For Shame

Tort law, as noted historian Eric Foner put it, is the “weapon of the weak.”  It lets the wrongfully injured hold wrongdoers accountable.  It is a centuries–old mechanism whereby juries – regular people like you and me –  decide how much money will fairly compensate someone who has been devastated by the wrongful, harmful act of another.

Wrongdoers hate and fear tort law, because it hurts them in their pocketbook.  Wrongdoers could strive to do right, but all too often, their response is to try to mutilate the system of tort law.

In a recent article, Joanne Doroshow, head of the Center for Justice and Democracy, spells out just how one such attack on the tort system played out, and it is both heartbreaking and maddening.

In her article, “Wisconsin’s Judicial Hearbreak,” published June 29, 2018, on line on the Daily Kos, Doroshow explains a relentless attack on the integrity of the tort system in Wisconsin, in a way that clearly lays out the deliberate strategy of adding judicial insult to horrible physical injury.  Listen:

A court decision that overrules longstanding law that had protected the most vulnerable.  A political court that accepts false information as fact. A corporate court willing to overlook the obvious cruelty of an unnecessarily sweeping ruling.

On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court told Ascaris Mayo, a 53-year-old mother of four, that despite the amputation of all four of her limbs due to medical malpractice and despite her having won her negligence case and proving before a jury that she would suffer $25.3 million in damages, she would only get a fraction of that amount due to a state law that severely caps compensation to patients like her.

Yet this is a law that should never have been.

And she goes on to clearly, and specifically, explain how and why this miscarriage of justice was implemented, step-by-deliberate step.

In a recent note, I put forth some reasons why the idea of “frivolous lawsuits” in tort cases just doesn’t make sense.  And clearly Ms. Mayo’s case was rock solid, and meritorious. And yet, we are left with a politicized State Supreme Court which has upheld a politicized legislative decision to weaken our system of jury trials.

This is shameful.

This should make you mad.

When Cops go Bad

There is an interesting article in the New York Times, today, “$16 Million vs. $4: Why Payouts in Police Shootings Vary Widely,” written by Timothy Williams and Mitch Smith, (A version of this article appears in print on June 29, 2018, on Page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: “The Value of a Life Brought to an End by a Police Officer’s Bullet.”)

The article compiles the verdicts and settlements which have been paid to the victims and next of kin of those who have died as a result of police murder or misconduct. It provides a good insight into the wide range of monetary recoveries, and the various factors that go into those settlements.

But the article is most important for this reason: It shows that tort law – the law of wrongful injuries – can provide a remedy in cases where police do wrong, even in those cases where the criminal justice systems fails to hold the police accountable.

Tort law lets you defend yourself and your family from wrongdoers.