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Posted: 5/21/2003 5:03:04 PM EDT
[b]The Virtues of an Aggressive Plaintiff’s Bar, or Shakespeare Misquoted by John Ross[/b] Q: What do you call fifty lawyers trapped in a bus at the bottom of a lake? A: A good start. Q: Why are lab researchers starting to use lawyers instead of rats for research? A: Three reasons: They’re more plentiful, the researchers are less likely to become emotionally attached to them, and there are some things that rats just won’t do. "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," said Dick the Butcher in William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, delivering one of the Bard’s most-quoted lines. Lawyers and lawsuits are the bane of our society, and it was obvious even in Shakespeare’s time. That’s the conventional wisdom, and it’s simple, plausible, and dead wrong. Let’s look at a favorite example, the million-dollar legal judgment against McDonalds for the lady who spilled hot coffee in her lap. Lawyers defending this judgment will list some facts of the case that you may not have heard in a ten-second news sound bite: 1. The scalding was so severe that the elderly woman was hospitalized with second-degree burns. 2. There were dozens of these coffee scalding incidents serious enough to require hospitalization. 3. McDonalds had run tests which determined that serving scalding hot coffee made quality differences more difficult to detect (cheap coffee was indistinguishable from the good stuff.) These points are valid, but lawyers never mention the most relevant fact about the entire case: For a measly million bucks, global giant McDonalds got advertising they couldn’t have bought at any price. The message, delivered by a judge, no less, was When McDonalds says their coffee is piping hot, by God they mean it! Buy coffee from them and it damn well won’t be lukewarm when they hand it to you. If you’re clumsy, eat elsewhere. Remember that this wasn’t someone getting a million dollars by suing his next-door-neighbor for serving him free scalding coffee. McDonalds makes literally billions of dollars selling this product. The million dollars was a tiny cost of doing business, and look at the advertising message they got for it! The same is true of the big judgment (later reduced by a judge) against Domino’s Pizza when one of their drivers, rushing to deliver a customer’s order within the promised 30 minute delivery guarantee, hit a pedestrian and broke his leg. Another message that couldn’t be ignored: Dominos’ drivers will do whatever it takes to get there quickly. (The judgment ordered Domino’s to modify its guarantee and stop docking the drivers’ pay if they exceeded 30 minutes.) Again, this wasn’t some guy hitting a pedestrian while driving home with his own pizza, it was a national chain exercising the speedy-delivery policy on which it had made its reputation and built huge sales (with commensurate profits.) Does Domino’s still deliver pizza? Yes. Has the price jumped because of losing the suit? No. Has delivery slowed? Not by my stopwatch. Another thing that the lawyer-bashers never mention is that cases like the two described above are highly unusual and represent a tiny fraction of the lawsuits which flow through the courts every day. They are quite simply "Man Bites Dog" stories. They capture our imagination precisely because they’re so unusual. The vast majority of lawsuit dollars involve suits where one corporation is suing another. The champions of "tort reform" never mention this. Imagine a company making cheap pajamas out of flammable, synthetic materials. The "reformers" would put a cap (i.e. $100,000) on the amount of money the company would have to pay if a child burned to death wearing their product, but would not limit the amount of money the company could seek in a trademark-infringement suit. And that brings me to the most important point about lawyers, one that I have never seen voiced: Because we have so many lawyers, and because they’re all motivated by self-interest to get clients and make money, and because they read the relevant laws so carefully in the pursuit of this goal, WE DON’T NEED NEARLY SO MANY LAWS AND GOVERNMENT AGENCIES designed to protect us. Take any industry into which the government sticks its nose, and you could largely eliminate that regulatory agency overnight with a corresponding cost savings and increase in service. Let civil suits keep things honest. Let’s get some real use out of all these lawyers we have! Why do we have an FDA? To protect you from some guy brewing up cholesterol-lowering medicine with a home chemistry set and selling it to you out of his garage? No, because you’d never buy his stuff, you want drugs made by Pfizer or Eli Lilly. Do Pfizer’s drugs need to be FDA-approved? Of course not. If they have fatal side effects, Pfizer will be driven out of business by the massive judgments against it in the inevitable lawsuits, and Pfizer knows it. Do we need the FAA to make sure American Airlines adequately maintains its fleet of planes? Of course not, because when they crash, American gets sued, and American knows it. Remember Valujet? The FAA didn’t close them down, the free market (consumers suing for damages) did. The specter of lawsuits with their attendant judgments keeps companies honest much more effectively than a bunch of government slugs with