But federal agencies and industry groups say lawsuits are out of control. More punitive damage verdicts of more than $100 million have been issued in the past 10 years than in the rest of U.S. history, said Ted Frank, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
He added that liability-happy lawyers have put companies and designers in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. For example, he says, adding more weight to a car’s roof can protect riders in a rollover, but it also makes the car more likely to tip in the first place.
An earlier version of the story on-line goes on to quote me about the hindsight bias juries exhibit when judging design decisions.
I wasn’t, but would have liked to have been, quoted disputing the claim made in the story that preemption is unique to the current Bush administration. Not so: the Bush I and Clinton administrations also recognized the importance of preemption. We’re just seeing the issue much more these days because trial lawyers have engaged in a campaign of unprecedented scope to hold manufacturers liable for meeting federal standards.
NB how I am incorrectly identified as an “industry group”, and that I am identified as belonging to a “conservative” think-tank, though no one else gets a political descriptor. Indeed, Public Citizen is identified as a neutral “consumer advocate” rather than as a leftist group funded by trial lawyers–even though it opposes and I am the one who supports a policy that promotes consumer safety and lower prices.
Update, July 1: I got the paper to print a correction: “An article in the main news section Sunday incorrectly suggested that the American Enterprise Institute is an industry group. AEI is a Washington-based think tank.”