Tort Reform Part II: Much More Work Ahead

By January 8, 2007Briefly Legal

The Examiner’s lead editorial makes a point well worth repeating, especially in light of our earlier post: Just because the trial lawyers are top contributors to Democratic campaigns does not mean the new Democratic Congress gets a pass on tort reform. And the paper reiterates the reasons why:

That there is a crying need for lawsuit abuse reform is beyond question. As The Examiner’s Micah Morrison detailed with his reporting last week, there is substantial evidence of widespread abuse and even fraud at the highest levels of the trial lawyers bar. The costs to consumers and taxpayers are enormous, as the American Tort Reform Association estimates:

  • The cost of the U.S. tort system for 2003 was $246 billion, or $845 per citizen, or $3,380 for a family of four.
  • U.S. tort costs increased 35.4 percent from 2000 to 2003.
  • The growth of U.S. tort costs have exceeded the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2 to 3 percentage points in the past 50 years.
  • The U.S. tort system is inefficient; it returns less than 50 cents on the dollar and less than 22 cents for actual economic loss to claimants.
  • Clearly, trial lawyers for too long have grown rich by using forum shopping, friends on the judicial bench and, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, fraudulent expert witnesses to make the mere prospect of litigation so costly that even Fortune 500 firms find it cheaper to settle than to seek their day in court.

    If Nixon can go to China, the Examiner argues, then Pelosi can go to the trial bar and work toward passage of critical pieces of federal tort reform, such as the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act: “LARA enables judges to require plaintiffs filing frivolous suits to pay defendants’ legal costs and it prevents the forum shopping that encourages the most costly litigation.” (NAM support letter here.)

    The good fight continues, the battle wages on!

    P.S. The Micah Morrison reporting cited in the editorial above refers to a package he did about the federal case involving Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman:

    In May, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted the king of class-action law firms in an alleged conspiracy scheme of staggering proportions. The 20-count indictment included charges of obstruction of justice, perjury, bribery and fraud. The government claims that the firm itself, as well as senior partners David Bershad and Steven Schulman, participated in a decades-long conspiracy that distributed more than $11 million in “secret kickback payments” to people to serve as plaintiffs in more than 150 class-action suits.