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Tort Reform Is Evil

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[27 Jun 2006|10:29am]
lawstudent62
Good link

http://www.isba.org/medicalmalpracticestudy.pdf
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[26 Jan 2005|02:58am]

allah_dot_com
http://www.livejournal.com/community/debate/3655080.html?view=146604712#t146604712
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[08 Jan 2005|03:57pm]

allah_dot_com
can someone pick this apart for me-


http://www.sptimes.com/2004/02/02/Tampabay/Lawsuits_drain_school.shtml
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[06 Nov 2004|12:11am]

allah_dot_com
Starve the power-

Top 30 Republican (US) donors with global consumer brands
1 MBNA $3.0m
2 Philip Morris $2.9m
3 Microsoft Corp $2.4m
4 Bristol Myers Squibb $2.1m
5 Pfizer $1.9m
6 Enron $1.8m (well at least these assholes are gone)
7 Citigroup $1.8m
8 Time Warner/AOL $1.6m
9 Amway $1.3m
10 Glaxo SmithKline $1.3m
11 Exxon Mobil $1.2m
12 News Corp $1.2m
13 General Electric $1.1m
14 Limited Inc $950k
15 BP Amoco $950k
16 American Airlines $900k
17 Schering Plough $900k
18 Anheuser Busch $850k
19 Chevron Texaco $800k
20 Revlon Group $760k
21 American Home Products $740k
22 PepsiCo $720k
23 Walt Disney $640k
24 WalMart $630k
25 Texas Utilities $630k
26 Coca Cola $610k
27 UAL Corp $570k
28 Archer Daniels Midland $530k
29 Ford $510k
30 General Motors $510k

Memorize this list.

These fuckers need a weekly e-mail and monthly snail mail from all of us, and we need to figure out ways in which to NEVER BUY FROM THESE corporations THAT CONTOL US. Who can give me a list of alternatives that are worthy of our money-
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election insanity [02 Nov 2004|12:47pm]

chrism2603
Look at what a tort "reform" group is doing in S. IL for the purpose of the IL Supreme Court election:
http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/metroeast/story/9992D2DF6A89DA6E86256F3B004C78A6?OpenDocument&Headline=Tort+reform+group+will+observe+vote+&highlight=2%2Ctrial%2Clawyers
They're putting off duty cops in "select Metro-east" polling places (read: black polling places). Disgraceful.

And, watch out for trial lawyers! "The trial lawyers will resort to anything legal, or illegal, to get what they want."
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[08 Dec 2003|01:49pm]

allah_dot_com
support cyber-graffiti

http://oldfashionedpatriot.blogspot.com/
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A question on Image theft [16 Nov 2003|12:01am]

digital_hypoxia
I can only hope that someone reading this is in practice, and can offer some insight as to possible legal recourse. An accquaintance of mine has had pictures of her stolen from her website and placed on an online rating community, http://facethejury.com/
She knows of at least two accounts using her image and professing blatantly sexual/fetishistic hobbies etc.
She was recently approached in a mall by someone who has seen her on the site, and assumed that she was a kinky 18 year old looking for sex partners. Needless to say she is quite unnerved.
She contacted the site and received no reponse, then posted on their message board only to be insulted, harassed , and banned by their moderators.
The site makes money every time a member is messaged, which is perhaps their motivation in keeping these profiles up.

Any advice is much appreciated.
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Corpreform [11 Nov 2003|09:59am]

granite
Check out my other site, http://corpreform.typepad.com. It soon will be corpreform.com.

Also, anyone interested in joining Students Against Tort Reform should let me know with a comment here, or an e-mail at corpreform@yahoo.com
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Job hunt? [03 Nov 2003|07:08pm]

obsoletechild
Hi! I just joined this community and I will unabashedly admit to doing so with one goal in mind right now: I desperately need a job. I’m a third year law student at UGA and I am trying to find work in Chicago for next fall. But I’m having a hard time drumming up leads in this economy.

