A roundhouse kick to frivolous lawsuit

posted at 8:36 pm on June 3, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

One of my more vivid memories of the battle of 2010 was the nearly shameless lack of interest on the part of our Democratic opponent in addressing reform in the industry of medical malpractice suits, even as he railed on about the need to reform our healthcare system. We interviewed a number of doctors, many of whom showed up for campaign rallies to talk about the costs incurred via an industry seemingly designed to allow any rookie lawyer to extract cash from health care professionals on the flimsiest of claims.

Unfortunately, that practice isn’t limited to the medical industry, and the costs which are passed down to the rest of us from those looking to make a fast buck on a well crafted story get more painful as the economy continues to flounder. It’s almost enough to make you want to go out and give somebody a good, hard kick. Obviously, we don’t encourage the literal use of violence as a method to resolve disputes here at Hot Air, but we might find somebody with the means to deliver a legal and metaphorical blow along those lines. But who?

Oh, you already knew the answer, didn’t you? It’s Chuck Norris.

Two women get into a fight in the ladies’ restroom at a restaurant. Afterward, they sue the restaurant owner, claiming someone should have been in there to break up the fight. It costs the small-business owner $2,000 to pay each plaintiff to drop the complaint, which was cheaper than fighting the lawsuit would have been.

This completely ridiculous story is true, and the restaurant owner was one of us, Mr. Norris. Fortunately, the lawsuit didn’t cripple the family restaurant, Woody’s Wharf in Newport Beach, Calif. But nationwide, groundless lawsuits strain businesses’ bottom lines and threaten their very survival.

This week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a law that will help free Lone Star State businesses from the threat of frivolous lawsuits by enacting “loser-pays” tort reform. Prior to the legislation, litigants faced a no-lose situation, while defendants stood to lose everything—even for the most outrageous, bizarre and wrongful accusations.

This “loser pays” version of tort reform is setting off an absolute firestorm in Texas, as we’ve noted here before. And while it may come as a surprise to some, this is not a problem which is only cropping up in blue states. At the local and state level, government has long been under the sway of the enormous amount of cash which trial lawyers can bring to bear on elections. (Think a smaller version of labor unions, but with a lot more fiscal clout per office.)

The enormous appeal of this approach should be obvious, were the phrase “common sense” ever allowed in courts of law or the halls of Congress. Previous attempts were based on seeking to establish definitions of what types of suits or circumstances of perceived wrongs could be subject to challenge. This, as should be obvious, left any attempt at reform subject to the whims of those crafting the rules and having open pockets to lobbyists.

The Texas approach, as outlined by Chuck Norris, is a bit simpler. If you think your case truly has merit… bring it! No restrictions! But if you lose and it becomes obvious to the jurists that you were blowing sunshine up the skirts of the court in a transparent attempt to pick a deep pocket for some quick cash… then you pay the court costs, not the public or the intended victim of your scheme.

Anything displaying this much common sense, of course, will probably be shot down in no time flat. But we can dream, can’t we?

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Two women get into a fight in the ladies’ restroom at a restaurant. Afterward, they sue the restaurant owner, claiming someone should have been in there to break up the fight. It costs the small-business owner $2,000 to pay each plaintiff to drop the complaint, which was cheaper than fighting the lawsuit would have been.

This completely ridiculous story is true, and the restaurant owner was one of us, Mr. Norris. Fortunately, the lawsuit didn’t cripple the family restaurant, Woody’s Wharf in Newport Beach,
===========================

Thats laughable,two goonettes go toe top toe in the Loo,
and its everyones else’s fault!!

Nuts!!

canopfor on June 3, 2011 at 8:42 PM

ALERT Hornetsting, JAZZ started a Chuck Norris thread!!!

KP, too!!!

Gohawgs on June 3, 2011 at 8:45 PM

Losers Pay

Kini on June 3, 2011 at 8:45 PM

170 members of the House and 58 Senators have law degrees…what other demographic has that much representation?

Answer: 0

repvoter on June 3, 2011 at 8:46 PM

Two women get into a fight in the ladies’ restroom at a restaurant.

And they weren’t selling tickets?

