Friday, May 05, 2006

There, now, doesn't that feel better?

I just fired off a letter to the CBC complaining that they shouldn't act irresponsibly by publishing feedback letters on their website from people who obviously did not take the time to properly understand an issue before responding. Unfortunately, I did not have the presence of mind to save a copy of my missive before sending it off (and it was an online feedback form, so I don't have a copy of it anywhere).

When I complain about people not taking time to "properly understand", I'm not talking about someone who read about the issue but then just merely misunderstood. I'm talking about those who skim a headline, a paragraph or two at most, and then just assume they know what it's all about, and go on to make a comment that completely shows their ignorance of the facts by baldly stating something that is opposite to the truth. Context: The Supreme Court of Canada today handed down its decision in Childs v. Desormeaux. You may have heard of the case: Zoe Childs was 18 when on January 1, 1999, the car she was traveling in was hit by the car driven by Desmond Desormeaux. Childs was paralyzed from the waist down; her boyfriend was killed; the other two passengers were also seriously injured. Desormeaux was found to be two times the legal drinking limit when he was tested three hours after the accident. Fairly clear-cut: the Supreme Court decided the social hosts of the party that Desormeaux was at were not responsible for his actions - only commercial establishments still have a prima facie duty to ensure their patrons are not a danger to the general public when they leave. Therefore Childs could not claim damages from the hosts, just from Desormeaux himself. (You should all read the case - it's short and quite interesting, actually).

So someone on the CBC feedback site posts that the High Court (which last time I checked was an Ontario-level court, not the Supreme Court of Canada, but let's not quibble) has ruled correctly, since people should be held responsible for their own actions (I'm with her still at this point), and "the young woman was old enough to realize that she was driving with an impaired person". Full stop. See, this is what I'm complaining about. People who can't read far enough into a news story - I'm not even asking she read the Court's decision - to realize that the "young woman" was in a completely different car from the "impaired person"! Maybe because I'm also a lawyer, I'm always fairly careful to make sure I understand an issue before offering an opinion, at least when there's a chance that opinion will be shared with anyone besides my boyfriend and my mother!!!

Second beef: Someone else - the very next comment, in fact - complained that he was "shocked" the hosts were not held liable and thought it would be a good idea to have decisions published so that the general public could have access to them and read them. While he is certainly entitled to have his own opinion on the merits of the decision (though it has always seemed fairly clear, to me at least, that a social host liability in most cases could not be substantiated, at least not with regard to the current state of the law of liability - but I digress), his comment compelled me to point out to CBC's editorial staff that it really was incumbent upon them to have posted their own feedback at this point (like magazines often do to clarify a point raised by their readers in Letters to the Editor), since they felt obliged to publish this comment in the first place, that not only are Supreme Court judgments available in many different locations on the Internet (including at CanLII, the Canadian Legal Information Institute, and at the Supreme Court's website), the link to the full-text of the decision was actually available in at least two different spots on CBC's own webpage (though I don't believe from the feedback page itself)!

Oi vay. I just have no patience for this kind of nonsense.

Thanks for listening to me vent. I feel somewhat better already.*

* Now, see? Aren't you glad I spend most posts talking about new shoes I've bought or cute/weird things Rion has recently done, and inundating you with Japanese words and expressions? This is also one of a few good reasons why I don't normally talk about work - libraries or law in any form.

1 comment:

Freemount said...

Oh good, I mentioned CanLii, too, but am not likely to be published, as I write in to the CBC all the time. But seriously, the guy not only thinks that court decisions aren't published, but SCC decisions??? Right. It's that un-democratic judicial conspiracy. Just wait till he hears about publication bans. "You mean press are normally allowed in there?"

On topic, good decision, and people should take note that it is unanimous.