1) For law students: So I’m offering a “Reciprocity Agreement” to anyone interested. Basically, I will share any and all job info I do drum up in either or both the Chicago and Atlanta markets (including suburbs) in exchange for similar information from you. Please reply to this post if you are interested. (Sorry if you are reading this multiple times – I’ve cross posted it in all relevant communities. At this point, I have no shame!)

2) For law professionals in Illinois: Please reply to this post if I may contact you to discuss opportunities in the area. Even if your organization or firm has no openings, it would be helpful to me to hear of others who might. I’ve done several good interviews here in Atlanta, but am hoping to break out of this market. All help would be appreciated.
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The True Cost of Medical Malpractice [27 Jul 2003|10:59am]

granite
I've read a couple of very cogent replies to one of my tort reform posts, but thought that I should point out a few statistics:

1: Total healthcare expenditures in 2001 were $1.42 Trillion dollars. Medical Malpractice expenditures were $7.3 billion - less than 1 half of 1 percent of medical expenditures. (From 2001 US Census)

2: The insurance industry does NOT claim tort reform will lower rates:

"[W]e believe the effect of tort reform on our book of business would be small. ... [T]he loss savings resulting from the non-economic cap will not exceed 1% of our total indemnity losses." - Robert J. Nagel, Assistant VP State Farm

After Florida enacted a $450,000 cap on noneconomic damages, Aetna studied some of their own recent cases and said that, "[T]he review of actual data submitted on these cases indicated no reduction of cost."

Washington state enacted strict tort reform (later found unconstitutional) in response to insurance company demands. Immediately after the legislation took effect, here's what General Accident Insurance Company had to say: "Given that liability losses constitute such a low proportion of business owners' losses, GA feels it is prudent to continue with its original proposal of a 10 percent increase in base rates." That's right - tort reform goes into effect, GA RAISES rates.

Allstate said this about Washington tort reform: "[O]ur proposed rate would not be measurably affected by the tort reform legislation." Then they wanted a 22% increase.

GAI further said, "[I]t does not appear that the 'tort reform' law will serve to decrease our lossses, but instead it could potentially increase our liability."

3: I'll have the sources later, but the average general surgeon brings home $200k a year - AFTER all expenses. He or she spends more on office supplies than malpractice insurance. The overly inflated figures are generally for high-risk (previous claims) doctors in high-risk specialties in certain areas. Malpractice insurance isn't that high for most doctors.
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The Insurance Cartel Lies to the Florida Legislature [18 Jul 2003|01:40pm]

granite
SANTA MONICA, Calif., June 20 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Florida's largest medical malpractice insurer, FPIC, announced yesterday that it will not fulfill its promise to lower doctors' premiums if the Florida legislature enacts a liability cap. The retraction is more proof that liability limits will never lower premiums, and only insurance reform including a mandated rate rollback will reduce physicians' rates, said the California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).

"Insurers didn't lower malpractice premiums when a damage cap was passed in California, and they aren't going to lower rates in Florida either," said FTCR consumer advocate Carmen Balber. "The insurance industry's bluff was called and exposed: Damage caps have nothing to do with how much doctors pay for insurance."

Two weeks ago, in an effort to boost Governor Bush's proposal to cap non-economic damage awards at $250,000, the Florida insurance industry vowed it would reduce malpractice premiums by 20 percent if a cap was passed by the legislature. However, as soon as the Florida Senate indicated a willingness to pass a cap on Wednesday, FPIC withdrew the offer.

"A malpractice cap will never reign in the real crisis: reckless business practices, the volatility of the insurance cycle, and insurer greed. Only insurance reform -- including rate regulation and a mandated rate rollback -- will lower doctors' premiums and stabilize the malpractice market in Florida," said Balber.

California passed the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) in 1975, which capped non-economic damages at $250,000. In the thirteen years after MICRA's passage, physicians' malpractice premiums increased 450 percent. Only after California voters passed Proposition 103, a ballot initiative which instituted rate regulation and required a 20 percent rollback in rates, did doctors see their insurance premiums drop.

California Insurer Says Caps Didn't Lower Risk

In documents released last week by FTCR, California's second largest medical malpractice insurer acknowledged that damage caps and other insurer-touted restrictions on patient rights in California failed to reduce malpractice premiums.

