- Latest of periodic Towers Watson (formerly Towers Perrin/Tillinghast) surveys: tort costs fell in 2010 excluding oil spill liability [Towers Watson]
- “Will Newt Neuter the Courts?” [James Huffman, Defining Ideas] Obama’s high court appointees are fortunately friendlier toward civil liberties than he is [Steve Chapman]
- Unanimous Cal Supremes: companies not legally responsible for other companies’ asbestos products used as replacement for theirs [Cal Biz Lit, Jackson, Beck, Mass Tort Prof]
- Claim: jurors considered policy implications of verdict and you can’t have that [On Point; defense verdict in Baltimore, Maryland school-bullying case]
- Airfare display mandate: “‘Protecting’ Consumers from the Truth About the Cost of Government” [Thom Lambert, TotM]
- Critical assessment of AP-backed new copyright aggregator “NewsRight” [Mike Masnick] Promises not to be “Righthaven 2.0” [Cit Media Law]
- Restatement (Third) of Torts drafters vs. Enlightenment scientific views of causation [David Oliver in June]
- “Of all the body parts to Xerox!” Another round of stories on efforts to reduce liabilities from office holiday parties [ABA Journal, Above the Law, and relatedly Megan McArdle]
- New edition of Tillinghast/Towers Perrin study on insurance costs of liability system finds they went down last year, which doesn’t happen often [2007 update, PDF]
- Vermont student sues Burger King over indelicate object found in his sandwich; one wonders whether he’s ruled out it being a latex finger cot, sometimes used by bakery workers [AP/FoxNews.com]
- Good discussions of “human rights commission” complaints against columnist Mark Steyn in Canada [Volokh, David Warren and again @ RCP, Dan Gardner; for a contrasting view, see Wise Law Blog]
- Having trousered $60-odd million in fees suing Microsoft in Minnesota and Iowa antitrust cases, Zelle Hofmann now upset after judge says $4 million in fees should suffice for Wisconsin me-too action [Star-Tribune, PheistyBlog]
- Australian rail operator will appeal order to pay $A600,000 to man who illegally jumped tracks, spat at ticket inspectors, hurt himself fleeing when detained [Herald Sun]
- Lawyers’ fees in Kia brake class action (Oct. 29, Oct. 30) defended by judge who assails honesty of chief defense witness [Legal Intelligencer]
- Who deserves credit for founding Facebook? Question is headed for court [02138 mag]
- Yes, jury verdicts do sometimes bankrupt defendants, as did this $8 million class action award against a Kansas City car dealer [KC Star, KC Business Journal]
- Dispute over Burt Neuborne’s Holocaust fees is finally over, he’ll get $3.1 million [NY Sun]
- So long as we’re only fifty votes behind in the race for this “best general legal blog” honor, we’re going to keep nagging you to vote for Overlawyered [if you haven’t already]
I’ve long complained that the Tillinghast/Towers Perrin estimate of the cost of the tort system is a fundamental underestimate because of its lack of measurement of second-order effects.
I haven’t had a chance to analyze the PRI report in detail, but their figure of $865 billion/year (6.6% of the GNP), which includes the effect of the tort system on safety, employment, innovation, rent-seeking, and rent-avoidance, is around the right order of magnitude, though it’s a little much to expect three-digit accuracy from the estimates the study makes. (Cross-posted at Point of Law.)
The West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association says it will file a Federal Communications Commission complaint unless radio stations yank ads from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which compare injury lawyers to crocodiles and cite the widely circulated (but trial-lawyer-loathed) Tillinghast studies on the cost of the liability insurance system. (Jake Stump, “Trial lawyers want radio ads pulled”, Charleston Daily Mail, Apr. 6). Carolyn Elefant, Mike Cernovich and Prof. Childs comment. More watch-what-you-say-about-lawyers stories: Jan. 13, 2005, Dec. 23, 2004, and links from there.
Another cost of the litigation system not measured by the Tillinghast Towers Perrin study: pregnant women across the country are being required to undergo unnecessary C-sections so the doctors can avoid John-Edwards-style demagoguery in the event of pregnancy complications. C-sections now comprise 27.6% of pregnancies, and the cerebral palsy rate hasn’t declined at all.
Doctors and hospitals say they fear lawsuits if they allow a patient to attempt a vaginal birth after a C-section — called a VBAC — and something goes awry.
“We think the risk is more of a legal risk than a medical risk,” acknowledges Bob Wentz, CEO of California’s Oroville Hospital, which banned VBACs two years ago.
Thomas Frank asks what’s the matter with Kansas: it might be that a woman wanting to avoid a C-section has to travel 280 miles to find a hospital that will allow a VBAC. (Rita Rubin, “Battle lines drawn over C-sections”, USA Today, Aug. 23).
Newsweek, as is typical for a newsweekly, published only a terse editorial response (see previous post) to the litigation lobby’s concerted attack on its reporting. However, Stuart Taylor, Jr., the distinguished veteran journalist who (with Evan Thomas) was principal author of the feature, has kindly consented to let us reprint his more detailed point-by-point rebuttal to ATLA’s official gripe catalogue, published under the title “Spin or Facts? A Look Behind Newsweek’s Series ‘Lawsuit Hell’“. Because of the length of Taylor’s response, we’ve split it into two posts, the first responding to the first six points of ATLA’s critique and the second responding to the rest. Check out in particular, under heading #6, ATLA’s false (and remarkably brazen) assertion that the Tillinghast study’s $233 billion estimate of the cost of the liability insurance sector includes “the cost of the entire property/casualty insurance industry” and in particular the cost of hurricanes and similar damage. (It doesn’t.)
“The U.S. tort system cost $233 billion in 2002, a $27.4 billion increase over 2001, representing the largest dollar increase in U.S. history. Current costs translate into $809 per U.S. citizen, $87 more than in 2001 and $797 more than in 1950.” So say the people at Tillinghast Towers Perrin, who’ve issued the newest update to their widely followed series of estimates of the size of the liability insurance sector of the U.S. economy. Liabilities tied to asbestos payouts jumped to $11 billion, double the level of just two years earlier, and medical malpractice, class actions and shareholder suits all exerted upward pressure on the totals. Less than 50 cents on the dollar of these costs were returned to claimants, and only 22 cents went to compensate actual economic losses, the report says. “Tort costs increased by a total of 30% in the last two years — the largest two-year increase since 1986/1987.” (“U.S. Tort Costs Climbed to Record $233 Billion in 2002, According to Tillinghast Study”, Dec. 10, executive summary (PDF).