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Lawyers—Always Taking the Fun Out of Life Print E-mail
by John Browning    Wed, Sep 21, 2011, 11:05 AM

St. Louis’ City Museum is the sort of hands-on urban wonderland that kids love to explore.  Housed in a ten-story brick building, it boasts such interactive attractions as the Monstro City, a five-story jungle gym with two actual jets for kids to climb into and on; a rooftop Ferris wheel; a “ball pit” filled with large rubber balls; underground “secret passageways;” a “Monster Slide” that drops its riders ten stories; and the “Puking Pig,” a huge metal drum that fills up with about 150 gallons of water until the sheer weight causes it to tip over and deluge an adjacent pool.  The City Museum is part industrial playground, part theme park, and part art exhibit.  Don’t look for cold, antiseptic surroundings cordoned off by velvet ropes—virtually everything can be touched and even climbed, right down to the walk-through whale and other sculptures on the grounds.  The attractions appeal to today’s kids even as they offer a nod to St. Louis’ industrial heritage by recycling things like vintage assembly-line rollers into slides and other features.

 

The museum is the brainchild of 61 year-old founder Bob Cassilly.  A sculptor by trade who made his fortune as a developer of residential and commercial properties, Cassilly bought two downtown buildings (formerly owned by a shoe company) for $525,000 in 1993.  After renovations, he opened the City Museum in 1997, making his vision of a “computer-free zone” where kids could play and experience things in a hands-on, “please touch” environment.  Maximum enjoyment in a low-tech experience is the rule here, from the “secret passageways” to the “skateless park” where children run up and slide down wooden skateboard ramps that are now slides.  The concept has caught on, with attendance topping 700,000 visitors annually.  This makes it one of St. Louis’ most popular attractions, outdrawing more mainstream venues like the venerable St. Louis Art Museum.

 

But success comes with its own price tag, and not just in terms of the skinned knees and elbows that are part and parcel of childhood.  City Museum has been named in over two dozen lawsuits since 2005.  Personal injury attorney Amy Gunn, who’s represented a boy who broke his leg on a slide and a college student who lost two fingers on another exhibit, says “I think it can be a really fun place, but my worry is that it’s not regulated enough.  There are a lot of lawsuits for a reason.”  Cassilly counters that that’s life.  “We like to be the devil’s advocate for society,” he says.  “When you have millions of people do something, something’s going to happen no matter what you do.”  One such inevitability: higher insurance premiums.  When the museum started in 1997, its annual insurance cost was roughly $36,000.  Now, its insurance premiums are approximately $600,000 each year, amounting to one dollar out of each $12 admission.

 

What makes Bob Cassilly’s approach to the onslaught of lawsuits so refreshing, though, is his refusal to take it quietly.  While the museum has settled several cases and lost at least one jury verdict, it defiantly fights back—and not just in the courtroom.  Cassilly believes in “naming and shaming”—a sign near the admissions entrance lists the names and phone numbers of lawyers and law firms who sued the museum, explaining that the trial lawyers and their clients are responsible for a 9% surcharge that was added in 2010 to the cost of each ticket.  One lawyer in particular has earned Cassilly’s ire.  Prominent St. Louis personal injury lawyer Terry Crouppen (whom Cassilly refers to as an “ambulance chaser” and “mugger”) appears at the museum, but not the way you might think; the museum has an effigy of Crouppen locked in a pillory near the ticket window (the pillory, or stocks, were used in days gone by to publicly punish and shame criminals).  Cassilly has called plaintiffs “foolish” and maintains that lawyers “are taking the fun out of life.”

 

Besides the public shaming, the City Museum has fought back against frivolous lawsuits in other ways.  Video cameras have been installed to document accidents and to expose fraudulent claims.  As explained on the museum’s Facebook page, this is with good reason:

 

Just to give you a quick glimpse into what we go through at the City Museum, a couple of years ago our rock fell 4 feet.  The next day we had over 12 people call and tell us they were injured when the rock fell.  To investigate these claims, we reviewed the video of the rock falling and we posted the video clearly showing that there was no one next to the rock when it fell on our website.  When this was brought to several of the callers’ attention they either hung up or changed their stories.

