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Overdosing on Coke: Soda machine falls on drunken idiot

By Shelley McKinney
web posted July 23, 2001

We've all heard a lot about kids on coke...but what about Coke on kids?

Strictly speaking, 21-year-old Kevin Mackle (some news articles say he was 19), a student at Bishop's University in Quebec, wasn't really a kid when he came home drunk from a night of "binge drinking" and -- in a misguided attempt to steal a can of soda pop -- rocked a 920-pound Coke machine and sent it tipping over upon himself. Mackle, in layman's terms, was squished to death.

(By the way, Coke machines do not fall over on people who are using them the way they were meant to be used.)

Coke machine: Safe when used properly
Safe when used properly

If this were your kid, you'd be devastated, right? I can't imagine anything more painful than the death of a child. Unfortunately, mourning the loss of a loved one causes some people to do some very strange things. Mackle's parents -- in a misguided attempt to assuage their grief by lining their pockets with cash -- have chosen to sue Coca-Cola, Bishop's University, the company which manufactured the machine (the Vendo Company) and the vending company that owned it (Beaver Foods). They filed a statement in the Quebec Superior Court in May 2001, alleging that their son's death could have been prevented if the machine had been drunk-and-thief-proofed.

One wishes that some person with gentle wisdom would go to the Mackles and say, "This lawsuit is only making things worse. Please, please stop. Do you know how stupid this makes you all seem?"

Another one, probably me since I have little patience with vile and corrupt political correctness, would need to go to the Mackles as well, adding, "Why are you willing to put yourselves and your son's memory through the painful process of having a lawyer point out in court that he was a drunken idiot who was too much of a bum to pay for a can of soda pop?"

Mr. and Mrs. Mackle have mounted their ridiculous lawsuit with the dubious claim that there has been "moral harm" done to them, which apparently means that the Coke company -- the fiends -- knew that there was a chance that their behemoth machines could tip over and squash drunken thieves, and yet did nothing to correct the design error. They are also seeking recompense (called "material loss") for the costs of their son's funeral.

The university was dragged into the lawsuit because of the plaintiffs' claim that an unnamed university employee knew that students often tipped the machine, but took no steps to prevent them from doing so, such as putting all the students in a great big playpen and dispensing cola to them from sippy cups. Likewise, the machine's manufacturer was drawn into the melee because of the Mackles' claim that the Vendo Company knew that their machines built in the 1980s had a defect which made the machine likely to fall over if tipped.

Coca-Cola has had to put warning labels on many of the machines in order to disseminate this rudimentary law of physics to those who are too stupid, or hammered -- or both -- to read the label anyway.

A 1999 coroner's report attached to the lawsuit says that 35 people have died and 140 others have been injured by tipping soda pop machines in order to illegally obtain a beverage. I think that's just tragic. Can you believe that there could possibly be so many stupid people in a single 21 year period? In my area, a can of Coke costs anywhere from 45 cents to $1 -- that's the kind of change that a person can come up with by groping underneath the car seats. The only reason I can think of for not just paying for the Coke is that there must be some kind of dumb fun in the tipping process.

With that in mind, I'd love to read that the judge to whom this case is presented would look at the Mackles and bark, "Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Whatever happened to personal dignity? Get your idiotic Jerry Springer lawsuit out of my courtroom. I find it both sickening and immoral. I order you to pay the legal costs for the Coca-Cola Corporation, the Vendo Company, Beaver Foods and Bishop's University. If that leaves you destitute, so be it. When you're going through dumpsters looking for something to eat, be sure not to tip them -- you might get hurt. Next case!"

Oh, the wistful longings of my politically incorrect heart!

Shelley McKinney is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right.

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