When discrimination becomes not getting what you want

By The West Virginia Record | Jul 2, 2010

"Don't put that rock in your mouth, dear. That's not food."

Choosing properly requires discrimination. It means making the right choice between good and bad, honest and dishonest, affordable and unaffordable.

In the broadest sense, it simply means distinguishing between persons or things that appear to be of equal value. It's something we do all the time. If we couldn't distinguish one thing or one person from another, our lives would be chaotic and shorter.

Common sense discrimination seems to be suffering of late. Increasingly legislators and jurists want to circumscribe our ability to choose because they don't seem to trust us to choose well.

Police officers now can be accused of discrimination for arresting likely suspects. Teachers can be accused of discrimination for giving the best grades to the best students. Insurance companies can be accused of discrimination for charging higher rates for persons with a history of illness or unhealthy habits.

Nowadays, anyone who suffers disappointment from any quarter is free to cry "discrimination" and attempt to exact financial revenge against the "oppressor." And it may get worse.

In June, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that our state's human rights act prohibits discrimination in the settlement of insurance claims. The opinion seems to provide a legal basis for suing insurance companies who don't treat customers with the proper respect. How many lawsuits it will take to fill that legal quagmire is just a guess.

Justice Menis Ketchum wrote a strong dissent in the case.

"Every person making a claim against an insurance company thinks they wrongfully got the short end of the stick," he commented. "Because of that, I think the majority opinion has created a situation ripe for abuse by a handful of litigation lawyers."

Justice Ketchum emphasized that "a mere allegation of discrimination can be a powerful weapon for negotiation of a spurious claim."

Let the insurance companies of West Virginia be forewarned: Challenge a spurious claim and you might be accused of discrimination. And if the Supreme Court decision costs insurance companies big money, the customer -- us -- will pay for it with higher rates.

Which citizens stand to benefit from a decision that replaces common sense with senseless government stretches of the law? The ones who bill by the hour, that's who.

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