 

Bob Cassilly and his innovative, popular City Museum illustrate an unfortunate truism of American business: if you build a better mousetrap, someone will step forward and claim that it’s unreasonably dangerous.  Or, to put it another way, “if you build it, they will sue.”  Are the interactive features in this industrial playground completely safe?  No—and neither is life.  Send your kid out to play with a helmet, safety pads, and wrapped all over in bublewrap, and he or she is going to miss out on many of life’s character-building bumps and bruises.  Lawsuits, and perhaps even more accurately the fear of lawsuits, risk turning us into a society of excessively politically correct, risk-averse sheep.

 

Bob Cassilly is right—lawyers are taking the fun out of life.

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Comments (23)add comment
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written by Austin , September 22, 2011

If you lost a couple of fingers in a museum ride would you consider your suit to recover damages "frivolous"?





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written by kactusJack , September 22, 2011

if you stick your hand where any reasonable person would know better, you will get hurt. "stupid is as stupid does." ;-)


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written by buckmeister , September 22, 2011

I am never surprised when I see lawyers bashing other lawyers, since it is usually mere theatre, like the two cheeks we call parties. I am reminded of the old joke about how one lawyer in a town will starve but, two will grow rich together. The simple solution to frivolous law suits is to rein in frivolous judges who are allowing themselves to judge themselves. Start by legislation that requires a commission of everday citizens to decide all issues of bias or collusion.


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written by St.Louis reader , September 22, 2011

Cassilly doesnt mind the legal system when he is suing, and the court records show he does it alot. The notion that you can open a kids' playground and not worry about safety died out in this country long ago. Too bad Whiny Cassilly didn't.


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written by Bob , September 22, 2011

The guy who puts buses hanging off buildings and builds playgrounds out of decommissioned airplanes, and industrial scrap has a big insurance premium? Clearly a lawsuit problem.


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written by jt , September 22, 2011

Been there and it's a scary place- Very dangerous


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written by Dan Ryan , September 22, 2011

Bob Cassilly is wrong and a fool. Inviting kids into a place to lose fingers, break legs, or get more horribly injured is the height of corporate irresponsibility. I challenge him or the author to name ONE frivolous suit filed against him that he paid on or a jury made him pay on. You won't find one. The proliferation of the urban legend of frivolous lawsuits is what allows these types of dangerous businesses to continue to make money while injuring patrons.
I would argue that Cassilly taking a couple of fingers or breaking a leg of a child takes more fun out of life than a lawyer enforcing a child's constitutional right to recover for injuries caused by a shabbily operated business.



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written by ME , September 22, 2011

as opposed to making the place safe, better to shame the people hurt there.


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written by AdamG , September 22, 2011

"Bob Cassilly is right—lawyers are taking the fun out of life"

Oh so true, fun things like the Ford Pinto and baby blankets made out of asbestos.



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written by DAVE , September 22, 2011

Um, who took the fun out of the life of the guy who lost two fingers? It seems Cassilly, who can't, apparently, design a museum that keeps people from losing two fingers?


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written by Todd N , September 22, 2011

I don't know what someone from Dallas knows about the City Museum in St. Louis, but as a life-long St. Louis resident and, yes, an attorney, each time I've visited I've thought--"this place is really dangerous!"
When you are designing an attraction for the public, and particularly children, you have a duty to make that attraction safe. Bottom line, City Museum doesn't sound like it is concerned about its patrons safety and it shows in some of the attractions. Junk into art or fun is a great idea, but not at the sacrifice of safety. Particularly when you're charging an admission. Personally I think everyone who pays that surcharge should thank those attorneys for trying to make the place safer!



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written by RES , September 22, 2011

It is frivolous until it is your child who is maimed or killed. If a lawsuit prompts a more favorable safety measure to be utilized, and that protects hundreds or thousands of other children then it is certainly not a waste of time or resources.


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written by Joyce Kramer , September 22, 2011

Huh!!! Is my name up there for my allegedly frivolous claim against the City Museum. If not, I want it put up immediately.

