Lawyers really need to lock it up
“Neither the authors, licensors nor Pearson Education, Inc. make any representation, either express or implied, with respect to the software, its quality, accuracy, fitness for a specific purpose or merchantability. Neither the authors, licensors, nor Pearson Education, Inc. have any liability to you or any other person with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to have been caused by the software including, but not limited to, direct, indirect, incidental and thus consequential damages, personal injury, wrongful death, lost profits, or damages resulting from lost data, loss of service or business interruption.”
Friends, let it be clear that I am a firm supporter of the law and lawyers. I believe that lawyers provide a valuable service. I believe that, for example, they protect corporations from money-hungry cancer patients who absurdly claim that dumping several thousand gallons of carcinogens (is that even the unit of measurement for carcinogens? Do your homework, cancer patients!) into a public water supply is somehow unlawful. And I furthermore believe that if poor people wanted to win more lawsuits, they would invest in nicer formalwear.
But every so often, a few “bad egg” lawyers will do something that really makes me angry. The quotation at the head of this column comes from the back of a folder of audio CDs that came with my French textbook. It is, of course, just an excerpt; the full disclaimer runs several thousand pages longer than the textbook itself.
My issue, you must realize, is not with the company (Pearson Education, Inc.) protecting itself. Corporations must be carful to shield themselves from the mindless, tort-happy hordes. My concern is that this particular legal notice does not seem to be written for any situation that could actually happen on the planet Earth.
The entire contents of the folder are: four CDs (silver with black writing) and one sheet of paper (white, folded). The idea that any of these objects, either separately or in tandem, could cause the wrongful death of a human being is preposterous. Which is not to say that they could not cause death, just that such a death would not be wrongful (it might even be rightful). I’ve spent a few minutes now trying to figure out how a person could use these CDs full of French vocabulary to transcend his or her mortal circumstances and I am at a complete loss except to say that any person who does, indeed, die from these CDs has done so with that specific intent aforethought.
And that’s just the part about wrongful death. There’s also personal injury and lost profits and several other ones that I don’t really understand. What can be done about this type of nonsense? Naturally, I have several hundred great ideas. Here’s one of them: for every such clause in legal contracts or disclaimers, the lawyer must provide a lengthy, realistic description of the cautioned-against event. Cartoons could also be used. Either lawyers would stop including such silly things in their contracts, or they would be forced to explain in painfully exact detail how a person might lose profits as a result of listening to a French vocabulary CD. Win, win.