Say you’re happily married, but worried that your beloved spouse may one day develop a roving eye and be unable to resist the temptation to stray from the narrow path, so you ask your spouse to furnish the funds necessary to hire a private investigator to follow that spouse on a daily basis to corroborate fidelity.

Having no objection to such a reasonable proposal, the tailed spouse logs into an online checking account and sets up an automatic monthly withdrawal for the Acme Detective Agency.

Believe it or not, Marshall County Circuit Judge David W. Hummel is poised to give final approval to a monitoring program every bit as ridiculous as the silly scenario outlined above.

Hummel will conduct a fairness hearing on May 1, at which time he’s expected to sign off on a class action settlement setting up a medical monitoring system for workers at West Virginia coal and water treatment plants.

The settlement provides more than $6 million in free medical examinations for workers exposed on their job sites to polyacrylamide, a water treatment chemical also known as “flocculent” or “floc,” which allegedly increases their risk of developing certain cancers, as well as sensory and autonomic nervous system problems.

Plaintiffs lawyers will receive roughly the same amount in attorneys’ fees and costs.

The suit, filed in 2003, sought damages for the possibility of future harm, making no allegations of actual injuries.

Maybe our scenario isn’t so far-fetched, after all. Maybe every citizen of West Virginia, individual and corporate, should anticipate the day when lawsuits can be filed against us, seeking not only to violate our Constitutional right against self-incrimination but to compel us to pay for that violation -- by underwriting monitoring programs predicated on the remote possibility that we may eventually be shown to have done something wrong.

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