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Would you have reacted the same?

You are a bride celebrating your upcoming wedding with your best and closest friends when the unthinkable happens. Your best friend and maid of honor playfully pushes you into the pool, you land wrong and break your neck. You are now a quadraplegic confined to a wheelchair for the rest of your life. How would you have reacted?

Based on the numerous comments by some individuals, I can almost accurately predict their reaction would be a legalistic retaliation against what they viewed as the so-called “friend”. “What kind of friend would endanger another person like that?,” they would demand. “Pushing someone into a pool is an act of passive aggression and the friend cannot be innocent,” someone is bound to claim. “Actions have consequences and stupidity in a pool has it unfortunate consequences”, would be the mantra of some.

Real life bride Rachel Friedman faced that very situation. See how she reacted:

{ 74 comments… add one }
  • Rob May 27, 2011, 3:17 pm

    Comment #29: I think that admin has set up a straw man argument. It’s nice that she’s maintained such a positive outlook on everything, and until someone DOES suggest suing her friend, I don’t think we should be getting outraged about something that didn’t happen.

    Comment #30: I would sue, even if it were a friend.

    OK, that’s too funny to be a coincidence!

  • Lizajane May 27, 2011, 3:47 pm

    There are so many people saying pretty much what the Admin said they would and the point I took was that it DOESN’T MATTER what you would do or what I would do, or is it childish or was it stupid, or should she be financially responsible, shunned or horsewhipped.

    What matters is that this young woman has chosen to accept her circumstances as bravely and gracefully as she can and maybe each of us can take a little inspiration from that.

  • Tundra May 27, 2011, 6:38 pm

    You’re taught never to dive into the shallow end, or dive into pools that are too shallow in general. So why the heck would you push? It is NOT just horsing around, it’s idiotic and dangerous.

  • MizA May 27, 2011, 7:49 pm

    It’s difficult in a case like this to step back and view it in a dispassionate, just-the-facts sort of way.

    I spent three years working as a spinal cord injury rehabilitation nurse, and one of the largest commonalities people shared was the realization that terrible things happen. And sometimes, they happen to us, or people we love very much. And part of rehabilitation is making the choice to work through the new set of circumstances and challenges, or letting the circumstances or challenges be the negatively defining factor in one’s life.

    It’s amazing to see that this young woman and her fiancee have such a generous and forgiving worldview. And if she had opted to take legal action, it is her right and her perogative. Her trauma is an even that will effect the whole of her community for a long long time.

  • Stace May 27, 2011, 9:53 pm

    I would have sued. That does not make me a bad person. It makes me a realistic person. Someone made a mistake, and because of their mistake, I will require medical care for the rest of my seriously impaired life.

    If a friend threw a baseball and broke my window, I would expect him or her to pay for it. If a friend backed into my car, I would expect his or her insurance to pay for it. If my friend’s deck collapsed while I was standing on it, I would expect his or her homeowner’s insurance to cover at least part of my costs.

    Additionally, legally, in many cases a lawsuit must occur in order for my own insurance to step up and pay for my needs.

    That’s life. That’s unfortunately, just the way it works. In a perfect world, sure, I wouldn’t sue my friend. In a perfect world, we would also have nanobots that would instantly repair spinal injuries in under a minute with the side effects of making my hair full-bodied and clearing up the zit on my chin.

    It’s not a perfect world. It’s nice that this young woman has the financial resources to choose to not sue her friend. The other 95% of us unfortunately don’t, and must be more pragmatic.

  • cammy May 27, 2011, 10:18 pm

    One more bit of info on spinal cord injuries–there are complete and incomplete injuries. An incomplete quad may have some use of arms and/or legs below the level of the injury, but not complete use. A complete quad will have no function below the level of the injury.

    And Rachel’s injury left her paralyzed below the collarbone. There are muscles in the neck, shoulders, back and chest that are above the collarbone and her therapy probably involved teaching her how to use those muscles to move her arms. I read a few articles about her and she has little to no use of her hands.

