Chamber of Commerce Wants to Bar Consumers from Suing

Every few years, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the most reactionary and regressive organizations in the United States, revives this bullshit discussion about TORT LAW REFORM for the express purpose of supporting legislation that would restrict the rights of American citizens to seek redress of their grievances against commercial enterprises that may have done them harm. They are also behind attempts to end the income tax and replace it with a value-added national sales tax, which is the single most regressive tax scheme ever proposed.

This time around, they have published a seemingly authoritative November 2022 study by David McKnight and Paul Hinton, and the Brattle Group (whatever that is) which misleadingly claims that tort law cases are costing Americans $450 billion a year as if those funds are coming out of the general treasury, which they are not. 

The mechanism that is usually proposed to mitigate the tort caseload is the imposition of an intermediate step before trial in which potential plaintiffs would have to provide evidence of the seriousness and validity of their claims without the benefit of judicial oversight. 

In the real world, these cases must be tried before a court of competent jurisdiction in full view of the public, or else we will soon descend to the level of justice by the kangaroo court. The preliminary assessment function is performed by the attorneys and law firms that specialize in tort cases on behalf of the plaintiffs. If they don’t think the case has merit, they won’t take it…and they often don’t…because their compensation depends upon a satisfactory verdict for the plaintiffs.

The costs of tortuous suits aren’t costing the “average” household ANYTHING. Dividing the total amount of the settlements and court costs in a given state by the number of families in a given state results in a false equivalence, as does the division of the total costs resulting from tort cases nationwide by the number of households in all 50 states. The $450 billion national annual cost isn’t coming out of our tax revenues. It is being paid by the litigants to each other, who must also defray the courts’ costs, augmented or defrayed by insurance carriers. The losers are also responsible for paying the winners’ court costs.

The suggestion that this money is “coming out of the economy” is also false because what is going on is a transfer of assets from the defendants to the plaintiffs (when the plaintiffs succeed, that is.) In most cases, the funds are being transferred from wealthy and powerful organizations and individuals to poor and powerless individuals and organizations.

The cases in which the decisions most affect the general public by raising costs are generally medical malpractice and product liability. Without the tort system, however, bad doctors will continue to practice bad medicine and bad products will continue to injure and kill innocent consumers.