Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Non-Frivolous Lawsuit

One thing I want to start doing is highlighting lawsuits that matter. I want to do so to counter a popular and dangerous cultural narrative that exists in our society.

I've heard a lot about "frivolous" lawsuits recently, both on talk radio and through chain emails. I'm sure it has to do with the Taco-Bell-Not-Serving-Beef litigation (a suit I do not consider frivolous), which came about the same time some woman who walked into a water fountain while texting attempted to sue the mall she was in for her accident (which I do consider silly).

But the "frivolous lawsuit" comes from a longstanding cultural narrative that America is a too-quick-to-sue culture. The narrative continues that these lawsuits are the fault of trial lawyers (who, we are constantly reminded, robustly support Democratic Pary with donations) and drive up costs for all services and goods, especially in the field of medicine. Every time you see a warning label on a product, we are told to remember that such a warning exists because someone filed a ridiculous lawsuit sometime somewhere someway. The focus driving this narrative is always the initial filing, or initial finding - I do not believe a cultural understaning exists to check on whether any of those cases get dismissed or have an outrageous award reduced on appeal.

Thing is, you rarely hear about the necessary lawsuits. You rarely hear about those lawsuits constantly required to keep big business or government overreach in check. You rarely hear about those lawsuits that fall under the guise of a "redress of grievances" that take years to come to a conclusion, that take hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars from filing to final verdict. You would be hard pressed to find widespread circulation of how damaging a "loser pays" system would be for those individuals who attempt to right some wrong.

Part of that is because following legal minutiae is boring, part of it is because of the cultural narrative that leads us to believe most lawsuits are frivolous.

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