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Frivolous lawsuits against Kroger

By Scott Tibbs, February 15, 2013

Imagine you are in the middle of an armed robbery, and you are taken hostage. A man rescues you from the robber by shooting him - perhaps saving your life from the gunman. What is your reaction? A normal person's reaction would be to express gratitude for the man who risked his life to save yours, but the reaction of Christine Nelson is to file a lawsuit against him. I wonder if Elijah Elliott regrets saving Nelson's life?

It actually gets worse. This is the second lawsuit filed in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Jeremy Atkinson, the armed robber who took Nelson hostage. Atkinson's mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kroger, claiming that the store "owed Atkinson a duty to exercise reasonable care for his safety." Yes, someone committing an armed robbery should expect that his victims will care for his safety, so he can steal and take hostages without concern that he will be harmed. That is just brilliant.

Elliott resigned from his job after the shooting, despite public outcry in support of his actions. Had he not resigned, his employment may have been terminated - something I do not have a problem with. Kroger's policy on employees bringing firearms into the store is clear, and Elliott knowingly broke company policy. When you break company policy, you can expect discipline up to and including termination. Furthermore, while Elliott's actions may be seen as heroic by many, but virtually every large chain has a clear policy on armed robbery: You do not resist. You cooperate fully with the robber. Material items and money can be replaced, but human lives cannot.

But Elliott losing his job is a far cry from being sued, in what is a cynical grab for cash by Nelson and her attorney. The shyster representing Atkinson's mother is even worse, and should be disbarred. I do not judge Mrs. Atkinson, regardless of the moral depravity of her son. I am sure she is experiencing a great deal of grief over his death, whether he deserved it or not. (And he did.) But the attorney representing her is a shyster who is wasting the time and resources of the legal system and should not be permitted to practice law in the state of Indiana. This is a cash grab, nothing more.

I am not a fan of tort reform, as I believe it unnecessarily restricts the ability of people to get the damages they are owed when legitimately wronged. We see a Biblical precedent for punitive damages in Exodus 22:1, where someone who steals and kills someone's ox must pay back five oxen as damages - certainly more than the damage actually done. But this is an area where tort reform is needed. It should be illegal to file a wrongful death claim when someone is killed in the commission of a violent crime, especially if law enforcement determines that the person who kills the criminal acted in self-defense and committed no wrong.

Republicans have a 69-31 supermajority in the Indiana House and a 37-13 supermajority in the Indiana Senate to go along with a Republican governor. It should be a slam dunk to pass this common-sense reform, and it should be passed in the 2013 legislative session.