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Encyclopedia > Tort reform
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Tort reform is the phrase used by its advocates who claim it is a change in the legal system to reduce litigation's alleged adverse effects on the economy. Both the advocates' intention and the need are a matter of controversy. Image File history File links Unbalanced_scales. ...

While the phrase "tort reform" might imply any change in tort law or procedure, the commonly understood use in political and academic arenas describes a movement to limit tort litigation and monetary remedies (damages). It does not include reforms that would expand liability, such as laws that create new causes of action or that increase damage awards. Critics argue that what is needed is 'corporate reform', and not 'tort reform'. In the common law, a tort is a civil wrong for which the law provides a remedy. ... In the law, a cause of action is a recognized kind of legal claim that a plaintiff pleads or alleges in a complaint to start a lawsuit. ...


Tort reform advocates' agenda

One aspect of "tort reform" is reflected in advocates' contention that there are too many frivolous civil suits. As a matter of black letter law, a frivolous lawsuit is one that cannot reasonably be supported under existing legal precedent, facts of the case, or under a good-faith argument for a change in the law. Tort reform advocates allege that lawsuits that are brought based on purely hypothetical damages where the plaintiffs have suffered no tangible harm, or where the harm caused could be traced to elements of excessive neglience or irresponsibility on the part of the claimant. Pain and suffering damages are intended to compensate injured victims for pain and suffering such as emotional distress. While difficult to define in pecuniary terms, these damages are the only remedy available in a civil case, for emotional harm. Furthermore, in the United States comparative negligence laws apportion fault when both the plaintiff and the defendant contributed to a loss by failing to exercise the required degree of care. Damages for the plaintiff are decreased in proportion to his or her own negligence. Some states still follow the doctrine of contributory negligence, which disallows any recovery by a plaintiff whose actions in some way, however small, contributed to the tort. Comparative negligence is a system of apportioning recovery for a tort based on a comparison of the plaintiffs negligence with the defendants. ... Contributory negligence is a common law defence to a claim or action in tort. ...

Advocates of tort reform also allege that litigation is being used to achieve regulatory ends that advocates would not be able to achieve through the democratic process. Reform supporters complained that the plaintiffs were trying to sue gun manufacturers out of existence by forcing them to incur $250 million in legal defense expenses, while gun control supporters argued that the legislation took "away the right of victims to be able to have their day in court," that the bill gave unprecedented immunity to a single industry, and that the law was unconstitutional [citations needed]. The counter-argument (in the United States) is that the system of state and federal governtment provides three distinct branches of government to appeal to for redress of greivances and when the legislatures fail to or refuse to regulate, it is appropriate and traditional for citizens to appeal to another branch of government for action. Moreover, courts do not pass regulations; rather they impose penalties when defendants fail to self regulate to curb negligent or egregious conduct.

To the extent that compensation is provided through legal claims, tort reform advocates maintain that it is too expensive and inefficient. A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report estimated that only 46 percent of the total direct costs of the tort system go to victims in the form of economic and noneconomic damages; 54 percent go to transaction costs.[1]. However, the report concluded that the current state of data and economic analysis do not allow CBO to judge whether the costs of the tort system are efficient or excessive on the whole.

Tort reform advocates also allege that tort litigation has 'exploded'. The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) claims that "The cost of the U.S. tort system for 2003 was $246 billion, or $845 per citizen or $3,380 for a family of four" and "The Growth of U.S. tort costs have exceeded the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2-3 percentage points in the past 50 years." [5] However, the Justice Department said just the opposite. In a report entitled "Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts," not only did the Bush Department of Justice not find an explosion of litigation, it found that the number of federal tort—or personal injury—trials has steadily declined 80% since 1985. The Department of Justice says there are two main reasons for the steady decline in litigation:
1. There has been a steadily growing use of alternative dispute resolution rather than trials. In fact, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America has been a long-time supporter of voluntary mediation to help the parties in a case resolve their conflict before ever entering a courtroom. According to the DOJ, 98% of cases are resolved by mediation, settled out of court, or handled in some non-trial disposition. Only 2% of cases require trials to be resolved.

2. The Department of Justice says that the increasing cost and complexity of bringing a case to trial has made it harder than ever for an injured consumer to get into the courtroom in the first place.

