Center for America

Speaker's Resource: 2. Lawsuit Abuse, p 2



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Key Reference Citations (KRC)


Increased Litigation

  • “Personal injury lawyers, who encourage people to sue anyone over anything, have helped erode the concept of personal responsibility in America. Now, anytime something goes wrong, the reaction is to find someone to blame and file a lawsuit in hopes of hitting the ‘lawsuit lottery’."  (California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse website (, “Take Responsibility – Stop Lawsuit Abuse”)

  • “Man, we’re going to sue everybody.  You have anybody in mind?”  (California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse website ( quoting Dickie Scruggs, personal injury lawyer, “Are Lawyers Running America?” TIME, July 17, 2000)

  • In the 1990s, class action filings skyrocketed by more than 1,000% in state courts and 300% in federal courts.  (Institute for Legal Reform website, “Facts & Figures” citing Federalist Society 1999) 

  • “Every 2 seconds in America, a new civil liability lawsuit is filed. The total annual cost to our economy for liability lawsuits is a whopping $246 billion—that’s twice the amount Americans spend annually on new cars and trucks. And according to the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, up to two-thirds of that price tag is made up of unwarranted or frivolous costs”.  (CFA, Dieter Zetsche and Steven B. Hantler, “Emerging Threat: Jackpot Justice in the U.S.”, “The Scoop at Chrysler Group” intranet site, May 2005)

Escalating Jury Awards

  • The American tort system is intended to compensate the plaintiff for harm suffered as a consequence of the defendant’s negligent or intentional act; it is not intended to unjustly enrich the plaintiff.  Our legal system should work to make injured parties whole, not rich, and yet this is often precisely what happens. Settlements and awards have escalated so significantly in the last two decades that today they are often astronomical and at times obscene.  More so when you consider that often times there is simply no relationship between the amount of the award or settlement and the harm suffered by the plaintiff. (Comments by the editor.)

  • Million-dollar plus awards have increased dramatically in recent years: “In 1994-1996, 34 percent of all verdicts that specified damages assessed awards of $1 million or more. This increased by 50 percent in four years; in 1999-2000, 52 percent of all awards were in excess of $1 million.”  (KRC:  HHS Report, “Confronting…” p. 9)  

  • “From 1993 to 1999, the median jury award in the U.S. went from $500,000 to $1.8 million.  Those figures do not include punitive damages.” (Institute for Legal Reform website, “Facts & Figures”)

  • The median jury award increased 43 percent from 1999 to 2000. By 2001, more than half of all jury awards exceeded $1 million and the average jury award increased to $3.5 million.  (KRC: Manhattan Institute, Trial Lawyers, Inc., p. 12 citing Shannon and Boxold, Jury Verdict Research  2002; Press Release, Jury Verdict Research; Tanya Albert, Malpractice Awards Hit Jury Jackpot)

  • “As late as the 1980s, jury verdicts higher than, say $50 million still counted as sensational and unusual, but by the end of the century only a billion-dollar verdict could be counted on to merit front page treatment; an award in the mere hundreds of millions from L.A., Miami, or one the Jackpot Belt states might barely qualify for the fine print in the back of the business section.”  (KRC: Olson, The Rule of Lawyers, p . 238)

  • “Fear of runaway-size verdicts is one reason even a long-shot suit is apt to be bought off with a settlement if a judge has consented to certify it as a class action.  (Scruggs, for one, has boasted that his favored strategy to force a settlement is to ‘[r]aise the stakes so high that neither side can afford to lose’.)"  (KRC: Olson, The Rule of Lawyers, p. 87)

  • Regardless, Baltimore is plagued by more than just out-of-control asbestos litigation, as several lead paint cases resulted in questionable multimillion-dollar verdicts and the state’s non-economic damages cap came under assault by plaintiffs’ lawyers this year.  For example, in one Baltimore case alleging exposure to lead paint, the jury came back with a plaintiff’s verdict that called for an award of $6 million (later reduced to $605,000 due to Maryland’s inflation-adjusted limit on non-economic damages). It then became known that one of the jurors was also a client of the law firm representing the plaintiff but had failed to disclose that inconvenient truth before trial.  Amazingly, the judge refused to set aside the verdict, finding the failure to disclose inadvertent.  (Christina Doran, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Refuses to Overturn Lead Paint Verdict, Daily Rec. (Baltimore, Md.), Mar. 31, 2008, at 2008 WL 6164455)

The Prospect of Striking It Rich

Also Motivates Plaintiffs

  • “Millions of dollars in compensation that should be going to critically ill and dying victims of asbestos exposure is being paid to people who are not sick. In a recent study by Academic Radiology, a board of independent doctors reviewed chest X-rays that had been entered as evidence by trial lawyers in asbestos lawsuits. In the original trials, doctors paid by trial lawyers to serve as "expert" witnesses concluded that 96 percent of the X-rays showed asbestos-related abnormalities. Doctors conducting the study found that fewer than 5 percent of the X-rays showed such damage.” ( , citing "The Great Asbestos Deception," San Diego Union-Tribune, August 13, 2004)

  • “The legitimacy of evidence used in Fen-Phen class action lawsuits across the nation has been called into question in light of the arrests of former class action plaintiffs in Jefferson County, Mississippi. The former plaintiffs allegedly faked prescriptions of the diet drug in order to collect $250,000 from the $400 million settlement.” ( citing "Fen-Phen Arrest Revive Rap on County," Jackson Clarion Ledger, August 7, 2004)


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