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Civil Justice Forum
No. 42 April 2004

The Seven Myths of Highly Effective Plaintiffs’ Lawyers, continued


  1. Abraham Lincoln, Notes for a Law Lecture (1850), reprinted in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (Roy P. Basler ed., Rutgers Univ. Press 1953).
  2. Robert B. Reich, Regulation is out, Litigation is in, USA Today, Feb. 11, 1999, at A15.
  3. Lisa Girion, Firms Hit Hard As Asbestos Claims Rise, L.A. Times, Dec. 17, 2001, at A1 (quoting plaintiffs’ lawyer Steve Kazan).
  4. Friedrich A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty 208 (Univ. of Chicago Press 1978).
  5. Jonathan Harr, A Civil Action (Vintage Books repr. 1996).
  6. John Grisham, The Rainmaker (Island Books 1996).
  7. The Practice (ABC television series, 1997- ).
  8. Ralph Nader, Statement Announcing His Candidacy for the Green Party’s Nomination for President (Feb. 21, 1996),
  9. W. Kip Viscusi, The Social Costs of Punitive Damages Against Corporations, 87 Geo. L.J. 285, 298 (1998) [hereinafter “Social Costs”].
  10. W. Kip Viscusi, Why There Is No Defense of Punitive Damages, 87 Geo. L.J. 381 (1998) [hereinafter “No Defense of Punitive Damages”].
  11. Viscusi, Social Costs, supra note 9, at 298, 297.
  12. Id.
  13. Id. at 288.
  14. Viscusi, No Defense of Punitive Damages, supra note 10, at 383.
  15. Id.; see also Viscusi, Social Costs, supra note 9, at 310-11, 317.
  16. W. Kip Viscusi, Misuses and Proper Uses of Hedonic Values of Life in Legal Contexts, 13(2) J. of Forensic Econ. 111 (2000).
  17. Profile: Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster Investigation, May 15, 2003.
  18. Debra L. Worthington et al., Hindsight Bias, Daubert and the Silicone Breast Implant Litigation, Making the Case for Court-Appointed Experts in Complex Medical and Scientific Litigation, 8 Psychol., Public Pol’y & L. 154, 157 (June 2002) [hereinafter “Worthington”].
  19. Jeffrey J. Rachlinski, A Positive Psychological Theory of Judging in Hindsight, 65 U. Chi. L. Rev. 571, 572 (1998).
  20. Id. at 572-73.
  21. Id. at 591.
  22. Worthington, supra note 18, at 154.
  23. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).
  24. 21 U.S.C. § 348 (2003) (food additives); 21 U.S.C. § 376 (color additives); 21 U.S.C. § 360(b) (animal drug residues).
  25. Regarding Implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Department Operations, Nutrition and Foreign Agriculture of the House Comm. On Agriculture (June 25, 1998) (Statement of Rep. John D. Dingell, Ranking Member, Committee on Commerce).
  26. Sam Kazman, NHTSA Air Bag Mandate Misfires, 20 Regulation: The Cato Rev. of Bus. & Gov’t 21.
  27. See id.
  28. Fact Sheet: The TRUTH About The Civil Justice System.
  29. Michael Rustad, Final Report, Demystifying Punitive Damages in Product Liability Cases: A Survey of a Quarter-Century of Verdicts (Roscoe Pound Found., Dec. 1990).
  30. Id. at 123-24.
  31. Council of Economic Advisers, Who Pays For Tort Liability Claims? An Economic Analysis Of The U.S. Tort Liability System (Apr. 2002) [hereinafter “CEA Report“] (citing Tillinghast-Towers Perrin, U.S. Tort Costs: 2000, Trends and Findings on the Costs of the U.S. Tort System (Feb. 2002)).
  32. Tillinghast-Towers Perrin, U.S. Tort Costs: 2003 Update, Trends and Findings on the Costs of the U.S. Tort System 2 (Dec. 2003) [“hereinafter Tillinghast-Towers Perrin Report”].
  33. CEA Report, supra note 31, at 1, 2.
  34. Id. at 2.