Another common complaint of tort reform supporters is that the number of lawyers has increased at a rate which far exceeds population growth[7], with personal liability specialty practices accounting for about 25% of the legal workload in many states[8]. They believe this massive increase of personal liability practitioners has led to a system of cyclical abuse, in which litigators aggressively recruit clients in mass tort cases using extreme and coercive methods, then reinvest a portion of their profits into political candidates and organizations that further expand liability law. [citations needed]

Tort reform advocates also allege that the present tort system's adversely affects the healthcare industry. Linking the rising costs of premiums for physicians' medical malpractice insurance[9] to the rising cost of personal and group policy health insurance coverage, many tort reformists advocate imposing caps on non-ecomonic losses and punitive damages, as well as on "contingent fees", or fees set by the plaintiff's attorney as a percentage of damages awarded to the plaintiff. Tort reform advocates argue that such caps would benefit those plaintiffs with legitimate lawsuits by reducing the number of alleged "nuisance" suits and thereby improving the overall efficiency of the system.

Changes commonly advocated in the United States include: caps on non-economic damages (e.g., monetary compensation for pain and suffering), punitive damages, and sometimes even economic damages (e.g., medical expenses, lost income, etc.); otherwise limiting consumers' compensation in the courts; sanctions by courts against those who have filed baseless lawsuits; eliminating joint and several liability; enforcement of arbitration clauses and other contractual waivers; stricter statutes of limitations and statutes of repose; and granting immunity to some types of defendants in certain circumstances, such as immunity from claims of alleged violations of state common law for actions that were required by federal regulation. Other proposals are procedural in nature, such as venue restrictions; higher standards for the filing of a complaint; limits on the admissibility of expert witness testimony to that which meets a narrower criteria; the establishment of procedures for the regular use of neutral, court-appointed, expert witnesses; changes in other evidentiary rules, such as permitting the admission of evidence that a plaintiff was not wearing a seatbelt; eliminating the popular election of judges, which exists in some American states and localities; changing appeal bond requirements to permit defendants to file appeals when faced with potentially bankrupting judgments; improvements to jury selection and voir dire; making discovery obligations less burdensome; adopting the "English rule" of "loser pays"; limits on attorney's fees; due process protection for defendants and unnamed plaintiffs in class action litigation; or ensuring that class actions with a nationwide class of plaintiffs are tried in federal courts, rather than state courts.

Many of these measures tend to benefit defendants; others, such as the English rule, sanctions for delay, and early-offer settlement requirements, could have benefits to plaintiffs in some cases. Not all tort reform supporters support all proposed tort reforms. For example, there is a split over whether the collateral source doctrine should be abolished, and there is a healthy debate over whether it would be beneficial to further restrict the ability of attorneys to charge contingent fees.[10],[11]

The tort reform debate

Critics of tort reform contend that real purpose of the proposed changes is to shield businesses, especially large corporations, from having to pay just compensation to consumers, patients and clients for damages incurred from fraud, negligence, medical malpractice, product liability or other legitimate tort claims. They contend that limitations on punitive damages and other restrictions on plaintiff's traditional rights will reduce corporate accountability. Because corporations engage in a cost-benefit analysis before considering whether to stop a wrongful action (such as polluting or not enacting proper measures for safety), caps on damages may well encourage coprorate malfeasance. For example, 'tort reform' critics point to the Ford Pinto Case, where accountants determined that the expected payout in wrongful death suits would be less than making a design change to prevent the gas tanks from blowing up on minimum impact. The value of human life was not factored into the equation. Thus, critics contend, the prospect of paying a small damage award provides little incentive to correct the wrongdoing, and would allow the corporation to continue an unsafe practice unless state or federal regulators interceded. Another remarkably similar example is the GM sidesaddle fuel tank design. Sales concerns trumped safety concerns by GM engineers. “At the heart of GM's resistance to improving the safety of its fuel systems was a cost benefit analysis done by Edward Ivey which concluded that it was not cost effective for GM to spend more than $2.20 per vehicle to prevent a fire death.” In law, negligence is a type of tort or delict that can be either criminal or civil in nature. ... The basic definition of medical malpractice is an act or omission by a health care provider which deviates from accepted standards of practice in the medical community causing injury to the patient. ... Product liability encompasses a number of legal claims that allow an injured party to recover financial compensation from the manufacturer or seller of a product. ... Punitive damages are damages awarded to a successful plaintiff in a civil action, over and above the amount of compensatory damages, to: punish the conduct of the civil defendant; deter the civil defendant from committing the invidious act again; and deter others from doing the same thing. ...

Tort reform supporters argue that this precisely describes the problem: lawsuits over socially beneficial practices increase the costs of those practices, and thus improperly deter innovation and other economically desirable activity. However, no statistics bear this out.

Theoretical issues

How would tort reform affect safety?

