Tort Reform and Squash

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I don’t like squash. I never have and never will. It is one of the absolute truths of my life. Squash, and its evil twin Broccoli, are not welcome in my home. Never have been, never will be. Nothing anyone can say or do (or cook) can change my mind. Some people feel (or felt) that way about lawsuits. One lady received a lot of money for spilling coffee on herself and suddenly the entire nation begins living by the absolute “truth” that lawsuits—all lawsuits–are evil like squash. (By the way, if you really want to know what happened in the McDonald’s hot coffee case–I mean really want to know the true facts and not the media half-version, check out “Hot Coffee The Movie.”)

Now, maybe lawsuits are like squash for you. Maybe no matter how egregious the wrong done, you don’t think lawsuits have any place in our society. There are some folks who think dueling/pistols at dawn is how we should still solve disputes between citizens; however, for those open-minded enough to consider all the facts, I urge you to think carefully and avoid sound-bites when discussing the propriety of some lawsuits.

As an injury lawyer in Atlanta, I cannot tell you how many times people have come into my office and said “Andy, now I am not one to file a lawsuit, but let me tell you what happened to me…..” Well, if it is ok for you to file a meritorious lawsuit, I would suggest that it is ok for your neighbor (and their neighbor) to do so. I have represented families injured by drunk drivers, people catastrophically injured by tractor-trailer drivers violating federal driving regulations, nursing home residents killed by horribly negligent nursing home staff, and so on. Never, not once, in my career have I filed a “frivolous lawsuit.” For some people “frivolous lawsuit” equates to a lawsuit they didn’t file. Are there lawsuits which should not be filed? Of course. But, before we get government in our lives, overreacting to the sentiment that there are “too many lawsuits” perhaps we should consider what will happen if the civil justice system goes away. Next time someone tells you that there are more lawsuits filed now than in 1920 ask them: how has the population changed? (If we have twice as many people, doesn’t it stand to reason that there will be more lawsuits?).

Look, lawyers are easy targets. Politicians can blame lawyers for all the evils in society. At the end of the day, I hope some of the pro tort-reform folks ask themselves: what would I do if it were my child?

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