Here is another bit of ridiculousness by our friends, the tort-reformers. I bring it to you as a public service, kind of a “know your foes” post. A Republican internet rag called FlashReport published by someone who started a ‘College Republican Club’ at his community college, joined the ‘Young Americans for Freedom’ (a “conservative youth” organization), served as State President of the California Republican Assembly, and as Vice Chairman, South, of the California Republican Party, invited the author and the attached ‘article’ to appear on its website. It purports to do so as “part of an ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary” to the public. The article, entitled “Reforming Lawsuit Abuse Can Help Rebuild California” is written by someone named Marko Mlikotin, the “Northern California Regional Director for California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse”. By the way, I have no interest in either of these gentlemen’s party affiliations nor do I criticize their political choices. I comment only on their political perspective and agenda; this is, clearly, not an effort to bring ‘original, thoughtful commentary to the public’
The author laments about California’s $24 billion budget deficit; he complains about ballot measures, tax increases and budget cuts and says that the state must make it easier for state employers to be more profitable and create jobs. Marko, I agree with you, so far. Does Marko stop here and give us some sensible solutions to California’s problems? Of course not! His solution? Same as Shakespeare’s, ‘let’s kill all the lawyers’! He claims that California is “one of the most litigious state in the country” and that lawsuits cost Californians more than $32 billion dollars per year or $3300 per year per family of four. He cites no source for the statistics he claims, however, for the sake of this post, I’ll concede the stats. Eliminate the lawsuits, he suggests, and you will address the budget problem because the money could be used to create jobs, purchase products, and generate tax revenues.
Remarkably, after reporting these unsubstantiated statistics (which, again, I have conceded, for the sake of this post) he leaps to the conclusion that these statistics create the problem of “lawsuit abuse“. I kid you not, that’s what he calls his unsubstantiated claim that there are $32 billion paid out in litigation each year. He says the ‘issue’ is largely ignored by elected officials and today’s candidates (thankfully, in my humble opinion). After all, none other than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (you know them, the ‘anti-consumer’, inventor of the phrases “lawsuit abuse” and “tort reform”), ranks California as the fifth worst legal climate in the country. Marko cites his own organization’s surveys about the injury to the economy and paints an ominous picture of the future ( apparently, 98% of those polled-his own organization’s poll- think lawsuits hurt the economy-I suppose this depends on how you bend the questions and who you ask, yes?). Then, he uses another of the Chamber’s favorite coined phrases! He says that business and government are “victims of frivolous lawsuits“. Cities and counties are forced to hire attorneys and fund court settlements rather than provide public services, he says. He rails on and demands that the state’s elected leaders reform “lawsuit abuse” and states that all citizens lose unless we control and out of control legal system by cutting the fat associated with “frivolous lawsuits” (He likes those ‘Chamber phrases’). If we do this, we will :”strengthen our flat lined economy”. He wants a legal system, he says, “that facilitates justice, not greed”.
OK, OK, I’ve heard enough, too. How is it “abuse” to file a lawsuit and win it? If the case is “frivolous”, it should be thrown out of court, or, at least, it should lose, shouldn’t it? I have practiced law for 32 years; I assure you, judges will very willingly dismiss, prematurely, any lawsuit that they do not believe belongs in their courtroom. And, lawyers who make their livings on contingency fees ( they only collect if they win), make nothing by filing ‘frivolous’ or ‘abusive’ lawsuits. There is, simply, no incentive for them to do so.
Sorry Marko, calling something “abuse” or “frivolous” doesn’t make it so. What statistics do you have to show that the lawsuits that produced your statistics were an ‘abuse’ of the system? If “frivolous”, why were they successful? Why would ‘frivolous’ lawsuits produce $32 billion in litigation revenue? The answer, of course, is that serious lawsuits are successful, not frivolous ones. Show me (and your California public) your statistics. Show me statistics that the majority of litigation in California is not meritorious, not worthy of filing, or not worthy of the verdicts achieved. And I don’t want to hear about one mis-reported, unusual case; I want to see a real trend! Then, maybe, I’ll take you seriously.
Instead, you insult my (and your California public’s) intelligence, cite unsubstantiated financial statistics, then laugh off all serious litigation as ‘abuse’ or ‘frivolous’. It is not ‘greedy’ to attempt to address wrongs in court; it is our constitutionally mandated right. It is how a civil society addresses wrong doers and wrong-doing. It is greedy to invent concepts like tort reform and the other cute phrases used to suggest a need for it. Tort reform gives wrong-doing and wrong-doers a free pass to commit atrocities. If given a free pass, history suggests that doctors will practice medicine with less care, drug companies will make more dangerous drugs, manufacturers will make more dangerous products, roads and bridges will be less safe, financial advisors will take advantage of their clients (less regulation created Bernie Madoff, true?). Everyone will be less safe, but hey, who cares, we fixed the economy.
Here are some questions for you young Republicans: (Each one begs another.) What happened to the Republicans who supported personal responsibility? [Does anything make a wrong-doer more personally responsible than a lawsuit and a verdict?] What happened to the constitutional Republicans who support less government? [Should the legislative branch control the judicial branch?] What happened to the Republicans who want private industry to pay their share and not rely on public funds/assistance? [Should a private insurance company appropriately compensate a person their insured severely injured or should that person go on government assistance?] Do you really oppose bailouts? [Then, why are you so willing to bailout insurance companies on the backs of the least fortunate of our society, the seriously injured and disabled?]
Lawsuit Financial has a mission, just like you do. It is, as stated by you, the same mission: Lawsuit Financial wants a ‘legal system that facilitates justice, not greed’. If the system were not already stacked in the favor of corporate interests and insurance companies, there would be no need for my service, lawsuit funding. A person would be able to right a wrong, simply and fairly, without the need for interim lawsuit financial support. The vast majority of greed in the legal system exists on the side of the tort-reformers, Chambers, insurance companies, ‘lawsuit abuse’ organizations and other big-business interests that try to prevent civil justice and slam the courthouse doors on society’s victims. A system that ‘facilitates justice’ allows all citizens access to a fair and non-political courthouse and a chance to right wrongs. Over recent years, politics have been allowed to creep into the courtroom and this phenomenon has affected all of our rights in a very negative way. We must turn back from this legalized courtroom seizure and return to a justice-based court system, before it is too late. Join me, Marko, won’t you?