It seems everywhere you look today someone is protesting being held accountable. Lobbyists are crawling all over Washington enticing our government representatives to pass laws creating immunity against liability. You might want to know what immunity against liability is all about. Well, it’s about someone getting a get out of jail free card against any wrongdoing they might do. Another way of looking this is it’s a category of people asking for the right not to be held accountable if in the future they do something wrong. For a list of those asking for freedom from responsibility follow these links: Texas, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a national well orchestrated clearinghouse, and even lawyers are lobbying for their clients to get a free-get-out-of-jail card. It’s all very shameful and discouraging to well behaved and well intentioned citizens.
And that was my point with yesterday’s and today’s posts about school safety and the responsibilities of students and teachers. Students can’t look to teachers and say it’s all your fault, nor teachers to students. Administrators can’t put full blame on either of those two. What makes America work is that everyone has a certain responsibility to society. Even jurors have a responsibility. That doesn’t mean jurors get to turn everyone away from the courthouse without compensation by saying that’s just the way it is, why should the Plaintiff get money? Doing so is just another way of giving the wrongdoer immunity from responsibility.
If you want to know what I’m talking about consider this. What if your teenage son approached you just before heading out with the family car on a Friday night and asked this question; “Mom and Dad, before I leave the house I’d like you to tell me it’s alright if I don’t make curfew, smash up the car, drink even though I’m underage, give liquor to all of my underage friends and use your credit card.” Would you do it? Would you agree to allow him freedom from being held accountable?
Of course you wouldn’t and as parents we all know why. If we did this otherwise good son would see no boundaries to what he could do with his friends. He’d allow himself to be led astray. He’d do everything he wanted to do even though he knew it wasn’t the right thing to do. We all need boundaries. We all need that line in the sand we just don’t cross. We all need to know even if we disagree, that the boundaries are there for a reason and if we cross them we will get in trouble; we will be held accountable.
That’s what duty is about in a tort. A duty is the first necessary element that needs to be proven. Duty is the line in the sand that we weren’t supposed to breach and if we did we are to be held accountable.
And that is what these two posts are able. It’s about being held accountable for crossing the line in the sand. I’m not picking on teachers and students. Trust me I could write a similar post for lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, nurses, clerks and judges. My point is that just ignoring the do’s and don’ts that make up our responsibility in the lab won’t change the rules; that line in the sand will still be there and if we, you, breach it you will likely be held responsible. So today when you look at the teacher’s responsibilities don’t forget to go back and review the student’s responsibilities because those are equally important. And each has a duty to each other and to other students that may be injured when either crosses that line in the sand.
As a lawyer, a parent and a citizen I support bright line responsibilities rather than granting people a free pass to be irresponsible. I don’t support tort reform that grants blanket immunity to corporate America because it weakens our system and the American way of life. I can’t understand why I should support corporate freedom from responsibilities while working people continue to do the right thing and follow the rules? America will remain strong so long as everyone has lines in the sand and they are held accountable. Special interests support special rights for a select few. That is wrong for one and for all of us.