If you peruse the Internet, you will read a lot of nonsense about so-called “frivolous lawsuits” and/or “lawsuit abuse”. The latest I found was an online app, created by Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY), a tort reform group that joined forces with a coalition of various groups including the Business Council of New York State, Associated Builders and Owners of Greater New York, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, New York State Farm Bureau, New York Conference of Mayors, and Rochester Business Alliance, to name a few in an effort to reform New York’s century old Scaffold Law. LRANY developed this app allowing anyone the opportunity to create their very own “frivolous lawsuit” in an attempt to brainwash the public into thinking that “frivolous” lawsuits and “lawsuit abuse” is a major problem that costs taxpayers money and jobs.
However, what groups like LRANY are really after is a way to limit your recovery in serious lawsuits. They don’t care one bit about, so-called, ”frivolous” lawsuits; these are not a serious problem for them. But if LRANY and other Chamber based “lawsuit abuse” groups can make you think that the civil justice system is a ‘joke’, maybe you won’t realize that their next victim may be you or someone you love.
Are there lawsuits filed that should not have been? Sure there are; some even seem “funny”. But these are rare exceptions; the vast majority of lawsuits are not a laughing matter. But our court system is clogged, isn’t it? Yes, in some jurisdictions, there is a serious backlog of cases. It must be that too many lawsuits are being filed, right? Wrong! The reason that there are serious backlogs in the legal system is because deep-pocket defendants and insurance companies will not step up and do the right thing unless they are absolutely forced to do so. Their best defense is a long, drawn out fight that causes trial lawyers to spend thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars representing their clients. Their best defense is to cause serious financial distress by delaying the outcome, denying the truth, refusing to pay what they reasonably should pay, and confusing the issues on the way to trial.
You see, the real truth is that there are far more frivolous defenses forged by insurance companies and deep-pocket defendants than there will ever be frivolous lawsuits. Our civil justice system has checks and balances for frivolous lawsuit filings; if a case is deemed “frivolous”, it is quickly dismissed by a judge and costs are usually assessed against the filing party. This is not true for frivolous defenses. The defense clogs court dockets with unfair tactics, anything that will prolong the litigation, create more billable hours, and make a seriously injured, disabled, plaintiff more desperate to settle for less compensation. Even in a case where serious misconduct by a corporate defendant causes serious injuries to a senior citizen, and many others, corporate America and these anti-citizen Chamber groups chide and joke. Even in situations where the corporate defendant knows the harm it caused and still refuses to make a simple correction that would cost nothing, the corporation blames the victim. Even when a corporate defendant is obviously at fault, where defendant’s conduct is outrageous, tort reform groups, like LRANY, engage in a sinister effort to convince the public that clients are milking the system, lawyers are pursuing meritless claims and legislative action is necessary to cap these suits. Cap? Cap! The solution proffered is always a cap on damages. Use your common sense; why would we need a cap on damages for a frivolous, worthless lawsuit?
Groups like LRANY will never show you the grieving family of a deceased victim of negligence. They will never show you a deformed, mentally challenged infant, who must receive around-the- clock care for life. They will not show you the many people who have suffered amputations, paraplegia, crippling injuries and death. They will not show the many examples of innocent victims abused by frivolous defenses, with the courthouse doors slammed in their faces because of tort reform. They will not feature, in their “funny” lawsuit abuse marketing campaigns, those people who have become dependent upon the government for assistance because those who were responsible for their condition refused to accept full responsibility for their care and support, leaving the burden on us, the taxpayers.
These corporate types have embarked on a vicious campaign to “expose” a non-existent problem that they like to call “lawsuit abuse”. If these groups truly wish to unclog clogged civil justice dockets, they could create safer products, do more research, voluntarily assist those that they have harmed, apologize for wrongdoing and misconduct, and work with health and safety groups to find new and better solutions. They could demand that their insurance companies accept the responsibility to pay benefits that premiums were paid for, sooner, not later. They could tell them that the civil justice system is not a joke; it is not their playground; it is not “funny” to harm innocent people, then delay taking responsibility and refuse to assist them.
If there is a “joke” here, it is a cruel one, played on the American people. Groups like LRANY proclaim “funny sounding’ lawsuits, like the ones you can create with this online app, and make suggestions that our legal system is broken and that trial lawyers are to blame. Trial lawyers don’t make dangerous and defective products and then try to cover up the defects to limit their exposure. They don’t provide alcohol to intoxicated people, then put them behind the wheel of a car. They don’t try to cover up a botched medical procedure; they don’t make conscious decisions to save a few bucks by not implementing simple, small cost, safety upgrades. Trial lawyers have the daunting task of holding these negligent wrongdoers accountable by using the tools of our civil justice system; the system that is consistently the victim of “lawsuit abuse” perpetrated by deep-pocket, corporate, defendants who pile frivolous defense on top of frivolous defense in the hope that the plaintiff will run out of time and money. My industry, the lawsuit funding industry, was born to attempt to assist these needy litigants. Today, the lawsuit funding industry is under attack by the same, phony, “lawsuit abuse” that have attacked trial lawyers for years. These corporations have billions to spend on propaganda, misinformation and half truths; they have nothing to spend on safety, restitution and fair compensation.
So, ask yourself why tort reform lobbying groups seek to combat “frivolous lawsuits” with damages caps. It is serious injuries, serious consequences, serious lawsuits that impact the profits of billion dollar corporations. The use of buzz words like “frivolous” and “abuse” are smoke screens. Tort reform benefits wrongdoers; victims and taxpayers (that’s you) pick up the balance. The joke, my friends, is on you. Who’s laughing now?
Mark Bello has thirty-six years’ experience as a trial lawyer and fifteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.