Kini on June 3, 2011 at 8:47 PM

Up in Soviet Canuckistan, I think awarding costs is considered a normal part of lawsuits. Bring a dumb lawsuit? Expect to have a judge award costs to the defendant.

expatmanca on June 3, 2011 at 8:49 PM

It’s about freaking time. Bottom-feeder ambulance chasers won’t bring a frivolous lawsuit if they know they will foot the entire bill.

iurockhead on June 3, 2011 at 8:51 PM

Under Texas’s new legislation, however, litigants will be forced to pay for the defendant’s attorney fees if the case is determined groundless.

How will the court determine if the case is groundless? I presume that it won’t be every single case in which the losing plaintiff will be required to pay the defendents’ attorney fees … only those in which the lawsuit is deemed groundless. (Or am I mistaken?)

aunursa on June 3, 2011 at 8:54 PM

aunursa on June 3, 2011 at 8:54 PM

I would think every slip and fall lawyer is known to the courts, and there are people that think “sue thy neighbor” is America’s pastime.

Kini on June 3, 2011 at 8:59 PM

Ugh,should be,go toe to toe,not top!

canopfor on June 3, 2011 at 8:59 PM

then you pay the court costs, not the public or the intended victim of your scheme.

I would hope that includes some or all of the defendents court costs, and not just the state’s court costs.

parke on June 3, 2011 at 9:00 PM

Two women get into a fight in the ladies’ restroom at a restaurant.
And they weren’t selling tickets?

Kini on June 3, 2011 at 8:47 PM

Kini:Aloha Kini,lol,a Cat Fight in the Biffy!:)

canopfor on June 3, 2011 at 9:02 PM

Lawyers should face the choice of either tending to their craft or leaving it permanently before seeking any office that is involved with making or judging cases. As it is the system is rigged with lawyers arguing the law, lawyers making the law, and lawyers sitting as judges at trials. We are getting law of, by and for the lawyers.

If you want to practice law, fine… make that your life’s work and keep your nose out of all other aspects of it. Treat it as a trade craft, not a ticket to full employment by creating more and more complex law for your fellow lawyers to charge hourly fees on.

ajacksonian on June 3, 2011 at 9:08 PM

The cost of defending the law suits is very small in the medical profession compared to the hundreds of millions spent in medically unnecessary imaging studies and testing that is done to prevent a law suit. God help us if we “miss” a life threatening condition that would eventually be found without these very expensive and mostly normal tests.

I am not a racist on June 3, 2011 at 9:11 PM

I checked the link and it answered my question, it would cover the defendents legal costs.

parke on June 3, 2011 at 9:12 PM

No, a losing lawsuit isn’t automatically going to be considered groundless. There are numerous avenues for juries to establish a basis of distinction. Preponderence of valid evidence would be top of the list, established malice, negligence, etc.

The two “ladies” in Newport Beach would have been unable to establish malice on the part of the resaurant owner in their cases, as who keeps a bouncer in the john, just in case idiots decide on that location for a throwdown? How could the restaurant’s behavior be considered negligent, or presumptively likely to cause any harm whatsoever to the two combatants? They have a groundless case.

If, however, I got injured in the men’s restroom of that same establishment because I slipped on a small puddle of soapy water left by the previous person to use the facilities, I may not win a lawsuit against the restaurant (I personally wouldn’t bring such a one), but the basis of the suit would have some merit. Not a groundless case.

Freelancer on June 3, 2011 at 9:12 PM

Tort reform…..yea…sounds good and may be a start in the right direction, however I encourage anyone to read the fine print of this bill or any past tort reform bill in Texas.

Perry is good for rhetoric on this but there is ample evidence that loopholes have been left in the language for rampant cronyism, such as lawsuit cases wherein the little person with no money and has a legitimate suit, is still at a disadvantage.

If Republicans don’t own this tort reform properly and fairly and with common sense then it is only a matter of time wherein the Democrats will own this subject and overturn everything that the Republicans did.

Common sense is what is needed here, not party power plays and rhetoric good enough to get elected….

*Sigh*
Someday pigs may fly…..but until then watch the usual party yo-yo power plays as ruling the day.

