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Posted: 8/21/2006 4:03:41 PM EDT
suntimes.com/output/steinberg/cst-nws-stein21.html

Hello, goodbye to ethics in iPod age

August 21, 2006

BY NEIL STEINBERG SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST

Opening shot

Today in Wheaton, at DuPage County Court, the matter of "McCarthy vs. Eick" will come before a judge. Present will be the plaintiff, Melanie McCarthy, a post office manager from Aurora, and her daughter, Shannon, 14. Also present will be one of the defendants, Stephen Eick, a computer consultant. His lawyer, Christopher Lunardini of Momkus McCluskey Monroe Marsh & Spyratos LLC, will be with him. Eick's 14-year-old daughter, Stephanie, is staying home.

The facts of the case are not in dispute. The date was June 6, the last day before vacation at Jeffrey C. Still Middle School in Aurora. Both Stephanie and Shannon -- friends who shared classes but did not hang out together, to use the fine calibration of relationships as viewed by teenage girls -- were in Miss Riley's food and nutrition class. Shannon had her pink iPod Nano, purchased two weeks earlier. Stephanie asked to borrow it. She listened to Hellogoodbye -- a band -- while Shannon went to use the restroom. Class ended. Stephanie set the iPod on Shannon's desk, next to her purse. When Shannon returned, the purse was there, but the iPod was gone.

Enter the adults . . .

Not quite Murder on the Orient Express. But because the story involves both an expensive piece of ubiquitous recent technology, the iPod portable music device, and a loathed cultural bugbear -- a lawsuit, in this case Shannon's single mom seeking $475 in damages and court costs from the Eicks -- it has gotten a certain traction since it was splashed across the top two-thirds of the front page of the Naperville Sun last Wednesday, headlined "iPod Insanity."

The girls are terse, as teenage girls tend to be.

"It was the last day of school, and we were all just bored," remembers Stephanie. "Me and my friend, Kim, were like, 'Could we listen to your iPod?' ''

"I ran to my next class thinking I would talk to her third period,'' says Shannon. "She said she left it on the desk.''

The adults are more loquacious.

"We feel my daughter has been unfairly blamed for an iPod that someone else has taken,'' says Stephen Eick, Stephanie's father. "There was a bunch of disparaging comments about our ability as parents to raise our kids and that she should take responsibility for this. My daughter's iPod was stolen last fall. When that happened, we said, 'Hey, you learned a hard lesson.' I tried to reason with the person. It was clear, they felt they were wronged."

"I am so tired at how kids are nowadays,'' says Melanie McCarthy, Shannon's mom. "You blame the videos. You blame the school system. You blame friends. If your kid makes a mistake, why not have them take responsibility and make it right? If Mr. Eick would have bought Shannon an iPod three months ago there would have been a lot less paying of attorneys."

People are sick of frivolous lawsuits. When I spoke with McCarthy, I told her that, as the person filing suit, she is tailor-made for the villain role.

"I know, I know. That's the surprising thing. I've never sued anyone before," laughs McCarthy, 42. "Stephanie had told Shannon, 'I'll pay you back for the lost iPod.' We waited a week. I called the Eick family, and it turned out she never even told her mom. Mrs. Eick said, basically, that it's a lesson Shannon learned. I was stunned."

Let's draw the veil here. There are enough details to fill four columns, and the bottom line is that all this is de minimus: a trifle.

Of course, not a trifle to those involved, particularly the girls. Both girls are going to suffer; they each start high school with at least one bitter enemy. If not more -- a mean boy tripped Shannon at Waubonsie Valley High School orientation last week, taunting, "What are you going to do, sue me?" As for Stephanie, well, let's just say I hope that what friends she retains know not to loan her their grandma's pearls.

And the parents . . . they all seem in complete agreement on one point: the other girl should take responsibility. Shannon, for losing her iPod via Stephanie; Stephanie, for setting it on the desk and walking off.

Having spoken to all the adults and teens involved, I see it this way:

The law may be on the Eicks' side -- their daughter isn't an iPod protection service. She had no legal obligation to safeguard her friend's iPod beyond her minimal return to the vacant desk, if even that. The Eicks are legally right, though morally wrong. Their attitude toward Shannon -- you've learned a hard lesson, honey: not to trust people such as our daughter -- is what makes suburban living so frequently unpleasant. I'm sure Stephanie told Shannon she'd take care of it, then shrugged and went about enjoying her summer.

McCarthy filed the lawsuit, sure, wasting time and money, because she'll almost certainly lose. But it was a valiant effort. Look at which girl is without an iPod today -- Shannon ("You're addicted to it and then it's gone," she says, sorrowfully.). And which girl -- Stephanie -- is posing on the cover of the Naperville Sun, grinning happily and showing off the new video iPod that her parents had no trouble buying her, perhaps as a reward for carelessly handling the property her former friend was foolish enough to entrust to her. There are lessons aplenty here, though not the ones the adults intend. I would remind them of the immortal words of Marge Gunderson, in the movie "Fargo": "There's more to life than a little money, ya know."
Link Posted: 8/22/2006 10:32:59 PM EDT
[#1]
I don't see how this is "frivolous."

Let's say I borrowed a power tool from you that cost $475, and instead of returning it into your hand I merely left it near your tool box in a high traffic public place and it gets stolen.  Would you consider that frivolous?  Or would you demand I buy you a new one?  Or let's say I borrowed your laptop, and instead of giving it back to you I claim I left it on the seat of your truck.  And now it's gone.  Would that be frivolous?

Oh, I see - since it was a teenaged girl and an iPod then it's "frivolous." To you maybe, but probably not to the parent who shelled out the $475 for it.  I think you need to take a close look at your own prejudices  and reread the story with an open mind.
Link Posted: 8/22/2006 11:26:37 PM EDT
[#2]

Quoted:
I don't see how this is "frivolous."

Let's say I borrowed a power tool from you that cost $475, and instead of returning it into your hand I merely left it near your tool box in a high traffic public place and it gets stolen.  Would you consider that frivolous?  Or would you demand I buy you a new one?  Or let's say I borrowed your laptop, and instead of giving it back to you I claim I left it on the seat of your truck.  And now it's gone.  Would that be frivolous?

Oh, I see - since it was a teenaged girl and an iPod then it's "frivolous." To you maybe, but probably not to the parent who shelled out the $475 for it.  I think you need to take a close look at your own prejudices  and reread the story with an open mind.


+1

You borrow something, you are responsible for it. As far as i'm concerned the "borrower" could have stolen it and lied about it.
Link Posted: 8/22/2006 11:38:12 PM EDT
[#3]

Quoted:
Oh, I see - since it was a teenaged girl and an iPod then it's "frivolous." To you maybe, but probably not to the parent who shelled out the $475 for it.  I think you need to take a close look at your own prejudices  and reread the story with an open mind.


The frivolity is that no suit should have been brought.  The negligent girl lendee should have been enrolled by her parents in the cafateria work program shelling out french fries at lunch till the iPod costs were recouped.
Link Posted: 8/23/2006 5:01:20 AM EDT
[#4]
We learned something today.....don't let stupid spoi;ed whores borrow your stuff.
Link Posted: 8/23/2006 5:18:54 AM EDT
[#5]

Quoted:
We learned something today.....don't let buy expensive stuff for stupid spoi;ed whores kids that let their idiot friends borrow your stuff.


Fixed it  
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