In reading the essay I immediately made a connection between Krupa's experience with students whose religious beliefs cause them to reject the science of evolution out of hand, and my own experience with students whose political ideology causes them to dismiss, out of hand, the logic that disproves the fallacy of frivolous lawsuit abuse.
There are students that are convinced that our legal system is plagued with tens of thousands of meritless lawsuits that have been brought against major corporations by unscrupulous lawyers secure in the knowledge that the corporation would rather settle the case immediately for hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not $1M or more, rather than suffer the cost of defense or the "embarrassment" of the lawsuit.
I recently posited for my students, the facts of two cases brought against TV networks. One was based on the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Bill O'Reilly and Fox News. After being accused of inappropriate solicitation of a female producer O'Reilly vociferously denied any such conduct and called the lawsuit "extortion." The plaintiff's lawyer produced taped recordings of O'Reilly's lewd, suggestive and solicitous phone messages.
The other case was the "Fear Factor Rat Eating Episode" law suit. A viewer of this episode of NBC's "Fear Factor" show, suddenly feeling nauseous and dizzy suffered injuries by running into a door jam during a desperate attempt to leave the room where the TV was located.
At this point, I asked the students in which of the two cases they would consider representing the plaintiff. Overwhelmingly, students chose case #1 and rejected case #2. However, there were a staunch few students who insisted that case #2 was just as likely to result in a quick and extremely lucrative settlement as case #1.
We then discussed the actual outcome of the cases. #1 settled within a few weeks for an undetermined sum in the millions of dollars. Case #2 was summarily dismissed on motion to the court.
For the benefit of the students convinced of the a ubiquity of quick, lucrative settlements of meritless cases, I asked the following question; What would happen to a corporation that developed a reputation of paying large sums of money in settlement of meritless lawsuits? The logic was obvious as was the response from most of the students.
Still, much like Krupa's students who followed up with him to confirm what their religion tells them is true, I heard from a handful of students who were convinced, without evidence, that major corporations regularly pay out millions of dollars in settlement of meritless lawsuits. Likewise, lawyers regularly pursue these meritless lawsuits because they are a lucrative source of revenue for them.
It is possible that we fail to communicate over the definition of the term "meritless." For instance, perhaps these students consider the McDonald's coffee case as meritless, while I consider it a bona fide claim. However, should we be disagreeing over the Rat Eating Episode lawsuit?
As Krupa states with regard to a former student who came to see him years later, "Now a doctor, he explained to me that, at the time, he was so upset with my seminar that he attended a number of creationists’ public lectures for evidence I was wrong. He said he found himself embarrassed by how badly these individuals perverted Christian teachings, as well as known facts, to make their argument. He wanted me to know that he came to understand he could be a Christian and accept evolution. Then he did something that resonates with any teacher: He thanked me for opening his eyes, turning his world upside down, and blurring the line between black and white."
Like religious beliefs, political ideology can interfere with a student's ability to embrace the evidence and logic of the lesson. As it is possible to be a Christian and accept evolution, it is possible to maintain a political ideology and understand the legal system as it actually functions. You just have to be open to understanding both.
Click here to read a related story about what would appear to be unnecessary tensions between academia and evangelicalism.
Related posts at LSCB: Quick Settlement: When and Why?
Frivolous Lawsuits Are Good For America
Spotlight on Frivolous Lawsuits