Sunday, January 16, 2005

Tort Reform in USA

Jan 6th 2005 From The Economist print edition

The president's plan focuses on three things: limiting the amount of money that victims of medical malpractice can win for “non-economic” damages such as pain and suffering (he made his Madison speech surrounded by wounded-looking doctors); restricting the use of class-action suits (where large groups of people are pulled together by lawyers to sue companies); and curbing lawsuits against asbestos firms.

“Mad County” judges are famous for taking on cases other courts refuse, and not holding back when it comes to the penalties. In March 2003 one judge awarded $10.1 billion to the plaintiffs in a class-action suit against Philip Morris on the basis that “light” cigarettes had been misleadingly labelled. Like many other Madison awards, the appeal is now being heard in the Illinois Supreme Court.

But there is a limit to how much Washington can dictate in a system where so much power lies with the states and those elected judges. And the trial lawyers are not about to give in easily.

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