FTCR challenged a 15.6 percent rate increase request by SCPIE Indemnity under the rules of California's insurance reform law, Proposition 103. As part of the Department of Insurance rate hearing, SCPIE Assistant Vice President and Associate Actuary James Robertson testified that: "While MICRA was the legislature's attempt at remedying the medical malpractice crisis in California in 1975, it did not substantially reduce the relative risk of medical malpractice insurance in California."
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The Myth of the Frivolous Lawsuit - Part Two [16 Jul 2003|03:04pm]

granite
One of the promises made by “tort reformers” is that the legislation they propose will put an end to “frivolous lawsuits”. They say that the court system is overwhelmed with lawsuits that have no merit, and that we need more barriers to prevent people from filing lawsuits.

What tort reformers don’t tell you is that the legal system already has three safety mechanism in place to prevent, dismiss, and correct frivolous lawsuits. The second mechanism, the Summary Judgment, is how frivolous cases are dismissed.

THE SUMMARY JUDGMENT:

Tort reformers say that the courts are overwhelmed with “frivolous lawsuits” – lawsuits that have no legal basis, or are so petty as to not be worth the time of the court system. They say that to protect the justice system, we need to make it harder for individuals to file lawsuits.

But what if instead of putting barriers up that could prevent legitimate lawsuits, there was a tool that could quickly and easily dismiss frivolous lawsuits? What if this tool not only dismissed frivolous lawsuits, but could also be used to force the filers of frivolous lawsuits to pay the attorney fees of the other side? This tool not only exists, but has been in use in America since 1902; it’s called the Summary Judgment.

The Bills of Exchange Act of 1855 in England first put into place what is now known as the summary judgment. America began using summary judgments in the District of Columbia in 1902, and the Federal court system formally implemented the summary judgment as it is known today in 1937.

The purpose of the summary judgment is to “determine whether there is a genuine need for trial.” When a party files a motion for summary judgment, they’re telling the court that there is no need for trial because the facts and law applicable to the case prevent the other side from winning.

We’ll use a fictitious car wreck as an example of how a summary judgment would dispose of a frivolous lawsuit:

Mr. Smith runs a red light and slams into Mr. Jones. Mr. Smith claims the light was green, but two witnesses say the light was red. Mr. Smith is given a citation from a police officer for running a red light. Mr. Smith decides to sue Mr. Jones for mental anguish.

Mr. Jones hires a lawyer. Mr. Jones’ lawyer spends a few hours drafting a motion for summary judgment. At the end of the motion, Mr. Jones’ lawyer requests he be awarded attorney’s fees from Mr. Smith because the lawsuit is frivolous.

The lawyer for Mr. Jones files his motion for summary judgment, and includes: Pictures of the accident scene, affidavits from the witnesses, an affidavit from the police officer, an affidavit from Mr. Jones, and a copy of the police report. All of the affidavits and the police report say that Mr. Smith ran a red light.


In such a case, the judge would most likely grant the summary judgment, and Mr. Smith’s lawsuit would be dismissed. The judge could also decide to order Mr. Smith to pay for Mr. Jones’ attorney’s fees. In the end, Mr. Jones wouldn’t be out any money, and Mr. Smith would have had his day in court.

The requirements for summary judgment vary from state to state, but in general, you need to show the court two things:

1: That the facts are clearly on your side. In Texas, for example, you have to show that “reasonable and fair minded people” cannot possibly come to different conclusions about what the evidence shows. If reasonable and fair minded people could come to different conclusions about the facts of the case, then summary judgment shouldn’t be granted.

2: That the law is clearly on your side. A common use of the summary judgment is to dispose of lawsuits where the statute of limitations has passed. Many states have a four-year statute of limitations for breach of contract. So, if you bought a car in 1995 and tried to sue the dealer for breach of contract in 2000, you wouldn’t be able to win – the statute of limitations would bar you from winning, and the judge would grant the car dealer’s motion for summary judgment.

Summary judgments have disposed of frivolous lawsuits for decades. They allow a defendant in a frivolous lawsuit to get out of the case quickly and without the expense of a full-fledged trial. Often, the defendants are even awarded their attorney’s fees for preparation of the motion for summary judgment.

