How many times have you asked yourself: Gee, I wonder if my car can fly. I wonder if my automobile can take off, fly under its own power and then land like one of them there aero-planes.
The answer is “no,” and I know this for certain from watching a new television ad for the Ford Fusion, a $27,000, mid-sized car with a snout resembling an Aston Martin — like “wheels” for a low-income James Bond. The spot shows the Fusion driving off a cliff and flying through the air — not unlike the T-bird driven by two other cinema characters, Thelma and Louise.
This is not computer animation; the vehicle actually travels up and over a Joie Chitwood-type ramp (mature readers will get the Chitwood allusion), flies 90 feet through the wild blue and then lands on top of 2,000 cardboard boxes.
At the bottom of the screen are the usual legal disclaimers for nitwits: “Fictionalization. Professional Driver on Closed Course. Do Not Attempt.”
But then there is one more, very beautiful disclaimer: “Cars Cannot Fly.” Lovely!
You’re hoping that some Madison Avenue copywriter is just having a bit of fun with the audience, but you know better. You know that some lawyer at FoMoCo told the ad agency that to avoid lawsuits they better make it explicit that “Cars cannot fly.” Because we are the most litigious nation on this round earth and somewhere down the road some shyster is going to tell a jury “well, Ford did show the car going off a cliff and never did state specifically that it cannot fly, so please award my client all the money in Dearborn, Mich., of which I will take a measly one-third, if you don’t mind.”
Tap in “frivolous lawsuits” on that newfangled Internet thing and you will find all sorts of evidence — usually from right-wing websites — to support the assertion by Chuck Dickens that “the law is a ass.” An outfit calling itself the Institute for Legal Reform lists what it calls “the most ridiculous lawsuits” each year. Judge Judy would toss all of them in a nano-whatever:
• Topeka, Kan., fugitive murder suspect Jesse Dimmick sued the newlywed couple he kidnapped, claiming they breached a legally binding, oral contract with him to hide him for an unspecified amount of money. Dimmick told the court, as a result of this couple’s supposed treachery, not only did he get caught but “got shot in the back by authorities … which almost killed me. The hospital bills alone are in excess of $160,000, which I have no way to pay.” The kidnappees deny any such oral agreement.
• Tom Galloway wants a Pennsylvania court to award him $20,000 because the owner of a tavern was negligent for allowing him to enter with his concealed gun, whereupon he got wounded in a gunfight.
• In Barrington Hills, Ill., a son and daughter, in their early twenties, sued their mother because she sometimes did not include gifts with the birthday cards she sent them and, in the case of the daughter, refused to buy her a homecoming dress.
And, for the life of me, I cannot fathom why these cases did not make the Top Ten:
• In Westchester County, inmates are suing for $500,000, claiming the jail’s refusal to let them use dental floss has ruined their teeth.
• The family of a 16-year-old North Carolina boy who died after hiding out in the wheel well of a Boeing 737 is suing the Charlotte airport and USAirways, claiming they should have done more to keep the kid from getting onto the tarmac and into said wheel well.
• A 90-year-old California man, Jay Leone, is being sued by Samuel Cutrufelli, the 31-year-old alleged punk who is charged with breaking into Leone’s home and shooting the old timer in the jaw. Leone returned fire, wounding the intruder three times, which Cutrufelli says caused him great bodily and financial damage. Boo hoo.
Frivolous though these lawsuits may be, they provide work for the more than one million lawyers in the nation, the most per capita in the world.
But before you go quoting old Will Shakespeare about “killing all the lawyers” (taken in context, the Bard’s words actually are positive about the legal fraternity, if you can believe that), consider the alternative. What, leave it to the insurance companies to send you a big, fat check and a “get well” card?
Say “yes” to that and I’ve got this car I want to sell you. And it flies!
John McLoughlin is a freelance columnist and a veteran Capital Region journalist now at NewsChannel13. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily those of the newspaper. Reach him at JMcLoughlin@WNYT.com.