An editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal, “The Tort Bar’s Comeback,” analyzes the power grab going on by trial lawyers in Congress — mostly blocked for now by threatened Bush vetoes — and the states:
Lawyers have also been laboring to create opportunities for more lawsuits, more money and more time to sue. Last year, Alabama saw legislation that would allow a tort claim to continue even after a plaintiff had died, while California proposed authorizing lawsuits for any violation of privacy. New Mexico and New Jersey passed laws authorizing citizens to file “false claims” suits on behalf of the state — in effect turning private individuals into state bounty hunters.
Four states — Colorado, Washington, Illinois and Texas — considered proposals to increase the size of awards plaintiffs could claim, and with it attorneys’ contingency fees. The tort bar pushed bills across the country to expand “consumer protection” damages and in at least three states to allow plaintiffs to claim damages for “emotional harm” when their pets are injured. In Maryland and Oregon, lawyers successfully shepherded new laws to extend the time in which plaintiffs could file lawsuits.
Jackpot Justice isn’t free: Consumers lose when hypercautious companies drop products out of fear of lawsuits and taxpayers lose when governments pay exorbitant awards. Just as importantly, Jackpot Justice isn’t justice; it weakens the rule of law.
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