The bottom line is that because of the summary judgment, very few “frivolous lawsuits” ever make it to trial. It could even be argued that any case that makes it past summary judgment can’t be a frivolous lawsuit; a judge – not a “runaway jury” – decided that the case had enough merit to present to a jury.

Tort reformers want to make it hard for you to file a lawsuit, harder for you to win a lawsuit, and impossible for you to collect a meaningful amount of money in a case involving serious or permanent injury. To accomplish these goals, they claim that frivolous lawsuits and runaway juries are destroying the justice system. However, tort reformers don’t talk about how summary judgments have been effectively used for over 100 years to dispose of thousands of frivolous lawsuits.

The next time someone tries to persuade you that we need more barriers to filing lawsuits, ask them why they don’t think the summary judgment is getting the job done.
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When is Antitrust Not Antitrust? [15 Jul 2003|04:55pm]

granite
Do these types of conduct sound illegal to you? 1) price fixing; (2) allocating with a competitor a geographical area in which, or persons to whom, PRODUCT will be offered for sale; (3) unlawfully tying the sale or purchase of one type of PRODUCT to the sale or purchase of another type of PRODUCT or any other service or product; or (4) monopolizing, or attempting to monopolize, any part of such business.

Doesn't that type of behavior sound like it's anticompetitive, or maybe in violation of an antitrust act? Well, just about every industry, it is. Except one: The insurance industry. The McCarran-Ferguson act of 1945 grants insurance companies the right to engage in all the anticompetive behavior I named above.

There was a bill presented in the 107th session of Congress that would eliminate the antitrust exemptions. Hell, the official purpose of the bill is "To modify the antitrust exemption applicable to the business of insurance. " The first paragraph of this post is ripped directly from the bill, with the word insurance replaced with product. Everything named above is perfectly legal for the insurance cartel.

How about a little less tort reform and a little more insurance reform?
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Tort Reformers = Hypocrites. [15 Jul 2003|04:21pm]

granite
If I were to tell you of a case where a jury awarded $400 million in punitive damages, what kind of case would you guess it to be? Nursing home neglect? No. Medical malpractice? No. Product liability? Also wrong. Here’s a hint: It’s a type of case that’s four-times as likely to receive punitive damages as a personal injury case. Give up? It’s a financial injury case.

In 2002, Igen International was awarded $505 million dollars from Roche Diagnostics for patent violations, with $404 million of those dollars being punitive damages.

Isn’t it interesting that many tort reformers want to see a $250k cap on awards for physical pain and suffering, but not for financial pain and suffering? Apparently, some tort reformers feel that awards into the millions aren't justified in the case of catastrophic injury or death, but are justified in cases of theft of intellectual property.

The Igen case presents an interesting demonstration of how big business - particularly the medical industry - wants to have it both ways: If an engineer at Roche diagnostics had designed a faulty product that paralyzed a child, Roche would be liable to that family for $250k in punitive damages - if proposed tort reform legislation were in effect. But if that engineer had stolen designs for that faulty product from Igen, they would be liable for $400+ million in punitive damages.

One of the core beliefs of our society, and our legal system is that no property is worth more than human life. But putting a cap on pain & suffering would subvert that principle and make human property more valuable than human life.

Big business never benefits from personal injury cases, but they often benefit from financial injury cases. In fact, as I mentioned in the beginning of this article, financial injury cases are four times more likely to receive punitive damages than personal injury cases – that’s from a 1997 RAND group study. That same study also shows that the awards in financial injury cases are generally larger than those in personal injury cases. Perhaps most telling is that the majority of financial injury cases are brought by corporations, and not individuals.

Big business routinely calls juries "out of control" for awarding multimillion dollar verdicts to those who are catastrophically injured. Yet those same companies praise juries for awarding even larger verdicts when their bottom lines are catastrophically injured. It will be a sad day for America when a verdict for tortious interference with a contract is larger than a verdict for someone who was tortured by a badly designed product.

