Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Curse of The UpScale Address

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published January 27, 2011] © 2011


Recently, the Curse of the Upscale Address struck again.  A friend was driving down Nautilus Street after dropping off her kids at the top of the hill when the ancient pickup truck in front of her inexplicably slammed on its brakes. She hit him. 

She jumped out of her SUV and ran to see if the other car’s driver was hurt.  Fortunately, he didn’t appear to be.  “Don’t worry,” he said, as he got out of the truck, “I’m not going to sue you.”  My friend found that comment – the first words out of the man’s mouth – oddly unreassuring.

She asked him why he had stopped so suddenly.  They were nowhere near a cross street or schools.  “Oh,” he says, “I meant to put my foot on the accelerator but I put it on the brake instead.” 

This sounds like a set-up to me, although as my friend points out, set up or not, she did, alas, run into him.  Still, it seems to me that he should at least be cited for a DWI (Driving While an Imbecile).

It was only days later that the injury claim was filed.  

I guess one of the costs of living here is being well insured so that you can pay off people who sue you because you live here.  In bad economic times like these, it seems to be a growth industry. 

In my nearly four decades in Lets Sue-Ya 92037, I’m afraid I’ve known waaaay too many cases like this.  In the most popular scenario, there’s a minor fender bender but the fendee suddenly finds himself in the deliriously happy circumstance of having been hit by a La Jolla zip code.  Although there wasn’t so much as a scratch on the either car, the victim is suddenly plagued by headaches, vision problems, back issues, and a neck in need of a brace.  His grunge band, he maintains, was about to hit the big time and now he can never work again.

The last time I was called for jury duty was just such a fender bender case.  I should mention I’ve been on jury duty eleven times.  That computer just loves my name.  Or maybe, since I went back to my maiden name after my divorce and then changed it again when I re-married, it thinks of me as fresh meat each time. 

I was seriously tempted to stay on this last jury just so I could be sure this young-20-something perfectly healthy looking creep (who appeared to be wearing a tie for the first time in his scraggly-haired life) wasn’t awarded a dime.  But it was also going to be three weeks out of my life (again) and in my heart, I know that you shouldn’t stay on a jury unless you can be open-minded and decide on the basis of the testimony.  When the judge read the long list of experts who would be testifying – a flakoid brigade of chiropractors, acupuncturists, new age-y vision therapists and a couple of holistic healers at least one of which was likely the plaintiff’s drug dealer – I was out of there.   SO been there, so done that.  Somebody else’s turn. 

My husband, Olof, is a little more philosophical about The Curse of the Upscale Address.  Frivolous lawsuits are just a fact of our society, he says.  It’s one of the prices we pay to live in this beautiful place.   But I do confess that I wish my friend who rear ended the guy on Nautilus had hit him a little harder.


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