Republican Party Perpetuates Myths of Tort Reform

Attorneys must be very careful in voir dire to address jury bias regarding tort reform.  Not only do many people believe the myths about tort reform, but 1 of the 2 major political parties in our nation has this topic in the heart of their political platform. Just look at the most recent Republican Party platforms (with emphasis added).

2004 Republican Party Platform:

“America’s litigation system is broken. Junk and frivolous lawsuits are driving up the cost of doing business in America by forcing companies to pay excessive legal expenses to fight off or settle often baseless lawsuits. Those costs are being paid by small business owners, manufacturers, their employees, and consumers. A typical small business with $10 million in annual revenue pays about $150,000 a year in tort liability costs. That is money that could be used to invest and hire new employees. Inefficiency and waste in the legal system is costing the average American family of four $1,800 every year, equivalent to an extra 3 percent tax on wages. And the bulk of jury awards to plaintiffs don’t even go to the people who deserve it [sic]. Injured persons on average collect less [sic] than 50 cents of every dollar that the legal system costs. Trial lawyers get rich from the misfortune of others. If small business is America’s economic engine, trial lawyers are the brakes: They cost hundreds of thousands of good jobs, drive honest employers out of business, deprive women of critical medical care – then skip out with fat wallets and nary a thought for the economic havoc and human misery they leave in their wake. We praise President Bush and Republicans in Congress for their efforts to reform the legal system by passing meaningful class action reform, asbestos reform, and medical liability reform. And we call to account Senate Democrats and the powerful trial lawyer lobby, who have shown no shame in utilizing obstructionist tactics to thwart the efforts of majorities in Congress to provide meaningful relief to all Americans. The Republican Party reaffirms its support for meaningful reform of the legal system, and will continue its fight to guarantee the rights of all plaintiffs to swift and speedy justice.”

2008 Republican Party Platform

As part of the position of healthcare reform:

“Every patient must have access to legal remedies for malpractice, but meritless lawsuits drive up insurance rates to outrageous levels and ultimately drive up the number of uninsured. Frivolous lawsuits also drive up the cost of health care as health care providers are forced to practice defensive medicine, such as ordering unnecessary tests. Many leave their practices rather than deal with the current system. This emergency demands medical liability reform.”

As part of the position on the economy:

“The rule of law demands that injured parties have access to the forums to vindicate their rights, but the rule of law does not mean the rule of lawyers – especially trial lawyers who manipulate the system to enrich themselves rather than protecting consumers, workers, or taxpayers. While no one should be denied access to the courts, the rule of lawyers threatens our global competitiveness, denies Americans access to the quality of justice they deserve, and puts every small business one lawsuit away from bankruptcy. The Republican approach to eliminate frivolous lawsuits has advanced in Congress through efforts like the Class Action Fairness Act and in many states through the adoption of medical liability reforms, which we will continue to pursue on the federal and state level. But because their Democratic donees currently control Congress, the trial lawyers are on the offensive. They are trying to undermine federal health and safety regulations by allowing trial lawyers at the state level to preempt the reasoned judgments of independent experts. They seek to weaken lower-cost dispute resolution alternatives such as mediation and arbitration in order to put more cases into court. In bill after bill, their congressional allies insert new private causes of action – trial lawyer earmarks – designed to drag more Americans into court. Our repeated warnings about the corruption at the heart of the trial bar have been vindicated by high-profile criminal convictions and prison terms for some of the nation’s leading class action and personal injury trial lawyers. All plaintiffs, especially those who must hire personal injury lawyers on a contingency basis, should be protected against abuse by their attorneys, and the attorney-client privilege should be defended as a bulwark in the defense of liberty.”

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