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Radically Inept
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
  The argument against Tort Reform

I've never liked the idea of Tort Reform as I've heard it argued. All it seems to guarantee is that Joe/Jane Average Citizen will have no chance at redress from corporate malfeasance and other activities. And, The Gadflyer: Ammo Dump does a good job of presenting the arguments. Here's one:
Argument: What kind of system do we have when a woman who spills her coffee can sue for millions from McDonald's? Frivolous lawsuits are out of control.
Response: First, let's deal with the McDonald's story, since it's such a staple of the tort reformer's arsenal. Before that suit, McDonald's used to heat their coffee to over 180 degrees, just short of boiling. The 79-year-old woman in question got third-degree burns from the coffee, requiring skin grafts. She asked for the relatively modest sum of $20,000 from McDonald's. The corporation refused to settle. With no other options, she pursued the lawsuit and won. She was awarded $160,000 in compensatory damages. The jury also awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages, due to the fact that McDonald's policy was to heat their coffee to a level that was far too hot to drink and would cause severe burns if it came in contact with human skin, a fact of which they admitted they had been aware for more than ten years (hundreds of people had been burned by McDonald's coffee, and a number had filed suit before).

And what happens to truly frivolous lawsuits – like the one in which a woman sued McDonald's for making her fat? They get thrown out of court. When a jury comes up with an outrageously large judgment, it gets reduced on appeal. The system is easily able to handle it.

So the question is, does a frivolous lawsuit that will get thrown out of court anyway so offend you that you're willing to deny everyone the right to sue even when they have legitimate claims?
Anyway, thanks to pandagon.net - half the age, twice the smart for directing me there. 
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GEORGE W. BUSH - TOUGH ENOUGH TO TORTURE CHILDREN
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