Wednesday, January 11, 2006

 

So Sue me...

I suppose if a merchant/company is knowingly misrepresenting their product, then the purchaser of the good/service is entitled to compensation if there is sufficient injury or personal damage because of this misrepresentation. This is a short-run argument.

Since, however cigarettes and tobacco have been around for hundreds of years and health hazards have been widely publicized for decades, (societies, states and churches have condemned the use of tobacco since the seventeenth century) the companies of these goods or services should no longer be at fault in the present for past potential deception, when there exists a common knowledge of the risks associated with the behavior.

So, in the long-run (now-ish) there should be no one still receiving legal compensation for assuming the risk of risky behavior.

Comments:
Yeah, I suppose the information used to be bad. I've seen old Lucky Strike ads where they told you smoking was good for you because it calms the nerves, etc. But I've also heard that some doctors recommended smoking as a way to ease anxiety too. Is the company at fault for spreading what I'm guessing was fairly mainstream medical advice? In other words, did cigarette companies deliberately misinform people?
 
I have talked to a number of people that smoked decades ago and each of them said that they knew it (smoking) was bad for them, but it was cool, so they did it anyway. In this case the company holds no fault, just like a liquor store holds fault when someone is made worse off after a drink (there are a variety of situations – use your imagination).

Intentional misinformation/deception advocated on behalf of the company (paid advertisements or studies) makes the company at fault for any harm from that deceptive action. As soon as the contrary is known – i.e. that perhaps they (risky behavior) aren’t all they were cracked up to be, then the company should hold no additional fault, at least in the long run. In that initial deceptive action, it would make sense to hold them liable.

We have talked about this before, that some people are worse off initially, but after that, they are free to choose to consume additional (rational addiction) or stop because they then recognize the risk. There is no fault in the company for producing a risky substance (good or service) or even promoting risky behavior. The fault comes at the intentional deception in the initial sale of those goods or services.
 
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