Trial by anecdote

Thursday, April 1, 2004

AIt's an all-too-familiar story: ordinary citizens paralyzed by the fear of frivolous lawsuits. A charity softball tournament cancelled because a player sued after breaking his leg sliding. A minister who can't hug parishioners for fear of being slapped with sexual harassment claims. And doctors who perform unnecessary surgery just to avoid potential malpractice suits.
All these horror stories and more were included in a front-page story in Newsweek (12/15/03), announced on the cover with a photo of an anxious-looking minister, doctor and state trooper, and the words "Law-suit Hell: How Fear of Litigation Is Paralyzing Our Professions."
It's a common complaint, a staple of late-night monologues and kill-all-the-lawyers comic-strip punchlines—but in this case, almost none of it is true. In the wake of the Newsweek story (and an accompanying series of reports on NBC and MSNBC), consumer and legal advocates have revealed that its findings were based on faulty assumptions and outright misstatements—all to tout a legislative gimmick known as "tort reform" that is designed to protect corporations from liability for their own misdeeds.

The greatest irony, perhaps, is that contrary to Newsweek's claims, tort lawsuits are in fact not on the rise. In an extensive rebuttal to the Newsweek story, Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice & Democracy (a judicial consumer group initially funded by Michael Moore) reports that "far from 'exploding,' tort lawsuit filings have decreased 9 percent since 1992," while medical malpractice claims have remained steady, adjusting for medical inflation, since 1975.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

Join Our Fight!

The Center for Justice & Democracy is the only national consumer organization in the country exclusively dedicated to protecting our civil justice system. If you'd like more information, please contact us.

Connect with us