Tort Reform

The complex U.S. legal system requires attorneys to work exclusively in specific aspects of the law. Lawyers, who specialize in trying cases, are the most financially successful. This group has an unsavory reputation for good reason. The tort lawyer lobby is powerful in Washington, DC because it donates more money than any other campaign contributor and enjoys the empathy of the many elected legislators, who are, in many cases, lawyers. Laws are on the books to expose individuals, professions, and industries to expensive, often unnecessary, liability suits because of their lobby's effectiveness with Congress. Trial lawyers' lobby prevents any legislation that would cap damage awards.

As a result, the health services have been seriously impacted. Hospitals and physicians are the victims of lawsuits, many unfounded, and the unrealistic awards are meted out by unsophisticated juries. Hospitals and health-care professionals have been forced to cut or discontinue their services because of rising insurance premiums (due in part to the numerous liability lawsuits). Certain medical specialties such as surgery, cardiology, and obstetrics have become shorthanded because of the high cost of malpractice insurance.

The liability laws have been cleverly crafted so that tort lawyers can claim responsibility for harm against anyone or any entity even remotely involved. Consequently, lawsuits routinely name a multitude of defendants. Many of the named defendants end up settling, even if they could prevail, because of the prohibitive cost of lawsuits. The person or company with the most money is the main litigant - what's known as going after "the deep pockets." Trial lawyers cause and have caused serious damage to industries, while earning huge fees for this disservice.

Lawyers earn the largest fees through class-action lawsuits, and tort lawyers are the instigators of today's favorable class-action regulations. This one-sided piece of legislation allows attorneys to sue on behalf of individuals without getting the written permission of the majority of the class affected. Successful class-action suits result in millions of dollars for the barristers and far less for the people for whom the suit was filed. Many of these cases are based on technicalities and pseudo science.

As noted previously, trial lawyers, one of the most effective special interest groups, have and continue to cause considerable damage to this country. Their influence with the legislature has distorted the laws to their advantage resulting in an abuse of the principles of justice. These aggressive lawyers take advantage of inexperienced juries to gain outrageous sums of money for themselves and their clients. The most abused case type is the class action suit. Currently, trial lawyers can apply for class action status with a just a few of the injured parties as their clients. They get huge fees that are way out of proportion to the amount of money their clients receive in these lawsuits. There have been attempts to pass legislature to cap awards or move these cases to Federal courts with no success because of the power of the trial lawyer's lobby.

There are several reforms that would be effective in correcting the tort abuse in America, require: experts, in the discipline of the case, to set the monetary awards; written permission from a majority of the harmed individuals in the class to represent them; that the lawyers earn a fixed percentage of the amount of money each client receives.

Art Woodrow, a veteran of World War II who is dedicated to restoring our democratic process, is the founder of The Democracy Conservator Foundation. DCF is a not-for-profit, apolitical organization seeking to increase the involvement of U.S. citizens in the political process and to encourage the discussion and debate of issues our society faces today. To learn more about how to make your vote count, visit www.democracyconservator.org.

Copyright © 2008 Art Woodrow