  35. Tillinghast-Towers Perrin Report, supra note 32, at 2.
  36. CEA Report, supra note 31, at 17.
  37. Id. at 12.
  38. Id. at 13.
  39. Id. at 17 (citing Consumer Expenditures in 1999, Fed. Bureau of Lab. Statistics, May 2001).
  40. Thomas J. Campbell et al., National Bureau of Economic Research, The Causes and Effects of Liability Reform: Some Empirical Evidence, Working Paper No. 4989 at 28.
  41. Id. at 27-28.
  42. AIG’s Greenberg is hopeful on SARS, tort reform, Best’s Ins. News, May 13, 2003.
  43. Id.
  44. Steven P. Galante, American Insurance Crisis Begins to Hurt European Firms With Operations Here, Wall St. J., Nov. 29, 1985.
  45. Kau Yi Kang, Sinsin Food to Consolidate, Go For European Focus, Bus. Times (Singapore), June 23, 1998.
  46. Paul Rodgers, Corporate Punishment: America Seeks To Curb Litigation Frenzy – As Britain Catches It, The Indep. (London), May 21, 1995.
  47. Willibald Posch, Product Liability in Austria, Comparative Law Yearbook of International Business 15 (Dennis Campbell ed.,1993).
  48. Outlandish claims – Asbestos claims continue, Economist, May 25, 2002, available at 2002 WL 7246270.
  49. Rat Race (Paramount Pictures 2001).
  50. Griffin Bell, Follow bar association’s lead, clean up asbestos lawsuit mess, Detroit Free Press, Apr. 3, 2003.
  51. See Victor E. Schwartz & Leah Lorber, A Letter to the Nation’s Trial Judges: How the Focus on Efficiency is Hurting You and Innocent Victims in Asbestos Liability Cases, 24 Am. J. of Trial Advoc. 247 (2000).
  52. How to Minimize Casualties, Carvill Am.;  Michael Freedman, The Tort Mess is Worse Than You Think: Out-of-Control Lawsuits Are Shutting Down Medical Practices, Killing Businesses and Costing the Economy $200 Billion a Year, Forbes, May 13, 2002, at 90.
  53. When Federal-Mogul filed for bankruptcy, its employees—who held 16 percent of the company’s stock—saw their assets fall by 99 percent. About 14 percent of Owens Corning’s shares—which lost 97 percent of their value in the two years before its filing—were owned by employees.  Steven Hantler, Toward Greater Judicial Leadership on Asbestos Litigation, Address before The Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention (2002), in Asbestos Litigation and the Role of the Courts (The Federalist Soc’y for L. & Pub. Pol’y Stud., Apr. 2003) at 5.
  54. Press Release, Jury Verdict Research, Medical Malpractice Verdict and Settlement Study Released (Mar. 22, 2002).
  55. Jury Verdict Research, Medical Malpractice: Verdicts, Settlements and Statistical Analysis 1 (2002).
  56. Off. of the Asst. Secy. For Planning & Evaluation, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Servs., Confronting the New Health Care Crisis: Improving Health Care Quality and Lowering Costs by Fixing our Medical Liability System 1 (July 24, 2002) [hereinafter “HHS Report”].
  57. Id. at 1.
  58. Id.
  59. Cost, access problems tied to malpractice crisis, Reuters Health (Jan. 15, 2003).
  60. HHS Report, supra note 56, at 2 (citing William Booth, Las Vegas Trauma Center Closes as Doctors Quit, Wash. Post, July 4, 2002, at A2).
  61. Id. (citing Tom Gorman, Physicians Fold Under Malpractice Fee Burden, L.A. Times, Mar. 4, 2002, at A1 [hereinafter “Gorman”]).
  62. Id. (citing Gorman, supra note 61, at A1).
  63. Id. (citing Senn, Dunn, Marsh, Roland Insurors, Personal Correspondence, July 2002).
  64. Id. at 3 (citing M. Gleaves-Hirsch & Lisa Kozleski, Care crisis: Malpractice premiums crippling doctors, Allentown Morning Call, Jan. 3, 2002, at B1).
