A Victim of Circumstance
Jack and Jason are in the office one evening, looking at the moon through their new skylight. Suddenly, they hear creaking and groaning from the ceiling. Before anyone knows what is happening, the skylight comes crashing down almost on top of them! They discover that the skylight didn’t cave in by itself. Rodney Rathbone stepped through it! He has a severe cut on his head and a broken arm.
Later, at the hospital, he admits to Jack, Jason, and Bart Rathbone that he was setting up a water-balloon trap on the roof. Bart tells Jack and Jason he’s grateful they’re not pressing trespassing charges against Rodney. But as soon as Jack and Jason leave, a new visitor steps into the room, a lawyer named Howard J. Weizel. Weizel convinces Bart and Rodney that they have a strong lawsuit against Jason Whittaker and Whit’s End! Jack and Jason can’t believe it. They try everything possible to get the case dismissed. They even send Weizel on a strange ride in the Room of Consequence to show him the disastrous results of his work. But Weizel and Rodney press charges, and they actually win.
Fortunately, the jury only awards them one dollar. The damage is still done, though. From now on, Whit’s End will have to put warning signs on everything.
- This plot section is too short and should be expanded. »
- Was Rodney really in the wrong for being on the roof?
- Why or why not?
- Should Whit’s End have had a sign telling kids to stay off the roof?
- Why is it wrong to not take responsibility for your mistakes?
- Have you ever done that?
Heard in episode
Mentioned in episode
|Eugene Meltsner||Jack Allen|
|John Whittaker||Jason Whittaker|
|Doc Morton||Jack Allen|
- It is never really explained how Weizel knew about Rodney falling through the skylight. Usually, when a client hires an attorney at law, the client contacts the attorney to represent him. In the case of a police arrest, the suspect has a right to an attorney ("If you cannot afford an attorney, one may be provided for you"). This means that Weizel should have showed up either if one of the Rathbones contacted him or if Rodney was arrested.
- Weizel showing up at the hospital is actually a comedic reference to the stereotypical "ambulance chaser". The phrase refers to a joke that personal injury lawyers "chase ambulances" to emergency rooms in an attempt to be hired by prospective clients. The joke itself was based on a very real practice of lawyers showing up at catastrophic events like car accidents to obtain clients. The practice is illegal, however, and Mr. Weizel might well lose his law license for doing it.
- Jack's quote "'You can't have one without the other' as the old song says" is referencing "Love and Marriage", a famous Frank Sinatra song.
- The precedent Jason's lawyer mentioned is a reference to a real case (which also likely inspired this episode), Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants, where a 79-year-old woman sued McDonald's after spilling hot coffee on herself and won. While it is unclear whether McDonald's was or wasn't at fault, the case became quite convoluted in court and actually has a bit more standing than the Odyssey case.
- The events of this episode were probably inspired by the legendary Bodine v. Enterprise High School case which rose to prominence in the 1980s and involved conflicting reports regarding a teenager climbing onto the roof of a school (possibly to steal a floodlight) who fell through the skylight and was badly injured. The young man sued the school and received a hefty settlement payment.
- The award of one dollar was based on the 1986 anti-trust lawsuit filed against the National Football League by the short-lived rival United States Football League (filed by New Jersey Generals owner and future President of the United States Donald Trump) in which the USFL "won" one dollar (tripled to $3) but soon went out of business.
- Jason Whittaker's lawyer (considered the best lawyer in Odyssey) is named Fenimore Cooper. James Fenimore Cooper is the name of an American Literature writer, famed for books such as The Last of the Mohicans.
- Jason is accused of negligence, putting Rodney through emotional duress, and defamation of character — all of which are cause for a civil lawsuit, not a criminal one. As such, the jury should have found him "liable" rather than "guilty"; in civil cases, the defendant is found either "liable" or "not liable", while "guilty" and "not guilty" are judgments rendered in criminal cases.
Jason Whittaker: I'm Jason Whittaker. Who're you?
Howard J. Weizel: My card.
Jason Whittaker: Howard J. WEa-zle.
Jack Allen: Uh, WI-zle.
Howard J. Weizel: Wi-ZEL, It's French.
Jason Whittaker: Attorney at law?
Howard J. Weizel: Correct. Give me back the card.
Jason Whittaker: I'm just admiring the new skylight we put in the roof.
Jack Allen: Jason, it's smoked glass. You can't really see anything.
Jason Whittaker: Ah, ah not true. You can see the glow of the moon as its incandescent rays bathe the office with an eerie somnambulance.
Jack Allen: Have you been talking to Eugene again?
Jason Whittaker: Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that they shouldn't climb on someone else's roof, especially in the dark!
Fenimore Cooper: The court isn't interested in common sense--only the law.
Howard J. Weizel: No, no, no. Don't speak.
Jack Allen: Our society places a great deal of importance on "individual rights." It seems a day doesn’t go by that someone isn’t telling us they have the right to do something. And, it’s true. Rights are very important. But there’s a flip side to them that is hardly ever discussed these days. It’s called responsibility. As the old song says, you can’t have one without the other! But these days, people are trying to. And the sad thing is, they’re succeeding. They’ve created a whole new class for themselves called, 'victims." "It’s not my fault," they say, 'Don’t blame me, I’m a victim! It was the way I was raised! It was the neighborhood I grew up in. I’m not responsible." And so, we excuse. And even reward all sorts of bad behavior. And little by little, our society decays and crumbles. Don’t let that happen. You can stop it! You, me, we, the people. We make the laws. We can stop the decay. We just have to have the courage to do it.
Bart Rathbone: Ey! If yas need any help fixing the skylight, give us a ring! I'll sell ya the parts wholesale! (Plus ten percent.)