Tort Reform

[A repeat from 12/19/13]   When you go to the hospital emergency room, the first person you see after checking in is a triage nurse or physician’s assistant who will determine the nature and severity of your injury or illness. And then you will be treated accordingly.

In criminal law, there is a triage system to determine the merit of criminal cases.  It’s called a “grand jury” or a “preliminary hearing.”  If a case does not have merit, a judge will throw it out (or a grand jury will vote down taking the matter further).  

But for civil cases, there is regrettably no triage system for determining their merit.  Result?  Many of America’s civil cases have little or no merit.  Yet you hear plaintiff’s lawyers squealing like stuck pigs whenever someone talks about limiting their right to bring lawsuits — and thus limiting the fees they might collect.  Pardon me — I mean limiting the damages they might recover for their client.  Even in Plato’s Apology (399 B.C.), he explains how any case that one wanted to bring needed a threshold approval — one fifth of the 501 jurors of Athens.  There was a triage system for new civil cases – 2,500 years ago. 

One of the biggest costs to America’s health care system is lawyers. But for money-grubbing lawyers, doctors would not perform needless procedures and order unnecessary testing.   But for lawyers, damage claims might be held within reason.  It is because of lawyers that tort reform and damage caps need to be put squarely on the table (especially if our ailing health care “system” is to survive).   Maybe losers should pay.  If there is push back from the lawyers, it may be Dick the Butcher (Shakespeare’s Henry VI) was on to something . . . . .