Legal Briefs #40 – Legal Reform: What the Public Thinks

Americans are starting to come around to the idea that our lawsuit-happy culture isn’t good for us.

The Center for Consumer Freedom cites in support of this position a Winston Group poll showing that 74 percent of Americans understand that class action lawsuits raise prices for consumer goods.

Furthermore, the group says, the poll shows that by a 56 percent to 32 percent margin, Americans agree with the statement “Trial attorneys are only focused on making money, and take advantage of people to fulfill their own self interest in the guise of doing a public service.”

By 48 percent to 38 percent, Americans agree that “Lawsuits are costing America jobs because businesses have had to spend huge amounts of money in settlements and legal fees, which have resulted in layoffs and job losses. Many of these lawsuits are frivolous and lawyers have taken advantage of the situation at the expense of working Americans.”

And by 51 percent to 34 percent, Americans believe “Class action lawsuits have abused [the] judicial system, resulting in frivolous lawsuits which allow attorneys to reap millions in attorneys’ fees when claimants receive little or nothing. These lawsuits have clogged the legal system, meaning legitimate cases sometimes take years to be heard often times preventing settlements from being reached.”

The Center also says at a 2003 Gallup Poll showed nearly 9 in 10 Americans oppose holding fast-food companies legally responsible for the diet-related health problems customers and that 2 out of 3 U.S. households surveyed by ACNielsen said parents and guardians are mostly to blame for obesity in children 17 and under, with fast-food restaurants blamed by 10 percent and food manufacturers by 1 percent. It also says 84 percent of those surveyed by the research firm Planet Feedback placed the main responsibility for weight problems on “individuals who do not exercise enough.”

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2003 poll similarly found that 67 percent of likely voters believe the class action system is broken and should be reformed. 74 percent of likely voters believe class actions drive up prices. 61 percent say consumers and class members benefit the least from the class actions. 47 percent say trial lawyers benefit the most.

-by Amy Ridenour

 Tort Du Jour: Suicide Attempt as Career MoveA New York woman was awarded $9.9 million after she was hit by a subway.

The woman had been lying on the tracks attempting to commit suicide at the time.

Source: “Loco-motive Lawsuit,”

Testimony: The Need for Tort Reform“In December, Tillinghast-Towers Perrin released its latest analysis on tort costs in the U.S.  The tally jumped from $205 billion in 2001 to $233 billion in 2002 — an increase of 14 percent.  Costs have increased by 30 percent over the last two years, which was the biggest two-year jump since 1986-87.

In 2002, tort costs equaled 2.2 percent of GDP.

Clearly, tort reform is needed to reduce these costs that weigh so heavily on businesses and consumers.”

-Raymond J. Keating, “Class Action Fairness,” Small Business Survival Committee, February 11, 2004

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.