Archive for Sat, Oct 3, 2009

The Unemployment Costs Of Our Tort System

In today’s speech to the Americans for Prosperity gathering in D.C., just as with last Thursday’s talk to the Distributors’ Council and next Tuesday’s speech to the California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse meeting in San Diego, I will focus a lot of my remarks on the growing burden on American employers of the costs of litigation.

Full disclosure: My law firm’s two offices in Orlando, Florida and Newport Beach, California defend American manufacturers and businesses against injury claims as our primary specialty. We defend the makers of cars, motorcycles, vans, sporting goods, roller coasters etc. My partners have a combined two centuries of trial experience squared up against the plaintiffs’ bar. Their reputation is as lawyers who aren’t afraid to try cases even when the plaintiff is badly injured. They are very, very good at what they do.

I tell you this because even though I am not a products liability/catastrophic injury lawyer, six of my partners are, and I live the practice with them, know its challenges, and know especially that we have turned America into a tort happy culture, as one would expect if you watch as much cable news as I do and see as many adds for personal injury lawyers as air every day on Fox and CNN. We are awash in lawsuits, and it is killing not only American manufacturing, but also various service industries where customers come to be entertained or fed or both. We have been hearing about the high cost of defensive medicine and the burden it places on health care system, and that is indeed a staggering cost, but the same suffocating burden is carried by every industry making things in America or providing food or entertainment, and it drains profits and productivity away from production and growth and thus away from jobs.

As national unemployment creeps towards 10%, remind everyone who points to it as an urgent issue that sustained job growth requires rising productivity, and that is going to require (1)an overhaul of our tort laws in every state and (2)the willingness of corporate America to push back and try cases, not settle them with quick payouts to phoney plaintiffs. You simply cannot be serious about job growth without seriousness on the issue of repairing our busted tort system.

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