March 26, 2012
Thinking of cruising by the Apple store to check out the new iPad? Beware. According to one New York attorney, the very act of entering or exiting Apple’s signature glass doors represents a “danger.”
It seems an elderly Queens woman suffered a broken nose after accidentally walking into the door at her local Apple store. The incident awakened one local litigation jockey to the extreme peril inherent in Apple store designs – a hazard that, up until now, had lurked unnoticed by the millions upon millions who have passed through Apple’s doors worldwide. “Apple wants to be cool and modern and have the type of architecture that would appeal to the tech crowd,” explains the woman’s attorney, “but on the other hand, they have to appreciate the danger that this high-tech modern architecture poses to some people.”
In the old, pre-McDonald’s $3 million coffee cup days, a person who stumbled into a door might have been embarrassed by his/her own clumsiness. Today, it’s a golden opportunity to play the litigation lottery. So what’s a self-inflicted broken nose worth these days? A cool $1,000,000 according to the lawsuit filed against Apple.
February 22, 2012
With the ink still drying on landmark 2011 legislation capping non-economic damages, several lawmakers and Tennesseans for Economic Growth are pushing for another round of tort reform to cut down on frivolous litigation and bolster the state economy. Among the reforms being proposed:
- A “loser pays” provision requiring the side that loses a motion to dismiss to pay all legal costs.
- A reform to encourage both sides of a lawsuit to negotiate in good faith during settlement talks.
- A reform to protect emergency room doctors from frivolous medical malpractice suits.
Needless to say, these reform proposals have elicited howls of protest from Tennessee’s powerful trial lawyer lobby. That means Tennesseans for Economic Growth must be on the right track.
October 10, 2011
With modern day Greece teetering on the edge of default, it’s easy to think we have nothing to learn from the Greeks – unless, perhaps, we look back to our democratic forerunners of 2,400 years ago. In her new book, The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life, Bettany Hughes informs us that Athens circa 399 B.C. had already anticipated and adopted remedies to protect against the ancient equivalent of what we all recognize as a scheming trial lawyer.
“It is in democratic Athens that the sycophant is born: a man on the make who brings a trumped-up court case; someone who thinks he’ll be able to score off the very presence of a justice system. Sycophantai were the fifth-century legal equivalent of ambulance-chasers; citizens who brought cases on flimsy charges so they the could be paid for attending court, and might possibly even net damages. And so steep fines have been introduced – if you don’t succeed in getting any more than one-fifth of the votes, you have to pay the state back.”
That’s right. The ancient Greeks invested loser pays legislation!
June 3, 2011
Earlier this week, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed “loser pays” legislation that would require plaintiffs who file groundless lawsuits to pay the legal costs for the defendants. Stephen DeMaura of Americans for Job Security has a nice write-up over at The Corner.
This latest round of tort reform builds on Texas’ other efforts to take back control of the state’s courts from the trial bar. Over the past decade, Perry has signed medical liability reform, class action reform and product liability reform – all major reasons why Chief Executive magazine now ranks Texas the #1 business climate in the nation.
May 17, 2011
Last week, Tennessee decided to boost its economy the right way. Rather than spending billions of dollars that it doesn’t have, the state opted for a simpler, more sustainable approach: it put caps on liabilities and punitive damages.
Tennessee was one of the few remaining states in the Southeast that had not yet amended its laws to prevent excessive lawsuits. Now, according to State Senator Mark Norris (R), the “Tennessee Civil Justice Act” has “leveled the playing field” for Tennessee both regionally and beyond. “It’s much more than tort reform” Norris said. “We must be competitive with other states.” With sensible and fair liability limits, Tennessee will be a more attractive option for prospective businesses – like Volkswagen. Just last month the German auto manufacturer built its first car in its new Chattanooga plant, a plant that has already spent over $686 million dollars in local and state contracts.
Now, it’s North Carolina’s turn. Tomorrow, “Tort Reform for Citizens and Businesses” hits the House floor. The bill proposes a number of standard reforms, including limits on medical liability litigation, limits on attorney fees in personal and property damage, and limits on landowner liability for trespassers. The bill also has a powerful component: liability protection for pharmaceuticals approved by the FDA . Though there’s a lot at stake for the Tarheel State, so far the local media outlets aren’t paying much attention.
Last December, the University of North Carolina beat the Tennessee Volunteers in the Music City Bowl. Now, it’s time to match Tennessee’s score on tort reform.