My client, a two year old, was on a choo-choo train that rode inside a long covered, unfinished tunnel, filled with long, sharp nails throughout. His mom was waiting for him at the end of the ride.

When the choo-choo arrived, her son was not there. City Museum had no idea he was missing as no one counted the kids and no one rode in back to check. He could not get out and they had to go inside to free him.

The child had injuries that were bad, but not permanent and his claim was amicably resolved. Should that claim not have been filed in the interest of protecting the wonders of negligent childhood risk that the Museum offers?

Should the Museum, in the interest of protecting a risky childhood experience, be allowed to insure it's way out of its own negligence, then claim that the claims are frivolous?

I'd love to see proof of the alleged fraudulent claims filled regarding the rock fall. Not that that fraudulent claims don't happen, but just that it's so convenient to make bald statements, without providing proof, to support their position.

BTW, I still love the City Museum and would love it more if I could see my name posted there.
Joyce Kramer, Attorney at Law
4633 Maryland Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63108-1912
314-361-2000
314-361-2121 (fax)
Accident and Injury Victim Law
Personalized help to make it right!
Lic: NY and MO
www.joycekramer.com
This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it



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written by Joyce Kramer , September 22, 2011

Huh!!! Is my name up there for my allegedly frivolous claim against the City Museum. If not, I want it put up immediately.

My client, a two year old, was on a choo-choo train that rode inside a long covered, unfinished tunnel, filled with long, sharp nails throughout. His mom was waiting for him at the end of the ride.

When the choo-choo arrived, her son was not there. City Museum had no idea he was missing as no one counted the kids and no one rode in back to check. He could not get out and they had to go inside to free him.

The child had injuries that were bad, but not permanent and his claim was amicably resolved. Should that claim not have been filed in the interest of protecting the wonders of negligent childhood risk that the Museum offers?

Should the Museum, in the interest of protecting a risky childhood experience, be allowed to insure it's way out of its own negligence, then claim that the claims are frivolous?

I'd love to see proof of the alleged fraudulent claims filled regarding the rock fall. Not that that fraudulent claims don't happen, but just that it's so convenient to make bald statements, without providing proof, to support their position.

BTW, I still love the City Museum and would love it more if I could see my name posted there.
Joyce Kramer, Attorney at Law
4633 Maryland Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63108-1912
314-361-2000
314-361-2121 (fax)
Accident and Injury Victim Law
Personalized help to make it right!
Lic: NY and MO
www.joycekramer.com
This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it



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written by Jaden , September 22, 2011

The museum probably wasn't very fun for the two-year-old who got seriously cut up by exposed nails and stuck in a tunnel while on a train ride. Not fun for his mother, either. And that was before the lawyers got involved.


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written by Michelle from St. Louis , September 22, 2011

How typical to jump on the bandwagon to lawyer-hate instead of looking at reality and logic. Frivolous and false claims are made by the public every day. The average citizen is to blame, not lawyers. In fact, this article discusses video evidence which establishes that in one instance numerous patrons of the City Museum (not lawyers) were lying about injuries. How could the author ignore that the general public is willing to lie to the museum? Blame those people for taking the fun out of life, not the lawyers who file legitimate claims. Blame the people who lie and falsify claims. The reality is that neither I, nor the vast majority of my colleagues would take a case where we know, or believe, our potential client is lying. Not only is it unethical, it's too much of a financial risk to take a case where you don’t even believe your potential client’s claims. Blame those people that forget what foot to limp on. Blame the people that lie to their lawyers about how injured they are. There will always be one or two rogue lawyers who do not make ethical decisions about what claims to file suit on, but that is not the majority. Legitimate claims can arise from a place like City Museum. I love City Museum. It is a wonderful and dangerous place. Danger is not inherently wrong though. Some risk is ok. It is when the risk is unreasonable and the danger is foreseeable that lawyers come in. When is a slide at the Museum angled too much to be unreasonably dangerous? The line isn’t always clear. That is why we have juries. Lawyers and the judicial system protect us from a world of anarchy where businesses don’t calculate risk and the possibility of lawsuits. The possibility of a lawsuits helps to protect the people. Imagine if business owners were immune from suit. That is a truly scary thought. I don’t know about the author of this article, but I, for one, am willing to pay the extra dollar in my admission ticket so that City Museum has insurance. Insurance is a cost of doing business for City Museum and that cost is worth paying for in an admission ticket. Injury claims aren’t taking the fun out of life, they are just making fun places more expensive.


