Dear Prudence: “I hit a child with my car and have to sue his parents in order to afford therapy….What would you do in my situation?” [Slate]
Lessons from Bernie Marcus of Home Depot, who at age 49 was fired from a job in violation of what he considered his rights under a contract:
[Price Club founder Sol] Price told Bernie: “Why are you spending your young life suing somebody? Why don’t you just forget about it and go on and live your life? Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a room like this [in your home filled with legal papers].”
The next morning when Bernie woke up, he said he “really woke up. I called the attorneys and said, ‘You’re off the case. End the litigation. I’m going on with my life.’”
Just where did Bernie go? One year later in 1979, he and Arthur Blank launched The Home Depot, which became the fastest growing retailer in U.S. history.
- “It Didn’t Feel Like a ‘Win'” [“Birdstrike, M.D.”/White Coat]
- Federal ban on long shifts by hospital residents may have harmed safety, in part because it drove up number of patient handoffs [USA Today]
- N.J. bill would narrow chance for suits against first aid, ambulance and rescue squads [NJLRA]
- Bill in Georgia legislature aims to apply workers’-comp-like principles to med-mal [Florida Times-Union]
- I mostly agree that med-mal reform is for states to decide, but Ramesh Ponnuru may underrate Washington’s legitimate role in prescribing legal consequences when it pays for care [Bloomberg/syndicated]
- Shift burdens through price control: NJ assemblyman’s bill would prohibit insurers from considering docs’ claims experience except for cases that result in actual court findings [NJLRA]
- Someone’s hand stuck in the sharps box again? Sixth time this month [Throckmorton]
What does the pursuit of litigation do to litigants’ characters? What does it do to the character of organizations and whole societies? Does it undermine the humility that some (though not all) of us deem an important virtue in persons and institutions?
This week I’m leading a discussion on that subject at the John Templeton Foundation’s Big Questions Online. It starts with a brief essay in which I note the older view, held by many religions and philosophical schools but now out of favor in much of academia, that litigiousness is a kind of vice, to which people are perhaps peculiarly susceptible if they take to an extreme what is otherwise the virtuous impulse to pursue justice. I cite familiar sources (Abraham Lincoln, Bleak House) as well as those perhaps less familiar (Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas) that shed light on how pride in one’s own quarrels, even (especially?) those that are rightful, can distort perceptions and harden sympathies.
My observations, however, do no more than scratch the surface of a big subject on which there is much to say. It’s a moderated discussion and your comments are welcome through the week. And please pass on word to others who might be interested.
- “A Patient Dies, and Then the Anguish of Litigation” [Joan Savitsky, NYT, more]
- “Kern County’s Monstrous D.A.” [Radley Balko]
- “Former N.Y. Judge Sentenced to 27 Months in Jail for Attempted Bribery” [NYLJ]
- “ADA Online: Is a Website a ‘Place of Public Accommodation’?” [Eric Robinson, Citizen Media Law, background here and here]
- “The New Climate Litigation: How about if we sue you for breathing?” [WSJ editorial]
- Saratoga school district agrees to overregulate, rather than ban, students’ bikes [Free-Range Kids, earlier]
- “Head of BigLaw pro bono department fails to pay income taxes for 10 years? How’s that happen?” [WSJ Law Blog]
- Municipal subprime suits: “The Most ‘Evil’ Lenders Are Also, Conveniently, The Richest” [Kevin Funnell; more at Point of Law]
When the wrong defendant is named in a civil complaint — wrong in the sense of being “different guy with the same name” — you might think it would be relatively routine to order the complainant to compensate the bewildered target. But it’s actually unusual enough to rate news coverage. [Jim Dwyer, “Hello, Collections? The Worm Has Turned,” New York Times]
I’m scheduled to be on the John Gambling show on WOR-710AM at, er, 7:10 AM on Wednesday the 3rd, discussing my recent Congressional testimony on the costs of the litigation system.
Update: a podcast of the segment is available under “June 3” on the WOR website.
As I discussed in recent testimony on Capitol Hill, if one takes conservative estimates from these economic studies and adds it all up, the total cost to the economy from excessive litigation can be estimated to be between $600 billion and $900 billion a year, the vast majority of which is simply wealth destruction. That is between 4 and 6 percent of GNP, a tort tax of between $8,000 and $12,000 a year for an average family of four.
California has a double-digit unemployment rate, and it’s certainly not helped by regulatory red tape. The disabled now have equal access to Kirk’s Steakburgers in Cupertino, a supposedly otherwise-profitable business that closed rather than spend tens of thousands of dollars to come up to Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, not to mention lose three parking spaces in its tiny parking lot. (“Kirk’s Steakburgers closing its West San Jose location”, Cupertino Courier, Mar. 16 (h/t D.R.)).