Saturday, March 03, 2007

Tort reform and "frivolous" lawsuits

A few days ago America Online’s subscriber home page featured a news story recounting a long list of supposedly frivolous/loony lawsuits. You know, the kind of suits that tort reform groups present to the media as fact, but which are actually hoaxes or misleadingly oversimplified sound bites that bear little relation to the actual cases.

I write not to point a finger at AOL; many large media outlets allow themselves to be mouthpieces for the propaganda of tort reform advocates. This explains why virtually everyone in the U.S. has heard of the McDonald’s coffee-spill lawsuit, in which an old woman (Stella Liebeck) supposedly received $3 million, all because she made the mistake of spilling hot coffee on herself. What you never heard is that she was paid only a very small fraction of that amount, and that she had a very strong and legitimate case against McDonald’s. The truth is, she probably deserved several million dollars in damages.

With this in mind, Failure magazine will soon be publishing a special issue on the subject of frivolous lawsuits and tort reform. We’ll be featuring an interview with Stephanie Mencimer, author of “Blocking the Courthouse Door” (Free Press), a new book which demonstrates that our so-called litigation crisis is a myth, and explains how insurance companies and big businesses are fighting to win new limits on citizens’ right to sue.

We’ll also be shining a spotlight on some of these “frivolous lawsuits” you’ve heard about--either to expose them as urban myths or explain how the facts have been so grotesquely twisted that they really do sound loony. Believe it or not, even Satan himself has been party to a lawsuit. Stay tuned to find out how the Devil fared in court.

1 comment:

Ted F. said...

"What you never heard is that she was paid only a very small fraction of that amount, and that she had a very strong and legitimate case against McDonald’s."

Funny, I hear that all the time, except that the claim that she had a "strong and legitimate case against McDonald's" just ain't true as the vast majority of courts to look at the question have held. Coffee is hot.