No lawsuits in the good old days

The days of "Let's build our own hall with donations and volunteer labour" are long gone.

Don’t you miss the “Good Old Days”?

The days when teens respected their elders, you could trust your politicians, supermarket food wasn’t made up entirely of chemicals, you could buy two dozen beer for less than $20, and pigs could fly?

Seriously, we yearn a lot for certain aspects of the past – door to door milkmen, rotary dial phones, bakelite 78s, Guy Lombardo… but you can’t go back, unless you want to move to a lesser developed country, and is it worth it?

In Canada, the days when you could call up your friends and neighbours for a workbee and build a community hall “with donations and volunteer help” has gone the way of the Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press.

For those who haven’t noticed yet, local governments are required to cover their butts every way they can to prevent accidents in which they can be held liable for.

Insurance and liability has killed a whole lot of things these days that never used to be a problem. Fifty years ago, if you tripped in a public building (ie. a community hall, an arena, etc.) and broke your arm, or a rafter came loose and hit you on the head and put you in the hospital for a couple of weeks, you might get an apology from the municipality and a free summer’s swim pass.

Now you’d sue the municipality (and yourself as a taxpayer if you live there) for several million dollars. You’d also sue the engineers who designed that step-up, the arena attendants who didn’t point it out to you, and anyone else who could potentially have had anything to do with it.

Not only are engineers and contractors insured way past the eyeballs, but they use equipment and materials from companies that have been tested and approved for what they’re being used for. Municipalities are covered by the Municipal Insurance Authority, and they don’t like their clients taking risks. Playgrounds are a major risk, but they’re still acceptable. Volunteers building a public facility is not going to happen.

It isn’t a question of whether volunteers can do the work; it’s a question of how well you’ve protected the public from a lawsuit.

Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal