From Opinion piece in the SF Examiner
You may ask: "Why would someone do this?"
The answer: Because they can, no downside risk for the Plaintiff
Examiner Editorial: Abusive lawsuits: Suing America into ruin
Examiner Staff Writer 3/19/09 To save jobs, stop abusive lawsuits. That was the gist of the timely message Monday at a hearing on legal reform sponsored by the Senate Republican Conference.
The hearing’s biggest emotional punch was delivered by Crystal Chodes of Rancho Cordova, who in May of 2006 worked for Basketball Town, a special-events sports facility serving as many as 100,000 families. When one family scheduled a birthday party for the facility’s upper floor, the wheelchair-bound uncle of an invited friend could not attend. Basketball Town offered to move the party downstairs, and the facility was fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The uncle still sued, and, Chodes said, “The cost of defending the lawsuit ultimately became more than we could bear. After about a year of fighting the lawsuit, we were forced to settle and to close our doors forever.”
Some 100,000 families lost a valued facility, 12 employees were forced out of jobs and a small, family-owned pizzeria inside the facility also shut its doors at the loss of the family’s life savings because of an abusive lawsuit that in a reasonable world would flunk the common-sense test.
One of Chodes’ co-panelists was Philip Howard, author of “The Death of Common Sense.” Howard has a new book out called “Life Without Lawyers.” His biggest recommendation: Give judges the authority to define the limits of reasonableness in cases like that of Basketball Town. He said the alternative of more litigation in a bad economy is the equivalent of a dog biting its own wounds.
Panelist Ted Frank of the American Enterprise Institute said, “The arbitrary and random nature of the American [lawsuit] system amounts, by cautious estimates, to over $400 billion a year in dead-weight loss to wages.” By contrast, orthopedic surgeon David Teuscher, a Desert Storm veteran, told how doctors are literally flooding into the state as a result of a series of lawsuit reforms Texas adopted in 1995. Putting reasonable limits on lawsuits, he said, is working for jobs, its working for small business and its working for health care. Teuscher’s U.S. senator, former Texas Supreme Court Justice John Cornyn, summed it up nicely: America cannot sue itself back into prosperity. We can, however, sue America into ruin.