In the wake of the case of the $54 million pants, I figure it’s about time to bring the idea of tort reform back up for the Teeming Millions to offer their sage advice and views.
I’m going to being by putting out the follow things that I believe to be facts:[ul]
[li]The protections that currently exists for plaintiffs pursuing lawsuits that may be frivolous seem to be a bit high for a matter of balance. The expression I’ve heard, and even used, here on the Dope is that if you can meet the lawyer’s fees and court fees, you can sue anyone for anything. [/li]
[li]Anyone going into any court situation beyond small claims court planning to defend themselves has an idiot for a client. [/li]
[li]Being served for a frivolous lawsuit can happen to any legal entity: a person, a small business, or even GM. (The possible exception to that seems to be the various statutory protections for governments, which seem to be only partially effective.) [/li]
[li]Acquiring competent counsel for any kind of lawsuit is expensive. It may be less expensive for John or Jane Doe defending against a lawsuit claiming that their Mulberry tree is the font of evil and keeping their neighbor from sleeping at nights than it was for the Chungs, but it’s rarely an insubstantial cost. [/li]
[li]Frivolous lawsuits often take years to litigate, compounding the costs mentioned above. [/li]
[li]Class action lawsuits sometimes seem to provide no benefits to the class being represented, just to the lawyers involved.[/li]
[li]People have been harassed and destroyed using the legal system to act as a sort of bully forcing them to spend time, money and effort to defend against seriously warped views of reality. This is done both by individuals and by corporations, IMNSHO. The hugely inflated damage claims by the RIAA seem to be only a little less gross an abuse than the damage claims that Pearson made in his pants case. [/li][/ul]
Given these issues, can anyone offer support that they aren’t really problems?
If there is a general concensus that they are problems that should be fixed, what proposed reforms do the Teeming Millions support?
I have a certain fondness for the idea of making it easier for the courts to award damages and representation costs to the victims of frivolous lawsuits. But at the same time I can see just how chilling an effect that could have on what I’d consider to be legitimate lawsuits. To wit: Not only does a large corporation like GM have the deep pockets to afford superlative representation, but if one were to be socked with their representation costs, there’d be no way to get out from under that kind of levy.
Similarly, the other common “simple, easy” reform I’ve heard proposed is to cap awards. Which, again, has the problems of having to review the cap on a regular basis to keep up with inflation.
I’ve got no easy answers, people. I hope you can give me some that seem less fraught with risks.