Litigious Society, or Litigious Road to Anarchy?

Here is a short course on how you personally can help destroy the economy. First, find an obscure clause in a federal regulation which legally prohibits something in the business to consumer relationship, although it currently affects no one. Then, find companies to sue because they are unaware of this detail of the regulation, claiming to have been personally damaged.

This is the methodology being employed by a Baltimore County resident, who is suing three bars for having “willfully violated” the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, by having the audacity to print the expiration date of his credit card on his personal sales receipt.

It is correct that to do so violates the act. It is also true, however, that as of the date of its enactment, and to my knowledge even today, the expiration date of a credit card isn’t actually validated — you can try this the next time you do an online transaction, by claiming an arbitrary future expiration date on an otherwise valid card. And even if I am wrong about that, it is certainly, as said by a consumer advocate with the US Public Interest Research Group, “a minor fraud threat compared to many others.” The gentleman in question has not suffered damage, will most probably never suffer damage, and in all likelihood cannot suffer damage. It is abuse of an otherwise helpful consumer protection law.

Why is this relevant to religion? Because when we say that morals and ethics must guide our business practices, that includes not taking arbitrary advantage of honest businesses. If the Feds need to point out the violation, then let the government know… don’t sue when you aren’t harmed.

In Jewish teachings, one of the practices of Sodom that led to its destruction was that its laws were used to inflict gratuitous cruelty upon visitors and victims. To force three businesses to pay tens of thousands in settlement or legal fees merely inflicts gratuitous pain upon three businesses in one of the current economy’s most vulnerable industries. Mr. Bradley may not care how many people lose their jobs, but the rest of us certainly should.

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3 Responses

  1. yitznewton says:

    Well, hopefully the still-unfolding Righthaven case of legal trolls like this getting fined into the ground, will set a precedent and exert some deterrent pressure. The more this keeps up, the more likely we are to see more aggressive anti-frivolity measures being taken.

  2. mycroft says:

    Any legal system can have individual unjust results. The story of Rav Shimon ben Shetachs children and keven sheheged shuv ano chozer umaggid is known to show far chazal state we must follow procedure even if the individual result is not just.

  3. Charlie Hall says:

    “It is also true, however, that as of the date of its enactment, and to my knowledge even today, the expiration date of a credit card isn’t actually validated ”

    This is not true; I’ve personally had transactions rejected when I’ve mistyped an expiration date.

    And the point of the regulation is to prevent fraud. Some states have similar rules. I’ve personally had my account information stolen; I can tell you that a lot of damage can be done by someone with an account number and expiration date.

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