Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Monday, April 03, 2006

Tort Reform

Did you read this opinion piece in Sunday's B'Ham news? According to the headline, Alabama's "Legal system still near bottom." The author claims Alabama is suffering from lawsuit abuse. Sounds like something important, something we should take seriously. It is not.

First, note that the conclusions "come from questioning 1,400 corporate attorneys." In other words, they only considered one point of view - that of the typical business defendant. How do you suppose the typical individual plaintiff views our state's legal system? Read this story if you want to find out. (H/T War Liberal).

Second, the author repeatedly asserts that "we still have awful lawsuit abuse here." He does not explain what that abuse is. He does not provide even one example of an abusive suit. I guess he is hoping to draw to mind the ususual suspects, the truth about which you can read here.

On this second point, whenever you hear someone cry 'lawsuit abuse.' Remember that if a plaintiff has won a big award, that plaintiff has already convinced an attorney to bring the case, a judge to let a jury hear it, and the jury - regular citizens like you and me - that the plaintiff deserved what he got. For the defendant to call that abusive is an insult to opposing council, the court, and the jury. Because the jury represents you and me, the defendant is in essence saying we are all too dumb to properly administer justice.

Third, the author also asserts "One of the main arguments against lawsuit abuse, aside from the fact it is unjust, is it hurts the economy. It destroys jobs and the prospect of jobs." Again, no arguments in support of this assertion. He does make a vague claim that Alabama's economy grew after Alabama passed a few tort reform laws. However, even if that is true, how is anyone to know whether those things are causally related or not?

In short, this guy is attacking an imaginary phenomena that even if it existed may or may not cause the harms he fears.