  65. Id. (citing Rising Costs of Insurance Sends Doctors Scurrying, Phila. Inquirer, Dec. 31, 2000).
  66. Id. (citing Cheryl Powell, No Cure for Rising Costs, Akron Beacon-J., Jan. 11, 2002, at A1).
  67. Id. (citing Exodus of doctors causing crisis for moms-to-be in Mississippi, Assoc. Press, July 11, 2002).
  68. Id. at 4 (citing American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, The Hot States, Red Alert Facts: The Professional Liability Insurance Crisis (May 2002)).
  69. Id. at 13.
  70. Id. at 4 (citing Center for Health Systems Change, An Update on the Community Tracking Study, A Focus on the Changing Health System (Issue Brief No. 18, Feb. 1999).
  71. Id.
  72. Id at 5.
  73. Id.
  74. Id.
  75. Id at 6.
  76. Id at 7 (emphasis added).
  77. Id at 9 (citing Jury Verdict Research, 2001 Current Award Trends in Personal Injury (2002).
  78. Id. (citing Personal Communication from Rep. Chip Pickering, July 2002).
  79. Press Release, St. Paul Ins. Co., The St. Paul Announces Fourth-Quarter Actions To Improve Profitability And Business Positioning (Dec. 12, 2001).
  80. J. Robert Hunter & Joanne Doroshow, Center for Just. & Democracy, Premium Deceit: The Failure of “Tort Reform” to Cut Insurance Prices 2 (2002).
  81. Stephen Foreman, Pa. Medical Society Health Services Research Institute, [Premium] Deceit: A Critique of a Center for Justice & Democracy Study by J. Robert Hunter and Joanne Doroshow 2 (Jan. 8, 2003).
  82. Id. at 11.
  83. Id. at 14.
  84. Murray Mackay, Liability, Safety and Innovation in the Automotive Industry, The Liability Maze 191, 217 (Peter W. Huber & Robert E. Litan eds.,1993).
  85. Yomiuri Shimbun, Tobacco-Deodorizer Maker Smells Lawsuits Abroad, The Daily Yomiuri, Feb. 11, 1995.
  86. Norri Kageki, Product-Liability Law Scares Silicone Firms Out Of Market, The Nikkei Weekly, Aug. 28, 1995.
  87. Product Liability Reform Act of 1997: Hearings on S. Rep. No. 105-32 Before The Senate Comm. on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, 105th Cong. 7 (1997).
  88. Id. at 10.
  89. Id. at 8 (citing E. Patrick McGuire, The Impact of Product Liability 19, Table 28 (Conference Board Research Report No. 908, 1988)).
  90. Michael R. Porter, The Competitive Advantage of Nations 649 (Free Press 1990).
  91. Joe Cohen, Is Liability Slowing AIDS Vaccines?, Science, Apr. 10, 1992, at 168-69.
  92. Richard J. Mahoney and Stephen E. Littlejohn, Innovation on Trial: Punitive Damages Versus New Products, Science, Dec. 15, 1989, at 1395.
  93. Id.
  94. See A Letter to Representative Ron Pickard, Aug. 8, 1991, cited in American Tort Reform Assoc., Facts About Tort Liability And Its Impact On The Economy.
  95. See Carol J. DeFrances, et al., U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, Civil Jury Cases and Verdicts in Large Counties 141 (1992).
  96. George L. Priest, Punitive Damage Reform: The Case of Alabama, 56 La. L. Rev. 825, 830 (1996).  Professor Priest’s figures are based on a study of punitive damages in Alabama, but, as he points out in his article, “there is no reason to believe that the phenomenon is unique to Alabama.” Id. at 825.
  97. Michael Hotra, There’s Trouble in Forest City, FYI (Am. Legis. Exchange Council, Washington, D.C.), Apr. 25, 1997, at 10 (quoting Raymond Beebe, general counsel of Winnebago Industries).
  98. Bill Pryor, Panel Discussion, State Attorneys General and the Power to Change Law (June 22, 1999), in Regulation by Litigation: The New Wave of Government Sponsored Litigation (Manhattan Inst. Center for Legal Pol’y. 1999) at 6.
