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 . . . . .   

Are You Saving that Seat?

I get on the train every day. And sit down with my duffel on my lap.  I sit next to someone or I scooch in and leave the aisle seat for someone else.  Everyone does the same.  Or nearly everyone. 

Nearly every day, I see the same people (or the same kinds of people) taking up two seats. They’ll set their pack or duffel on the seat next to them and spread out like they own the place.  Some will sit and cross their legs sharply — foot stuck half into the space of the other seat.  Meant to intimidate – don’t sit there or I’ll wipe my foot on your pants/skirt.    Hordes of people get on the train.  All looking for seats.  And the few seat hogs will protect their space until someone asks — usually politely — may I sit here?   Seat hogs will scowl.  Huff and puff.  But usually pull their “stuff” and pile it in their laps. Though there are the occasional whiners who refer to their bag and complain “I can’t put that in my lap!”  And then there are the crafty ones – who start out sitting in the aisle seat.  When one observant enough to see the window seat is unoccupied asks for the person to move, the seat hog gets up and insists the newby take the window as if to say “I’m in control.  That’ll show him/her.” 

I’ve done an informal study over the years of the seat hogs by looking at what seat hogs are reading.  Nearly all are reading cases, briefs, arguments and such.  Lawyers.  The men – often doffed in suits – and the occasional women (adorned for court) — are lawyers.  There’s not much push back against the seat hogs though the conductors (bless ’em) will frequently admonish the assembled over the intercom to “be courteous” and “not take up two seats.”   Just one more reason to give lawyers a bad name. . . . .

So this Guy. . . .

So this guy is up delivering a speech to a large group of people. He begins to rant “All lawyers are jerks!”  [Or you may select your own epithet]

From the back of the room a guy raises his hand and yells “I really take offense at your words.”

The guy giving the speech asks “are you a lawyer?”

Absolutely not,” the guy says defensively. “I’m a jerk!”

Lawyers do get a bad rap from the public.  In a 2013 Pew research poll, lawyers ranked at the bottom of ten professions.  Only 18% of responders felt that lawyers contributed “a lot” to society’s well being.  And that’s down from 23% in 2009.  In a December 2013 Gallup poll on “Honesty/Ethics in Professions,” lawyers were at the bottom of the list — just above members of Congress, lobbyists and car salesmen.  While there are a lot of good lawyers, I tend to think that much of the criticism of lawyers is deserved.   We don’t police the profession as we might and. . . .  wait . . . shhhh. . . .sorry – gotta run!  I hear a siren. . . . .