Friday, January 26, 2018

Limitations of civil law

There are a bunch of things that strike me as somewhat odd in the civil lawsuits that are coming in the Larry Nassar debacle, especially as regards Michigan State.  For starters, their lawyers are arguing simultaneously that they must defend themselves because of insurance rules, and that they have sovereign immunity.  OK, if MSU has sovereign immunity, why exactly have they been paying insurance premiums for this kind of liability?  One side of the argument seems to discredit, or at least weaken, the other.

More significantly, the school is caught in an ugly place; they know that they've got 150+ major violations by one bad actor, and that they've got to make some changes or risk a recurrence--but any change made will be discovered and used as evidence against them.  Leaders know that they cannot admit things even if they know they're true for the same reason.

I am generally a fan of civil law, as it's a powerful incentive to good behavior in many cases.  When supervising Sunday School teachers and such in church, I've repeatedly said "imagine me on the witness stand with a hostile lawyer asking why I did this" when someone wanted to cut corners.  That noted, it strikes me that in cases where one has pending court action, the system actually creates an incentive to not make needed changes.

Word to the wise; the time to get things right is when you don't have known problems. 

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