March 14, 1997 in City

Frivolous Lawsuits Burden On Society Mediation For All Lawyers, Clients Need Incentives Not To Rush To Court.

Chris Peck Editor
 

Our nation’s civil justice system has become corrupted.

Too many lawyers are encouraging too many clients to file too many lawsuits.

That’s why the Washington state Legislature wisely is looking again at the issue of tort reform.

A tort, in legal terms, is defined as a wrong done by one person to another.

Tort reform, in layman’s terms, is a phrase for changing the way personal injury lawsuits, malpractice suits and property damage suits are handled.

The current rules by which lawyers and their clients can operate don’t provide much incentive to negotiate, mediate or just get on with life. Instead, people are encouraged to sue.

The rules need to be changed to provide an incentive not to sue.

Spokane Rep. Mark Sterk, Vice Chairman of the House Law and Justice Committee, has played a key role in the worthwhile effort to tinker with the rules of how lawsuits proceed. Among the incentive-building changes now before the Legislature are modifications that would:

Require a certificate of merit for many lawsuits. An attorney approached by a client wanting to sue would have to seek outside confirmation that a suit is sound and file a certificate documenting that fact.

Require both sides to look at early resolution. Before a lawsuit moves forward, a plaintiff’s attorney would outline exactly what damage has been done. The defense then would have 60 days to offer a settlement. All this would occur before the expensive cycle of discovery, depositions and other costly legal maneuvers.

Limit contingency fees. Attorneys would get only 20 percent of any settlement. This would slow down frivolous suits, give clients a larger share of any settlements, and help keep settlement costs down.

Link liability to actual fault. Current law often allows plaintiffs to collect money from people or institutions that have little to do with any damage, but who may have deep pockets.

These are but four of the common sense details in this proposed legislation. If these reforms are enacted, our insurance rates will decline, the cost of legal advice will be lowered, and our courts will be unclogged.

In short, society wins even if trial lawyers claim otherwise.

, DataTimes MEMO: For opposing view, see headline: Tort reform only benefits insurers

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, EDITORIAL - From both sides

For opposing view, see headline: Tort reform only benefits insurers

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, EDITORIAL - From both sides


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