Vol. 12, No. 3,009 - The American Reporter - October 19, 2006

by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
Syracuse, Indiana

Printable version of this story

SYRACUSE, Ind. -- How much does a hole in the ground cost? G= enerally they're free. When I was about nine years old, FreddieWalker, Mick= ey and Bobby Workman and I spent a week that summer digginga hole in Mickey=

and Bobby's back yard. All four of us could fit intothe thing, and it was = about three feet deep.

It was pretty big for a hole dug by four little kids, created by the sw= eat of stupid kids dreaming of underground tunnels connecting our houses. A= nd best of all, it was free, just like most holes. You really can't put a p= rice on a good hole, at least here in the Midwest.

But apparently in Tucson, Arizona, holes are actually quitevaluable= . In some areas of the city, a hole that is five inches deep,ten inches i= n diameter and covered in grass can be worth as much as$450,000.

At least that's what a Tucson jury awarded Michele Nations thispast= April, after she sprained her ankle in one in 1995.

Nations said she was on her way to work at an eegee's booth setup n= ear a festival at Tucson's Reid Park when she stepped into the holeand twis= ted her ankle.

For those of you who care (and even those who don't), eegee's isa s= ub/salad/frozen fruit drink restaurant chain with 21 outlets inTucson. They= even have their own Website at www.eegees.com, and candeliver their wildly= popular frozen fruit drink almost anywhere in theUnited States (sorry, Haw= aii and Alaska).

But popular delicious fruit drinks aside, that's not the point.The = point is that (according to an Associated Press story) Nations'attorney sai= d it was the city's responsibility to post adequate warningsabout burrowing= animals, and that the city must provide a safealternative to dodging holes= and caved-in tunnels.

Just what exactly IS a "safe alternative" to gopher holes andcaved-= in tunnels? Should the city exterminate all the gophers? No, itwould make t= he animal rights people mad, and the rattlesnakes would havenothing to eat.

Maybe an intricate series of paved bike paths and walkways designed to = avoid major gopher holes. How about a giant gopher "habitrail" made out of = heavy duty yellow plastic so all the parkgoers can watch the gophers in act= ion.

How about a big sign that says: "Warning: You livein a part = of the United States where burrowing animals have lived forthousands, if no= t millions of years. You are also entering one of theironly livable areas i= n the entire city of Tucson. Please be aware thatholes and caved-in tunnels= have been sighted by our Safety Spotters overthe past several decades. We = strongly recommend that you use the ReidPark Bridge and Skyway Network susp= ended 20 feet above the park."

The problem with most lawyers is that they are more than capableof = griping and complaining about what a city or a company should do, b= ut they rarely offer a solution to the problem they're whining about in the= first place.

There was no mention in the article about whether Nationssustained = any serious or ongoing physical injuries, like loss ofemployment, a prematu= re end to a brilliant track career, or even having"The Barney Song" playing= on and on in her head. But apparently Nationssuffered enough that it was w= orth a lawsuit five years later.

An assistant city attorney called the $450,000 judgment"astonishing= ."

Astonishing wasn't the word I was thinking when I read thearticle. = "Pretty freakin' stupid" was more what I had in mind.

The accident happened almost a year after Tucson increased itseffor= ts to eliminate ground-squirrel holes and other "difficult-to-spot"depressi= ons after they paid $70,000 to cover two otherhole-or-depression-caused inj= uries. That's $35,000 per "ouchy boo-boo."Not a bad haul for not watching w= here you're going. In fact, one couldalmost call it... .

Astonishing? Try "bug-eyed, gape-mouthed stunning."

In other words, if I'm in a city park, and I step in a holecreated = by an animal, I can sue the city for tens, or even hundreds, ofthousands of= dollars? But if I hit a pothole the size of the GrandCanyon and do $500 d= amage to my car, I'm entitled to nothing?

I could understand the liability if the groundhog were a city employee,= but since it was acting as a freelance contractor, I fail to see why the c= ity has to bear the burden because someone stepped in a hole and hurt thems= elves.

The unnamed city attorney went on to say "You would think = in apark -- in a natural space -- people should have to watch where they're= going."

Actually, people should watch where they're going, regard= less ofwhere they are. Whose fault is it if I bump into a wall at home, min= e orthe builder's? Whose fault is it if I accidentally drive into a tree 30= feet from the road, mine or the property owners?

How could someone assume that a natural space is going to beflat an= d free of defects. It's the ground, for God's sake! Why wasn'tNations' watc= hing the ground to make sure she didn't step into a hole,dog doo-doo, or so= meone's lunch? Unless you live in Nebraska, you'veprobably never seen groun= d that was completely flat and free of defects.

I was glad to hear the city of Tucson said it's considering anappeal of = the jury verdict. At least they still have a glimmer of hopethat the Americ= an legal system will finally wake up, realize whatthey've done, and start s= tuffing lawsuit happy attorneys intopedestrian-swallowing gopher holes. =

But before they finish, I need to find an attorney to help mewith a = lawsuit of my own. I want to sue the manufacturer of my truck,for failing t= o put bright flashing lights and giant scarecrows on thetruck doors to scar= e the birds that poop on my sideview mirrors everymorning.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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