You don’t have to do anything wrong to be destroyed by litigation.
That is the message of The Last Week, a documentary which screened the first day of the Anthem Film Festival, in Las Vegas. It chronicles the last week of Blitz USA, a company that manufactured gas cans and provided jobs to Americans for more than 50 years. Blitz closed in August, 2012.
The company was not the only thing destroyed. The jobs of the last 120 workers, down from a high of 350, are gone. So is the contribution which this company, as the largest employer, made to Miami, Oklahoma. Oh, and your gas cans will cost more as well.
In a question and answer session after the film’s showing, filmmaker Curtis Briggs asked the audience, “Who hasn’t owned one of these red gas cans?” There were no volunteers. I’ve owned a couple over the years. Understandable, because Blitz dominated the market producing 75 percent of all the gas cans sold in the US. If you’re an old timer, you may remember the “jerry can” gas containers U.S. soldiers used during Korea and Vietnam. Blitz made those, too.
Beginning about ten years ago, Blitz began facing lawsuits from people who had burned themselves while pouring gasoline on fires, or while trying to start fires using gasoline. At first, even though they were not responsible for the foolish and dangerous activities of the people who were burned, Blitz settled out of court. As the pace of lawsuits picked up, they were facing an insurance deductible of one million dollars for each lawsuit.
An audience member asked Briggs if Blitz had tried to defend itself against the lawsuits. He said that they did appeal one case, but that actually cost them two million dollars to win.
You might be thinking, “Why did they just fix the problems with the cans?” They couldn’t because there weren’t any. After extensive scientific testing, according to Briggs, it was determined that there were no modifications that could be made to the cans that could prevent the fires and that the cans were not causing them. (Google “Gasoline Fires Backyard” to see how people get burned.)
In a rational world that should have been the end of it. However, emotion and avarice kicked in. Juries continued to feel sorry for burned plaintiffs and would decide in their favor, even though the fire was their fault. Avarice raised its ugly head in attorney land, creating “a cottage industry” of gas can suits. A professional legal association even taught classes in “gas can litigation”. It was more than the owners of Blitz could afford.
An American icon died. Its assets were sold off to a foreign company. It is not clear at this point whether production will be resumed in this country. I wouldn’t bet on it. See the film here.
Other films showing the first day of Anthem included Exiled from Vanderbilt by Ted Balaker, Rebel Evolution by director Anna Zetchas Smith, Act of Terror by Gemma Atkinson, and At the End of the Day by Tim Skousen.
Exiled from Vanderbilt details the implementation of a new policy of “tolerance” – called “all comers” — being invoked on American college campuses. The policy requires faith based groups to open membership and officer positions to all comers, even though they do not agree with the beliefs of the group. This could lead to hostile take-overs. For instance, college Democrats joining a Republican group, could elect a Democrat its president, and then liquidate the assets of the organization. To date, the result has been primarily to drive Christian groups off campus; seventeen at Vanderbilt alone.
Rebel Evolution interviews six people to examine how their beliefs have evolved, generally, from left-wing to right-wing. The interviews are excellent and revealing. After the screening, filmmaker Anna Zetchas Smith shared that her technique was to go into each interview with only one question and let the interview evolve from there. In her interview with Bill Ayers, she began by finding an issue that she, a libertarian, and Ayers, left-wing, bomb throwing sixties radical, could agree on.
Act of Terror used mostly animation combined with phone and security camera video to approach a volatile subject: the abuse by British police of an anti-terrorism law. The law made it an “act of terror” to photograph a policeman, even if you weren’t a terrorist. The film shows that you can tell a very serious subject and not lose your sense of humor. Watch the film here.
At the End of the Day is a charming music video which follows two young boys on a trek around their rural world. It made for an excellent end of the day.