Cold (cash) comfort

by The West Virginia Record |
Apr. 6, 2007, 4:00am

The impulse is human nature, and fleeting. When something goes wrong in life, we immediately rack our brains for someone (or something) else to blame.

Stub your toe and it's the bed frame's fault. Or the movers', who put the bed in just that offending location four years ago. Or your wife is responsible -- she's the one who wanted that obfuscating bed skirt.

Thankfully, as anger and frustration pass, so does the most illogical of our mental finger-pointing. That's mostly, but not always, as evidenced by the epic legal battle of veteran electrician David Kyle.

Seven years ago, Kyle was badly injured on the job in Nitro after he touched a charged breaker box with a metal screwdriver. Fire shot from the box, burning his face, hands and eyes.

Kyle made a mistak,e and he paid for it dearly. To be sure, accepting the irreversible consequences of a momentary lapse of reason -- according to court documents, he'd worked as an electrician for 40 years -- cannot be easy. But in assessing this fate we should keep our perspective: Others have managed to reconcile themselves with much worse.

That said, these days, sadly, to accept and move on is widely viewed as akin to wasting an opportunity.

As an employee of Al Marino Inc., Kyle received workers' compensation benefits for his terrible injuries. That's the point of our workers' compensation system. Injured workers get paid when they're hurt on the job -- no blame game or protracted haggling required.

But that wasn't enough for Kyle, or perhaps for his lawyers. They sued Dana Transport, the company that hired him to fix its broken breaker box. Kyle alleges Dana was "negligent" -- but he cannot say how. He's asking West Virginia's courts to make Dana's employees and investors to pay the price for his mistake, all so he might gain a larger payday.

So far, they aren't buying it. That's a good thing. We're all sympathetic to the pain of David Kyle. But must modern-day comfort always come in the form of lawsuit-leveraged cash settlement?

Lawyers might get paid to sell us on as much. But we aren't obliged to cooperate.

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