football, Health, Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:12

In the wake of a vastly entertaining SuperBowl contest between the “San Francisco 50-1′ers”* and the “Baltimore Black Birds”*, Steve Chapman outlines the possibility that we won’t see too many more SuperBowl games:

Professional football is the most popular spectator sport in America, which is one reason yesterday’s Super Bowl was expected to draw 110 million viewers. With its famous athletes, storied franchises, and lucrative TV contracts, it’s an industry whose future appears limitless.

But football has a problem: the specter of mass brain damage among current and former players. So far, the steady trickle of disturbing revelations has had no apparent effect on ticket sales or TV ratings. What it has done, though, is more ominous: It has invited lawsuits.

If football falls into decline, it may not be the result of fans turning away, athletes avoiding it, or parents forbidding it. It may be from lawyers representing players who sustained chronic traumatic encephalopathy and expect to be compensated for the damage.

[. . .]

Walter Olson, a Cato Institute fellow, blogger (Overlawyered.com), and author of several books on liability, knows well how a tide of litigation can transform a landscape. And he has a bold prediction: “If we were to apply the same legal principles to football as we do to other industries, it would have to become extremely different, if not go out of business.”

“Seriously?” you may ask. A guy who made a good living engaging in high-speed collisions with 300-lb. blocks of granite can say he didn’t understand the risks involved? It may seem that case will be laughed out of court.

But Olson thinks not. “Courts have not been very friendly to this argument, particularly when something as grave as permanent brain damage is involved,” he told me. And it’s become apparent that while players were aware of the possibility of mangled knees, broken bones, and concussions, they didn’t grasp that repeated blows to the head could produce debilitating and irreversible mental harms.

* See the Samsung commercial in this post for explanation of the team names.

October 3, 2010

Personal responsibility is key

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Europe, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:41

A post at The Economist looks at the ongoing debate on liberal/libertarian joint concerns:

My colleague noted the other day the discussion Matthew Yglesias has been having with his readers over whether liberals and libertarians can agree on some regulations they both hate. So, here’s a regulation I hate: you’re not allowed to swim across the lake anymore in Massachusetts state parks. You have to stay inside the dinky little waist-deep swimming areas, with their bobbing lines of white buoys. There you are, under a deep blue New England summer sky, the lake laid out like a mirror in front of you and the rocks on the far shore gleaming under a bristling comb of red pine; you plunge in, strike out across the water, and tweet! A parks official blows his whistle and shouts after you. “Sir! Sir! Get back inside the swimming area!” What is this, summer camp? Henry David Thoreau never had to put up with this. It offends the dignity of man and nature. You want to shout, with Andy Samberg: “I’m an adult!

I would gladly join any movement that promised to do away with this sort of nonsense. For example, Philip K. Howard’s organisation “Common Good” works on precisely this agenda. Common Good’s very bugaboo is useless, wasteful legal interference in schools, health care, recreation, and so on. But what you quickly note with many of these issues is that they’re driven by legal liability concerns. You have a snowblader in Colorado suing a resort because she crashed into someone. You have states declining to put up road-hazard signs because the signs prove they knew the hazard was there, which could render them liable for damages. You have the war on children’s playgrounds. The Massachusetts swimming ban, too, is driven by liability concerns. The park officials in Massachusetts aren’t really trying to minimise the risk that you might drown. They’re trying to minimise the risk that you might sue. The problem here, as Mr Howard says, isn’t simply over-regulation as such. It’s a culture of litigiousness and a refusal to accept personal responsibility. When some of the public behave like children, we all get a nanny state.

As Robert Heinlein put it, “The whole principle is wrong; it’s like demanding that grown men live on skimmed milk because the baby can’t eat steak.”

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