From the Wall Street Journal, some good news on tort reform.
This week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a law that will help free Lone Star State businesses from the threat of frivolous lawsuits by enacting “loser-pays” tort reform. Prior to the legislation, litigants faced a no-lose situation, while defendants stood to lose everything—even for the most outrageous, bizarre and wrongful accusations.
Even when defendants won, the legal fees associated with protecting themselves could add up to tens of thousands of dollars. As a result, many pre-emptively settled out of court, as the settlement payment would be less than the legal fees. Under Texas’s new legislation, however, litigants will be forced to pay for the defendant’s attorney fees if the case is determined groundless. This will compel would-be litigants to consider the practicality of their complaint before taking legal action, and it will protect defendants from the dire financial impact of frivolous cases.
The Texas legislation should serve as a national model, especially as we recover from the Great Recession. America has the most expensive civil-justice system in the world, costing $255 billion in 2008, or nearly 2% of gross domestic product, according to a 2009 study by the firm Towers Perrin (now Towers Watson). That’s more than twice as much as any other industrialized nation as a percent of the GDP.
Small businesses—the engines of our economy and the creators of 64% of American jobs—are usually the target of frivolous lawsuits. In fact, small businesses paid 81% of business tort liability costs in 2008. On average, a small business earning $1 million must spend $20,000 annually on lawsuits—money they could have otherwise spent on product development or new job creation.
Softening the threat of frivolous lawsuits sparks economic activity. In 2003, for example, Texas put limits on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. Since then, the number of doctors applying to practice in the Lone Star State has jumped by 60%. The same can be expected of businesses that no longer have to fear the financial impacts of civil-lawsuit abuse.
One of the reasons why we are in an economic mess is because we have not reined in the excesses of the trial lawyers. And the Democrats will never be able to rein them in because they are the core of the Democrat party, along with labor unions, teacher unions, word-smithing academics, criminals, welfare recipients and Hollywood celebrities. The sheltered, non-productive segments of society, who have never had to run a business or make payroll.
Let me add this tort reform law (loser pays) to the other list of policies we need at the national level:
- National right-to-work law
- National photo ID required for voting
- National voucher system for education
- National voucher for health care
- Nation cap on damages for lawsuits
- allow Opt-out of Social Security
- allow Opt-out of Medicare
- allow Opt-out of Medicaid
- allow Opt-out of unemployment insurance
- Flat income tax at 10% below 50,000 and 25% over 50,000, with no deductions except for charity and retirement contributions
- Zero capital gains tax, phased in over four years
- Tax-free savings accounts with no restrictions on withdrawals, limit $5,000 per year
I hope the Republicans will campaign on these ideas.