Az calls itself the Blog For Arizona. But, after reading these excerpts from its article on what it calls Tort Reformâ„¢ maybe it should be the Blog For America. The rest of the article is well worth a side trip.
I wrote yesterday on damage awards, marketed under the trade name Tort Reformâ„¢ by the GOP, and the damage it does to those harmed by medical and other negligence. But the ideas behind Tort Reformâ„¢ also raise serious and fundamental challenges to the role of the jury in the administration of justice and protecting American freedoms.
I’m not alone in this opinion. James Madison said that trial by jury “is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-eminent rights of nature.” Yet the right to have the facts of a civil dispute, including compensation, decided by a lay jury, is so offensive to corporate interests that they would have you believe that our best and brightest are unable to design safe products, deliver quality medical care, or perform a host of other activities unless we gut one particular of our Bill of Rights – the Amendment VII, which reads:
“In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved…”
The right of access to jury to determine the facts is a basic human right that goes back to the Magna Carta in our own culture’s immediate history, and back to the Greeks and the Romans during some of the earliest civilized periods of human history. For all that time citizenship has included the unimpaired right to have the facts of your plight, including the necessary remedies, decided by a sample of your peers. “Juries represent the layman’s common sense and thus keep the law in accord with the wishes and feelings of the community,” said USSC Chief Justice Rehnquist (in one of the few instances that I agree with him wholeheartedly).
And therein lays the problem. Multinational corporations and mega-conglomerates have no desire to answer to the wishes and feelings of the communities they operate in.
The duty of a responsible person is to take reasonable care so as to avoid doing harm to others in the first place, and thus avoid liability; this is the bedrock of our system of torts. Arbitrary caps allow corporations to plan to do harm, while still ensuring their liability exposure is limited. Arbitrary caps not only remove the incentives for responsible behavior, but leaves many families without the compensation they need to take care of loved one properly, possibly for a lifetime, or to replace the income lost to the family by a wrongful death or disablement.