The next time you hear about a big corporation complaining about "runaway jury verdicts", why not ask them if they plan on refunding any awards they receive in excess of the $250k caps they argue for?
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The Myth of the Frivolous Lawsuit - Part One [14 Jul 2003|12:48pm]

granite
One of the promises made by “tort reformers” is that the legislation they propose will put an end to “frivolous lawsuits”. They claim that we need more barriers to prevent people from filing lawsuits. They say that the court system is overwhelmed with lawsuits that have no merit.

What “tort reformers” don’t tell you is that the legal system already has three safety mechanism in place that prevent and dismiss frivolous lawsuits. The first mechanism, the contingent-fee agreement, prevents frivolous lawsuits from being filed in the first place.

THE CONTINGENT-FEE AGREEMENT:

Have you ever seen or heard an ad for an attorney who promises something like, “No cost to you unless we collect!”? Nearly every attorney that brings a lawsuit for a personal injury case does so under a contingent-fee agreement. While most people understand how the contingent-fee arrangement works, I’ll explain it in detail for those who do not.

Let’s say you’ve had an auto accident and decide to hire an attorney. If you shop around, you’ll find that contingent-fee agreements vary from attorney to attorney. Generally, they will range from anywhere from 25% to 50% of the total settlement or judgment you receive. For simplicity, we’ll say you hire an attorney on a 25% contingent-fee agreement. If you were to receive $10,000.00, the attorney would get $2,500.00 in that case as his fee. The attorney would also be reimbursed for any expenses he incurred in building your case. These expenses include obvious things like court filing fees, but there some expenses in many cases that the general public doesn’t know about: expert witness fees.

What is an expert witness fee? Well, in most complicated cases, and in virtually all medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff needs to hire expert witnesses to help prove his or her case. In some states, you’re not even allowed to file a medical malpractice case without first having a report from an expert witness that says, in essence, the doctor in question committed malpractice.

No matter how strong a case may be, all cases are gambles. When you hire an attorney on a contingent-fee basis, he’s gambling with his time and money. Whereas attorneys are willing to gamble when, if, and how much they’ll get paid, expert witnesses generally are not. Expert witnesses won’t wait until your case is over to get paid – they want to be paid up front, and it’s the attorney who has to pay them out of his or her pocket. As you might surmises, expert witnesses aren’t cheap: they’re highly qualified professionals who generally have high hourly fees. What kind of expert witnesses might be needed in a given case? Let’s take some real-life examples:

Professional Engineers: If you’re suing a manufacturer because you got hurt by a product that you think was poorly designed, you’ll need a professional engineer. One engineer in Garland, Texas charges $225.00 per hour, with a 50% premium for deposition and court time. So, if that engineer spent ten hours reviewing a design, and five hours in court, that would cost your attorney almost $4,000.00.

Doctors: If you have a medical malpractice case or any case where the extent of your injuries is called into question, you’ll need to hire a doctor as an expert witness. In some states, you can’t even file a medical malpractice case until a doctor writes a report that says, in essence, your doctor committed malpractice. Doctors, as you might guess, aren’t cheap. Plan on having your attorney spend around $250.00 per hour, possibly twice that much for a well-regarded specialist. In a complicated medical case, you may need three or more doctors, each of whom may have to spend ten to twenty hours – an out-of-pocket cost to your lawyer of $10,000.00 or more.

Nurses: You’ll probably need a nurse in any case where you need a doctor. While they’re not as expensive as doctors, they’ll still be around $75.00 an hour. Just like doctors, they’ll also probably have to spend ten to twenty hours on a case - $750.00 or more from your lawyer’s checking account.

Surprisingly, finding expert witnesses isn’t easy. Often, a lawyer will have to “shop around” for experts. Your lawyer would spend time finding experts with the right qualifications for your case. Then, he or she would gather all the pertinent materials and send them to an expert for review. Sometimes, the expert will review the records and say that they’re not interested in the case. Or perhaps they’ll review the records and not find anything helpful to your case. In either case, the expert will still have to be paid, and it’s your lawyer who will have to pay them. It’s not uncommon to go through two or three experts, and several thousand dollars, before the “right” expert is found. Of course, it’s also not uncommon for a lawyer to think they have a great case, only to find out by hiring several experts that they do not. In such an instance, that lawyer will be out-of-pocket thousands of dollars, and his client will owe nothing – thanks to the contingent-fee agreement.

