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Why Protect Us From Ourselves?

February 11, 1988

I was one of more than 10,000 runners who participated in the 10th annual Redondo Beach Super Bowl 10-K. It was my fifth consecutive year. I work Sunday mornings (as a minister), so I did not stay for the awards. However, I did walk across the fatal grille scant seconds before the terrible accident that morning.

As soon as I put my foot on the grille I realized it was a mistake. The grille was not designed to support my weight. I took the long way around as I left the area, avoiding the grille entirely.

Several hours later I heard about the accident and felt badly. What angered me, however, was assertions by officials that the area should have been roped off. This is probably true, but it misses an important point. (One man died and eight other persons were injured Jan. 31 when the steel ventilation grating on the Pier Plaza Parking Garage collapsed and they plunged 25 feet to a concrete floor.)

Someone is going to get sued. We can safely assume this in our litigious society. The question must be asked: Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

None of the televised accounts of the event suggested that the individuals should have known it wasn't safe to stand on a ventilation grille. Instead, it was assumed that someone should have anticipated the accident and roped off the area. We should have been protected from ourselves.

We have reached the point in our society in which no one is responsible for their actions. Someone else must have been at fault. We no longer allow the existence of an accident. Each possibility must be anticipated, legislated and avoided. In a country of several million we can expect, simply on a statistical basis, that a number of extremely low probabilities will occur. Many will result in injury, and some of these will result in loss of life. It is heart-rending to read of death at what was supposed to be a fun event.

But ultimately the rising costs of insurance and increasing number of lawsuits will result in legislation limiting court cases and awards, and prevent the proper pursuit of industries and individuals who knowingly or callously cause injury and death.

REV. FRANK RAMIREZ

Ladera Heights

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