Mcguyver on June 3, 2011 at 9:13 PM

You’d think every struggling state in the union would be copying much of what Texas is doing.

BuckeyeSam on June 3, 2011 at 9:14 PM

This is bunk.

There are already laws in place in every State, not just Texas. If you (as a defendant) believe that the plaintiff’s case is frivolous you file an Offer of Judgement or Settlement or whatever. They have 45 days to accept or reject and if in the end they lose at trial they owe the defendant’s fees and costs.

True tort reform will come in the form of damage caps and thresholds that trigger the right to sue.

The lawyers (plaintiff and defense) will keep getting richer. Don’t let anyone tell you that just the democrats own this lobby. The republicans and democrats own this lobby along with the mediators, experts, judges, court reporting firms, etcetera.

Key West Reader on June 3, 2011 at 9:20 PM

Anyone who has studied law and has used Westlaw knows how many cases are on record with the keyword “banana”. There are too many hacks out there who are looking for a quick buck.

But, as for the law Gov. Perry signed… That’s how we roll in Texas.

madmonkphotog on June 3, 2011 at 9:27 PM

The lawyers (plaintiff and defense) will keep getting richer. Don’t let anyone tell you that just the democrats own this lobby. The republicans and democrats own this lobby along with the mediators, experts, judges, court reporting firms, etcetera.

Key West Reader on June 3, 2011 at 9:20 PM

DOT.

BINGO…!!

170 members of the House and 58 Senators have law degrees…what other demographic has that much representation?

Answer: 0

repvoter on June 3, 2011 at 8:46 PM

Yes, and you shouldn’t be shocked to know how many lawyers who won big cases and got loaded with the loot for life are now “lifers” as elected officials..

That’s why nothing gets done on true common sense tort reform….the Rick Perry rhetoric notwithstanding…

Mcguyver on June 3, 2011 at 9:35 PM

Does this not but address the symptom, not the cause? It is my understanding that a judge has to review a potential lawsuit and approve it, before it can go to trial? Why, then, are so many of these so-called frivolous lawsuits making it to court? Does not the fault lie mostly with these dopey judges who approve, rubber-stamp, etc. these dopey lawsuits, it seems to me that it does.

Coupling the “loser pay” system with more strict rules for judges as to what they can classify as a “legitimate” lawsuit should fix most of the silly lawsuits we all think about when we read a story like the one above.

Weebork on June 3, 2011 at 9:57 PM

I know all to well this type of extortion. Due to it being ongoing I must be general in nature.

I own and manufacture a product. We have more safety certificates with more agencies on different continents than any similar product made.

This product if misused can cause issues. We clearly state on the product, in the manual and other materials how it should be used and exactly what not to do. We even go so far as to state what can occur if they do “X” or are just plain f–king stupid.

Recently we received a letter from a legal firm because an idiot did exactly what we said not to do and the reult was minor but yet enough for an insurance claim of the lowest end of 5 figures. The law firm (very large law firm- mid sized insurance firm) were demanding we cough up the low 5 figures because it was our product.

My attorney showed them our product not only met all safety standards, well documented the possible issue w/ warnings all over every material we have. Their reply was we failed to notify users, as is the law in PA, of consequences of misuse. We then provided a copy of a Short Guide wherein we specifically state stating “X” can occur if you fail to stay with the product. We even place stickers over key parts simialr to those you find on software stating removal of the sticker by the uers means they’ve read all materials, understand how to operate the equipment and accept all responsibility for any misuse. In order to operate the product the stickers have to be removed..

Add in an official governmental agency’s report on what occured specifically stated user negligence was at fault not equipment failure and we are blameless, or should be. Not the case

Despite all the warnings and all the reports etc etc.. Despite the attorney providing no legal basis for the claim. They now expect me to pay 25% of the damages.

The threat of a lawsuit, however remote, is enough where my attorney recommends I pay their blood money, extortion, and the shakedown. Again the law firm has supplied no basis in law on where I’m at fault but to dispute it would require $100k if it went to court with $30k being a bare minimum

In total this unsubstantiated claim will cost, with my attorney’s fees, almost $10,000. That wipes out some of the moeny needed to improve my products and bring others to market. It takes food off my table.

