Tort Reform, the Michigan Battleground

By September 12, 2007Briefly Legal

We pick up the newspaper column debate over tort reform in mid-exchange, starting with the September 7th Detroit Free Press op-ed by Robert M. Raitt, president of the Michigan Association for Justice, formerly the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association. (The group’s webpage is hosted by Raitt’s law firm? How cozy.)

Raitt’s column, “Don’t buy into tort reform’s promises,” refers to a recent state Chamber study on tort reform, arguing, “Tort reform was sold to us circus-style as a magic elixir, with promises of huge savings, jobs thick on the ground, and hyperactive economic growth. …Instead, we have a hobbled justice system that functions as a puppet for special interests, tens of thousands of injured, wronged, cheated people who have no way to hold wrongdoers accountable, hundreds of millions of dollars in costs dumped on our taxpayers instead of being paid by those who are responsible for screwing up, and an economy that is behaving exactly as if the snake oil of tort reform were poison. Because tort reform is poison.” Another reasoned argument …

Raitt’s column responds to an op-ed in the Lansing State Journal on August 22nd by The American Justice Partnership’s Dan Pero, who discussed AJP’s findings on Michigan’s legal climate compared the Chamber’s study; methodologies differ. Dan also notes ATLA’s effort to gild the lipstick on a flying pig by changing its name, commenting, “The Michigan Trial Lawyers Association recently changed its name to the “Michigan Association for Justice.” Though this may conjure images of comic-book superheroes in capes and tights, the reality is that this organization exists to help personal injury attorneys sue the pants off anyone with deep pockets.” (BTW, Raitt’s column asserts that NAM President John Engler heads the AJP. No, Dan does. Pretty basic mistake. We’re considering legal action.)

Now, where was that paragraph? Oh, yes…here.

From the Pacific Research Institute’s study, “Jackpot Justice“:

According to PRI’s calculation, the total annual accounting costs of the U.S. tort liability system is $865.37 billion. To put the annual social cost of the U.S. tort system into perspective, it is equivalent to an 8-percent tax on consumption, a 13-percent tax on wages, the combined annual output of all six New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), or the total annual sales of the U.S. restaurant industry. The annual price tag, or “tort tax,” for a family of four in terms of costs and foregone benefits is $9,827.

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