    I have a family member who is an incomplete quad. He can print but not very well, use a computer mouse but not type, push a manual wheelchair but not very far, turn the pages of a book but not hold the book. The effects of a spinal cord injury are usually unique to the person. Everyone’s going to have a slightly different muscle groups that they can use or not use as the case may be.

  • Michelle P May 28, 2011, 10:55 am

    I’m amazed and inspired by her grace and courage. It’s easy to say what we would or wouldn’t do in the situation. Hopefully this case will get the message that you don’t horse around with water. I’m torn on the suing aspect. It’s great that she has the financial resources for help, but not all people do.

    I remember a group of people years ago, a movie was made about them, that were in a boat out in the ocean. One of the women didn’t want to go in the water, and had her infant on the boat. The other adults were in the water. One idiot guy decided to push the woman into the water. Oops, they hadn’t put the ladder down. The adults were trapped in the water with the baby on board. Three of the five of them died. Thankfully two survived, and managed to get back on board and the baby was fine. Be careful and smart around water!

  • monica May 29, 2011, 11:06 am

    what a good guy. and no, though it’s kind of immature to push people into the pool (that’s just me), i would have reacted the same. you can’t foresee dumb accidents in moments of stupidity.

  • Cat May 29, 2011, 6:10 pm

    Reminds me of the friend who playfully decided to flick his lighter as a man put gas into his SUV. His wife and infant were in the car. The gasoline ignited and the car was quickly engulfed. Fortunately the man was able to rescue his child after his wife ran from the burning vehicle.

    There is no excuse for people who intentionally endanger other people. If you have never been told not to push people into a swimming pool or not to ignite gasoline at a fueling station, please don’t plan on being a friend of mine.

  • Miss Unleaded May 30, 2011, 4:24 am

    Another Aussie here, and yes, not pushing into the pool is something kids here are taught from a very young age. It is so easy for things to go wrong when hard surfaces and water go together. It’s difficult for me to understand how people can think think doing something so stupid and dangerous is playful. :o( I feel so sad for this woman and her fiance.

  • Enna May 30, 2011, 6:20 am

    Hmm, the bride to be has the right to forgive and to sue the bridesmaid – either option it is her choice and right to make. I see why some people say they would sue because they would need help for medical care: if someone was in such a position the “pusher” if s/he showed any remorse/repentance would gladlymedicate and pay up. I do understand both views that 1) the firend did do it as an innocent joke and 2) it was dangerous and passive aggressive.

    Maybe what this story could do is make some people think – awhile ago we had a “party pooper” story about how a young woman was looking after her bf and wouldn’t let him go drunk near a pool even though his firends wanted to and she ended up becoming the offical “parter pooper”. If you are going to push someone into a pool, make sure they go in feet first – or go slowly, so if they resist you can stop and if they see you coming they can get ready to go in feet first if they are game.

    As for stories like this it’s a case by case basis as they are individual.

  • Eleni C May 30, 2011, 7:50 am

    I’m sorry, but why would one want to sue? I’m in Australia and I’m pretty damn sick of hearing Americans threatening to sue each other. If this was me and I had been paralysed I would have womaned up and got on with life. If I was the pusher (which I would never do because I hate swimming pools and would never want to hurt someone physically or mentally) I would be offering to pay her medical bills.

  • Stace May 30, 2011, 4:49 pm

    :::why would one want to sue? I’m in Australia and I’m pretty damn sick of hearing Americans threatening to sue each other. ::::

    Because you are in Australia, where you are guaranteed health care and do not have to pay out of pocket for every little thing, it is quite natural that you do not understand.

    Here, in the US, in order to get our insurance to pay for an accident that someone else caused, we must sue that person. Our only alternative is to shoulder 100% of the financial burden ourselves. Approximately 95-99% of our populace is completely unable to do so without it effectively destroying the futures of not just ourselves, but our entire families, costing us our homes, jobs, life savings, education for our children, etc….

