Civil Justice Memo
No. 4 November 1987
As many of you know, in August we signed a contract with Basic Books to publish Peter Huber's book, ORIGINS OF THE LIABILITY CRISIS (this is a working title—other suggestions most welcome). Basic is easily the most prestigious of all trade publishers, with such notable titles as THE WAY THE WORLD WORKS, THE ZERO SUM SOCIETY, TWO CHEERS FOR CAPITALISM, WEALTH AND POVERTY, and LOSING GROUND to its credit.
Huber is reworking the second draft now and we expect the book to be out in September. (A note on Basic Books: They're known for their ability to follow hardcover sales with quality paperbacks targeted at the academic market; many of their books have become staples in the classroom and remain in print five to ten years after publication.)
Peter Huber followed up his highly acclaimed Forbes article on liability and innovation with a feature article in Science the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. After a careful look at all the alleged causes of liability insurance cost increases, Huber concluded that the driving force behind the liability spiral has been the changes in liability law that have taken place since 1960 and, in particular, the escalation of damage awards that has occurred in recent years. Besides reaching an elite readership of several hundred thousand scientists, Huber's findings were communicated to millions of ordinary readers through an AP story summarizing the article in dozens of newspapers, including the Sunday New York Times.
A lengthy October Insurance Review article on the theme of innovation and risktaking drew on Huber's insights, as did a 36page editorial survey of the worldwide telecommunications industry in the October 17th issue of The Economist.
Both Huber and Wally Olson continue to maintain active speaking schedules before trade, academic and community groups, and Olson's editorial comments in Barron's are drawing wide acclaim for their clarity and substance. Doubtless his is one of the most articulate voices for civil justice reform filtering through to the financial community.
We engaged the debate surrounding the Bork nomination with several oped pieces. Seizing the opportunity to demonstrate how judicial expansion of liability has abridged contraceptive options, Wally Olson's Civil Justice Memo on this topic was mailed to hundreds of lawmakers and journalists, with the result that Senator Mitch McConnell inserted it in the Congressional Record and the Washington Post abstracted it in their "For the Record" editorialpage feature.
We hope one thing stands out from the foregoing: that we're reaching elite audiences across all spectrums—scientific and academic, business and financial, and legal and governmental, as well as the informed lay public—with a forceful and clearly stated message that our civil justice system is in need of repair.
None of this would have happened without the support of some very generous and farsighted companies, foundations, and individuals. While expenses for the project still exceed revenues (roughly $325,000 versus $250,000), we're making headway. Our foundation supporters now include the Dana, Lounsbery, Moses, and Broyhill foundations, along with our charter supporter, Smith Richardson Foundation. And a great vote of confidence came in just last month in the form of a $50,000 grant from the Starr Foundation, of which Hank Greenberg is chairman.
Here are the new companies which have signed on in the last five months:
American Hoist and Derrick
Johnson & Johnson
It is especially gratifying that in most of these cases our grant originated in the corporate counsels department and even came out of their budget, not the corporate contributions budget.
We are beginning to get some members of the New York philanthropic community interested in the subject; needless to say, this would be a potent lobby for change if it could be energized. We have also generated $6,000 in contributions from individuals for the Civil justice Project.
We thank our supporters, one and all, and look forward to seeing them and all our friends in 1988 as we continue with our regional workshops (next stop: Pittsburgh).