A New York Times article recently highlighted the consequence of many state’s “tort
deform reform” laws: Victims of devastating corporate safety lapses can’t find a lawyer willing to represent them.
The article gives several examples of how tort
deform reform is killing cases where corporate negligence has killed people. For example, a defective ignition switch caused a Wisconsin victim’s car ignition to suddenly power off, causing him to lose control of the car, hit a tree, and die. The car ignition failure also caused the air bag system to fail. G.M. had received many reports of similar incidents involving the defective ignition switch before this victim died. In fact, at least 42 people had died under similar circumstances.
Yet when the family went looking for a lawyer for what they thought would be a “slam dunk” case, they got the same response from every lawyer they turned to: None were willing to take the case because of a Wisconsin “tort reform” law limiting recovery “for loss of society” to $350,000. Because of the extreme expense – estimated at $300,000 — of suing a big corporation like G.M. for a complicated mechanical defect, it just did not make economic sense for a law firm to take the case on.
Do the math yourself: Would you spend $300,000 to maybe, if you win, take in a maximum of $350,000, which would net $50,000, of which you would have to give 2/3 to the client? That leaves you with about $17,000 for three of four years of litigation and at least 1,700 hours of attorney work, or at most $100 an hour, and that’s if you win. And the $100 does not go in your pocket. You’ve got paralegals, secretaries, rent, etc. to pay. And don’t forget you could lose the case and get nothing at all for your trouble.
deform reform is killing many important lawsuits, like the one described above, before they can get off the ground. In the past, such lawsuits have exposed corporate cover-ups, greed, and the dangers inherent in corporate products. Think of all we know about the dangers of tobacco — and the coverup within the industry — that came to light only because of the discovery demands made on those corporations by cancer victims’ lawyers.
Because of tort reform, this kind of important information may never see the light of day. Tort lawsuits against big corporate wrongdoers shed light on their dangerous products and practices. Tort reform turns off the light. Who will be left in the dark? You will. Your family will. We all will. In the dark, without a lawyer, with no road to justice. Welcome to “tort
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Syracuse & Central NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.