A recent two-year survey of Texas judges shows that runaway juries and frivolous lawsuits are mostly fictional events and that tort reform legislation isn’t necessary. To evaluate the nation’s need for tort reform, Baylor Law School researchers surveyed a broad sample of trial judges, whose unique position allows them to view the same evidence as jurors, yet remain non-partisan regarding trial outcomes. Impartial observation of numerous trials over time also guards against the possibility that a judge would adopt broad generalizations based on individual, isolated verdicts.
All 389 judges on the bench in Texas at survey time received detailed questionnaires, and 78% participated. Their responses demonstrate that tort reform advocates, at least in Texas, have made many unfounded claims regarding the need to cap jury awards with legislation. Eighty-three percent of responding judges reported that in the last 2 years, they hadn’t seen a single "runaway" jury verdict. In fact, 58% believed that juries awarded damage amounts that were inappropriately low at least at times. Forty-four percent said that they hadn’t presided over a single frivolous case in four or more years, and 86% said no additional legislation was needed to properly address those cases (Texas, like many other states, already has Rules of Civil Procedure that allow sanctions to be imposed for bringing frivolous suits).
The report also addresses the impact of many popular tort reform anecdotes that are alternately misleading or fabricated. It is published in the Spring 2007 issue of Baylor Law Review.
Previously on the D.C. Metro Area Medical Malpractice Law Blog, we have posted tort reform articles related to:
- A study showing that doctor suffer emotionally when they make mistakes
- A report demonstrating record profits for malpractice insurance companies
- A study showing that voters care about corporate crime, but not tort reform issues
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