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Stella Awards

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Member Rara Avis
since 05-19-99
Posts 9708
Michigan, US

25 posted 01-16-2005 12:39 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Ron, if your trust lies with the judge and jury then I have a sincere question. There has been plenty of reason to suggest that, at some level, lawsuits can be little more than a confidence game. I have read where, back in the 40's, lawyers would use the threat of lawsuits to basically extort money.

I have to wonder, Mike, if you read that in the same place you read about the Stella Award?  

Mr. Jones, we're going to sue you for injuring my client in an accident last Friday.

..but I was in Phoenix last Friday!

Maybe so but you'll have to hire a lawyer, waste days of work sitting in court,pay costs  to prove it....or you can give us $200.00 and we'll let it go.

Call their bluff. Then sue their ass.

Seriously, if you have enough money to be the victim of extortion, then you have enough money to fight extortion.

WHen the conversation comes up about the loser paying the response seems to be "No, that would favor the rich", as you did. I wish someone could explain to me how that favors the rich.

Now, that is a legitimate question.

First, let me clarify, Mike, that my trust in the system is not unlimited. I still think we need checks and balances, and I am not at all adverse to changes within the system that make sense. Most don't.

When I was in the service I played a lot of poker and got surprisingly good at it. A decade later, I discovered Vegas and was quickly abused of any silly notion that my earlier skills were enough for success with the big boys. The odds didn't change at all. The people changed very little. However, the stakes changed dramatically. A decent hand wasn't enough when the guy across the table could chase me out of the game with a bet comparable to a month's wages for me. It was David versus Goliath, and sadly they didn't issue me a slingshot at the door.

It's very little different in the legal arena, except that even the size of the pot can be greatly disparate. If Goliath, Inc. loses, they have to pay David's $100 lawyer's fees. If David loses, on the other hand, he has to pay the ten grand racked up by Goliath's vast team of corporate legal beagles. This is why even in Britain, where "Loser Pays" is the law, they have Legal Expense insurance available, providing at least some measure of protection against payment of an opponent's legal costs. The system simply doesn't work well and doesn't work at all as intended.

If a down-and-out pauper goes to a lawyer with a claim that the lawyer is certain he can win, then it makes no difference how affluent the claimant was.

And THERE, Mike, is the real crux. First, you're assuming a contingency fee structure, which the same tort reforms want to eliminate or greatly reduce. Even if we leave contingency structures in place, not all cases fit into that mold. Secondly, and most importantly, you're designing a system where the only poor people who get heard at all are the ones with slam-dunk cases. That's already a big problem with our current system, and the Loser Pays reforms would only make it worse. A lawyer should be arguing a case, NOT deciding it.

Interestingly, I think, one of the biggest proponents of tort reform seems to sing a slightly different tune when it comes to their private life. In 1999, one of Bush's daughters was involved in a fender-bender involving a rental car. No one got hurt, and Bush's own insurance would have covered all repair costs, but Bush nonetheless sued Enterprise Rent-A-Car for renting a vehicle to someone with a suspended drivers license. He didn't need the money, but Bush understood that one of the most important functions of civil litigation is to deter further wrongdoing. Hitting Goliath in the pocketbook is often the only way to get their attention.

When push comes to shove, the bottom line is pretty simple for me. If the insurance industry is for it, I know it won't be in my best interest. If all the big corporations and private lobbies are fighting to pass it, I know I don't want it. Tort Reform is really Tort Protection, and it's not designed to protect me so much as it is to protect them FROM me. Thanks, but no thanks.
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