The town of Milford, Conn., has announced that three beautiful towering hickory trees on a street are being chopped down, because one child in the area is allergic to hickory nuts. The town was driven by fear of litigation spawned by a letter from Una Glennon, a grandmother of the child.
Must we move all children into a sealed, air-conditioned vault so that they won't face anything that might be dangerous? Perhaps all buildings over ten feet high should also be banned — a child might fall out the window. Or all vegetation.
Must the great mass of people suffer just because one person has a problem — and often a lawyer, or one waiting in the wings? Let us hope that the people of Milford in the future demand that their rights be given some attention.
Mr. [Philip] Howard put it eloquently in op-ed he wrote on this idiotic situation for the New York Times ("A Tree Falls in Connecticut," July 30th):
"Running a society requires the ability to make choices based on an honest assessment of the tradeoffs in each case, often balancing an individual's predicament against the common good....legal threats put a thumb on the scale and drive decisions toward the lowest common denominator."
I do urge you to read Mr. Howard's editorial by following the link above, as it contains a good deal more information and is better written than this bit I've quoted from The Providence Journal. I should also note that Howard is a lawyer. It goes without saying that I find this affair sickening. Three mature trees were murdered because one child's parents and guardians were unwilling to take full responsibility for its welfare. I must wonder if Milford supermarkets will now stop carrying peanut putter and dried almonds, since, after all this child will be risking its life by entering nut-tainted markets. Will the child's school now demand that no student may bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, since Glennon's grandchild might conceivably come into contact with such a deadly sandwich? If you think these questions are absurd, read Howard's op-ed for some equally bizarre and real-world examples of the lengths that some cities have already gone to in an effort to avoid frivolous lawsuits and convert the world into a great every-child-safe environment.