Opponents of tort reform contend that supporters exaggerate the costs and ignore the benefits of the current tort system.[2] For example, opponents of tort reform contend that lawsuits encourage corporations to produce safer products, discourage them from selling dangerous products such as asbestos, and encourage more safe and effective medical practices.[3]

Beginning in the early 1980s, Professor Stephen Teret and other faculty at The Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health argued that tort litigation was an important tool for the prevention of injuries. [4]. Teret identified several ways that litigation can enhance safety for everyone, including: The Johns Hopkins University, founded in 1876, is a private institution of higher learning located in Baltimore, Maryland, United States. ...

1) to avoid paying future damages, the creators of dangerous products or conditions may voluntarily make them safer;
2) where conduct is particularly egregious, courts may award punitive damages to deter that conduct in the future;
3) the process of gathering information prior to trial – called 'discovery' – can bring information to light that can be used by policy-makers to create new laws or regulations."

In contrast, a 2006 study by Emory University professors Paul Rubin and Joanna Shepherd argued that tort reform actually saved tens of thousands of lives because "lower expected liability costs result in lower prices, enabling consumers to buy more risk-reducing products such as medicines, safety equipment, and medical services, and as consumers take additional precautions to avoid accidents."[5] Emory University is a private university in Atlanta, Georgia. ...

Controversy over job loss claims

Some opponents of tort reform dispute claims that the current tort system causes job losses, is an economic drag or has any significant impact on national or global economies. The Economic Policy Institute reports that: "In an April 2002 paper, the CEA (President Bush's Council of Economic Advisors) examined the economic impacts of the tort system in somewhat greater depth. But that paper, too, failed to demonstrate any employment effects of the tort system and made no prediction about the impact of tort law change." [6] During the 1990's, a period in which tort reform on a national level made little progress, a record number of jobs were added to the economy.

Some supporters of tort reform posit that reforms can significantly reduce the costs of doing business, thus benefiting consumers and the public in the long run. Tort reform supporters point to a study by Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz that shows that bankruptcies from asbestos litigation alone has cost the economy over 52,000 jobs.[7] A study by Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter on U.S. competitiveness, The Competitive Advantage of Nations ISBN 0684841479, found that "product liability is so extreme and uncertain as to retard innovation. The legal and regulatory climate places firms in constant jeopardy of costly and … lengthy product suits. The existing approach goes beyond any reasonable need to protect consumers, as other nations have demonstrated through more pragmatic approaches."[8] Sir Edward Appletons medal Photographs of Nobel Prize Medals. ... Joseph Stiglitz (born February 9, 1943) is an American economist, author and winner of Nobel Prize for economics ( 2001). ... HBS, as seen from across the Charles River. ... Michael E. Porter (born 1947) is the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor, based at Harvard Business School where he leads the Institute for Strategy and Competitveness. ... This page refers to the econometric term For a general article see Competition Competitiveness is a comparative measure of the ability and performance of a firm or sub-sector to sell and produce/supply goods and/or services in a given market. ...

Dispute over "litigation explosion" claims

Opponents of tort reform deny claims of tort reform advocates that there is "litigation explosion" or "liability crisis", and they contend that the changes proposed by tort reform advocates are unjustified. They point to records maintained by the National Center for State Courts which show that population-adjusted tort filings declined from 1992 to 2001. The average change in tort filings was a 15% decrease.[9] The Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division of the Department of Justice (DOJ), found that the number of civil trials dropped by 47% between 1992 and 2001.[10]. The DOJ also found that the median inflation-adjusted award in all tort cases dropped 56.3% between 1992 and 2001 to $28,000. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is a Cabinet department in the United States government designed to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans. ...

Tort reform supporters allege that these numbers are misleading. Supporters argue that most liability costs come from pre-trial settlements, so the number of trials is irrelevant, and that the largest increase in the number of tort cases occurred between 1970 and 1992.[citations needed] A study by Tillinghast/Towers Perrin, a major consultant to the insurance industry, claimed the cost of liability litigation oupaced the rate of inflation over the last half century, and represented 2.2% of GDP in 2004 vs. just 0.6% in 1950 and 1.3% in 1970.[11].

Corporate lawsuit abuse

Some tort reform opponents argue that corporations and insurance companies are the worst abusers of the litigation system. In particular, they contend, corporations often use their enormous resources to unfairly delay trial, pursue frivolous appeals, and contest claims in which liability is clear. In response, a number of tort reform supporters argue that that criticism is not a reason to oppose tort reform; such abuse would be deterred by proposed tort reforms such as "loser pays," which would prevent large corporations from using litigation as a cudgel against individuals and small businesses who cannot afford to defend themselves in court by providing an incentive for law firms to provide contingent defense. Opponents of tort reform contend that most private citizens would be afraid to sue wealthy corporations or insurers if they could be bankrupted by an award of the defendant's legal fees if they lost. Bankruptcy is a legally declared inability or impairment of ability of an individual or organization to pay their creditors. ...

