All personal injury plaintiffs are grifters that are out to cheat the legal system and get a big paycheck from corporations…that is what tort reform advocates want you to believe. Insurance companies and large and small businesses spend millions on lobbyists who push for tort reform at the state and federal level.
These advocates cite the McDonalds hot coffee case and the few other noteworthy cases that made headlines. What they often do not mention is that those high rewards rarely stand and are often reduced by the trial judge, on appeal or upon settlement, as in the McDonalds hot coffee case. The $2.7 million punitive damages reward was reduced to $480,000 on appeal in that case. In addition, punitive damages are rare in personal injury verdicts.
Proponents of tort reform also want you to believe that the number of tort cases is skyrocketing in the United States. However, the most recent numbers from the Office of the U.S. Courts show that tort cases fell by 28 percent between 2002 and 2004.
Is putting a cap on punitive damage awards in personal injury cases the best way to reform the legal system? Hardly. Punitive damage rewards serve as a deterrent to prevent similar conduct in the future. Would an arbitrary punitive damage cap of $250,000 in a case like the Ford Pinto or Exxon Valdez oil spill deter a multi-billion dollar corporation from committing violations in the future? Hardly.
Colson Hicks Eidson – Florida injury lawyers