The Score on Tort Reform [Last Modified on 2006.12.03]
Current tort regulations allow for the filing of frivolous and ill-founded lawsuits. Even worse, some of the plaintiffs in these suits are winning their cases in litigation. The tort reform that is most talked about by the Bush administration revolves around capping damages — a tactic which would harm plaintiffs who have legitimate complaints. Instead, we must institute and enforce tort reform that will relieve the backlog of lawsuits by outlawing frivolous suits without limiting damages.
We must hold lawyers accountable for bringing frivolous lawsuits to the court system. By holding pre-trial "validation hearings" to determine the validity of the suit, we can weed out frivolous lawsuits. The decision to reject or confirm the validity of a lawsuit lies with the judge who hears the pre-trial case; this judge may choose to obtain the advice of professional expert panels, in those cases where an expert's analysis would aid the judge in the determination of whether the suit is valid — for instance, in cases of alleged medical malpractice or pharmaceutical malfeasance. The advice of the expert review is not binding on the judge's decision. If a suit is found frivolous, the lawyer who brought the suit is punished — the first two offenses bring fines and censures, the third and fourth offenses bring one-year suspensions from practicing law in the judge's jurisdiction, and the fifth offense brings disbarment; each offense also requires that the lawyer pay any legal fees incurred by the intended defendant.
The judges determination of validation can be appealed to a higher court as any other court decision would be.
People must take responsibility for their own actions (such as spilling hot coffee on themselves, or eating fattening food, or walking along train tracks and being hit by a train), and stop using the legal system as a slot machine, constantly pulling the lever and hoping for a payoff.
Lawyers may not "fish" for clients for a lawsuit; a suit must be initiated by a plaintiff or plaintiffs. This includes class action suits; plaintiffs in the suit must organize themselves rather than letting their attorneys go fishing for additional plaintiffs.
The ability to "test the waters" by opening a suit in order to provoke a settlement, yet being able to withdraw the suit within 21 days to avoid the actual trial, must be abolished. If a suit is withdrawn for any reason, the suing attorney shall be obligated to pay any legal expenses incurred by the intended defendant.
There should be no cap on the amount of award due to pain and suffering that can be granted the plaintiff. With reforms such as punishing lawyers for frivolous lawsuits, any suit that actually reaches trial should be valid, and therefore worthy of any amount of award that the judge and jury deem reasonable. Expert reviews can also be called to suggest appropriate awards if the defendant is judged liable; again, these suggestions are not legally binding on the judge or jury.