Monday

Too Many Lawsuits ?

There've been a lot of articles written about civil jury trials clogging the court system with frivolous cases and trials. The Ohio Supreme Court requires every court in Ohio to report its statistics every year for detailed analysis and, guess what, the urban legend of too many lawsuits turns out to be a lie. They just release the statistics for year 2007 and it proves that what we have been hearing in the media is just plain false.

It turns out that in Ohio there were less than 5 trials per Common Pleas Court Judge (there is one Common Pleas Court in each Ohio county). It actually works out to an average of 4.7. That's barely one trial every 3 months. Page 33 of the Report (click here to read it) showed that there were a lot more criminal trials (where someone is threatened with jail time) than civil trials (where corporations and people are suing other corporations and people for money).

When comes to what the court system defines as product liability trials, the stuff of "tort reform" claims by the insurance protection industry, it turns out that there were only 5 trials in the entire state in the entire year (see page 45 of the Report). Cleveland only had one. Columbus had none at all and neither did Cincinnati.

Hard line conservatives have joined the National Chamber of Commerce (a strong pro-business organization that has opposed consumer protection reforms) for years, in crying out that tort reform was needed to stop the lawsuit crisis. Well, it turns out there is no lawsuit crisis.

'course the problem is that Americans have been hearing the media cry wolf so long that everyone thinks there really is a wolf in the courthouse. There is, alright, but it's the insurance company that is the wolf in the courthouse.

And too many lawsuits? Well, it turns out that in truth there were actually fewer lawsuits at the end of the year than there were at the start of the year (see page 29 of the Report).

You can argue and debate all you like, but the numbers from Ohio's highest Court are the numbers that exist. So what does this teach us?

For one thing, when the insurance industry and the conservative pundits cry wolf, watch your wallet. I don't know about you, but my insurance rates didn't go down when the cries about wolf went up.