I’ve told my attorney the money will be paid in unrolled dimes.

America is held hostage by scum bag attorney’s who know it is cheaper to pay a little extrotion rather than risk a full blown suit.

As my attorney stated.. until we have a full loser pay system there is no risk for this type of blood money, shakedown and extortionist tactic occur. Place a large risk of losses and it will be minimized.

theblacksheepwasright on June 3, 2011 at 10:07 PM

Coupling the “loser pay” system with more strict rules for judges as to what they can classify as a “legitimate” lawsuit should fix most of the silly lawsuits we all think about when we read a story like the one above.

Problem is getting it to the stage a judge reviews the veracity of the suit is 30k mimimum.. The scumbag portion of the legal community know this thus demands for amounts underneath.

I know of one instance in the 90s where an attorney openly stated “all we want is $20k” then went on to say “it will cost you more than that just to fly people in for depositions” and the b-t-h was right. It was cheaper to pay the blood money.

theblacksheepwasright on June 3, 2011 at 10:13 PM

Man, this just isn’t John Edwards’ day, is it?

SuperCool on June 3, 2011 at 10:19 PM

.
All:
God save your majesty!

Cade:
I thank you, good people—there shall be no money; all shall eat
and drink on my score, and I will apparel them all in one livery,
that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.

Dick:
The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

Cade:
Nay, that I mean to do.


Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4, scene 2, 71–78

As goes Texas, so goes the nation.

davo on June 3, 2011 at 10:19 PM

Guilty or innocent, right or wrong, it doesn’t matter to a lawyer. Their job is to get the best deal for their client.

DAT60A3 on June 3, 2011 at 10:22 PM

Guilty or innocent, right or wrong, it doesn’t matter to a lawyer. Their job is to get the best deal for their client.

DAT60A3 on June 3, 2011 at 10:22 PM

Time and expense.

Key West Reader on June 3, 2011 at 10:28 PM

Anything displaying this much common sense, of course, will probably be shot down in no time flat.

Yep.

But we can dream, can’t we?

Yep. Mine is the losing lawyer pays for frivolous lawsuits.

rukiddingme on June 3, 2011 at 10:34 PM

FYI, Jazz, that’s a side kick Chuck is tossing there, not a round house kick; or yoko geri not a mawashu geri if you are a traditionalist.

Alden Pyle on June 3, 2011 at 10:38 PM

Their job is to get the best deal for their client.

DAT60A3 on June 3, 2011 at 10:22 PM

On what basis?

On what basis is any lawsuit case legitimate? Is it not based on contractual obligations (in the case of contracts) and fair warning/truth in advertising in consumer products?

If you keep it that simple and then build the case from there it doesn’t ever become complicated, complex maybe, but not complicated, as complexity is simplicity in layers.

But the problem with politicians is the they use party power plays in order to gain influence instead of educating and then standing these basic first principles.

Mcguyver on June 3, 2011 at 10:39 PM

Lawyers should face the choice of either tending to their craft or leaving it permanently before seeking any office that is involved with making or judging cases. As it is the system is rigged with lawyers arguing the law, lawyers making the law, and lawyers sitting as judges at trials. We are getting law of, by and for the lawyers.

If you want to practice law, fine… make that your life’s work and keep your nose out of all other aspects of it. Treat it as a trade craft, not a ticket to full employment by creating more and more complex law for your fellow lawyers to charge hourly fees on.

ajacksonian on June 3, 2011 at 9:08 PM

Excellent!

whbates on June 3, 2011 at 10:51 PM

Great for Texas. Unfortunately some of their judges are screwing over the rest of the country because of tech lawsuits over ridiculous patents.

strictnein on June 3, 2011 at 10:58 PM

Good. Something needs to be done. I feel great frustration every time I see one of those adds for a lawsuit about drugs. Why should we pay anyone for the LIFESTYLE CHOICE that taking a drug for a problem is?
What kind of idiots take them without realizing there are side effects? I don’t want to pay for those anymore. You take a risk of a decision to treatment and you should ruddy well deal with it, and not make me do it wit your lawsuit.

