A weekly commentary by CBS News correspondent Andy Rooney.
I've been thinking of quitting work and suing big companies for a living, instead. Suing has become a popular American pastime and I'd like to get in on some of the easy money. There were more than a million and a half civil lawsuits in California alone last year.
A jury in Los Angeles awarded $28 billion to a woman who has lung cancer and says it's because the Philip Morris Tobacco Company talked her into smoking with their advertising. We all hate the tobacco companies but smoking wasn't even a little bit her own fault?
That's the trouble. Nothing is anyone's own fault anymore. You probably don't remember the name Stella Liebeck, but she was the woman who spilled coffee in her lap in a car and got big bucks when she sued McDonald's because the coffee was too hot.
Every big company gets sued. Kellogg's and Black & Decker got sued by a New Jersey couple who put one of Kellogg's Pop-Tarts in the toaster and then left the house. The Pop-Tart caught fire and did some damage to their kitchen.
We have a cottage on a lake. I tried to buy a new diving board for the dock and couldn't find one. You know why? The companies that make diving boards have practically been sued out of business.
The same with ladders. It costs a company almost as much for insurance as it costs them to make the ladders.
Doctors are leaving Pennsylvania because they've been sued so much there.
A man named Caesar Barber sued McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Wendy's because he weighed 270 pounds and claimed he got fat eating their food. He had a couple of heart attacks and said they never told him their food was bad for him.
If someone is killed when his car turns over going around a curve at 90 miles an hour, his family sues the car manufacturer or the company that made the tires. If he hits a telephone pole, they sue the telephone company.
The wife of a man who was murdered sued the company that made the gun. The tobacco companies, the gun manufacturers and the tire companies have it coming but the amount of some of these awards don't make sense.
I know who I'd sue if I quit my job here. I started working at CBS in 1949 - look at the condition I'm in! Hair grey, face wrinkled, brain dead, all bent over. I'm a mess. I didn't get this way anyplace else. CBS did it to me and I'll bet if I get a trial lawyer and sue, I could quit working on 60 Minutes and retire.
I'd split the billions I'd collect 90 percent-10 percent with the trial lawyer. He'd get 90 percent - I'd get 10.
Copyright 2002 CBS. All rights reserved.