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written by Brass Knuckles , September 23, 2011

I hope John Browning brings his kids to City Museum soon. If he does, he might change his tune and rewrite this absurdly biased article.

After a passing mention of a child's broken leg (Mommy didn't tell me that fun day at City Museum would include an ambulance ride!) or a college student's loss of TWO FINGERS, Browning immediately jumps to the fiscal equation for poor ol' Bob Cassilly. Bob has to charge an extra buck or two to cover insurance. Poor Bob. Poor, poor over-regulated Bob. And a pox on those frivolous punks who frivolously break and frivolously lose their frivolous body parts!

Do you care about how much this will cost them? Bob's costs are pass-through (and frankly, given the volume of visitors, a source of profit). Will the college kid be able to markup his lost fingers? Browning, tell me you're not that shallow.

You perpetuate the corporate-driven myth that folks don't have rights. If something bad happens to you, it's God's will. That point of view is not surprising coming from a Texan. Of course, us folks up here in civilized country will do our best to help you find a way back from the darkness of "hang 'em high" ignorance and intolerance. That's what us rationale folks do.

Cassilly's attitude is, 'You pays your money you takes your chances. Ignore the nails, kids. Ignore the razor sharp edge on that spot-weld, mom, I'll grind it off next week. Meantime enjoy not missing out "on many of life’s character-building bumps and bruises."

Ignore the insurance racket that profits from both sides of an injury. Ignore the fact that they set the price for missing fingers. They define the price tag for fixing broken bones. They fight the owning up to responsibility.

And how dare you insult the character of a jury. Get this through your Texas oil-stained skull: if a case wins in court, it ain't frivolous. Your peers--people just like you and me (well, maybe not you as I have yet to see any evidence that you are indeed human)--have decided the outcome.

But hey, if that little kid knew anything about physics, he wouldn't have gotten himself into a situation where he would have broken his leg. Someone needs to tell that punk to stop playing the victim card and pick himself up by his bootstraps, right?

And someone needs to tell that college kid to grab those two fingers, duct tape them back on his hand and quit whining, right?

And thank you for your non-biased judgment in the closing line. It allows me to stick yet another meme up your oil pipe: Why can't a businessperson take personal responsibility to provide a safe environment for hundreds of thousands of kids? Heckuva job, Browning.

I would like a picture of John Browning, the "author" of this article. I'd like to put it up on my Hall Of Craven Asswarts, Halfwits and Corporate Shills.



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written by Buckmeister , September 23, 2011

I rest my case. This string of comments [some if not most from lawyers seeking business (to correctly right wrongs or to defend them for their own gain)simply proves my point. There are dangers and there are those who defend them. Whether or not the claim is frivolous cannot be left to lawyers wearing black robes who may have just lunched with one or the other party's lawyer with a "campaign" contribution. Leave bias to the jury just like the facts.


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written by Edward , September 25, 2011

Lots of folks from the St. Louis area posting here. Kind of unusual for a Dallas blog. And virtually all of these people seem to be OK with a nanny-state approach to life. Ah, wait a minute, St. Louis is a Democrat stronghold. Now it makes sense.


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written by Michelle Funkenbusch from St. Louis , September 26, 2011

If you guys dont know, Cassilly died in a bulldozer accident this morning....
http://blogs.riverfronttimes.c...ssilly.php



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written by CJ , September 26, 2011

Bob Cassilly was killed in a bulldozer accident this morning, Sept 26, 2011.


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written by St.Louis reader , September 26, 2011

http://stlouis.cbslocal.com/20...-accident/

Mr. Cassilly died in an accident this week.



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written by Neslil , September 27, 2011

The City Museum draws thousands and accidents happen. Amusement parks draw thousands and accidents happen. Life is a risk and God did not see the attorney waiting around the corner. I hope Mr. Cassillys creation goes on for many years as his legacy.



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