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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Questions About "Tort Reform"

Tort reform is one of the answers many conservatives tout to solve our economic development problems.  Fear of lawsuits make business owners pensive, existing lawsuits cause the price of insurance to skyrocket and as we have all heard "doctors are fleeing Oklahoma" because of our lack of tort reform.  Let's face it:  Everyone hates attorneys until they need one.  Even Shakespeare wrote, "First, kill all the lawyers.

But didn't our founding fathers desire average citizens to have access to the courts for the redress of wrongs?

I admit that I'm not a Constitutional lawyer, but the 7th Amendment does give us the right to a jury trial in civil cases.
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
It's sexy to rail against the trial lawyers and in many cases, the anger and ire toward them is more than justified.  Frivolous lawsuits exist, but in Oklahoma, they represent a very small percentage of lawsuits.  And according to the Oklahoma Constitution, the legislature has the power to censure judges who allow frivolous lawsuits - but they do not because judges are political just like legislators.

To the credit of trial lawyers, child labor laws were amended and justifiably so.  To the credit of trial lawyers, COBRA insurance coverage is the law of the land.  To the credit of trial lawyers, women have the right to vote.  So you see, not all trial lawyers are bad.

Ask yourself this question:  If a loved one is killed or disfigured by a medical professional who is willfully negligent, can you honestly put a price cap on that life?  Really?

Tort reform advocates like to scream from the mountaintops about the now legendary McDonald's lawsuit where their coffee was too hot and an elderly woman suffered severe burns.  What they don't want you to know is that the location in question had been cited by the health department previously on numerous occasions because...wait for it...their coffee was too hot.

Something to think about...