September 5, 1997


Image of today's outrage

What comes over an American when he or she enters a jury box?

The normally sane Jane or Joe shops at Kmart to save a few bucks, and contributes $15, but not $20, to the local United Way campaign. But when this normally prudent, frugal person sits on a jury they take on a whole new persona.

Here at The Outrage we call it the “Avenger Persona.” Jane or Joe American has known some injustice in their lives. Perhaps they were cut from the high school basketball team or cheerleading squad. Perhaps they didn’t get the promotion they most recently desired. Maybe their favorite stock just took a nosedive. Or they’re just mad at their kids. But, for whatever reason, they’re looking to punish someone. They get their big chance when they walk into the jury box.

Did it all begin with the movie “The Verdict?” You may remember Paul Newman playing a sleazy lawyer who hits the comeback trail by winning a huge judgment. His target was an overworked doctor who had made an innocent mistake. This movie may have contributed to the feeling among American jurors that if they make a huge award to a plaintiff they’re real heroes.

The avenger juries have been hard at work recently. In Illinois they just awarded almost a million dollars to four Hardee’s restaurant cashiers who were forced to take off some clothing as part of a search for stolen money.

Perhaps the two female Hardee’s managers who searched the four employees were wrong. Perhaps they owed an apology to the cashiers. Maybe the managers should be punished, and the employees compensated to some degree. But is it really necessary to pay huge sums of money to anyone who has been subjected to some injustice?

Lets do some math. We would guess that these cashiers were making six or seven dollars an hour; maybe less. Even at seven dollars an hour the jury award of $225,475 to each cashier is equal to a salary for working 32,000 hours. In other words, these women would have to work as cashiers for over 16 years to make as much money as they will make for having to take off some clothes.

Was it really necessary to pay former Navy aviator Paula Coughlin $5 million because she was groped and called nasty names by other officers?

And if these are legitimate levels of compensation, how much will Haitian immigrant Abner Louima be paid for what really is terrible injustice? A hundred million dollars?

How much longer will people work hard at productive work when it’s so much more profitable to be a victim?

(Source: CNN.)

© Copyright 1996-98, The Outrage is produced by Athens New Media. All rights reserved.

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