New Publication by Center for Justice & Democracy Says "Tort Reforms" Are Racially Discriminatory

Thursday, July 24, 2008

For Release:
July 24, 2008

Contact: Joanne Doroshow, 212/267-2801; 917/548-5263

New Publication by Center for Justice & Democracy Says

The Center for Justice & Democracy (CJ&D) a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer rights organization, today announced the publication of The Racial Implication of Tort Reform in the most recent edition of the Washington University Journal of Law & Policy.  25 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol’y 161 (2007).  The groundbreaking law review article, by CJ&D Executive Director Joanne Doroshow and CJ&D Policy Analyst Amy Widman, finds, “Whether discussing the impact of typical ‘tort reform’ proposals or the broad rhetoric used to support restrictions on legal rights, racial prejudice lurks behind the ‘tort reform’ movement.”

The article focuses on five major areas: laws that limit the rights of patients injured by medical malpractice; caps on compensation; restrictions on class actions; attacks on jurors by business groups; and laws that weaken the ability of those injured by racial violence to sue hate groups.  Specifically:

  • Medical Malpractice.   Racial and ethnic minorities receive inferior medical treatment by the health care industry and are being subjected to high rates of preventable medical errors.

  • Limits on Non-Economic Damages.  Limits on non-economic damages are disproportionately unfair to minorities.

  • Class Action Legislation. Recent federal class action legislation created new procedural class action hurdles and results in new and substantial limitations on access to the courts for victims of discrimination.

  • Attacks on Civil Juries.  Throughout recent history, business groups have specifically targeted juries in minority jurisdictions for attacks.

  • Weakening Civil Rights Remedies. “Tort reform” laws weaken the only available forum for holding some perpetrators of hate crimes and hate groups accountable.

Co-author Doroshow said, “So-called ‘tort reform’ proposals severely undermine the protections and rights afforded to racial and ethnic minorities in our country. Whether it is inferior medical care, civil rights violations or any number of other indignities and injuries that juries are asked to evaluate every day, our civil justice system provides an essential tool to combat injustice in the United States.  ‘Tort reform’ significantly weakens this system, providing violations new immunity for their wrongdoing.”

Widman added, “All too often, members of minority communities are targets of violent bigotry.  Successful civil lawsuits against hate groups not only directly respond to the needs of those injured by providing financial compensation, but also often provide the only effective means to put perpetrators of hate crimes and hate groups out of business.”

“The Racial Implications of Tort Reform” by Joanne Doroshow and Amy Widman, 25 WASH. U. J.L. & POL'Y 161 (2007), is part of a volume entitled, “ACCESS TO JUSTICE: THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF LAWYER.” The full article is here or here. See also, Executive Summary and individual facts sheets on medical malpractice, compensation caps, class actions, hate crimes and environmental justice.

Center for Justice & Democracy is a tax-exempt, non-profit, non-partisan, public interest organization that works to educate the public about the importance of the civil justice system.  CJ&D fights to protect the right to trial by jury and an independent judiciary for all.

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