clipboards. Do our food and beverage producers make clean, high quality food products because of the government? Absent any regulatory agencies, would Anheuser-Busch produce contaminated beer, or beer with a lower alcohol content than the label promised? Of course not; it would be bad for business. Lawyers would be scouring the pages of Beer Gut magazine, reading the results of independent tests, rubbing their hands together, looking for lawsuit targets. In fact, the only areas where lawyers cannot keep businesses honest are those industries to which the government has bestowed tax-free monopoly status by making them illegal, and thus immune from legal remedies, such as illicit drugs. Bought something from some guy on the street corner, and it put you in the emergency room? Sorry, but a personal injury lawyer can’t touch him. The cops might arrest him and he might go to jail, but that won’t help you with your hospital bills. It goes further. The very existence of the EPA makes a tremendously arrogant statement: It says, "You people that live in [fill in your state here] are so stupid, you will allow others to foul your nest without complaint. You need strangers who have never stepped foot in your state to dictate what is or isn’t an acceptable level of contamination for you." Close the EPA down and let potential lawsuits brought by local people keep any would-be polluters honest. And that brings me back to the line from Henry VI. Many English words had different meanings when Shakespeare was writing plays than they do today, and the word "lawyer" is one of them. In Shakespeare’s time, lawyer meant lawmaker. (Barrister was the word used then to denote an attorney.) That’s right. What Shakespeare’s character Dick the Butcher really said was "The first thing we do, let's kill all the legislators." That’s a bit different suggestion, isn’t it? John Ross 4/7/03 Copyright 2003 by John Ross. Electronic reproduction of this article freely permitted provided it is reproduced in its entirety with attribution given.
Link Posted: 5/21/2003 6:20:09 PM EDT
[BS] Did McDonalds raise prices? Did Dominoes? Yes. They did. They do. Lawyers fees, increased insurance costs, and settlement dollars do not come from woodland @#$%!'ing fairies! John Stossel had a good piece on what the unproductive aristocracy of lawyers costs peasants like me (and maybe you). One example was an industrial (Type IA) 20' extension ladder. About $100 of the $240 cost was for insurance and associated costs. The ladder's construction hasn't changed since WW2, just all the warnings on the side (do not eat, do not insert in rectum, etc). BS lawsuits do not improve quality/safety. Look at Dow/Corning and the breast implants. No facts were presented. Dow lost. Out of business. A few lawyers get billions. Tobacco? Are you for real? Smokers are paying to make a handful of socialist lawyers billionaires.[pissed] I liked parts (first half) of Unintended Consequences, but John is way off on this. My neighbor was the secretary of a lawyer in Elgin (east of Austin) who does nothing but threaten to sue large companies. In the 90's (when she worked for him) he never took a case to court. He is filthy rich. He has your money, and has done nothing to earn it. Weeee!! I am not arguing that most lawsuits are against corps by corps. This is also BS that kills small business and raises costs with no benefit to the consumer while making the aristocracy rich. Again, to Ross' article: [BS2]
Link Posted: 5/21/2003 7:26:30 PM EDT
Got a link to that article perchance???
Link Posted: 5/21/2003 7:28:42 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/21/2003 7:30:11 PM EDT by Gunbert]
Originally Posted By liberty86: Got a link to that article perchance???
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This is his site: [url]http://www.john-ross.net/index.htm[/url] Here's the article: [url]http://www.john-ross.net/aggressive.htm[/url]
Link Posted: 5/21/2003 7:39:38 PM EDT
Mississippi must be ahead of the curve on this one. There are just so many sue-happy people around here, it is pathetic.
Link Posted: 5/21/2003 7:47:08 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/21/2003 7:48:11 PM EDT by raven]
Originally Posted By Magic: Mississippi must be ahead of the curve on this one. There are just so many sue-happy people around here, it is pathetic.
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Didn't 60 Minutes do a piece on a county in MS that is infamous for its ultra-ligitaive residents? They sued WorldCom, tobacco companies....anyone who they perceive did them wrong and has deep pockets. Anyway, they sued 60 Minutes after that for defamation of character, emotional damage, or something silly like that. You can't make this shit up.
Originally quoted by Gunbert: And that brings me back to the line from Henry VI. Many English words had different meanings when Shakespeare was writing plays than they do today, and the word "lawyer" is one of them. In Shakespeare’s time, lawyer meant lawmaker. (Barrister was the word used then to denote an attorney.) That’s right. What Shakespeare’s character Dick the Butcher really said was "The first thing we do, let's kill all the legislators." That’s a bit different suggestion, isn’t it
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I'll say! It's an even better idea!
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