Wrapping Things Up

Extra from the Final TSA Newsletter, Originally Published: 20 February 2008

We didn’t get through even half of our case backlog in 2007, but looking through those cases there’s pretty much no doubt that we would have ended up with the same winner. And what a winner he is, too.

So why didn’t we get through more case write-ups? Just too busy. When I started TSA in 2002 my main gig, the weird news weekly feature This is True, was doing well. Six years later it’s doing very well, and taking up most of my time.

Even with a couple of attorneys to help me write up the case reports, they’re busy too, and even the three of us can’t produce enough, even though there are plenty of eligible cases to be featured. But I just can’t keep it going.

The philosophy TSA has run under from the start: TSA represents no special interests, nor proponents of one-fix-does-it-all band-aids. The problem isn’t lawyers (though they’re a part of the problem), it isn’t judges (though they’re a part of the problem), it isn’t even just something-for-nothing plaintiffs (though they’re a part of the problem). It’s a systemic, societal problem that calls for a systemic, top-to-bottom solution— as I discuss in my book.

And that book says everything I wanted to say about the matter and (I think) does that well. So once that was published, there wasn’t a lot more to add and I lost my passion for the project.

Thank You to the 95,000+ people subscribed to the newsletter at the end. I know you are hungry for more information, more cases, more solutions, but someone else must now take the lead.

My 2022 Thoughts on the Project

The True Stella Awards were prompted by the urban legend “Stella Awards cases” that came first. My thought was that if there was truly a problem with frivolous lawsuits, and I thought there was, then why use fake cases to illustrate a real problem? I bet that I could come up with enough interesting, actual cases to not just sustain a newsletter, but fill a book. Boy was I right: I couldn’t possibly keep up with them all.

Just over two years ago I decided that I would return TSA’s cases to the web site. My contract with my book publisher, Dutton, a division of Penguin, didn’t require me to take the cases offline, but I did to make the book the true “archive.” The problem with that is, the book had a deadline, which means a lot of cases are not in there. They weren’t published anywhere; they weren’t accessible. They are now, and it took a lot more effort than I thought it would!

On the other hand, the book has a significant amount of material this site doesn’t have, most notably my conclusions and commentary about what needs to be done. That means the book is still a must-read for anyone who finds these cases of interest.

There are some differences in the cases published here and the book: the book went through an editing process, and I consider that editing to be Dutton’s. All these postings were created from the original newsletters, not the book, plus research to see if I could find what happened with each case. If you’ve never read it, the book is still available as an ebook (e.g., on Amazon *, and other places as well), which is the cheapest option, and from my shopping cart if you want an autographed hardcover.

Letters

The last letter to publish is from a 16-year-old who reminds us of what this is all about:

Matt in Connecticut: “I am a 16-year-old high school sophomore. I was introduced to the Stella Awards last summer when I found your book in a bookstore. I enjoy humorous trivia books, and that is why I bought it; I figured it would be a light-hearted, humor book. Thank goodness I was wrong! Your book has opened me to the problems with the American legal system. I want to do something to help the system get better, like what you are doing, but I have no idea how. Also, because I like trivia books, that is what my parents think your book is. They agree that the lawsuits are ‘dumb’, and I have told them to read it, but they haven’t yet. Another problem is that since I am so young, I don’t feel that I can have any sort of impact, even on my family. I truly want to help in some way, but I don’t feel that anyone will listen. I really appreciate what you are doing, and I hope that you can continue this for many more years. If you have any advice, I would really appreciate it.”

As a matter of fact, I do. First, you can’t force people to read. I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work. But you can become informed yourself, and you’re way ahead of other 16-year-olds already. At some point they’ll ask “How the HECK do you know about this stuff?” and then you can lay the book on them.

There was a story in the book (in the conclusion) about a reader who had a similar dilemma: he wondered what he could do about all of this. He said he had already talked two people out of filing frivolous suits, but felt powerless to create change. He didn’t realize that he was already practicing exactly what I’ve been preaching! If people don’t have common sense, and they’re willing to listen, talk to them. Help them see the other side: “Do you really want to sue an 81-year-old woman who depends on ‘Meals on Wheels’ when she did her best to clear her driveway? And you slipped because you were wearing slick shoes! Whose fault is that?!” goes a long way toward bringing rationality into the system.

