Tort (was: Norton's Losing Liberty Judicially)

Russell Turpin deafbox at
Mon Nov 10 06:35:37 PST 2003

Jeff Bone:
>Here's my recipe: When a plaintiff brings a case to trial, they must 
>explicitly ask for actual and punitive damages.  If they win --- they get 
>everything they ask for.  If they lose, the *plaintiff* must pay the 
>defendant the sum total of actual and punitive damages for which they 
>asked.  If the plaintiff himself cannot pay, his lawyers must. .. If you 
>can think of a single drawback to the above, I'm all ears.

The big drawback to the above is that it creates a system
where companies can profit by purposely harming others.
For example, Clean-It-Up, a company that specializes in
removing toxic waste, works on the basis that it is much
cheaper to dump the waste in people's yards, than to
dispose of it properly. Sure, they get sued sometimes.
But a third of the time the suit wrongly targets them
instead of their competitors, Haul-It-Off and We-Take-It.
Until some victim has launched a suit and put themselves
at risk under your legal system, they lack the legal
power of discovery, without which it's not easy to know
which company owns which truck. (All three companies are
owned by the same investors, of course.) And even when
the correct company IS targeted, their lawyers are very
good at defending these kind of suits. With those kinds
of odds, getting sued becomes a revenue source!

Now yeah, I understand the desire to put a damper on
ambulance chasers who play courthouse bingo. Do you know
there are legal seminars on how to sue Walmart?

But there are more conservative modifications. In England,
the losing party pays the other's legal expenses. That
makes more sense to me than turning every tort into a
gamble over the amount in dispute. Another modification
might be to give juries in tort suits a third verdict
option, that declares the plaintiff's case not just
unproven, but baseless, a finding that would expose the
plaintiff's counsel to fines and sanctions.

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