  99. Mark A. Peterson et al., Punitive Damages: Empirical Findings, 15 (Rand Inst. for Civ. Just. 1987).
  100. Id.
  101. Id. at 36.
  102. Hotra, There’s Trouble in Forest City, supra note 97, at 10.
  103. Victor E. Schwartz & Leah Lorber, Regulation Through Litigation Has Just Begun: What You Can Do To Stop It, Briefly 18 (Nat’l Legal Center for the Pub. Int., 1999) [hereinafter “Schwartz & Lorber”].
  104. Michael Wallace, Panel Discussion, State Attorneys General and the Power to Change Law (June 22, 1999), in Regulation by Litigation: The New Wave of Government Sponsored Litigation (Manhattan Inst. Center for Legal Pol’y 1999) at 9.
  105. Fed. R. Civ. P. 23.
  106. 141 Cong. Rec. 192, S17933 at S17956-57 (Dec. 5, 1995); William P. Barrett, I Have No Clients (Attorney William Lerach Sues Public Corporations When Their Stock Prices Collapse), Forbes, Oct. 11, 1993, at 52.
  107. Jason Hoppin, Florida Judge Compares Milberg to Squeegee Boy, The Recorder, Apr. 16, 2002.
  108. Kamilewicz v. Bank of Boston Corp., 92 F.3d 506 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1204 (1997).  See also Hoffman v. BancBoston Mortgage Corp., No. CV-91-1880 (Cir. Ct., Mobile County, Ala., Jan. 24, 1994).
  109. Scott Walter, Preserve Democracy: Rein in the Lawyers, Am. Enterprise, Sept. 20, 2000.
  110. See Barry Meier, Math of a Class-Action Suit: “Winning” $2.19 Costs $91.33, N.Y. Times, Nov. 21, 1995, at A1.
  111. See id.
  112. See Carnival to Give Vouchers Under Settlement,
  113. See Susan Tompor, Polo Has a Deal for Buyers of Overpriced Ralph Lauren Outlet Goods, Detroit Free Press, Feb. 9, 2000.
  114. See American Tort Reform Association, Bringing Justice to Judicial Hellholes 1 (2002) [hereinafter “ATRA Judicial Hellholes Report”].
  115. Richard Scruggs, Asbestos for Lunch, Panel Discussion at the Prudential Securities Financial Research and Regulatory Conference (May 9, 2002), in Industry Commentary (Prudential Securities, Inc., N.Y., New York) June 11, 2002, at 5 [hereinafter “Asbestos for Lunch”]. Mr. Scruggs also has described these jurisdictions as “areas where what happens in court is irrelevant because the jury will return a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.”Medical Monitoring and Asbestos Litigation – A Discussion With Richard Scruggs and Victor Schwartz, 17 Mealey’s Litig. Rep.: Asbestos, Mar. 1, 2002, at 1, 6.
  116. Asbestos for Lunch, supra note 115, at 5.
  117. Id.
  118. Id.
  119. Id.
  120. See John H. Beisner & Jessica Davidson Miller, They’re Making a Federal Case Out of It…In State Court, 3 Civ. Just. Rep. 1, 8 (Manhattan Inst. Center for Legal Pol’y, 2001) [hereinafter “Beisner & Miller”].
  121. Id.
  122. Id. at 12.
  123. ATRA Judicial Hellholes Report, supra note 114, at 5.
  124. See Deborah A. Vondrak, Civil wrongs, not civil rights; GM pays ($4.9 billion) for drunk driver’s mistake,Tulsa (Okla.) World, July 24, 1999, at 1.
  125. ATRA Judicial Hellholes Report, supra note 114, at 8.
  126. Id. at 10.
  127. 127. See Elliott M. Kaplan, Missouri, the Sue Me State, Wall St. J., Feb. 26, 1997, at A17.
  128. See Beisner & Miller, supra note 120, at 1.
  129. William M. Brown, Déjà Vu All Over Again: The Exodus From Contraceptive Research And How to Reverse It, 40 Brandeis L.J. 1, 30-31 (2001) [hereinafter “Brown”].
  130. See id.
  131. See S. Rep. No. 104-69, at 7 (1995).
  132. See Brown, supra note 129, at 4.