    I don’t think you fully comprehend just how expensive medical bills actually can be. They remain the leading cause of bankruptcy, and that’s even for people who do have insurance.

    It has nothing to do with being nice, it has nothing to do with etiquette, and it has nothing to do with ‘womaning up’. Your characterization of Americans as sue-happy wimps is offensive, as is your suggestion that anyone that does suffer or have misgivings due to being paralyzed needs to just get over it.

    It’s nice that you *think* you would respond without anger at your friend. It’s quite a claim to make. Please pardon me if I have my doubts.

  • Jen May 30, 2011, 8:33 pm

    There are lots of legitimate reasons to sue. If the friend has insurance, that will end up being used, not her personal assets. The insurance company may insist on it. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It would make no sense to sue a friend with no money, you wouldn’t get anything.

  • Enna May 31, 2011, 4:58 am

    @ Elani C: what you said was a bit harsh – okay someone stubbing their toe on a step and sueing is plain silly but something as big as this it is reasonable to sue due medical needs. The lady in the wheelchair is lucky enough to have the finances for her medical care, so for her not sueing is an option. Some posters have rightly stated they would have to sue due to their insurance polices as they don’t have the finanical sources.

    Like Stace says there is no NHS in the USA: personally I think in an ideal world all countries should have some kind of NHS, as it seems to be rather harsh that someone cannot afford their medication despite working hard at a low paid job such as cleaning – yet I think cleaners do a valuable job, if it weren’t for them there would be more diseases and nasty smells and ugly sights of rubbish around. The NHS in UK is not a perfect system: however it does have a lot of benefits.

    Due to the recession I found it very hard to get work, despite applying to 100 jobs a week and volunteering. As a Type One Diabetic my medicaiton is free which was useful as it took a strain of my parents who didn’t have to buy it for me – although techinically they are because they are paying taxes. Now I have a part time job within the NHS!

  • Eleni C May 31, 2011, 7:12 pm

    It’s ELENI not Elani and when I watch movies, read forums and hear American news with people threatening to sue left, right and centre I roll my eyes, because you all sound like damn children! It’s like when a little kid gets upset and says “I’m telling my Mummy on you”.

  • Enna June 1, 2011, 6:58 am

    Sorry for getting your name wrong Eleni, I am dyslexic and lots of people without the condition make spelling mistakes too, I’m just a bit more likely to make them. Like I said in the previous post I understand when it is for silly things its pointless sueing. As for movies: they are fiction not real life. And for one thing I am British not American and have never threatened to sue anyone in my life. Not all Americans sue. I would say you are sterotyping now.

  • The Elf June 1, 2011, 8:24 am

    I’m not convinced that a lawsuit is required to get insurance to cover medical bills under the policy. There would be some out of pocket expenses under the policy, and I guess that is what a lawsuit would really be for. But there’s also government assistance in the form of medicaid and social security disability, which I am sure she can apply for. That is imperfect as well, leaving out of pocket expenses. I suppose it would depend upon the policies in question. I wouldn’t sue, but if I were the pushee I would volunteer to help with the bills.

  • Jillybean June 1, 2011, 1:06 pm

    @The Elf – I thought the video said that they wouldn’t qualify for medicaid once married, which means they will be shouldering the burden themselves.

    Stace – hear hear.

    As for the pool pushing. Yes, this woman is gracious, and her friend is lucky to have her. But those of you who think pushing a person into a pool is harmless fun or just playing around, that may or may not be the case. I was pushed into a pool once. It was a truly terrifying experience for me. I doubt the person who did the pushing (my friend’s uncle) even noticed or cared. I know I stayed far away from the pool the rest of the visit. That not withstanding, while pushing a person into a pool doesn’t usually cause this kind of devastating injury (probably, I don’t know the stats), it likely causes many minor ones (scrapes, etc). But, the bigger factor these days is, push someone into a pool and you’ll likely find yourself responsible for replacing their $500 smart phone or $300 iPod, or any number of other expensive gadgets they might have in their pocket – because, I’ve noticed, it’s hardly ever people in swimwear who get tossed against their will into pools.