Now, if you were a lawyer with a contingent-fee agreement, would you be willing to spend thousands of your own dollars and hundreds of hours on a case you’re not confident you can win? If your answer is “no” to that question, then you’ve just seen how contingent-fee agreements prevent frivolous lawsuits from being filed.

While contingent-fee agreements prevent frivolous lawsuits, they also do something more important: They provide access to the courts to everyone. In general, a lawyer’s hourly fee will be anywhere from $100 to $300 an hour. Not many people can afford to pay that kind of money to an attorney for more than a few hours. If you were to have to pay an hourly fee to an attorney to bring a case to trial, you might have to spend $50,000 on the attorney. If contingent-fee agreements were abolished, two things would happen: Only the rich would be able to file lawsuits, and attorneys would be far more willing to file a lawsuit that doesn’t have merit.

No case is “easy”, and in general, the more complicated the case, the harder it is to win. Contingent-fee agreements are what attract lawyers to the complicated cases. Contingent-fee agreements are what drive lawyers to take those cases to trial, and not to settle for a fraction of what the case is really worth. Contingent-fee agreements are what allow the poorest of the poor to have competent lawyers go toe-to-toe with corporate juggernauts.
Is it any surprise then that some special interest groups are attacking the contingent-fee agreement? They argue that it’s not fair that attorneys take such a “large percentage” of any recovery of their clients. Their arguments have worked: Some states have put limits on the percentage an attorney can take; in New Jersey, it’s 25%.

Damage caps and attorney-fee caps work together to make the complicated cases less enticing for lawyers, and the consequence is that those who traditionally receive large jury verdicts – the catastrophically injured, or the families of those who are killed – won’t be able to find attorneys to bring their case to court. The corporate entities that support tort reform won’t be held accountable when they act irresponsibly or unethically, and will instead enter into confidential settlement agreements with those they harm.

The irony is that as those corporate entities take away the public’s right to a jury trial, they’re doing it under the guise of protecting the public from “greedy lawyers.”
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What Is Tort Reform, and Why Is It Bad? [09 Jul 2003|05:06pm]

granite
There’s an interesting dichotomy regarding the public’s perception of lawsuits in America. On one hand, we love the little guys, the Erin Brockovich’s, and the myriad characters in John Grisham’s novels. We hate “big tobacco”, and cheer the multibillion dollar settlements in the tobacco litigation. Americans, as a general rule, are distrustful of big corporations. The accounting scandals on Wall Street have left the public with the perception that the bigger the company, the deeper the corruption. We get enraged when we hear about companies putting the bottom line ahead of the safety of their customers. Yet, despite our predilection to root for the underdog, many Americans support tort reform.

What is a tort, and what is a tort reform? The classic legal textbook about Torts is called Prosser and Keeton on Torts. In that book, one definition offered of a tort is a “civil crime”; an act that is illegal, but is not criminal. The most common type of a tort is an auto accident. Medical malpractice claims are also torts. Tort reform is the efforts of some – usually corporate entities – to “reform” lawsuits so as to prevent “runaway verdicts” that range into the millions, and in the case of big tobacco, the billions of dollars.

Often, tort reform, or “tort deform” as its detractors call it, revolves around damage caps. These damage caps generally refer to what are called “noneconomic damages”. Noneconomic damages include things like pain & suffering, mental anguish, and the like. To better illustrate, let’s say you’re in a car wreck and your car receives $5,000.00 in damage, and you need $5,000.00 in medical treatment. You would have $10,000.00 in economic damages. If you were to receive another $7,000.00 for pain & suffering – maybe you broke an arm and couldn’t use it for a few months – that $7,000.00 would be your noneconomic damages.

When you hear about multimillion dollar jury verdicts, they usually involve what are called punitive, or exemplary damages. Let’s take a look at what punitive/exemplary damages are, and are not.

