Saturday, August 27, 2005

Responsibility and those Responsible

A 14-year old teenage boy playfully locked his 5-year-old half-sister in a coin-operated washing machine at a commercial laundry.

Boys are like that. I remember my childhood days when my cousins and I swam in the village kolam (pool). The group would pick a ‘victim’ and then either dunked the poor bastard (many times me because I was the youngest and smallest in size – great target for bullying) or not allowed the poor bloke to rest at the edge of the very deep pool – the 'chosen one' had to keep swimming or thread water for a long long while.

But for this American boy and his kid sister, things went awfully wrong. Though no coin was inserted into the machine, so it was claimed, it began running the moment the boy slammed its door shut.

He tried frantically to stop the machine and free his sister, and resorted to using a large rock picked from the parking lot to smash at the machine's glass window. By this time, his mum was there, also using the same rock to break through the glass and eventually free her daughter. But by that time, the little girl had already died of asphyxiation.

The law enforcers charged the boy with manslaughter but the court judge ruled that there wasn't a case as he believe the prosecution could not convict the 14-year-old boy. The prosecution argued that the washer required 11 quarters to operate and would not accept coins until the heavy door has been shut. Anyway, the judge acquited the boy. I think that poor kid will be troubled for the rest of his life.

The bereaved mother claimed that the manufacturer of the machine knew the model had a history of starting up without the insertion of coins but failed to fix the problem.

This is the revelation. She is now suing the washing machine's maker.

I guess in a highly litigative society, with people don’t wanting or aren’t prepared to accept responsibility for their own actions, suing seems to be a way of devolving responsibility and making some money in the process. She should have been monitoring and controlling her kids' behaviour and safety.

I bet you if nothing had gone horribly wrong, those users would be delighted to enjoy the machine’s washing services without the need to insert any coins.

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