Debates over individual reforms

Non-economic damages caps

Main article: Non-economic damages caps

Proposals to cap non-economic damages are one of the most frequently proposed tort reforms, and have generated controversy over their fairness, efficacy, and constitutionality. Non-economic damages caps are a controversial tort reform to limit (, cap) damages for intangible harms such as pain and suffering and loss of companionship. ...

Joint and several liability

Main article: Joint and several liability

Tort reformers have had the most legislative success in limiting the common law rule of joint and several liability, often replacing it with a rule of proportionate liability. Of the forty-six states that had a joint and several liability rule, thirty-three states have abolished or limited the rule.[12] Opponents of tort reform contend that the elimination of the rule would undercompensate people who had the misfortune to be hurt by more than one person, if at least one of the defendants does not have the financial means to pay his or her share of proportionate liability. Joint and several liability is a common law rule of liability, whereby a plaintiff may recover the entirety of the damages from any of negligent defendants independent of their individual share of the liability. ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ...

Loser pays

Nearly every Western democracy follows the "English rule," which requires the loser of a civil suit to compensate the winner for his or her attorney's fees.[13] For example, after authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh lost their the plagiarism litigation over The Da Vinci Code in a British court, they were ordered to pay the defendants' $1.75 million in attorneys' fees. Author Michael Baigent Reuters Michael Baigent, born March 1948 in Christchurch, New Zealand, is an author and conspiracy theorist who co-wrote (with Richard Leigh) a number of books that question mainstream perceptions of history and many commonly-held versions of the life of Jesus. ... Richard Leigh (born 1989) is a novelist and short story writer born in New Jersey and currently living in England. ... This article is about the novel. ...

The "American rule" differs; in most cases, each party bears its own expense of litigation. Supporters of tort reform argue that loser-pays rules are fairer, would compensate winners of lawsuits against the costs of litigation, would deter marginal lawsuits and tactical litigation, and would create proper incentives for litigation, and argue for reforms that would require compensation of winning defendants some or all the time.[14] In federal courts, debate has focused on the scope of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 11, which sanctions attorneys in some situations for making frivolous filings. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) govern civil procedure in the United States district courts, or more simply, court procedures for civil suits. ...

Opponents argue that such rules would have had a chilling effect on civil rights litigation. Proposals to limit frivolous lawsuits have been criticized on the grounds that the restrictions could be used to impede individuals attempting to enforce civil rights laws, according to The Federal Judicial Center's Study of Rule 11. Robert L. Carter, United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee have both argued that Brown v. Board of Education would have been called frivolous.[15], [16] In response, reform supporters note that victorious civil rights litigation could hardly be deemed "frivolous"; that desegregation was accomplished through legislative, rather than judicial action; and that reform opponents overstate the importance of litigation in the civil rights movement. Robert L. Carter (1917 - ) is a civil rights activist and judge. ... The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) is the Federal district court whose jurisdiction is comprised of the following counties: New York, Bronx, Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Orange, Dutchess, and Sullivan. ... Sheila Jackson Lee Sheila Jackson Lee (born January 12, 1950 in Queens, New York), an American politician, has been a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives since 1995. ... Holding Racial segregation of students in public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because separate facilities are inherently unequal. ... The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change? was written by Gerald N. Rosenberg and published in 1991. ...

Tort reform in American politics

Tort reform is a political issue. George W. Bush made tort reform a centerpiece of his successful run for Texas governor and of his second-term domestic policy agenda. This has led to the issue becoming more of a major rift between the Republicans and Democrats. In the 2004 presidential election, Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, a successful trial attorney, was criticized by tort reform advocates for lawsuits that he brought against obstetricians on behalf of children who suffered severe birth injuries; reformers criticized the suits as relying on junk science, while Edwards denied the allegation.[17] George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is the 43rd and current President of the United States and a former governor of Texas. ... Official language(s) See: Languages of Texas Capital Austin Largest city Houston Area  Ranked 2nd  - Total 268,581 sq mi (695,622 km²)  - Width 660 miles (1,065 km)  - Length 790 miles (1,270 km)  - % water 2. ... The Republican Party, often called the GOP (for Grand Old Party, although one early citation described it as the Gallant Old Party) [1], is one of the two major political parties in the United States. ... The Democratic Party is one of the two major political parties in the United States. ... Presidential election results map. ... Johnny Reid John Edwards (born June 10, 1953), was the Democratic 2004 nominee for Vice President, and a one-term former Democratic Senator from North Carolina who is widely considered a potential Democratic candidate for the 2008 presidential election. ... Junk or bunk science is a term used to describe purportedly scientific data, research, analyses or claims which are perceived to be driven by political, financial or other questionable motives. ...

