Thursday, July 28, 2011

Didja Hear the One About the Old Lady Who Spilled Coffee On Herself and Became a Multimillionaire? (by res ipsa)

Of course you did. And because you are forward-thinking, fabulous, feminists you knew -- or at least suspected -- that there might be a bit more to the story than that.

I once wrote a paper about the gulf between public perception and reality of tort suits: about the the number of suits filed versus the number that came to trial versus the number in which a verdict was reached; about the distance between initial jury awards and final judgments; about the truly egregious behavior that prompted some of the enormous verdicts that are legend. I wasn't surprised that people who ran around flapping their gums about "frivolous lawsuits," "runaway verdicts", and "greedy lawyers" knew nearly nothing about the mechanics of lawsuits, had only a single-sentence grasp of the facts in any particular case, and had not thought through the implications of what "tort reform" -- as advocated by its most shrill and well-funded proponents -- would mean to them. None of that mattered. What did matter was their rage -- a nasty, uniquely American obsession -- that somewhere someone with whom they had no connection might be getting something they did not deserve. I hope they're never forced to bring a tort suit, because if they do, they're in for a rude awakening.

If you have HBO, I urge you to check out Hot Coffee. When I wrote my paper, I filled in the gap between my own perception and the realities of "The McDonald's Coffee Case", and to do this day, I don't think justice was served.