Our civil justice system is the only thing people can rely on to ensure that our health and safety are protected, and to force irresponsible parties to change their dangerous behavior. Each case should be decided on its individual merits and not by a law sponsored by insurance companies and corporate giants. In the words of Sir Patrick Devlin, "The object of any tyrant would be to overthrow or diminish trial by jury, for it is the lamp that shows freedom lives." Keep the lamp lit; let the juries decide.
The notion that there is a lawsuit crisis is ridiculous. The insurance industry and large corporations use this scare tactic and propaganda to taint juries and increase their profits. It is wholly unsupported by the facts. Notice how tort reform advocates focus on one or two isolated cases to prove their point? This is a logical fallacy of hasty generalization. They focus on one or two extreme examples (and sometimes made up examples) in an attempt to illustrate a problem that does not in fact exist. (Read my previous blog about the “McDonalds” case.)
Often the insurance companies force litigation because, the longer they delay, the more interest they make on the money they are refusing to pay deserving people. During a trial, court rules generally prohibit discussing how unreasonable the insurance companies are, and unfortunately, jurors rarely get to hear how horribly insurance companies treat people making claims.
Tort claims do not clog our courts. In fact, such claims accounted for only about 6 percent of all civil claims filed in state courts in 2007, according to the most recent data compiled by the nonpartisan National Center for State Courts (NCSC). Most cases are companies suing other companies, and surprise, their call for reform wouldn't limit their rights and remedies, only the individual consumer's. Also, tort system costs pale in comparison to costs associated with injury. NHTSA reports that the total economic cost of motor vehicle crashes in 2000 was $230.6 billion. The National Safety Council estimates that accident costs totaled $399 billion in 1992.
Still the insurance industry cries they can't afford lawsuits . . . But Allstate had profits of over TWO BILLION DOLLARS ($2,000,000,000.00) in 2016!
In the 1995 edition of Tort Cost Trends: An International Perspective, (a study conducted by the consulting firm Tillinghast, Towers, & Perrin), several findings were made that show there is no "tort crisis". The U.S. tort system cost $254.7 billion in 2008, which translates to $838 per person, versus $836 per person in 2007. Overall economic growth in 2008 was 3.3%. As such, the ratio of tort costs to gross domestic product (GDP) shrank in 2008. This marks five consecutive years of a decline in the ratio. Awards for pain and suffering, often targeted by proponents of tort "reform" as being "out of control," constitute just 22 percent of total tort costs. Medical malpractice costs amounted to just 8 percent of the total 1994 cost of the U.S. tort system.
The most recent study shows "tort costs" are still on the decline when compared to GDP. Overall economic growth in 2010 was 4.2%. As such, the ratio of tort costs to gross domestic product (GDP) rose in 2010 for the second consecutive year after five years of a decline in the ratio, but that was only because of the "deep water horizon" oil well catastrophe. (Link to the Willis Towers Watson Analysis) AND (Link to Towers Watson PDF Report). The American Bar Association (ABA) also reports that since 2004 tort costs have declined rapidly (ABA PDF Link to analysis).
The truth is plaintiffs' trial lawyers are the front line defense in keeping corporations and insurance companies honest; we promote a safer society, and encourage materials and products to be tested for safety. It was not long ago that Ford decided it would be cheaper to pay claims of people burned to death in Pintos as opposed to fixing the cars; fortunately, a jury punished Ford and they changed their practice. Cribs have been redesigned, dalcon shields no longer render women infertile, asbestos is no longer in general use, children's pajamas are flame retardant, lighters are child proofed. The list of safer products and benefits to society is lengthy. The Consumer Federation of America reports that about 6,000 deaths and millions of injuries are prevented each year because of the deterrent effect of products liability.
Moreover, awarding money for pain and suffering has been an element of our judicial system since we brought it over from England. We pay to stay OUT of pain all the time, so pain relief DOES have a price tag; no one would try to save money at the dentist by refusing a Novocain shot, and almost everyone has a bottle of aspirin in their medicine cabinet. Our society deems the wrongful infliction of pain on others as heinous; we don't even punish the most horrific criminals with pain. Why? Because we are civilized. This great country resolves its disputes in the courts so we will have a stable and consistent method of ensuring our civilization and laws. Sure there are errors and flaws and delays in the system, but all things considered, we have the best legal system the world has ever seen!
Unfortunately, Jane and John Doe do not have the advertising machine that the insurance companies have, and the individual's point of view is muffled by corporate screeches of “Tort Crisis". If compensation does not come from the wrongdoer and a person is severely injured, we as a society absorb the cost through lost productivity and government subsidies to the victim, and the wrongdoer has no incentive to conform his activity to the law. The person or company who did the wrong should have to pay for their actions and accept responsibility. Our civil justice system is the only thing people can rely on to ensure that our health and safety are protected, and to force irresponsible parties to change their dangerous behavior.
Without the RIGHT to trial by jury, our society would turn to vigilante justice and revenge tactics. Our society has no other uniform method in place to redress our individual grievances. Those calling for tort reform insult the community's intelligence. They are essentially saying jurors cannot think for themselves, so lets make a law that thinks for them. Each case should be decided on its individual merits and not by a law sponsored by insurance companies and corporate giants. In the words of Sir Patrick Devlin, "The object of any tyrant would be to overthrow or diminish trial by jury, for it is the lamp that shows freedom lives." Keep the lamp lit; let the juries decide.
-- OR -- (alternative title)
Flaming Pajamas Set Ablaze by The Lamp of Justice Are Doused by Hot Coffee