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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

The drunk's accomplice

Many of us have lamented society's drift away from individual responsibility. It's not the drunken driver's fault -- it's the fault of the bartender who served him. It's not the murderer's fault, but that of the company that manufactured the gun. It's not the homeowner to blame who entered a too-risky mortgage agreement; the blame goes to the "predatory lender" who talked him into it.

Here's our chance to have another go at the issue from a slightly different angle:

Meanwhile, Pulaski County authorities announced Monday the arrest of a man who allegedly provided Solano with the weapon used in the shooting of his wife and himself.Officials contend the man, Timothy McCorkle, knew Solano's intentions to kill his wife when he gave him the weapon.



I suspect they'll have a hard time actually proving he knew of the killer's intentions, but what about the broader question? If you are suicidal and ask me to shoot you, and I agree, that's at one end of the scale. If I merely suspect you're suicidal and choose not to say anything to anyone, that's at the other end. What's my liability, moral if not legal, if I suspect you're suicidal, you ask to borrow my gun, and I give it to you?

It's another way of thinking about that bartender. Certainly the drunk has the greatest responsibility for his actions. But what if the bartender can observe that the drinker is clearly drunk? Doesn't he bear some responsibility for what happens next if he keeps serving the drunk instead of cutting him off, given the extremely high probability that the drunk is going to get behind the wheel upon leaving the bar?


Wed, 04/16/2008 - 10:36am

As between the drunk and the bartender, it's clearly the drunk's responsibility. However, as between the bartender and the person injured by the drunk, who is more responsible? The bartender is slightly more responsible.

If the drunk can't pay for the damage done by the drunk, who should bear the cost of the drunk's damage: the completely innocent injured person or the slightly blameworthy bartender?

But, then, I guess you pretty much just said that.

Wed, 04/16/2008 - 10:59am

Liability aside, I also operated under the theory that I don't want to over-serve anyone simply because I don't want have to carry them out. Never mind any drunken problems I'd want to avoid before that even happened.

Wed, 04/16/2008 - 12:35pm

Yeah, Leo, those predatory lenders aren't really to blame for anything at all. It's those stupid subprime borrowers who have singlehandedly ruined the economy, driven down the values of our homes and made it next to impossible to get a loan now even if we have good credit. Shame on them. Praise be to the banks.

tim zank
Wed, 04/16/2008 - 5:01pm

Alex, there have been unseemly and predatory salespeople in ALL professions, it's part of humanity. In this country it used to be (way back in the old days) that the consumer generally has the burden of making certain they need, want and can afford what they are buying. It's that pesky old "personal responsibility" you hear us old folks lament about. It was a hell of a concept.

From Merriam Webster:

caveat emptor

Main Entry: caveat emp

Harl Delos
Wed, 04/16/2008 - 7:40pm

You apparently don't understand "caveat emptor". It has nothing to do with this.

Let's suppose you sell that fellow a used gun. It's a gun your grandfather had hanging over the fireplace in the bookstore you inherited, and you've never even touched it. You sell it to the guy, knowing he wants to kill his wife. The gun isn't intended for use with modern ammunition, and it blows up. Instead of losing a wife, the guy loses his eye. The principle of "caveat emptor" says that he can't come back after you, not for the loss of his eye, and not even for the purchase price of the gun.

If you had a gun shop, and you were selling him a new gun of shoddy manufacture, then he CAN come after you, because of the "implied warranty of merchantability."

Neither of which has ANYTHING to do with his buying the gun to kill his wife. We're talking about conspiracy to commit a crime. And you're right, personal responsibility is very much at the heart of it.

If you act as lookout while your buddy breaks into the jewelry store, you're as guilty of burglary as he is. And if your buddy accidently kills someone in the commission of that crime, you're as guilty of murder as he is.

Even though your buddy did nothing except trip in the dark. He bumps into a file cabinet, a trophy falls off the top, and makes a big dent in the head of the store manager, lying drunk in the corner because he thought he was in no condition to drive home.

If you sell someone a gun, knowing that the purchaser intends to use it to commit a crime, you are a conspirator in committing that crime, and you should be punished.

Tim, "personal responsibility" doesn't mean you need to point the finger at someone else. It means you pay the penalty for what you do.

tim zank
Wed, 04/16/2008 - 7:53pm

No offense Harl, but you waaaaaaay overthought this one. I do understand caveat emptor, I was merely pointing out to Alex that he can't lay all the blame on lenders for people caught up in the so called "subprime crisis".

I used caveat emptor (as buyer beware) because it illustrates buyers of loans should beware, just as buyers of any other product.

If you re-read my post, I was ADVOCATING personal responsibility and suggesting the borrowers not point the finger at someone else. You just had it backwards is all.

Harl Delos
Thu, 04/17/2008 - 7:05am

No offense, Tim, but you waaaaaaaaay underthought this one.

If you make *minor* misrepresentations in order to make a deal, it's puffery, and that's legal. When you make *material* misrepresentations in order to make a deal, it's fraud.

The folks that worked for the mortgage companies were working on commissions, or were getting a small salary and big bonuses. When you tell a homebuyer that he can afford to sell a mortgage that he obviously can NOT afford when interest rates go back to historic levels, that's fraud.

Normally, if someone benefits financially by deliberately making material misstatements to someone he's cutting a deal with, they go to prison.

Take a look at Clem Wieland, who developed Lake Diane. Take a look at Mark Steven Miller, who was responsible for Oakwood Deposit Bank's failure.

Why are you trying to excuse the criminal behavior of lenders, and blame their victims?

Misprision of a felony is NOT "exhibiting personal responsibility", Tim. Man up, and face the facts!

tim zank
Thu, 04/17/2008 - 7:16am

Harl, I am not defending predatory lenders, I've been a salesman all my life and I know puffery from fraud. The lenders who employed fraud should absolutely be sent up the river.

That being said, as a real estate broker married to a mortgage banker, I can assure you fraud is not the only reason a lot of people are facing foreclosure. There are an enormous amount of consumers that simply don't handle their finances properly, live beyond their means, and have no problem walking away from responsibility.

I was snarking at Alex because he painted all lenders with a broad brush, (as are you) which is absolutely unfair. Every profession has it's share of whores.

Harl Delos
Thu, 04/17/2008 - 7:54am

There are an enormous amount of consumers that simply don

tim zank
Thu, 04/17/2008 - 8:19am

Harl sez ..."And the mortgage broker can

Harl Delos
Thu, 04/17/2008 - 11:52am

my point is 95% off all mortgages are fine as are 95% of all mortgage bankers

There's a default rate of 19.5% (as of last October; I can't find any newer statistics) on the mortgages we were discussing.

If you say mortgage brokers are equally praiseworthy, I guess we'll have to take your word on it.