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Michael Phelan
Michael Phelan
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Tort Reformers Embrace the Tort System When They Are Injured

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When he was 79 years of age, former U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Robert H. Bork, accepted a  speaking engagement at the New York City chapter of the Yale Club.  As he walked onto the dais, Judge Bork fell backward and injured himself.  One might think that Judge Bork took his lumps and refused to sue.  After all, he was a long-time advocate of tort reform.  Tort reformers propose such things as limiting injured persons’ access to the courts, capping recoveries for pain and suffering, and capping contingency fees (thus limiting victims’ access to lawyers).  So, what did Judge Bork do?  He sued the Yale Club for $1,000,000.00, claiming that he suffered “excruciating pain,” required surgery and physical therapy, and was left with a limp and a cane.  The good Judge said the Yale Club should have had handrails leading up to the dais.  The Club countered that the danger was open and obvious, and that Bork was at fault.  At age 81, Judge Bork settled the lawsuit for a confidential sum.  He can now go back to ranting against the tort system.

Many people who exercise their Seventh Amendment right to file a civil lawsuit seeking compensation for their injuries are injured as badly or worse than Judge Bork.  When these folks seek justice, they are attacked by various tort reform groups and politicians.  This brings to mind former Pennyslvania Senator, Rick Santorum, another rabid tort reformer.  Senator Santorum’s wife filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, and her star damages witness was none other than Senator hypocrite. 

Tort reformers never cease to amaze me.  For the most part, they claim to be champions of small government and free markets, and yet, they advocate activist policies like having the federal government interfere with the rights of citizens to enter into private contracts with lawyers.  Of course, these “reforms” only apply when citizens are suing one another (which usually triggers insurance coverage) or a corporation.  One never hears the same cry for reform in the context of corporations suing corporations.  Another time these “reforms” apparently don’t need to apply is when one of the “reformers” gets injured.