Liability roundup

  • Mechanics of high-volume injury litigation: “A disgruntled former law firm employee spills secrets on a mass tort factory” [Paul Barrett, Business Week] More on chasing clients: new Chamber Institute for Legal Reform research finds 23 of top 25 Google key words linking ads to user searches are for personal injury law firms; TV advertising by lawyer is projected to reach $892 million in 2015, up 68% from 2008. Yet more: Daniel Fisher/Forbes (“San Antonio car wreck attorney” goes for $670 per click on Google), Tampa Bay Times (“Highly groomed attorney duo …shown moving in slow motion on courthouse steps to a hard rock beat”);
  • Flurry of other new papers by U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, many connected with its annual Legal Reform Summit, include one on how the trial bar has been successful at lobbying the Obama administration. Plus a new edition of “101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems”;
  • In speech, Rudolph Giuliani recalls tort-law challenges he faced as NYC mayor [Corpus Christi Caller-Times]
  • A quarter century later, trial lawyers’ initiative to take revenge against insurer adversaries continues to harm California insurance customers [Ian Adams, “The troublesome legacy of Prop 103,” R Street Institute, paper in PDF, summary]
  • A story we’ve covered before: Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood and the flow of funds from and to private lawyers he hires [Steve Wilson/Mississippi Watchdog, quotes me]
  • Most New York counties have passed resolutions calling for reform of the state’s unique scaffold law [Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York]
  • You’d think indictment of Mikal Watts, Texas law major-leaguer with friends in high D.C. places, would be playing bigger in the press [Tim Carney]


  • How about we come up with a system that does three things:

    1. Takes away ill-gotten gains from companies.

    2. Makes consumers whole.

    3. Does not enrich lawyers on both sides at the expense of everyone.

    The current tort system seems only to accomplish 1. Without the current tort system, only 3 would be accomplished.

    Frankly, it seems to me that the only way to accomplish all three is to have an entity prosecute suits where the entity is not driven by an insane motivation to profit from clients. And it seems to me that 1 and 2 are very good public policy goals. So, perhaps we should have a government agency take cases like these? CFPB anyone?

    While we are at it, why not get universal health care, which would reduce the amount of actual damages suffered in tort suits?

    The libertarian approach we now have to the tort system is NOT working.

    Mr. Olson, stop kvetching about the system we have until you come up with a better alternative.

    • 1. Define ill-gotten gains. Why only take them away from companies. Individuals can have ill-gotten gains as well.

      2. How about making consumers prove that they were genuinely injured before trying to make them whole?

  • Allan, I would call the current tort system a lot of things, but the term “libertarian” is not one of them.

    Additionally, 1) leaves off “ill gotten gains” by plenty of marketplace participants – its not just companies that do harm.

    That aside, yes, Universal Health Care (which I oppose on many grounds, not least of which is the gross inefficiency and mismanagement of our current Gov’t single payer health care system for our Veterans) would need an almost complete rewrite of our current tort system for medical injury damages (whether paying for people injured as result of some deliberate or accidental mishap or paying when people are injured during medical treatment). Given the United State’s seeming inability to tackle any problem cohesively, I’d not hold my breath waiting for the Socialist revolution you seem to envision.

    • How would you characterize a system that has private individuals seeking justice for damage done to the general public, other than libertarian? It certainly is not liberal or conservative. Liberals would have the CFPB do it. Conservatives don’t seem to care about ill-gotten gains, just the profits of the companies.

      Is there a fourth alternative?

  • The system was seemingly assembled piecemeal in response to one perceived wrong or another. I’d say it was a collection of sometimes contradictory ad hoc “fixes”, only loosely giving lip service to any particular body of guiding principles. Honestly, i can’t discern what your working definitions for conservative, liberal, and libertarian are above – but the legal system in this country doesn’t seem to consistently strongly favor any of the definitions I think you may be suggesting by the examples you cite.

  • @ Allen—-

    A key libertarian right is to sign contracts, ie to give up some rights in order to get something one values more. In the past, children, idiots, women, slaves, and ex-slaves did not enjoy this right in full, or at all.

    For example, in order to buy a car on the installment plan, buyers sign away various rights to contest repossession if they fall behind on payments. (Otherwise, no dealer in his right mind would accept anything less than full payment,)

    Certain types of contract can be declared contrary to public policy and void, eg to accept slavery as the security against default. But such issues should not apply to disagreements about trivial phone charges.

  • Scaffold laws–

    Does any site spell out exactly why businesses object to them?

    I suppose businesses would prefer to use ordinary workmen’s comp law, which enforces ceilings on pain-and-suffering, and the valuation of a human life.

    i am skeptical whether fault is as important an issue. Provable suicides, I suspect, are a very small part of the caseload. Workmen’s comp courts have been fairly permissive (from the worker’s viewpoint) on issues of worker negligence or horseplay.

    • Hugo,

      “Scaffold laws”

      No, there is only one scaffold law.

      The scaffold law link points out the New York is the only state that has a scaffold law. And that link points out what the major objection is.

      From the link: “he Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York along with a coalition of business, municipal, and non-profit organizations announced today that thirty-two county legislatures – more than half of the state – have passed resolutions calling on the state government to reform the “Scaffold Law” law. The law, which only exists in New York, holds contractors and property owners, including counties, 100% liable in lawsuits for gravity-related construction injuries, regardless of any contributing fault by the employee.”

      See also:

      “As Andrew Hawkins explains at Crain’s New York Business, which interviewed Cuomo, the scaffold law is New York’s alone-in-the-country legal regime ascribing 100% liability for gravity-related workplace injuries to businesses found to have contributed any fault, even if the predominant cause was a worker’s drunkenness or decision to violate safety rules. Because awards are high, some estimate that the law will contribute $200 million to construction costs at the Tappan Zee Bridge rebuilding project alone compared with a law more typical of what is found in other states.”