Cascades, Water Balloons, and Tort Law: An Overview

Baloon's end 480 frame/s
Baloon’s end 480 frame/s (Photo credit: Wikipedia). © Nevit Dilmen [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
I was sitting with friends yesterday evening, studying a menu, when our waiter tipped the tray he was carrying and poured ice water on me. Seven glasses full. Most went onto my lap. My slacks were sopping.

That was the most invigorating experience I’ve had since the Director of the Tort Litigation Division of the largest law firm in Austin hit me smack in the chest with a water balloon. No cause of action was involved. We were engaged in a water balloon fight.

She was contrite, apologized all over the place, but, as I told her, hitting someone was her job. I just happened to move into range.

If the fault fell on anyone, it was my attorney. I was parked at a picnic table with other paralegals and secretaries who were pleading headaches–one pleading a migraine, which she was subject to–when my attorney came over and said, “C’mon, Kathy.” I don’t know how he knew I didn’t have a headache. I could have pleaded migraine, but I didn’t.

He had migraines, as well, so he knew one when he saw one.
 

I had migraines, too, and I never lied about having one. I preferred to embarrass myself in a three-legged race than to tempt fate.

Anyway, lying to lawyers is not a good idea. They know.

So I participated and got the balloon treatment. And I benefited from the experience. In addition to forgiving the Director, I told her the water was a relief. Pease Park isn’t air-conditioned in late spring.

Best of all, I was the only paralegal wearing a wet tee-shirt. It wasn’t the kind that turns transparent, but it was a tee-shirt, and it was wet. Normally when I tell the story, I leave out the phrase not transparent.

Yesterday’s waterfall didn’t have nearly the joie de vivre of the water balloon incident. My friends were appalled and tried to dry me off. Several suggested I head for the restroom and wring myself out (staff had supplied terry cloth hand towels), but moving would have been disastrous. I would have left a trail of water from here to yonder.

Then friends worried I would freeze in the exceptionally cool room. I assured them I wouldn’t. I haven’t frozen since the Great Snow of 1986.

Anyway, after the initial surprise, I laughed and said, “I’m all right, I’m really all right, reallyI’m all right.” And I was.

But I also wanted to spare the waiter’s feelings. There’s a reason I’ve never been a waiter, and dumping food and drink on people is it.

I’m glad I behaved graciously about the deluge, because later, the same waiter tipped another tray–while it was resting on a stand, which takes a goodly portion of dexterity–and lost an order of tacos pastor. That time our entire table laughed (except, perhaps, the woman who had ordered the tacos). I made a point of saying, “We’re not laughing at you; we’re laughing with you.”

The waiter appeared to take the business with equanimity. He probably zenned it. A lot of zenning goes on in Austin.

Telling the whole truth, as I must in a post involving attorneys, requires me to admit I took the cascade with aplomb for the reason every writer with half a grain of sense lives by:

It’s all material.

*****

I tell the story of the water balloon because I think it’s public record, I hope. I hope also  I can’t be fired retroactively. For anyone who just has to know, I’ll explain someday why a bunch of lawyers and support staff were lobbing liquid at one another. But the story is better if you don’t know.

I’m told, however, that listening to tort lawyers plan an afternoon of vigorous recreational games is most instructive, because they spend half the time discussing injury, liability, damages, duty of care, breach, proximate cause, and such.

My own speculation–and it is mere speculation, not legal opinion, so I’m not practicing law without a license–is that in any potential suit, sovereign immunity and res ipsa loquitur, plus a modicum of intentional infliction of emotional distress would battle it out in the courts.

And, yes, I had to check Wikipedia to brush up on most of those terms. I knew them for the test, but since then they’ve re-filed themselves in short-term memory. I do remember quite a bit about res ipsa loquitur and sponges, and I have vivid memories of putting together many trial notebooks. 

*****

 

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A Knotty Problem

Deutsch: "Kopfschmerzen". Die wohl b...
Deutsch: “Kopfschmerzen”. Die wohl berühmteste – stark von James Gillray beeinflußte – Arbeit in einer Reihe von sechs Blättern “medizinischer” Karikaturen, in denen Cruikshank Krankheiten als Teufelswerk brandmarkt. Erstmalig publiziert: 12. Februar 1819. Originalgröße: 210 x 255 mm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  George Cruikshank [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, PD-Art
 Yesterday Dominica felt faint, and Molly, my main character, steered her to a bench on the courthouse lawn and then dithered over what to do. She couldn’t leave Dominica, but she thought asking a passerby (of which there were none at the time) for help sounded lame.

Today, talking about treatments for migraines, one of my brilliant critique partners took a bottle of peppermint oil from her purse and passed it around. At the first whiff, I said, “Molly carries peppermint oil in her purse! She’ll use it to revive Dominica.”

In one fell swoop, I both saddled Molly with migraines and solved a knotty problem.

That is why I go to critique group.

Silver Linings

After yesterday’s post, I believe I owe it to you–and to myself–to write about my Silver Linings.

When I got home from Just for the Hell of It Writers (by way of the grocery store) this afternoon , I found a FedEx tag clipped to the door. Two packages, it said, had been delivered to the office of my apartment complex. They’d been dropped off at 2:00 p.m.

I called the office to confirm it was open before walking down there. The manager said she had no package.

I went online to track the packages. The FedEx website said they would be delivered on Monday. This is Friday.

I called FedEx. Customer service said the packages were back on the truck and would be available for pickup today from 6:00 pm. to 9:00 p.m. and tomorrow from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

When David came in from work, I reported all this. He said we could retrieve the packages tonight. But because I had a migraine hangover–I woke up this morning with the darned thing and by evening still felt as if I were made of eggshells–I said I’d wait until tomorrow. Except for the pain of laptop withdrawal, there was no rush.

Then, out of the blue, came a robust knock at the door. Ernest and William scrambled up the stairs to safety. David ran to the door.

A young woman in a FedEx uniform stood on the sidewalk, holding a clipboard and two packages: an external hard drive and a replacement hard drive.

“I tried earlier, but the office wasn’t open,” she said.

I thanked her and told her we’d planned to pick up the packages ourselves.

“Then I just saved you a trip.” She grinned and walked back to her truck.

That young woman saved me more than a trip. Because she made a second attempt at delivery, my headache of a day took a sudden upturn. She was my first Silver Lining.

David was my second. After I hooked up the external hard drive to the laptop, he spent two hours trying to back up the wonky internal hard drive so it can be replaced by a non-wonky one. Unfortunately, the manual accompanying the external drive was short on instructions. It told, in four languages, how to connect and to disconnect the drive but not how to use it.

A third Silver Lining, however, appeared in the small print: the address of a website offering tech support. It was too late to speak to a technician, so David e-mailed the question. We’re waiting for a username and password so we can access the answer.

So there’s tomorrow’s Silver Lining: instructions about running the necessary backup, and then installation of the new hard drive. And finally I’ll be back in business–in a comfortable chair.

I realize I did things wrong. The song says, “Look for the silver lining.” I didn’t. I looked at the migraine and the idle laptop and the uncomfortable chair and the work I wasn’t getting done.

Nevertheless, Silver Linings appeared.

The mystery here is why I’m so surprised. After all, I’ve been married to a Silver Lining for the past six years.