First, punitive/exemplary damages are not intended to compensate or reward the individual who was wronged. The definition of exemplary, in this context anyway, is “to serve as a warning. The definition of punitive is “inflicting or aiming at punishment.” That means that p&e damages are to punish a party who did something that the jury wants to make sure never happens again. Over time, its been found that the most effective way to punish a company for engaging in unethical or illegal behavior is to make them pay money, kind of like a fine. Of course, that fine happens to go to whomever brought the lawsuit. In some cases, a Plaintiff in a lawsuit might get a really large amount of money. Perhaps that award may far exceed any reasonable amount of compensation for how much that Plaintiff could have really suffered. Those large verdicts and seemingly greedy Plaintiffs are what the public sees.

Let’s take a burn case for an example. What if a company was making $1.3 million dollars a day selling a product that they knew was causing second and third degree burns to their customers? What if during the ten years they offered this product, over 700 people had been badly burned – some permanently disfigured – by this product? What if this product was sold as something harmless, even common, but that company knew that their product would cause third-degree burns to the skin within two seconds of contact with that product if you were to accidentally drop it? Finally, what if that company called those 700+ burn victims “statistically trivial” and had no intention of fixing the product? What would a fair award be for the callous indifference of a multibillion dollar corporation that made $1,300,000 per day - $474,500,000.00 per year - by selling a product that horribly burned over 700 men, women, and even infants? This isn’t a fictitious case. This was the famed “McDonalds coffee case”, and in that case, six men and six women found that an appropriate punishment for their behavior was to “fine” them the profit from just TWO DAYS of coffee sales.

McDonalds sold their coffee at 180-190 degrees, a temperature that no human could drink, as it would cause third-degree burns within 2-7 seconds of contact with skin. Over 700 people had been burned within the ten years prior to the McDonald’s coffee case, yet McDonalds wouldn’t lower the temperature of their coffee.

The important fact of the case is that the day after the verdict, McDonalds lowered the temperature of their coffee to 158 degrees, a temperature that takes about a minute to cause severe burns.

The other fact you probably don't know about the case is that the judge reduced the $2,700,000 award to $480,000. Proponents of Tort Reform ignore that safety valve inherent in the system: A judge can reduce a verdict he finds excessive.

Stella Liebeck was the woman who was burned. She was a 79 year old grandmother who received third-degree burns to her legs, thighs, and genitals when the cup accidentally spilled in her lap. The 190 degree coffee immediately soaked into her jogging pants, and she was unable to do anything to prevent her burns. She had to go through painful debridements (scrubbing with wire brushes), skin grafts, and her treatment lasted two years. Of course, at the end of the treatment, she was left with permanent scars. For more information, visit the website of S. Reed Morgan, Stella's attorney.

But America, the country who loves the little guy, has turned a 79 year old woman who received third-degree burns to her genitals into a ridiculed joke; ever receive a piece of e-mail called “The Stella Awards”? The “Stella Awards” are supposed jury verdicts that are supposed to showcase how broken the justice system is. None of those verdicts are real. At least, not as far as I can tell. I’ve used Westlaw, an expensive online legal service that reports virtually every case in America, and none of the supposed “Stella Awards” cases I’ve looked for ever seem to appear.

Every laugh at the “Stella Awards” is a laugh at a severely burned, permanently disfigured, 79 year old grandmother.

If the $250,000.00 damage caps that some people argue for were in place when Stella was burned, McDonalds would have simply settled the case for $250,000.00 and went on continuing to make half a billion dollars a year burning roughly 70 people a year.

The real effect of tort reform will be that human life will be reduced to a value of $250,000.00, and no matter how many times a company hurts, maims, or even kills a consumer, they’ll know they’ll never be punished with a multimillion dollar jury verdict. Without those verdicts to deter corporations from acting irresponsibly, unethical corporate executives will put the bottom line ahead of public safety, and perhaps it will be your grandmother who gets burned next.
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Initial Post [01 Jun 2003|12:22pm]

granite
I created this community to educate the world about why tort reform is evil, and will onyl benefit big corporations (read: insurance companies) and will hurt the "little guy". Remember, tort reform is big business putting a price on your head.
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