[OT] Lawsuits vs. sales (was Re: Lethal computers? (was: Goodwill Computerworks Museum is open)

From: Eric Smith <eric_at_brouhaha.com>
Date: Tue Aug 22 19:29:13 2000

Marvin <marvin_at_rain.org> wrote:
> 3) hot coffee sold more coffee,
> 4) the corporation decided that the additional coffee sales
> were worth the risk of a lawsuit.

People always seem to think that reasoning like this is bad, and that
safety should always come first. But everything in life is a tradeoff.
I'm all in favor of corporations (and everyone else) being held liable
for actual damages. But I don't believe that insanely high punitive
damages should be awarded just because the jury doesn't like the
tradeoff. When you sell millions of cups of hot coffee a day, there's
literally NO way to prevent a few people from being burned. I don't
see how that makes McDonalds negligent, even if there WERE some prior
complaints about it.

When the Challenger blew up, some people criticized NASA for having
dropped plans for an emergency escape system that might have saved the
astronauts in an accident on the launch pad (but not in the actual
Challenger disaster). NASA had dropped those particular plans because
the escape system would have cost about 40 million dollars, and added
substantial weight to the shuttle, reducing its cargo capacity. The
critics claimed that NASA should install every conceivable safety system
no matter the cost. The end result of such reasoning is that the Space
Shuttle would never get built.

Applied on a larger scale, that reasoning would cause many common things
we use everyday to be unavailable, such as automobiles.
Received on Tue Aug 22 2000 - 19:29:13 BST

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