  • Stace June 1, 2011, 4:24 pm

    —when I watch movies, read forums and hear American news with people threatening to sue left, right and centre I roll my eyes, because you all sound like damn children! —

    And I watch movies, read forums, and watch Australian news. What is the name of your pet crocodile? How big is the knife you carry everywhere? Do you say ‘crikey’ every third word, or every fourth? You raise sheep and go fishing with dynamite, right?

    The situation has been explained to you now multiple times. If you persist with your misconceptions and poorly conceived, bigoted notions, that is entirely your choice.

    You also have the very mistaken notion that the friend is the one who will be paying. Allow me to correct you on that as well. The lawsuit must be held so the friend’s insurance can pay for the bills of the injured party.

    The medical costs associated with this woman’s conditions may easily run in excess of $50,000 a year. This does not include her having to remodel her home so that she can function, the purchase of a vehicle that will allow her transport, or any of the other expenses that may occur.

    It’s wonderful that so many would offer to shoulder this burden, but I must ask, is your offer at all realistic? This isn’t something where you pull a couple grand out of savings and cook dinner one weekend. And additionally, these are ongoing expenses. Are you really going to take on a second job, or would you prefer your friend start a lawsuit so that your homeowner’s insurance can shoulder the burden? Please, be realistic in your answer.

    —But there’s also government assistance in the form of medicaid and social security disability, which I am sure she can apply for. —

    I wish her the best of luck. She will go through her life savings and livelihood before she gets either.

  • Liz June 2, 2011, 11:33 pm

    Eleni C, please go back and read Stace’s response to your comment. Living in Australia, you and I are very fortunate to have universal health care, but a America’s health care system is very different. As Stace explained, many people have to sue the person at fault when they are in an accident in order to claim insurance, otherwise all the medical bills are out of pocket. Surely you don’t think a person should go bankrupt as the result of someone else’s stupidity?

    Australian aren’t as “sue-happy” as Americans purely because it is much more difficult to sue in Australia, and infrastructure such as Medicare takes away much of the need. If it were easier to sue in Australia and we had a health care system like the US has, then you can bet your life Australians would be equally as “sue happy” as Americans.

    Please consider the context and don’t pretend to claim the moral high ground.

  • Melissa June 3, 2011, 5:00 pm

    @ Michelle.

    I’m confused. If she was on the boat and he pushed her from the dock to the water, wouldn’t HE still be on the boat?

  • Jillybean June 3, 2011, 10:39 pm

    wow – just caught this when reading Stace’s very nice reply

    “when I watch movies, read forums and hear American news with people threatening to sue left, right and centre I roll my eyes, because you all sound like damn children! It’s like when a little kid gets upset and says “I’m telling my Mummy on you”.”

    No, Eleni, it’s actually like a grown up saying to another grown up “You permanently ruined my property (in this case the person’s actual body), and as a grownup you are responsible for the damage that you caused regardless of your intent. It’s a little thing called personal responsibility. If you don’t accept it on your own, the courts see that you do.

  • Enna June 5, 2011, 10:15 am

    Also going to court means it is legally finialised in a proper way. From watching Judge Judy she dismisses pointless claims or ones that aren’t legal etc but she does listen to both sides. In one episode a man wanted a woman to pay $2000 because she had crashed his car, he had to pay $1000 excess the insurance picked up the remaining $1ooo. JJ said that he’s not going to get paid twice for work/costs that have allready been covered for so she ruled that the woman who was responsilbe for the accident to be the $1ooo excess.

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