The American civil justice system is the most costly in the world. Litigation costs affect the ability of businesses to compete and prosper. By adding rationality and predictability to the American civil justice system and rooting out unnecessary expenses and abuse, civil justice reform can increase confidence in the economy, help businesses expand, and create jobs. Such reforms can also increase respect for the judicial system, which is too often characterized by liability that is disproportionate to responsibility, inconsistent outcomes, and jackpot verdicts.
101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems offers some of the many options available to foster a sound legal system that promotes states’ economies. It considers fair and effective measures that would safeguard the integrity of the litigation process, promote rational liability rules, addresses over-regulation and enforcement, improve product liability law, and rein in excessive awards.
This user’s guide to state legal reforms considers key issues confronting policymakers. For example, when government officials hire contingency fee lawyers, what safeguards will ensure that law enforcement is driven by the public interest, not the financial interest of attorneys with a stake in the litigation? What role should a business’s compliance with government safety standards play in product liability litigation? How can the law address damages that exceed actual losses, pain and suffering awards that have become the largest part of tort damages, and punitive damage “run wild”? This report answers these questions and more.
Among the new legal reform options included in this Fifth Edition of the report are proposals that:
- Address problematic practices in state government enforcement of consumer laws that can result in penalties that are disproportionate to the alleged misconduct or consumer loss, and in misuse of recovered funds
- Stop “gotcha” lawsuits that target small businesses and others alleging technical noncompliance issues by requiring plaintiffs to provide notice and an opportunity to resolve the issue before the plaintiff files a lawsuit
- Tackle the rising cost of discovery stemming from electronic storage of documents by requiring production demands to be proportional to the needs of the case
- Ensure that class actions benefit the public, not just lawyers, by requiring attorney’s fee awards to have some relationship to the money actually received by class members and precluding fee awards that exceed consumer recovery
The report presents legal reform options in a conceptual manner by topic. It then directs readers to summaries of legal reform bills enacted in the states primarily over the past five years. These recent laws show how legislators can move the proposals described in this guide from theory into practice.