Tort Reform As with most debates fought in the popular press, there is some truth on both sides. At the center of this controversy is the way the legal system handles disputes or torts. A tort by definition is not just actions resulting in physical injury. Slander, fraud, and trespass are also torts. However, most of the argument on tort reform, concerns cases involving physical injury, medical malpractice and product liability. America is the most sue happy society in the world. We take our private problems to court more readily than the people of any other country.
I do not agree with the article, Corp Reform-Not Tort Reform. Indeed Tort Reform is essential. The impact of tort claims is gargantuan, in retrospect to other types of lawsuits. Many of these costs are absorbed by corporations. On the front end, the corporation may pay the damages awarded; but, on the back end, the bill is absorbed by stockholders, taxpayers and consumers. These individuals pay in the form of reduced share prices, increased administrative costs and higher prices for goods and services.
The second reason why we need tort reform is because a tort claim is the type of lawsuit most likely to give rise to frivolous accusations. We need to see reform by obtaining more structure in punitive damages. Punitive damages should be reserved for those who truly deserve to be punished. A plaintiff should be required to show clear and convincing evidence, that harm was suffered because actual malice rather than by mere simple evidence. Punitive damages should be only awarded once; it is wrong punish a corporation twice for the same tort.
There must be some incentive for true injured parties with legitimate claims to pursue them in court. The problem with our legal system is that there is no incentive not to bring a claim, even as frivolous as can be. It prevents even victorious party from being rewarded since legal fees can eat up a huge percentage of any amounts won in court. The American way can also discourage a plaintiff with a legitimate grievance from filing a lawsuit. This is because funds recovered by the victim will be consumed by the costs of his attorney’s fees.
When the expected legal costs are greater than the amount of the claim, the plaintiff may decide not to sue. Second, it means that someone who has done nothing wrong often ends up paying for someone else’s choice to use the court system to litigate a grievance. From the moment a case is filed, the defendant begins to calculating the relative cost of going to court versus settlement, in the scenario even a innocent defendant often decide to settle to avoid legal fees and bad publicity. Adapting a loser pays rule would discourage frivolous lawsuits and promote the early settlement of meritorious ones.
In conclusion, I am not surprised by the McDonald coffee case. It simply proves my point. State officials should enact its own reforms to fill in any gaps left by the federal efforts at tort reform and intact reasonable limitations on noneconomic as well as punitive damages and amendment on rules of joint and several liabilities. We need to join the rest of the western world in recognizing the disadvantages of the American way of filing suit and the problems it has caused the economy, the tort system, and the delivery of civil justice.