The speech was given by some semi-famous, old, white guy at what must be some la-tee-da high school on the East Coast. I say semi-famous because when I first saw his name I thought of the blond guy on The Man from UNCLE, but when I looked him up I found that, no, that is not who we are talking about. David McCoullough Jr., the guy we are talking about has written several books, the first one was named The Johnstown Flood. Johnstown? There was a Johnstown near our farm in Ohio. Did they have a flood? Or maybe we are talking about Jonestown (drinking Kool-Aid has been on my mind today, and I'm still waking up, so you'll have to excuse me for getting the two confused). So I have to look it up.
Turns out we are talking about a flood that wiped out Johnstown, Pennsylvania back in 1889, when a dam 14 miles upstream failed. This led to a BIG change in how liability is interpreted:
After the flood, victims suffered a series of legal defeats in their attempt to recover damages from the dam's owners. Public indignation at that failure prompted a major development in American law—state courts' move from a fault-based regime to strict liability.From the Wikipedia article on Strict Liablity:
A rule specifying strict liability makes a person legally responsible for the damage and loss caused by his or her acts and omissions regardless of culpability . . . .
"Your intentions" are covered by the Latin term Mens rea, so I had to look that one up as well, where
I found this:
In Australia, for example, the elements of the federal offences are now designated as "fault elements" or "mental elements" (mens rea) and "physical elements" or "external elements" (actus reus). This terminology was adopted to replace the obscurity of the Latin terms with simple and accurate phrasing.
That's the second time this week I've heard of something sensible coming out of Australia.