You may have wondered how an American jury in this enlightened year could give a plaintiff a million bucks because a brain scan destroyed (it was argued) the "psychic powers."
There was probably not a single juror who believed the baloney that "psychic powers" exist, but the enormous sum had nothing to do with that. The jury rewarded the plaintiff because of general and specific sympathy.
As it happens I have been on a number of juries, and have been a witness for a railroad company whose locomotive killed a little kid running on to a trestle to fetch his shaggy mutt from the approaching engine. Also (as if further credentials were necessary) I have had a brain scan. And more than all that, I am an ordinary fellow and know with a certainty that sometimes frightens me how ordinary people will judge things.
The ideal case for a multimillion-dollar judgment is a computer firm whose machine has utterly fried a 2-year-old female tot with yellow hair when she stuck her newly bathed puppy's tail into some electronic hole at the base of the machine.
The defense could argue till doomsday that reasonable people do not stick damp puppy tails into computer holes, and it would make no difference. We all know computers are devices of the devil, probably making you blind and sterile, and now just look what it has done to this sweet little baby girl and the adorable pup. Three million, and damn your soul.
It was the same with railroads. The evidence was overwhelming in one case that two boys on a trestle ran to safety when they heard the whistle of the approaching train. Then the dog ran back on the trestle, and one boy ran back to get him and was killed.
But the train was the Illinois Central running through Tennessee along the Mississippi River -- a rich disgusting Yankee slaughtering a little Tennessee lad. The railroad argued itself blue in the face. But the lawyer for the dead boy spoke of fishing on a summer's day and growing up and falling in love and the loyalty of a boy's dog and wiped his eyes with his handkerchief two or three times and that was that.
As for a brain scan, there is nothing in the Bible about brain scans. Most jurors have seen Frankenstein movies -- we know what unspeakable things are done.
Furthermore, hospitals and doctors are massively insured, and how better can the rewards of insurance be applied than to some poor woman whose psychic powers (which you may be sure have been equated with religious faith, earlier in the trial, and never mind if it's not your own particular faith, for remember all faiths are equal before the law) -- some poor woman whose faith, as you might say, has been blotted out in one horrible instant by the infernal machine of the hospital?
As a matter of fact the brain scan is scary chiefly because you have to sign a release that it's okay if your brain blows up during the test. There is a deep, frightfully deep, sensation of burning as a great instrument passes over you (you are flat on a table) going Whuzzzzzzzzz.
This burning is somewhat similar to hellfire, and might easily destroy the finer sensibilities.
But you cannot count on American juries to swallow camels very often. Sometimes you have to let them think they are deciding reasonably, and this is where the notion of group insurance or a state lottery comes in.
Americans know they have no chance worth speaking of to win. It's a community exercise, in which you give a buck for a worthless ticket because somebody in the herd will win big. It could be you, of course, but no sane person expects this. It's like buying Girl Scout cookies or tickets to a policeman's benefit ball or picnic or something -- it's simply easier to give them something and get rid of them than to stand around arguing. Besides, the money helps somebody somewhere, sort of, doesn't it? You gonna be a curmudgeon and say no?
And strangely enough the concept of group insurance operates here. We believe that if we pool our little dollars, then when we get sick, the bills will be paid, at least in part, and this softens the blow for somebody who comes down with a $36,000 medical bill.
The poor defendant who has gone through terrible grief when the psychic powers vanished is now entitled to the insurance our joint contributions have established for precisely the purpose of allaying grief? Or, to put it another way, the poor defendant has simply won the weekly medical lottery. The cost of medical insurance is ultimately paid by the public and once in awhile some poor patient wins big.
The mere fact that the reasoning is muddled, the analogies are skewed, and the whole purpose of justice is sullied, is beside the point. The true point is these vast subhuman monsters have given pain to a poor person much like us, and we're going to make her feel better.
But back to the brain scan I had 20 years ago. Now I think of it, there was something positively devilish about that burning sensation, and I know my head has not been quite right since. My wife says I will have no trouble rounding up hundreds and hundreds of witnesses. There is no statute of limitations to fraud, and I remember one nurse in the room where the scan was administered had quite a deceitful look on her face when she smiled, and a guy who held my arm -- listen, I can spot a phony a mile off, and if that guy wasn't up to fraud I'll eat my hat. All I need is the right kind of lawyer, a good plea ("there are days my head just goes blank") -- and I sure could use a million or so.