Saturday, December 8, 2007

Blocking the Courthouse Door

Here's a newish (Dec. '06) book critiquing the "tort reform" movement: Stephanie Mencimer, Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue (KF8700 .M46 2006 at Classified Stacks).

Publisher's description:

Thanks to constant political oratory against "frivolous lawsuits" and "jackpot justice," it is widely known that there's a legal crisis in this country. * * *

As a result, the lawsuit issue has moved to the political front burner, and in the past three years, state after state has responded by limiting citizens' rights to sue. * * *

But is there really a crisis? National data show that the number of civil suits is falling, not rising, and that the average damage award is also going down. Despite intense media hype to the contrary, the number of personal injury lawsuits filed every year has been tumbling for the past decade. Upon closer examination, the stories of ridiculous lawsuits usually turn out to be false or badly misleading. The crisis, in short, appears to be a phantom.

So how do we explain the scary headlines? Who's behind the "tort reform movement," and what are the real goals? Blocking the Courthouse Door will show that the movement against so-called greedy trial lawyers and irresponsible plaintiffs is the result of a concerted and successful campaign by large corporations to get this issue on the table and thus limit their own vulnerability in the civil justice system. They have spent decades, and many millions of dollars, on focus groups and Madison Avenue public relations research. They have funded institutes, sponsored academic research, bankrolled politicians, set up phony "astroturf " grassroots organizations (with chamber of commerce return addresses), and fed copy to all-too-gullible journalists.
The publisher's website includes an excerpt from the book.

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