Agenda to defund the American Left

Grover Norquist, a leading Republican operative, has shown a politically partisan motivation for tort reform, writing in the American Spectator magazine that "Modest tort reform, much of which has been actively considered by committees in both houses, would defund the trial lawyers, now second only to the unions, and this is debatable, as the funding source of the Left in America." Trial lawyers such as Frederick Baron are major fundraisers of the Democratic Party. Therefore, politically motivated attacks on Baron are consistent with Norquist's philosophy. Grover Glenn Norquist (born October 19, 1956) is the president of the noted anti-tax lobbying group Americans for Tax Reform, and a well-connected conservative activist with close ties to business and the media. ... The American Spectator is a conservative-leaning American monthly magazine covering news and politics, edited by R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. ... Frederick Martin Baron (1947 - ) is a prominent asbestos attorney; founder of Baron & Budd, P.C., a Dallas law firm; a former president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America; and a prominent fund-raiser for the Democratic Party and John Edwards. ...

Other political agendas

The debate over tort reform was not always a Democrats vs. Republicans or liberals vs. conservatives affair. In the 2000 presidential election, the Democrats' vice presidential nominee, Senator Joe Lieberman, was a leading supporter of tort reform; former New Republic and Slate editor Michael Kinsley has often criticized products liability law.[18] And the conservative pro-life group Center for a Just Society opposes many tort reform measures, arguing that litigation can be used to keep RU-486 off the market. Presidential electoral votes by state. ... Joseph Isadore Lieberman, (born February 24, 1942) is a Democratic U.S. senator from Connecticut, best known as Al Gores running mate on the Democratic ticket in 2000. ... For other uses, see the disambiguation section. ... Slate. ... Michael Kinsley (born March 9, 1951 in Detroit, Michigan) is a veteran American political journalist and commentator, currently serving as Editorial and Opinion Editor at the Los Angeles Times (since April 2004) (though he announced in July 2005 that he would assume a reduced, but as-yet-undefined, role). ... It has been suggested that Anti-abortion movement be merged into this article or section. ... Mifepristone is a synthetic steroid. ...

The United States Supreme Court sometimes weighs in on tort reform debates, but here too, the Justices don't always vote according to their predicted ideological stereotypes. In the seminal case of BMW v. Gore[19], the Court voted 5-4 that the Constitution placed limits on punitive damages, with Justices Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens in the majority, and Justices William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas, dissenting. It has been suggested that a Supreme Court under a Chief Justice John Roberts would be more likely to take cases that could resolve tort reform debates.[20] The Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C., (large image) The Supreme Court of the United States, located in Washington, D.C., is the highest court (see supreme court) in the United States; that is, it has ultimate judicial authority within the United States... Holding Excessive punitive damages awards violate procedural due process. ... Stephen Gerald Breyer (born August 15, 1938) is an American attorney, political figure, and jurist. ... John Paul Stevens (born April 20, 1920) is an American jurist and the senior Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. ... William Hubbs Rehnquist (October 1, 1924 – September 3, 2005) was an American lawyer, jurist and political figure, who served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States and later as the Chief Justice of the United States. ... Antonin Gregory Scalia (born March 11, 1936) is an American jurist on the Supreme Court of the United States who has been a prominent conservative and originalist voice of textualism in statutory interpretation and original meaning in constitutional interpretation. ... Clarence Thomas (born June 23, 1948) is an American jurist and has been an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States since 1991. ... John Glover Roberts, Jr. ...

Players in the tort reform debate

Pro Tort Reform

The tort reform movement and opposition in the United States is mostly funded by large insurance companies, manufacturers, the tobacco industry, and other industries; the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers; and others that have a financial interest in the litigation system.[21], [22], [23] A number of billionares have given money in support of tort reform; for example, Bernie Marcus, the retired co-founder of Home Depot, has donated millions to tort reform because he's "concerned for the next generation of entrepreneurs whose creativity, risk-taking and innovation are stifled by the current legal and regulatory climate."[24] Chambers of commerce are business advocacy groups which are usually not associated with government. ... The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), one of industrys most powerful lobbies, was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1895. ... Bernard Marcus (born 1929 in Newark, New Jersey) is a founder of the Home Depot. ... The Home Depot (NYSE: HD) is a home improvement retailer that aims for both the do-it-yourself consumer and the professional in home improvement construction. ...