“Sometimes the advice will be ‘Yeah: you were really wronged! I agree that if they don’t make it right, you should sue’,” I said in my book’s conclusion. “And that’s OK: that’s what the courts are there for.” — for righteous cases where the responsible party isn’t making good on their error, not ridiculous cases where people say “Hey! Maybe I can make a few thousand bucks!” even though they’re the one in the wrong. They need to see that what they’re doing is very wrong, and part of a huge problem. And you can be one of the people who tells them.

It’s called peer pressure, and that’s exactly what we need to fix this problem. As I put it in my book (last page): “Imagine expanding that to every reader of this book. Then expand it again, to every citizen with common sense. Imagine all of those people telling their political representatives that the system is broken, and we expect them to fix it — or we’ll elect someone who will. That is when things will really start to change. Effective reform of The People’s courts is necessarily up to us all.”

You’re “only” 16; you have plenty of time to make an impact if you simply keep at it. This is a big problem, and I’ve been working on it for five years just to make a dent; it’s too big to go away fast, but with enough pressure from enough people, it WILL go away.

[2022:] Matt is now around 30, and I hope he’ll send an update.

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8 Comments on “Wrapping Things Up

  1. The True Stella Awards have always been my favorite project of yours Randy. Thanks for bringing them back to life, even if only in reruns. I enjoyed each and every issue of the reissued Stellas.

    I have to take that back. True Stella Awards are my second favorite True project. My absolute favorite -– by a mile -– is your Longevity series.

    Glad you liked Stella. That was part of what was holding back the Longevity series, so I’m hoping to pick up the pace on those soon. A little rest first, though! -rc

    Reply
  2. I am a practicing attorney and there is a trifecta of problems, which you noted as the plaintiffs, the judges, and the lawyers. There are countless (really, you can’t count them) billboards across the US, all for PI lawyers. Someone is getting money from this. My work was divorce and family court, and while there are complaints about that field, it’s a lot less than the class action where the lawyers get $100 million and the victims get a buy-one, get-one coupon from Burger King, or a gift card for $20 to the very store that sold the useless products.

    I am also exhausted at reading about mothers who sue peanut butter companies because their child had a peanut allergy and they fed him a PB&J every day, not knowing it had peanuts. Some self-awareness and self-responsibility would help. Too many Youtube videos and not enough “i really need a pro to do this.” Blaming other people should go up there with “the check is in the mail” and “I really love you, we don’t need to use a condom.” (my field has too many women with babies who hate the guy and exclaim “i don’t want him around the baby. I hardly know him!”)

    The 16 year old can make a difference. He can become a lawyer and work from the inside. I do that. I have had clients BS a story to sue Walmart (the most sued Defendant in the US.) I have been on a jury for a damaged foot, allegedly from a picture falling on it from a rack), where we returned the verdict in 10 minutes (it would have been 5 but we wanted to be polite), verdict for the Defendant (store). My opinion is that many lawyers know a case is stupid but sue it anyway, for nuisance value. Get some money. And yes, they feel like shitheels but money is money….

    There are legitimate cases where real mistakes and negligence occurred and many people got hurt (Detroit and the lead in the water. Texas and the terrible, neglected electrical grid, causing a blackout.) Those people deserve real help. The system needs reform but trial lawyers are a powerful lobbying block. We have also powerful gun lobbys and farm lobbys, so I’m not laying the blame in one place. But plaintiffs don’t want a reasonable response, they want money. They were promised money from all those billboards. And why shouldn’t they get something? And we are back where we started.

    I appreciate your candid observations, Counselor. For anyone needing it, PI = Personal Injury attorney (lawyers who sue, often roping in “deep pockets” companies that may or may not have any moral culpability, to get an award or settlement after an injury of some sort). -rc

    Reply
  3. Thank you for *all* the work & effort you put into that project. I think I was a subscriber from the beginning & it was a GREAT experience.

    Thanks, Mike. -rc

    Reply

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