07/02/08 — Lawsuit happy: Like many issues, sue-happy culture is out of control

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Lawsuit happy: Like many issues, sue-happy culture is out of control

The trial lawyer block has long been a not-so-secret influence on the decisions made in the political arena. A powerful lobby, its members often support the Democratic cause and couch their positions in the name of fighting for the little guy.

And in some cases — they do.

Not all trial lawyers are blood suckers who will do anything for a buck — just as not all prosecuting attorneys are shining examples of law and order.

But the attitude toward lawsuits these days — as well as prove-it-to-earn-it benefits such as a disability and worker’s compensation — is that there is so much abuse and fraud that those who really need the help have to jump through dozens of hoops to get it, delaying their reasonable claims for benefits much longer than is right.

Anyone who thinks the number of frivolous lawsuits and less-than-honorable requests for public assistance because of an injury or permanent health condition is not increasing is not reading the news.

From prisoners who sue because they do not like the food to a man who thinks he has a right to slap a $50 million lawsuit onto a dry cleaner because the business lost his pants, there are just too many people who think of the justice system as another version of their state lottery.

The same could also be said for those who try to capitalize on a traffic accident or other mishap to get enough money to retire. It is no wonder so many doctors and others are thinking twice about continuing in their respective businesses. Insuring yourself against those who see a lawsuit as a meal ticket is tough and expensive.

The truth is — and the trial lawyers should be some of the first to speak up about it — is that there should be a penalty if you waste a court’s time with drivel — and if you seek unreasonable compensation for an accident or injury.

Those sorts of lawsuits — as well as the fraud that continues to plague the disability and worker’s compensation claims processes — are making it more expensive for the rest of us and keeping those who truly have been wronged significantly from getting their day in court.

The trial lawyers say they are speaking for the little guys — those who have to work to fight a system that is designed to penalize them. And, they do fight for those people — and right wrongs that otherwise would be ignored because the victim just did not have a voice.

That is a noble pursuit.

But the time has come to get tougher on those with not so nice a motive — on those whose main concern seems to be how much money they can squeeze out of an injury or silly lawsuit. That is only right.

Published in Editorials on July 2, 2008 10:47 AM