A number of industry- and conservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute have pursued tort reform campaigns. This article is about the institution. ... The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is a conservative think tank founded in 1943 whose stated mission is to support the foundations of freedom - limited government, private enterprise, vital cultural and political institutions, and a strong foreign policy and national defense. ... The Cato Institute is a large libertarian, non-profit public policy research foundation (think tank) headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Institutes stated mission is to broaden the parameters of public policy debate to allow consideration of the traditional American principles of limited government, individual liberty, free markets, and... The Heritage Foundation, a think tank located in Washington, D.C., is an influential public policy research institute whose stated mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. ... The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is an influential New York City-based free market think tank established in 1978. ...

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) -- The ATRA is a Washington-DC-based group that was formed in 1986 to represent hundreds of U.S. and foreign corporations in their bid to overhaul civil liability laws at the state and national levels.[[25]]. It is "a coalition of more than 300 major corporations and trade associations"; according to a study called "The CALA Files," published by the anti-tort-reform group Center for Justice and Democracy. ATRA helps coordinate the activities of numerous state groups such as "Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse" (CALA) that are alleged to be sham front groups, rather than real citizens' groups. ATRA's members are largely Fortune 500 companies with a direct financial stake in restricting lawsuits. Members have included representatives of the tobacco, insurance, chemical, auto and pharmaceutical industries. Corporate giants like Philip Morris, Dow Chemical, Exxon, General Electric, Aetna, Geico and Nationwide have all supported ATRA. [26]

The Manhattan Institute -- The Manhattan Institute has been a recipient of grants totaling $7,875,060 between the years 1985 to 1999, from Castle Rock Foundation [Coors, CNP], Olin Foundation, Sarah Scaife Foundation, Bradley Foundation, Scaife Family Foundation, Carthage Foundation [Scaife], Earhart Foundation. The Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation gave the Manhatten Institute $100,000 in 2003 for "Tort Reform Initiatives," and $100,000 in 2004 for support of the Center for Legal Policy's online magazine focusing on tort reform. [27]. Other 'tort reform' advocates who are contributors to the Manhattan Institute include:
1. Billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who inherited his millions from the Mellon industrial foundation. A CNN article quoted Burton Hersh, author of "The Mellon Family": "Even as a child, he always saw the correlation between the media and the reputation of politicians. That's certainly been a sub-theme of his life." [28] The article concludes with this statement: "[I]t is a fact this billionaire has spent millions in tax-free money attacking the current occupants of the White House." (then President Clinton). According to this link at Media Transparency, Scaife and his foundations have given $565,000.00 to the Manhattan Institute since 2000 alone. [29].

2. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. In 1968, Allen-Bradley (where the money came from) had over 7,000 employees, but only 32 black or Hispanic workers. The federal government forced them to integrate. It's currently run by a former executive of the John Olin Foundation, which helped fund the book "The Bell Curve". The Bell Curve espoused that poverty was caused by genetic inferiorty. This article, also at Media Transparency, details the "racist agenda" of the organization and its efforts to eliminate affirmative action. Since 2000, this foundation has given $585,000 to the Manhattan Institute. [30]

3. The John M. Olin Foundation: This foundation is financed by chemical and munitions money, which are strong advocates of tort reform. An article in the People For The American Way had this quote: "Explaining his efforts to convince corporations to halt grants to university programs deemed "liberal," Olin president William Simon argues that many businesses are "financing their own destruction." "Why should businessmen," Simon asks, "be financing left-wing intellectuals and institutions which espouse the exact opposite of what they believe in?" [31]

Anti-Tort Reform

A number of groups oppose 'tort reform'. These include civil rights organizations, labor groups, consumer organizations, environmental groups and many state prosecutors. [32]. Also opposing tort reform are various law professors, lawyers groups and bar associations, citizen groups such as The Oregon State Council of Senior Citizens, and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) [33][34].

The Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) -- Like the conservative pro-tort reform groups, The ATLA is accused of operating 'Astroturf', or front groups disguising their real purpose. Walter Olson of the Manhattan Institute alleges that the Alliance for Consumer Rights is such a sham group, operating from the offices of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. He also criticizes the ATLA Civil Justice Foundation, which is a non-profit group consumer advocacy groups which awards grants to grassroots consumer advocacy groups (presumably including anti-tort reform groups). To date, the Foundation has awarded more than $1,000,000 to more than 100 organizations. The Foundation is funded through contributions from individual ATLA members, state trial lawyer associations, and its Memorial Grant Program.[35] In 2002, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) became the single largest contributor to federal candidates and the Democratic Party.[36] In American politics and advertising, the term astroturfing describes formal public relations projects which deliberately seek to engineer the impression of spontaneous, grassroots behavior. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The Association of Trial Lawyers of America, or ATLA, is the leading organization for lawyers representing plaintiffs in the United States. ...

