Time Essay: Of Hazards, Risks and Culprits

Lightning struck two young men visiting Sequoia National Park in 1975, killing one and damaging the other's nervous system. The tragedy would seem to be an ugly triumph of miscreant weather and bad luck, yet a pending lawsuit against the National Park Service demands "no less than a million" for the disabled survivor and $1,606,645 for his late companion's family. The plaintiffs' argument: the park management negligently failed to warn the victims against standing where lightning might strike. The most amazing thing about the plaintiffs' position is that it is not at all unusual.

Today any mishap, no matter how fluky, can...

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