My latest column in the Times Online explains why Business Week and some other media outlets are being at best premature (and that’s putting it diplomatically) in declaring the American plaintiff’s bar down for the count. Opening excerpt:
America’s litigation fever is cooling off, or so one hears. Merck & Co is doing reasonably well defending suits over its painkiller Vioxx, while actions blaming foodmakers for obesity have sputtered. Doctors’ malpractice-suit payouts are said to be flat (at what by other countries’ standards are still unthinkably high levels). Last month, the Supreme Court ruled on a punitive damage case in favor of tobacco giant Philip Morris, which has become a Wall Street favorite after wrestling down its perceived legal risks. Nearly every American politician claims to be on board with reform, even the nation’s most famous plaintiff’s-lawyer-made-good: “We do have too many lawsuits”, said John Edwards during the 2004 Presidential debates. A recent Business Week cover sums it up: “How Business Trounced the Trial Lawyers”.
And yet one wonders whether a contest is being called prematurely. … To call a high-water mark is going to require more evidence than we’ve seen so far.
P.S. Other reactions to the Business Week cover story came from Bizzyblog (“Year’s Most Unintentionally Comical”), Roger Parloff (article itself was better than headline), and me at Point of Law (see also this WSJ column).