  133. Victor E. Schwartz & Liberty Mahshigian, Issues in Tort Reform: National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986: An Ad Hoc Remedy or a Window for the Future?, 48 Ohio St. L.J. 387 (1987).
  134. See Victor E. Schwartz & Leah Lorber, Vaccine Liability Law Clarification Protects Lives and Resources, Legal Backgrounder (Wash. Legal Found. Jan. 6, 2003).
  135. The Homeland Security Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-296 (Nov. 25, 2002). The Act included other litigation management provisions, such as limits on the civil liability of manufacturers of certain anti-terrorism products, see 6 U.S.C.A. §§ 441 et seq.
  136. See Pub. L. No. 108-7 (Feb. 20, 2003).
  137. Trial lawyers, special interests and vaccines, Wash. Times, Jan. 17, 2003, at A22.
  138. Michael D. Green, Statutory Compliance and Tort Liability: Examining the Strongest Case, 30 Mich. J. L. Reform 461 (1997).
  139. Bill Pryor, Panel Discussion, State Attorneys General and the Power to Change Law (June 22, 1999), in Regulation by Litigation: The New Wave of Government Sponsored Litigation (Manhattan Inst. Center for Legal Pol’y 1999) at 3.
  140. Id. at 2-5.
  141. Id. at 3.
  142. Class Action Lawsuits: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Courts and Intellectual Property of the House Comm. On The Judiciary (Mar. 5, 1998) (Statement of The Hon. Dick Thornburgh).
  143. 723 So. 2d 649 (Ala. 1998).
  144. Id. at 654.
  145. See Schwartz & Lorber, supra note 103, at 2.
  146. State ex rel. Ohio Trial Lawyers v. Sheward, 715 N.E.2d 1062 (Ohio 1999).
  147. See Schwartz & Lorber, supra note 103, at 22.
  148. Derek Bok, The Cost of Talent: How Executives And Professionals Are Paid And How It Affects America 140 (Free Press, 1993).
  149. Lester Brickman, Contingent Fees Without Contingencies: Hamlet Without the Prince of Denmark?, 37 UCLA L. Rev. 29 (1989) [hereinafter “Brickman”].
  150. See 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1681t (2001) (mandatory disclosure of credit information to consumers).
  151. See 16 C.F.R. pt. 455 (2003) (prohibiting misrepresentation of the mechanical condition of a used vehicle and requiring used car sellers to disclose warranty information to consumers prior to sale); 49 C.F.R. pt. 580 (2003) (requiring transferor of motor vehicle to provide a written disclosure of odometer mileage and its accuracy in order to protect purchasers who rely on odometer readings in selecting used cars).
  152. See 16 C.F.R. pt. 453 (2003) (regulating funeral industry practices).
  153. See id.
  154. See White v. McBride, 937 S.W.2d 796 (Tenn. 1996).
  155. Tricia Renaud, Bar Goes After Savannah Duo’s Fee and Maybe Their Licenses, Fulton County Daily Rep., Jan. 5, 1998.
  156. Margaret Cronin Fisk, Two Texas Lawyers Hit with $6.3 M Overcharging Verdict, Nat’l L.J., Dec. 6, 1999, at A11.
  157. In re Joint Eastern & Southern Dist. Asbestos Litig. (Johns-Manville Trust Reorganization), 129 B.R. 710, 863 (E.D. & S.D.N.Y. 1991) (Weinstein, J.), vacated, 982 F.2d 721 (2d Cir. 1992), op. modified on reh’g, 993 F.2d 7 (2d Cir. 1993).
  158. See Warden, Should a Lawyer Make $10,000 an Hour?, Student Law, Apr. 1981, at 21-23.
  159. Prime Time (ABC television broadcast, Jan. 24, 2001).
  160. See Garry Mitchell, Bar Scrutinizing Lawyer Ads, Solicitations, Mobile Press Reg., Dec. 18, 1993, at A1.
  161. 161. Judyth Pendell, Price Colluder, Esq., Forbes, Jan. 23, 2001.
  162. Id.
