Florida should crack down on frivolous lawsuits, costly verdicts

Lawsuits: A St. Louis jury awarded a record $4.7 billion verdict in a lawsuit in which plaintiffs said Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder caused cancer.

In a time of bitter division in our country, it’s refreshing to see partisan flags fall and elected leaders rally to improve our institutions and make our communities better off and more secure.

In Florida and dozens of other states, that mantra of late has been “criminal-justice reform.”

Florida’s 2019 reforms sought to rehabilitate rather than punish, giving new opportunities to nonviolent offenders who’ve done their time and are ready to transition back into society. That includes training programs and job opportunities, but also more-compassionate treatment of the accused while still providing swift justice to victims.

State lawmakers and activists should be applauded for these steps. But it doesn’t end there.

If we truly want to have a more just and balanced legal system, we’ll also need to address the broken tort system that elevates bad science, rewards unscrupulous lawyers and raises prices for all consumers.

Florida is famous for its billboard advertisements from injury lawyers: “Have you been injured?” Who can forget the injury firm Morgan & Morgan’s ads bearing the face of former governor and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on major interstates?

For years, Florida has ranked highly as having one of the worst legal climates in the country. It even topped the list of “judicial hellholes” in 2017.

Key to these rankings has been Florida’s embrace of awarding exorbitant damages, anti-scientific jury verdicts and sometimes outright bogus lawsuits.

In November, a $5 million class-action lawsuit was filed in Miami by a vegan man upset with Burger King’s “Impossible Whopper,” claiming the company did not disclose that the meat-free patties were “contaminated” by being cooked in close proximity to beef patties.

Cases like these are more common than you may believe. And dozens of websites and newsletters give people opportunities to pick and choose the best class-action lawsuits to “get cash now” — regardless of whether or not they were a victim.

The latest headline-grabber is the billion-dollar nationwide attempt to pin various cancer diagnoses on the makers of baby powder Johnson & Johnson. Plaintiffs and their attorneys claim the company has knowingly sold asbestos-tainted talc in its baby powder for years, even though scientific studies have yet to prove a definite link between modern-day talc and any cancers. The same has been echoed by the American Cancer Society.

That didn’t stop a St. Louis jury from awarding a record $4.7 billion verdict last year, one of the largest in American history. That has only fueled the epidemic of trial lawyers extorting companies and doctors’ offices to get the results they want.

Naturally, the tort courts are an important part of our justice system. And they should be used for those victims who have suffered real harm. But many of these claims do not stand up to the science and end up keeping legitimate victims from ever getting their day in court.

Frivolous lawsuits clog up the system, mislead consumers, and ultimately raise the costs for basically everyone. Now society is plagued with threats of lawsuits and major class actions. That’s not a good status quo, and it must change.

Here are some simple fixes. Let’s define who can actually be a member of a class-action lawsuit. Online sign-ups and promises of quick cash in newsletters aren’t standing for plaintiffs. Capping the amount on exorbitant lawsuits would help avoid costly litigation that amounts to higher prices for consumers. Stricter courtroom rules on what is considered scientific expertise would also help.

Overall, we must use the positive spirit channeled by the criminal-justice reform movement to ask the same of our tort law system. Only then will we get real justice.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

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