Frivolous Lawsuits

I think we should all be concerned when people talk about preventing people from using the courts to solve grievances. We have all heard of ridiculous lawsuits and it should bother us when people use the courts as a lottery ticket. We absolutely need a system where suits without merit are unsuccessful and suits with merit are successful. We all agree on this.

What concerns me is the fact that people, almost always on the Right, think the solution is to prevent these suits from getting to the courts. They want to pass laws that say you can’t be heard in court. That is bad. The worst thing about it is it implies that the courts cannot be trusted to do the right thing. It also paints everyone with the same broad brush, unquestionably preventing people with legitimate suits from seeking restitution.

The correct answer is to give the courts better direction so that suits with merit can still proceed and suits without merit are thrown out early in the process. I believe this is possible. I also believe it correctly insures the balance of power on which our country was founded. If legislatures start to prevent people from accessing the courts, they have overstepped their power. If they give instruction to the courts, they are acting within their power and still allow the courts to exercise their discretion.

I repeat, all Americans should be very suspicious of people who want to take away their right to bring a suit to the courts. It sounds logical on the surface but it will result in serious miscarriages of justice at the expense of the little guy and to the benefit of the big guy. That is un-American.

One more thing. You hear a lot these days about the high cost of medical malpractice insurance due to these frivolous lawsuits. You hear doctors appealing to us that they can’t continue to practice in this environment. This is serious. We do need to solve this and, in my opinion, solve it in the manner I discuss above. But one thought I had about this is: when someone “screws up” and it causes you physical harm, there absolutely should be recourse. To be sure, bad things happen in this world and sometimes it is no one’s fault. Other times, though, it IS someone’s fault. We all make mistakes in our jobs but when I make a mistake, people aren’t permanently physically harmed. When doctors make mistakes very bad things may happen. In this way, doctor’s should carry very, very good insurance. We should plan on mistakes being made and plan on ways to try to provide restitution. The market needs to absorb this in a manner which spreads the pain out so we don’t drive doctors out of business. If we successfully “fixed” the courts so that suits without merit were thrown out early in the process, we could solve this. Doctors and hospitals will always need to have great insurance. This is the nature of the practice. But by providing better direction to courts and letting market forces spread the risk evenly among doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and patients, we can solve this without denying access to the courts.

Do not let the the executive or legislative branches of government take control of the courts. It is a vital part of the balance of power.

Frivolous Lawsuits

One thought on “Frivolous Lawsuits

  1. Dan says:

    I am closer to the right than the left on a lot of issues, but I do not want to keep people from having their day in courts. I just think, like you, that our legal system should not be a way for lawyers to get their hands on easy money.

    Put caps on the amounts of punitive damages in settlements. Limit lawyers to a set hourly rate instead of allowing them to take a percentage. This would discourage some of the “lottery” mentality on the part of lawyers. Also put up puntitive damages to be awarded to the defendants when the case is proven to be frivolous or otherwise shows a dishonesty on the part of the plaintiff and/or his lawyer. Along these lines, have a regulatory mechanism in place to sanction and even disbar lawyers who repeatedly abuse the system.

    Also, do not allow a system to have a person who is 5% responsible end up paying 100% of the damanges. The deep pockets approach is unfair.

    After that, replace a lot of the civil remedies with criminal ones. If a doctor makes a simple mistake, then its a civil matter between the injured party and the liability insurance company of the doctor. If the doctor was impaired with drugs or alchohol or displayed some other form of willful negligence, then put his butt in prison for some amount of time determined by the damage he caused. Watching his liability rates go up may not deter him, but the idea of being some guys girlfriend in prison for the next 10 to 20 years might give him reason to avoid shooting up before surgery.

    At the end of the day, you and I pay so much more for everything because of these frivolous lawsuits. Its like a tax (and not a “progressive” one either). We are all paying for the lifestyles of the predatory lawyers out there. Higher insurance, product and service costs reduce all of our discretionary incomes more than you might realize.

    I am not saying its all lawyers and I am not saying we deny legal representation to anyone. All I am saying is that we should change their incentive structure and make them more accountable for the sort of greedy, grasping behavior that makes me think of lawyers as modern day pirates.


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