Yesterday, the AP reported that a large number of towns in America and Canada are banning bobsledding out of fear of lawsuits.
Dubuque, Iowa, is set to ban toboggans in nearly all its 50 parks. Other cities, including Des Moines, Iowa; Montville, New Jersey; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Columbia City, Indiana, are following suit by restricting certain runs or posting signs warning people away.
“We have all kinds of parks that have hills on them,” said Marie Ware, Dubuque’s leisure services manager. “We can’t manage the risk at all of those places.”
In Canada, Hamilton has restricted sledding on pain of a hefty fine for almost 15 years; a change.org petition demanding the city “LET US TOBOGGAN!!!!” has garnered more than 1,000 signatures since Nov. 19.
In Toronto, a bylaw has pushed kids off Etobicoke’s Centennial Park Ski Hill for the past several years, deeming it too dangerous. Particularly icy weather conditions will also prompt warnings in Edmonton and elsewhere.
Of course, reactions to this have been overwhelmingly negative. Most people are calling this out as yet another nanny state move. And, of course, it is, but there is something to be said about towns banning bobsledding not just to protect citizens from the possibilities of plowing into an oak tree but because the towns are afraid of lawsuits. Lenore Skenazy explains that lawsuits have already happened.
Ironically, Hamilton — the town that outlawed sledding — was sued by a man who suffered a spinal injury while (illegally) sledding there. The town had to pay $900,000! In a case like that, I’d like to sue the court: Come on. Is there no such thing as bad luck or personal responsibility?
We do indeed live in a litigeous society which leads to city officials overreacting with these types of ridiculous bans–like bobsledding in the winter. If we're going to be outraged by the bobsledding ban, we should be equally outraged by stupid lawsuits filed by people who do risky things and then want taxpayers to pay for it. If Americans want more freedoms, they need to become less litigious and they need to support reforms to the legal system that will deter frivilous lawsuits.
Take the reforms that Governor Rick Perry put in place while he was in office. In late 2013, the Governor signed a tort reform bill that allowed state courts to dismiss a frivolous lawsuit immediately, permitted trial judges to send a question of law directly to the appellate court, allowed plaintiffs seeking less than $100,000 to request an expedited civil action, and encouraged the timely settlement of disputes. This is good and needed reform. Naturally the trial lawyers and many other powerful interest groups on the Left fight these types of reforms but these measures are necessary if we're going to avoid bobsledding bans, lemonade stand shut downs, and other state and local-level nonsense.