What is a Junk Lawsuit?
What Constitutes a Junk Lawsuit?
Hello, I’m attorney John Bales. And today I’d like to give you some Legal Insight on… so-called “frivolous lawsuits.” As a law firm that specializes in personal injury cases in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and the rest of Central and South Florida, our law firm hears a lot about this problem. You may have heard them being referred to as “junk lawsuits.” Attorneys define frivolous lawsuits as those that don’t have a leg to stand on. They are suits that have no legal basis or are so petty that they are not justified. “Junk lawsuits” is a phrase that is often used by tort reformers, people who want to change the civil justice system to limit one’s ability to file claims and put a cap on the awards of damages. Many tort reformers, especially insurance companies, would have you believe that juries regularly award ridiculous monetary damages to victims of civil cases. That is just not true! And these types of lawsuits have been in the news often lately as lawmakers discuss tort reform and the rising costs of medical care.
Attorneys who represent the best interests of their clients take the filing of a lawsuit extremely seriously, and don’t file “junk lawsuits.” Doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and the American Medical Association want you to believe that medical malpractice claims are out of control and a leading cause of rising health care costs. Even some news media have been reporting that. However, recent studies say that’s a big lie!
Experts at both the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Harvard’s School of Public Health found that medical liability is not a big driver of healthcare costs. It has been estimated that the cost of malpractice litigation amounted to only one to three percent of all U.S. healthcare spending! In fact, study after study has shown that tort reform would barely make a dent in the nation’s two-and-a-half trillion dollar a year health care bill.
The McDonald’s Hot Coffee Lawsuit
Tort reformers still use one famous lawsuit to have you believe that excessive verdicts happen all the time. It’s the McDonald’s coffee case from 1992. You might remember it: A 79-year old woman in New Mexico suffered third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body after scalding coffee spilled on her. Some skin from her groin was burned off. A jury awarded her 2.8 eight million dollars. The trial judge reduced the amount, reportedly to about 480 thousand dollars, before attorney’s fees. The exact award was part of a private settlement and never disclosed.
But what tort reformers don’t bring up is that the woman first tried to get McDonald’s to just pay for her medical expenses and lost wages, about 11 thousand dollars. McDonald’s refused, offering only eight hundred dollars. Critics also don’t talk about the hundreds of previous complaints that McDonald’s had received about scalding coffee or that the company earned 1.3 million dollars per day in coffee revenues. Or that a day after the verdict, McDonald’s significantly lowered the temperature of its coffee.
Our legal system has mechanisms in place that are meant to dismiss frivolous lawsuits. Lawyers working for contingency fees don’t get paid unless they win. It would be foolish for someone in that position to file a frivolous lawsuit. Also, a judge can sanction a lawyer for filing a frivolous lawsuit. The fact is that civil lawsuits shine a spotlight on wrongdoing, make offenders accountable, and provide justice for those who have been injured.
My firm, John Bales Attorneys, specializes in personal injury lawsuits. I’m proud of the work we do and how many people we help every day. People who are injured through no fault of their own. It could be from an auto accident or a fall caused by another party. Is it fair that a doctor or hospital have their liability capped for causing grave damage or even death to an innocent person? I can’t tell you how grateful our clients are when our work leads to justice, and they are compensated for their losses.
The problem is not bad lawsuits…it is bad doctors! If you have any legal topic that you want me to discuss here, call me at 1-800-CALL-JOHN, or go to our website, JohnBales dot-com, and click on Legal Insight.