Phoenix, Arizona


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America On-Line Version of Tort Reform Incomplete and Inaccurate

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Today I discovered an interesting and entertaining page on the America On Line web site. Discussing so-called frivolous lawsuits, America On-Line lists as news several lawsuits without real attribution or legitimate discussion about corporate accountability for wrongdoing. Setting aside the issue of whether these lawsuits are in fact real or a political effort to encourage tort reform initiatives across the country, I had hoped that America On-Line would present a more balanced set of facts and discussion about the lawsuits which in fact encourage corporate accountability for harm. What about the litigation that encourages corporations and other defendants to prioritize consumer safety? Of the frivolous lawsuits which have been filed, how many have been dismissed immediately? What percentage of lawsuits present to the jury real harm, real problems and a need for real accountability?

I would guess that a vast majority of litigation in our state involves real and not frivolous issues. Because the great majority of litigation involves non-frivolous litigation, why not present a balanced discussion of the issue? If AOL presented a balanced set of litigation-related stories, it would talk about why seat belts or airbags have been placed as a safety device in cars. It would comment on why tire manufacturers have had to focus resources on revamping product safety initiatives to prevent tire tread separation. It would comment on homeowners’ insurance carriers forcing jury trials by refusing to pay for damage to homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. It would focus on other industries where litigation has been used as a tool to demand corporate accountability and promote product safety.

I am proud to practice law and believe that our profession helps promote safety of products and services. Unfortunately, I believe that AOL’s web site ignores these fundamental successes of our system of justice. When a lawsuit is frivolous, dismiss it and sanction the person filing it. Our Rules of Civil Procedure provide for such action. However, do not punish the majority of victims of wrongdoing by changing our tort system to elminate rights of a victim to seek a remedy for harm. I only hope that we as consumers do not ignore the benefits of demanding accountability for wrongdoing when the facts justify doing so. What do you think? Does AOL ignore the benefits of litigation purely to entertain? Click here to comment about AOL’s analysis about frivolous lawsuits. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this site as well.