Noelie on June 3, 2011 at 11:10 PM

John Edwards was unavailable for comment.

av8tr on June 3, 2011 at 11:20 PM

I have a friend who is a doctor. He was sued over a completely false issue and was ready to defend himself and to win. But the insurance company said “no.” They had the final word, which you have to give them if you want a break in your rates, and once they found out that the person bring the suit was a nice little old English lady, they caved. Under that famous legal theory that juries just cannot say “no” to nice little old English ladies.

Fred 2 on June 3, 2011 at 11:24 PM

Long overdue. “Russian Sue-lette” is making a mockery of American justice.

Uncle Sams Nephew on June 3, 2011 at 11:43 PM

I wonder if most juries in lawsuits decide for the defendant because it’s like denying someone the lottery. They would want others to do the same for them if they ever get the chance to benefit from some corporation or insurance company. I’m not very optimistic about people and personal responsibility lately.

Cindy Munford on June 4, 2011 at 1:13 AM

Our laws are written by lawyers for the benefit of lawyers and for no one else. The Average Joe on the street can go pound sand as far as our lawmakers are concerned.

Vic on June 4, 2011 at 1:15 AM

Vic on June 4, 2011 at 1:15 AM

A cap on their percentage might go a long way to slow down lawsuits.

Cindy Munford on June 4, 2011 at 1:41 AM

“Loser Pays” is a controversial proposal only in the United States. Every other civilized country has had it for decades.

schmuck281 on June 4, 2011 at 2:52 AM

How exactly did Chuck Norris deliver any punches at all?

It seems to me it crawled under the table and tossed some money out to get the big bad lawyers aways….

Paying some one off instead of standing on principle is never a wise choice, you do not do it for the same reason you do not negotiate with terrorists (and yes trial lawyers are terrorist in ever sense of the word) because doing so only encourages more of that same behavior.

How do you think we got to this point, it was not because we did not have “loser pays” it is because we had cowards in the Insurance business that caved to ever threat, cowards in the executive offices that caved to ever hint of bad press, because we had cowards that refused to stand on principle.

That is how we lose our freedom, and are way of life.

the_ancient on June 4, 2011 at 4:04 AM

canopfor on June 3, 2011 at 8:42 PM

CHICK FIGHT!

csdeven on June 4, 2011 at 8:21 AM

Before swallowing every story of lawyers abuses of the system, it might be better if you knew the system as it is. Today’s restraints on recovery by injured plaintiff’s are already massive and have turned the system more into an abuse of the innocent by the negligent defendants. There are 2 restraints in use today. 1) the damages cap at $250,000, and 2) the judge’s unbridled discretion to throw out good cases by accepting blatant lies that the plaintiff’s expert witness is not qualified as an expert. In effect the Jury no longer decide who is liable and how much damages to award. Be happy…you no longer have a jury system to protect your life. But beware because most judges are the corrupt appointees/friends of the businesses that have money clout. So don’t get injured by the negligence of financially strong defendants, because that is your only hope.

jimw on June 4, 2011 at 8:38 AM

#$%& trial lawyers used to run Texas. Thank God that is not the case anymore.

WannabeAnglican on June 4, 2011 at 9:18 AM

We need serious tort reform in this country. But we aren’t going to get it because lawyers write the laws. It is as simple as that.

SC.Charlie on June 4, 2011 at 9:24 AM

Guilty or innocent, right or wrong, it doesn’t matter to a lawyer. Their job is to get the best deal for their client.

DAT60A3 on June 3, 2011 at 10:22 PM

Correction. There job is to get the best deal for themselves. Their clients are just a means to an end: obscene wealth.

SagebrushPuppet on June 4, 2011 at 9:24 AM

I am all for this legislation. Unfortunately, my gut tells me that some judge is going to strike this law down on the challenge that it will deny “poor people” access to the courts.

devolvingtowardsidiocracy on June 4, 2011 at 9:45 AM

Looser Pay is used in many European countries, I’am surprised a Socialist leaning politician, like our, learless feader has not adopted for U.S.. OH! that’s right, it was not his idea – our

MSGTAS on June 4, 2011 at 9:55 AM

MSGTAS on June 4, 2011 at 9:55 AM

By your logic, math is socialist because European countries also use it.