  163. Washington Legal Foundation, Commencing Trade Regulation Rule Proceedings Under § 18(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Trade Commission Act to Regulate Contingency Fee Agreements Entered Into by Attorneys (Aug. 14, 2001) [hereinafter “WLF Petition to FTC”].
  164. See Erin Condon, HALT Survey Finds Toothless Lawyer Discipline, The Legal Reformer, Summer 2000, at 7.
  165. See Brickman, supra note 149, at 1357 & n.68 (surveying cases).
  166. See Model Legal Consumer’s Bill of Rights.
  167. Victor E. Schwartz et al., Consumer Protection in the Legal Marketplace: A Legal Consumer’s Bill of Rights is Needed,” 15 Loy. Consumer L. Rep. 1 (2002).
  168. See Richard W. Painter, The New American Rule: A First Amendment to the Client’s Bill of Rights, 1 Civ. Just. Rep. 1, 2, 5 (Manhattan Inst. Center for Legal Pol’y, 2000).
  169. R. Robin McDonald, Settlement Lacks Some Details But is Still Binding, Fulton County Daily Rep., Dec. 14, 2000.
  170. See WLF Petition to FTC, supra note 163, at 12.
  171. Need a Lawyer? Judge for Yourself, Federal Trade Commission: FTC Facts for Consumers, June 2002.
  172. Caroline E. Mayer, FTC Seeks to Limit Attorney Fees in Class Action Suits, Wash. Post, Sept. 30, 2002, at A20.
  173. New Man in Charge, ABC News, Nov. 27, 2001.
  174. The Charlie Rose Show (PBS television broadcast, Oct. 21, 2001).
  175. Id.
  176. Id.
  177. Puff Daddies, George, June 1, 1999, at 4.
  178. Kate O. Beirne, Cash Bar: How Trial Lawyers Bankroll the Democratic Party, 53 Nat’l Rev. 26, Aug. 20, 2001 [hereinafter “Beirne”].
  179. Adam Cohen et al., Are Lawyers Running America? Their lawsuits are setting policy on guns, tobacco and now HMOs.  Who elected them?, 156 Time 22, July 17, 2000.
  180. Dick Thornburgh, Just Say No to Tort Blackmail, Wall St. J., Jan. 21, 2002, at A12.
  181. David Bank, Is a Chimp a ‘Person’ With a Legal Right To a Lawyer in Court?, Wall St. J., Apr. 25, 2002, at A1.
  182. John Silber, Fast-food lawsuit is fat-uous, B. Herald, Aug. 20, 2002, at 25.
  183. See Beirne, supra note 178.
  184. See State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 123 S. Ct. 1513, 1524 (2003) (instructing courts to focus on defendant actions toward individual plaintiff rather than actions toward society as a whole, and noting that “few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages … will satisfy due process”); Key Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Edwards, 123 S. Ct. 1781 (2003) (vacating multi-million dollar award in personal injury case and remanding case for further consideration in light of Campbell); Ford Motor Co. v. Romo, 2003 WL 271315 (May 19, 2003) (vacating multi-million dollar judgments in two personal injury and products liability cases and remanding for further consideration in light of Campbell).
  185. Bell, supra note 50.
  186. John Grisham, The King of Torts 96 (Doubleday, 2003).
  187. Id. at 159.
  188. Id. at 250-51.


Center for Legal Policy.



About the Author

Punitive Damage Awards Have No Deterrent Effect

“Hindsight Bias” and the Dock

The Quest for Perfect Safety

Trade-offs: The Real, Inside Story

Lawsuit Abuse: The National Costs

The Competitive Costs to States

The Costs to American Consumers

The Costs to Medical Patients

The Cost in Products and Services Withdrawn from the Market

The Case of Cars

The Case of Contraceptives

The Case of Vaccines

Government By Judicial Fiat

Closing the Door on Tort Reform

Trust Us, We’re Lawyers

What is the True Corporate Character?

End Notes

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