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    Our Litigious Society and Dog Park Mayhem


      Last Saturday was a beautiful, sunny South Florida day. One of those “Chamber of Commerce” specials. Awesome day for my dog and I to head to the dog park.

      We headed through the first set of gates, waved hello to a few familiar snouts, and entered the “small dog” area.  Upon opening the gate and were promptly greeted by a little white terrier making a 100 mph kamikaze run toward us.   That kind of thing in and of itself isn’t unusual, little dogs get ridiculously excited to see other dogs all the time.

      However, this particular little tasmainan devil was on the warpath.   Teeth clearly displayed, Cujo Jr. went right after my little white dog.  My guy is actually a certified therapy pet, trained to resist aggression, but evidently the training (appropriately) goes out the window when the fight is on.

      A few quick seconds of snarling, barking, biting and wrestling ensued, like one big 30 pound white hairball spinning in a dryer.   I split them up; it couldn’t have lasted more than 5-10 seconds.   The aggressor’s owner strutted over, curiously casual, as I walked my dog outside the gate to examine the flesh-ectomy the little monster gave me. snagged a hose to wash it off a little, put some pressure on it, and the owner slowly made his way over with his wife.

      The guy, who was either in some kind of speechless shock or just ridiculously socially inept, starts in with the “OMG she’s never done that before” routine as I’m looking to the corner for my cut man. Mick! Miiiiiiiiick!

      An animal lover my entire life, I understand that sometimes freaky stuff happens. The dog had its tags, it looked well groomed, it seemed like for whatever reason the thing just lost its noodle for a bit.   I started cleaning myself up and trying to get the bleeding to stop,  and I politely requested their contact information, as required by the park. (Actually this park often has a Lord of The Dogs patrolling around keeping an eye on things, recording little incidents and such, but he wasn’t there at the time.)   At this point, the wife – Lady MacBeth – perks up: Our INFORMATION? What, do you want to SUE US because our dog bit you?”

      I really couldn’t believe it. Not a single “I’m so sorry”, not a “let me see if anyone has any first aid stuff” or gosh forbid a “think it needs a look?” Nope, she went right into Judge Judy, amateur-lawyer hour.   Where’s Wade Blasingame when you need him?

      Kind of half-laughing, half-amazed at her reaction I said: “well, the funny thing is I actually am a lawyer, but right now if it’s OK I’d just like to try and get my wrist to stop bleeding, make sure both dogs are OK , and really hope that your dog has her shots.” (It did.) Evidently not hearing anything I said but the “lawyer” part, she enthusiastically squealed: “Well, my DAD is a lawyer TOO!” (Eh, OK … maybe HE has some peroxide and gauze?) The husband finally jumped in, gave me the contact info, and mumbled a half-assed apology.

      So, I wondered. Did I just stumble upon two unusually clueless South Florida yuppies, or is it possible that the onslaught of litigation-oriented TV commercials, billboards, judge shows, “1-800-PAIN” radio spots – especially down here in South Florida – has just completely infected us.

      Maybe there really is a cumulative effect of all this stuff. I mean, for cryin’ out loud this was the dog park not Divorce Court. I’m at place where one usually finds folks on the “nicer” range of the population personality continuum. Yet, litigation planning was THE thing, the ONLY thing, on their mind while they were literally watching me bleed.

      For sure, the scope and limits of lawyer advertising is a highly complicated topic, affecting everything from truth-in-advertising to law firm economics to ultimately ensuring that the general public is aware of, and has reasonable access to, our judicial system.

      However, similar to Bill Maher’s observation on the bizarre premise of some of today’s pharmaceutical ads that we routinely accept as normal (“Tell your doctor about UBERCILLIN … huh? wait a minute … shouldn’t the person who went to medical school be telling ME what she thinks I need?”), it’d be naïve to think that at least some of today’s aggressive legal advertising coupled with the complete saturation of “People’s Court” and its progeny hasn’t directly influenced the way we interact with each other.

      Anyway, I went home and cleaned up, iced the wrist, and ultimately didn’t need a stitch-up.   An adult beverage or two helped the pain, and admittedly I got a little satisfaction thinking about how those two shining examples of cluelessness undoubtedly spent the rest of an awesomely gorgeous afternoon furiously Googling “dog bite liability” and strategizing defense tactics with the wife’s lawyer father (ruining his afternoon in the process), paranoid about facing a multi-gagillion dollar lawsuit.

      Shockingly, I never got a “how’re you doing” call.

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