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Don't laugh, frivolous lawsuits are costing you about $3 a day
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Scott Anthony Gomez Jr. is suing Pueblo County in Colorado. Why? He contends the county made it too easy for him to escape from jail.

Gomez was captured two days after his first escape. That involved pushing up a ceiling tile, lifting himself into the ventilation system and escaping via the roof.

The second time he fell down the side of the 85-foot building when he slipped while trying to lower himself with bed sheets tied together.

His lawsuit contends the county should pay for his $64,000 in medical bills because the jail was to easy to escape from.

A lot of folks think it is hilarious.

But guess again. The joke is on us.

In the good old days lawyers with questionable scruples stuck to chasing ambulances. Now all they have to do is to tape a TV commercial or place an ad in the Yellow Pages with cutesy phone numbers such as 1-800-SUE-4YOU and the people willing to abuse the legal system for a big pay-off come running.

You may laugh at some of the zany lawsuits or shake your head when a litigant tries to stick another party for losses that were more their fault than that of who they slapped with a lawsuit, but don't laugh too hard.

The Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse few years back estimated it costs each and every one of us $1,200 to pay for the cost of frivolous lawsuits.

The settlements combined with legal defense costs are passed on to the consumers in the form of higher prices. The citizens group in 2002 calculated you and I paid $3 a day for the litigious orgy inspired by attorneys who brag in TV commercials, "even if the motorcycle accident was your fault, we can get you a big dollar settlement."

The $3-a-day cost is passed on to us through the price we pay for groceries, gas, insurance premiums and medicine.

A prime example of the consequences of our sue-happy nation is the price of a simple polio vaccine. It costs almost $40 to get a polio shot for a child in this country. Yet, Rotary International was able to buy the same vaccine for 17 cents to vaccinate children in Third World countries.

The reason is simple: Lawsuits. There is a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of an adverse reaction to the polio vaccine. This requires doctors and the manufacturers of the vaccine to carry big dollar insurance which is passed on in the price a family pays.

What's ironic is many parents in remote locations in countries such as the Philippines traveled upwards of two days for an opportunity to have their child vaccinated against polio. They know all too well the scrooge polio is and how it can wreck young lives in mass numbers if left unchecked.

Not only do we take polio vaccine for granted, we willingly sue not just for reasonable damages and medical care but for big-buck "pain and suffering."

Life is a risk. It is also true that those who accidentally or maliciously hurt someone else should shoulder the blame.

Yet, we take it to extremes. The risk of childbirth has been greatly reduced. Infant mortality rate as well as the number of mothers dying during the birthing process has dropped substantially in this country since 1990. If something goes wrong though, it is now automatically the health provider's fault.

Forget the fact that without modern medicine, birthing tragedies would be commonplace instead of rare. Doctors, hospitals and others buy big-dollar malpractice insurance policies to protect them. The ones ultimately paying for the premiums are you and me.

The Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse over the years has cited a number of lawsuits" including:

• A Sacramento man, a known acquaintance of a woman who had been missing for six months, filed a $10,003,579 claim against the county after a sheriff's SWAT team raided his home. In his claim, the man said he is "emotionally distressed after the search of his home and has nightmares, headaches, and has to take Motrin daily." The claim further states that the search scared his dog, and the dog "pooped all over the carpet."

• A Florida man sued his son's youth baseball league because the boy was dropped from the league's all-star team.

• In 1996, a truck smuggling 28 illegal immigrants into California crashed while attempting to elude state and federal authorities. A $5 million damage suit was filed against the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization Service on behalf of several of the illegal immigrants who were killed or injured in the crash.

• In Michigan, a man who complained that a rear-end auto collision had turned him into a homosexual was awarded $200,000 by a jury. They awarded his wife $25,000.

It gets more unbelievable by the day.

Consider the case of a New Jersey bank teller who was the victim of a man carrying a loaded weapon who was robbing the bank.

The convicted robber is sued the victim for $1 million for slandering his reputation. The robber said the bank teller's statement to the police and jury that he threatened to killer her was erroneous and painted an unfair picture of him.

And who can forget the Phoenix woman who sued McDonald's for millions because she went to a drive-up window in a car driven by her son, ordered coffee, placed it between the legs of her polyester pants and then got scalded as her son drove too fast over a speed bump as she was taking off the lid. Obviously, her son's driving and her decision to take the lid off the coffee as the car was moving contributed to her injuries.

A lawyer thought otherwise. He believed McDonald's served its coffee dangerously hot and should pay the price for its wanton disregard for customer safety. Forget the fact McDonald's sold millions of cups of coffee a day with hardly an incident.

Ronald McDonald isn't paying the price of defending the suit. You are every time you drop by the Golden Arches.