Lawsuits out of control: nope

Not only were the particulars of the Newsweek story misleading. The essence of the story was wrong, too. Newsweek’s “onslaught” of lawsuits simply hasn’t happened. According to the National Center for State Courts, a research group funded by state courts, personal injury and other tort filings, when controlled for population growth, have declined nationally by 8 percent since the 1975, and have been falling steadily in real numbers since 1996. The numbers are even more dramatic in places with rapid population growth, like Texas, where the rate of tort filings fell 37 percent between 1990 and 2000. Even in liberal California, the rate of filings has plummeted 45 percent over the past decade. And those overly sympathetic juries Newsweek derides as so eager to dole out big bucks to injured victims?

In 2001, they voted against plaintiffs in 75 percent of all medical malpractice trials, according to the federal government’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

In an interview, Taylor dismisses these numbers as insignificant compared with the tort system’s $200 billion drag on the economy. “The costs of the tort system to society have gone up astronomically,” he says. That figure, though, comes from the insurance-industry consulting firm Tillinghast-Towers Perrin (TTP), which includes in its definition of the “tort system” insurance company administrative costs and overhead and the salaries of highly paid insurance company CEOs (Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman of AIG, one of the world’s largest insurance companies, makes $29 million a year). One thing TTP doesn’t include: court budgets, which makes its study seem a lot more like an assessment of the insurance industry than of the legal system.

Lots of stuff about how it’s an orchestrated insurance industry PR campaign, with people like the Manhattan Insisitute (surprise!) behind it.