Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tort Reformers Focusing On The... Big Problems?

According to a letter from Sherman Joyce, President of the "American Tort Reform Association",
Our efforts to reform the tort system address the greatest abuses, such as allowing lawsuits that do not require proof of actual injury or loss, denying the right of defendants to appeal judgments against them, and permitting pseudo-experts to peddle "junk" science in courtrooms.
The "greatest abuses".... Okay, I'll bite.
  • In what percentage of cases do tort plaintiffs proceed and prevail in cases "that do not require proof of actual injury or loss"? Here they are referencing cases which involve, for example, toxic exposure, where the victim may require medical monitoring and have legitimate fear of developing an illness. Their problem with medical monitoring, in their own words, does not appear to be its present implementation, but a hypothetical future where "Widespread acceptance of medical monitoring would expose all businesses to unprecedented liability and costs." The good old dependable "slippery slope" fallacy.

  • In what percentage of cases are defendants denied "the right ... to appeal judgments against them"? The only reference I can find to this on ATRA's website is its suggestion that "billion-dollar verdicts are no longer uncommon" (er, they're not?) and that some defendants facing multi-billion dollar verdicts can't afford to post appeal bonds. This happened twenty or so years ago in Pennzoil v Texaco, and since in the high profile case of... of... of... Well, don't go looking for help on ATRA's site, because apparently they don't know of another example, either.

  • In what percentage of cases are tort plaintiffs and defendants free to present the testimony of "pseudo-experts" who "peddle 'junk' science in courtrooms"? (Does this actually mean something other than "It's horrible that tort plaintiffs are permitted to present expert witnesses who differ in opinion from those who serve the defense"?) Funny... this crucial issue doesn't seem to merit mention on ATRA's "issues" page.
This is how they put their best foot forward? Well, I suppose if the mainstream media is willing to print their nonsense, it works for them.

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