Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 8, 2012

Stumptalk: Good and evil idea

By Jerry McDonough
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — Following America’s winning independence from England, the task of forming a government and a system by which the new country could be operated was the next step. Part of the problem of governing was the lack of a monetary system. The world traded by using anything from bartering to a conglomeration of different monetary systems. Some of our leaders preferred the English system and others the Spanish system. Both were considered to be a bit overly complicated, at least to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson proposed simply using the dollar like the Spanish did, but instead of dividing it into fractional parts — half’s, quarters, eighths, etc. — why not divide it into decimal parts. Good idea! And it spread so that today every country on earth uses a decimal monetary system.

At the same time, the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War, stated that English creditors could sue deadbeats in American courts for money owed. The rule was that the loser paid all the legal fees. Fair enough? To make it more difficult for these suits, the states passed their own law, The American Rule, which stated that each side paid their own legal fees. This rule lessened the likelihood of foreign lawsuits. Okay so far, I guess.

Then came the '60s and the ethics of the legal profession changed abruptly. For every malpractice suit filed in 1960, there are 300 filed today. Whether the suits are filed against doctors, manufacturers or any other entity, the message is the same. Pay us what we want up front or we will tie you up in court and cost you much, much more, in effect extortion.

Many lawyers contend that they are merely policing the marketplace and causing better practices. But, wait, isn’t that what government is supposed to do as per rule of law? Is this not a conflict? The trial lawyers defend the outdated American Rule fiercely. Also, they make more political donations than any other group except unions, and the lion’s share of that goes to the democrats, just as with the unions.

The American Rule is such an evil idea that it has spread nowhere else in the world. Nada, Zippo! This is the result of the easily recognizable fact that these lawsuits create nothing except a pay day for trial lawyers. Money awarded goes from one hand to another with a lawyer taking his cut off the top.

The upshot of all this is how badly we need tort reform in this country. When Texas instituted their tort reform, medical malpractice insurance costs fell about 25 percent and doctors began to stream into the state. Perhaps we should advise our political “leaders” of these facts and demand they correct the situation or change the party for which we vote.