Litigation Nation Virus Spreading West to East

I have called the United States the “Litigation Nation” a number of times due to frivolous lawsuits, and it seems that China has earned that title too.

A disturbing story hit the Web from — Chinese express horror at public indifference to toddler hit-run victim.

A surveillance camera in the Chinese city of Foshan in southeastern Guandong province caught a van hitting a two-year-old girl and then the van drove away.  Several minutes went by and no one went to the toddler’s aid.  In fact, a second van ran over her before someone dragged her off the street.

The injured toddler is now hospitalized and in a coma according to Reuters.

The conclusion to the post says, “Many people in China are hesitant to help people who appear to be in distress for fear that they will be blamed,” Reuters’ Martina wrote in his report. “High-profile law suits have ended with Good Samaritans ordered to pay hefty fines to individuals they sought to help.”

This video of the hit-and-run has been edited and elements of the toddler being hit by the vans were blurred.

This brought to mind an incident when I was a few years old in the late 1940s or early 1950s when my father stopped at the scene of an accident in a heavy rainstorm.

Other drivers stopped too and gave assistance to a man trapped in his wrecked car.

The injured driver’s leg was pinned under the dashboard and he was bleeding heavily. To save his life, my father returned to our car and took out a hacksaw from his tool kit in the trunk.

My father told me and my mother to stay in the car and went back out into the heavy rain to the accident site.

Then he and several other people that stopped to help worked together to cut off the man’s leg where the bone was exposed to get him out of the car where they could apply a tourniquet to the stump and stop the bleeding saving the man’s life.

In that era, America had not earned the term “Litigation Nation”, and my father and the other Good Samaritans were not arrested or taken to court for helping to save the man’s life even though he lost a leg.

In China, thanks to the surveillance camera, the two hit and run drivers of the toddler were arrested.

The reason for the apathy might be that in the early 1980s, China implemented legal reforms and adopted a Western style legal system based on German law.  The reason China did this was that it was required to be accepted to the World Trade Organization.

In fact, this fear of being punished for being a Good Samaritan is not exclusive to China.

WARNING! — This video does not blur the hit-and-run and reveals the horror of the toddler being run over by the two vans.

In December 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported that Good Samaritans in California get no aid from high court. The California Supreme Court ruled that a young woman who pulled a co-worker from a crashed vehicle was not immune from civil liability because the care she rendered wasn’t medical.

In addition,, says, “American common law has little success in encouraging the Good Samaritan, and two famous cases strongly illustrate this point. In a 1964 case in New York, a woman was stabbed outside her apartment building while her neighbors watched. No one called the police. When she screamed, the attacker fled, only to return twice to stab and kill her when no one responded.

“The second incident occurred in Massachusetts, in 1983, when tavern patrons watched a woman being raped. The assault lasted more than an hour, but no one intervened or called for help. The predominant excuse in both cases was a fear of getting involved, and progress in changing laws to deal with apathy is still sporadic and slow.”

As for China, it appears that we are seeing the results of China adopting a Western legal system, which includes a virus called apathy and a fear of being punished for being a Good Samaritan.

Discover Growing China’s Legal System


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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10 Responses to Litigation Nation Virus Spreading West to East

  1. […] In October 2011, when a young child was run over by a van in the Chinese city of Foshan in southeastern Guangdong province, many China critics leaped on that one isolated example in a country about the size of the US in area with more than four times the population to stereotype all Chinese as insensitive monsters. I wrote about the incident in Litigation Nation Virus Spreading West to East. […]

  2. […] Litigation Nation, I explained why the behavior of a few individuals during the Foshan incident cannot be used to […]

  3. […] Aussie in China said, “from my experience here, I would argue strongly that there is a commendable level of morality among many of the young Chinese. The issues of morality are well drummed into them at school and at home.” […]

  4. Terry K Chen says:

    As this reader at CNN points out:

    Predictably, whenever this sort of news report emanates from China, you get the usual anti-Chinese bashers and haters coming out of the woodwork with their tuppence worth of racist generalisation.The story has already been met with indignation by the Chinese themselves and they do not need the holier-than-thou Westerners to preach about what is right and wrong to them.”

    The mood in the Western media may vary from time to time, but to see what melektaus talks about, we only need to see reader reactions. There were comments like this:

    Not surprising in China where having a girl child is to be avoided due to the one child policy. That policy alone has resulted in countless abortions of unborn female children so families could try again for a male. If this was a boy child, it is likely there would be a different reaction. Very sad.”

    The popular majority has de-evolved back into animals. They spend most of their time sucking the tit of the government and entertaining their genitals.”

    I cant elive my eyes, China should be very shamful, I would say they loss face on this, aenrt they supposed to be a much older and wiser society? way togo dummasses, hope Karma bites everyone that drove by that poor lil girl, I know my prayers are withher andher parents.”

    maybe it was because she was a girl WAY TO GO CHINA!.. what goes around comes around. I can’t believe someone would just walk by a little girl who was hurt. I hope they all get what comes to them.”

    I am in no way saying that those 18 passerby’s actions weren’t shameful, but it seems that westerners will always leap at every possible opportunity to slander China and it people. It’s not as if similar incidents haven’t occured in the west, e.g. the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City in 1964.

    Actually, during the Cultural Revolution, Chinese people tended to help each other MORE. I recall neighbors in my old neighborhood helped each other out, (and even shielded one another during political purges, “sticking together” Chinese style).