February 21, 2011
Louisiana has long been a legal backwater, famed for tort-friendly courts and a legislature bent on protecting its trial bar allies. A few years back, a group called the LCRM – the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority – was formed to help recruit and train candidates who understand the link between a fair, predictable legal climate and a state environment capable of generating growth and jobs. The group I lead in my non-blogging life – the American Justice Partnership – was an early partner in this effort.
Over the weekend, Republican Jonathan Perry captured a vacant Senate seat, giving Republicans control of the state Senate for the first time in modern history. As U.S. Senator David Vitter, the driving force behind LCRM, put it, “when we formed LCRM just a few years ago, a majority in the House seemed to many a pipedream – a majority in the Senate an impossibility. Now we have both, along with every statewide elected office.”
Time now for Louisiana’s new majority to get down to the business of undoing decades of trial lawyers’ damage to the state’s courts.
January 26, 2011
A group called the Coalition for Common Sense is pushing for tort reform in Louisiana as part of an effort to enhance the state’s economic competitiveness. The Coalition is backed by most Louisiana business organizations and many tort reform advocates (such as the American Justice Partnership which I run). Louisiana typically ranks near the bottom when it comes to how hospitable the litigation climate is to business. Interestingly, Coalition supporters note that Mississippi and Texas have recently enacted wide-ranging legal reforms, providing a boost to their economies at the expense of Louisiana. Smart companies (and political leaders) are coming to recognize that when it comes to attracting business and creating jobs, a state’s legal environment is every bit as important as a favorable tax system, good schools and modern infrastructure.
January 25, 2011
On January 4, 2011, the day after he took office, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker called on the legislature to pass legal reform legislation to create a more “job friendly” environment in the state. (Hat tip: Shopfloor) Last week, the Wisconsin Legislature sent him a bill that will make Wisconsin a better place to do business and create jobs. As James Buchen of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business group, put it:
“With other states raising taxes and passing other anti-business legislation, Wisconsin can stand apart and encourage businesses to create jobs.”
The bill would curb junk science in state courtrooms, eliminate the “risk contribution” theory, which allows corporate defendants to be sued even if their product caused no harm, and establish a reasonable limit on punitive damages.
January 3, 2011
A recent article in the Washington Times reported on what a resurgent GOP means for the trial bar. In short: Washington has become a lot less trial-lawyer friendly. For instance, the incoming chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (TX), intends to make tort reform one of his top five priorities.
But the trial bar still has many friends in Washington. Tiger Joyce, head of the American Tort Reform Association, believes plaintiffs’ lawyers will merely shift their efforts from Capitol Hill to the Obama Administration:
“Mr. Joyce noted that [trial lawyers have] started a campaign through the Treasury Department to get a tax break that will allow trial lawyers to deduct costs advanced to clients immediately. Repeated attempts to persuade Congress to enact the tax break, valued at an estimated $1.6 billion over 10 years, have failed.
“Mr. Joyce said the Obama administration has given a sympathetic ear to trial lawyer concerns about ‘pre-emption’ – by which federal law, considered less friendly to plaintiff interests, supersedes state law. The White House in 2009 issued an executive memorandum instructing federal agencies to avoid the practice and to review cases over the past decade in which their position has supported pre-emption.”
With a divided Washington, many also are predicting reform battles will be fought in the states – particularly in Texas and Florida.
December 10, 2010
Florida businessman John R. Smith makes a compelling case for tort reform in Florida and demonstrates why seizing the state’s civil justice system from Trial Lawyers Inc. is at the top of the agenda for incoming Governor Rick Scott and the new legislature. Money graphs:
“Lawsuit abuse is a threat to our small businesses, where lawsuit costs drive up the price of goods and services, which consumers pay for. Plaintiff lawyers get rich while economic growth declines. Kids can’t play in schoolyards because of the hundreds of claims for playground accidents. Our reputation dissuades many businesses from locating here, and convinces professionals to move away.
“What’s to be done? Well, I’m a fan of reducing the personal injury bar to rubble, then bringing them to a boil.”
Smith quickly concedes that his “shock and awe” plan for Florida trial lawyers isn’t politically correct, so he’ll settle for capping Powerball-sized damage awards, curbing “junk science” in the courtroom, medical liability reform and other reforms to dissuade frivolous lawsuits.