Tort Reform

One of Scott Walker's early "victories" was “tort reform”.

“This is a balance we are trying to create, to make sure certainly those who do damage and do harm are rightfully going to be penalized, even when this act becomes law,” Scott Walker said. “But for those who have been . . .  threatened with frivolous lawsuits, particularly for small business, they’re going to receive relief today because . . .  we move forward in cutting back on frivolous lawsuits and out-of-control lawsuit abuse in the state of Wisconsin.”

Despite the fact that he was he was not telling the truth(surprise) as a a Green Bay law firm explains:

The passage of this Act should result in a more predictable litigation climate in Wisconsin by eliminating extremely high damage awards.

So in laymans term’s, businesses can come to WI and know they will suffer no consequences no matter how poorly they act or treat their employees. The republicans were unified in this, because companies can not “create jobs’ and worry about paying out huge lawsuit awards.

Fast Forward to the real world.

Promega awarded $52 million in patent-infringement case:

A U.S. District Court jury has awarded Promega Corp., Fitchburg, $52 million in damages from Life Technologies, of Carlsbad, Calif., in a patent-infringement case.

At issue is Promega’s Short Tandem Repeat (STR) technology, which is used in DNA tests, including those involving forensics and human identification

Can you imagine an employee of Life Technology losing their life at work because of company negligence and their family being awarded a $52 million dollar settlement? The new republican tort reform puts a cap on medical malpractice at $750,000. So according to our current batch of pro-life republican politicians value intellectual property over human life. Very interesting. In case anyone in the “tea party” is paying attention(insert own joke here), Thomas Jefferson was opposed to any copyright or patent protections. Jefferson felt that no one has an idea simply exclusive to themselves. We all build upon each others idea past and present and need each other.

“Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society. It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

James Madison agreed.

What did they think about the value of Human Life? We all know the answer to that:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

Our Forefathers would be adamantly opposed to “tort reform” as we have it now, so it is no surprise that the republican party(AKA Tories) is doing the exact opposite of what this country was founded on.

Also to be perfectly clear, how the far right extreme ‘tea party” feels about lawyers and clogging up the courts:

Verify the Recall is heading to court despite the fact that the law states clearly that they have no legal standing to do so.

So next time our friends on the right discuss “tort reform” understand that they want to make sure that no company will ever be held accountable when dealing with the general public!


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7 thoughts on “Tort Reform

  1. Here, Jeff, this one’s for you… (I’m getting so much mileage from this little clip!)

    Also to be perfectly clear, how the far right extreme ‘tea party” feels about lawyers and clogging up the courts:

    Verify the Recall is heading to court despite the fact that the law states clearly that they have no legal standing to do so.

  2. Jeff, Just a few comments. The tort reform would work a little different and in different scenarios than you described but I’m in general agreement that it’s a silly idea. So I just have a few comments.

    First, do we really care what a 4 person Green Bay law firm thinks. What do they represent a few insurance companies in auto accidents. Big deal. In the world of law, outside of the pure ambulance chasers, they are practically at the bottom of the barrel. Let’s not pretend that they have any significance because they don’t.

    Second, you use injuries to a company’s own employees as your example. Just a minor note that the problem with the example is that absent an intentional tort, workers compensation is the sole and exclusive remedy, which would place those situations outside of the bill. In other words, if you are injured or killed on the job you can’t sue your employer. You have to bring the claim against the insurer.

    Finally, as I’m sure I’ve mention previously, I’m against tort “reform” for a number of reasons including constitutional reasons. We have a right to a jury to hear our cases under the 7th amendment. In my opinion, and the opinion of others (see concurrence to Ferdon), that includes all damages.

    Also, I have problems with capping risk on a free market basis. By imposing tort reform we are essentially privatizing the reward but socializing the risk. I’d rather have the tort feasor bear the full risks of their actions. Now, obviously there are collectibility issues that make that impractical but as a society, we shouldn’t willingly volunteer to take that risk.

    And, from a public policy stand point, You can’t tell me that physicians are going to practice medicine any different if they have a $500,000 cap or a 750,00 cap. The fact is that the cap would hurt the most vulnerable, children and the elderly that do not have “economic loss” because they don’t have wages. In Ferdon, they were dealing with the loss of an arm for an individual’s entire life time. The cap would effectively limited the recovery to $5000 a year. That’s just not right.

  3. Super,

    * I just did a google search and came up with the law firm in green bay but I think its fair to say that what I pulled from their website was pretty indicative of what the right wing echo chamber says everytime they try and pass more and more “tort reform”. I just wanted a quick example, I had no idea the rep of the green bay firm and really just needed an example to pull from.

    * I wrote this without so much as a business law class under my belt so I get that the issue is much more complicated than I made it out to be just kinda wanted to prove a point. I am also against “tort reform” because (the nationalistic republicans should get this) i truly believe that we have the greatest country and I think a huge part of that is we have the best(still not perfect) justice system in the world. If we keep weighing this towards the corporations and against the private individual that will no longer be. The courts are our way to truly even the playing field whne it needs evening and we need to trust it.

    * As for the cap I agree. If something happened to a love one due to willful negligence there is not a dollar amount that would quiet me, so its not about rewarding the victim as much as its about punishing the perpetrator. The less we make this( and we have seen examples of this) then willful ignorance becomes a cost of doing business and that’s inexcusable.

    * i truly wrote this because I wanted to get a couple points across. One was that these judgements happen regularly and no one bats an eye, yet if this was awarded to a person/ family for damages people would be appalled. Fox would lead with how frivolous the lawsuit it was and why we were killing jobs, etc… yet stories like this are met with crickets, and in the end the money has to come out of somewhere.

    * I also wanted to show the “tea party” how inconsistent their views of the Founders were with the reality of the Founders.

  4. I am glad you are writing about this now. I did not realize the impact of tort reform until my family became victims of medical malpractice. There is no justice available to us anymore. I wish there was a place for all victims to get together to demand justice again.

  5. Tam,

    Unfortunately the republicans(and some go along democrats) have made it practically impossible. That being said, the only way to change that is also at the ballot box. Please contact your representatives and write a LTE or even contact me and we can get more information out to the public. The problem is they control the info and people need to see the damage of their policies.

  6. I would love to get more information out to the public. Last night my five year old son was crying about how much he hates the stroke, because we may lose our house and now he cannot play hockey. How do we look our children in the eyes and tell them that if they are good and work hard they will be rewarded and those that hurt others will have to pay? How can I pretend there is such a thing as fairness and justice anymore?

  7. Tam,
    Our family was also victimized by Tort Reform. We are Republicans, who voted for Tort Reform, but have lived the horror of this law in TX. We have been fighting to seek justice for our father’s death at the hands of an incompetent nurse for the last 3.5 yrs., and will be fighting tort reform as long as it takes to correct this horrible injustice. The only way this will change is if the People stand up and tell our law makers we will no longer allow them to use our loved ones as nothing more than collateral damage for their political gain. We will soon have a web site that will share the stories of real people who have been harmed and even killed as our father was by the incompetence created by Tort Reform.

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