Could terrorist attacks bring needed tort reform?
As a native New Yorker I will never see our country in the same light. No matter how perfect our revenge and our reconstruction, 5,000 of our buddies disappeared from their loved ones while at work. They were New Yorkers — people who average 40 miles commute each way daily to put the bread on the table. They work an extra day a week compared to most Americans. They are the heart and soul of much of out national economy. Five thousand of our best are gone.I left the business world to attend law school at age 40, and in 1986 as a brand new patent lawyer I wrote some articles on how our economy was at risk from collapse because of lawyers. Florida, where I attended law school, had been nicknamed “the sue me state,” and doctors had stopped delivering babies because lawyers were suing and collecting their third on ridiculous lawsuits on the negligence of doctors and nurses. Fully a third of my graduating class were studying on how to sue their first doctor. The national think tank, The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), invited me to partake in a yearlong series of lectures on reforming our tort laws. One scenario I lectured on depicted two airliners colliding over New York killing thousands with falling debris.The scenario depicted how America’s lawyers filed lawsuits on behalf of thousands of victims against every conceivable company that might have been at fault. At $5 million per victim, 10,000 victims would yield $50 billion. Companies to sue included two airlines, navigational instrument manufacturers, radar manufacturers, fuel suppliers (they caused the fires) and so on and so on.
This type of financial hit to key segments of industry caused a domino effect, and the second Great Depression. This Great Depression was caused by America’s lawyers. Since 1986 minor adjustments to reduce jury awards against manufacturers, tired overworked doctors and so on have been enacted piecemeal by individual states, including Colorado. Although President Reagan made a tort reform speech, the first by any American president, no federal restraints on American lawyers were enacted.
That brings us to Sept. 11, 2001. Already a $20 billion aid package for New York City is funded, a small first step. Forget the military budget needed to protect our citizens from future terrorism, what protection is afoot to protect us from our lawyers?
Are you ready to stand by and see the airline industry, building architects and tired rescuers and doctors fall victim to 5,000 lawsuits? Is it time to write to your U.S. senators to enact a federal tort control bill? Perhaps our citizens can realize that God has a hand in all our tragedies and injuries and death. Why should our courts be full of lawyers pulling money out of everywhere (for their third) when an American is injured in a car, in an operation or in a terrorist attack?
If some good can come from our fallen buddies, then maybe clipping the wings of the vulture segment of our legal industry would be a start.
Printed in The Boulder County Business Report – Oct. 2001