The right to a jury trial in tort cases–including some nursing home lawsuits–remains under assault. The good news is that those in favor of protecting the unencumbered right to have impartial members of the community settle disputes have the facts on our side. Most of the claims made by big political interests about the need to take away consumer rights are either greatly misleading or sometimes downright false. That is why one of the main ways to fight back against these efforts is to become educated in the reality of tort litigation in America today.
To help, the Center for Justice & Democracy, a long-standing champion of civil justice rights, published its latest report to help provide succinct, accurate, and important information on the topic. The full report can be downloaded here.
The Truth About Tort Litigation
“Tort” litigation refers to all civil justice lawsuits where things like negligence are involved–nursing home neglect, medical malpractice, etc. There is a misconception that tort litigation is rampant, and that people are filing lawsuits left and right even for trivial issues. That is not true. As the briefing book points out, less than ten percent of Americans who may be injured by another’s negligence even do anything to seek compensation, like file an insurance claim. Even fewer (two percent) ever file a lawsuit. In other words, claims about rampant lawsuits related to frivolous injuries bear little connection to reality.
Why then are court dockets constantly filled?
What many don’t appreciate is that contract cases–not tort lawsuits–make up the bulk of civil law filings. These contract cases are mostly businesses using the system to sue other businesses. Yet, it is the same big business interests that often are the first to rally against tort lawsuits as being frivolous. This is the definition of hypocrisy, criticizing others for doing something you do all the time.
Not only that, but the balance between tort cases and contract cases is only getting more extreme. Right now there are 250% more contract lawsuits filed than tort cases. A study found that over a recent ten year period contract filings rose by 63% while tort filings decreased by 25%. Similarly, data on overall caseloads finds that, of pending cases, tort filings represent only 6% of the cases in most areas. Instead, monetary disputes–debt collections–make up a far larger percentage of filings clogging the dockets–upwards of 70% in some areas.
The take-away: More businesses are using the civil justice system to enfore their rights, less consumer are, and yet business interests are pushing to make it even harder to consumer to do so. It doesn’t take much to realize the unfairness of this overall trajectory. Businesses are more than happy using the system when it makes them money, but when it protects indivduals against the businesses own mistakes, then they argue that the system has run amok.
This is not right in principle or practice. We urge all community members to become informed on the facts of the tort litigation process so that they can share information with friends and family members when these political issues come up in conversations.
See Related Blog Posts:
Court Upholds Use of Screening Panels