Saturday, March 27, 2010

Is Tort Reform Really A Good Idea?

Washington, DC—Tort reform has gone nowhere and perhaps that’s not so bad. When they talk about tort reform they raise a few cases of crazy or runaway jury verdicts to seemingly undeserving people. Judges routinely reduce overblown awards and there is the appeal process.

Civil litigation is the protection the law provides that curbs reckless, negligent acts by powerful corporations and government agencies. The gate keeper preventing frivolous lawsuits is the high cost of litigation. Filing such suits is expensive and abuse of the process has serious sanctions.

It is and should be a jury that assigns personal responsibility and applies Darwin’s Law or simply denies the claims of the unworthy or dishonest. On the other hand it’s the jury that makes a deserving plaintiff whole again.

The contingent fee system allows wage earners or folks of limited wealth to bring lawsuits when they are injured or otherwise victimized. The hefty cost of litigation is defrayed until there is a recovery within the claim system.

The lawyers agree to gamble on the likelihood of a settlement or jury verdict by taking a percentage, usually one third of the recovery. Lawyers are always reluctant to take cases that don’t have merit. Without the ability to sue people would never recover damages for death, injury or destroyed businesses.

Without serious civil tort consequences, government agencies, medical providers and manufacturers would be immune from abusing the rest of us. The tort system protects all of us and taking its teeth away would invite an avalanche of arrogance and bad behavior.

Insurance covers most Americans and unless there is coverage the contingent fee lawyers will never take those cases. The insurance companies are in the business of collecting premiums and not paying claims. They’re always looking for ways to avoid living up to their responsibilities. It’s all about profit, nothing more.

We have a jury system and it works to protect all of us from bogus lawsuits and to order compensation when they deem that reasonable. I will trust our juries a lot more than politicians, lobbyists or insurance adjusters any day. The tort system is not broken, leave it alone.

1 comment:

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Physicians, like me, have a different point of view. See under Legal Quality.