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Michael Phelan
Michael Phelan
Attorney • (866) 249-3164

Frivolous Tales About Lawsuits

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The Seventh amendment to the Constitution of the United States says, “In suits at common law…the right to trial by jury shall be preserved.” This right has been under attack by so-called tort reformers who want to preserve the right to trial for corporations while restricting it for citizens. One tactic of the tort reform movement has been to devise talking points to scare the public about “frivolous lawsuits.” Often, these lawsuits are nothing more than urban myth, created by the propagandists who are trying to scare the public into giving up their Seventh amendment rights.

Examples of such urban myths created to advance the cause of tort reform were reported recently in the Houston Chronicle and include the following false stories: (1) a woman who tripped over her own toddler in a furniture store receiving an $80,000 verdict against the store, and (2) a Winnebago owner named Merv Grazinski set his cruise control on 70 mph, walked to the back of the Winnebago to make a sandwich, crashed, and sued Winnebago for not warning him in the owners’ manual not to leave the driver’s seat while the cruise control was set. The jury allegedly awarded Grazinski $1.75 million. Neither story ever happened, but a gullible public eats these stories up. Indeed, the New York Daily News, CNN, and U.S. News & World Report simply accepted as true the Winnebago story and reported it as fact. Whatever happened to journalistic integrity? To its credit, the Austin American-Statesman debunked the story of the mom who sued the furniture store after allegedly tripping over her toddler. A Los Angeles Times reporter finally called Winnebago and learned that there was no Grazinsky lawsuit.

The fact is that true frivolous lawsuits, such as the recent administrative judge who sued his dry cleaner, are usually dismissed by judges or rejected by juries. The system works and should be preserved. Imagine the outcry if the Second amendment was under the same propaganda attack. The two amendments are equally important to our freedom.