    Today, I believe, too many Chinese people are suffering the moral decay of materialism and “none of my business” mentality.

    The same moral decay is causing so many older Chinese to have nostalgia for the days of the Cultural Revolution. (And a come back of Maoist era songs and trinkets). However, there is no simple solution to the moral decay. Religions are on the rise in China, but religious countries also suffer from such moral decay.

    In a way, I contribute the problem to the factor of “too much personal freedom” in general. We in the modern society have too much personal freedom/liberty and possessions. We enjoy them too much, we depend on them like addicts.

    The consequence of that is, we all super-conscious to the fact that we are responsible for our own individual consequences, and we are suspicious of each other’s motives. Good Samaritanism requires cooperative actions. You have to believe that OTHERS can have pure selfless motives to help each other.

    Yet, in today’s societies, even in China, people generally believe that personal liberty and possessions are at the expense of others. If I want more, others will have less. (This is true in the West, as well as in China. Though in China, this perception may be less, hence, we still see the moral outrage and nostalgia).

    We see in the Tea Party, the Wall Street protests, the European Austerity protests, all marking the same belief, that if one wants even maintain one’s “rights”, it has to be taken from others. Others have too much “privileges”, oneself has not enough.

    This kind of “rights” competition, contributes to apathy.

    Everyone is suspicious. Everyone thinks if they don’t protest for what they want, no one else would help them or “do the right thing”.

    That’s the fundamental question, isn’t it? Can people “do the right thing” without self interest?

    From the way people protests in the West, one can see that they don’t believe it.

    • Terry Chen said, “during the Cultural Revolution, Chinese people tended to help each other MORE.”

      My wife and I talked about the toddler getting hit and how some people walked on by ignoring her. My wife grew up in China and lived through the Cultural Revolution and said she would have stopped and helped becasue that’s the way she and everyone else was raised during Mao’s time—to work together. In fact, most of the people that walked by the injured toddler looked to be younger than thirty-five since the Cultural Revolution ended with Mao’s death in 1976. I wonder how old the person was that did pick up the child?

      • Terry K Chen says:

        “Chen Xianmei, a 58-year-old scavenger who was seen in the video moving Yue to safety, became an instant symbol of understated decency in a nation that many netizens say has become obsessed with climbing up the economic ladder. Camera crews chased Chen for interviews, while local government and businesses fought to award her money.”

        Yup, it appears that she lived through the cultural revolution.

        This also might have something to do with the fact that in China many many people have been scammed by old people in the past few years. You help them up and then they sue you. I’ve heard a lot of this news over the past few years and the Chinese are really scared of helping anyone now, fearful of the fact that they may get sued. Unfortunately, often times the law stands by these scammers.

        Recently, there was another case of an elderly man who collapsed(for whatever reason I can’t remember). In desperation, he shouted out: “Please help me! Don’t worry, I won’t sue you!”

        Many of the elderly may be feeling jealous of the younger generation. Whereas many people in the elder generation had to make do with earning less than a hundred dollars a month, its very common for people in the younger generation to be earning a few thousand dollars a month.

  5. Aussie in China says:

    Avoiding litigation and blame is one part of the story in the toddler case.

    Another is that Chinese people avoid involving themselves in situations where they have no personal connection no matter how dire. They rarely if ever interfere in other people’s business which almost always results in them taking a nonchalant attitude to what’s going on around them.

    One example is that I once asked my wife during a drive in the country what a rather large road sign overhanging the highway was. Her reply was that she didn’t notice it and it was not up to her to read road signs but up to the driver.

    Another is that I wanted to tick a couple of boys off for breaking a tree branch outside our apartment and was instantly told not to as their parents would ‘curse’ me. In other words, not my business but the parent’s business.

    I believe that if I had tried to help the toddler my wife would have told me to leave it to the police.

    It sounds callous but that’s just how I’ve experienced things here.

    • Aussie in China,

      “Chinese people avoid involving themselves in situations where they have no personal connection no matter how dire.”

      Robert Hart said the same thing in the 19th century of the Chinese in his journals and/or letters and it didn’t bother him. He did not condemn the Chinese for being this way. In fact, he admired Chinese culture enough to work at saving China from being swallowed by the Western Imperial colonial powers such as the British Empire.

      • Aussie in China says:

        And it doesn’t bother me either.

        The non-interference mind—set tends to not let ugly situations get out of hand as it does in societies with a ‘butt in” mentality.

        And within a large population with high density living this mind-set contributes to keeping a reasonable and comfortable order of peace and harmony.

        That said, within the family and the circle of relationships, the people here would give you their last grain of rice even if it meant they would go without.

        As to the toddler, there are new reports that some passer-bys said they didn’t notice the girl which supports the comment in my first post that “they rarely if ever interfere in other people’s business which almost always results in them taking a nonchalant attitude to what’s going on around them.”

        And concerning declining morality, from my experience here, I would argue strongly that there is a commendable level of morality among many of the young Chinese. The issues of morality are well drummed into them at school and at home.

    • Xiaohu Liu says:

      (this is my pop-psycho-babble explanation)

      Personally I think it may be because Chinese society has been through so much, that there is still a societal memory of the bad times.

      I can imagine during times of famine, where people had to go about their business with people dying all around them, and there really nothing can do or else they’d starve to death too.

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