[2008-03-09] Aspirin waiver for a litigious society
So for reasons I now cannot entirely fathom, I found myself en route to Appleby's for lunch the other day. Jennifer had been to a conference and was going to meet me there. I arrived a bit early, and when I got her text message asking me to find some headache medicine for her I was already at the restaurant and there were no stores to be seen anywhere nearby. So I went in and got a table and asked the hostess, "Do you have an aspirin or something in the back?" Her response, predictably, was "I know we have a bottle, but I don't know if we can give you any."
Eventually the waitron finds me and I repeat the question to him or her. This time the response is more optimistic: "Sure, I'll see what I can do." He or she comes back out with my drink awhile later and says, "Sorry, we don't have any ibuprofen or anything," which I already know is a lie. But I'm not gonna make a scene, because I understood the whole stupid drama even before it played out: They won't provide me with loose OTC medicine, even Tylenol, because they're afraid I'll have an allergic reaction and take Appleby's, Inc., to the cleaners in court. There's probably a standard procedures manual somewhere that actually says, in writing, that staff are forbidden to give anything not on the menu to customers under any circumstances. I reflected that if I were eating at some local joint it would not be nearly so much of a problem. Then I reflected about how sad it is that tort law has gotten to this point in this country, where you can't even do a person a favor at their request without worrying that they'll decide to hold you legally responsible after the fact for whatever happens.
Then, however, I started to worry. Right or not, litigiousness is, and perhaps I've been recklessly exposing myself to liability for years without realizing it. I mean, after all, I give OTC drugs to people all the time if they ask--painkillers, antihistamines, decongestants. What if someday my native generosity bites me in the ass? Maybe I grant the same service to a stranger, or one of my friends has a psychotic break, and they decide to sue me because I provided them with medication to which they subsquently had an allergic reaction? So I made up a form (.pdf), which I've had printed up in carbon-duplicating notepads and now keep on me at all times. Anyone who needs an aspirin has to fill it out, sign it, and give me my copy before they get pill one.
last modified 2008-03-09