Posts Tagged ‘nonmonetary costs of litigation’

Youth, litigation, and getting on with life

Lessons from Bernie Marcus of Home Depot, who at age 49 was fired from a job in violation of what he considered his rights under a contract:

[Price Club founder Sol] Price told Bernie: “Why are you spending your young life suing somebody? Why don’t you just forget about it and go on and live your life? Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a room like this [in your home filled with legal papers].”

The next morning when Bernie woke up, he said he “really woke up. I called the attorneys and said, ‘You’re off the case. End the litigation. I’m going on with my life.’”

Just where did Bernie go? One year later in 1979, he and Arthur Blank launched The Home Depot, which became the fastest growing retailer in U.S. history.

[Harvey Mackay, Orlando Business Journal]

Medical roundup

  • “It Didn’t Feel Like a ‘Win'” [“Birdstrike, M.D.”/White Coat]
  • Federal ban on long shifts by hospital residents may have harmed safety, in part because it drove up number of patient handoffs [USA Today]
  • N.J. bill would narrow chance for suits against first aid, ambulance and rescue squads [NJLRA]
  • Bill in Georgia legislature aims to apply workers’-comp-like principles to med-mal [Florida Times-Union]
  • I mostly agree that med-mal reform is for states to decide, but Ramesh Ponnuru may underrate Washington’s legitimate role in prescribing legal consequences when it pays for care [Bloomberg/syndicated]
  • Shift burdens through price control: NJ assemblyman’s bill would prohibit insurers from considering docs’ claims experience except for cases that result in actual court findings [NJLRA]
  • Someone’s hand stuck in the sharps box again? Sixth time this month [Throckmorton]

Litigation, humility, and character: join me at Big Questions Online

What does the pursuit of litigation do to litigants’ characters? What does it do to the character of organizations and whole societies? Does it undermine the humility that some (though not all) of us deem an important virtue in persons and institutions?

This week I’m leading a discussion on that subject at the John Templeton Foundation’s Big Questions Online. It starts with a brief essay in which I note the older view, held by many religions and philosophical schools but now out of favor in much of academia, that litigiousness is a kind of vice, to which people are perhaps peculiarly susceptible if they take to an extreme what is otherwise the virtuous impulse to pursue justice. I cite familiar sources (Abraham Lincoln, Bleak House) as well as those perhaps less familiar (Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas) that shed light on how pride in one’s own quarrels, even (especially?) those that are rightful, can distort perceptions and harden sympathies.

My observations, however, do no more than scratch the surface of a big subject on which there is much to say. It’s a moderated discussion and your comments are welcome through the week. And please pass on word to others who might be interested.

January 3 roundup

  • “A Patient Dies, and Then the Anguish of Litigation” [Joan Savitsky, NYT, more]
  • “Kern County’s Monstrous D.A.” [Radley Balko]
  • “Former N.Y. Judge Sentenced to 27 Months in Jail for Attempted Bribery” [NYLJ]
  • “ADA Online: Is a Website a ‘Place of Public Accommodation’?” [Eric Robinson, Citizen Media Law, background here and here]
  • “The New Climate Litigation: How about if we sue you for breathing?” [WSJ editorial]
  • Saratoga school district agrees to overregulate, rather than ban, students’ bikes [Free-Range Kids, earlier]
  • “Head of BigLaw pro bono department fails to pay income taxes for 10 years? How’s that happen?” [WSJ Law Blog]
  • Municipal subprime suits: “The Most ‘Evil’ Lenders Are Also, Conveniently, The Richest” [Kevin Funnell; more at Point of Law]

When they sue the wrong person

When the wrong defendant is named in a civil complaint — wrong in the sense of being “different guy with the same name” — you might think it would be relatively routine to order the complainant to compensate the bewildered target. But it’s actually unusual enough to rate news coverage. [Jim Dwyer, “Hello, Collections? The Worm Has Turned,” New York Times]

“A Stimulus You Can Believe In”

I summarize my recent testimony on the Hill in today’s American:

As I discussed in recent testimony on Capitol Hill, if one takes conservative estimates from these economic studies and adds it all up, the total cost to the economy from excessive litigation can be estimated to be between $600 billion and $900 billion a year, the vast majority of which is simply wealth destruction. That is between 4 and 6 percent of GNP, a tort tax of between $8,000 and $12,000 a year for an average family of four.

The entire hearing is on YouTube, or you can watch a highlight reel.

ADA closes Cupertino business

California has a double-digit unemployment rate, and it’s certainly not helped by regulatory red tape. The disabled now have equal access to Kirk’s Steakburgers in Cupertino, a supposedly otherwise-profitable business that closed rather than spend tens of thousands of dollars to come up to Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, not to mention lose three parking spaces in its tiny parking lot. (“Kirk’s Steakburgers closing its West San Jose location”, Cupertino Courier, Mar. 16 (h/t D.R.)).

On C-SPAN tonight: “Protecting Main Street From Lawsuit Abuse”

Today I testified before the Senate Republican Conference about the effect on the economy of excessive litigation. A podcast is available on-line and, for the insomniacs among you, the hearing will be broadcast on C-SPAN tonight at 10:56 PM Eastern and again at 2:09 AM Eastern. Also testifying was Life Without Lawyers author Philip Howard; Crystal Chodes, who lost her job because of the expense of a meritless ADA filing mill suit; Texas doctor David Teuscher; and arbitration expert and University of Kansas law professor Christopher Drahozal.

If you just prefer reading what I have to say, my written testimony is on-line also:

The total loss to the economy from excessive tort litigation above and beyond a baseline of an employment at will regime and an average industrialized tort system can be estimated at between over $600 billion and over $900 billion a year, 4.3% to 6.5% of GNP, or a tort tax of between $8,000 and $12,000/year for an average family of four. And this is very much a conservative estimate, as other economists find much stronger effects than I have estimated here, as I have not tried to estimate a number of identifiable secondary and tertiary effects of excessive tort litigation on allocation of economic resources, and as I have not tried to estimate the likely effect of recent Congressional expansions of tort liability in the last twelve months.

I was pleased to hear from multiple Congressional staffers who are regular Overlawyered readers: one even surreptitiously added the website into my official biography. Carter Wood talks about the hearing and Senator Cornyn’s remarks over at Point of Law.

Update: video on-line at C-SPAN; my segment begins at 43:15 or so. And C-SPAN2 is rebroadcasting at 4:16 pm Eastern on Tuesday, March 17, which suggests that my appearance will be at about 5 pm Eastern.