Thursday, August 18, 2005
The L.A. Times recently ran some interesting pieces on need for tort reform. Although not specifically focused on medical malpractice, it does provide an overview of some of the efforts by business to "reform" our tort system and points out that these reforms are based on a number of urban legands. The article states,
Merv Grazinski set his Winnebago on cruise control, slid away from the wheel and went back to fix a cup of coffee.
You can guess what happened next: The rudderless, driverless Winnebago crashed.
Grazinski blamed the manufacturer for not warning against such a maneuver in the owner's manual. He sued and won $1.75 million.
His jackpot would seem to erase any doubt that the legal system has lost its mind. Indeed, the Grazinski case has been cited often as evidence of the need to limit lawsuits and jury awards.
There's just one problem: The story is a complete fabrication.
It is one of the more comical tales in an anthology of legal urban legends that have circulated widely on the Internet, regaling millions with examples of cluelessness and greed being richly rewarded by the courts. These fables have also been widely disseminated by columnists and pundits who, in their haste to expose the gullibility of juries, did not verify the stories and were taken in themselves.
Although the origins of the tales are unknown, some observers, including George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, say their wide acceptance has helped to rally public opinion behind business-led campaigns to overhaul the civil justice system by restricting some types of lawsuits and capping damage awards. . . .
The LA Times has further articles on this topic available here and here (with registration). The ever-helpful Ezra Klein posts a link to the story with commentary as well as to an earlier piece that he wrote concerning de-bunking the medical malpractice aspects of tort reform. [bm]