A good idea is a good idea no matter who’s doing it.

Uncle Sams Nephew on June 4, 2011 at 1:09 PM

Once again, Texas shows us how it’s done. Heh, I’d move there if it weren’t so dern hot.

Perry 2012 !

petefrt on June 4, 2011 at 1:19 PM

MSGTAS on June 4, 2011 at 9:55 AM

China uses Rooser Pay.

petefrt on June 4, 2011 at 1:21 PM

Before swallowing every story of lawyers abuses of the system, it might be better if you knew the system as it is. Today’s restraints on recovery by injured plaintiff’s are already massive and have turned the system more into an abuse of the innocent by the negligent defendants. There are 2 restraints in use today. 1) the damages cap at $250,000, and 2) the judge’s unbridled discretion to throw out good cases by accepting blatant lies that the plaintiff’s expert witness is not qualified as an expert. In effect the Jury no longer decide who is liable and how much damages to award. Be happy…you no longer have a jury system to protect your life. But beware because most judges are the corrupt appointees/friends of the businesses that have money clout. So don’t get injured by the negligence of financially strong defendants, because that is your only hope.

jimw on June 4, 2011 at 8:38 AM

Spoken like an attorney and pure bullsh-t.

As my own attorney pointed out when I offered a similar thought, there are now firms that will finance lawsuits similar to how financing is provided for start ups. Any suit with a reasonably chance of success will get funded, those that are baseless and extortionist will fall in numbers. This limits the exposure of the lawyer and still affords a truly wronged individual an opportunity for their day in court

Oh and the spoken like comment, is a direct quote from my attorney, who I include as being one of my best friends.

theblacksheepwasright on June 4, 2011 at 1:22 PM

One of the last cases I was involved in before I retired was filed in the wrong state by the third ex-wife of the son of a bankrupt deceased former businessman who had been wealthy but died with nothing by a few mining patents. The case was thrown out in the first state then refiled in my state, necessitating the hiring of new attorneys to act a attorneys pro haec vice, a needless expense had it been filed correctly in the first place. After years of wrangling the local judge found for the defendants and awarded them a judgment against the ex-wife for $30,000 toward the costs incurred the Plaintiff, the first time I’ve ever seen that done, although it’s in the rules of a lot of states, and it was well deserved, although really inadequate. At the appeals court level, the award of costs and fees was stricken by that court, basically on the ground that it might deny people access to the courts by “chilling” those who wanted to sue.

This was essentially a gold-digging fishing expedition, if you’ll pardon a mixed metaphor. The plaintiff knew there was no money, but she found a lawyer to take the case on spec, i.e. a contingent fee, which confirmed my sense after 30 years as a lawyer that the system was made to provide lawyers a living, not to provide justice. If courts have the least leeway, they’ll never order losers to pay the winners’ fees. I haven’t read the Texas Statute, but I hope it creates a rebuttable presumption that the loser should pay. Otherwise, it will be ignored by the courts.

flataffect on June 4, 2011 at 7:50 PM

The ABA probably has plenty of judges on the special secret every day is Christmas bonus plan such that any threat to Junk Justice business as usual would simply be ruled un-Constitutional to keep the shakedown gravy train rolling along.

In the late 1990s I remember well a sleazy Holderesque lawyer running his ads for a judgeship promising to safeguard and uphold the sanctity of the legal system with equal justice for all et cetera. Flags waving in the background, patriotic music, the full pettifogger BS spiel. Within mere days of losing he was back to the “Are you injured? Do you wanna be injured?” putting of the thumb on the scales of “Just-us” those outside the racket have come to know and expect.

viking01 on June 4, 2011 at 9:06 PM

Loser pays as a reform? I didn’t realize it could be any other way. I thought the issue with US torts was punitive damages. Here in the supposedly socialist northern Europe you only get to sue actual damages – so no millions for too hot coffee and almost no frivolous lawsuits.

kittysaidwoof on June 5, 2011 at 1:04 AM

A roundhouse kick to frivolous lawsuit

Bruce Lee would have used the one inch punch.

rukiddingme on June 5, 2011 at 1:37 AM