Vox Populi

Another Tort retort

In broken tort reform, Get the Ca$h, ideology, undo tort reform on November 1, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I have previously posted about writing a comment on a defense-attorney led site defending the documentary Hot Coffee.

I did it again.   My thoughts are too good to only post once 😉 , so here they are:

I think, by denigrating the main use of the Liebeck case in popular culture, that you are missing the point of both its use in the documentary and in political discourse. For just the very reasons you cite (it was, duh, coffee–nothing to sue over), that case has a special power. For those of your ilk, it embodies the over-reaching of those out for a free ride, meal ticket, or the like. In short, an abuse or misuse of the court.

For others, it is an example of how the courts act as a corrective agent against abuse, corruption, and incompetence (especially medical personnel). Without the correction of a good tort case, industry and business may well still be employing 10 year olds to pull the coal carts, attend segregated schools and the like.

Back to my point…the hot coffee case, suing for being stupid, is the distillation of talking points: until one learns more about it. Point is, the tort in that case worked. McDonald’s altered its practice (which had hurt 900 others to varying, shall I say it, degrees) to the point that such “accidents” (one of McDonald’s arguments–echoed here–was that with such a high number of servings that the accident rate was statistically insignificant: until it happens to you or to one you love) have been reduced.

What you fail to point out is that “tort reform” does nothing to mitigate such suits. Caps on damages, reduced statutes of limitations, affidavits of merit, pre-suit notices, witness requirements, etc., these work to bias a case toward the defense.

“Tort reform,” rather, provides defense with a ready stable of tactics and defences which to attack a case, shielding their clients from a frontal assault. It is defensive jujitsu.

So, with that, I wonder why, as defense counsel, you should complain so much… Nothing could be better for business than more examples of suing for being stupid.

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