In October 2000, ATLA published on its web site an article claiming that its members were, in fact, "being outspent by a factor of at least 10-to-1" in federal political giving. However, this figure was reached by counting every non-lawyer and non-union donation as a "pro-tort-reform" donation. "Thus, if a Hollywood producer contributes to someone's campaign, even if it's the same politician the trial lawyers are backing, it counts toward the total of 'Communications/Entertainment industry' donations; every psychiatrist or birth control clinic operator gets counted as 'Health industry'; every farmer in 'Agribusiness'; and so forth. The Manhattan Institute disputes this, and claims that "it should be clear enough that a donation from a wheat farmer worried about the future of price supports and export subsidy programs in no way serves as a counterweight to the trial lawyers' agenda." [37] A study by the Institute on Money in State Politics found that when medical malpractice reform is considered by the voters, lawyers are consistently able to outspend doctors and insurers.[38]

Federalism debate

Republicans traditionally voice support for states' rights and say they oppose an excessive role for the federal government. Many of them, however, support federal tort reform legislation that would override state decisions. The supporters argue that this is not inconsistent for such matters as class actions and products liability, because they believe state courts should not be deciding cases that effectively regulate the nationwide economy and that Federalist No. 80 explicitly contemplated the use of federal courts to resolve interstate claims. Concerns about federalism have resulted in modification of proposed federal medical malpractice reform to allow state legislatures to override the caps that the bill creates by default;[39] still, some conservatives make a distinction regarding the appropriate federal role in different types of reform, arguing that medical malpractice is inherently a state-law function.[40]. States rights refers to the idea that U.S. states possess certain rights and political powers in the politics of the United States and constitutional law. ... Alexander Hamilton, author of Federalist No. ... Federalism is the idea of a group or body of members that are bound together (latin: foedus, covenant) with a governing representative head. ... The basic definition of medical malpractice is an act or omission by a health care provider which deviates from accepted standards of practice in the medical community causing injury to the patient. ... Conservatism or political conservatism is any of several historically related political philosophies or political ideologies. ...

See also

The U.S. Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, 28 U.S.C. Sections 1332(d), 1453, and 1711-1715, grants federal courts original jurisdiction over certain mass actions and class actions (forms of civil action) in which the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million, and any of the members... Junk or bunk science is a term used to describe purportedly scientific data, research, analyses or claims which are perceived to be driven by political, financial or other questionable motives. ... Stella Liebeck v. ... The basic definition of medical malpractice is an act or omission by a health care provider which deviates from accepted standards of practice in the medical community causing injury to the patient. ... The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA) implemented several significant substantive changes affecting certain cases brought under the federal securities laws, including changes related to pleading, discovery, liability, and awards fees and expenses. ...


  • Congressional Budget Office, "The Economics of U.S. Tort Liability: A Primer"
  • American Tort Reform Association, "Facts on Tort Reform"
  • Walter Olson, Point of Law, "Procedure"
  • Walter Olson, Point of Law, "Regulation Through Litigation"
  • Richard Epstein, Wall Street Journal, 2005 Aug. 22, "Rule of Law: Ambush In Angleton"
  • Ted Frank, Point of Law, 2004 Sep. 23, "What is 'frivolous'?"
  • Jeff Milchen, 2004 Oct. 27, "Beware of 'Junk Lawsuits' Hype" (discusses corporate abuses of the American legal system)
  • Public Citizen, 2004 Oct., "Corporate Hypocrisy in Accessing the Courts" (study asserting that corporations are the most frequent initiators of litigation in the U.S.A.)
  • Rachel Weiss, Tort Laws on Trial: Lawsuit Liability Measures, 2004
  • Carl Deal and Joanne Doroshow, Center for Justice and Democracy, "The CALA Files" (discusses funding of CALA)
  • CorpReform.com, 2003 Oct. 30, "What Is Tort Reform - and Why Is It Bad for the Public?"
  • Commonweal Institute, "The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law" (examines use of front groups and funding sources for tort reform)
  • Washington Post, "Advocacy Groups Blur Media Lines" (article discussing U.S. Chamber of Commerce's use of newspaper to promote tort reform)
  • Manhattan Institute Center for Legal Policy, "Trial Lawyers Inc." (multiple reports on the economic and political power of the plaintiffs' bar)
  • Walter Olson, "The Lawsuit Lobby" (discusses funding of tort reform opposition)
  • Carl Geiger, testimony about Small Business Liability Reform Act before House Judiciary Committee
  • John D. Graham, "Product Liability and Motor Vehicle Safety" and Myron Mackey, "Liability, Safety, and Innovation in the Automobile Industry" in Peter W. Huber and Robert E. Litan, eds., The Liability Maze: The Impact of Liability Law on Safety and Innovation. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, ISBN 0-8157-3760-2
  • Paul H. Rubin, Wall Street Journal, 2005 Oct. 8, "Tort Reform Saves Lives"
  • Economic Policy Institute, "The Frivolous Case For Tort Law Change" (characterizes the costs and benefits of the current tort system)
  • Tillinghast/Towers Perrin response to Economic Policy Institute
  • Economic Policy Institute response to response of Tillinghast/Towers Perrin

