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The Voice of Reason: Finally, a ‘good’ lawsuit

July 1, 1993

The Voice of Reason: Finally, a ‘good’ lawsuit

By By Tony Lamia

Survivors and family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks are suing anyone and everyone remotely connected to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. They want trillions in compensation. They want justice. And, for once, I believe most Americans support this class action lawsuit. I hope they bankrupt and drive every terrorist backer the hell out of here!

Shortly following the attacks, I thought the best way to rid us of terrorists would be to sic the Mafia on them, but I was wrong. I see now that lawyers, with the scent of money, like bloodhounds hot on the trail, won’t let up until the last dollar is recovered. That’s what makes lawyers more powerful.

In this lawsuit, the plaintiffs are those who were injured in the attacks and family members of those who were killed. All of these people actually suffered great harm, and are deserving of compensation. So, in this case, attorneys’ fees are justified. But this is an unusual case.

Typically, class-action lawsuits are nothing more than fee generators for lawyers, with nothing worthwhile in them for the named plaintiffs. Here’s how it works:

Lawyers sniff out any perceived harm, no matter how slight, such as one man who was angry with BMW for a blemish in the paint on his new car. The cost to repair it was only $600, but that wasn’t the point. Since BMW had repaired blemishes on several other cars, the lawyers decided to file a class action suit on behalf of all other buyers, seeking $4,000,000 in punitive damages!

Upon filing the suit, buyers are given notice, and they become plaintiffs even if they know nothing about the suit, unless they send in a notice to be omitted. Upon winning the lawsuit, the buyers did not get any money. They only got discount coupons for product upgrades or services. Of course, the lawyers ended up with lots of money.

Lawyers say that lawsuits are the only way to get businesses to produce safe products, but what was the penalty assessed against BMW for? Everyone knows that it is impossible to produce a car without some minor defects. Since these kinds of lawsuits usually result in increased prices to consumers, without any beneficial safety improvements, the public gets screwed.

BMW can afford this lawsuit, but small business owners often lose their shirts when sued, even if they have done no wrong. The cost to defend against a frivolous claim is so great that settling out of court is cheaper than winning after a trial. So, what’s the solution?

Since judges are beholden to trial lawyers for contributing to their election campaigns, they usually will not impose penalties against them for filing frivolous lawsuits (like the BMW case). Therefore, I recommend limited terms for all judges. One idea, proposed by attorney, Gerry Spence, in his book, With Justice for None, is to eliminate judgeships, and instead, assign an attorney to preside over one, and only one case, thereby reducing the effects of bias and influence.

Among many other legal reforms I propose in my book, class action suits should be limited to only those who voluntarily opt in as plaintiffs, and who have suffered significant harm (as did the victims of the 9/11 attacks). Also, I advocate limiting punitive damages to an amount set by the legislature, with the additional requirement that the manufacturers of products not be assessed penalties without proof of a reckless disregard for the public’s safety.

Basically, I believe that the legislative branch of government (not the judiciary) be the sole regulator of product safety. With lawsuit reform, business owners could keep their shirts, while lawyers would be allowed to sue the pants off our enemies.

Tony L. Lamia is the author of “Blame It On The System.” www.blamesystem.com.

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