The Congressional Budget Office is a federal agency within the legislative branch of the United States government. ... The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), founded in 1986, is a bipartisan organization that advocates for tort reform. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Richard Epstein Richard A. Epstein, born in 1943, is currently the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. ... Public Citizen is a U.S. non-governmental organization, founded by Ralph Nader in 1971 and based in Washington, DC. Its activities span across a diverse range of issues, including energy policy, trade policy, campaign finance reform and accountability, consumer protection, medical malpractice, and public health. ... ... The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is an influential New York City-based free market think tank established in 1978. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The Brookings Institution is one of the oldest and best known think tanks in the United States. ... The Wall Street Journal is an influential international daily newspaper published in New York City, New York with an average daily circulation of 1,800,607 (2002). ... The Economic Policy Institute or EPI is a United States thinktank based in Washington, D.C. and concerned with, as its name implies, the formulation of economic policy. ...

External links


  • Overlawyered, the leading tort reform blog, http://www.overlawyered.com.
  • Point of Law, the Manhattan Institute's blog on tort reform, http://www.pointoflaw.com.
  • The American Tort Reform Association, a leading proponent of tort reform, http://www.atra.org.
  • The AEI Liability Project, which researches the scope and consequences of the liability crisis, http://www.liabilityproject.org.
  • The American Justice Partnership, an umbrella tort reform organization, http://www.americanjusticepartnership.org.
  • Illinois Civil Justice League, Restoring Fairness To Illinois' Civil Justice System, http://www.icjl.org.
  • Texans for Lawsuit Reform, http://www.tortreform.com, is led by longtime tort reform advocate Dick Weekley http://www.dickweekley.com

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is an influential New York City-based free market think tank established in 1978. ... The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), founded in 1986, is a bipartisan organization that advocates for tort reform. ... The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is a conservative think tank founded in 1943 whose stated mission is to support the foundations of freedom - limited government, private enterprise, vital cultural and political institutions, and a strong foreign policy and national defense. ...


  • Tort Reform Organizations and the Far Right, http://www.commonwealinstitute.org/reports/tort/Section1.html
  • Independent Justice, How Our Civil Justice System Protects Consumers and Patients in Ways the Regulatory System Does Not, http://www.allianceforjustice.org/independentjustice.pdf
  • False Alarm, Washington Monthly, http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2004/0410.mencimer.html
  • Tort Reform, http://www.dkosopedia.com/wiki/Tort_reform
  • Source Watch, http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=SourceWatch
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, http://www.atla.org.
  • Center for Justice and Democracy, a leading opponent of tort reform, http://www.centerjd.org.
  • Evan Schaeffer's Legal Underground, http://www.legalunderground.com/tort_reform_2/index.html
  • CorpReform - Corporate, not Tort reform blog, http://corpreform.typepad.com/
  • Tort Reform, Corporate Style, http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2006_02/008175.php
  • LawReader, http://www.lawreader.com/index.php/browse/node/2586.html
  • The Bogus Tort Reform Case, http://www.saynotocaps.org/op-ed%20page/The%20Bogu
  • Tort Deform, http://multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/issues/1995/03/mm0395_09.html

  Results from FactBites:
tort reform, medical malpractice attorney at law (448 words)
The report, "Premium Deceit – the Failure of "Tort Reform" to Cut Insurance Prices", is the most extensive review of insurance rate activity in the wake of the 'liability insurance crisis' of the mid-1980s ever undertaken.
Despite what "tort reform" proponents promised lawmakers, tort law limits enacted since the liability insurance crisis of the mid-1980s have not lowered insurance rates in the ensuing years.
Just as the liability insurance crisis was found to be driven by the insurance underwriting cycle and not a tort law cost explosion as many insurance companies and others had claimed, the "tort reform" remedy pushed by these advocates failed.
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Until "tort reform" became a policy issue, the word "tort" was primarily the part of the vernacular of first year law students.
In its political context, "tort reform" generally refers to proposals to limit the prevalence of legal claims prosecuted with the assistance of personal injury lawyers which are perceived to unfairly burden insurance policy holders with exorbitant premiums.
Medical malpractice reform is at the forefront of the "tort reform" agenda of the Bush Administration because it combines the particular dissatisfaction of medical community with the overall concerns of insurers and businesses regarding the costs of the tort system.
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